Sunday, September 16, 2012

Disparaging the Prophet

"Muhammad" by
Over the past few years, many Muslims have decided that it is there personal responsibility to avenge insults to the Prophet and Islam by burning down their own neighborhoods, imprisoning children with mental impairments, and killing innocent bystanders. This activity is more insulting to our religion than the original insults they seek to avenge.

The Example of Abu Lahab

Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah (761 CE) has entire chapter devoted to documenting the abuse the Prophet received from the non-Muslims of Mecca. One of the worst offenders was the Prophet's own uncle Abu Lahab and his wife Umm Jamil. Umm Jamil used to say:
We reject the reprobate (Muhammad), His words we repudiate, His religion we loathe and hate. Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah
Additionally, Umm Jamil used to leave thorns in the Prophet's path in an attempt to injure him. Allah revealed an entire chapter (111) devoted to answering the insults:
May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined! May he be ruined too! Neither his wealth nor his gains will help him: he will burn in the Flaming Fire— and so will his wife, the firewood-carrier,with a palm-fibre rope around her neck. Quran 111
It's important to note that Allah never ordered the Prophet to respond to the taunts or respond to the abuse. Instead, Allah essentially told the Prophet that Abu Lahab would go to Hell and that would be the end of the matter.

The Example of Ummaya

Another Meccan that made a secial point of insulting the Prophet was Ummaya ibn Khalaf. Not only did Ummaya constantly insult the Prophet (per Ibn Ishaq), he was also the owner of Bilal ibn Ribah, one of the earliest converts to Islam. Ummaya used to torture Bilal:
Ummaya used to bring him out at the hottest part of the day and throw him on his back in the open valley and have a great rock put on his chest.; then he would say to him,'You will stay here till you die or deny Muhammad and worship Al-Lat and al-Uzza.' He [Bilal] used to say while he was enduring this, 'One, one [God]!' Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah
Bilal's torture only ended when the Prophet's best friend Abu Bakr heard his screams in the desert and bartered for his freedom. After all of this, Allah said:
Woe to every fault-finding backbiter who amasses riches, counting them over, thinking they will make him live for ever. No indeed! He will be thrust into the Crusher! What will explain to you what the Crusher is? It is God’s Fire, made to blaze, which rises over people’s hearts. It closes in on them in towering columns. Quran 104
So just like Abu Lahab, Allah did not command retribution to Ummaya, but instead promised that he would eventually go to Hell.

The Example of Abu Jahl

Perhaps the most egregious tormentor of the Prophet was Abu Jahl. His story also contains the clearest guidance on how Muslims should respond to torment. Abu Jahl wasn't satisfied with just insulting the Prophet and discouraging conversion to Islam:
It was that evil man Abu Jahl who stirred up the Meccans against them [the early Muslims]. When he heard that a man had become Muslim, if he was a man of social importance and had relations to defend him, he reprimanded him and poured scorn on him saying ,'You have forsaken the religion of your father who was better than you. We will declare you a blockheadand brand you as a fool, and destroy your reputation.' If he was a merchant he said, 'We will boycott your goods and reduce you to beggary.' If he was a person of no social importance, he beat him and incited people against him. Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah
The beatings were so vicious, that new Muslims would revert their faith:
They used to beat one of them, depriving him of food and drink so that he could hardly sit upright because of the violence they had used on him, so that in the end he would do whatever they said." Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah
Abu Jahl murdered Summaya, the 7th convert to Islam. She became the first martyr (shaheed):
The daughter of Khabbaat and the mother of Ammaar ibn Yaasir, she was the seventh person to enter Islam. She was tortured by Abu Jahl who stabbed her in her private parts, and she died. She was the first shaheedah (martyr) in Islam Ibn Hijr, confirmed by Ibn Sa'd and Ibn Ishaq
Abu Jahl dared not beat the Prophet because he fell under the protection of his powerful uncle Abu Talib. His companions were not as lucky, and lacked any familial protection. In the face of this adversity the Prophet chose not to fight back. Instead he said:
"If you were to go to Abyssinia (it would be better for you), for the king will not tolerate injustice and it is a friendly country, until such time as Allah shall relieve you from your distress.' Thereupon his companions went to Abyssinia, being afraid of apostasy and fleeing to God with their religion. This was the first hijra in Islam. Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah
Abu Jahl still continued to insult the Prophet, at one point demanding that the Prophet stop disparaging the Meccan Gods:
By God, Muhammad, you will either stop cursing our gods or we will curse the God you serve! Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah
To which Allah gave the reply:
Do not revile those they call on [ie the Meccan Gods] beside God in case they, in their hostility and ignorance, revile God. To each community We make their own actions seem alluring, but in the end they will return to their Lord and He will inform them of all they did. Quran 6:108
So Allah directly told the Prophet to stop insulting Abu Jahl's Gods. According to Sirat, the Prophet never insulted the Meccan God's again, instead he 'began to call them [the Meccans] to Allah' ie he prayed for them.

The Fate of The Tormentors

All three of these men did everything they could to hurt our Prophet, and in all three cases Allah told the Prophet that he would determine their fate. Abu Lahab was killed by his sister-in-law to stop him from beating an old slave. We have conflicting reports of Ummaya being killed at the end of the Battle of Badr by Bilal. Abu Jahl also died during the Battle of Badr.

The focus on all three stories is the Prophet and Allah's initial response to the Abuse. Allah never ordered retaliation for the insults. When the abuse became physical, the early Muslims simply left Mecca. Later, the Meccans would chase the Muslims to Abyssinia, and the rest of the Muslims would travel to Medina. Only after being attacked outside Medina in the Battle of Badr, did the Muslims begin to fight back.

Al Hazrat's Justification for Violence

Its hard to find any serious Muslims give a rationale for violently responding to an insult of our religion or Prophet. The only statements I can find use extremely tortured logic, such as the one provided by the Pakistani group Al-Hazarat, which claims to speak on behalf of all Muslims. Be warned, their logic approaches gibberish, mis-using three verses from the Quran.
Those who insult God and His Messenger will be rejected by God in this world and the next—He has prepared a humiliating torment for them— Quran 33:57
There are others who insult the Prophet by saying, ‘He will listen to anything.' Say, ‘He listens for your own good: he believes in God, trusts the believers, and is a mercy for those of you who believe.' An agonizing torment awaits those who insult God’s Messenger. They swear by God in order to please you [believers]: if they were true believers it would be more fitting for them to please God and His Messenger. Do they not know that whoever opposes God and His Messenger will go to the Fire of Hell and stay there? That is the supreme disgrace. Quran 9:61-63 [They only quote 9:61 in bold]
Believers, do not enter the Prophet’s apartments for a meal unless you are given permission to do so; do not linger until [a meal] is ready. When you are invited, go in; then, when you have taken your meal, leave. Do not stay on and talk, for that would offend the Prophet, though he would shrink from asking you to leave. God does not shrink from the truth. When you ask his wives for something, do so from behind a screen: this is purer both for your hearts and for theirs. It is not right for you to offend God’s Messenger, just as you should never marry his wives after him: that would be grievous in God’s eyes. Quran 33:53 [They only quote the last section in bold]
The first verse indicates that the punishment for slander will come directly from Allah, and is not the responsibility of believers on earth. The second two verses are pulled completely out of context, literally out of the very sentences they belong in. Although the second half of 9:61 ambiguously refers to torment awaiting slanderers, 9:63 clearly indicates that the torment is Hell after death. The mis-use of the 33:53 is so terrible, it borders on blasphemy. The offense mentioned is specific to the personal conduct around his wives, which Asbab al-Nuzul clearly indicates related to the wedding reception following his marriage to Zaynab bint Jahsh:
Most of the commentators of the Qur’an said: “When the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, married Zaynab bint Jahsh, he organised a wedding feast...They stayed so long that they annoyed the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, who was extremely bashful [such that he could not ask them to leave]. And so this verse was revealed Asbab al-Nuzul
Despite this, the 'scholars' at Al-Hazrat claim that these three verses give them the right to put anyone who insults the Prophet to death:
Know that all who curse Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, or blame him or attribute imperfection to him in his person, his lineage, his deen or any of his qualities, or alludes to that or it’s like by any means whatsoever, whether in the form of a curse or contempt or belittling him or detracting from him or finding fault with him or maligning him, the judgment regarding such a person is the same as the judgment against anyone who curses him. He is killed as we shall make clear. This judgment extends to anything which amounts to a curse or disparagement. We have no hesitation concerning this matter, be it a clear statement or allusion. Al Hazrat's Judgment of Shariah on Disrespecting the Prophet
My Take:

Anyone who seriously looks a the life of the Prophet can clearly see that he never pro-actively chose violence. Even in the face of insults, abuse, torture, and murder, his initial reactions were to leave, and prevent further provocation to the aggressors. Although the Prophet would later lead the Muslims to military victories, these were against enemies that had literally chased Muslims from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) to Medina. The firm, repeated, and consistent message from Allah is that insults to Allah and the Prophet will be handled by Allah on Judgment day.

Muslim groups that incite violent reactions to the Prophet are willfully altering the Quran through omission of words and context. The idea of applying a death penalty to a non-Muslim for insulting the prophet is completely absurd. Manipulating the Quran to murder a person is a far greater sin in my eyes than what these non-Muslims are doing. I choose to follow the Prophet's example and pray that these non-Muslims will eventually follow Allah's divine path.