Traditional Islam teaches that Muslims must call people to accept the faith or at least submit to the Islamic social order — that is dawah. If they refuse, Muslims must fight them — jihad. This is based on numerous passages of the Qur’an and Islamic tradition, including this one. Says the Prophet Muhammad:
Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war . . . When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. . . . If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them. (Sahih Muslim, book 19, no. 4294).
The Telegraph has a story today about a modern manifestation of this in Chechnya. (Thanks to Fanabba.) A young Russian soldier, Yevgeny Rodionov, an Orthodox Christian, was asked to convert to Islam by Chechen jihadis. When he refused, they killed him. Now he is being venerated as a saint and martyr:
On his 19th birthday Chechen rebels took Yevgeny Rodionov out of the cell where they had held him prisoner and invited him to convert to Islam. When he refused, they beheaded him.
To growing numbers of Russian Orthodox believers the young soldier is already a saint and a martyr for the faith. They offer prayers to him and credit icons of his image with miraculous works.
“I’m proud of my son, that he met death eye to eye, that he kept his faith to the end,” says his mother Lyubov, turning a bloodstained silver crucifix slowly in her hands. “But as for whether he’s a saint or not – that’s for God to decide.”
Mrs Rodionova found the cross in Chechnya, the region devastated by war where Yevgeny was posted at the age of 18, never to return to the small flat outside Moscow now dominated by his image.
Yevgeny the blond boy peers out from a black-and-white photo, next to Yevgeny the conscript, solemn in his uniform. Another photograph shows the brick room where he was held captive for 100 days. A final one shows the sunny glade where they killed him, and where his mother helped unearth his bones with her bare hands.
The silver crucifix, which Yevgeny made as a boy, glinted in the shallow grave, and made sure he would not join the forgotten war dead of the past decade.
His is a timely story in a nation hungry for heroes after the demise of Soviet superpower, where millions look to nationalism and the Church for relief from a relentless slide into poverty.
“People seem to need Yevgeny where things are tough,” says Mrs Rodionova. “They look to him in the prisons, in the army, where a believer’s life is hard.”
His icons bring solace and sometimes salvation, according to his mother. She says that one icon, in a small chapel in Siberia’s remote Altai mountains, began to weep myrrh just before a major earthquake hit the region last year. It was a warning to locals, she says, and the chapel survived.
Church elders have frowned upon Yevgeny’s grassroots canonisation. Their disapproval means little to his mother, whose lone search for her missing son left her with a loathing for officialdom.
Ten months spent with Chechnya’s most notorious guerrillas, more than $10,000 buying information about her son, the death of Yevgeny’s father five days after her son’s burial: these things have left their mark, she says.
But they are as nothing compared to the betrayal she says her son suffered at the hands of Russia’s military and political leaders.
“They just send our boys away to an undeclared war and then forget about them. This is Russia’s disgrace.”