In 2006, and at other times in recent history, we have witnessed in the news millions of Muslims strongly reacting to newspapers printing caricatures that claimed to be Prophet Muhammed. Many people may ask, “Why such an emotional response?”
Most dictionaries define an icon as an image or a representation. Religiously speaking an icon is defined as a representation or picture of a sacred or sanctified Christian personage that is traditionally used and venerated in the Eastern Church.
In Islam “icons” are totally taboo, especially when it comes to attempting an image of Allah (G-d). Any icons or pictures in Islamic worship are forbidden, including depictions of angels, prophets or any other image that can be deem worthy of worship.
When the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten first published the drawings purported to be Prophet Muhammed, it was an errant act that was disrespectful of not only Muslims but G-d fearing people of any faith. This publication risked opening wounds and instigating bad feelings between members of our human family. Nonetheless, as Muslims and people of faith we have to answer to a higher calling.
Any depiction attempting to portray Prophet Muhammed is wrong. When the picture displays a bomb with a lit fuse in his turban the depiction is even worse. Still as intelligent people an emotional and violent reaction is wrong.
Where is the wise voice of Islamic leadership and scholarship on this issue? Where is the mind of reason in this matter? Everyone knows that the Prophet Muhammed forbade his picture to be drawn because he did not want his image worshipped and adored. In opposition to having his portrait drawn he ordered his followers “to not make the same mistake with me that the followers of Christ Jesus made with him.” But where are the voices of reason around the Muslim world?
Sadly, it has been reported that in retaliation some Muslims are encouraging Muslims to enter into a Holocaust caricature contest. This is not within the keeping of Islamic teachings, etiquettes or decorum. To even suggest having a “Holocaust caricature” contest is at best childish and even worse fuel on an un-Islamic emotion fire of violence and hate.
Imam W. Deen Mohammed speaking on the community of man stated, “The Muslim is obligated to recognize his responsibility to all the communities of man. He cannot forget that in promoting his own cause, he has to have a healthy regard for the destiny of other people. He must also contribute to the worthwhile and noble endeavors of others. He is to support, compliment, congratulate and feel happy about the progress of other people who are not of his religion. This kind of attitude is healthy for anybody, and it is an obligation for the Muslim.”
Allah instructs the believers in the Holy Qur’an that we should be of “Those who avoid the greater crimes and shameful deeds, and, when they are angry even then forgive” [Sura (chapter) 42: Ayat (verse) 37]. According to the above Qur’anic verse instead of Muslims displaying anger they should, as Prophet Muhammed would do, be seeking means for forgiveness.
One claim that every Muslim is quick to make is the importance of obeying and adhering to the life exemplified by Prophet Muhammed. As he ate, Muslims readily eat. As he governed, Muslims likewise govern. As Prophet Muhammed prayed, washed and called upon their G-d, all Muslims love to claim that they follow his example. Therefore, as Prophet Muhammed would forgive, have sympathy and help the poor all Muslims should readily do the same.
The popular acronym WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) that serves to remind Christians to be Christ-like serves a similar role as the collection of hadiths that record how Prophet Muhammed lived, what and how he performed his daily task and what he said and how he imported his words.
Even with our strong Islamic stance against pictures and images of our dearly beloved Prophet, can we as followers of Muhammed find anything in his exemplary life or in the Holy Qur’an that condones the emotional and violent reactions that we are witnessing in the news that are being carried out by Muslims? The answer is an emphatic NO!
Prophet Muhammed faced great opposition from his enemies. Some rulers with whom he sought out to establish treaties with would not recognize Muhammed’s title as “Messenger of Allah” even though they accepted 100% the terms of the treaty. As these rulers signed their names to the treaty, they would scratch out Muhammed’s title of “Messenger of Allah.” When the ambassadors returned with the altered treaty Prophet Muhammed did not get angry or upset; instead he accepted the treaty as altered.
We pray that Muslims will remember Prophet Muhammed as we encounter such errant depictions of Islam and our beloved Prophet and that we remember that Allah has ordered us to forgive, even when we are angry.
It is at this time that we as Muslims need to remember one of the strongest messages that Prophet Muhammed ever related to his companions, words that he repeated three times, “Do not become angry.”
Michael “Mikal” Saahir is the resident Imam of Nur-Allah Islamic Center. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 317-753-3754.