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
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT