On Jan. 7, unidentified gunmen shot dead 12 people at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Four of the magazine's well-known cartoonists, including its editor, were among those killed, as well as two police officers.
Although it has not been confirmed by the police, the shooting is believed to be a militant Islamist attack – an apparent reaction to the magazine’s repeated publication of caricatures depicting Prophet Muhammad.
In amateur camera footage of the incident shared on the Internet, the attackers can be heard shouting: "Allahu Akbar," an Islamic phrase meaning “God is great” and witnesses say that they heard the gunmen shouting "We have avenged the Prophet.”
Yet again, as it happened last month following the Café Lindt siege in Sydney, Australia, the Muslim world is denouncing terrorism with renowned Muslim scholars, writers and journalists condemning militants and piling up evidence from holy books to explain how Islam has always forbidden such merciless violence.
However, this rhetoric of collective condemnation and clarification is getting a bit old and tiresome. It’s not enough anymore.
Why cite religious scriptures when we have examples from the life of the Prophet himself who, by the way, faced far worse tragedies at the hands of his oppressors?
Why not write about how disturbingly ironic this so-called act of vengeance is because the Prophet himself never endorsed, practiced or preached hatred or hostility?
For a change, let’s not focus on what these terrorists are doing. Instead, we should discuss how Muhammad – the very person who they claim to avenge – would have reacted to such vituperative caricatures based on simple examples from his life.
Let’s put forward the question: What would Muhammad do?
Terrorists often defend their cowardly acts of violence by saying they are “enraged” or “provoked” by someone or something to murder other people.
Yes, despite the fact there could not be a more pathetic excuse to slaughter innocent people, they use it.
Clearly, they don’t know – or maybe they choose to disregard – what Muhammad has to say about anger and provocation. He said:
"The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger."
Apart from this, here is an incident – out of many others – that highlights how the Prophet reacted to people who harmed him for preaching peace and calling for the freedom of slaves.
Once, the elders of a village ordered their children to throw rocks and stones at Muhammad to make him leave the city and never come back. During the mob attack, he bled so profusely from the stoning that his feet became stuck to his shoes by the drying blood.
Despite being in a position to retaliate, feeling – as these terrorists put it – provoked, here’s how Muhammad responded to his attackers: “No, I hope that God will bring out from their offspring people who worship Him alone and associate no partners with Him.”
Herein lies the irony of it all. These militants claim to “avenge” a person who never tried to settle scores with his oppressors – even when he became in charge of entire cities and kingdoms.
The best example to illustrate this point is how Muhammad forgave a vindictive woman who tore out the heart and liver of his beloved uncle named Hamza in battle.
Soon after winning a big battle against her tribe, the Prophet forgave Hind and let her go, unharmed.
He executed no vengeance. There was to be none – not ever.
Tolerance is Muhammad’s life in a nutshell.
He taught his followers: “Anyone who believes in God and the Last Day (of Judgment) should not harm his neighbor. Anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should entertain his guest generously. And anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should say what is good or keep quiet.”
There also is a famous anecdote about an old woman who made a habit of throwing trash in the way of the Prophet. She tried her best to irritate him by throwing garbage in his way every day.
One day, when he walked out of his home there was no garbage. This made him inquire about the old woman and he came to know that she was sick. The Prophet went to visit her and offer any assistance she might need.
The old woman was extremely humbled and at the same time ashamed of her actions in light of the concern that Muhammad showed her.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) upheld the freedom of speech - even of his detractors. Subject to our laws, we must do the same. #CharlieHebdo— Mohammed Ansar (@MoAnsar) January 7, 2015
After decades of inhumane treatment toward slaves, Muhammad restored their freedom as soon as he came to power.
The first slave freed by Muhammad was called Bilal. He went on to become one of the most revered figures and leaders in Islam and was given the opportunity to climb on the roof of the holy structure Ka’abah to give the call to prayer.
Apart from this, Muhammad also restored the freedoms of women – who were, before his arrival, treated like chattel.
And as far as freedom of religion is concerned, the Prophet has said:
“Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.”
There was no suppression.
Man compares the Prophet to a dog! He prays for his forgiveness; has him buried in his own cloak, and prays upon his funeral. #CharlieHebdo— Iyad El-Baghdadi (@iyad_elbaghdadi) January 7, 2015
Last but not the least, this is the aspect of the Prophet’s life that sums up everything.
These terrorists are not just murderers, they are also liars. They constantly lie to justify their sickness of mind and soul. They claim the caricatures, which are nothing but merely the scribbles of ink, were hurtful. But it’s not.
Muhammad, along with his family and friends, was publicly beaten, mocked and shamed on multiple occasions for almost a decade. It’s a long – long – time for anyone to endure violence. But he did. He survived it all – with patience and tolerance.
And when Muhammad and his following had grown in strength and they conquered the very cities that had previously tormented him and his followers, guess what he did?
He forgave them all – entire cities, and not just their rulers and their accomplices. Muhammad also ordered his followers to protect their land, property, trees, cattle, etc.
An Interesting Question: Is The Silent, Peaceful Majority Among Muslims Responsible For Terrorism?
Hey so-called Caliph. Try reading rules of war established by 1st Caliph. You know the guy you named yourself after. pic.twitter.com/Tf2Sy5Ynvr— Reza Aslan (@rezaaslan) September 25, 2014
To put it briefly, here’s what Muhammad would do if he saw the caricature:
- He would not get angry but would pray for the cartoonist,
- He would not “avenge” his honor by shooting anybody. He would let them go, unharmed.
- He would probably visit the cartoonist if he falls sick.
- He would probably not mind another caricature coming from the same person because there is no subjugation of will when it comes to Muhammad.
- And of course – of course – he would forgive the cartoonist and probably invite him over to tea.
Indeed, renowned Muslim scholar Omar Suleiman couldn’t have been more precise when he said:
“What’s more insulting to the Prophet (peace be upon him) than satirical cartoons are those who murder innocent people in his name."
“And We have sent you not (Oh Muhammad) but as a mercy to all the worlds” [Quran 21:107]”