With Mohammed Hassan Loum
Islam protects the natural rights of all human beings, especially their inalienable rights to life and to good health. Violating these rights for any reason without just cause is a major sin. As a general rule, Muslims do not harm people, especially other Muslims. Allah SWT stated in the Noble Quran in Surah Al Maa’ida, verse 32; “For this reason did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men; and certainly Our apostles came to them with clear arguments, but even after that many of them certainly act extravagantly in the land”.
Abdullah Ibn Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: If someone kills so much as a sparrow or anything larger without a just cause, then Allah the Exalted will ask him about it on the Day of Resurrection. [Sunan An-Nasa¯’i¯; 4445]. The Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him decreed this golden rule as a matter of law and ethics. Ubaidah ibn As-Samit reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him issued a decree when he SAW said: “Laa darara, wa laa diraara” (i.e. Do not cause harm or return harm). [Sunan Ibn Ma¯jah; 2340]. In an agreed upon Hadith narrated by Bukhari Muslim, Abdullah bin Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe”.
Let me please share with you an experience I had regarding important moral lessons acquired during a rather unfortunate strike of disgruntled health personnel in a small poor country in West Africa. During the strike, certain individuals decided to be ambassadors of peace. They visited sick people in public hospitals and saw their suffering. They had the opportunity to talk to some public health personnel. Most expressed their disapproval and non-support for such a strike. However the total bewilderment and painful anguish of these ambassadors of peace was that it was Muslims who were at the forefront of such a strike. The circumstances surrounding the call for such a strike were a non-starter in the discussions and peace-seeking mission of these ambassadors for peace.
Their main argument and discussion points focused on whether such a strike was even necessary in the first place. Was that the only solution available? And was such a strike worth the suffering of a minute old infant let alone hundreds of sick, poor and suffering ill patients? If winning the war meant the suffering of so many poor and sick people who are innocent of any crime, then what was or is the value of such a victory and at what cost? These ambassadors for peace expressed concerns that for such evil to continue or be replicated, it is simply because a few good men and women sat idly by and did nothing. So they held discussions and during their debates came up with three main important points worth sharing.
The first point discussed dwelt on exhausting all legal and constitutional measures to fight fire with fire. The rich can easily afford expensive private hospitals and clinics but the poor cannot, so the latter should be defended and looked out for at all times. If these young doctors had the strong unflinching will to do what they did without due passionate and humanitarian considerations for the poor and the suffering sick, then they as lawyers should equally pursue all due legal processes for these doctors to be sued without batting an eyelid.
The masterminds should all be dragged to court to explain why they violated their medical oaths and caused so much suffering to sick poor people and for what? If as doctors they considered that it was within their democratic rights to have staged such a coup of the public health system, then the representing lawyers felt even more constitutionally and legally justified to see to it they are properly charged. Seasoned lawyers among this first group clamored to offer their services pro bono, and planned to stage class action lawsuits wherein they will represent hundreds of sick patients who were affected by the strike and are willingly ready to testify against the actions of the unthinking striking doctors. The defendants are presumed innocent until found guilty. However if found liable, the representing lawyers vowed to push the agenda that the guilty should be named and shamed, and stripped off their medical licenses to practice in that country, thus serving as an important deterrent and warning to future groups who would dare to contemplate similar hostage-taking of an entire public service system and demand for huge unrealistic ransoms.
Unless the striking doctors relent and publicly apologize, the first group promised to press on with their plans and make life miserable for the striking doctors as they unthinkably did to the sick and suffering patients. To consolidate their legal and constitutional campaigns more effectively, others within this learned group (for most were lawyers) strongly offered to champion huge petition campaigns and popular mass rallies against the rampaging doctors and their association, wherein they would call for its total disbandment and the striking doctors will equally be denied the comfort of other essential public services (i.e. they would not be issued passports, drivers licenses, etc.) for their unpopular roles in such a costly strike. Why did they take such undue advantage of a young democratic government? Such a strike would have been unthinkable and undreamable during the era of a former government.
Do they think that they would just get away with it and their actions would become a cold case closed? If the current government exonerates them now, can they not see a possibility that in future another government could open their case, summon them before a commission of enquiry to answer for crimes committed today? Or do they think that the strike was justified and not a crime? Then ask the sick person who suffered during the strike to seek his or her opinion. Anyone of them could have been a close relative or even us. As the debate proceeded and the rhetorical questioning continued, the second group were ready with their proposal for due consideration.
The second group included writers and speakers of different literary genre, who believed in the power of positive penmanship and well-calculated speeches. They intended to pool their literary resources and write only one letter, destined for the executive, details of which are herewith simply paraphrased: Dear Mr. President, please do not bow down to any draconian and impossible demand of striking doctors. For to do so would indeed be to condone a dangerous precedent which could be unsavorily exploited thus having far more dangerous consequences. Striking is not the way forward for national and human development. For every step made towards good human progress and national development, such strikes take us five steps backwards.
Dialogue and healthy conversations with practical and implementable solutions within realistic timeframes are good options of sustainable ways forward. Such costly strikes if bowed down to now would send very wrong signals to posterior generations that such actions are the only right way to go about redressing national and human development issues. Dear Mr. President it is not for nothing that certain foreign governments as part of their foreign policies and national defense strategies do not negotiate with terrorists, whether home-grown or foreign.
A stitch in time saves nine and prevention is indeed far better than cure. Democracy or not, right or wrong, strikes of such costly magnitudes and gravity, which directly or indirectly leads to the physical suffering, unimaginable psychological pain and even deaths of poor sick patients should never be lightly tolerated. Once bitten, twice shy. Once is perhaps allowable, but twice would constitute a regrettable and costly mistake. The lamented inadequacy of essential health equipment and medical supplies were astronomically worsened by the uncalculated strike of public health personnel. This meant a deliberate addition of insult to injury. The ailing health system did not commence yesterday. It has been there before your time. It was inherited. Time and good measures should be allowed to fix it, and not destructive strikes to further sabotage it.
Why is that it is only now that public health officials are contemplating and engaging in such strikes? Why did they not do so with former governments for the health system to be corrected? Striking doctors should not abuse new-found rights of democracy and freedom of expression. These should be exercised with due prudence and intelligent caution. It is important and a cardinal rule not to break the will of the willing horse. Mr. President, considering all of the above, fixing the health and all other public delivery systems should now become important and urgent national development priorities so as to avoid the repetition of such ugly moves. We are with you, since we voted you into office, and we all have our parts and important stakes to play and should fully play in national development.
The third group had a more religious and spiritual approach. They proposed that Imams everywhere should deliver Friday religious sermons (i.e. Khutbahs) and in their pulpits strongly denounce the actions of the striking doctors. Oppressed patients, friends and relatives should be asked to pray 2 rakats and supplicate to Allah The Almighty to alleviate their sufferings and totally remove from the public health system those who were responsible for their sufferings during such a strike. They reminded against committing oppressions for Allah will always answer the supplication of the oppressed person. Mu’adh ibn Jabal reported; the messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: Beware of the supplication of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it (i.e. the supplication) and Allah. [S?ah?eeh? Bukhari¯, 4090]. Abu Hurayrah reported: the messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: The supplications of three persons are never turned away: a fasting person until he breaks his fast, a just ruler, and the supplication of the oppressed which is raised by Allah above the clouds, the gates of heaven are opened for it, and the Lord says: By my might, I will help you in due time.
[Sunan At-Tirmidhi¯, 3598]. Muslim organisations should equally condemn such a strike and organize Islamic conferences teaching the correct Islamic position which goes against such actions and wrongfully associating with individuals and or groups who support such strikes. They reminded the story of Hasan al-Basri who was a great scholar of the first Islamic century and there is no dispute regarding his credentials and immense knowledge. Ibn Sa’d relates: “A group of Muslims came to Hasan al-Basri seeking a verdict to rebel against Hajjaaj bin Yoosuf. (Hajjaaj was responsible for widespread oppression and killing towards the end of the time of the companions. He besieged Makkah and bombarded the Ka?bah. He killed the companion Abdullah bin Zubair and crucified him in Makkah).
So they said, “O Abu Sa?id! What do you say about fighting this oppressor who has unlawfully spilt blood and unlawfully taken wealth and has done this and done that?” So al-Hasan said, “I hold that he should NOT be fought. If this is a punishment from Allaah, then you will not be able to remove it with your swords. If this is a trial from Allaah, then be patient until Allaah’s judgment comes, and Allaah is the best of judges.” So they left al-Hasan, disagreed with him and rebelled against Hajjaaj. So Hajjaaj killed them all. Al-Hasan used to say, “If the people had patience when they are being tested by their unjust ruler, it will not be long before Allaah will give them a way out. However, they always rush for their swords, so they are left with their swords. By Allaah! Not even for a single day did they bring about any good.
” [Tabaqat al-Kubra (7/163-165)]
Then when all the groups have debated and finally came to a conclusion, they unanimously agreed and said: ‘we shall not fight fire with fire but we shall fight fire with water. In fact we shall not pray against the striking doctors but we shall pray for them so that the heavy scales which blinded and weighed their eyes fall completely off. “Laa darara, wa laa diraara”. We shall neither cause harm nor return harm. When we see them, we shall smile at them and say we forgive you. We shall force ourselves to do so even though this is very hard. We shall ask all those who suffered to also forgive them for they knew not what they did.
We shall remind them to learn from and look at the fine examples of heroic Christian doctors who voluntarily and even at their own expenses work for renowned global organisations such as Doctors without Borders and Mercy Ships, battling to save Muslim and other lives they hardly know, under very tough life-threatening circumstances in war-torn countries such as Syria. We shall remind them to use their leadership positions and authorities for good, and to become voices of excellent reasoning amidst confusion and chaos, and not be like the African king who was once wise and later became unwise, who now suffers a regretful mis-palindrome, able I was, ere I saw Guinea.