Imam Ilyas Sidyot

Remembrance Day: Islamic Viewpoint

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month every year, Canada comes to a virtual stand still. Thousands of Canadians , collectively and individually, become motionless and observe a 2 minute period of silence. With an artificial poppy pinned to their upper garment they remember those who sacrificed their lives in defence of the peace of the country they cherished so much and were proud to call home. This day in which the heroic martyrs of the country are remembered and honoured is known as 'Remembrance Day'.

ORIGINS AND HISTORY OF REMEMBERENCE DAY

Remembrance Day is a day which is dedicated to members of the armed forces who were killed during war in peacekeeping missions. It is also commemorated in the Commonwealth of Nations and various European countries. In Canada it is observed to remember those Canadians who died in the first and second World Wars and the Korean War. Originally this day was called 'Armistice Day' and was first conducted in 1919 throughout the Commonwealth in commemoration of the end of the first world War which officially took place on November 11, 1918 at 11 am. From 1923 to 1931, Armistice Day was held on the Monday of the week in which November 11 fell, the same day Thanksgiving day was in those days. In 1931 M.P. Allan Neill proposed a bill to hold Armistice Day on November 11.

It was also proposed that the word Armistice should be replaced with 'Remembrance'. The bill was approved and in that year 'Remberance Day ' was officially observed on November 11. As for Thanksgiving Day, it was moved to October 12 that year. 'Rememberance day was also declared a statutory holiday in the federal jurisdiction and in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia , the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and the Yukon. The Tradition which is observed on this day is a two minute silence on the 11th hour along with wearing artificial poppies as a symbol of remembrance and honor of Canada's war-dead.

These poppies are sold by the Royal Canadian Legion to raise money for needy veterans and take its origin from the famous poem, "In Flanders Fields" written in 1915 by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea. John McCrea served as a Canadian doctor on the battlefield and wrote this poem after treating the battle wounded and burying the dead in Flanders, a place located in north west Belgium and the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War. One of the few things said to have survived the bloodshed was the poppy, which is now regarded as a symbol to remember the war dead.

ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE – MESSAGE OF PEACE

Today as Canadian Muslims, we enjoy peace in our country. We are free to practice our religion, perform salah, build mosques and live peacefully with the different communities that live around us (Muslims and non Muslims). This peace is enjoyed by one and all. A great portion of this is because of the great sacrifices that the Canadian soldiers gave for the peace keeping missions during World War One & Two.

The religion Islam is also a peace loving religion. Muslims are a peace loving nation. In fact the name of our religion is Islam which literally means "PEACE".

PEACE WITH COMMUNITIES AROUND US

If we look into the noble seerah (biography) of the holy prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) we will find countless examples of how the Prophet (pbuh) encouraged peace and took part in peace keeping missions. Take the incident of "HILFUL FUDHOOL" for example: Prior to prophethood the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) and others in the city of Mecca witnessed many oppressions that were prevalent in the city. The wealthy would oppress the poor, the strong would oppress the weak. Hijacking, murder, theft etc. were all present at that time.

The Prophet (pbuh) was also amongst those who initiated the "HIlful Fudhool" which was a group of members that made an agreement to uphold peace, fairness and justice in the city of Mecca. Similarly, the Prophet (pbuh) upon migrating to Madinatul Munawarrah, gathered all the tribes of the city which comprised of Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheist, and idol worshippers who all signed a covenant to be peaceful to each other and protect each others men, women, children, wealth and assets. Almighty Allah instructs us in the Holy Quran: "Allah does not forbid you, from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous towards them and acting justly towards them. Indeed Allah loves those who act justly" (60:8) "And let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.

Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do" (5:8) ISLAM PREVENTS ALL INJUSTICE AND MISCHIEF The Holy Quran and Noble Ahadith are filled with orders instructing humanity to refrain from all injustice, mischief and chaos on the face of this earth. Almighty Allah states: "And seek not occasions for mischief in the land: for Allah loves not those who do mischief" (28:77) Jabir (ra) reports that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, "Beware of injustice. Injustice will be darkness on the Day of Judgment."(Saheeh Muslim) Ibn 'Umar (ra) reports that the Prophet (pbuh) said in the sermon of the Farewell Hajj, "Allah has made your lives and your property sacred between you like the sacredness of this day of yours in this land of yours in this month of yours." (Bukhari &. Muslim) Abdullah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'As (ra) reports that the Prophet, (pbuh), said, "A Muslim is someone from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe." (Bukhari & Muslim)

MISINTERPRETATION OF ISLAM

Those individuals or groups who take the verses of the Holy Quran or statements of the Ahadith and cause disturbance, terror and mischief on the earth are indeed misinterpreting the true message of Islam. Wherever Almighty Allah or the Holy Prophet (pbuh) have spoken about war or fighting, it always refers to self defense as clearly indicated in the Holy Quran: "And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you. But do not transgress the limits. Truly Allah loves not the transgressors" (2:190) MOURNING IN ISLAM In connection with mourning the Prophet (pbuh) had said, "It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the last day to mourn for the dead beyond three days, except for the death of her husband in which case the period of mourning is four months and ten days." (Bukhari & Muslim)

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE ON THIS DAY

It would be commendable to display our sympathy to the members of the Royal Canadian Legion, for the sake of Allah. Supporting the needy and showing our kindness to them, even if they are non-muslims, is something which Allah deems praiseworthy. Almighty Allah states: "Allah does not forbid you, from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous towards them and acting justly towards them. Indeed Allah loves those who act justly" (60:8) If we know of any person within our community who had lost their loved ones during the wars, we should approach them, sympathize with them and offer whatever assistance we can to them if they require it. If they do not need any help at that time we should let them know that we will be there for them whenever they will need us for Allah has instructed us, "And do good, indeed Allah loves the doers of good!" (2:195).

One may also wear a poppy and observe silence with the intention of supporting peace. However one should be particular about various unislamic customs and rituals and refrain from them, which are generally prevalent at non muslim functions. CONCLUSION Remembrance Day holds a message of peace as Canadian soldiers gave their lives during the peace keeping missions in World War One & Two. Muslims also support peace and uphold justice. Let us look at this day with this message of peace and refrain from any unislamic customs or rituals. We ask Almighty Allah to guide all of humanity towards the truth, peace and justice which in reality is the true message of Islam.

Jami'yyatul Ulama Canada.