[16:125] CALL THOU [all mankind] unto thy Sustainer’s path with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the most kindly manner: for, behold, thy Sustainer knows best as to who strays from His path, and best knows He as to who are the right-guided. [16:126] Hence, if you have to respond to an attack [in argument], respond only to the extent of the attack leveled against you; but to bear yourselves with patience is indeed far better for [you, since God is with] those who are patient in adversity. [16:127] Endure, then, with patience [all that they who deny the truth may say] – always remembering that it is none but God who gives thee the strength to endure adversity – and do not grieve over them, and neither be distressed by the false arguments which they devise: [16:128] for, verily, God is with those who are conscious of Him and are doers of good withal! [Qur’an 16:125-128, from the English version of Muhammad Asad].
The first situation I’d like to comment on simply involves opposition; no insults or mockery were involved. That is the recent incident in which a 14 year old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousufzai, was shot by members of the Pakistani Taliban. Malala had been blogging since age 11 about conditions under the Taliban in Pakistan. She wants a good education, with the aim of becoming a doctor; and perhaps she wants to wear more colorful clothing than the Taliban likes. In her blog, she talked about these things, and maybe other areas in which she considered the Taliban to be repressive and oppressive.
Keep in mind that Malala is a Muslim; she believes in God (Allah) and His prophet Muhammad (as well as all other prophets sent by God), the Qur’an as God’s message to mankind, and the sunnah of the prophet (his teachings [not contained in the Qur’an] and practice). Although the Taliban accuses her of promoting ‘Western ways’, this did NOT mean that she was advocating abandoning Muslim standards of morality. She did NOT desire to abandon wearing the head covering worn by women, and she wasn’t seeking to be allowed to wear mini skirts or halter tops. To the best of my knowledge, she wasn’t even advocating that male and female students should be allowed to go to the same school. She WAS advocating the right of Muslim girls to a good education (even though in schools separate from Muslim boys), which most Muslims recognize as a very Islamic right. She wasn’t even ‘denying the truth’; but the Taliban perceived it as a denial.
For this, the Pakistani Taliban felt that she was worthy of death! As Muslim scholar and teacher Imran Hosein might say: “Where did you learn your Islam – Mars???” No, such an attitude and such actions do not come from Islam and the Qur’an, but from a very sick mind and heart. Pretty much the whole Muslim world speaks out in condemnation of this Satanic action of the Pakistani Taliban.
I wish that this could just be written off as the actions of a couple of extremists associated with the Taliban, and that the Taliban had officially denounced the attempted murder and promised to find and punish the culprits. Sadly (though perhaps not surprisingly) the Pakistani leadership boasted of the actions, accepting responsibility, and seemed to be surprised that anyone should question the legitimacy of their actions. Would to God that they would learn to live their lives by such Qur’anic verses as quoted above! But it remains true that God guides whom He will, and those whom He leaves to stray cannot be guided aright by anyone.
Next, I ask: what about those people who not only disagree with what we believe, but they deliberately insult and mock God and His prophets, and what we believe about them? Such a situation is, of course, illustrated by the recent movie “Innocence of Muslims” which has caused such a stir among many Muslim people. (I’m not going to even link to that mass of lies; but if you haven’t seen it and wish to, it’s easily found by means of an Internet search – at least, in the USA). This movie was very obviously a deliberate provocation, seeking to stir up angry and violent responses from Muslims. Then, when those violent responses materialized, the mockers could hypocritically cry out in horror at “those evil Muslims”!
But just because some people deliberately seek to provoke a violent response from us, does not mean that we have to give them the satisfaction of reacting in the way they wish. The above quoted verses show how God and His prophet would have us respond to insults and other forms of provocation. Argue with them in the best possible manner; at most respond with an equivalent kind of attack (like, publish a movie showing the true character of Muhammad, write an article, publish a book, etc). But it’s much better just to endure patiently, and not let ourselves get all worked up over the ‘blasphemy’. 🙂
In fact, we should not be at all surprised at the mockeries and insults of those who reject God’s prophets and their messages. The messengers of God have always experienced such ‘blasphemous assaults’, and it is even part of God’s plan that such things occur – in order to test us and show who are truly guided by God and who have ‘a disease in their hearts’! Let me quote a couple of other passages from the Qur’an (again, the Muhammad Asad version) to show this:
[6:112] AND THUS it is that against every prophet We have set up as enemies the evil forces from among humans as well as from among invisible beings that whisper unto one another glittering half-truths [or as the M. H. Shakir version renders it, “varnished falsehood”] meant to delude the mind. But they could not do this unless thy Sustainer had so willed: stand, therefore, aloof from them and from all their false imagery!
[22:52] Yet whenever We sent forth any apostle or prophet before thee, and he was hoping [that his warnings would be heeded], Satan would cast an aspersion on his innermost aims: but God renders null and void whatever aspersion Satan may cast; and God makes His messages clear in and by themselves – for God is all-knowing, wise. [22:53] [And He allows doubts to arise] so that He might cause whatever aspersion Satan may cast [against His prophets] to become a trial for all in whose hearts is disease and all whose hearts are hardened: for, verily, all who are [thus] sinning [against themselves] are most deeply in the wrong. [22:54] And [God renders Satan’s aspersions null and void] so that they who are endowed with [innate] knowledge might know that this [divine writ] is the truth from thy Sustainer, and that they might believe in it, and that their hearts might humbly submit unto Him. For, behold, God does guide onto a straight way those who have attained to faith [22:55] whereas those who are bent on denying the truth will not cease to be in doubt about Him until the Last Hour comes suddenly upon them and [supreme] suffering befalls them on a Day void of all hope.
Note that the passage in Sura (Chapter) 6 says to “stand aloof” from such people and their lies, just as the passage from Sura 16 (quoted at the beginning) says to endure them with patience, and not to grieve or be distressed because of them. As Sura 22 says, God allows such aspersions against His prophets in order to be a trial to show who are the diseased in heart, whose hearts are hardened; while God will enable those who are given true knowledge to see the lies for what they are, and be confirmed in the truth of God’s messages.
I’m going to refer a few more passages from the Qur’an, before I close, to show that this exhortation to “leave them alone” is how this noble book consistently says to react to the wicked. Reacting with violence is just not part of God’s message to those who believe. And as 6:114 says: [say thou:] “Am I, then, to look unto anyone but God for judgment [as to what is right and wrong], when it is He who has bestowed upon you from on high this divine writ, clearly spelling out the truth?”
[7:199] MAKE due allowance for man’s nature, and enjoin the doing of what is right; and leave alone all those who choose to remain ignorant. [7:200] And if it should happen that a prompting from Satan stirs thee up [to blind anger], seek refuge with God: behold, He is all-hearing, all-knowing. [7:201] Verily, they who are conscious of God bethink themselves [of Him] whenever any dark suggestion from Satan touches them – whereupon, lo! they begin to see [things] clearly, [7:202] even though their [godless] brethren would [like to] draw them into error: and then they cannot fail [to do what is right].
[5:2] …And never let your hatred of people who would bar you from the Inviolable House of Worship lead you into the sin of aggression: but rather help one another in furthering virtue and God-consciousness, and do not help one another in furthering evil and enmity; and remain conscious of God: for, behold, God is severe in retribution! … [5:8] O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do.
Even right to the end of the life of Muhammad, this was how the messenger of God told believers to respond to those who reject God’s messages, verbally attack believers, and mock and insult God (as well as the messenger of God and believers). Argue with them in a kindly way; at most respond with an action equivalent to their attack; it is better, though, to patiently endure; leave them alone (“stand aloof”). Never are we told to respond with violence and kill the mockers.
The last quoted verses were from Sura (Chapter) 5, which is recognized to be among the very last of the revelations given to Muhammad. It was given very shortly before his death. So there was no ‘later’ violent revelation given to ‘abrogate’ those exhortations.
Later in Sura 5, mockers are specifically mentioned: [5:57] O you who have attained to faith! Do not take for your friends [allies, protectors] such as mock at your faith and make a jest of it – be they from among those who have been vouchsafed revelation before your time, or [from among] those who deny the truth [of revelation as such] – but remain conscious of God, if you are [truly] believers: [5:58] for, when you call to prayer, they mock at it and make a jest of it – simply because they are people who do not use their reason.
Right up to the end of his life, that is what the messenger of God had to say; that is the message which consistently appears in that book which many imagine to be filled with hatred and violence! So whose admonition will we follow: God’s and his messenger’s, or that of [godless] brethren [who] would [like to] draw [us] into error (7:202)?