Reactions to "Offended Muslim Sensibilities"

Bismi Allah

So there I was sitting and thinking that I really should have gone to bed earlier. But no, I had to make one more Internet stop before I headed off to bed. I visited a blog, which led me to three more blogs, and here I am. It's an epidemic I tell you. The words were swarming in my head after I turned off the computer. I had to come back and spit it out here. Hmm.. I was warned of this after my first blog entry...

Tayyib. The blogs that I was reading were about how entirely un-Islamic it is for Muslims to respond violently to the recent comments of the Pope. I couldn't agree more. Violence is just a waste of energy in my humble opinion. If it is not Islamically justified, it is not useful and it often becomes useless. But that's not what this blog entry is about. This one is intended for the Muslim readers. A mere glance at the issue from a slightly different angle.

Like I said, I agree that violent reactions are incorrect. They are far from the sunnah of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him; but are our reactions to the violent reactions productive?

Let's say, for example, that someone defames my mother. *Gasp* This is intolerable. No one in their right mind dare insult my mother. You mess with my Mamma, you are messing with me! In retaliation to such insults, I write this person's name on a piece of paper and burn it on my driveway in public view demanding that the person apologizes. Shortly thereafter, my sister (who, in this story, lives in a high class neighbourhood) comes over and chastises me for lighting a fire on the driveway. In extreme frustration, she says, "For goodness sake, get over it! Those words don't mean anything. You look like a savage here like this. You have no class..." and then she strolls into the house leaving me outside to defend my cause. Now I'm insulted twice fold, and I'm hurt that my own sibling didn't support me in avenging the stupidity that came out of a stranger's mouth.

Okay, so that's a bad story. Thank you for your patience, now please allow me to attempt to draw out the point. Everyone's actions were wrong - the stranger, myself, and my sister. It is obvious where the stranger and I err, but maybe not where the sister errs. This sister represents you, the one who has a computer and is sitting there comfortably reading these words. You're the rich sibling. You're the one with class. You're the one who strolled into the house. You're the one who washed your hands off of me when you disagreed with me. Now I officially don't respect you much either. Way to go, o child of my mother, way to go.

At least I care enough to make some noise about the stranger's intolerable actions. Sure, I've wronged others along the way in my attempt to find a solution, and yes I have made the situation worse for myself, and I've tarnished my reputation; but hey, at least I can sleep at night knowing that I tried to do something to protect my mother's name. I tried! That's more than you can say, sister.

Somehow, I think my point is still blurred or buried. I fear my words can soon be misconstrued to mean something entirely unintended, so here it is almost in black and white. While the actions of our fellow brothers and sisters in Islam are not justifiable under the banner of Islam, it is understandable that they stem from a love of their deen. We, the rest of the ummah, have no place questioning this love. Only God knows the sincerity of everyone's actions. But really, these strong and sometimes violent reactions often cause harm in the community of those Muslims themselves. These people don't march out to other countries and wrong people of different communities. They stand on their own driveways, and they shout as loud as they can right from there.

As for us, the ones who watch them on the news shaking our heads saying, "SubhanAllah, what kind of uncivil, savagery behaviour are you representing on behalf of myself and all Muslims??"...well, let's step down from our thrones and give them credit for at least conveying to the world that when others insult our beloved deen, they insult the very essence of our being. And after acknowledging that, we can then attempt to counter their reactions with reactions of our own that are in line with Islamic adab (propriety) and manners. Insha'Allah.

Don't forget, we shake our heads at the television screen because we fall into the trap of accepting the media portrayal that our Muslims are behaving badly. Turn your head slightly to the right or left of the screen and you'll see the Muslims who are reacting appropriately.

The source of inspiration that led me to this perspective on our reactions to our sisters' and brothers' reactions is as follows. I was speaking to a good friend of mine one day on the phone, and she was telling me that a respected Shaykh in the community went to a masjid for the Jumu'ah prayer once and was shocked to hear the Imam say that our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, was a normal, average kind of guy. Average? You're kidding me! Really... This Shaykh was very, very disturbed by what the khateeb had said. In fact, he was deeply saddened too because as he looked around the room he noticed that nobody in the gathering seemed to have noticed what the khateeb said. There was no reaction. Anyway, after the prayer, the Shaykh approached the Imam, who was the khateeb, to tell him that what he said was not appropriate because the Prophet, peace be upon him, was not average nor typical in any way. My friend elaborated on this point by saying that he, peace be upon him, was not average so-much-so, in fact, that his waste products were taahir, pure. The Imam brushed the Shaykh off and left to attend to other things.

Sometimes I think us Muslims, myself foremost, sitting comfortably in the West are in a state of narcosis. We are asleep. Were we proactive, our voices may be heard. Instead, I fear, they will remain on our blogs, disturbing my attempts at sleep.

If you take anything from my incoherent thoughts here, remember that Muslims have rights over each other. The instant that a person says the shahada, the declaration of faith that would make him/her Muslim, each and every one of us are obliged to fulfill rights towards this person (and vice versa). These rights include, but are not limited to, the need to honour each other, cover each other's faults, and use wisdom to teach each other. If we point out each other's faults without wisdom, we risk the world thinking that we are disconnected when in fact I believe that nothing can disconnect us - after all, we are people of the shahada. Muslims cannot ultimately be conquered because we serve our Lord, even to the extent of willing to die for His sake.

Please feel free to correct me where I err.

Ya Rabb, strengthen us for Your sake, ameen.

Update 2006-12-05

Watch this video with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf called "Broadening the Scope of the Pope."

6 comments:

Faraz said...

Assalamu'alaykum,
SubhanAllah.. you're right. We tend to think very highly of ourselves as Muslims in the West, astaghfirullah, when perhaps our inaction stems more from our laxity in the deen than from a true love of the deen.

At the same time, while actions are governed by intentions, a good intention does not justify a bad action. Allahu'alim... I keep thinking to myself, what would the sahaba do? And looking through their stories, the only clear picture I get is that they follow their amir. I find it difficult, given our current situation, to apply their lives to our current predicament. We all need to help one another figure this out.

There are times I really want to stop writing, because I honestly see no benefit to it anymore. I dislike the word "blog" (it sounds really silly), and feel embarassed to be called a "blogger", because I know that I could be actually doing so much more.

Farzeen said...

Wa 'alaykum assalaam wa rahmatu Allah

You are right.. "a good intention doesn't justify a bad action." I guess that's where the Pope finds himself..but I'm not going there...

Also, you make a good point about following an amir. Subhan'Allah.. no leaders, no order. I guess those who have taken bay'ah with a shaykh consult their respective shuyukh. Actually, even without bay'ah, I think people do attempt to consult the leaders their respect. But of course, the shuyukh have to be at a certain level and work together. Insha'Allah.

You mentioned wanting to cease blogging. I can see what you mean, but to a point. If you seriously find no benefit in engaging your thoughts, then perhaps it is a good idea. But you write too well, masha'Allah, for you to all together justify leaving it behind...because as you said yourself, the traffic on your site is increasing and it has potential to be a beneficial portal. Allahu'alim.

Perhaps you can be doing that much more, but maybe not at the expense of your writing. Something else to note about doing is that sometimes it requires some moral support. Sometimes. But you know yourself best. Insha'Allah the intentions that you have to be doing certain things will be realized.

May Allah open a way for you, and all those hoping to serve Him, ameen.

Ameera said...

:Farzeen:

That was a really, really good way of describing the current state of things in the Muslim Ummah.

Violent reactions, even though they seem to be against the teachings of Islam, do seem to do what most of us sitting in our homes cannot accomplish. We're not going into what sort of violent reaction because that can range between a simple, angry protest down the streets, with a few tyres burning... or attacking people (which is NOT justified in any case).

Dr Zakir Naik, in an open question and answer session on Peace TV, talked about six ways of reaction to such comments/cartoon... the sixth of which was violent protest. He mentioned that, according to that particular case, voilent reactions "may be right, or may not be right". This includes pelting stones at embassies. It makes sense if you consider the enormity of the situation.

Now, as Faraz Bh says, what would the Sahaba had done? That puzzles me equally. On the one hand, there was Umar (ra), whose blood would boil even when someone used a disrespectful tome with the Prophet (pbuh). Then, there was Abu Bakr (ra) who represents the wise old thinker, looking at the situation from different angles before making his move.

Perhaps there is some lesson to be learned from the killing of Ka'ab bin Al-Ashraf? He was the Jew who was inciting others against Islam. Yes, that situation was during wartime with ongoing battles but even then, the motive behind his killing... can it apply to our situation? I don't want to appear to say that we should kill someone, but can any other option be gleaned from it, considering it is the Pope who can order a Crusade?

Again, I'm not advocating this at all in the current situation (of no open war against Islam yet) but it is something to think about.

When the news (of the killing and defeat of Mushrikun in the battle of Badr) was confirmed, Ka'b went out to Makkah and incited the people against the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), composing poetry and amatory verses about the Muslim women, which offended them. The Messenger of Allah(pbuh) said, "Who will deal with the son of Al-Ashraf for me?" Muhammad ibn Maslamah Al-Ansari, from the trible of Banu 'Abdul-Ashhal, said to him:"I will deal with him for you, O Messenger of Allah."

So Ibn Maslamah went, accompanied by Salkan ibn Salamah ibn Waqsh (Abu Nailah) and Abbad ibn Bishr ibn Waqsh. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) went with them as far as Baqi Al-Gharqad, then they went on to the fortress of Ka'b where Anu Nailah called out to him; he came down to meet him and they killed him.......Then the Jews became worried about their breaking the treaty with the Muslims and their inciting Quraish and their composing offensive amatory verses about the Muslims women.


- pg 134 , Atlas on the Prophet's Biography - Darussalam publications
(Compiled by Dr. Shawqi Abu Khalil)

Farzeen said...

Assalaamu'alaykum Ameera

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Jazak'Allah khayr. You have brought up some interesting points... a lot for us to think about.

You mentioned the contrasts in personalities of the companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him. But, in my humble opinion, I don't think personality differences are meant to stump us, but rather they serve to broaden our perspectives. Umar and Abu Bakr, Allah have mercy on them, may have differed in their temperaments, but they were much the same in terms of the examples they've left. Their values were the same, all in line with Islamic teachings. While Umar may have been known to be 'hot tempered,' it was not on account of his own nafs but rather a desire to rectify what he believed to be an injustice, and even still he did not go beyond the limits.

There's a hugeee difference with how the companions behave and how we do, and we all too often look at their outward. Their outward only makes sense if we consider the inward. So the only way we can really benefit from it, as I see it and as Brother Faraz already mentioned on his blog, is to start making changes internally. Insha'Allah. Allah knows best.

As for the example of Ka'ab ibn Al-Ashraf... Islamic law is very clear about protecting the rights of others, among humans or beasts, as you know. So before one takes the life of another, one better be absolutely certain that it's with just cause according to the Sacred Law.

Here's an excerpt that details the social context in which Ka'ab was killed --just more to think about.

... "In addition to his poems urging Quraysh to take revenge for Badr, he wrote others satirising the Prophet [peace be upon him] and his companions; and among the Arabs a gifted poet was like a multitude of men, for his verses were repeated from mouth to mouth. If good, he was a power for good;, if evil, a power for evil, to be suppressed at all costs. The Prophet [peace be upon him] prayed, 'O Lord, deliver me from the son of Al-Ashraf howsoever Thou wilt, for the evil he delcareth and the poems he declaimeth.' Then he said to those who were present, 'Who is for me against the son of al-Ashraf, for he hath done me great injury?' The first to volunteer was a man of Aws, Muhammad ibn Maslamah, of the clan of Sa'd ibn Mu'adh. The Prophet [peace be upon him] told him to consult Sa'd, and four more volunteers were found. But they realised that nothing could be achieved without deception and lies, and they knew that lying was abhorrent to the Prophet [peace be upon him]; so they went to him and told him what was in their minds. He said that they were free to say whatever would serve their purpose, for deception was legitimate in warfare, being part of its strategy, and Ka'b had declared war on them."
[Muhammad by Martin Lings, pg. 171]


... wa Allahu'alim.

Again sister, thanks. :) I appreciate you sharing your fruitful insights and delving deeper into the topic.

Faraz said...

Masha-Allah, good discussion you have going here.

Regarding ceasing blogging... I think I may be inaccurately blaming the blog for the fact that I'm not as involved in stuff as I once was. Of course, the real reason for that is that I'm currently away from my community, but insha-Allah will return to that soon enough. Alhamdolillah, I'm starting to make my connections in Vancouver, so things have improved in that sense, but I am looking forward to the day when I have my masjid, my brothers, and my community back within my reach.

I'm also starting to find that moral support, too, which has helped. In a sense, given my relative isolation from the Muslim community these days, it's nice to have the readers, who are like friends who accompany me on my travels, to an extent.

Regarding Ameera's comment, I think her analogy is the most fitting of any I've read; jazakAllah-khair for your insight, it's always appreciated. The social context, as sister Farzeen said, is different, but the story still applies, I think. Allahu'alim. One nice consequence of the reaction is that dialogue is starting to open up, which wouldn't have happened if we were all complacent.

Farzeen said...

Assalaamu'alaykum

Alhamdu li Allah for communication. That in itself is a blessing. It's so refreshing to have respectable individuals to interact with.. that makes living in this world all the more.. uhm.. manageable. I guess that's why having good companions is so important in the deen.

Well, Ramadhaan has arrived :). Ahlan ya Ramadhaan, ahlan. Insha'Allah it will be a very spiritually invigorating month.

In the words of Old Rafiki,
"It is time..."

"Do you think that you will enter the Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Apostle and those of faith who were with him cried: 'When (will come) the help of God?' Ah! Verily the help of God is (always) near!" [2:214]

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"Be mindful of God, and God will protect you. Be mindful of God, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of God. If you seek help, seek help of God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that God had already prescribed for you. And if the whole world were to gather together to harm you, it would harm you only with something that God has already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the ink has dried."
--Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]