The Holocaust cast a bleak shadow over human history when millions of lives were brutally lost. Islam is unequivocal about such gross injustice – to take one life is like the murder of all humankind.

A scar on human history

The Catastrophe


Hungarian Jews on selection ramp, May, 1944


Children and an old woman on the way to the death barracks of Auschwitz-Birkenau


The memorial in Berlin for those murdered during the Holocaust

IThe Holocaust or Shoah (catastrophe) left a deep scar on the history of mankind. The Nazis’ path to state-sponsored mass murder began when Adolf Hitler marched his way to power in Germany in 1933. The Nazis began initiating their anti-Jewish pogroms, which eventually led to the first death camp in Poland towards the end of 1941. Jewish men, women and children were loaded into the back of lorries and fumes from the exhaust were pumped into the containers. Bodies were then buried in mass graves in the forests nearby. Thus began the first steps towards the systematic murder of Jews. It is not a virtue, but a civic and religious obligation to show solidarity with the oppressed and speak out against acts of injustice – the Holocaust is no exception. In January 1942, Nazi leaders met at Wannsee near Berlin to contrive their chilling plan entitled “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question” in Europe. Jews were transported to extermination camps throughout 1942 – 1944. The most infamous and largest network of concentration camps was at Auschwitz, Poland. Babies as young as one were killed; even newborns did not escape death. Those who did not perish in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labour, disease, and grotesque medical experiments. Approximately six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust – two thirds of the Jewish population who had lived in Europe. Other victims of the Holocaust included hundreds of thousands of Romani people, Poles, Soviets, and 100,000 Muslims.

The position of Islam on oppression and injustice is unequivocal: it is forbidden and is not tolerated at any cost. The value of life is sacred in Islam. The Quran states that if any person takes away one innocent life “it is as if he kills all mankind”. Muhammad warned, “Beware of oppression, for oppression will turn into excessive darkness on the Day of Judgement.” Islamic teaching directs Muslims towards the duty of treating others with respect, mercy and compassion. "The best among you are those who are of benefit to others" is a famous Prophetic tradition. It is not a virtue, but a civic and religious obligation to show solidarity with the oppressed and speak out against acts of injustice – the Holocaust is no exception. The performance of a Muslim’s obligations like prayer and fasting never removes his/her moral duty to meet societal responsibilities. Muslims should view the Holocaust through the lens of the universal Quranic and Prophetic guidelines on human dignity and sanctity of life and not through the narrow prism of the current political tensions of the Middle East.

The Holocaust reminds us all of the evil inherent in human nature and the capability of turning against our fellow man with such monstrous behaviour. No one has the right to politicise the suffering and memory of the Holocaust victims – to do so is a betrayal of decency. As members of the human brotherhood, Islam advocates that Muslims stand in solidarity with the oppressed and oppose all forms of injustices regardless of faith, place and time. Back to Top

Stories of Coexistence

Citizen protection

In the mid sixteenth century, a zealous Pope Paul IV ordered that all Marranos – Jews who had been forcefully converted and baptised, in Ancona, Italy be thrown into prisons instituted by the Spanish Inquisition. On learning of this, Sultan Suleiman dispatched a letter to Pope Paul IV demanding their immediate release and declaring the Marranos to be Ottoman citizens. Recognising this super power of its time, the Pope had no choice but to bend to the Sultan’s command.