Some 1400 years ago the unjust Meccan government criminalized the Qur’an. They arrested, beat, and murdered those who insisted on reading it. Today, another unjust government has criminalized the Qur’an and once again, those who insist on reading it are arrested, beaten, and murdered.
Today, as Dr. Masood Ahmad sits in prison for the crime of reading the Qur’an, Muslims and Muslim scholars worldwide have a choice before them — the same choice presented 1400 years ago to Omar bin Khattab and Omar bin Hisham.
In the early days of Islam, Omar bin Khattab was an angry and violent man. His contempt for Islam was rivaled only by his contempt for Prophet Muhammad. This led to his ongoing intimidation, antagonism, and persecution of Muslims. As a shadow of the great man he would ultimately become, Omar bin Khattab initially wanted nothing more than to rid Arabia of Islam and Muhammad.
Another man named Omar bin Hisham also walked the Arabian soil in those days. Respectfully known as Abu Hakam, or the Father of Wisdom, Omar bin Hisham was at first a great man compared to the shadow he would ultimately become. And like Omar bin Khattab, Omar bin Hisham wanted nothing more than to rid Arabia of Islam and Muhammad.
Prophet Muhammad responded to both Omar’s antagonisms by praying for God to change the heart of at least one Omar, to accept Islam.
But Omar bin Khattab’s anger soon reached a boiling point and he resolved to murder Prophet Muhammad. As Omar marched to fulfill his mission, his fellow Arabs admonished him to first ensure his own house was in order. In other words, unbeknownst to Omar, some of his family members had already professed their faith in Islam.
Upon learning this Omar rushed to his sister’s home to find her and her husband reciting the Qur’an. Omar demanded an explanation and in his anger struck his sister in the face — causing her to bleed.
Her only crime was reading the Qur’an and professing her faith as a Muslim.
Rather than recant, Omar’s sister remained firm and resolved that no amount of force would cause her to leave her chosen faith or stop reciting the Qur’an. Upon hearing this Omar’s anger remarkably subsided. He reflected, and asked to hold the sheets upon which the Qur’an was written. His sister momentarily refused and ordered him to first bathe. Omar complied, read the Qur’an, and then proceeded to find Prophet Muhammad.