Muhammad: The Prophet of Islam

This was not the first time that Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] was attacked. And this is not going to be the last time, I’m sure. In past, a number of insults were hovered at the most revered prophet of Islam, but as such cheap attempts proved to be more futile and were only successful in attracting the Muslim-rage and disrepute on account of being controversial, people who didn’t know Muhammad [pbuh] before, started reading about the Prophet of Islam and came to respect him in the end.

In response to a mediocre and el cheapo film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ which was based purely on lies about and hatred against the prophet and Islam, the thousands of Muslims around the world took, quite contrary to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh], to the streets and protested violently by damaging the properties of the persons (who even condemned the film) and even killing innocent non-muslims and Muslims alike (as happened in Libya, Pakistan, Egypt). On the other hand, a million more protested peacefully in different countries and on social media, they grabbed this opportunity to spread the word about Muhammad [pbuh] who he really was and the one they have known, loved and respected throughout their lives. The anger and furore was justified, however the violence can never be.

I also would like to tell you about the Muhamad [pbuh] I’ve come to adore.

“Hi father died six months before his birth and his mother passed away while he was just six years old. In his teens he did trade along with his uncle Abu Talib, and due to his upright character he earned titles of Al-Amin (trustworthy) and Al-Sadiq (truthful). Having heard of his noble persona and business acumen, a strong woman of Mecca asked him to work for her. When she proposed him, he married her even she was a widow and 15 years older than him. He did most of everyday life chores himself, mended his shoes and sewed his clothes. He was courageous and fearless at the same time kind and loving. He was moderate, open-minded and tolerant. Even when faced with the sharpest and most insulting questions, he always responded with thoughtfulness and compassion. He was the most respectful to women and more often than not asked men to be just in treating women. He treated all people equally, irrespective of their cast, creed and color. He had good relations with his neighbors who also happened to be Jews and Christians. Even during battles, he never allowed his men to fight with the non-combatants. He was beaten and exiled when he was helpless, but turned out to be merciful and forgiving to his worst enemies when he became stronger and powerful. “

Yes, an arid act by one person in no way represents the whole of America or Christianity or Europe, the same way Americans and Europeans alike should not blame Islam and put the entire Muslim population on hit list because of dull and absurd acts by few Muslims.

Calling Spade a Spade

In 2005 a French Court banned a clothing advertisement based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Christ’s Last Super” by ruling that the act was “gratuitous and aggressive act of intrusion on people’s innermost beliefs” because it depicted the female as Christ. Now, since it has become quite clear to the West that the sentiments of Muslims get hurt by such offensive acts in the name of freedom of speech, it is high time for the West to penalize anti-Islamism on the lines of laws against anti-Semitism. You see the West’s double standards in the name of freedom of speech while it’s a crime to mock The Holocaust because it hurts Jews, but it’s freedom of speech to make fun of the prophet and the book of Islam. This must change now.

This is what the Prophet of Islam said 1400 years ago:

The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr

He who deals unfairly with others can never become a useful member of the society

God enjoins you to treat women well, for they are your mothers, daughters, aunts.

Say what is true, although it may be bitter and displeasing to people.

A Muslim must not hate his wife; and if he be displeased with one bad quality in her, then let him be pleased with another that is good.

The most excellent Jihad is that for the conquest of self.

The strong man is not the good wrestler; the strong man is only the one who controls himself when he is angry.

For more, please read;

The Farewell Sermon

Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time by Karen Armstrong

The Life of Muhammad by Ibne Ishaq translation by A. Guillaume

Between two extremes

Freedom of expression, independent thought, reasoning and rationalism have hardly been appreciated in the world of Islam. The task of elucidating the holy scripture and issuing religious decrees have always rested with a group of religious scholars. Most of the religious scholars have also played into the hands of the rulers, either out of fear of being killed by those rulers or for the lust of power. In order to win the support of the people, the rulers would seek the help of the religious scholars who would interpret the Quran and the Hadith in ways that would best suit the aims and objectives of the rulers of the times, and sometimes even of the priests themselves.  By  so doing, the religious clerics enjoyed an unprecedented and unquestionable authority to the extent that anyone questioning the veracity of the interpretations and the authority of the interpreters was met with severe criticism, desolation and annihilation. It was, perhaps, the beginning of the corruption of power in Islam.

No...not the enemy

It was during 8th and 9th centuries that two very prominent schools of thought, Mutazilites and Asharites, laid the foundations of engagement in discourse on the studies and interpretation of Quran and Sunnah.

Apparently, there are two opprobrious versions of Islam in the limelight today, the radical one and the moderate one. The radical Islamists reject pluralism, inter-faith harmony, western education & political ideals. They insist on a literal interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah, propagate religious exhibitionism, i.e. compulsory keeping of beards, keeping panchas above ankles, wearing of burqas and the glorification of ‘Daagh-e-Sajood’ (the mark one gets on his/her forehead due to vigorous prostrating). By real Islam, extremists mean violent jihad, xenophobia, cultural isolationism, religious coercion, and, at times, a display of sheer barbarism which is glorified by telling tales of medieval Muslim heroes. They do not encourage debate, reasoning and independent & rational thinking. Infact anyone who questions the authenticity of the particular Hadith or a particular story from the life of the Prophet [pbuh] is declared as blasphemer and/or apostate. Sectarianism is at heart of radical Islam, where each sect claims to be on the right path and doesn’t hesitate in proclaiming the people belonging to other sects as infidels, out of ambit of Islam.

Abul Ala Maududi vs Muhammad Abduh

The modernists, on the other hand, advocate re-interpreting the traditional texts which constitute Islamic law and how to apply the core Islamic values to modern life. They believe in and champion greater freedom of expression, rational thinking and individual autonomy in understanding Quran and Hadith rather than focusing on the literal interpretation of the Quran. The moderates propose that Muslims cannot simply rely on the interpretations of texts provided by medieval clerics, they need to use reason to keep up with changing times, since man is given intelligence so he should be guided by knowledge. The modernists preach for the reformation in Islam, and therefore are proponents of Ijtihad and feminism [such as woman leading the prayers]. Some modernists have even gone so far as to preach that there is nothing in Quran or Hadith that forbids homosexuality in explicit words. Such an interpretation of the Quran also equals literal interpretation of the scripture because it would mean that since its not explicitly mentioned therefore it is not forbidden. They believe shariah is man-made law so it should be changed from time to time. Islamic modernism is an attempt to prove that Islamic faith is compatible with modern western values regarding democracy, rationality, equality and progress. It emphasizes the critical reexamination of the classical conceptions and methods of jurisprudence and a new approach to Islamic theology and Quranic exegesis.

To me both are violent. Both are dangerous. Extremism in any case is bad. Radicalism is extreme right and modernism is extreme left of the world of Islam. I believe forcing anyone to cover her head or keep a beard in the name of Islam is as bad and insensible as is forcing someone not to cover her head or not to keep a beard in the name of secularism. Islam is neither old nor new. Islam is a philosophy wherein seeking knowledge is of utmost importance, and believing things blindfoldedly is strongly interdicted. Islam isn’t violent, it isn’t apologetic either. It directs us to stand against the injustices in the society and even take arms against the oppressors. Notwithstanding, Islam also advises in strongest terms not to harm innocent people, not even the plants and trees and animals in the state of war, leave alone in times of peace.

Both are respectable. Both are free.

Extremists are busy trying to prove their violent acts of terrorism, modernists are busy re-explicating the Quran to make it compatible with modern times. Extremists emphasize the rhetoric, whereas modernists stress upon the actions. One thing that I appreciate about the modernists is that they are working hard for the portrayal of the real image of  Islam in the West through their writings, healthy debates and PR. They condemn the imperialistic and double-standardized policies of the West.

Muhammad Abduh, the 19th century Egyptian scholar, upon his return from Europe in 1888 said, “I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam.” This holds true even today after span of over 120 years.

Whose version are you reading?