17 September, 2012

Replying to Abuse with Dignity, Sense and Reason

(In response to the recent anti-Islamic movie that caused a series of protests around the Muslim world)

‘’ Two killed in anti-US protest in Pakistan’’[1], ‘’US Ambassador and three other US citizens killed in attack on US consulate in Benghazi as a response to the anti-Islamic film released in US’’[2], ‘’One protestor was killed in Tripoli in clashes with the security forces’’[3], ‘’US Embassy and American School attacked in Tunisia’’[4], ‘’US , German and UK embassies targeted in Sudan’’[5], ‘’Death toll in Clashes outside the US embassy in Tunis has reached two, with 29 other wounded’’[6]…and the story goes on.

This is not something that happens once in a life-time. This has become a common theme now. Some biased fanatic in some corner of the world, posts, draws or films something absurd about Prophet Muhammad that sparks fury and anger throughout the Muslim globe. The producer of the recent film named ‘innocence of Muslims’ was a convicted criminal, who somehow managed to acquire the funding to make this film.[7] Some reports suggest that Copts were behind the funding of the film[8]. The actors/actresses of the movie were duped, and they never knew what the movie was about, rather the hate-speech, and inflammatory dialogue was dubbed in later[9].

A 14-minute excerpt of the movie, along with its Arabic translation, was posted on YouTube. The movie is not only poorly filmed, but is very amateurish in its content. No rational mind, could deduce anything of intellectual value from the film. Recent outburst in the Muslim World has marketed the movie, which would have gone un-noticed because of its poor direction and babyish content. Steve Klein, an anti-Islamist himself said that the movie had one theatrical showing at a cinema in which no one came. According to a report on Bloomberg, Klein said , “I got there about a half hour before the movie started and stayed a half hour after it started and I saw zero -- nada, none, no people -- go inside’’[10].

At the day end, a movie which deserved to be ignored has gone viral. Its content never deserved a reply, because its script lacked any rationality. Rather than being ignored, left to die its own death, it sparked a series of violent protests and killings. Several innocent lives were taken in these violent clashes. The demonstrators killed innocent people and demonstrated got killed themselves, as well, in clashes with the security forces. Qur’an iterates in a very unequivocal style how true Muslims reply to such foolish rants: ‘’ and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace’’[11].  In another verse Qur’an says very clearly, ‘’and you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient and fear Allah - indeed, that is of the matters [worthy] of determination’’[12]. And in another simple message, that is repeated four times in the Qur’an, God says ‘’…and be patient over whatever they say…’’[13] and at one place follows it with ‘’… and avoid them with gracious avoidance’’[14].

So, these furious processions are not in-line with divine guidance. In-fact, it seems like as if these angry protests are scripted by the very authors of such blasphemy. What could have the directors or producers of such an absurd movie achieve? The movie lacked any visual or rational appeal? It was surely a piece of garbage! Even Salman Rushdie said, "The film is clearly a malevolent piece of garbage"[15]. But, it seems like the producer rightly visualized from the events in the past few years that the only harm that could come from this would be to the Muslims themselves. The chaos that erupted through-out the Muslim world, killing dozens and leaving hundred others injured, does it not seem to go in-line with the script of brutality portrayed in the silly movie?

Did the protests do us any good in the past? Did the protest stop the ‘Burn Qur’an day’? It’s been 25 years since Salman Rushdie published his poorly researched and biased book ‘The satanic verses’, there have been hundreds of processions, protests and fatawaas, did they brought about any difference? On the other hand, surely, these protests have done harm to us. Not only have it given the media a chance to promote the biased view that Islam is brutal, but also it has led to chaos, death and injuries within the Muslim communities. As for those who have been responsible for coming up with the stupid cartoons, movies or books, nothing happened to them.

There would be Muslims, who would reject the conclusions drawn in this article labelling me either as a ‘rejecter of hadith’, ‘modernist’, ‘apologist’ or ‘rationalist’.  The literature of hadith (Prophetic sayings) has a secondary status and it cannot supersede the Holy Qur’an. The murder of those who resorted to mass media communication to revile the objective of the Prophet mentioned in the narrations of Hadith must be viewed very carefully. Conclusions must not be drawn from a few narrations ignoring all the Qur’anic rulings and cases where people were forgiven or not held accountable. One could go at length to discuss this topic, but two arguments suffice to support what Islam demands from us.

One argument is the ruling of the Qur’an mentioned above. Another argument is ‘where do we draw the line’. In the times of Prophet Muhammad, poetry was perhaps the only means of mass media communication. Nowadays, we have blogs, social networks, news channels, newspapers, movies, mobile phones etc. It is actually an impossible ordeal to filter all the means of media for blasphemous material. As a reflexive but irrational reply to impossibility of filtration we have narrowed down the category of blasphemy. Muslims around the world are provoked by only pictures, cartoons or movies against the Prophet Muhammad. There are thousands of blog posts, articles on the internet which criticize Prophet Muhammad’s way by playing with the historic texts. A careful inspection reveals that such articles resort to intellectual dishonesty and cheating to come up with stuff that criticizes Prophet Muhammad. These well-formatted articles are highly ranked in search results, but they have hardly sparked any protests, though they might be more harmful because of their seemingly scholarly but mischievous nature.  And, these attacks are not new. ‘’Of all the great men of the world, none has been maligned so much as Muhammad’’, says Montgomery Watt, the Scottish historian. But, for some-reason, what fuels the protests are only those events that ‘reach the news’. It seems like an invisible hand controls when to spark the protests, and when not to. Another important question is, why only Prophet or Qur’an burning? There are hundreds of stand-up comedians, comedy serials, and season episodes etc. that make fun of Jesus, Moses, Adam and Eve. Are these not respectful figures and Prophets in Islam? And does not the Qur’an tell us not to differentiate among the messengers?[16] In-fact, ridiculing God and the concept of God, has become a common theme in the mass media in the west. Especially on the internet, where there are no gate-keepers one can find all kinds of stuff, ridiculing every religion, and every religious faction. So, why these ridicule that happen on a daily basis do not lead to any protests? Who selects when Muslims protest and when they don’t?

So, how to respond to this non-sense? The Qur’anic guidance is surely the most appropriate: ‘’… and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity’’[17]. This is synonymous to ‘letting it go’ which a writer proposed by the tag-line of his article ‘’Internet videos will insult your religion. Ignore them’’[18]. As for these movies, cartoons, they ought to be ignored like a piece of garbage that we hardly notice. And if we learn to pass by this rubbish with dignity, the stuff will not get viral anymore. When there are attacks of a more intellectual nature that rely on bias or intellectual dishonesty, they ought to be exposed in a scholarly manner. And, when we do decide to protest, we should carefully see are we protesting because of our ‘love for the Prophet’ or are we protesting because it had been scripted that way by some invisible hand. And, when we do find any rational justification for protest, we must do it a manner that befits the flag-bearers of truth, as Yusuf al-Qardawi said recently in Doha, "Our manner of protesting should reflect sense and reason"[19]. Let’s not try to kick the Donkey back.

[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Holy Quran, Surah al-Furqan 25:63 (Sahih International Translation)
[12] Holy Quran, Surah Ale-Imran 3:186 (Sahih International Translation)
[13] Holy Quran, Surah al-Muzammil  73:10, Surah Saad 38:17, Surah Qaaf 50:39, Surah Taha 20:30 (Sahih International Translation, modified)
[14] Holy Quran, Surah al-Muzammil 73:10 (Sahih International Translation)
[16] Holy Quran, Surah al-Baqarah 2:136,285 , Surah ale-‘Imran 3:84 (Sahih International Translation)
[17] Holy Quran, Surah al-Furqan 25:72 (Sahih International Translation)

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Zainab Hashimi said...

I could not agree more!
Seriously, these protesters need to use something called "mind"!
Loving Prophet means to follow his footsteps and obey, him. Had Prophet s.a.w been among us, he would have not done such thing!

Muhammad Awais Tahir said...

Thanks for your appreciation. Share the link with your family and friends if you find it of educational value.

fofo said...

that means we should ignore that the dignity of our prophet and religion are being attacked ??
and just let it be ??!!!
i call that nonsense !!

Muhammad Awais Tahir said...

Ignore the foolishness, and reply to only those who bring up rational/saner arguments. That's the way of the Prophet, and I wouldn't call that non-sense.

Narrated 'Abdullah bin Mulaika: Aisha said that the
Jews came to the Prophet and said, "As-Samu 'Alaikum" (death be on
you). 'Aisha said (to them), "(Death) be on you, and may Allah curse you
and shower His wrath upon you!" The Prophet said, "Be calm, O ‘Aisha!
You should be kind and lenient, and beware of harshness and Fuhsh (i.e. bad
words)." She said (to the Prophet), "Haven't you heard what they
(Jews) have said?" He said, "Haven't you heard what I have said (to
them)? I said the same to them, and my invocation against them will be accepted
while theirs against me will be rejected (by Allah). "

[Sahih al-Bukhari]

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Zainab Hashimi said...

i just saw your reply here. how come i did not get a notification when you replied? :s

(zainab hashimi)

Muhammad Awais Tahir said...

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