Skip to main content

Muslims in Pakistan, show compassion and justice

By Feisal Abdul Rauf, Special to CNN
August 26, 2012 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Pakistanis gather in Islamabad, Pakistan, on August 22 outside the closed house of a Christian girl accused of blasphemy.
Pakistanis gather in Islamabad, Pakistan, on August 22 outside the closed house of a Christian girl accused of blasphemy.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A young Christian girl in Pakistan was accused of burning text from the Quran
  • Feisal Abdul Rauf: Muslims should not be angry at the girl, they should show compassion
  • He says Pakistan must not allow a handful of extremists to define Islamic values
  • Rauf: Islam is a religion of peace and justice; Muslims must live up to its standards

Editor's note: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, one of the key figures in the plan for an Islamic center near ground zero, and author of "Moving the Mountain: Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America." His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy, and Time magazine named him among the 100 most influential people of the world.

(CNN) -- Islam is a religion of compassion and mercy, considering that the two adjectives most used in the Quran to describe God are the "compassionate" and the "merciful." It is also a religion of justice. Throughout Islamic history, many non-Muslims would take their disputes to Sharia courts, over their own religious courts, because of the firm injunctions in the Quran and Sharia law to adhere to high standards of justice.

It is for this reason that, as an imam, I am deeply distressed to hear that a young Christian girl in Pakistan was accused by her angry Muslim neighbors of burning text from the Quran, Islam's holy book, in violation of the country's blasphemy laws.

Reportedly, the girl is mentally challenged and used the pages for fuel. Some say that she may also be illiterate. After several hundred emotionally charged people surrounded her house to demand punishment, the police arrested her as a way to protect her.

Feisal Abdul Rauf
Feisal Abdul Rauf

There is neither justice, compassion nor mercy in what has happened to the girl.

Pakistan must champion Islam as a religion of peace and not allow a handful of extremists to define it for all Muslims; such extremists confuse ordinary Muslims into thinking that Sharia law is about punishment rather than about promoting harmony and human flourishing.

The Muslims in Pakistan must display the highest expression of Islamic values and principles. They must manifest the mercy and wisdom of one of the early Islamic leaders, Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab, who suspended the punishment for theft during a time of famine so as to best fulfill the intention of God's law.

I call upon Muslims in Pakistan to reject the accusations against the girl and live up to the highest ethical standards set forth by God and his messenger. It is not right to be angry and to want to punish a young girl for unknowingly burning words from the Quran.

According to Islamic tradition, "Works are rendered efficacious only by their intention." In other words, the intention to commit a crime is a primary consideration in Islamic law. It was not the girl's intention to blaspheme against the Quran, as she is mentally challenged and could not have understood the content of the pages.

As a minor, the girl cannot legally incur punishment. In the Islamic school of law practiced in Pakistan, one must demonstrate competence in making socially responsible judgments. This girl could not have demonstrated competence in her judgment.

Furthermore, burning the physical book of the Quran is not an act of blasphemy. It has always been an acceptable means of disposing of an old copy of the Quran. In Islamic theology, the Quran is not a book but rather, as the name means in Arabic, the recitation of God's word. Muslims use the printed copies as a memory aid in reciting this word, a word which can never be defiled.

And lastly, to prevent this kind of incident from repeating in the future, we must turn to the help of the state. According to the objectives (maqasid) of Islamic law, the government must try to eradicate the poverty that drove the girl to scrounge for paper for fuel, as an obligation to provide sustenance in "promoting wealth." The government must actively work toward creating harmony between Pakistan's various faith communities, a key aspect of fulfilling the objective of "preserving religion." And it has the responsibility to provide schooling for all citizens so that they can read as part of "preserving the mind."

Muslims must be characterized by loving humanity, by upholding justice and by showing kindness toward their neighbors, even to the extent that should someone offer you a deadly poison, give him the choicest honey in exchange. Within Islamic history, the Muslim community has been known for such qualities. It is time again to take up that mantle and act always in the name of God, the most compassionate, the merciful -- b-ism Allahi al-raHmān al-raHīm.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Feisal Abdul Rauf.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1818 GMT (0218 HKT)
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1209 GMT (2009 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT