I have been watching in dismay at the response of some Muslims worldwide to the ridiculous movie posted online mocking our beloved Prophet (S). This sadness is a feeling that I have noticed is widely shared in the American Muslim community. I protest and condemn, in the strongest terms, the violence, death, aggression and injustice that have all resulted. This is probably the exact reaction that the movie maker could only dream to have garnered. So, who has now painted a worse picture of the followers of Muhammad, the fool who made the movie or the professed protestors to it? This response isn’t only the complete antithesis to the way of the Messenger himself, but my deepest worry is that this has uncovered a profound and unresolved problem in our community: that we lack a basic understanding of Muhammad, his life, and legacy, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him.
There have been powerful, wise, and unequivocal responses to this by our scholars. Here and here are just two to speak of. It is important to be aware of and to spread these messages. But, scholars aren’t the only ones who bear the response. I especially think we, as mothers, have a distinctive perspective that must be heard. One reason is that we have learned how to simplify Islam for children, something direly needed for the rest of the world. Our dialogue with our kids entails stories of how the Prophet would give away almost everything of gifts that he personally received to the needy, teaching us to be selfless and non-materialistic. We talk about how he epitomized cooperation by cleaning after himself around the home and mending his own clothes. One of our favorite memories and one that we emulate in our household is that he would lengthen his prostration to allow his grandchildren more time to ride on his back during prayers, showing us to be patient and merciful to others.
In his life are parenting lessons for us as well. He loved children, and drew from them their innocence, gentleness, and wonder at the world. He would share his steed with the youth on long journeys so that he could have friendly and personal talks with them. His offered his presence and paid special attention to each person, giving some of them affectionate nick names. He was never first to withdraw his hand back from a handshake. He taught us “he who does not show mercy will not be shown mercy.” He stimulated his companions’ intelligence by giving them opportunities to speak, allowed them to learn, assert themselves, and take initiative. He understood the psychology of differences. And, when he victoriously entered Mecca after 23 years of persecution, he hung his head low out of humility and bore no hatred or animosity for anyone. He forgave when justice would have commanded retribution.*
This is my model. This is the man that I want my children to grow up knowing, loving, respecting and emulating. So the next time my daughter asks me why we don’t hate boys, or why we let bugs go instead of squashing them, in some way or another I hope I can explain to her it’s because we want to follow the way of our prophet Muhammad. Rather than yelling out of anger at concrete buildings, going on to show this to others will be an exercise in showing them our character is inspired by him. Only once we do that can we say we not only protested, but also promoted and honored him, and followed his way.
Dalal is a chemistry graduate student who above all loves being mom to a precious 3 yr old. She also enjoys her new found passion for healthy cooking, connecting with like-minded moms, bargain-shopping, and obsessively keeping up with current events.
*Source: “In the Footsteps of the Prophet” by Tariq Ramadan