We often dream about a perfectly unified Ummah, since it seems a bit farfetched right now, we can take steps toward unifying our Ummah. One simple hadith, can contribute significantly to the unification of our Ummah because it protects our relationships from enmity, which strengths our community, which ultimately will lead to unification. This hadith offers simple advice which has strong effects.
- “Once, a person was verbally abusing Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) while the Prophet (peace be upon him) was curiously watching with a smile. After taking much abuse quietly, Abu Bakr responded to a few of his comments. At this, the Prophet exhibited his disapproval, got up and left. Abu Bakr caught up with the Prophet and wondered, ‘O Messenger of Allah, he was abusing me and you remained sitting. When I responded to him, you disapproved and got up.’ The Messenger of Allah responded,
- ‘There was an angel with you responding to him. When you responded to him, Shaytan took his place.’ He then said:
- ‘O Abu Bakr, there are three solid truths: If a person is wronged and he forbears it (without seeking revenge) just for the sake of Allah almighty, Allah will honor him and give him the upper hand with His help; if a person opens a door of giving gifts for cementing relationships with relatives, Allah will give him abundance; and, if a person opens a door of seeking charity for himself to increase his wealth, Allah will further reduce his wealth.'” (Musnad Ahmad).
In Islam, we are always taught to respond with what is best. Sometimes if we are being verbally abused, the easiest thing to do is to respond back, but as the Prophet (pbuh) told us, if we remain silent, then an Angel responds to the slanderer, which is the best form of defense we could obtain. One may wonder still, why we should remain silent when the other person is in the wrong? To truly understand the wisdom behind remaining silent requires both vision and Islamic knowledge.
If the defense of angel doesn’t seem sufficient or if it doesn’t contribute to control over our tongue, then examining the effects of remaining silent surely will suffice. The dream of returning to a united Ummah, lead by a khaliphah, ruled by Sharia Law is a dream shared by almost every Muslim. The dream is surely far, however unity is something that can be established in any community, regardless how small. If one is slandered to his face, his immediate instinct is to reply back to defend his name, however, does the person stop to think of the effects of remaining silent? Provided there is no fitna involved in staying silent, a visionary will surely take the latter route of remaining silent because of its positive effects. First and foremost, Allah (swt) prefers us to remain silent, He wants us to practice sabr(patience). The way to practice sabr when verbally abused is to remain silent. Once a person responds to a claim, this triggers the possibility of heated debate, something that surely can lead to fragmentation of a community, if the debate causes hate between the opposing sides. However, remaining silent extinguishes any possibility of fruitless debate and potential rifts between members of one community.
Second, as a proper Muslim, we must give our Muslim brother or sister benefit of the doubt. There is the possibility that the slanderer is in a bad mood, and decided to release his anger against the next person passing by! Remaining silent will give the slanderer some perspective, and time to reflect because there was no immediate response. If the falsely accused immediately responded, this would have the ill effect of putting the slanderer on the defense (which requires little thought), rather than giving him time to think. The slanderer will immediately notice that the other person remained silent, which will make him reconsider his claims. If not, at least you did not create conflict with another Muslim community member.
Third, Allah promises something amazing in the Qur’an for those that remain patient. In Surah Fussilat, Allah begins by advising the believers to “repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better,” in this case it would be remaining quiet. After doing the good deed of remaining quiet, Allah promises us that “the one whom between you and him is enmity (will become) as though he was a devoted friend.” Allah will make your enemy into a friend if you remain silent. This is the virtue of remaining quiet. The enemy’s heart will soften to the point that he becomes your friend! This hadith certainly is a key to the creation of a united Ummah. Not only is remaining quiet beneficial for you on the Day of Judgment, good for our Ummah, but it is also a solution for your problem, Allah promises he will turn your enemy into a friend.
Remember remaining silent, the very act of controlling our temper when we are being provoked, is loved by Allah. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Whoever controls his anger at the time when he has the means to act upon it; Allah will fill his heart with contentment on the Day of Resurrection.” (At-Tabarani). Most of us can hold our anger when we do not have the means to act upon it, but the real test is when we can act upon it, but prevent ourselves from acting for the greater good. The Prophet (pbuh) taught us this when some of the people of Quriesh began to call him Mudhammam (the loathsome). This name began to spread all over Makkah. His companions were terribly hurt and angered to see that he was being mocked. The Prophet (pbuh) tried to ease their pain and told them, “They are only cursing Mudhammam. My name is Muhammad.” (Bukhari). The Prophet (pbuh) could have responded, but this would have diverted from his aims and caused him to be involved with something which is much less important than what he was sent to do, which was to call people to Islam.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, we are quick to react and have given our tongues free reign, whereas the Prophet (pbuh) even once said to Mu’ath bin Jabal (ra) “Will anything else besides (irresponsible) talk cause the people to be thrown into the Hell Fire upon their faces or on their nostrils?” (At-Tirmidhi). The reason the Prophet (pbuh) got up after Abu Bakr replied is because it was Shaytan that provoked Abu Bakr to respond. Shaytan escalated the problem in Abu Bakr’s mind because once you respond, it will lead to a heated dialogue and most likely, enmity will rise between the two men.
Understanding Islam’s perspective on slander is vital because it will strengthen our willpower. If a Muslim is slandered, under Sharia Law, the burden of proof relies on the slanderer. Meaning the person slandered has no obligation to defend himself in an Islamic court of law, rather it is the slanderer that must accumulate and present the proof to support his claim. In our democratic system it is known as, “innocent until proven guilty.” When Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was accused of a false crime, the Islamic court put the burden on the slanderer to prove his claim. When he was unable to prove his slanderous claim, his punishment was 80 whip lashes. Through this entire process, Aisha had no obligation to defend herself under Sharia Law. The lesson to be extracted is if someone slanders an individual, the innocent has no duty to defend themselves. Another lesson to be extracted from this hadith is the punishment of the slanderer. If a slanderer is punished with 80 whip lashes in this world, then imagine his punishment in the hereafter.
This is different than if we find a person abusing someone else, especially if he is weaker. As we know, the Prophet (pbuh) has said “Whoever of you sees a wrong action, let him change it with his hands. If he cannot, then with his tongue. If he cannot do that, then let him hate it in his heart, and that is the weakest of faith.” (Muslim) This should be tempered with the example of the Prophet (pbuh), who did not allow anger to get the best of him or allow foul language to taint his speech.
However, if you want to defend yourself, you have this right. Surah Ali Imran states that you have the right to defend yourself to the point of reaching justice, meaning you can only defend the accusations against you and nothing more. We know that Uthman (ra) was killed brutally at the end of his khilafah by people who spread vicious lies about him. When verbal abuse and slandering reaches the point of fitna, it is incumbent for us to respond in the appropriate manner. The Surah then continues to say that the best of you are those that forgive. Surah al Nahl also states that you can defend yourself up to the point of the actual false statement, but you cannot go beyond that. The Surah again stresses that if you are patient then that is better. The Surah says “be patient, [O Muhammad], and your patience is not but through Allah.” The ayah continues to give us support to be patient by saying do not grieve over them [Quraish] and do not be in distress over what they conspire. Indeed Allah is with those who fear Him and those who are doers of good. In the Prophet’s (pbuh) case, it was better to remain silent, because the words of Qureish were empty and reacting to them would have been the worse option.
Thus, in this scenario, which we all face at some point in our life, the true Islamic visionary would remain silent in time of being personally verbally abused because silence guarantees an angels defense, because silence guarantees a reward in Jannah, because silence guarantees a life in the footsteps of the beloved Prophet, because silence guarantees enemies turning into friends, and because silence guarantees a unified Ummah.
May Allah allow us to follow in the footsteps of his Beloved (peace be upon him)!