Prophetic Disobedience

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The Prophets taught their followers how to disobey. It is ironic that disobedience is found in pacifism, obedience in violence; it is ironic that most world armies train and manufacture soldiers to obey and implement orders with no objections. However, the principle of obedience to violence has its costs. The Torah and the Qur'an mention that Adam's son, the killer, was hit with loss and eaten with regret. This is the unconscious disease that inflicts soldiers who enter criminal wars: just as pollution rises when we abuse the environment, so would these consequences appear when we abuse our souls in violence. The medical disorders of the soldiers returning &om the Gulf war and the Vietnam war are signs of this troubled conscience. The resignation of the French Defense Minister during the Gulf war and the refusal of some Russian generals to prosecute the war against the Chechens are others. Even though there is extensive research about the physical and psychological disorders caused by war, we do not pay enough attention to the mental costs of maintaining institutions that have become obsolete. The nervous system is a delicate realm and any mistaken use will manifest itself. We tax this system when we engage people in obsolete practices such as war, which has lost its function and viability.

The world wants a soldier to be like a rifle devoid of choice and subject to orders without a right to object. Soldiers are told "if you go to war, you might not get killed but if you do not go you will definitely die." Pharaoh told the same to those who rebelled against him, left his service and rejected his path. He threatened: "Be sure I will cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will have you crucified on trunks of palm trees." (Surah 20 Ta Ha:71) But his subjects decided to stand as Adam's son stood and confronted his threats with: "Never shall we regard you as more than the clear signs that have come to us or than Him who created us! So decree whatever you desire to decree: for you can only decree the life of this world." (Id. at 72)

Human beings have deeper yearnings than that for violence. They have needs which the prophets grasped and to which they addressed themselves. The Prophets directed their call to humanity, saying: "you have one divine Master whom you should obey." Should any human ask you to return to the law of muscles you must decline without hesitation. We have been told: "No one can serve two masters." (Matt 6:24) "Serve God, and eschew tyranny." (Surah 16 A1 Nahl: 36) The Prophets realized the blessing of knowing good and evil: one who truly understands the difference between good and evil becomes incapable of doing evil or responding to the call of evil1. This is a significant point in the teaching of the Prophets. Their first step was to teach people to withdraw from evil and to continue on the path of good.

A soldier who knows the difference between good and evil is useless in the armies of the world. Who would buy arms that are capable of disobeying orders? Who would buy a sword that distinguishes good from evil? This is what the Prophets wanted to manufacture, not a rifle made of flesh and bone.

The prophets wanted to found and establish a new way, the way of Adam's son, the one whose position can be summarized as follows: "I know good and evil and have left the law of the jungle. You could kill me but you can not turn me into a killer." It is as if Abel is saying to his brother: "Yes you can kill me. I will die anyway even if you did not kill me. But I will not make my death validate killing. I will deny you the benefit of killing. I will do so by declining to enter the battle of bodies with you, because if I defend myself you will believe in the effectiveness of killing. I will abrogate and cancel the benefit of killing and make it vile even in your eyes." And Abel succeeded when "Cain said to the Lord, `My punishment is heavier than I can bear." (Gen 4:13)2 "The Lord said, `What have you done? Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground. (Id. at 10) In the Qur'an, Cain becomes full of remorse and regret. For while soldiers conceive of success in combat as heroic and even that assassinating a person who is armed and protected as skillful, the killing of those who do not defend themselves is seen as a grisly murder. Indeed, to resist passively is, ironically, economical, since not many can be killed by such a method unlike battles, which end up destroying many lives, both the defeated and the victorious. By declining to defend ourselves, like Adam's son, the Prophets and Socrates, we render killing criminal and remove awe from it.

The world still lives with our inability to adapt to the evolution of the human nervous system. Respecting human consciousness reached a high plateau in the calls of Jesus and Muhammad, to the point of calling for the love of one's enemies and responding with compassion to those who persecute us3. "If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect? Even the tax-collectors do as much as that." (Matt 5:46) The Qur'an moves a step further; it no longer orders Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) companions to love their enernies but it states that they already love them4. We see in these two verses the possibility of loving one's enemies. We must approach this call to loving one's enemies on a level that removes it from the realm of insanity and impossibility as we have always conceived of it throughout history.

We should be able to disconnect the body from ideas, for the body is not born with evil. Rather, we fill the mind with evil, taking the wrongful of our two paths: "By the soul (self) and the proportion and order given to it; He inspired it as to its wrong and its right. Truly he succeeds that purifies it. And he fails that vilifies it!" (Surah 91 Al Shams: 7-10)

Intellectual Healing

In trying to heal the disease of the soul, the choice for violence, we might consider how we respond to those who have physical diseases. Do we not love the sick person even while we hate the disease and strive with all our effort to combat it? What would we think if we saw a doctor who believed in healing sick persons by killing them instead of eradicating the disease? Who would ever use the services of such a doctor? Yet, is not a person with sick ideas a sick person; and is it not possible to love this person while hating his or her ideas? A sick person is normally in dire need for love and compassion. A person sick with the diseases of ignorance and hatred is also in dire need for love and knowledge, because knowledge is love and love is knowledge.

Faith in God, His prophets and books entails this: we must learn to create love, to turn hatred into love. This is the ultimate investment of human beings. "Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better (with goodness): then will the person, with whom there is hatred between you and that person, become like a friend and intimate!" (Surah 41 Fussilat: 34) These are not mere wishes or dreams; neither are they utopian thoughts. They were certainties for prophets and we will come to discover them. It will be possible to capture thetri through other fornls of knowing like science. I want to call for the possibility of such a discovery just as John the Baptist did, crying in the wilderness for repentance5. "It was of him that the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, `A voice cries in the wilderness. Prepare the way for the Lord; Clear a straight path for him."' (Matt 3:3)

I want to cry, as John the Baptist did, that the person who caused the explosion in Oklahoma city, the person who gassed the subways of Tokyo, the person who killed Saddat and the person who killed Rabin, that all those who made decisions to go to war in the last half of this century are screaming about their ignorance of history. All those killed as a result of these battles are human offerings, justified only by the thought that our ancient ancestors were cannibals.

Ultimately, our scientists will be able to articulate the reality of this horror methodologically and will become competent in convincing us of this reality. Even now, experts in various fields show us that the truth can make a significant difference, but we must cooperate in clarifying such matters. And we must never get weary, never give up. Jesus taught us perseverance in forgiving those who wrong us beyond patience6. "Jesus replied, `I do not say seven times but seventy times seven." (Matt 18: 22)


1 This is also what is expressed in the Bible in: "The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil." Gen 3:22.

2 In the preceding passage, God calls Cain to account. See what the Lord God said, in the Old Testament, to Adam's son, the killer: "The LORD asked Cain, `Where is your brother Abel?' 'I do not know,' Cain answered. `Am I my brother's keeper?"' Gen 4:9.

3 See the verses. Jesus says:

"You have heard that they were told, `An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.' But what I tell you is this: Do not resist those who wrong you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn and offer him the other also. You have heard that they were told, `Love your neighbour and hate your enemy."' Matt. 5:44(King James Version). "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; only so can you be children of your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the innocent and the wicked [on the just and on the unjust.]" Matt 5:38-45.

4 "Ah! You are those who love them, but they love you not-though you believe in the whole of the Book . . ." Surah 3 Ali `Iznran: 119.

5 "In the course of time John the Baptist appeared in the Judaean wilderness, proclaiming this message: `Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is upon you! "' Matt 3: I-2.

6 "'Then Peter came to him and asked, `Lord, how often am I to forgive my brother if he goes on wronging me? As many as seven times?' Jesus replied, `I do not say seven times but seventy times seven."' Mat 18:21.