As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah
This is a message specifically to my brothers and sisters in Islam:
Sometimes we run short of patience. It’s normal. We are, after all, only human. But we are also Muslim, so we are held to a higher standard. We are supposed to the upright Ummah, the nation, not of borders and ethnic lines, but of belief and behavior. We believe in One God. We behave like role models for mankind.
Why, then, do I so often hear my Muslim brothers and sisters judging one another with harshness and attacking non-Muslims with hatred? Aren’t we supposed to maintain our dignity even in the face of verbal abuse? Aren’t we supposed to only argue in the best manner? Aren’t we supposed to try to attract people to Islam, rather than chase them away? If that’s the case, then I’m afraid we’re making an awful hash of it.
Online, millions of Muslims do wonderful things. There are educational websites, inspiring Youtube videos, and informative chat rooms. Unfortunately, there are also ignorant rants and self-righteous screeds and all manner of bad behavior. I’m not even talking about Muslims who visit porn sites or have suggestive photos on their Facebook walls. I’m talking about Muslims who think they are defending Islam by thoughtlessly tossing around the word “kaafir” and pompously declaring who and who will not be in the Hellfire. Yes, those Muslims. The ones who make me cringe when I stumble across their postings. I thought I left all that fire-and-brimstone-hellfire-and-damnation talk behind when I entered Islam. But I still see it out there, and it still makes me wonder how many fragile, newly-practicing Muslims are getting the message that they’ll never be good enough, and how many non-Muslims are getting the message that we hate you all and want you to die.
I contrast this approach with the example set by our beloved Prophet, Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. He was a man of moderation. He was no milquetoast; he could wield a sword when necessary and could give a stern lesson if required. But he always leavened his words with love and mercy. He never returned an insult to his person, though he never failed to defend Islam when someone attacked the religion. He had the entrails of animals tossed on his back while he was praying. He had thorny branches strewn in his path. He had rough men yank his cloak and grab his clothing. He even was attacked by a fussilade of stones after trying to bring the message of Allah’s Oneness to a neighboring tribe. Do you know this story? Perhaps it’s time for a refresher….
Prophet Muhammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, visited the nearby town of Ta’if with his ward Zayd, may Allah be pleased with him, in order to preach to them the message of Islam. He was received politely by the tribe’s leaders, but after hearing his message they became fearful that his notion of only One God would damage the pilgrimage trade and cause their fellow pagans in Makkah to be angry with them. They allowed the children and hoodlums of the town to chase them away, throwing stones at them and hurting them so badly that the shoes of the Messenger filled with blood. They were able to escape the abuse, but it was a sad and painful episode. He had been humiliated and abused. What did he do in response? Did he come in the night and slit the throats of the tribal elders? Did he stand up on a hill and verbally abuse them? Did he try to rally his tribe to attack in order to avenge the insult? He could have done more than this, yet he refrained:
`Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: I asked the Prophet (PBUH) “Have you ever experienced a day harder than the day of the battle of Uhud?” He replied, “Indeed, I experienced them (dangers) at the hands of your people (i.e., the disbelievers from amongst the Quraish tribe). The hardest treatment I met from them was on the Day of `Aqabah when I went to Ibn `Abd Yalil bin `Abd Kulal (who was one of the chiefs of Ta’if) with the purpose of inviting him to Islam, but he made no response (to my call). So I departed with deep distress. I did not recover until I arrived at Qarn ath-Tha`alib. There, I raised my head and saw a cloud which had cast its shadow on me. I saw in it Jibril (Gabriel) (PBUH) who called me and said: `Indeed, Allah, the Exalted, heard what your people said to you and the response they made to you. And He has sent you the angel in charge of the mountains to order him to do to them what you wish.’ Then the angel of the mountains called me, greeted me and said: `O Muhammad, Allah listened to what your people had said to you. I am the angel of the mountains, and my Rubb has sent me to you so that you may give me your orders. (I will carry out your orders). If you wish I will bring together the two mountains that stand opposite to each other at the extremities of Makkah to crush them in between.”’ But Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “I rather hope that Allah will raise from among their descendants people as will worship Allah the One, and will not ascribe partners to Him (in worship).” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
MashaAllah. What a beautiful sentiment. What beautiful words and what beautiful restraint. Is this not the perfect example to which we should aspire?
But, you say, my mom hates Islam and won’t let me pray. My brother makes fun of my hijaab. My boss threatened to fire me if I don’t shave my beard. The guy at the gas station looks at me funny. The lady at the dry cleaner wouldn’t wait on me. The school won’t make accomodation for my kids. That person on Facebook made an insulting group against Islam. Those politicians call us terrorists. What am I supposed to do, just sit and take it? Just allow myself to be abused?
Honestly, sometimes you won’t have the ability to defend yourself, and at that time you simply have to be patient and understand that Allah will reward you for your restraint. At other times, you will be able to respond. I’m not saying that you can’t defend yourself, but that you have to do it in the most diginified manner. Tell your mother you love her and that Islam commands you treat her with respect, even if she is harsh with you. Tell your brother you respect him and Islam doesn’t permit you to abuse him in return for abuse. Report your boss to the labor board. Buy gas somewhere else. Go to a different dry cleaner. Write a letter to the school board and calmly state your case. Report the bad group. Support people who have a reasonable stance towards Islam. You can do this. And you can do it without ever using the “k” word (or the “f” word for that matter) without raising your voice or losing your temper. Will everyone see the light and experience and epiphany and come over to your way of seeing things? No. There will still be the hateful relatives and the Rush Limbaughs and the Rick Santorums and all the rest. But the others, the ones who had been blocked from the light by the shadows of those who are in misguidance, the ones you may not even notice, will see. They will see your intelligence and your dignity and your calm and your light, and they will think to themselves, “I need to get me some of that”. And you may just set in motion the process that will lead someone to Islam. Do you think screaming “F You!” at the top of your voice would have accomplished that? No, me neither.
I remind myself before I remind anyone else. Stand up for your rights, by all means, but be dignified, not indignant. Islam is the middle road, the moderate path, and we have to behave with moderation, even in extreme circumstances, in order to show the true face of Islam to the world. Anything I said right is from Allah, and anything wrong is from the Shaitan and my own nafs. Fi Aman Allah.