By Amer Aziz
As a Muslim, I strongly condemn the recent Charlie Hebdo tragedy in Paris. Although poking fun at religious figures and upsetting sentiments should not serve as validation of freedom of speech, the extremists have clearly done great harm to the legacy of prophet Muhammad and his teachings.
The Quran is clear in addressing mockery, “Bear patiently what they say …” (38:18). Then again, “So bear with patience what they say …” (50:40). Still again, “Bear patiently all they say; and part with them in a decent manner” (73:11). In fact, verse 3:159 states that it was Muhammad’s sense of forgiveness and leniency that prompted others to incline to him.
Perhaps the most profound example of this teaching was Muhammad’s relationship with Medina chieftain Abdullah bin Ubay – a prominent tribal lord who converted to Islam shortly after the arrival of Muhammad there as arbitrator of the tribal system. However, given how Ubay’s legacy developed, scholars suspect he held ulterior motives because by joining Muhammad he would be close to the new power system. Ubay developed a reputation for being hypocritical. He mocked Muhammad behind his back and openly confronted and argued with him to the ire of Muhammad’s devoted followers, who demanded respect and obedience. In Islamic tradition he came to be known as the chief of the hypocrites.
Ultimately, Ubay openly demeaned Muhammad and vowed to expel him from Medina. To make matters worse a terrible rumor began circulating that Aisha, the revered wife of the prophet, had committed adultery.
Ubay was found fanning the rumor mill. Some of Muhammad’s followers, including Ubay’s own son, demanded that Ubay’s offensive behavior be met with stern punishment. Despite pressure from his closest aides, Muhammad refused to act against Ubay.
Several years later, when Ubay passed away, his son requested Muhammad conduct the funeral prayers. Muhammad was again advised against it by his closest aides. And again Muhammad overturned their judgment, advising them that hypocrisy and mockery are self-defeating mores not worthy of a response, but it was important for him to pray at Ubay’s funeral to promote the ideals of forgiveness and tolerance.
Not surprisingly, the evil acts of terrorists and rogue ideologues are matched only by their ignorance of Muhammad’s true teachings. In the aftermath of the recent events in Paris, if anyone can be commended for a response that Muhammad would have advocated, it is that of the French who have called for tolerance and patience in the face of the attack on their coveted value of freedom of speech.
Amer Aziz, of Amherst, is an officer of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA and a member of the Muslim Writers Guild of America.