An Open Letter from a Muslim to Muslims: “Pray And Forgive.”
Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] was insulted and ridiculed on a regular and daily basis during his lifetime. He was even called a liar by his enemies. His opponents mocked his message that challenged then exited the Jahilia paradigm. They even tried to assassinate him in order to silence him for ever. The Prophet (peace be upon him), however, did not get angry or react with emotional outbursts to these provocations at any stage of this ordeal. Instead, he offered a prayer of forgiveness to those who showed contempt for him. He indeed set an unparalleled example of patience and fortitude.
Today all across the world, many followers of Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] are insulting the Prophet (peace be upon him) by their knee-jerk response to the provocative Danish cartoons about the Prophet [peace be upon him]. They are attacking embassies, burning newspapers, threatening journalists, issuing bomb threats, and promoting suicide bombing. Still, they claim that they are defending the Prophet [peace be upon him]. These measures do not comply with the values of an ideal community whose Prophet is described in the divine scriptures as a Mercy to Humankind. Moreover, Muslims by their angry outburst made even the initially disinterested people to search for the caricature. Unfortunately, Muslims made the existence of the offensive cartoons widely known as they did to the boring Satanic Verses of Salman Rashdie.
At this moment of extreme sadness, I ask Muslims to join me to read the Qur’an for guidance, consolation, and self-control, instead of adding fuel to the fire.
“And verily messengers before you were mocked but in the end, the mockers were overwhelmed by the very thing they ridiculed.” [21:41.]
“Indulge [people] with forgiveness, [accepting] what issues spontaneously from people’s manners [of behavior], and do not scrutinize them, and enjoin kindness, decency, and turn away from the ignorant, and do not counter their stupidity with the like.” [7:199]
“You shall most certainly be tried in your possessions and in your persons; and indeed you shall hear many hurtful things from those to whom revelation was granted before your time, as well as from those who have come to ascribe divinity to other beings beside God. But if you remain patient in adversity and conscious of Him - this, behold, is something to set one’s heart upon.” [3:186]
“When you see those who engage in discourse about Our signs, the Qur’ân, in mockery, turn away from them, and do not sit with them, until they discourse on some other topic…”[6:68]
Here, the Qur’an counsels us, Muslims: the Qur’an, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and prophets before him were ridiculed; we will hear many hurtful and painful things; do not scrutinize the ignorant or counter their stupidity with similar means, but extend kindness and decency to them; do not resort to intimidation and violence against mockers but leave them alone, be patient, and conscious of compassionate God.
All the above verses illustrate that an angry or violent response to those who ridicule Muslims or even prophets (peace be upon them) is not an Islamic axiom. In fact, the Qur’an calls on Muslims for patience and tolerance to mockers. According to these verses, if Muslims ignore the ignorant and let them express their ignorance freely, the mockers will be “overwhelmed by the very thing they ridiculed.”
None of the verses mention the abridgement of a non-believer’s right of free speech even if it is painful and indecent. In fact, the right of free speech is abridged for Muslims in this painful situation because they are expected to ignore the mockers and make a polite exit from the scene. Muslims have no divine mandate to stop the mockery by force or intimidation. Therefore, the acceptance and practice of the principles of free speech is an Islamic decorum.
The right of free speech is not a gift from the East or the West. It is a divine gift and a mercy for humanity. Let us remember that “verily messengers before you were mocked” and let us pray and forgive contemporary scoffers of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) and pray for human decency and free speech with responsibility for all people.