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What would the Prophet do? A Case for Introspection

As I skimmed through the BBC website, the headlines revolved around the growth of the global economy growing weakerBoris Johnson’s love for David Cameron, and a human interest story about an elderly couple who unwittingly grew the largest cannabis plant that police have ever seen. Incredible, yes, but with an innocence that I found quite endearing.

But imagine my shock and disgust at not seeing a single story about the anger pervading throughout the Muslim world about a tasteless, provocative film insulting our Prophet. How dare the world forget about our hurt feelings! Did they not see us threaten to destroy their countries? Did they not see us doing the same to our own? How dare they ignore us!

The fact of the matter is, the world moves on. Yesterday’s anger becomes today’s inevitable return to normalcy. Yesterday’s burning tyres, become today’s landfill. Yesterday’s broken windows become today’s repair bills. Yet one thing remains unchanged: the dignity of our Prophet remains in tact. If we believe in the Qur’an, and its teachings, nothing anyone can say, or do, will ever take away the Prophet’s (divinely granted) dignity and stature. On the underlying issue that has seen protests erupt across the Muslim world, perhaps no one can articulate my own thoughts as well as one Naumaan Ali Khan.

The love that every Muslim has for their Prophet should never be questioned. If my own character were imbued with a single drop from the entire ocean encompassing the Prophet’s character, I would consider myself a blessed, and indeed, extremely lucky, individual. His example is the one to which we all aspire, but how often do we model our actions on the examples that he has set?

Examples of the same Prophet took who once took refuge from a stone-throwing mob in Taif. Physical abuse which prompted Angel Jibreel to come to the Prophet and inform him that, if he so wished, Jibreel would give the command to bury the city between two mountains. The response to which was that he did not wish destruction for the people of Taif because ‘maybe their offspring would proclaim the religion of truth.’

The Islamic scholar Imam Ghazali (Ihya'u Ulumiddin, Vol. 2) summarises the information he collected in the hadith regarding our Prophet's compassionate attitude to all those around him as follows: "He was far from knowing anger and quickly showed compassion for things. He was the most loving of men toward other people. He was the most auspicious of men and did the most good to others, and the most useful and beneficial to others."

Should we express our hurt at having our Prophet abused? Absolutely. Should we strongly condemn the actions of a depraved individual and ask the US government to take action? Absolutely. But destroy our own land, our own property, and our own economies under the pretence of defending our Prophet’s honour? A travesty.

Case in point, let us consider the folly of the government of Pakistan’s decision to declare a public holiday, Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (Love The Prophet Day) for what can arguably described as purely political purposes. A total of 20 people were killed across the country and more than 200 were wounded during the protests. Cinemas, banks, vehicles and fuel stations were torched, while markets were also vandalised. Estimates indicate that the protests resulted in a Rs. 150 billion loss to the economy. What would the man whose honour is being defended have made of this situation? Would the Prophet look upon the loss of life, destruction of property and loss of national income as a necessary consequence of defending his standing? As a Twitter user so eloquently put it, “the movie defaming Muhammad wasn’t a movie. It was a trailer. We are the movie.”

Do our actions do anything to dispel the fallacies believed about us? Must we burn churchesand temples, in response to the actions of irresponsible individuals? To defend the honour of a man who once allowed the Christians of Yemen to perform their prayers in his own mosque? We must take this opportunity to show the misinformed about the true nature of our Prophet through engagement and dialogue. Not to disrespect their beliefs and places of worship and drive an even bigger wedge between people.

Surely, the irony is not lost on even the smallest of minds when a Muslim declares that their Prophet is a kind, compassionate and forgiving Prophet, and then threatens to rain down death and destruction on anyone who thinks otherwise. As Allah informs us in the Qur’an: Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs.’ (Quran 3:186, Translation by Yusuf Ali)

“So you think my Prophet was as depicted in the film? How ignorant, sir! Come, sit with me, let us talk and I will tell you the truth about my Prophet, and why I love him.” As such may misinformed hate be turned into begrudging respect, which may in turn transform into genuine deep love for the Prophet and Allah’s message. If not, we hold to forgiveness; command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant’ (Quran 7:199, Translation by Yusuf Ali)

The Prophet was a general, but also a diplomat. He led an entire nation, but he also raised a family. He preached theology, but was also a businessman. The Prophet’s examples are not simply ones that we may consider following. They are examples that we have been commanded to follow.

Does it not imply then, that the question we should always strive to answer is: ‘What would the Prophet do?’ In truth, it is a question impossible to answer with any absolute certainty, but conceptually perhaps, in that instance, when we give ourselves a moment to ponder, we may pick up our Qur’an for guidance, and draw upon genuine examples of the sunnah and the hadith so that, rather than perpetuating the negative stereotypes against which we are held, we may truly defend the honour of our Prophet by understanding and upholding the truth of what he stood for, and what Islam itself stands for as well."

Adil is a Pakistani marketing strategist. He gradauted from University College London with a BSc in Economics, and after a five year career in asset management, recently completed an MBA from the University of Cambridge.