Some misguided Muslims have come into the modern world with the expectation that we, and the religion of Islam which we profess, are not to be offended. This is a false and unrealistic expectation, as Allah has decreed otherwise; [Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs. 3:186].
People are free to either believe in the Prophet (SAWS), and what he has come with or to disbelieve in him, [Say, “The truth is from your Lord”: Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it) 18:29] The Prophet (SAWS) withstood all kinds of verbal abuse, accusations and invectives from the disbelievers and the polytheists while he was alive, and he endured, owing to his lofty character and high moral constitution [And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character. 68:4] When the Prophet (SAWS) was negotiating the famed treaty of Hudaibiyyah, the Meccan delegate Suhail ibn Amr did not accept the Prophet’s title (Muhammad Messenger of Allah) to be written on the contract and only agreed to the Prophet’s name; Muhammad ibn Abdullah, on the document. Suhail justified the slight by saying; “If we actually thought that you were indeed the messenger of Allah in the first place, we would not be fighting you”. If everyone on earth believed that the Prophet (SAWS) was the Messenger of Allah, then no one would criticize him. However, that is not the case, and many Muslims need to accept that, and move on.
Muslims around the world can either keep on working themselves up into frenzy every time someone criticizes or makes fun of Islam or Muslims, and keep pretending that this is the proper method to defend Islam, and the Prophet (SAW), or we can opt to follow our own scripture on the matter (Quran and Prophetic tradition), and save ourselves a lot of anxiety, frustration and misdirection; [“And endure with patience whatever people may say [against thee], and avoid them with a comely avoidance. 73:10] Patience and magnanimity is better than carrying on in the streets, as if we are devoid of guidance. The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) is dead, and his place with Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala is assured by the word of Allah Himself; [Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect. 33:56]
Following our raw emotions when religious texts dictate otherwise, does not represent what our religion is about.This insulting film about Rasoolillah (SAWS), which people are clamoring about, is not the first time that the Prophet (SAWS) has been disparaged, and it will most likely not be the last time. Defending the Prophet (SAWS) entails believing in him, obeying him and following his way. Not demonstrating in the streets, burning cars, chanting slogans, or killing people. Knowing what we know about the life and struggle of the Prophet (SAWS), he would not sanction the amount of visible rage, rioting, slogan chanting, and wanton destruction that some of us resort to in different parts of the world any time one of the many criticisms leveled against the Prophet (SAWS) mysteriously comes to surface.
If anyone wants to defend the Prophet (SAWS) from those who would criticize him, and assail him, then they would be better served by making every effort to live up to the standards of devotional worship, good character, kindness to the neighbor and the neighbors, charity and upright living that was practiced by the Prophet (SAWS). The legacy and dignity of Rasoolillah (SAWS) lives through our actions and is carried on in following his way of tolerance for those who disparage him, and in bringing the light of faith and strong moral foundation to the world. The Prophet (SAWS) is under no threat from any human being; he is safe with Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, and in the best company. Billions of Muslims praise him and send salutations upon him, and his position with Allah is secure. There is nothing that anyone can say, write, or put on film that will ever change that. The rage, the anger and the violence that result from demonstrating in the streets, only threatens to extinguish the true light and guidance of the Prophet (SAWS) who was sent as a mercy to mankind.
A Muslim is not responsible for anyone’s negative opinion of the Prophet (SAWS) except when that Muslim engages in misguided actions in the name of Islam, and in the name of following the Prophet (SAWS). People can become more alienated and more antagonistic of Islam when they see the unfettered outpourings of rage and anger in different parts of the world resulting from a stupid, ill-conceived film about the Prophet (SAWS).
Historically, these demonstrations and rampages has done nothing to lessen the criticism and negative attitudes that people have towards Muslims and or Islam, and have only buttressed the view that Muslims have an unhealthy appetite for rage and violence. Many, if not most times, Muslim rage has only resulted in innocent people, most of whom have been Muslim, being killed or injured. This current incident has not only resulted in the deaths of the American Ambassador to Libya along with three others of the diplomatic staff; there were a number of Libyan Muslims killed while trying to defend against the onslaught, and in addition, four [Muslim] protesters were killed in Yemen and at least nineteen people were injured in Cairo as of this writing.
In the din of condemnation of free expression of a negative statements and views directed towards Islam and Muslims, we forget to condemn as well, the misguided overreactions of the world’s Muslims to criticisms of our faith that is only meant as a test of our own moral resolve. Even if we win the battle of expression with our large and boisterous demonstrations and condemnations, we lose the war of faith and moral resolve in the process. The Prophet (SAW) was dispatched as a mercy to mankind and a bearer of glad tidings. It is ironic that so many are repelled from Islam due to our inability to bear criticism. Misguidance is misguidance, no matter who perpetrates it, and I remember being taught even before I entered grade school; that two wrongs don’t make a right. The true irony of this whole matter is that many of us have arrived to a point where we actually believe that the proper way to defend Islam is to go out in the street and disgrace it with our actions. I wonder what the Prophet (SAW) would say about that? Wal Allahul Mus’ta’aan.
Imam Luqman Ahmad
Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad is the Imam and Executive Director of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento California. You can reach him @ firstname.lastname@example.org