Dr. Mustafa Al-Shakma in an interview with Atef Abdel-Ghany, talks about the forthcoming celebrations of the fourteen-hundredth anniversary of Egypt’s entry into the Islamic world. He insists that the people of Egypt were not forced to adopt Islam after its Fath [opening up of the land by Muslims], and that in the fighting that occurred when Islam entered Egypt only Romans were killed, not Egyptians. He talks briefly about Islam’s treatment by other nations in the West, and about Dhimmitude. He insists that the expression Al-Dhimma is a beautiful word, a most kind word...
1400 years elapsed with Islam present on the land of Egypt, the nation honored by God in the Qur’an unlike any other land.
In [the Hijri month] of Moharram of the twentieth year after Hijra (December 640 A.D.), Egypt was liberated from the Roman rule and entered under the wing of Islam, after the Arabic military leader Amr Ibn Al-Aas reached it with a small number of soldiers, and great support from heaven.
From fourteen hundred years ago and until now, Egyptians’ celebration of Islam has not been interrupted, despite history ignoramuses and ill-hearted people.
Q: Dr. Mustafa Al-Shakma, what is the intention behind Egypt’s celebration of the fourteen-hundredth anniversary of its entering Islam.
A: For me, the matter is not of intentions, but the matter of a great occasion to be remembered by all Egyptians, whether a Christian keeping his faith that was here upon Islam’s arrival, or a Muslim. Because the celebration is of value itself. Islam is a religion from heaven, its book is the Book revealed by God to a Prophet in which He called mankind to high values, either in worldly matters like family and human relations, or spiritually.
Islam calls for the worship of the One God, a religion that approves all previous Heavenly religions. He who does not accept these previous religions in addition to Islam is not completely Muslim. Some scholars said: "He is not considered a Muslim who denies the prophethood of Jesus, Moses and Abraham." Islam also has honored humans: "We have honored the Children of Adam" [17:70, The Koran Interpreted, Arthur Q. Arberry, Oxford University Press, 1964]. He did not honor the white without the black, nor the followers of a certain faith and leave the others. A human whoever he may be is honored in Islam, the religion of Almighty God who made man His successor in his property.
Islam also is the religion that calls for the adoption of what is good, and the leaving of what is evil, therefore, it is an ethical faith. It is also a scientific and rational religion, the very first verse to come down in its great Book urges humans to seek knowledge ["Recite: In the Name of thy Lord who created, created Man of a blood-clot. Recite: And thy Lord is the Most Generous, who taught by the Pen, taught the Man, that he knew not" [96:1-5, The Koran Interpreted, Arthur Q. Arberry, Oxford University Press, 1964] as if it came to revive people’s souls with religion beside reviving them with monotheism.
The Prophet’s traditions too, honor the seeking of knowledge, "Scientists are the successors of prophets". Islam calls for love among all people.
Q: Were the people of Egypt forced to adopt Islam after its Fath [opening up of the land by Muslims]?
A: Islam does not force a non-Muslim to adopt Islam. The faith says: "No compulsion is there in religion" [2:256, The Koran Interpreted, Arthur Q. Arberry, Oxford University Press, 1964]. There is a difference between "invasion" and "Fath". Invasion is to enter a country by force, use and make slaves of its people, and Islam did nothing of that. It found emperors and kings ruining the land, doing injustice to its people, so it wanted to liberate those people from injustice and those enslaving them. This is the reason for the Fath.
The armies of Islam started wars with the empires of that time. It has conquered Persia by the sword for example, because its rulers were unjust. The "Fath" activities began after the death of the Prophet. In His life, he addressed the kings and emperors in a way that suits them. For example, he addressed the king of Persia as man of faith, and his letter was full of diplomacy. When it comes to the Romans, they were unjust to Egyptians as history books written by non-Muslims told us, and they were even more unjust in Syria. Therefore, the nobles of Syria wrote to caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab asking him to help them get rid of the Roman rule, and it was strange that the Christians of Syria did not fight with the Christians of Rome upon the Fath, the Christian tribe of Taghlib fought with Muslims, and when they were asked why, they answered: "We fight with our people because they were not unjust to us. You Romans were unjust to us for hundreds of years." When Syria was opened and justice ruled in it, without forcing a single Syrian to move into Islam, with Jerusalem opened later and Christian rights were saved by treaties, then Egyptians heard of all this and asked Amr Ibn Al-Aas to conquer Egypt.
Q: What was the role of the swords in Egypt’s Fath?
A: Some collisions had to happen with the Romans, without harming a single Egyptian, because they too were ruled by the unjust religious and worldly Roman system. The Archbishop of Egypt himself was hiding in the desert, and Omar sent for him when the Fath was done. Omar honored him and they became close friends, and justice spread throughout Egypt. No single Copt was forced to adopt Islam and we are speaking about historical truths. Omar Abdel-Aziz, an Ummayyid caliph who ruled in year 100 Hijri, received a letter from the appointed-ruler of Egypt. The ruler was frightened that Egyptians were entering Islam is masses, and the treasury was nearly empty because they no longer paying Jizya [a tax paid by non-Muslims residing in Muslim lands in return for internal and external protection; Muslims had to join the army, Christians were not allowed to but had to pay the Jizya instead]. Omar’s reply was: "God has sent Mohammed as a guide not as a tax collector." In Egypt also, the Arabic language spread at the expense of Coptic without force. And from the moment of Fath on, Egypt remained the land of peace.
Q: Where did the lie of Egypt being invaded by the Arabs with swords come from?
A: The lies describing what happened as invasion came from the crusaders.
A: Islamic rule is of religion - and world-affairs, while Christianity has more spirituality than Islam. Some Christian priests from Europe forgot that, they even started selling people palaces in Heaven while they were still alive. Those priests saw Islam endangering their materialistic desires, and it showed particularly in Andalusia, where Christian fanatics started paying more attention to Islam [in a negative way] When they failed to invade Andalusia because of its powerful rulers, they changed their heading to the east, and said that: "If the Arabs invaded our countries, we will invade theirs." The idea grew and the orientalists who wore the mask of knowledge while being ignorant, developed it. They repeated it like a bad tune until the parrots ignorant of history learned it by heart.
Q: And what is your vision for the future of Islam, both locally and internationally?
A: I will summarize that it a part of a verse: "The foam vanishes while what is of benefit remains." [Translators’ Comment: The Qur’an contains no such verse. It may be that Dr. Al-Shakma is quoting a verse of poetry, or a proverb]. If Islam is of benefit to people, it will survive and will not be harmed. We are saying this in a time when the term "globalization" is being used to mean changing the people to a single world with one set of ideas and ethics. What is our standing point concerning this globalization? I say that we have nothing to do with it, because we have what is superior to it, we have humanity, man being a brother of all men. We seek knowledge no matter where it may be. The great philosopher Ibn-Rushd, who some western tails are trying to call him agnostic or another Greek philosopher, said: "We read what they wrote, and as long as it does not collide with our faith, ethics, morals and traditions, we adopt it. Otherwise, we reject it and still thank them." In both ways, we would benefit either positively or otherwise. This is about intellectual dialog. When it comes to religion, God has taken care of the existence of Islam: "It is We who have sent down the Remembrance, and We watch over it." [15:9, The Koran Interpreted, Arthur Q. Arberry, Oxford University Press, 1964] The Remembrance is the Qur’an, meaning Islam, and this watching-over has no harm [on us], it is all benefit, justice, evolution, knowledge and wisdom. Globalization cannot damage such a well preserved ideology. I mean Islam in its true values, not those written about by non-Muslims or some Muslims who have strayed. Internationally, Islam has friends in Europe who remained in their Christian beliefs. In Germany, some parents were angry because they discovered that their children were being mislead in schools, and taught untrue things about Islam. Therefore, they formed a committee of different classes to look through what was written in their history about Islam. In Belgium, Islam is an accepted religion in schools, a Muslim teacher is brought to teach Muslim boys or girls. Also in Austria, the Arabic language has become an official language a student may study.
Q: What about America?
A: This is another story to be recorded and published. In the sixties, Muslims did not exceed half a million persons who barely knew the Shahada [Testimony that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammed is His Prophet. Testimony is the first of the five pillars of Islam, the other four are: Prayers, giving money to the poor (Zakah), fasting the month of Ramadan, and making the pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime by who is capable of it (Hajj)]. Nowadays, Muslims in America exceed 12 million [in number]. I know a group of African American Muslims called the "Black Muslim Movement" who joined Islam because their ancestors who were kidnapped from Ghana and Guinea were Muslims. Alex Halley’s book "Roots" is a well-known example about a black man who looked for his origins and found them Muslim, so he joined Islam. [Editor’s note: It has been proved that Halley fabricated a great deal of the supposedly historical evidence in his book "Roots"]
The Arab and Muslim delegates in America, especially the smart ones, are tempted by the American nationality, a good job and a big salary, the temptation of marrying an American woman, or by research facilities. The smart ones who refuse all these temptations get killed. They killed a genius Lebanese from the house of Sabbahi, the famous family, and they also killed Samira Moussa, the Egyptian scientist. Many others [could be] added to the list.
There is an "Islamic Center" in America that has contributed to transforming three million black Muslims who worshiped the "Black God" to real Muslims. I sent two sons of their leader, Elijah Mohammed, to study in Al-Azhar. Now, the Americans join Islam in hundreds, a single lecture given by the head of Islamic Art Division, Dr. Hubb-Allah - in which he said about a praying man: "If this man asked the Lord sincerely, He would give him without confession or mediation" - the lecture led ten of Washington’s elite to Islam. We are not surprised by the behavior of the American administration watching hundreds of Americans joining Islam.
Islam’s greatness shows as much as it is fought, and it shows in Bosnia and Chechnya.
Q: What about Islam regarding non-Muslim in its countries as "Ahl Al-Dhimma" [the people enjoying Muslim protection]?
A: The expression "Ahl Al-Dhimma" is a beautiful one, because the minority is usually harmed if left under the power of majority, especially if this majority is ignorant. Islam’s solution to the problem was granting protection to the non-Muslim minority by the Muslim government. This is the explanation of the word "Al-Dhimma", a most kind word. The minority need not be Christian, the word is general.
Q: What are the subjects to be discussed in Egypt’s celebration [of 14 centuries of Islam in Egypt]?
A: In the celebration of Islam’s entrance to Egypt, we will talk about all facts, we will invite religious figures from all races and faiths. We have ended setting the main guidelines, they are all humanitarian ones.