Where is Muslim unity in the ICJ Palestine case?

Daniyal Kahlon, UK

When South Africa filed a genocide case against Israel at the ICJ, people might have thought that all, if not most, Muslim countries, out of empathy for their Palestinian brethren, would join South Africa. After all, the plight of the Palestinians is a matter of pain to all Muslims, as the Prophet Muhammadsa is reported to have said: 

الْمُسْلِمُونَ كَرَجُلٍ وَاحِدٍ إِنِ اشْتَكَى عَيْنُهُ اشْتَكَى كُلُّهُ وَإِنِ اشْتَكَى رَأْسُهُ اشْتَكَى كُلُّهُ

Muslims are like one body of a person; if the eye is sore, the whole body aches, and if the head aches, the whole body aches. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-birri wa s-silati wal l-adaab, Bab rarahumi l-muminina wa t-ta‘attufi-him wa ta’athudihim, Hadith 2586d).

Unfortunately, so far, most Muslim countries have not formally joined the case against Israel’s genocide. The countries that have either joined, submitted a formal request to join, or expressed their desire to join, include Mexico, Chile, Ireland, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Libya. Out of all of these countries, Nicaragua, a Christian-majority country in Central America, led by example and was the first to join.

Turkey, a country with a Muslim-majority population has also expressed its desire to join the case against Israel. However, it would be interesting to note that although the majority of the population of Turkey is Muslim, the country itself is a secular republic, since an amendment in its constitution in 1928 during the era of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The newest country to express that it would join South Africa is Spain – another Christian-majority country, with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Albares, commenting: “We made this decision in light of the continuation of the military operation in Gaza.” (“Spain says to join South Africa’s Gaza genocide case against Israel at ICJ”, www.aljazeera.com) 

The countries that have joined (or want to join) South Africa’s case against Israel at the ICJ have shown great courage and humanity in standing up against the oppressors. Ironically, these countries, despite most of them being non-Muslim countries, have done the Islamic thing by joining together. The basis for this can be found in a verse of the Holy Quran:

وَاِنۡ طَآئِفَتٰنِ مِنَ الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ اقۡتَتَلُوۡا فَاَصۡلِحُوۡا بَیۡنَہُمَا ۚ فَاِنۡۢ بَغَتۡ اِحۡدٰٮہُمَا عَلَی الۡاُخۡرٰی فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِیۡ تَبۡغِیۡ حَتّٰی تَفِیۡٓءَ اِلٰۤی اَمۡرِ اللّٰہِ ۚ فَاِنۡ فَآءَتۡ فَاَصۡلِحُوۡا بَیۡنَہُمَا بِالۡعَدۡلِ وَاَقۡسِطُوۡا ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ یُحِبُّ الۡمُقۡسِطِیۡنَ

“And if two parties of believers fight [against each other], make peace between them; then if [after] that one of them transgresses against the other, fight the party that transgresses until it returns to the command of Allah. Then if it returns, make peace between them with equity, and act justly. Verily, Allah loves the just.” (Surah al-Hujurat, Ch.49: V.10)

This verse clearly speaks about two ‘believing’ parties – i.e., Muslims – and the commandment requires us to either make peace between them or fight the transgressing party. If this is how we should deal with our own Muslim brethren in such a situation, then would it not make sense to apply this to the current situation, where our Muslim brethren in Palestine are suffering at the hands of their oppressors, regardless of whether they are Muslim or not?

Joining South Africa in their case at the ICJ would not just be legal, but also a moral and Islamic act for Muslim countries. It would be in line of the prophetic teaching of the Prophet Muhammadsa:

مَنْ رَأَى مِنْكُمْ مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُغَيِّرْهُ بِيَدِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الإِيمَانِ

“He who amongst you sees something abominable should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue, and if he has not strength enough to do it, (even) then he should (abhor it) from his heart, and that is the least of faith.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-iman, Bab bayani kawni n-nahyi ‘ani l-munkari mina l-imani wa anna l-imana yazidu wa yanqusu wa anna l-amra bi l-ma‘rufi wa n-nahya ‘ani l-munkari wajiban, Hadith 49a)

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