A few years back, I was going through some really rough times. Very bothered, angry and annoyed, I called one of my trusted friends and good brother in Islam and vented to him about my issues – may Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) reward that brother for all his efforts, patience and advice. We stayed for over an hour on the phone and every time I said something, he would bring me an example from the life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) or one of the other prophets to draw upon and to help me navigate my thoughts and emotions. Out of my ignorance and frustration, and I ask Allah (swt) for His forgiveness for this, I said to the brother: “Akhi (my brother), these are prophets. Who am I to compare myself to them? I cannot compare myself to them; they are in a completely different class than me.”
But Allah (swt) says in Surat Al-Kahf (Chapter of the Cave):
قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَٰهُكُمْ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ
“Say ‘I am only a man like you, to whom it has been revealed that your god is one God,’” (18:110).
The Prophet ﷺ was not an angel, nor a demigod, nor a jinn. He was a human being, a son of Adam `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him)—granted the best of the children of Adam (as), but still human. This means that aside from the miracles facilitated to him by Allah (swt), and the revelations he received through God’s angel Jibreel (as), what he did and the way he behaved and lived his life were something a human can do. It was not supernatural!
Allah (swt) says in Surat Al Anbiya’ (Chapter of the Prophets):
قُلْ لَوْ كَانَ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَلَائِكَةٌ يَمْشُونَ مُطْمَئِنِّينَ لَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَلَكًا رَسُولًا
“Say ‘If there were upon the earth angels walking securely, We would have sent down to them from the heaven an angel [as a] messenger.’” (Qur’an 17:95)
If Allah (swt) had sent an angel for us to follow, how could we do so? Instead, all the prophets and messengers of Allah (swt) are humans, but humans who truly lived, practiced and breathed the message of Allah (swt). `A’isha radi Allahu `anhaa (may God be pleased with her) said of the Prophet ﷺ: “His manners were the Qur’an.” If we want to understand our religion, we must understand the way the Prophet ﷺ lived his life and understand why we should emulate him and practice his sunnah (tradition).
Allah (swt) says in Surat Al-Ahzab (Chapter of the Combined Forces):
لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِمَنْ كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا
“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” (Qur’an 33:21)
We need to get to know the Prophet’s ﷺ personality better by reading his seerah (biography) and by studying his sunnah, and then by putting into practice all of his good qualities.
It is no secret that Islam is being attacked. Whether from within, by people who commit atrocities in the name of Islam such as ISIS and Al-Qa’idah, or from outside by the rising tide of Islamophobia and the subtle, and not-so-subtle, attacks on and mockery of Islam and Muslims. Our religion has been hijacked by a statistically insignificant minority who share nothing with the teachings of our faith other than a name. Their evil actions give reason and excuse for people of ill intent to try to smear this beautiful religion, using the actions of this minority as an excuse to attack Muslims and create a tremendous fitnah (trial) for us all. It is shaking the weak-hearted to the core and confusing those of us who, all of a sudden, find ourselves in the midst of a very disorienting storm.
Is this something new, or has it happened before? Let us take a quick look back at a couple of major events in our Prophet’s ﷺ life.
In the tenth year of prophethood, the Prophet ﷺ went to Al-Tayef, which is about 60 miles from Mecca. He travelled by foot, both ways, and in his company was his servant Zayd Bin Harithah (ra). Every time they stopped by a village or town, he would invite its people to Islam and none would answer his invitation. When he arrived at Al-Tayef he sought out three brothers who were prominent figures of the tribe of Thaqeef. He sat with them and invited them to Allah (swt) and to aid Islam. One of the brothers said to him, “I will rip the cloth off the Ka’abah if God sent you,” while the other said, “Did God not find anyone better than you?” and the third said, “By God I will never speak to you, for if you are a prophet then you are dangerous to engage in conversation and if you are lying then I should not be speaking to someone like you.” So the Prophet ﷺ left them and said, “Then please do not tell others about me.” (The Sealed Nectar, p148)
The Prophet ﷺ stayed with the people of Al-Tayef for ten days and he did not leave any of their honorable or respected figures without speaking to them about Islam. They all told him to leave their land and kicked him out. They also egged the lowly ones from among them, and their slaves, to yell and curse at the Prophet ﷺ and Zayd (ra) as they were leaving. People gathered and formed two lines and, along with cursing and yelling, threw pebbles and rocks at them until the heels of Prophet ﷺ bled. Zayd (ra) was trying to protect the Prophet ﷺ with his own body, was hit in the head, and bled. People continued to abuse them until three miles later, the Prophet ﷺ and his Companion got to a vineyard and they rested under the shade of its plants.
The Prophet ﷺ himself was humiliated, hurt and broken-hearted. What did he do?
Imam Bukhari reports that `A’isha (ra) asked the Prophet ﷺ if he had experienced a day that was harder on him than the day of the Battle of Uhud. The Prophet ﷺ replied that he had seen his fair share from her people, but the worst was when he went to Al-Tayef to invite its people to Islam. He said, “…then I left, saddened and downtrodden, until I realized that I had arrived at Qarn Al-Thaalib. While there, a cloud cast its shadow upon me. I looked up and the Angel Jibreel was on it, and he said, ‘God has heard what the people said to you and how they responded and He has sent the angel of the mountains with me to command him with whatever you may please.’ At that, moment the angel of the mountains called the Prophet and asked, ‘O Muhammad, you shall have whatever you please. If you so desire, I can close the two mountains on them.’ [The people of Al-Tayef lived between two mountains.] The Prophet replied, ‘But I wish that God would send from among them people who would worship Him alone and not associate any in worship with Him.’”
This is why Allah (swt) says about the Prophet ﷺ in Surat Al-Anbiya’:
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ
“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” (21:107)
He was the most merciful person. Allah (swt) called him “a mercy to the worlds”. He was merciful to his family, followers, friends, even enemies. He was merciful to young and old, to humans and to animals. Those who persecuted him in Makkah and killed his relatives and his followers, when they were defeated in battles and brought to him as captives, were forgiven by him. He asked them, “What do you think I am to do to you today?” and they replied, “Nothing but good, a generous brother the son of a generous brother.” He replied, “I shall say to you what Yusuf (as) said to his brothers: ‘No blame on you today.’”
He did not ever take revenge or retaliate. He was the most forgiving person. His concern was that the message of Allah (swt) made it through to hardened hearts. Yet we say, “He was a prophet akhi, how am I to compare myself to him?”
Allah (swt) says in Surat Al-Baqarah (Chapter of the Cow):
أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَنْ تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِكُمْ مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ ۖ مَسَّتْهُمُ الْبَأْسَاءُ وَالضَّرَّاءُ وَزُلْزِلُوا حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَ الرَّسُولُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ مَتَىٰ نَصْرُ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ
“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, “When is the help of Allah?” Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.” (Qur’an 2:214)
We are living in difficult times and many questions surround us.
How do we counter sick-hearted people who want to turn our children into murderers under the false guise of Islam?
How do we answer Islamophobia?
How do we answer our children’s questions about a distorted image of Islam?
How do we uphold the Prophet’s ﷺ honor?
By learning and understanding the life he lived. The morals he exemplified. The actions he took. By building ourselves in the same methodical way he built his followers. You start with faith and solidify it in your heart. Then you apply the beauty of that faith to all of your actions.
قُلْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
“Say, [O Muhammad], ‘If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.’” (Qur’an 3:31)
To follow him, we must understand him.
The time is now for us to focus on what is most important.
It is not the environment you live in. The Prophet ﷺ grew up in a time where people circumambulated the Ka`bah naked and worshipped idols.
It is not the lack of a full-time Islamic school that makes our children grow up detached from this religion.
It is not that we do not have an imam (religious leader). We have the example of a great imam, may Allah (swt) bless him and his family, but even though we have him, he is not going to raise our children for us.
The responsibility lies with us. We are the ones responsible for understanding our faith and raising our kids to be proud of, and to fully embrace and practice, their Muslim identity.
Allah (swt) says in Surat Muhammad:
فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنْبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ
“So know, [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women. And Allah knows of your movement and your resting place.” (Qur’an 47:19)
We are told to ‘know’ before we are told to ask for forgiveness. The most telling evidence that we must have knowledge first before we take action is that the first verse of the Qur’an to be revealed was:
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
“Recite in the name of your Lord who created.” (Qur’an 96:1)
Reading is the key to knowledge. Islam started with knowledge and learning before action, and therefore it is incumbent upon each one of us to learn our deen (religion). Learn and know what is obligated upon you for the sake of Allah (swt), for your own sake, for your family’s sake, your neighbors, your community, your society and humanity as a whole.
Knowledge is a fardh (obligation) on every Muslim. This obligation is two kinds. One is what is known in Islam as fard kifayah, or an obligation that is fulfilled if a sufficient number of Muslims within a community perform it. For example, not every Muslim needs to be a scholar of Islam, or an expert in hadith (traditions of the Prophet ﷺ) or tafseer (exegesis of the Qur’an). It is an obligatory knowledge, but if a sufficient number of people possess it, then the sin of not performing the obligation is lifted from the rest of the Muslims. This is true for all kinds of knowledge, not only Islamic or religious knowledge. This means that not everyone needs to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer; rather, a sufficient number of people should have that knowledge, helping their societies become self-sufficient rather than needing to import expertise.
The second form of knowledge is that which is fard `ayn, or obligatory on each and every Muslim. Every Muslim must learn of their religion that which corrects, strengthens and improves their faith.
The best way to fight Islamophobia is to understand and practice our Islam: to engage people as a Muslim and to live our lives as Muslims. Therefore, wearing the hijab is fighting Islamophobia. Resisting lusts and temptations is fighting Islamophobia. Understanding Islam is fighting Islamophobia.