Why are Muslims criminalizing the Qur’an?

Qasim Rashid Spokesperson, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
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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.

Upon arriving before Muhammad, Omar bin Khattab declared “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger,” thus accepting Islam and professing his faith as a Muslim. Omar bin Khattab, the man whom all Arabia recognized as the most angry, violent, and ill-tempered ultimately became a model for patience, compassion, and love of humanity. As Islam’s second Khalifa he created a vast and prosperous economic system, for which Dr. Michael Hart recognizes him as the 52nd most influential person in history. Omar bin Khattab’s choice of compassion elevated him from a shadow to a king.

Omar bin Hisham, or the Father of Wisdom, however, chose another route. His antagonism and violence against Islam and Muhammad accelerated. He led the charge to exile Muslims, criminalize the Qur’an, and murder those who chose Islam as their faith. Though once a great man, Omar bin Hisham’s arrogance overcame him and soon the Arabs changed his name from the Father of Wisdom to Abu Jahil, or the Father of Ignorance. The man once respected throughout all Arabia became the most despised, ultimately destroying himself and dying in his ignorance. Omar bin Hisham’s choice of arrogance devolved him from a king to a shadow.

Today, 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. I’ve written a book on the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims at the hands of other Muslims so we need not revisit that whole story.

But as fate would have it, the Muslim world is presented with the exact dilemma Omar bin Khattab faced with his sister. As we speak Dr. Ahmad Masood, an Ahmadi Muslim from the United Kingdom, sits in a putrid Pakistani prison cell for his crime of blasphemy.

Like Omar’s sister, Dr. Masood’s only crime was reading the Qur’an and professing his faith as a Muslim.

For committing the same “crime” Omar’s sister committed, Dr. Masood has been stripped of his rights, freedoms, and safety. Yet, the Muslim world remains silent.

And now, every Muslim has a choice – whose path do you wish to follow?

The Muslims and Muslim scholars today who refuse to condemn criminalizing the Qur’an sadly align themselves with Abu Jahil, the Father of Ignorance. Those who champion freedom of conscience, protect the rights of all to read the Qur’an, and choose action over apathy, align themselves with Omar bin Khattab, Islam’s second Khalifa.

Following the master Prophet Muhammad’s most perfect example, Ahmadi Muslims continue to pray that the Omar bin Khattabs of the Muslim world speak up for justice. Meanwhile, Dr. Masood continues to languish in prison for his crime of reading the Qur’an.

So reflect my fellow Muslims — who inspires you? Islam’s second Khalifa, or the Father of Ignorance? Should history remember you as a courageous king or a despised shadow?

Choose wisely my friends; your future depends on it.

Qasim Rashid is a National Spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA and author of the critically acclaimed book The Wrong Kind of Muslim. Follow him @MuslimIQ.