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kr’s Thoughts on the Cartoons

February 25, 2006

kr’s note:  I had deliberately refrained from
sharing my thoughts about the cartoon controversy since the issue was being
discussed by eminent scholars and leaders throughout the Muslim world. I felt
that by and large, most of them did an outstanding job of responding to this
incident and there was nothing left for me to add. However, in recent days, I’ve
received a growing number of requests to disseminate my take on the whole
situation. Let it be known that only a fool would consider me to be someone of
knowledge, and therefore the following lines are my ruminations in the wake of
this incident.


Indeed, he who hates
thee (O Messenger of God [salallahu `alayhi wa sallam], he will be cut off
(from future hope)
(108:3)

            I first
heard about the cartoons as I sat on a Royal Jordanian flight from Amman
to Delhi and read the free
newspaper. I was quite upset, as I think all Muslims were, to see that the
Beloved of God was being attacked in this manner. Especially in the events that
led to the publication of such cartoons, with the paper commissioning artists
to draw such images was quite disheartening. This is because even from the
onset of this idiocy, the idea was that since it is ok to insult other
religions (such as Judaism and Christianity), why doesn’t the same standard
apply to Islam? If you think about that, I think that’s a heart-rending and
pathetic sign of the state that the world has come to, wherein the symbols of
God, no matter what religion, are acceptable targets of ridicule and blasphemy.
One comedian mentioned that he had no problem urinating on the Bible (astaghfirullah)
but would never dare to do that to the Qur’an (Alhamdulillah) due to his fear
of the backlash. Now apart from the Alhamdulillah-moment that we can have that
at least there’s some sense of respect shown—even it’s strained—towards the Qur’an,
Muslims would be guilty of double-standardness if we did not become indignant
that such things happen to Christian and Jewish symbols as well. This is
because despite the corruptedness of their scriptures, there’s still some
truth in them; in other words, there’s at least one of God’s words still
left in those books… yet Muslims somehow don’t get upset and join in solidarity
with their Abrahamic brethren in sharing their collective moral outrage in the
wake of such events. When someone else’s house is vandalized, it’s easy to
ignore it; when your own house is attacked, then you want everyone to rush to
your aid. So it goes.

            Nonetheless,
despite the heinous nature of such an act, I became more concerned when I heard
some of the rhetoric that was being circulated in Muslim discussions across the
world, especially from Muslims in the West. I was taken aback and startled at
the militant aura that permeated our language and actions. Never mind the
emotionally-riled up people who burned down embassies, but even people who I had thought to be in control of their emotions were
perturbed to the point that I’m not sure if they fully realized the import of
their suggestions. I thought that perhaps with the passing of time, Prophetic hilm (moral restraint and intelligence)
would re-enter our collective hearts, but lamentably so, this doesn’t seem to
be happening. Instead, with each passing day, it is as if the bush fire that I
had hoped would die out continues to spread across the metaphorical tundra that
is our collective hilm. It is ironic,
then, that in our efforts to defend the legacy of the Prophet—he who was the
epitome of being in control of his emotional state—that we have divorced ourselves from that Prophetic trait. One wonders if the
victim in the aftermath of this fiasco is really the Prophet himself, or his
nation for their abandonment of hilm..

            It is best,
perhaps, to then move forward from such an event with a collective
self-examination at ourselves before we look to others. Instead of being
preoccupied with the question “How dare
they insult the Prophet?
”, perhaps the real question that Muslims should be
asking themselves is “How dare we insult
the Prophet
?”. In other words, before being concerned with those who are
open enemies of the Prophet, we should perhaps ask ourselves if we were
insulting the Prophetic legacy through our speech and actions long before Jyllands-Posten
published any caricatures. While it was somewhat heart-warming to see so many
Muslims, despite their religiosity, status, etc., rush to the defense of the
Prophet, I couldn’t help but be perplexed at the irony in the situation.
Governments of “Muslim” nations that regularly involve themselves in every vice
known to man were expressing their dismay in the political and international
levels. Muslims who own liquor stores and are involved in other illicit
activities joined the outrage and protest movement. Alhamdulillah, they did
something, and it was good to see that they had some element of love for the
Prophet still in them. But the larger issue that looms may be
understood in an analogy: if some stranger insults your mother or father, they
will most likely ignore it and pass it off… after all, this is some random
stranger who is too ignorant to know what he’s saying anyway. But if their own
family member insults them, how great of an insult would that be? This is
because for the first person, they have no concern for; but as for the second
person, they love them and want only the best for them…

…When one then thinks about the
Messenger of Allah—he who would stand in prayer all night until his feet
swelled up; he who spared the people of Ta’if, the same people who sent their
children and slaves to stone him until he was profusely bleeding; he who on his
deathbed was found to be chanting ummatī,
ummatī
(my nation, my nation); and he who on the Day of Judgment, when the
Reckoning is finished and all those who will enter Paradise will stand in front
of its gates, Allah will tell him that He will favor him by making him the
first person to enter Jannah… and his reply will be that he will not enter the
Garden until every single member of his ummah enters—one becomes ashamed and
amazed to think how much he loves this nation. And yet, members of this same
nation routinely and habitually insult him. In short, let us not 
think that this attack on the Prophet started with the publication of a few
cartoons; lest we forget, the insult to his legacy began long
ago.

Thus, any proposal on how we can move forward would be incomplete if it did not include a regimen of
self-improvement, with an emphasis of establishing a true love for the Prophet
and his legacy in our hearts. This includes simple steps such as increasing one’s
prayer on the Prophet, familiarizing one’s self with the Sirah and his
Traditions, and inculcating his qualities within our selves. Shaykh Amin
brilliantly pointed out that this incident serves as a watershed moment for
Muslims to declare which side they belong to: the camp of the enemies of the
Prophet, or the camp of the lovers of the Prophet—no longer can Muslims sit on
the fence on this issue. At the risk of sounding like the dictator of a Western
nation, one can say that either you love the Prophet, or you don’t. It’s as
simple as that. The transformation of Muslims’ character in the aftermath of
this event will serve as sufficient proof of allegiance. As for the one who
hates him (whether intentionally or unintentionally): “For he who hates thee, he is cut off.”

As for the indignation at this
event, I wonder if the level of it befits what has happened. Let me explain
before fatwahs declaring a $25,000 for my head are passed. To borrow a phrase
from the Christians, I wonder “What would Muhammad do?”; perhaps the answer to
that question can be found in the Sirah. Lest we forget, the Prophet was
insulted, ridiculed, scorned, and mocked at long before this latest event.
Every Prophet before him as well suffered the same fate, suggesting that this
is a tradition of God for His Prophets. The
Sirah is replete with these incidents, such as the woman who threw garbage at
him everyday—the one day she doesn’t, he actually goes to her house to inquire
about her health. The Messenger of God was called by literally every possible
insult: madman, soothsayer, possessed by spirits… the list goes on. We perhaps
forget that there were over 13 assassination attempts made on his life by his
enemies, and that his own family members went to war against him. He had to
witness his Companions being tortured and killed. And yet his response to each
of these incidents was one of self-restraint, forebearance, and dignity. In
other words, he never became emotionally imbalanced and perturbed; he was
always in control of his emotions, and therefore the situation. A famous hadith
states, “Deliberance is from God,
haste/emotional imbalance is from Satan
.” In other words, if one consider
his own response to these insults that he personally faced, we can understand
the kind of moral fiber he possessed. The epitome of this is found in the
famous incident when the Prophet and Abu Bakr were sitting near the Ka’bah and
the Quraysh began to insult him. The Prophet remained silent and said nothing;
Abu Bakr could only restrain himself for so long as his Beloved was being
insulted, so he got up and began to defend the Prophet. Immediately, the
Messenger of Allah got up and left the area. Later on, the first caliph asked
the last Prophet why he got up; the latter replied that the angels were
defending him while Abu Bakr was silent, and when he got up to defend the
Prophet, the angels left so the Prophet left as well.

Now this was his response to when
he was truly being insulted by those present in front of him. Yet, it begs the
question as to whether he truly can be insulted in the first place. In other
words, the incomparable Imam al-Busiri writes “So what hopes does the one who praise have towards/He who is of noble
character and exemplary habits
?”, to show that even truly praising him is
not possible. The corollary holds true as well, as it is impossible for anyone
to truly insult the Prophet. God himself is his Protector (“And Allah will
defend thee from men (who mean mischief)
(5:67)”)… what other protection does
he need then? Can he whose name is inscribed on the `arsh (Throne) of Allah ever come close to be insulted? Can he
whose very name means the “one who is highly and perpetually praised” ever be
insulted? Can he for whom the Lord of the Worlds and His Angels send their
peace upon ever be really insulted? Thus, what I would offer is that these
cartoons don’t even insult the Prophet. This is because satire implies that a
real image exists in the first place; a caricature takes an existing image of
someone and then satirizes it, as seen in political cartoons daily. It was
Divine Wisdom that there is no image of the Prophet, for how could mere paper
and ink hope to capture he whose beauty was that of khayr al-bariyyah (the best of creation)? Thus, if one looks at the
cartoons, especially the one with the guy who has the bomb in his turban, who
is that? I mean, seriously, that looks like one of the Ayotullahs of Iran or
something… that’s definitely not the Prophet, so why are we so upset to the
point that we’re getting violent? One should consider at how Allah is
protecting His Beloved; they wanted to satirize him but they even failed in
doing that properly. As the ayah goes, “…lo!
Allah, even He, is his Protecting Friend, and Gabriel and the righteous among
the believers; and furthermore the angels are his helpers
. (66:4)”

Now, if it is said that I’m playing
with semantics and making majaz (metaphor)
of what is haqīqah (actuality),
consider the Prophet’s own reply to an incident that occurred in his life. It
came to pass that the Quraysh, in their innovative attempts to insult him,
decided to deride him by referring to him as “Mudhammam”, a word play
and linguistic acrobatics done on the name “Muhammad”. When he heard of this,
he replied, with joy, that look how Allah was protecting him. They were making
fun of a man named “Mudhammam”, where he was named Muhammad, and
declared that they were referring to some other man and not him. Now, it should
be understood that in the Muslim paradigm, speech is a very precise and exact
thing; in the introduction of the famous grammar text Hidāyat al-Nahw, the author, Imam Siraj al-Din al-Chisti, defines kalimah (word) as “anything that is
thrown out of one’s mouth that has a single/precise meaning”. Hence, the name “Muhammad”,
with its guttural ha, has only one
meaning. Now, when we hear non-Muslims say the Prophet’s name (and even many
Muslims, suggesting that it’s vital that they learn tajweed), they say it as “Mahaamad”
or “Moe-ham-mad” or some other bizarre pronunciation that doesn’t equal “Muhammad”.
How pathetic is that: they’re not even able to succeed in their evil intent since they can’t even say his name properly.  In short, we should rejoice that they’re
referring to someone else, and that Allah is protecting His Prophet by not
allowing his enemies to even refer to the object of their attempted derision.

I wonder then what we’re really
angry about. Are we truly angry about the Prophet being insulted (because he wasn’t even insulted) or is this
simply an excuse for Muslims to project their feelings of political and
spiritual impotence, by any means necessary? Nonetheless, I’m not advocating
for us to simply sit on the sidelines. I agree that writing letters, holding
peaceful protests, condemning Islamophobia, meeting with government officials,
pressuring the Danish government through peaceful economic boycotts, etc. are all
necessary and powerful tools at our disposal. But I think it’s just as
important for us to condemn the inappropriate response of Muslims, things such
as burning embassies and calling for the assassinations of these cartoonists.
If you want to do that, first establish a legitimate Islamic state (Pakistan
and Saudi Arabia DON’T count) that authorizes one to make a legal declaration
of war against someone… oh yeah, but that might be too hard to actually go
through all that trouble of establishing a Caliphate like that of `Umar, right?
Let’s just skip that difficult stuff and get to the fatwas part (sarcasm light
blaring)… I am appalled at the Machiavellian attitude that has permeated our vocabulary.
The Prophet said in a sound hadith found in Tirmidhi: “A believer is not one who is a maligner, a curser, one who is obscene,
nor one who is vulgar
.” Sadly, now we have Muslims who are asking for
cartoons to be drawn that deny the existence of the Holocaust, as if to condone
that dark stain on human history. I shudder to think of what the Prophet might
say if he were to see us behaving this way.

In the end, however, I advocate
that since revenge is a dish best served cold, we must take revenge towards
those who have done this. I offer that da`wah
is the best revenge. This is because the aim of the publication of those
cartoons was to make people hate the Prophet and to take them away from him and
his legacy; if we were to instead counter this aim by spreading his legacy in
such a way that more people come to this deen (and hence more people love the
Messenger of Allah), what greater revenge could we want? The Prophet said in a
hadith found in Bukhārī, “Indeed God
(sometimes) strengthens this religion with a sinful/rebellious man
.”,
meaning that not only did Allah allow for this to happen, but perhaps this is a
prelude to the strengthening of this deen. Shaykh Amin said that before this
incident, if Muslims had written to every single newspaper, television station,
internet site and told people about the Prophet, not many people would have
listened. But now that the name “Muhammad” is on everyone’s minds, people are
interested in finding out who this man was, what did he do, and why do Muslims
care so much about him. Similar to the aftermath of 9/11, when an interest in
Islam actually led to more conversions than before it, who knows if a
similar story will unfold in the months to come? In short, this was the best PR
that we could’ve ever gotten, and now that people are curious as to who
Muhammad is, it is up to his nation to let them know. It is up to his nation to
convey his words so that Allah may increase this ummah, quantitatively and
qualitatively, so that future generations can look back and say that more
people loved the Prophet Muhammad after the publication of these cartoons. Most
importantly, we must do this so that we can be validated in the sight of the
Lord of Muhammad. They wanted to make people hate him, and we—Inshallah—will make
more people love him. What greater revenge could we hope for?

Finally, as for those who persist
in their willful derision of the Prophet, ignorance is no longer an excuse for
them. Let us be solaced that God is the ultimate Judge who decrees punishments and
He has promised to protect His Beloved. The Prophet said, “Whoever belies me, persistently/deliberately, then let him prepare his
seat in the Fire
.”

The one who hates the Prophet
(salallahu `alayhi wa sallam) will be cut off. The one who loves him will be
with him.

Which side are you on?

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36 Comments
  1. Assalamualaikum…
    “if we were to instead counter this aim by spreading his legacy in such a way that more people come to this deen (and hence more people love the Messenger of Allah), what greater revenge could we want?”
    i donno but somebody else mentioned this to me in a discussion…and i was like…oh..you are right…..
    Alumdulillah….this is, in a way, helping us spread dawah….
    Allah Hafiz
    Wasalaam

  2. the riddles in the last post very funny…and this post…it was long, but i read it….most of it, sort of. and i have nothing of interest to say…the end

  3. MashaAllah, if I could give this post 6 props, I would. You said everything that needs to be said. Indeed, we as Muslims have abandoned the ways of our Prophet (sallallaho alayhi wa sallam); what greater insult is it to our Beloved Prophet than for his own people to abandon his way? May Allah open our eyes, and give us the taufeeq to apply the Sunnah in our lives at all levels, internally and externally, ameen. Despite our weak efforts, at least we could be considered among those who love the Prophet (sallallaho alayhi wa sallam). Good post brother, mashaAllah.

  4. Possibly one of the best entries you’ve ever written… I’m actually mad that you didn’t write this earlier =)
    The part about the “Mahaamad” and Mudhammam were awesome. I never thought about that, how Allah is protecting the Prophet (pbuh). You know, I wonder if we’re also insulting him when we as Muslims don’t say his name correctly?
    InshAllah, I hope I can see the Prophet (pbuh) one day in my dreams… imagine how beautiful he must be.

  5. amazing. you spoke my mind. masha Allah.

  6. Note to kr: Even during the eProp famine(14 chappel slaps), MaulanaMUSCLES has pledged his support…………

  7. Masha’allah- You worded it perfectly, and addressed the situation positively by proposing a realistic solution. If only we could make others realize everything that you said. I think in a way, the fact that the Danish ppl published the cartoons is kinda a plus for us, because of the increased interest in Muhammad (saw). Now, they’ll want to go out and read about him due to thier curiosity and who knows? they can become Muslim if allah wills them to. Kinda like Sept. 11th when they blamed it on the Muslims, ppl got really interested to know what exactly is islam and allahuakbar, so many became Muslim. And perhaps it got not-so practising Muslims to re-evaluate themselves and why they want to stick up for the Prophet, and why do they love him so much? So I guess everything happens for a reason, I just wish we as Muslims, could adhere to the proper method and teachings of our beloved nabi (saw), instead of behaving like the kufaar. We should be better than them because we’re gifted with this deen. That’s why dawah’s so important- to get the msg out to both the Muslims and non-muslims, its kinda sad that hardly any Muslims are PRACTISING muslims and not muslims merely by name. May allah grant us all hidayat. Ameen.

  8. MashAllah, KR please share your thoughts earlier bro… I’m sending this to many of my friends who are guilty of using this “rhetoric” that you spoke about. I wish you had written this earlier so that more people would have listened and calmed down. InshAllah, I hope it’s not too late and people think calmly about what you wrote.

  9. subhan’Allah what a post. well-written and truly eceptional. and i  must say by far, this was one of the best posts, possibly because it was written about my beloved prophet muhammad s.a.w. i await the day i will see him. soon…soon

  10. Anonymous permalink

    sounds like a kutbha i heard earlier… i forgot who the imam was… he was a ugly though

  11. *exceptional

  12. I’m a little behind schedule. Maybe after I’m done with your Hajj memoirs I’ll read this.Sidenote: You know you’ve often wished you’d chucked Rehan out the window when you had the chance.

  13. Shaykh Amin is a stud, MashAllah… only because you’re associated with him are you too a stud, KR.

  14. How do you come up with these insights? I’m always amazed

  15. Really well written – and isn’t it amazing that we can spin this into an opportunity to give da’wah on the best of creation?  SubhanAllah

  16. This was an excellent defense of temperance.  Thank you KamKam. 

  17. First of all, by saying that “Let it be known that only a fool would consider me to be someone of knowledge”, you’re calling me a FOOL. The only way to make up for that is to buy me dinner and loose a carromboard game against me…hehe!Masha Allah this was an EXCEPTIONAL post and was really needed at a time like this. I am happy that the requests of some intelligent brothers and sisters prompted u to write this post. Ofcoarse the most intelligent of them all is none other than me, if you remember that I asked you the same question at your UIC IAW lecture…hehe!On a serious note, I think this is a very important outlook that every muslim should consider. Honestly, I have gotten so many emails about this cartoon controversy (even though they have been from some of the prominent speakers of today’s times), I just read your post related to this issue. Besides this being a wonderful post all the way, I think the hadith that you mentioned stating “Indeed God (sometimes) strengthens this religion with a sinful/rebellious man”, just sums it all.Luv you brother!

  18. ..if only we all saw it that way….insha Allah..jazakallahu khairan.

  19. Anonymous permalink

    Well, I haven’t commented / used Xanga for a while, but let me tell you, I’ve been reading your memoirs along with this discourse regularly. Thanks.

  20. Instead of being preoccupied with the question “How dare they insult the Prophet?”, perhaps the real question that Muslims should be asking themselves is “How dare we insult the Prophet?”.
    Imam Siraj Wahaj said almost the exact thing at the Da’wah Project at the Islamic Foundation Masjid yesterday.. This was an awesome post mA.

  21. Anonymous permalink

    your post was worth the trip to xanga world ma.
    oh btw your xanga takes forever to load

  22. AssalamualaikumThis is the second time I am visiting your site. Both on the request of a very dear friend Imran Ali Khan. The first time he wanted to show how much of a stud he is through your post about him :D. And now this post Mashallah is really an awesome reminder for all of us. To be frank I always thought in similar terms about this whole incident but didnt have much knowledge of the verses from the Quran and quotations from the Hadith of our beloved Propket SAWS to express my feelings in a more comprehensive way. I thank Allah that he inspired Imran to tell me about this article and thank Allah again that we have people such as you who are trying to understand and explain the real truth about our religion in a way which can be easily comprehended. Having said that I think I am going to link this page to my site so that my readers can also benefit Inshallah. I am sure you dont mind and even if you do you won’t after reading further Inshallah.May Allah make you successful in whatever task you do. May Allah increase your love for Him and His messenger. May Allah always remind us to renew our intentions before anything we do and May Allah remove Riya from any actions we perform. Aameen!Jazakallah KhairOmar

  23. masha’Allah…this post was excellent..i couldn’t have said it better myself

  24. muhajibah: man, i keep tellin imam siraj to stop stealing things from me =)… he called me up before the speech and was like, i need some help here, so this is what i told him. i cant believe he didnt give me creditok, the above was a joke guys, relax…

  25. ryc: Jazakallah Khair, Hajji Kammu 🙂 Inshallah, may the kindness, helpfulness, and wisdome you bestow on others come back to you 10-fold. I’m officially adopting you as my lil’ bro…yes, I know we’re the same age, but too late…you’re officially on the same ranks as Pk…but I guess that’s insulting, so you’re 9 points above him :)..um…I think we discussed this whole epropping issue, no? dude I gave you INFINITY props before like 2 months ago (or something). I know you’re a busy guy (well, actually I don’t) so I’m sure it slipped your mind. But we (I) agreed that once I gave you INFINITY props that all future “un-propped” posts were to be forgiven. you boys always forget the important things…sheesh 😛

  26. …yeah, actually Kamran IS a nice name, but that’s only because it sounds so much like mine, hehe. but your out of luck, we’ve already “chosen” a name for a boy (Inshallah). but who knows…maybe number 2 (Inshallah). Allah SWT knows best 🙂

  27. Ya Sidi, mashaAllah!

  28. I’m sure the post was good…lemme rephrase that: I’m sure that the mention of the Beloved made the post good…hehe…but seriously, you’re too much for me to read some days, gimmie the Cliff’s Notes. :)oh, and I love you.

  29. I like the plan for revenge. Let’s get on to it people… isn’t it almost the time of year when mawlids prop up anyway? 🙂 Brilliant post mashaAllah. Jazak Allah khairan kathira.

  30. in light of your dawah suggestion: http://exploremuhammad.com/
    donate to cair to help in the cause of dawah

  31. man kr, youre so slow, this incident took place along time ago, but i liked the post and this is abdul wahab by the way.

  32. and dont visit my xanga, its soooo jay and it has not been updated since like…forever!

  33. and dont visit my xanga, its soooo jay and it has not been updated since like…forever!

  34. i think you put your points across really well…i totally agree with whatever you said…i think it was VERY illiterate of people to burn stuff…and do all that crap…i mean…i think that kind of behaviour stems from insecurity…of yourself…your religion…

  35. hey I believe you are vessel of  knowledge?!

    am I fool now?

    :shakes fists:

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