"Let not the hatred of a people swerve you away from justice. Be just, for this is closest to righteousness…”
While Muslims love and deeply respect Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, others regularly heap abuse on him. Around the world, and here in the U.S., blogs, television shows, some preachers, commentary, and talking heads regularly insult our beloved Prophet and attack his character in ways that are very painful for Muslims to bear.
We need to understand this abuse for what it is: a form of psychological violence intended to hurt and harm. Our response when we encounter such attacks must be to seek God’s forgiveness and respond with what is better: prayers on the Prophet and Duas for him.
But we must also take this a step further by allowing our hearts to make Dua for the individual attacking the Prophet, asking Allah to guide that person so s/he becomes a less hateful, more contributing person to society. This is exactly what he did standing injured at Uhad.
If it is a publication that is printing hateful material, the best response is a non-threatening letter that advises that, in a world of conflict and tension, it is preferable to respect each other’s loved ones, instead of resorting to attacks and insults.
It’s also important to remember to just move on. We cannot allow these attacks to hurt us, for that is their very purpose. It’s also vital to keep in mind that you are limited in your responsibility for what you can do to counter these insults. You don’t control the world, you don’t change hearts. Try your best and then put your trust in Allah. That is all you are required to do.
There were many, many people who physically hurt the Prophet, putting thorns in his way, torturing his Companions, killing those he loved. He did not take revenge from any one of them. Some people would compose insulting poetry against him, and his response would be to have Hassan ibn Thabit compose the opposite. May God be pleased with him.
There are certainly situations when Muslims were required to defend themselves in Madinah, in particular, when the Makkans came attacking, seeking death and destruction after driving the Muslims out of their homes. There were also situations where some people broke their peace treaties with him. In these circumstances, Muslims were encouraged by God to defend. But unlike today’s wars and claims of “collateral damage”, the wars the Prophet fought in were not only short, the total casualties were largely restricted to fighters, numbering a total of 900 (according to the highest counts) on both sides.
But what is important to remember is that those situations of war were exceptions, not the norm. In fact, God actually had to encourage Muslims to fight back because the Prophet’s movement was a peace movement, in which his community was required to not fight back.
As well, as soon as enemies ended hostilities, Muslims were required to do the same. Whenever, there was a peace accord, they accepted, even if the terms were not suitable to Muslims. The Treaty of Hudaibiyah is just one example.
It is against the spirit of the Quran and the Prophet’s lifelong teachings to take those exceptions of war and turn them into the overall rule and an Islamic lifestyle. This is what extremist ideologues of al-Qaeda are doing.
Our love for the Prophet should encourage us toward love for humanity, kindness, and forgiveness. It should never be an excuse to foment hatred, which can lead to violence against other people.
Whether we are living as a minority community or make up the majority in any country, Muslims must never fall into the deadly habit of collective blame for crimes. In specific, we must never generalize and harm our neighbors who may share the faith of those who attack our Prophet. Harming them is a serious sin and crime in Islam. So is attacking their houses of worship and institutions.
The Quran’s warning that killing one person is like killing all of humanity, except with the due process of law, is the overarching, superseding order, which, Alhamdu lillah, guides the overall behavior of Muslims, individually and collectively. Unfortunately, this nexus of war and terrorism is violating these overarching principles in Islam.
Once the Prophet was sitting with his back to the Kaba. Khabbab ibn Aratt reported, he was wondering how long Muslims would suffer through the difficulties they were suffering through, and that is when he asked the Prophet why he didn’t pray against his enemies, the non-believing Makkans. The question caused the Prophet discomfort, and he responded by mentioning the Prophets and the people who struggled before him, what type of difficulties and torture they went through. And then he said, By God a time will come when an old woman loaded with golden jewelry will travel from Sanaa to Hadramawt (from one corner of Arabia to other) and she will have no fear except of God. He was envisioning a peaceful world with security for even the weakest person in his society from any crime or harm. That is why after every Salat he would pray for peace.
The Prophet’s efforts were for the rule of law and peace among individuals and communities, tribes and nations. It was not for a perpetual state of war, conflict, and instability.
And that is the reason individuals taking the law into their own hands are described by Islamic scholars as creating Fitna and Fasad on earth, which can be described as chaos, lawlessness, one of the worst situations possible.
Let us respond as the Prophet did with regards to attacks on his character. Let us never swerve from justice, no matter how badly we hurt from the attacks on our beloved. That is the best way to respond.