A personal account of Alan Henning and the covenant of security (Amana) afforded to him by Muslims.
I 'Abu Salaam al-Britani' was deeply pained when witnessing the great suffering inflicted upon the Syrian people by the brutal dictator Bashar al-Asad. He wanted to crush the revolution against his tyrannical regime no matter what the cost. Daily massacres occurred upon the civilian populace, elderly, women and children became somewhat of a common occurrence.
As the conflict raged on, a humanitarian disaster of an unprecedented proportions emerged. I wanted to take part in the relief efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people. Thereby my journey of charity work began with a respective charity and culminated in myself travelling to Syria on a number of occasions via convoys to deliver much needed aid.
Meeting Alan and Charity Work
During my time of doing humanitarian aid work I became acquainted with a wonderful man called Alan Henning, whom we often referred to as “Gadget” due to him being tech-savvy.
Myself and Alan Henning pictured together on 25th Dec in Turkey
Alan had traveled on four aid conveys to Syria, each time driving ambulance laden with aid and medical equipment. He went twice to the Reyhanli refugee camp in Turkey and on two other occasions he entered mainland Syria. The first time was in May, 2013. After visiting the refugee camp located on the border town of Kilis, he crossed over the border with fellow convoy members and went on a tour of several Syrian towns and villages which had been destroyed by the war. The tour was facilitated by the Turkish charity IHH and we spent a whole day in Syria. By nightfall Alan and the rest of us where back safely in Turkey via Kilis.
This widely circulated photo in the media was taken at the Kilis refugee camp
I will briefly narrate Alan’s second and tragically his last visit to Syria. It was the early hours of Thursday 27th December 2013 when we drove for several hours to reach the Bab al-Hawa border-crossing. After a few hours of processing, we entered Syria (approximately noon time) we had the locals from ad-Dana waiting to meet us at the other side of the border crossing. After a warm reception, they escorted us back to their home town which was a short 30minute drive away. Once we reached ad-Dana the several elders of the town greeted us and provided a guesthouse for all the brothers to stay in. We had a long arduous journey with very little sleep so everyone was glad to put their feet up and have a rest.
It had been no more than half an hour since our arrival at the guesthouse when suddenly it was raided with men wearing army fatigues, balaclavas and wielding guns. These men were from the group called ISIS now re-branded as IS (the 'Islamic State'). The elders of the guest house came immediately and told the IS fighters these brothers are our guests and we are hosting them here. However, their pleas fell on deaf ears as IS fighters started to behave aggressively towards the elders.
Prior to the raid I was inside the guesthouse whilst Alan was outside sitting in the courtyard with some of the locals and those who came with us on the convoy. This was the last time he was to be a free man as he was taken immediately by IS fighters when they raided the guesthouse and as for the rest of us, we were all told to go to our rooms, sit down and not talk to each other. There after we were instructed to take out our phones and passports and put them on top of each other. Subsequently, we were all interrogated one by one in an adjacent room and eventually our personal belongings were returned to us and the IS fighters left in their 4x4’s but sadly with Alan held in their custody.
The convoy leader was still at the border crossing as the raid happened, he was overseeing all the ambulances go through and was making sure everything ran smoothly. After the last aid vehicle departed from the border crossing the convoy leader made his way to the guesthouse, once he reached there he could see the IS fighters where preparing to leave with Alan at the back of one of the vehicles. He told us Alan looked absolutely terrified and he shouted out to him “Don’t worry, I’ll get you out” this was the last sighting anybody from the convoy members had of him.
This event shook up the entire convoy as Alan had been taken away and IS had handled us in a pretty rough manner even beating up one of the convoy members as they thought he was an Alawite.
No reason was given as to why they took him.
The townsmen where infuriated by the seizure of Alan and the raid, we had a very good relationship with people of ad-Dana. We had been there several times in the past, donated ambulance’s, aid and money towards the relief efforts in the town. The people of the town were very grateful for the aid and showed their appreciation by providing us with absolutely splendid hospitality each time we visited.
Later on in the day the people of influence in the town decided they would go to local IS ('Islamic State') Amir (leader) and demand Alan’s release. These people of influence included Scholars, Judges, Doctors and indigenous rebel leaders and a notable figure among them was an elderly blind Shaykh who was respected by all.
They went to the local IS Amir (leader) and confronted him about Alan’s seizure and demanded his release, he replied not to worry and that we will release him tomorrow (Friday); 'tomorrow' came and he was yet to be released.
Most of the convoy members made arrangements to leave as quickly as possible after the raid. Apart from the convoy leader most of us left Syria and returned to the UK within a week or so. The convoy leader was very close to Alan and had known him for many years, he tirelessly worked for his release through numerous mediators. However, days turned into weeks and he still wasn't to be released. Until his money ran out and he became physical drained, he returned home to the UK after some six weeks.
Alan: 'the humanitarian'
Alan pictured outside the Ambulance taken in the memory of Dr Abbas Khan
Alan's first introduction to conflict in Syria was when his long term friend and work colleague, who later went on to become his convoy leader showed him pictures of the devastation and killing in Syria, Alan replied “I’m not having that”. From here on out he began his journey to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria, he started to raise funds and collect aid for his trip to Syria.
On his first journey to Syria he delivered aid at the Reyhanli refugee camp, what he saw and heard from the Syrian refugees greatly moved and touched him. The horrific tales of massacres, stories of Shabiha entering neighbourhoods terrorising the civilians with cold blooded executions of the men and children and rape of their women. Many of those lived to tell their tales were now residents of the refugee camp. His experience at the refugee camp was a life changing event and changed him drastically. It set the motions for him to carry out unrelenting charity work and personally delivering aid to the Syrian people.
As Alan said on his last convoy to Syria:
“It’s all worthwhile when you see what is needed actually gets where it needs to go, that makes it all worthwhile, no sacrifice we do is comparable to what they go through every day, on a daily basis.”
Alan had become emotionally attached to the people of Syria, he even had the “Aid4Syria” logo tattooed on his arm. Many Muslims were surprised to see a non-Muslim showing such a level of commitment for the Syrian relief efforts, however for those of us who knew him, it was perfectly understandable.
Alan worked tirelessly to collect money and aid for Syria, helped out in fundraisers, helped load up ambulances with aid and carried out many other logistical tasks that needed doing for land convoys to travel from the UK to Syria. A great deal of planning and organisation is needed firstly for the project to successfully raise the aid needed and secondly for the aid to successfully reach the intended recipients. Alan was an integral member of the team and his work helped the project to run smoothly.
I have many memorable moments with Alan during our aid expeditions and I will share a couple to show the character of this man.
Whilst on the convoy through Europe, we stopped every so often to rest in the ambulances as the journey was long and we had to put in long demanding hours of driving. The normal procedure was to rest in the ambulances, however on this particular day in Italy it was freezing and unbearably cold in back of the ambulances. So, most of brothers decided to book themselves into local hotels for the night, however Alan refused to do so himself. He replied “If my brothers and sisters could sleep in the tent in the freezing cold, why can’t I sleep in the ambulance.” The convoy leader upon hearing this offered to pay for his hotel accommodation; Alan replied give the money to the Syrian refugees instead as they need it more and he slept in the ambulance.
In the December convoy the one which was to be the last for Alan, it was going to leave just before Christmas. His wife wasn’t too happy about this as it meant he was going to miss Christmas. She confronted him saying, “What about Christmas”? Alan replied: “What about Christmas, I don’t believe in it anyway”. His wife said , “What about your kids?” Alan replied “My kids got a roof over their heads, they've got nothing, and they need more help than my kids here.” He confided to me what had took place with his wife and he was concerned she might leave him as she was upset. However, he still made the sacrifice to go to help the people of Syria knowing his marriage might be in jeopardy.
It might come as a surprise to some that Alan didn't believe in Christmas anymore, this was as a result of him always being around Muslims. They used to give him Da’wah including myself, Alan by now believed in Allah, His Messenger Prophet Muhammad (saw) and he no longer believed Jesus was God or the son of God. Many of his mannerism and behaviour had started to conform to a Muslim lifestyle such as him giving up the consumption of alcohol. However he hadn't taken his shahadah (declaration of faith) yet because a couple of things where holding him back. He did say he wanted to learn Arabic and move to Syria as he had a lot of compassion and care for the Syrian people. If he learnt Arabic it would help him converse with the Syrian people and be able to reside there as communication would no longer be a problem. Allah knows best if this was wishful thinking or a sincere intention however one thing is for sure, he dearly loved the Syrian people.
Alan had a lot of respect for Islam and Muslims, as you would expect from someone who socialised regularly with Muslims and held an attachment to the Syrian people. He would make sure he would not eat in public, when Muslims where observing the fast in Ramadan as one of the conveys went in the month of Ramadan. He would sit quietly and observed us whilst we prayed.
A picture taken by Alan whilst the convoy members prayed
I remember him always smiling and in a jolly mood, he would never fall out with anybody even though many of us fell out with our fellow Muslim brothers during the convoy trips. He was always asking us if we needed anything when stopping at service stations and he was the first one to volunteer to make tea for everybody.
Appeal for the release of Alan Henning
From your brother in Islam Abu Salaam al-Britani,
I appeal and request in general to all of the members of ad-Dawlah l-Islāmīyyah and specifically to Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Abu 'Ali al-Anbari to release Alan Henning as he had been given an Amana (security) from two sets of believing parties henceforth in the light of the Shari'ah he is considered a Mu’ahid and it is impermissible to harm him.
The first Amana was given by me and the rest of the brothers travelling in the aid convoy. We reassured and informed Alan he will be safe and not harmed as he is with a group of Muslims who are going deliver aid to the people of Syria.
The second Amana was given by indigenous people of ad-Dana they had sent several men to escort us once we entered Syria through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing. They assured us all we will be under their protection and escorted us to the town of ad-Dana.
I ask you by Allah to honour these covenants as our Lord said in the Qur’an
"O you who believe, honour your covenant ('uqud)"
[Surat Al-Mā'idah, Ayah 1]
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said:
“If anyone kills a ‘Mu’ahid’ ‘i.e. a person guaranteed protection’ without a just cause, Allah will prevent him from even smelling the fragrance of Paradise”.
[Sahih Sunan an-Nasai No .4422].
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also said:
“On the Day of Judgment, I will be protesting against anyone who oppresses a ‘mu’ahid’ ‘i.e. a person guaranteed protection’, belittles him, charges him to do things beyond his ability, or extorts anything from him.
[Sahih Sunan Abi Dawud, No. 2626]
Any Muslims is entitled to give protection on their behalf, and that this type of protection can be given to the non-Muslim by any individual from the Muslims whether a male or a female, a nobleman or a poor, a righteous or an evil-doer.
Ash-Shaybani said in as-Siyar, vol.1, pg.175:
“The security covenants that a free Muslim man, whether virtuous or immoral, gives are binding to all the other Muslims because of the Hadith, “Muslims are equal in respect of blood. They are like one hand over against all those who are outside the community. The lowest of them is entitled to give protection on their behalf.” The meaning of “protection” is the security covenant whether it is temporary or permanent.
Zaynab, the daughter of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), granted protection to her husband Abu al-‘As bin Rabi'ah, and the Prophet (saw) approved of her protection.
It was reported that Umm Hani said:
“I granted asylum to two non-Muslim relatives of mine, and then Ali bin Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) came upon them to kill them. So I told him, you are not going to kill them unless you kill me first! Then, I locked my door on them and went to the Messenger of Allah (saw) and told him about what happened.
He (saw) said: “Ali is not allowed to kill them. We grant asylum and protection to the ones you have granted asylum and protection.”
The Fuqaha' in the books of Fiqh have talked about the subject of covenants in great detail and the above evidences are just a few utilised indicating Alan Henning has a valid covenant of security (Amana) afforded to him by Muslims.
The Imam, Ibn al-Qayyim writes in his 'Ahkam Ahl adh-Dhimmah'; (vol. 2 p. 476)
[As for the "Musta'man" (the one who is granted protection and security) he is someone who comes to the lands of the Muslims not for settling in it. There are four categories of such people in this regard:
- asylum seekers until they are acquainted with Islam and the Qur'an. They can embrace Islam if they want, and if not, they can return safely to their own lands.
- the ones who need something from the lands of Islam: like to visit and so on.
The ruling about all of the aforementioned is that they shouldn't be deported; nor killed, nor should Jizyah be taken from them. Muslims should also present Islam and the Qur'an to them; if they embrace it, All praise is due to Allah; but if they do not, they can simply leave; and they are not to be harmed before they reach their own lands. Once they are there, their state changes back to that of a fighting unbeliever.]
I end with relating an incident from a contemporary book of history. It was concerning none other than your founding Amir, the Shaykh, Abu Musab az-Zarqawi who laid down the seeds and foundations of the state you have established across Iraq and Syria.
Shaykh Maysarah al-Gharib mentions an incident in the book, ‘Min Khifaya at-Tarikh’ (p.19-20) that the Group, ‘Jama’at at-Tawhid wal-Jihad’ incarcerated three Americans with an ‘Iraqi translator in Fallujah. The Mujahidin were rejoicing because of it and they wanted to do a prisoner swap with some of the women of Ahl as-Sunnah who were incarcerated in Abu Ghraib Prison. So, Abu Mus’ab and some of those with him were deciding what to do whilst the news reached them that these American’s would never have entered Fallujah if a man from the general people of Fallujah didn’t give them security (Amana). When Abu Mus’ab investigated the matter on the authenticity of the report, he raised the matter to the Lajnah ash-Shari’ah who replied firmly without accepting any compromise for this is the religion of Allah. And it isn’t like the worldly constitution that change whenever they please nor Is it like the Parliamentary decisions who abide by their contracts according to whims of their masters. So, the verdict was, “release them!”
By Allah Alan Henning is a thousand times more innocent than these Americans as he was only an aid worker who came to the lands of the Muslims with a Muslim charity and a group of Muslims to assist other Muslims under the protection of Muslims.
In the light of these revelations regarding Alan Henning I ask you by Allah to release Alan Henning as this is from the Religion of Allah the very words Abu Mus'ab az-Zarqawi uttered on the release of the Americans to those who objected to the decision of the Lajnah ash-Shari’ah.
Alan Henning doing "Isba al-Tauhid" raising the index finger to signify the oneness of Allah