Shaykh Muhammad Al Yaqoubi
How should Muslims respond when Islam or the Prophet is insulted?
After the infamous Danish cartoons to the Teddy named Mohammed incident and now to the recent ‘Draw Muhammed Day’ on Facebook, Muslims seem to only react with anger and rage. But how should Muslims react? Should such insults be ignored or challenged and if so, how?
How did the Prophet (pbuh) and companions react to insult and verbal attacks? And what lessons can we learn from our great Islamic history when the name or image of Islam was attacked?
In order to get answers to the above questions, The Revival, met up with three leading Muslim Personalities.
Shaykh Muhammad Al Yaqoubi
A world renowned scholar from Syria. Until recently he taught in the Grand Umayyad Mosque and Shaykh Muyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi’s mosque, where he taught the various disciplines of the Shari’ah. He has travelled and lectured in North America, Canada, most European and Arab countries, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Africa, and he has students in most of these countries.
Amongst his many students are the likes of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Shaykh Gibril Haddad.
This question is of the utmost importance to our Deen and the dignity of the Muslims. Unfortunately, we have failed to show non-Muslims enough deference, love and attachment to our Deen and our great figures, of which our beloved Prophet is the best of mankind.
Nowadays we see that Muslims themselves are not respecting their Islam, or their Prophet or the Quran. You go to the Islamic world itself, Muslim governments, Muslims kings and presidents and prime ministers in the Islamic world itself do not bother about what is going on in their own country, let alone the West.
This is why the West now has more courage, especially with these wrong and false ideals like freedom of religion’ or ‘freedom of expression’. In Islam I do not allow under the banner of ‘freedom of expression’ someone to come and curse or insult a Prophet of Allah (swt).
You do not insult others such as Ahlul dhimmah living in our Muslim countries, we know that they worship Isa (as) as the son of God, Christians for example, but we don’t beat them in the streets because they do this.
We sell, we buy, and we exchange business with them as needed in the Islamic world with respect of their blood and their wealth. We don’t insult them, although we know that they are very wrong by making Jesus the son of God and worshipping him and so on.
Now the West has crossed every red line in respect of norms and ethics and I don’t think Muslims should tolerate this. If you’re asking me about how to react, how to respond, I believe we should show the highest angry level of response.
We should tell the West that this is a red line you can never cross. When someone comes to claim God on Facebook, as happened recently, or when someone comes to call for the drawing of Rasulullah on Facebook, the government where Facebook is registered should have rules and limitations on the ‘freedom of expression’, and the same in Denmark.
A drawer cannot come from nowhere to draw under the banner of ‘freedom of expression’, he does so because he knows his government protects him.
Alhamdulillah, Facebook and YouTube were both banned in Syria for some time before this incident happened.
Facebook is one of the biggest companies in the US, so when it is involved in something like this I believe Islamic countries should pull back their ambassadors from the US and protest against US policy in allowing this level of ‘freedom of speech’ – it is blasphemy, it is not freedom of speech at all.
If the US government has any interest in our oil, if the US government has any interest in the strategic areas, oceans and seas, in the Middle East and the Black Sea and the Indian Ocean, and want their military floats going around freely, if they have any interests in protecting their citizens travelling to this area, they should then look out for their interests.
We should put pressure on our Muslim Ambassadors to say to the US that we can stop your financial, economical or strategic interests in this area and cause damage. I don’t want to mention names but we have in the Middle East governments working in full alliance with the US.
They could justify their moves by saying we are under pressure from our own people. They are not even reaching to that level. It’s fear of losing their chairs unfortunately.
We have 60 countries in the Islamic world that are doing nothing. We called for the boycott of Denmark and it succeeded until unfortunately there was a compromise and it was a big mistake to stop the boycott of Danish products. Muslims were united on that and their unity was one of the best examples.
I believe whenever something like this happens we should follow every possible channel to stop it, without going into violence.
Going into violence means declaration of war, and declaration of war is not done by individuals, it has to be done under an authority. Now when our authority in our Islamic countries do not bother much, that is their own responsibility before Allah (swt).
I know the Muslim ummah listens to the ulema, so the ulema should stand up on these occasions, and should not play a role of suppressing people’s anger or telling them it’s alright or playing it down by telling them well this happens all the time.
I believe when Denmark protected the drawer and defended his ‘right to express himself’ Muslim countries one by one should have cut their ties, their diplomatic relations, with Denmark and should have pulled back their ambassadors and that would have meant a lot.
Denmark isn’t really a big country, and so we could have taught the West a great lesson, and every other country, that we don’t fear any country that follows the same pattern and that they will get the same treatment from the Islamic world. And this would not cost the Muslim world much.
Unfortunately I believe many of the rulers in the Islamic world are puppets of the West and are more afraid of losing their chairs rather than being concerned about defending Rasulullah (saw). However when anyone stands up to defend Rasulullah (saw), I believe they’ll find amazing support and unity from the Muslim ummah.
We should unite - I don’t mind marching in the streets, I don’t mind boycotting products or companies, boycotting governments or countries, doing everything possible within our limits to stop such provocations. The ulema should especially unite and take a stand - the ulema should be responsible and should lead the ummah in such manifestations.
For individuals living in the West, I would say boycotting products, marching, writing articles and doing TV interviews is the best way to respond. I believe if the ummah did this for a week on a larger scale the West would have to adhere to Muslims’ demands.
We didn’t unite in doing this except for a week or so with Denmark, then unfortunately some scholars tried to compromise by starting a dialogue, any dialogue in this regards is of their own interests, and not of our interests.
By continuing to boycott the Danish products we were not going to lose anything. Cheese… we’ll get other types of cheese, engines… we’ll get engines from other countries. However other countries would have understood that their economic interests should be based on respecting Muslims religion if they going to export to the Muslim world or import oil from the Muslim world.
Shaykh Ibrahim Ossi-Effa
Shaykh Ibrahim was born and raised in Liverpool. He is a leading Islamic scholar in the UK who has studied extensively with world renowned teachers in Syria, Mauritania and Hadramaut.
He was one of the founders of several Islamic initiatives including the Ibn Abbas Institute, Starlatch Press, Badr Language Institute and the Greensville Trust. He currently resides in Liverpool with his wife and two children.
I think as Muslims we have to first and foremost understand that we do not take others to account, that we take ourselves to account. The Prophet (pbuh) in a hadith in Tirmidhi says: ‘… take yourself to account before you are held to account, and weigh your deeds before your deeds are weighed’.
So first and foremost you are responsible for yourselves and if Allah (swt) places you inside a position of authority, political or judicial, then you can respond in accordance to the rule of law. In the UK, as long as we are citizens here we have to respect that rule of law in its broadest and correct or applicable interpretation, so as for doing something that could be construed by the law here to be unlawful, then that is totally unlawful by the dictates of the Shariah.
We should respond by understanding that we as Muslims also insult the Prophet (pbuh) by our own very behaviour, by the very ideas or very beliefs that we hold to be true. By virtue of holding them in our very hearts and not doing anything about them and by not cleansing and casting them out of our hearts.
It’s very easy for us to point fingers at people who may say things against the person of the Prophet (pbuh), but Allah (swt) is the one who protects his noble Prophet (pbuh), not the idle thoughts or the wanton uncontrolled reactions of people who are not themselves doing justice to the personage of the Prophet (pbuh).
We should remember the history of the Europeans; having pictures depicting the Prophet (pbuh) is not something new, not something just in our day and age. We find that it existed in the time of the Sahaba. The Roman Empire show the companions a picture of the Prophet (pbuh), and
what I would ask myself is why the companions being shown the picture of the Prophet (pbuh) respond by saying “that’s him”.
It’s a perfect depiction of the Prophet (pbuh). Yet we have idiots in our time who draw the Prophet (pbuh) far from being a perfect depiction... one of the things that I think we can connect to this is the intermediary of the Sahaba – they were people who did not disrespect the Prophet (pbuh) in their hearts or in how they conducted themselves in this world.
We as Muslims today do, so the reality is that Allah protects the Prophet (pbuh)... in their drawings they are not depicting the Prophet (pbuh) but they are depicting us.
Regarding the Danish cartoons, it was a wrong reaction that opened the door to even worse; how the whole Danish ’controversy‘ was dealt with; that type of uncontrolled response; that type of retrospective reflection on the self on how we relate to the religion and to Allah (swt) and the Prophet (pbuh).
What changed in the Muslim ummah with the Danish controversy in terms of the self, did we get better? You see those who protested in the streets, those who burned down embassies, those who in their junoon (madness) tried to burn down the wrong embassy, but what has changed? Nothing, in fact I would say that it’s even got worse.
What I mean is that due to how we responded people now believe they have got a license to attack the personage of the Prophet (pbuh).
I think that the Muslims should have turned inwards, ‘turned back on themselves’ and understood that what is happening is because of us. I believe that there are intelligent ways to respond.
I believe that we should leave those intelligent responses to people who Allah (swt) has entrusted with that, the likes of the ulema, the likes of people in leadership and the people who have some authority to respond in intelligent ways that will bring about a correction of those people who are in ignorance and are doing or saying things that insult the personage of the Prophet (pbuh).
To respond like we did, I would say it is hypocrisy on behalf of us Muslims, as we live in a place where Jesus the son of Mary is insulted daily - do we hear words raised against that? We’ve got to take stock of that, about our reflection of that, we live in societies where human beings are insulted and insult others themselves, and only when certain things or realities which affect us are insulted then we act like wild animals.
Regarding political lobbying, peaceful demonstrations, writing to your MP’s and so on, I think most people advocate this but they don’t know how to.
I can only advocate from what I’ve received from my teachers and that is to remain true to the covenant that I’ve taken with God and one thing I advocate is that of mass demonstration to Allah (swt) and that is called dua, that is ‘ibtihal’, turning towards Allah (swt), supplicating to Allah (swt), and praying to Allah (swt) by virtue of obeying his laws.
And bettering yourselves as human beings and bettering the condition of your heart. Also, developing better human attributes - treating your neighbour well, your fellow countrymen well, wanting for them what you want for yourselves. That’s the better protest.
It’s not about making your point, it’s about changing those who do wrong and there is a really important difference there. Like Imam Shaf’i says: ‘Never did I debate against somebody that I wanted the truth to manifest on their tongues, it’s about transforming the other into better human
Asghar Bukhari is a founding member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), which describes itself as Britain’s largest Muslim civil rights group. His main objective is to make Muslims politically active and he was very outspoken and critical of the Danish cartoon controversy. He regularly represents the Muslim community in interviews and discussions on the mainstream media.
Defending the Prophet (pbuh) can never be done without practising Muslims changing the way they prioritise Islam.
So what could we have done when the Prophet (pbuh) was insulted? The answer was simplicity itself. All it would have taken was some planning, time and a community that was ready for any attack.
We needed to simply address the attack in a language the average European understood. Instead of slogans saying ‘Death to those who insult the Prophet PBUH’ playing right into the hands of the propagandists, and easily countered by arguments about freedom of speech.
Our Mosque, ISOC and Muslim Leaders should have been much smarter and cut to the chase, fighting back with an intelligent response that the average non-Muslim could understand.
The argument was simple ‘This is not freedom of speech, this is hate speech, designed to provoke and demonise, and demonising a people is racism – we the Muslims are opposed to any and all forms of racism and we will not stand by and do nothing to stop it’.
Instantly we would have shifted the debate onto a ground where we were the moral champions fighting against bigots who sought to divide. Our argument is the only thing we have that could defeat them. As Allah says ‘Truth is clear from Falsehood’.
Marches demanding an end to bigotry, racism and Islamophobia could have been used to highlight the racist nature of the attacks on the Prophet PBUH, galvanising much needed support from the wider public.
TV interviews where we condemned racism in all its forms, talks and speeches to non Muslims should have been
organised around Britain.
Instead all we did was march down the road, with a bunch of Muslims, shouting in Arabic, and alienating everyone who could have supported us. A typical inward Muslim reaction. Unable to do anything logically because they were always caught off guard.
No planning, no co-ordination, no thinking. No sooner did we march, then we went back to our little Islamic circles so that we could be ‘better Muslims’. Our priority was always the minor issues over the major ones. Islam the reason why we did nothing, instead of the spur to do something.
Those who hate us cannot defeat us, for our arguments are truthful and sound. The fact that the lies of their propaganda are believed by so many has little to do with the power and money of their machinery, and everything to do with the pacified sleeping, unwilling and cowardly state of practising Muslims and those who lead us, who should be the vanguard of defending the Ummah but who instead are too busy focusing on trivial Islamic arguments to see the bigger picture.
When the defence of Islam and the Muslims becomes our last priority, we may as well admit that the people who claim that they are the Prophet’s lovers are the very ones who have abandoned him.
“Soon all nations will join forces and attack you similar to when hungry people attack their dishes.” One asked, ‘O, Prophet of Allah, at that time, will we be small in number?’ The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘No, you will be huge in number, but you will be scum like foam that comes with a water stream, and Allah will withdraw fear from your enemy and will fill your hearts with wahan.’ Then all asked ‘O, Prophet of Allah, what is Wahan?’ The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘The love of life and the hatred of death.’ (Ahmad and Abu Dawud).