By Sajid Iqbal
Let me ask you something… If someone insulted your mum or dad, how would you react? 'I'll kick his head in' is what you will probably say, yeah? If someone insulted your sister, brother, husband or wife what then? You'll probably react with anger, flex your muscles and may be use every swear word you can think of, am I right? We all know that’s not the best way to behave, but sometimes when someone goes too far you simply lose the plot, innit?
Now, if you hold the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) closer to you than your mum, dad, brother or sister and people insult him, then what? If the person you see as your ultimate role model is ridiculed then what must you be feeling? Let me guess, you're vexed, you're fuming, you feel demonised, insulted and hurt. Now when Geert Wilders' film 'Fitna' takes the mick out of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) - how do you feel? When cartoons are printed which take the mick out of the Prophet (pbuh) - how do you feel? When books, websites, documentaries, cartoons, speeches criticise, demonise, insult and take the mick out of your Prophet (pbuh), your teachings and your faith then how are you supposed to react?
Many people will answer by showing anger, hatred, violence, causing havoc, letting off steam, shouting and screaming! A Christian surveyor, Professor Edward reported in TIME Magazine on April 16, 1979, that in a span of 150 years, from 1800 to 1950 over 60,000 books had been written against Islam. That works out to more than one book against Islam every day. And more recently, since September 11 the propaganda and hatred against Islam is more visible than ever before. So are we gonna throw a strop, burn an effigy, react with hatred, shout and scream every time anyone criticises or insults Islam?
Well it seems to be the way a lot of Muslims have reacted, from Rushdie's Satanic Verses to the Danish cartoons furore up until now. The next time anyone insults the Prophet (pbuh) or his teachings then before you start a riot and react fanatically just ask yourself a simple question: When the Prophet (pbuh) himself was insulted, attacked, abused and mocked how did he react? Well let’s find out shall we… When the Prophet (pbuh) had just started preaching the call of Islam he went to Ta’if, a lush town just south-east of Makkah. He was hoping that perhaps the people of this nice city would be receptive to his message, which had been rejected by most of the people of Makkah for more than a decade.
However, the people of Ta’if proved to be just as cruel and intolerant as his own people. Not only did they scorn his message of worshipping Allah alone, but they even turned their youth against him who hurled insults and even stones and garbage at him as he sadly left the city. In the face of continued disappointment, the Archangel Gabriel came to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and said,
“God Almighty has heard the sayings and accusations of your people and He, the Almighty, has commanded the angel of the mountains to obey any order from you against them."
The angel of the mountains called out to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and said,
“If you wish, I will crush the town of Ta'if between the surrounding mountains.”
Bleeding from head to toe, battered and exhausted, the Prophet (pbuh) was faced with a choice; should he or should he not seek to destroy the people who had just humiliated him by having their children chase him out of town while throwing stones at him? And for what crime? All he had wanted to do was convey the message of the One God to His creation and seek benefit his own people. However, although they hurt him, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) looked beyond his own wounds and forgave them, replying to the angel of the mountains,
“No do not destroy them, for I hope that Allah (swt) will bring out of their offspring people who worship Him alone without associating any partner with Him in worship.”
Now think about it people... he could have asked that those children who pelted him with stones be finished off along with their hard-hearted parents, but he didn't! He chose forgiveness and mercy for them. Instead of cursing the people of this town, he prayed for their salvation. Now ask yourself would we, the followers of the Prophet (pbuh), have done the same even in lesser circumstances? OK, another example: An old woman who opposed the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made a habit of throwing rubbish on him whenever he passed by her house!
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had to pass by that house daily as it was on his way to the mosque. Even though this incident became a daily occurrence, he would pass silently without showing any anger or annoyance. One day when the Prophet (pbuh) was passing by he noticed the woman wasn’t standing there waiting to throw the rubbish on him. Wondering why, he stopped and asked her neighbour about her well-being. The neighbour informed the Prophet (pbuh) that the woman was sick in bed. The Prophet (pbuh) politely asked permission to visit the woman. When allowed he entered the house. The woman thought that he had come to take his revenge when she was unable to defend herself because of her ill health. But the Prophet (pbuh) assured her that he had come to her, not to take any revenge, but to see her and to look after her needs, because it is the command of Allah (swt) that if anyone is sick, a Muslim should visit the person and should help them if help is needed. The old woman was greatly moved by the kindness and love shown by the Prophet (pbuh).
By this simple gesture of kindness she understood that he was truly the Prophet of God and Islam was the true religion. She accepted Islam and became a Muslim. Now how would we have reacted to this woman’s abuse? Why is there a world of a difference in how we react when the Prophet (pbuh) is insulted to how the Prophet (pbuh) himself reacted when he was insulted or abused? At the battle of Uhud some of the Prophets (pbuh) companions asked him to curse the Quraysh because of what they had done to him, but instead he responded,
"O Allah guide them and bring them into Islam."
Allah (swt) accepted his supplication and they later became Muslims. A Hadith reports that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) always used to supplicate to Allah (swt) by saying,
"O' Allah forgive my people because they do not know." (Bukhari and Muslim)
These are just a few of many many examples of how the Prophet (pbuh) reacted when insulted. We should understand that if anyone mocks or insults the Prophet (pbuh), it does not lessen him in any way from his noble position in the eyes of Allah (swt) or His people. We should understand that the mockery of the Prophet (pbuh) is a test from Allah (swt) for us. If we claim to follow and love the Prophet (pbuh) then we would react according to his example. Which means understanding that at no time did the Prophet (pbuh) respond to any insults towards him with anger, hatred or violence.
The way to respond
If turning the other cheek and tolerating criticism and insults of Islam and the Prophet (pbuh) is too much for you then you must at least react to criticism of Islam with intellect and wisdom. As a Muslim you should react to an insult against Islam and the Prophet (pbuh) with a peaceful and positive response. Here are five more ways of reacting to any insults to Islam or the Prophet (pbuh):
1. Understand that everyone has freedom of speech and expression to say what they want whether we like it or not. So let them have their say. A lot of Muslims don't even accept this and don't want anyone to be allowed to criticise Islam in any way, shape or form. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion.
2. Criticism of Islam should be seen as a platform to discuss Islam with non-Muslims and answer any misconceptions that may exist. Are you so intolerant that you can't take the slightest criticism of your faith? Be tolerant and show the other person respect. Do not insult their beliefs, because that might make them more likely to insult our beliefs in retaliation. Do not insult the beliefs of others because you know you will be offended when they insult your beliefs.
3. Rather than just talking you can even consider taking legal action against the defamer in his country or file a case in the International Court of Law if the nation where the act has taken place is condoning the act. You can sue the offenders by taking them to court, which is one good way of preventing such things from occurring in the future.
4. Reply through the media - use the exact same tool which is often used against us. Replies can be in the form of letters, articles, pamphlets and books, which can be sent to newspapers and magazines and posted on the Internet. Also taking part in debates, discussion and interviews on mainstream TV and radio is a good way of replying to any insults towards your faith.
5. Be politically active. Lobbying your MPs and Councillors and organising peaceful protest marches is a very powerful and effective tool to channel your anger and frustration against any insults to Islam.
So if you claim to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) then don't just talk the talk but act upon his teachings and his example. Remember, the way we respond to insults to Islam has an impact on the image of Islam and Muslims world wide. So lose the anger and hatred and become a walking, talking advert for Islam.