17th Shawwal 1437
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي هَدَانَا لِهَذَا وَمَا كُنَّا لِنَهْتَدِيَ لَوْلَا أَنْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ
We are indeed living in stressful times. The global Muslim Ummah’s commitment to a more peaceful, just and compassionate world is currently being challenged like never before in its recent history. The failed army coup de ‘etat in Turkey that occurred during the past weekend of the 15 and 16 July 2016 and its fallout has added yet another layer to the compound tribulations we are currently facing. In this khutbah I would like to provide some brief reflections on the failed Turkish army coup which left close to 300 people killed, hundreds maimed, and thousands more being arrested and purged from the army, judiciary and state bureaucracy, including education institutions. In particular, I would like to join the growing calls on the Turkish government and especially its president, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to turn the current crisis in the country into a Kairos moment i.e. an opportunity for healing and reconciling the Turkish nation from its deep internal strife and rancour. I recognize that such a course of action is going to be arduous and will require great magnanimity on the part of the aggrieved democratically elected leaders of the Turkish nation, but I believe that this is precisely what difficult moments in history requires from great statesmen. Moreover, such an altruistic course of action is also what the Glorious Qur’an, exhorts us toward. For Allah, the Lord of Compassionate Justice proclaims in surah al-Hujurat, chapter 49 verses 9-10:
وَإِنْ طَائِفَتَانِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ اقْتَتَلُوا فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا
فَإِنْ بَغَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا عَلَى الْأُخْرَى
فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِي تَبْغِي حَتَّى تَفِيءَ إِلَى أَمْرِ اللَّهِ
فَإِنْ فَاءَتْ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا بِالْعَدْلِ وَأَقْسِطُوا
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
If two parties among the believers fall out and fight each other, make peace and reconcile between them. And should one of them commit aggression against the other, then you should all fight against the transgressing party until it complies with the command of Allah by returning to peace and reconciliation. Then if the aggressing party returns then make peace between them with equity and act justly, for Allah loves those who act justly and evenhandedly. The Believers are a single brotherhood and sisterhood, so make peace and effect reconciliation between two contending brothers and sisters. And act with God conscious restraint if indeed you desire Allah’s Mercy and Compassion. (Q49:9-10)
There can be no doubt that the treachery and treason of those Turkish army officers and their collaborators who were responsible for the failed coup need to be brought to justice. The Qur’an in the above verse, however, is exhorting us to restorative justice ( العدالة التصالحية ) not retributive justice ( العدالة الجزائية). In other words, the Qur’an advises us towards a justice that will advance sulh i.e. reconciliation and forgiveness and not further enmity and antipathy.
In this regard, the widespread reprisals in Turkey against over 50 000 people thus far is alarming. According to BBC reports more than 6000 military personal have been arrested and nearly 9000 police officers have been sacked. In addition, about 3000 judges have been suspended, 21 000 teachers and educational staff have been sacked, 1577 university deans ordered to resign, 8777 interior ministerial staff and 257 people working in the Prime Minister’s office have been sacked. This mass scale purging of the state bureaucracy is primarily aimed at followers of the Hizmet Islamic Movement. The Hizmet party leader’s spiritual leader, Shaykh Fathullah Gulen has been accused by President Erdogan as being behind the failed army coup. Shaykh Gulen, a former ally of President Erdogan until they parted ways in 2013 as a result of corruption claims against Erdogan’s son and some of his close friends, has strongly condemned the coup and denied the accusation that he is in any way connected to the failed army coup.
Even more disconcerting, is the call by some Turkish politicians for the reinstitution of the death penalty. Such a move is unwise and malevolent. It is palpable that the reason why the Turkish parliament is currently being asked to reinstitute the death penalty at this time is to allow the state to execute and kill those found guilty of state treason. Such a course of action may have the immediate effect of consolidating the current state leaderships’ power in the short term, but will foster even greater resentment within the deeply divided Turkish society and will inevitably cause further turmoil and mayhem in the future.
Given the increasingly autocratic tendencies that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has displayed during his 13-year leadership of the Turkish government, first as Prime Minister from 2003-2014 and since then as President, many cynics may argue that our counsel and advice (nasiha) of restorative justice will fall on deaf ears. In making our call on President Erogan and the Turkish government to reconsider their path of retributive justice and to adopt instead the Qur`anic path of restorative justice (al-`adala al-salihiyya) we are responding to two instructive prophetic traditions (hadithayn). In the first one, reported by the companion Tamim bin Aus al-Dari (may Allah be pleased with him) and recorded in the hadith collection of Imam Muslim the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said:
(( الدين النصيحة ))
Religion is Providing Sincere Good Counsel and Advice
In the second hadith reported by the companion Abu Sa`id al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) and recorded in the hadith collection of Imam Al-Tirmidhi the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have proclaimed:
(( أفضل الجهاد كلمة عدل عند سلطان جائر ))
The best form of jihad is speaking a word of justice (or truth)
in the face of an unjust and autocratic ruler
In conclusion, our hope in the future of Turkey lies in its ordinary citizens. They were largely responsible for preventing the Turkish army coup from being realized. They poured onto the streets of Turkey and courageously defended their democratic gains of the past two decades with their lives. It is they who also now hold the key to the future of Turkey. Given their willingness to defend their democratically elected government against the coup plotters I am hopeful that they will once again rise to the occasion and stop the current madness that has beset the Turkish President and his close allies.
At this sacred hour of jumu`ah, please join me in a prayer (du`a) for restorative justice and reconciliation for the people of Turkey and for peace with justice all over the world:
O Allah, the people of Turkey are in need of Your Guidance,
At this difficult time in their history,
Bless them with a deluge of Compassion and Mercy,
and strengthen their resolve for restorative justice and reconciliation
O Allah, bless the people of Turkey and empower them
to heal their divisions and reconcile their leaders
Comfort the hearts of those who have lost loved ones
and heal those who have been maimed
O Allah guide the current leaders of Turkey
to make good, wise and compassionate decisions
in dealing with the perpetrators of the coup and the future of their country
O Allah, help us to persevere through these difficult and turbulent times
in our broken world
We pray for a world emancipated from violence,
a world fee from injustice, oppression and suffering
O Allah, we ask You to guide the leaders of all nations
so that peace and justice may prevail throughout the world
We ask this in all of your Beautiful and Holy names.