Iraqi forces told us they were “tens of meters” away when ISIS blew up the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul on June 21. ISIS’s media arm is trying to sell another version of events, alleging that a U.S. warplane leveled the mosque.
It’s not hard to see why ISIS is desperate to lay the blame as far from them as possible, despite all evidence to the contrary. They just destroyed one of the most beloved sites in all of Mosul—in all of Iraq, for that matter.
And they did so on what, for many Muslims, is the holiest night of the year.
Even many who thought they could no longer be shocked by the atrocities of ISIS were stunned by this. ISIS has shown no hesitation at destroying ancient monuments before. But this? This was different.
Night of Destiny
Every year as Ramadan draws to a close, Muslims celebrate Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Destiny. It’s also called the Night of Power or the Night of Decree. This year, Sunni Muslims around the world observed Laylat al-Qadr on Wednesday, June 21.
Laylat al-Qadr marks the night the Quran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad. It’s a special time for prayer, reflection, and giving to charity. Many devout Muslims remain in their mosques throughout the night and the final days of Ramadan.
In some ways, Laylat al-Qadar and the last ten days of Ramadan are for Muslims what Holy Week is to the season of Lent for Christians.
For Muslims, the Night of Destiny is one of the “thin places” where the distance between heaven and earth narrows. God’s mercies and blessings are especially close. A lifetime of sin can be forgiven. According to the Quran, this one night “is better than a thousand months” (Sura 97).
On the same night that millions of Muslims knelt in their mosques and sought forgiveness, ISIS destroyed one of the most beloved mosques in Iraq.
In the eyes of Muslims around the world, nothing could be more un-Islamic.
No comparison is perfect, but blowing up the al-Nuri mosque on Laylat al-Qadr would be like destroying the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the middle of Holy Week. It would be one of the most un-Christian things a person could do.
The next time someone tells you that ISIS and Islam are one and the same—never mind that most ISIS victims are Muslim, never mind that ISIS violence has been denounced by Muslims around the world—tell them about the al-Nuri mosque. Tell them about the Night of Destiny.
Most of all, tell them about the people of Mosul, who long to be free from the yoke of ISIS… and invite them to show up with you on the frontlines and love anyway.