At the recommendation of a friend, the first book I picked up to read after Pascha was Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef. He is the son of one of the founders of Hamas, was a faithful Muslim and a participant in the first Intifada. At the age of 18 he was arrested, tortured and sent to prison. This experience plays a very large role in two monumental decisions he made for his life — to become a spy and informant for the Israelis and to convert to Christianity. Son of Hamas is an autobiographical account of Yousef’s journey towards these two fateful choices.
At the center of this account is the following observation:
By the time my father arrived in Jordan in the mid-1970s to continue his studies, the Muslim Brotherhood there was well established and beloved by the people. Its members were doing everything that was on my father’s heart — encouraging renewed faith among those who had strayed from the Islamic way of life, healing those who were hurt, and trying to save people from corrupting influences in society. He believed these men were religious reformers to Islam, as Martin Luther and William Tyndale were to Christianity. They only wanted to save people and improve their lives, not to kill and destroy. And when my father met some of the early leaders of the Brotherhood, he said, “Yes, this is what I have been looking for.”
What my father saw in those early day was the part of Islam that reflects love and mercy. What he didn’t see, what perhaps has never allowed himself to see, is the other side of Islam.
Islamic life is like a ladder, with prayer and praising Allah as the bottom rung. The higher rungs represent helping the poor and needy, establishing schools, and supporting charities. The highest rung is jihad.
This observation plays itself over and over again throughout the book — seemingly rational, kind, loving and “moderate” Muslims with wives, children and successful careers end up condoning, enabling and participating in the brutal torture and murder of innocents.
As such, it is a fascinating read. This is not an academic’s second-hand understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a first-hand account from someone who lived it and intimately understands it from three different perspectives: as a Palestinian, as an Israeli operative and, finally, as a Christian. It challenges us to examine the reasons behind both the choices made by all of these reasonable, moderate Muslims to become jihadists and the choice of Yousef to reject this path and instead choose Jesus Christ.
From my own perspective, this book clearly demonstrates that belief systems and their dogmas have practical consequences in the way we live our lives. Though Son of Hamas does not deal with dogmatic issues (other than Yousef’s long struggle to understand Jesus Christ as God), it does illustrate that the radical differences between Christian and Islamic dogma do result in radical differences in behavior.
This becomes plain if we take a simple step back and compare Jesus with Muhammad. Each represents a pinnacle of what it means to be human to their respective followers, who strive to be more like them. So let us do a simple comparison of what the two did:
- Jesus sacrificed Himself in order to save all of humanity.
- Mohammad advocated acts of violence against those that defied him and participated in these acts of violence himself.
Is it any wonder that Christian martyrs were executed by oppressive governments and Muslim martyrs murder themselves and take as many people with them? Or that when Christianity conquered the Roman Empire they did so with love and that when Islam founded their empire, they did so by the sword?
Son of Hamas is an excellent read, if heart wrenching. In the end, Yousef is absolutely correct that the only way we are to resolve the conflict between Islam and Israel is by engraining upon the hearts of all the uniquely Christian tenet of Christ: love your enemy as yourself.