In the name of Allah, the Merciful to all, the Compassionate
Today I discovered that the author of a book titled: Questioning Islam: Tough Questions & Honest Answers about the Muslim Religion tweeted about Honour Killing sanctioned by Quran. The tweet reads as following:
The murder of a rebellious child by one taught knowledge from the presence of Allah (18:65)
Chapter 18 of the Qur'an tells the story of Khidhr whom Allah describes as: "...one of our servants on whom we had bestowed Mercy from ourselves and whom we had taught knowledge from our own Presence". Khidhr was such a remarkable ﬁgure that even Moses wanted to accompany him to learn from him (18:66). Khidhr agrees that Moses may accompany him provided that he do not ask him questions but simply observes. He then goes on to do some strange things (scuttling a boat. killing a child, building a wall over some treasure). Every time Moses could not help himself and asks question, prompting criticism from Khidhr. In the end, however, all is revealed.
Let us look more closely at the killing of the boy. Khidhr explains his murder in the following way: “As for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared that he would overburden them by transgression and disbelief. So we intended that their Lord should substitute for them one better than him in purity and nearer to mercy" (Qur‘an 18:80-81)
Here we have a clear example from the Qur'an of what can only be described as an ‘honour killing‘. The boy is summarily dispatched by this great servant of Allah simply because he is rebellious and disbelieving. You may have heard that ‘honour killing’ is simply a cultural practice with no scriptural basis in Islam. Think again.
This conclusion has many points wrong.
First of all, Quran brought this as a story, and never suggested people to do whatever Khidhr did. Quran has many other stories about Moses, like non-stop praying for 40 days and nights straight. I have never heard anyone else try to do the same thing as Moses did. Khidhr and Moses were from different lands with different laws and customs in a different time, and everybody knows many of the laws and rules of that era is abolished later by Jesus and more by Islam. So using this story as a basis to carry out killings or, subsequently, to criticize this story as a scriptural basis for honour killing is an utter failure of common sense.
Second of all, what the Quran says is that killing a boy based on his nature cannot be authorized even by Moses, the founder of his nation and one of the greatest messengers of Allah. So how the author of the book could conclude that the Quran sanctions ordinary people to practice the honour killing?
The real moral of the story of Moses and Khidhr is that “NO human, you cannot claim having a higher authority; even MOSES didn't have that, so sit the hell back down, obey the law, and mind your own business”. Moreover if you travel and see others who are more knowledgeable and wiser than you, you will be put in your place and your ego will not run wild.
Personally I do not see myself in a position to judge about Khidhr in a story happened at least 3400 years ago. Who knows about the details and how bad the boy was? But the fact of the matter is, there are special circumstances where tough decisions need to be made for the greater good, even by ordinary people who are creatures with hormones and basic animalistic tendencies, let alone the messengers of Allah. I am not condoning people who consider a higher authority for themselves, but I am talking about reality.
Let me explain it by some example.
Imagine when you wake up in the morning, you hear from radio that Russia has invaded the United States, and Russian troops landed in Bangor naval base, near Seattle, and captured it. Now they have the control of all nuclear submarines and more than 2000 nuclear warheads. It’s obvious for everybody that the US cannot let Russians have that. So one of high ranking military officers will push the button and nuke the base; even if it’s obvious for everybody that tens of thousands of ordinary innocent US citizens in Seattle will be dead. So you know that in such cases, there is someone in military ranks who has the authority to kill US citizens. Maybe he does not even bother to call the president and ask for permission, and even he may not be officially authorized to do that, but he just pushes the button.
15 years ago it was in the news that a strain of Ebola had spread in an African city (I cannot remember its name). At that time they found that the virus was airborne and the fatality rate was very high. So the African governments’ consensus was if they let the virus to spread more, it may be a serious danger to the world. So they launched a chemical attack and killed the whole city with 12000 citizens and all the international physicians and nurses who were there to help. I never had a chance to verify the story. Maybe it was just a rumor. But my point is that we can imagine such a case in which someone has an authority to order killing every single living creature in a city for a greater good. No one mentions such things in law books and constitutions, but we know that there are cases in which someone must make a special decision.
People who assume a special authority are not only in such rare cases. We can find lots of examples in our day to day life. Imagine a patient in a coma who is in a vegetative state and can live for a long time. Everybody knows that there is someone in that hospital who has the authority to pull the plug and kill the patient, even without his family’s consent, and even without letting anyone else to know. If anyone else does that, even another doctor or nurse, it would become a murder case. It does not mean the one who makes such decisions can do anything on his whim; on the other hand the hospitals’ managers do their best to make sure the best decisions are made.
Every one of us through our own lives may find ourselves in a situation that we have to make decisions about others. For example you may find someone who wants to commit suicide, and you may decide to prevent it or you may let it happen, or even you may assist him without telling anyone else.
The fact that there are some contagious and infectious ideas, in the same way that there are contagious viruses is undeniable. Every society has an agency like the FBI, the main mission of which is to control the ideas they may deem contagious and infectious.
That’s the reality of our world, and nobody has a problem with that reality. But why does it irritate some if the Quran mentions that reality?
If Quran wants to declare something as law, it does not shy. But not all verses are about law. Some of them are defining what we know today as Common Sense, or just explaining how the real world works.