By Ahmad Azizi
By Ahmad Azizi
Morocco World News
New York, September 20, 2012
The thousands of Muslims who took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations or violent protests in reaction to “The Innocence of Muslims” are outraged, as any true Muslim ought to be, because that film is insulting to their beloved master and mentor, Muhammad, peace be upon him. But what would the Prophet himself have done had he seen this despicable act of aggression happen to him?
Without attempting to speak for the Prophet, we pose this legitimate, reasonable and even mandatory question. It is legitimate because the attack is on the Prophet; it is reasonable because similar, even worse, attacks did in fact happen to him affording us a basis to infer his response; and it is mandatory because the actions of Muslims who claim to love the Prophet should reflect his example and follow his guidance.
As soon as the Messenger of Allah, p.b.u.h., received the revelation to worship him alone and call people to rescind their idols, the Messenger was subjected to unbearable persecution. As he preached the commandments of kindness to the poor, equality between masters and slaves, protection of the rights of women, and rejection of moral corruption, the pagans of Makka turned into sworn enemies killing and torturing his followers, ostracizing his clan, subjecting him to continuous physical and psychological abuse, attempting to kill him, and finally driving him and his followers out of their homes.
After he found refuge in Madina, the pagans of Makka fought many battles of aggression against him and prevented him from making pilgrimage to the Holy Mosque. In other words, far worse actions than the lowly denigrating film were done to Muhammad, p.b.u.h. Yet, when victory was finally his, the Prophet of Mercy did not kill, imprison, or even humiliate the people of Makka; rather, he said to them the timeless words that became emblematic of tolerance and forgiveness for all Muslims: “Go, you are free!”
The sirah (Prophetic biography) of Muhammad, peace be upon him, is full of countless other authenticated examples of various situations where he set the ideal example of forbearance, patience lenience, and forgiveness. While he was a staunch defender of Islam and Muslims and strict in guarding the divine tenets and canons, going as far as ordering the execution of bandits who killed his messengers and traitors who aided and abetted an invading army, when it came to him, he showed astonishing leniency. In situations where Muhammad, the most honorable of men, was treated with aggression, his reaction was one that would usually be in response to acts of kindness.
There was the time when his neighbor dumped garbage in front of his door daily and when she skipped a day, he asked about her lest she was sick and in need of help; there was a time when a man insulted him while he was the de facto ruler, prompting his Companions to ask for permission to kill that man, but he only responded with kind words to the man; there was a time when people greeted him with a sinister pun meaning “death to you” prompting his wife to respond in a similar fashion, but he directed her not to return the insult; and there was even a time when a woman confessed that she attempted to murder him with a poisoned meal, prompting his Companions to want to execute her too, but again he refused.
The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, was a “walking Quran”, which gives us another way to speculate his presumed reaction to an act of blasphemy. The Quran describes the believers as those who “walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace” (25:63), and it directs the Prophet (and by extension all Muslims) to “take to forgiveness and enjoin good and turn aside from the ignorant” (7:199). More specifically, the Quran addresses the issue in question here: “when you hear Allah’s communications disbelieved in and mocked at do not sit with them until they enter into some other discourse; surely then you would be like them”. The same verse goes on to remind us that it is Allah (and therefore not men) who will punish the perpetrators: “Surely Allah will gather together the hypocrites and the unbelievers all in hell”.
Muslims should understand the essence of the guidance of our Benevolent and Merciful God, be it through his Word or through his Messenger. Expressing outrage at the film insulting the noble Messenger should be in accordance with his own teachings and in a peaceful and effective manner. Of course, all Muslims should stand up for their religion and their Prophet; they should fight for it when they are denied the right to worship or when they are under attack; they should establish in their own countries laws that most severely punish blasphemy. But Muslims should not, in the face of a crime, commit crimes themselves. All true Muslims are rightly and justly outraged at this act of bigoted hate, but misguided mobs who lashed out attacking American symbols, and killing diplomats and causing the deaths of civilians are not expressing love but rather hate. Their bigotry is similar to that expressed by the makers of the film; their zealotry is not much different than that of rowdy sports fans who riot for no legitimate reason.
With their actions, those bigots have managed to hurt Islam and Muslims in so many ways and to a much greater extent than the shabby movie, which would have been committed to oblivion had it not been for their riots that made it top news. Not only have they helped the movie-maker spread his message, but they have themselves embodied the image he set out to portray Muslims in.
The riots are wrong not only because they do not help the Prophet’s image, but also because the religion that he preached assigns very high priority to human life. While the Quran made it clear that a core value of Islam is the preservation of human life in general, the Prophet emphasized, in particular, the protection of non-Muslims living peacefully among Muslims. He reserved some of the harshest words to warn against killing one of those. But unfortunately, this is exactly what some of his misguided followers did in Libya and Afghanistan.
If the angry rioters were indeed defending the dignity of the Prophet, why have they not done anything to stop the killing of tens of thousands of followers of the Prophet? Would he not have seen this as more important than responding to a crazy fraudster on the other side of the planet? If they take great exception to insults against him, why have they not lashed out at the embassies of the illegitimate regime in Syria, whose Shabbiha militants have often and continuously directed far worse insults at the Prophet, and even God himself?
Muhammad, p.b.u.h., is held in very high esteem by billions of people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. More has been written and said about him than any other man in history, and he has received great acclaim even by non-Muslims, including being considered by some historians as the greatest personality in history. An amateurish film made by a convicted con will not tarnish that image and should not be given more attention than it deserves. It is true that this hateful act against the Prophet is cause for legitimate rage, but the Prophet himself would have responded differently.
Ahmad Azizi is a Political Adviser in the United Nations in New York. He is a member of Morocco World News’ editorial board.
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