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Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Return To Jahiliya

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: October 04, 2012
Original Link: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\10\04\story_4-10-2012_pg3_4

On a rare occasion, both my presidents came under the same roof in New York last week. I am referring to the UN General Assembly, where both President Obama and President Zardari spoke their minds. President Obama reiterated the American stance of free speech being the bedrock of our constitution. However, in the same vein, he clarified the American position about hurtful or blasphemous religious material, and most importantly, about the trailer of the shoddy anti-Muslim film on YouTube with strongest condemnation. He is absolutely right that it is offensive to not only all the Muslims around the world but many millions of American Muslims too. Yet America is unable to ban any such material. With that, President Obama condemned the meaningless violence around the globe, which engulfed a lot of Muslim countries. He mentioned Libya in particular, where a US ambassador along with a few others became the victims of an extremely wild mob.

Luckily, most of the western nations did not witness violent protests that followed around the Middle East and South Asia. The tragic and highly illogical reaction on Muslim streets speaks volumes about our immaturity. I was very disgusted by an image of a child holding a placard in front of the US Embassy, perhaps in Sydney, which read, “Behead all of those who insult our Prophet (PBUH).” There was another image of perhaps a 4-year-old boy with an automatic assault rifle questioning, “Who insulted my Prophet (PBUH?” that was retweeted on Twitter.

I was reminded of the year 1989. When a not so widely acclaimed writer by the name of Salman Rushdie shot to fame by writing a novel called The Satanic Verses. It was considered blasphemous and insulted our Holy Prophet (PBUH), who was depicted in a derogatory fictional character. There were riots back then as well. The killings and mayhem made headlines. The decree of death was awarded to Rushdie by the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran. I was younger and a new entrant in the banking industry here. My coworkers questioned the behaviour of my co-religionists. I remember going through that book to respond to their queries. They were dismissing it all as fiction and I debated their limited knowledge about the events that brought Islam to the world of ‘Jahiliya’, what is now known as the present day Saudi Arabia. Had I not gone through that book (with utmost disdain and disgust), I would have sounded like a clueless, overly emotional and ultra-naïve Muslim. At times, the exchanges were a bit tense but highly civil.

I shared with my colleagues the story of the triumph of Mecca and the Prophet’s (PBUH) reaction towards his worst adversaries — the real ‘infidels’ — and they were shocked. It was amazing how little they knew about my faith and the inordinate amount of misconceptions surrounding their knowledge. An act of some bizarre novelist could turn into an opportunity for a meaningful dialogue about my faith I was unprepared for that challenge. My point here is that every adversity brings an opportunity to benefit from. Regretfully, we as Muslims take every such event as a threat to Islam, which in my humblest opinion is our biggest weakness. We as a whole have lost the essence of our belief. If we believe that the Prophet (PBUH) was sent as a mercy to mankind, then we have to follow his path. Did he kill, behead, threaten or abuse his abusers and worst of the worst, the blasphemers? I am often reminded of the ultimate scorn hurled at the Holy Prophet (PBUH), that his name would dwindle as he had no male child to carry his name and his word. I am an ultra-sinful person and do not know much about even a single verse, but I do know this much from Chapter 108, Al Kauthar, where in three simple yet extremely powerful verses, the Prophet (PBUH) was given the glad tiding by the Almighty. This is my belief that without a doubt, no matter what happens, what anyone says, the name of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) will be around until the end of time.

Regretfully, to this day, people in the US and around the world are ignorant about our faith. They get to witness our absurdities and tend to exploit them. We get miffed and blame a certain quarter for their malicious attempts to malign our faith. I beg to differ with that defeatist mentality. There is nothing in the world that stops us from demonstrating as individuals that we respond to offence with patience and perseverance, to an abuse, an insult, an allegation, scorn, with logic and reasoning. The honour of the Prophet (PBUH) is not in the hands of mere mortal human beings. He was awarded the highest places of paradise by the Almighty. His honour cannot and will never diminish because it resides at the ultimate heights. No Uzi, machine gun, AK-47 or any form of explosives are needed to defend it. Islam is supposed to solidify our faith in the Almighty and his Messenger (PBUH). To kill others to prove our point would in my humblest and perhaps flawed opinion, be a return to Jahiliya.

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