The ultimate fate of Saudi blogger, poet and writer Hamza Kashgari is still unknown. The 23-year-old, who formerly worked for the Saudi Arabia newspaper Al Bilad, recently tweeted some critical comments about the Prophet Muhammad (saw), which left conservative Saudi clerics crying blasphemy and calling for his blood. Kashgari’s cause has been taken up by Muslims around the world, many who say the call for his execution goes against the Prophet’s emphasis on love and forgiveness.
On the Prophet’s birthday (which fell on Feb. 12), Kashgari tweeted these statements, in 140 character increments, of course:
On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you. On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more. On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.
Because of those tweets, conservative clerics are clamoring for his death. I, and many others, spoke out against his execution, citing the fact that there is no evidence in the Qu’ran that calls for the death penalty for apostasy. But what’s more sorrowful is that in the heated rhetoric surrounding this young man’s tweets, lost is the substance of what he wrote. No one, it seems, focused on this statement: “I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.” That, I think, is the key: He did not understand many aspects of the Prophet, his life and ministry.
Well, especially if that is the case, then the response should be compassion and education, not death and destruction. And, even if he had completely denied the prophet hood of Muhammad, he shouldn’t be executed. His faith, or lack thereof, is his choice. Kashgari, like all of us, will be judged by God, and it is not our place to play God’s role.
Maybe, despite his having been born and raised on the same piece of earth as the Prophet, Kashgari really did not know the Prophet Muhammad’s story, his life and his ministry. Maybe he did not really know the beauty of his character, the sanctity of his method or the magnanimity of his conduct. Maybe he did not really know how much his contemporaries loved him, how much his family adored him and how his followers were devastated when he was gone. Maybe Hamza Kashgari just does not understand, as seems to be from his tweets.
The Prophet’s story and life is indeed inspirational, as young Hamza himself said. Prophet Muhammad’s life has inspired me so much that I was blessed to publish his story entirely in poetry. And, if those who call for this blogger’s death truly love the Prophet, then they should follow his example and have compassion for the man. Those who are against him should lead by the example of the Prophet and set the blogger free.
The Prophet’s life is full of stories of how he forgave his worst enemies. Time and again, he refrained from taking personal revenge against anyone who slighted him, attacked him or even tried to kill him. His own uncle, Abu Lahab, would follow the Prophet wherever he went and tell people, “Don’t listen to him! He is a madman.” The Prophet did not even try to stop him. And when he marched triumphantly in Makkah, where I am sure many of Hamza Kashgari’s detractors now live, he told the Quraish tribe — his most bitter and brutal of enemies — “Go now and be free, I forgive you.”
Where has that spirit of forgiveness and compassion gone? Where has that kindness and generosity gone in the land of the Prophet (pbuh)? Why this rush for blood and death? This is reminiscent of the reaction to the silly Danish cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). If one really loves the Prophet, then he will react in the way the Prophet would react: with kindness and generosity. Listen to the word of God:
“But [since] good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou [evil] with something that is better and lo!, he between whom and thyself was enmity [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [unto thee], a true friend! (41:34)”
Yes, the tweet may have been imprudent and disrespectful. But, is killing him the answer? Is calling for his death going to make him come back to the faith and love the Prophet even more? Absolutely not. Our faith is all about love and compassion for all, to spread the light of God’s love to the rest of the world through our actions and thoughts. Why is it that, so many times, our people completely fail to see this?
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a columnist at Patheos and a frequent contributor to altmuslim at Patheos.