By Syed Manzoor Alam, New Age Islam
August 23, 2013
The main question that arises is that what do we do in the case of harsh attacks against our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)? We should not be extremely emotional about it. Reacting with too much emotion is not only un-Islamic but it is also counterproductive. I don’t think that any sane Muslim would justify what happened in Pakistan, in Bangladesh, in Lebanon, in parts of India, Egypt etc in the light of the Danish cartoon or the movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’.
Burning the Danish embassy is wrong; attacking the McDonald’s outlet is totally unacceptable. Such actions are too extreme, ridiculous, anti-Islamic and even counterproductive. In fact, burning and bombing them actually proves their point and make them say with even more vile and volume that Islam actually is like that, it cannot take criticisms etc. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There are multi-faceted responses to such attacks against Islam: economical, political, responding in the media etc but in these articles I wish to present the academic response. I begin by Islamically contextualizing such attacks. These attacks are called ad hominem. It means you are attacking the messenger, instead of the message; you are attacking the persona, rather than what he says.
We have to realize that these types of attacks are not new, all the Prophets even before Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had to face ridicule, diatribe, physical assault, psychological insult. In Surah ‘Ya Seen’ and in other places, Allah consoles Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):
“So let not their speech grieve you. Indeed, We know what they conceal and what they reveal” (36:76)
In other verses also Allah consoles Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that many were the prophets that came before you and all of them were ridiculed and mocked. In Surah ‘An’am’, Allah again consoled our Prophet:
“And messengers were ridiculed before you, but those who mocked them were enveloped by that which they used to ridicule” (6:10) (Almost the same message is repeated in ch 21 V 41.and other verses)
We have to keep in mind and remind ourselves that this is not a new phenomenon; it goes back to the earliest of times. The very first Messenger of Allah- Noah was mocked severely by his people. He was building something that the people of that time had never seen; he was building a ship in the middle of a desert. He was building a structure which, he claimed, could float on water. So Allah tells us that every time a person went by him, he mocked Noah (pbuh); similarly Shoib (pbuh) was called a madman, a lunatic by his people.
Allah says emphatically:
“Indeed, We will take care, We are sufficient for you against the mockers.” (15:95)
The Quran tells us in so many places that the people at the time of the Prophet laid charges against him: that he was a liar, he was a mad man, he was a poet and that he was taught by others. These 4 charges are still the main charges levelled against him. Allah tells us that it has happened in the past and Allah also warns us that it will happen in the future. In ch 3 verse 186 Allah tells us
“And you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with God much abuse”.
Allah is telling us that this will happen. So how do we deal with such things? The response is given in the same verse, which says:
“But if you are patient and fear God- indeed, that is of the matters worthy of determination”.
Besides contextualising these attacks, the second point is that we can categorise these attacks. There are many avenues of attacking Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In this article (and the subsequent ones) I will be focusing on the attacks levelled against his character and persona (ad hominem). There are other ways of attacking Islam, of attacking the Quran, of attacking theology etc, they all have different defences, but here I am concentrating on the attacks to the persona of the person.
Such attacks can generally be categorised into three categories: the first is complete lies, sheer fabrications, with no historical basis whatsoever. And there are many examples of this: of the charge that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) suffered from epilepsy, that he would go into seizures and fits when the revelations came down. This is total falsehood that was started in the Middle Ages by the Spanish Christians.
Another example of their complete lie is that the Prophet died in the year 666 AD. This was propounded most especially by Peter the Venerable. He was also the first person to find persons to translate the Quran into other languages, not for the spread of knowledge but to critique it. This number 666 represents the number of the beast, so by constructing this year they wanted to show that our Prophet was both anti-Christ as well as a devil.
Another complete lie that was spread against our Prophet in the Middle Ages was that the Muslims worshipped Muhammad (pbuh). And they claim that his name was not ‘Muhammad’ but ‘Mahound’ in fact many books written, written by famous British writers in the 13th and 14th century, we find that our Prophet was referred to as ‘Mahound’. Mahound is the name of the Devil. So they distort his name also to criticise him.
Another lie which has also become famous in the English language is the expression ‘If the mountain does not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad will go to the mountain’. This means that if the situation does not work out the way I wanted then I will adapt to the situation. This is a lie that was fabricated by Francis Bacon, the famous British author. Basically he said that the Prophet challenged the Quraysh that the mountains will come to him and so he issued the challenge but the mountains did not move and so the Quraysh began to ridicule and mock Muhammad (pbuh) and so he said, writes Bacon, ‘If the mountain will not come to me then I will go to the mountain’. This is a complete fabrication. No such story ever happened.
If you repeat a lie hundred times, although it may remain a lie but its truth will be established. This means that if you repeat the same thing again and again then that thing will grow strong; and the thing which is not repeated, it will get weak. Same as: ‘use it or lose it’.
This category, of outright lies was very common in the Middle Ages till the 17-18th century; but with the advent of modern universities and with more interaction with the Muslims, these types of lies are getting rarer and rarer.
(In the next part I will be dealing with other types of categories. Those interested in doing more research in this field, Minou Reeves has written a very interesting book, called ‘Muhammad in Europe- A 1000 years of Western Myth Making’. This book gives a lot of these lies.)