Hadhrat Amr’s Offer of Supreme Sacrifice
(This touching episode is recorded by the Muslim historian, Imaam Waqidi. We have reproduced it from the English version extracted from the book, “Anecdotes of Islam” by E. Khan)
“Defeated and dislodged from Syria, the Roman warriors took their last bold stand at Alexandria, then the capital of Egypt. They concentrated all their strength here to arrest the progress of the Muslims, but Amr Ibnul ‘As (radhiyallahu anhu), the invincible Muslim commander, crushed the united might of the Romans even at this place. The victorious General thereafter took into his hand the rule of the conquered territory (by the appointment of Ameerul Mu’mineen, Hadhrat Umar Bin Khattaab—radhiyallahu anhu).
General Amr began by granting the fullest liberty to the Christian subjects in all their religious affairs. (In an Islamic state, the non-Muslim citizens are required to pay a special tax called Jizyah which obliges the Islamic state to protect their lives, honour and property. They are allowed freedom of worship in their areas. The term ‘fullest liberty’ is erroneous – The Majlis)
One morning intense commotion was witnessed in the Christian quarter of the city. Bands of the excited inhabitants streamed towards Chawk Bazaar and assembled in a large meeting. One after another, fiery speeches were delivered. Thereafter a number of their leaders with the local Archbishop as their head, arrived at the gate of the house of General Amr Ibnul ‘As. Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) cordially received the deputation.
The Bishop explained to Hadhrat Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) the cause of the excitement of the Christian inhabitants. There was a marble statue of Jesus Christ in the Bazaar. The Christians used to worship the idol with great reverence. Someone had broken the nose of the image the previous night. The Christians naturally connected the sacrilege with a Muslim.
General Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) gave a patient hearing and came to share the same suspicion (i.e. that a Muslim damaged the idol). He turned to the Bishop and said in a voice of agony: “I am deeply ashamed and pained at what had occurred. It is true, Islam disapproves of idol-worship. But it equally disapproves of the profanation of the gods and goddesses of non-Muslim communities. Please have the statue repaired and I shall bear the entire cost.”
The Bishop replied: “But it is impossible to repair it, for a fresh nose cannot be fitted to it.” General Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) said: “Then build a new statue, and I shall meet the cost.”
(Lest there be a misunderstanding on the issue of idols, it should be understood that when the non-Muslim community in an Islamic state pays the Jizyah tax and becomes subservient to Islamic rule, the Shariah guarantees them freedom of worship in their own areas. It is not permissible in an Islamic state for either the authorities or the Muslim populace to interfere with the worship, churches and objects of veneration of the Zimmis – the non-Muslim inhabitants in Darul Islam. All of this is part of the pledge between the Islamic state and the Zimmis, hence Hadhrat Amr’s offer – The Majlis)
The Bishop replied: “But even that is not acceptable. You know we believe Jesus to be the son of God; so vulgar money cannot compensate for the profanation of his image. There is one compensation: we shall build a statue of your Prophet (Muhammad—sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and break its nose.”
(The bishop had exceeded all bounds of propriety in making this profane and insolent demand – The Majlis)
The face of General Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) blazed up in anger. His eyes rolled fiercely; his lips tightened; his body began to quiver, and again and again his hand grasped at his sword and again and again he extricated his hand from the weapon. General Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) left his seat, walked restlessly to and fro for some time. Then he washed his face with cold water. He then returned to his seat and said in a quiet sorrowful voice:
“You propose to erect a statue of the Great Prophet who after years of strenuous struggle abolished idol-worship and then you want to break it with insult — and all this before our eyes! It is better that all our wealth, our children and lives perish! Bishop make some other proposal. I am prepared to cut off and deliver the nose of anyone of us for the nose of your image.”
The Bishop accepted the last offer with gleeful alacrity. The following morning Christians and Muslims swarmed to the open square—the Christians would have their revenge in this open place. General Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) addressed the gathering and narrated the circumstances of the unfortunate incident in their fullest details. He then called the Bishop to his presence and said:
“You are the head of the Christians, and I am the head of the Muslims here. The responsibility of ruling this country is mine and I must accept the punishment for any insult that may have been offered to your religion or for the weakness of my administration. Take this sword and cut off my nose”.
Saying this, he handed the Bishop his sword. The Bishop took the sword in his hand and began to examine the sharpness of the edge. The huge concourse stood silent and breathless in the profoundest astonishment. Suddenly the silence was broken by a Muslim soldier who was running towards the spot and crying:
“Stop! Stop Bishop! Here is the nose of your image and herewith the culprit of the day. It is I who broke your idol and this punishment is due to me. The General is entirely innocent.”
Then the man stepped before the Bishop and offered his nose. The Bishop threw away the sword and said: “Blessed is the soldier; blessed is the General and above all, blessed is the noble Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) whose ideal has built up men like these. It was no doubt a wrong to break the image, but it will be an immeasurably greater wrong to mangle a human face for that.” — End of episode
THE LESSONS FROM THE EPISODE
No doubt, every Muslim’s heart will be moved by this touching episode which vividly illustrates the boundless and profound love which the Sahaabi, Hadhrat Amr Ibnul Aa’s (radhiyallahu anhu) cherished in his bosom for Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). It is only the transcendental concept of devotion for the Rasool (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) which can induce a powerful ruler in full control of the land under his jurisdiction to voluntarily offer his face to be mangled by one of his defenceless subjects.
Non-Muslims cannever even grasp the very rudimentary elements of the type of devotion and love which the illustrious Sahaabi demonstrated by his actions. Every move which Hadhrat Amr made during his dialogue with the Bishop displays his love, the superiority of his intelligence and his lofty state of moral excellence.
From Hadhrat Amr’s spontaneous reaction of blazing anger the moment the Bishop presented his suggestion of insulting Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), the West, while not being able to understand the spiritual rationale which underlies the surge of almost uncontrollable rage, should at least acknowledge the existence of an inexplicable spiritual force which impels Muslims to react spontaneously and violently when their beloved Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is insulted. This is a reality which the West has to take into account when they formulate their policies and conspiracies in relation to Muslims.
Besides the aforementioned lesson which the West can learn from this wonderful episode, Muslims can learn several lessons.
(1) That there is no anarchy in Islam. The way in which Hadhrat Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) acquitted himself in the face of the severest provocation is exemplary. After all, the Sahaabah were beacons of guidance. “All my Sahaabah are just (guiding stars). Whomever you follow, you will attain guidance.”, said Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
(2) That issues are resolved intellectually within the framework of the Shariah, not emotionally at the behest of the inordinate demands of the evil nafs whose counsellor-in-chief is Shaitaan. Hadhrat Amr’s first and spontaneous reaction on merely hearing of the suggestion of insult was the desire to smite the neck of the Bishop and despatch him into the bowels of Jahannam. But he arrested his anger and discharged his obligations as a just ruler representing the Rasool of Allah Azza Wa Jal. He did not permit his blazing anger and his revulsion for the vile suggestion of the Bishop to goad him into the commission of the slightest vestige of injustice. He did not react like a hooligan and a thug. His head was held high aloft in the clouds of morality and spirituality—there where the Angels dwell.
(3) That a powerful man is always in control of his anger and his nafs. He is not a slave of his bestial desires. When the fire of anger drove Hadhrat Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) to repeatedly clasp his sword to despatch the Bishop to Hell, most certainly, the words of his Beloved Master Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) for whom he was prepared to mangle his face and disfigure himself for life, rang in his ears: “A powerful man is not he who drops another in physical combat. A powerful man is he who is the master of his nafs at the time of anger.” He then proceeded to wash his face with cold water to cool the flames of his anger because his Beloved Master said: “Anger is from shaitaan and Shaitaan was created from fire. Extinguish fire with water.” Although enflamed with anger, Hadhrat Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) maintained his mental equilibrium and abstained from committing any excesses.
(4) That the rights of non-Muslims should be observed. Pledges made with non-Muslims have to be honoured. The insult which the Bishop proposed was not a valid ground for violating the pledge which existed between the Muslim ruler and his non-Muslim subjects.
(5) That notwithstanding Islam’s uncompromising concept of Tauhid (Monotheism) and implacable aversion for idolatry, the Sahaabah practised great tolerance of the kufr religions of the non-Muslim people in the conquered territories. Part of the pledge and treaty stipulated freedom of religion for the non-Muslims in their areas. It therefore devolved on the state to guarantee protection of the churches and relics of the non-Muslim subjects.
(6) That while Muslim anger is natural, valid and justified when Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) or Islam is insulted, we have to contend with the Shariah. Anger should not constrain Muslims to transgress the prescribed limits of the Shariah which prohibits injustice and anarchy. The action which is to be instituted should be calculated and conform to the Shariah. Mob rampages and commission of destruction are not the Shariah’s ways of resolving issues.
“These are the limits of Allah. Do not approach even near to them.” (Qur’aan)
That is, commit no transgression of the Shariah’s laws.[Mujlisul Ulama]