By Aftab Ahmad, New Age Islam
25 May, 2014
Derogatory or defamatory remarks are part of opposition to individuals. When the opposition becomes intense people violate all social and ethical norms and make defamatory remarks against their opponent and their family members. This defamation of Holy Scriptures, religion or religious personalities is termed as blasphemy.
Almost all prophets of God were subjected to defamatory and derogatory remarks by the idolaters and evil doers because the prophets opposed their false gods and their corrupt and immoral practices. This enraged the idolaters and they attacked the prophets verbally and physically. Jesus Christ was one of them. Many prophets were killed by their opponents. Those who were not killed were abused and threatened with dire consequences. They were called crazy, sorcerers and mad poets. About Prophet Noah, God says in the Quran:
“The people of Noah denied before them then they called our servant (Noah) a liar and said, ‘he is a madman’ and he was repelled.” (Al Quamar: 9)
This shows that blasphemy against the prophets of God existed before. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was not subjected to it alone. Prophet Moses was called a sorcerer as he worked miracles with his staff.
Polytheists made derogatory remarks against God too when the verse asking Muslims to give loan to God was revealed. They said, ‘Lo, the God of Muslims is a wretched poor fellow who asks for loans from the people. What can he give us who himself asks for money from us.”
The nation of Hadhrat Shuaib also meted out insulting treatment to him when he tried to stop them from idolatry and corrupt practices. They said,” They said, "O Shu'ayb, we do not understand much of what you say, and indeed, we consider you among us as weak. And if not for your family, we would have stoned you [to death]; and you are not to us one respected." “(Hud: 91)
Prophets were the representatives of God on earth and any attack on them verbally or physically was considered an attack on Him. The prophets were ordained to convey his message to the people which they did honestly and sincerely. In doing so they made many sacrifices and swallowed humiliations heaped on them by their opponents. Therefore, God warned people against insulting and attacking His prophets. God said in the Quran that those who insulted and defamed the prophets will be punished with a painful torment in the Hereafter.
“And among them are those who abuse the Prophet and say, "He is an ear." Say, "[It is] an ear of goodness for you that believes in Allah and believes the believers and [is] a mercy to those who believe among you." And those who abuse the Messenger of Allah - for them is a painful punishment. “(Al Tauba: 61)
The final prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was subjected to only physical abuse but also to verbal abuses during his lifetime. When the polytheists of Makkah and Madina could not stop the spread of Islam, they resorted to defamation of the prophet in desperation. They made defamatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). They called him a magician, a sorcerer, even a mad poet. To them, the verses of the Quran were only his poetic creations conjured up with the help of djinns.
The defamatory or derogatory remarks were not restricted to calling him names but the popular poetic genre of Arabia of the time, Hijwa (defamatory poem) was mostly used by the poets of Makkah. During the period of Jahiliya, Hijwa was mostly used by the poets to malign, vilify and denigrate their opponents. It was aimed at the character assassination of the opponents. The personal character of the opponent and his relatives and close associates like the wife, sister or mother was presented in any extremely bad light using very offensive language.
A cursory study of the Hijwa written by the famous Arabic poet Mutanabbi and others can shed light on how damaging and enraging these defamatory poems were. Thus, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) faced both literary and rustic defamation by his religious opponents. These defamatory attacks were very painful to the Prophet (pbuh) and his followers because the Muslims love their prophet more than they do their own lives or that of relatives. The love of the prophet is a part of the faith of a Muslim:
God also loved His prophet and defended his prophet saying:
“Then do they not give thought? There is in their companion [Muhammad] no madness. He is not but a clear warner. “(Al A’raf: 184)
“Nun. By the pen and what they inscribe, You are not, [O Muhammad], by the favour of your Lord, a madman. And indeed, for you is a reward uninterrupted. And indeed, you are of a great moral character. “(Al Qalam: 1-4)
However, the Prophet showed great restraint in face of such blasphemy and defamation and advised his followers also to practice restraint and have patience in face of such provocation. The poetic genre of Naat (praise of prophet) was encouraged and promoted as a reply to Hijwa. Muslims with some poetic gift wrote Naat eulogising the Prophet (pbuh). Hasan bin Sabit is one such poet who is known as the Prophet’s poet.
Though God hates those vilifying his beloved Prophet (pbuh) and warns the blasphemers of severe torment in the Hereafter, He advises Muslims to practice restraint against provocative statements defaming the holy prophet (pbuh). According to the Quran, practising restraint in face of blasphemy is a great act of courage and not causing bloodshed in the name of protecting the honour of the Prophet (pbuh) as is commonly believed.
“You will surely be tested in your possessions and in yourselves. 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. “(Al-e-Imran: 186)
Of course, during the life of the prophet and particularly after the fall of Makkah, a few habitual and unrepentant offenders were killed as punishment for blasphemy as they continually wrote filthy hijwa against the holy Prophet (pbuh), those who showed remorse and asked for forgiveness were at once forgiven by the Prophet (pbuh). The Quran also does not prescribe death sentence for blasphemy though it predicts that the ahl-e-kitab and the Mushriks (polytheists) will make defamatory remarks about the Prophet. Restraint and piety is what the Quran suggests in reply to blasphemy.
Aftab Ahmad is an occasional contributor to New Age Islam and a freelance journalist. He has been studying the Holy Quran for some time.