By Imam Sheharyar Shaikh
Ever since the wretched movie “Innocence of the Muslims” that denigrated the Prophet (s) made public knowledge three weeks ago, the result has been a spiral of mob violence and civil unrest in major Muslim cities around the world. To the rest of us, the over-the-top reaction has been more of a shock than the offense itself. The ongoing Muslim reaction to the movie in terms of mob protests held globally is unequivocally wrong because it harms Muslims and their interests, it contravenes the pure Islamic teachings on the issue and it turns the attention of the Muslims away from what needs to be done to uphold the honour of the Prophet (on whom be blessings and peace) in the world.
We live in times in which the worst enemy of the Muslims may well turn out to be another Muslim. Such is the case with the foolish reaction to a filthy movie that allegedly first appeared in 2011. It was run only once in a theatre in California, until the current wave of protests popularized it to an astronomical level. Ask yourselves: did this garbage of a movie deserve to have around 20,000,000 views on YouTube? What a shame. We Muslims made it happen. Just as we lent popularity to the infamous novel The Satanic Verses and the Danish Cartoons satirizing the Prophet (s) months after they were published. A true lover of the Prophet (s) finds nothing more disturbing than our Prophet (s)’s name slung in mud by our own stupidity. If this wasn’t enough the damage done to public property of other Muslims was inexcusable. Banks were robbed, shops were ransacked, public buses and private cars were torched and diplomatic enclaves were vandalized in broad daylight. And if that wasn’t enough, over 2 dozen Muslims lost their lives as the mobs pitted themselves against the security personnel. Allahu Akbar! Is this the behaviour befitting a people who claim to hold the divine message? Worse, we have shown ourselves to the world as nothing more than Pavlov’s dogs – ready to jump, stand, run and bark at the ringing of a bell held by an external hand.
The criminally corrupt governments in the Muslim world find the public unrest a perfect reason to relay to their western paymasters how necessary it is to keep them in power if their masters want Muslim masses in control. Besides, what better way than to divert the frustrations of masses deprived of food, electricity, clean water, education, legal justice and healthcare than to have them unleashed on the streets to raise havoc? Their passions were further sanctioned by the official declaration of Friday as the ‘Day of the Love of the Prophet’ in Pakistan.
“Fitnah (civil disorder) lies asleep” the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Allah curses the one who awakens it”. According to Islam the resulting mob protests in the Muslim world were criminal and completely unjustified. Shame on the religious figures who fed fuel to the fire by giving unnecessary exposure to the movie, thereby popularizing it globally. They stand worthy of condemnation:
لَوۡلَآ إِذۡ سَمِعۡتُمُوهُ قُلۡتُم مَّا يَكُونُ لَنَآ أَن نَّتَڪَلَّمَ بِہَـٰذَا سُبۡحَـٰنَكَ هَـٰذَا بُہۡتَـٰنٌ عَظِيمٌ۬
And why did they not, when they heard of it, say: “It is not right for us to discuss it. Glory to You (O Allah), it is an immense slander.” (24:16)
Are these imams and religious figures holier than the pious sahabah who never went on a mad rampage upon witnessing the Prophet (s) being disrespected by his enemies? The people of Ta’if bloodied the Prophet (s) during his call to them, but neither the Prophet nor the sahabah ever vandalized Ta’if. The Medinan hypocrites left no opportunity to hurt the Prophet (s), but the Prophet (s) or the sahabah never harmed them in revenge. The Prophet even hid the names of the hypocrites from public knowledge. The American Ambassador J Christopher Stevens including three other US foreign service officers were killed in Libya. Why no respect was shown to the Prophetic instruction of protecting another country’s ambassador (الرسل لا تقتل – “Ambassadors shall not be killed”)? This was the Prophet’s teaching. Is there a surprise over the presence of a frieze in the judges’ chamber of the US Supreme Court of a man holding the holy Quran, representing none other than the Prophet (s) himself? Who are these people that flout all injunctions of our religion, harm Muslims in revenge and give Islam a bad name? Now we hear that some local elements such as Zafar Bangash, Palestine House and some pro-Iranian groups of Toronto are about to exploit the anti-movie sentiments by holding a protest in front of the American embassy on Saturday, September 21, 2012. Stupidity knows no borders.
What do we really need to do to uphold the honour of the Prophet (s) around the world? We need to bring his beautiful seerah into our own lives. This is what the Prophet (s) would have wished for the Muslims today. I do not believe for a second that he would have allowed the reactive violence or protest marches as are occurring right now to take place. Enough with protests! Haters will hate, as they have always hated. While the Prophet (s) was called the vilest of names by his enemies, as listed in the Quran, do we forget that Allah himself takes personal responsibility of dealing with the Prophet (s)’s mockers?
إِنَّا كَفَيۡنَـٰكَ ٱلۡمُسۡتَہۡزِءِينَ
We are sufficient for you against the mockers (15:95)
It is time to shun angry protests in the name of Islam and the Prophet (s). Let us think constructively on how we are going to present Islam to the world community undergoing rapid globalization. Let us build media outlets that do effective da’wah and counter anti-Islamic propaganda. Let us establish world class institutions of Islamic higher learning that wrestle with the challenges of modernity. Let us bring the Prophet (s) in our lives by following his blessed life. Let us share his seerah, so the rest of the world finds a newfound respect and love for this man who came only to deliver them on the Day of Judgment.
Inshallah, the doors of North American Muslim Foundation always open for constructive recourse to the problem of deliberate and provocative denigration of Islamic symbols and figures bound to occur again and again – as we now see in the case of the cartoons emerging from France.
Will we then pay heed?
Sheharyar Shaikh is the former President of North American Muslim Foundation. He is currently the Imam of Masjid Qurtabah. He specializes in Quranic exegesis with contemporary Islamic thought and modernity