The movie trailer was all I needed to see. A low-budget, amateur flick that seemed more an embarrassment to its creator than a plausible insult to Muhammad. Yet, all over the world, Muslims were rioting, burning and destroying everything they could get their hands on. Picture after picture from Yemen, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, each with angry Muslim men yelling at the top of their lungs, as American flags burned in the foreground. According to a report by CBSNews.com, in the first ten days after the murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens (in Benghazi, Libya), forty-nine people died.1
How does one explain the Muslim response to the Muhammad-mocking film, “Innocence of Muslims,” all of which began in Cairo and Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of 9/11?2 According to Time Magazine’s September 24th issue, the Muslim sect responsible for the Cairo and Benghazi violence was the Salafis, a sect that practices “puritan” Islam from the times of Muhammad.3 The Salafis and Wahhabis (9/11 perpetrators were mostly Wahhabis) are “first-cousins”; that is, both are “reformer” fundamentalist sects of Sunni Islam that follow the same Islamic values based on the Muslim values and practices of the earliest Muslim community.
When it comes to insulting Muhammad, apparently you don’t even have to be the one who insulted him. You just have to have a connection to the one who did. Somehow that is sufficient to warrant the death penalty; and, the U.S. is supposed to apologize because the anti-Muslim video was produced in America! Go figure! I must admit that the statement of Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) seemed right on point to me. Kyl referred to public criticism by U.S. diplomats in Egypt after the U.S. Embassy was attacked there. Senator Kyl compared President Obama’s statement to a “court asking an apology from a rape victim!”4
But how does one explain the killing of an innocent person because someone else insulted the prophetic head of Islam? The answer to this question is as much for me as for my readers — I must confess, the answer all but eludes me.
First, consider what Muhammad did for the Arabs of the 7th and later centuries. Muhammad united the bedouin tribes of Arabia that for centuries had been in constant tribal warfare with one another. Muhammad reconciled Arabs under the banner of Islam, a religious-political empire the likes of which the world had never known. Islam was born in the isolated desert wastelands of Arabia, only to become a powerful empire stretching from the sands of Arabia westward through North Africa, and north to Spain, and north-eastward through Persia, and modern-day Istanbul, Turkey. In the process, Muhammad gave self-worth to a people-group. He gave reason to be called “Muslim,” a name that extended beyond territories, countries, and states. In short, Muhammad took a purposeless people from many lands, and united them under the common purpose of Islam and jihad. To be “Muslim,” was to identify with Muhammad. It was to join in the thrill of victory, even if only in name, and to take pride in one’s own, “prophet of the sword.”5
One would think that upon Muhammad’s death, he would pale in importance for his followers. Not so. In fact, his importance if anything increased. Muhammad died in 632 AD. Yet, he lives to the present day — not literally, but through the emulation of Muhammad’s beliefs, customs, and traditions as compiled in the Hadith (The Hadith are a compilation of Muhammad’s sayings and actions)). Frithjof Schuon, a German author, describes Muhammad’s impact upon his followers in this way:
There are no other virtues than those of Muhammad, so they can only be repeated in those who follow his example; it is through them that the Prophet lives in his community.6
Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam, is reported to have stated:
I do not omit anything of the things the Messenger of God has done, for I am afraid that if I should omit it, I could go astray.7
How specific is a Muslim’s emulation of Muhammad? To the finest of details. Consider this quote from a medieval theologian, al-Ghazzali, who states:
Know that the key to happiness is to follow the messenger of God in all his coming and going, his movements and rest, in his way of eating, his attitude, his sleep and his talk. … God has said: “Say: If you love God, follow me, and God will love you” (Sura 3:29), and He has said: “What the messenger has brought – accept it, and what he has prohibited – refrain from it!” (Sura 59:7). That means, you have to sit while putting on trousers, and to stand when winding a turban, and to begin with the right foot when putting on shoes….8
Think about it. If modern-day Muslims emulate Muhammad to the point of which shoe to put on first, imagine what an insult to the prophet does to an impassioned follower urged on by his cleric? Muslim’s entire lives are modeled after their prophet. Criticize the guy who determines my shoe order and your criticism has just become personal. Why? “Shoe order” is representative of everything in a Muslim’s life because everything in a Muslim’s life is a Muhammad emulation.
What is interesting is that the Qur’an’s specific statements are clear: Muhammad is a human being having the same limitations and temptations characteristic of all humans (Qur’an 47:19). Yet, in spite of the Qur’an, sects within Islam have accorded Muhammad the title of “perfect human being.” Shi’ahs, in fact, ascribe the quality of sinlessness to Muhammad;9 and, Shi’ah Imams related to Muhammad by his bloodline through Ali (Muhammad’s cousin) and Fatima (Muhammad’s daughter) were considered “divine.”10 Muhammad’s beauty was not only found in his sinless character, but also his physical beauty. In one early tradition it is stated, “For as the Prophet was the most beautiful of mankind in character, so he was the most handsome in his looks.”11 An hadith from Sahih Bukhari narrates Muhammad’s sexual prowess:
The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number.” I asked Anas, “Had the Prophet the strength for it?” Anas replied, “We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men).” … .12
In Reliance of the Traveller, the Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, we find the following narration about Muhammad:
Book p [Enormities], 75.2 The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “None of you believes until I am more beloved to him than his wife, child, self, and all people.”13
Interesting: unless Muhammad is “more beloved” to a Muslim than “his wife, child, self, and all people” — the person is not a Muslim! (Is that an exaggeration?) I don’t know about you, but there are a few people in my life that, if they were insulted, I wouldn’t take it sitting down (my wife for one and of course my mom); but I wouldn’t kill someone because they insulted my wife. I certainly wouldn’t issue a personal fatwa against the guilty party and command my “followers” (even if I could somehow control their minds) to join me in murder for the sake of my wife’s honor.
I recently came across a CNN video of renowned author and contemporary expert on Islamic issues, and former Pakistan Ambassador to the U.K., Akbar Ahmed. In the video, Ahmed explained why Muslims reacted the way they did at the release of the anti-Muhammad video. Ahmed made one statement that particularly intrigued me. He said, “To Muslims it is more than theological, it also becomes personal.” With all respect to Professor Ahmed, I can’t figure that statement out. It seems backwards to me. Who would kill someone because they insulted someone close to them, family or otherwise? Not me. And, I doubt that any of you would either. So why would a Muslim do that, Salafi, Wahhabi, Muslim Brotherhood or any Muslim for that matter? Such a response is hardly normative. There must be a reason if normal is redefined. There is – it is called the Qur’an. It has nothing to do with being “personal.” It is about religion — completely, as defined by Allah. To an Islamist, theology trumps; because the Qur’an prescribes it,
Here are a few passages from the Qur’an that evidence what I am saying:
Surah 33:57 (Haleem translation) Those who insult God and His Messenger will be rejected by God in this world and the next—He has prepared a humiliating torment for them.
Surah 33:59-62 (Haleem) Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and women believers to make their outer garments hang low over them so as to be recognized and not insulted: God is most forgiving, most merciful. If the hypocrites, the sick at heart, and those who spread lies in the city do not desist, We shall rouse you [Prophet] against them, and then they will only be your neighbours in this city for a short while. They will be rejected. Wherever they are found, they will be arrested and put to death. This has been God’s practice with those who went before. You will find no change in God’s practices.
Surah 9:62 (Haleem) There are others who insult the Prophet by saying, ‘He will listen to anything.’ Say, ‘He listens for your own good: he believes in God, trusts the believers, and is a mercy for those of you who believe.’ An agonizing torment awaits those who insult God’s Messenger.
The Reliance of the Traveller includes another statement worth noting. However, it applies to lies spoken about Muhammad which, presumably, would equate with an insult:
Book p [Enormities], 9.2 The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “A lie about me is not the same as a lie about someone else: whoever intentionally lies about me shall take a place for himself in hell.”14
Humm — “… Take a place for himself in hell.” That pretty much sums up Allah’s view about it.
The crowning tribute to Muhammad is found in the “Shahada,” the creedal statement to become a Muslim (must be stated twice in the presence of a Muslim).15 The Shahada has two parts: 1 – There is no god but God [Allah]; and 2 – Muhammad is the messenger of God [Allah]. If either part of the creedal statement is omitted, conversion has not occurred. Quoting again from Reliance of the Traveller:
Book v [Belief in Allah and his Messenger] 2.1. Allah has favored him [Muhammad] above all the other prophets and made him the highest of mankind, rejecting anyone’s attesting to the divine oneness by saying “There is no god but Allah,” unless they also attest to the Prophet by saying, “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”16 (Emphasis mine).
Did you catch the highlighted statement? The Shahada, the creedal statement to become a Muslim, is only sufficient if it includes an acknowledgement that Muhammad is the prophet of Allah! I can only interpret the required inclusion of Muhammad in the Shahada as an act that equates Muhammad with Allah. I thought the Qur’an stated Allah had no “partners”? How else can we honestly interpret an omission of Muhammad’s status as Islam’s prophet to render null and void someone’s conversion to Islam? If the omission renders the credal statement null and void then Muhammad carries the same weight as Allah. No wonder Muhammad’s insult results in such anger, hatred, and violent outbursts by impassioned Islamists.
I close with a final comment taken from the Reliance of the Traveller that defines specific actions of Muslims as acts of apostasy (prescribing the death penalty for the apostate):
Book o [Acts that entail leaving Islam] 8.7. Among the things that entail apostasy from Islam (may Allah protect us from them) are: (3) to speak words that imply unbelief such as “Allah is the third of three,” … (4) to revile Allah or His messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace); … (7) to deny any verse of the Koran or anything which by scholarly consensus (def: b7) belongs to it, or to add a verse that does belong to it; … (15) to hold that any of Allah’s messengers or prophets are liars, or to deny their being sent; … (20) or to deny that Allah intended the Prophet’s message (Allah bless him and give him peace) to be the religion followed by the entire world… . ((Al-Misri, Ahmed ibn Naqib. Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller. Beltsville: Amana Publications, Revised Edition, 1994, p. 822.))
Concluding thought. I read an article from the Baltimore Sun describing the condemnation by Muslim leaders of the violent reactions of fellow Muslims. One quote from the article seems to be repeating itself from other Muslim sources (moderates??) around the world. The quote goes:
“As American Muslims, there is no question that we categorically condemn any acts of violence and hate speech against anyone,” … “It is against the fundamental teaching of the religion of Islam.”17 (Emphasis mine)
I am grateful for the condemnation by Muslim leaders of the violence that has occurred in the name of Islam. However, what offends me is the last statement: “It is against the fundamental teaching of the religion of Islam.” Are you for real? Do you not have the same Qur’an that I have? Is there a misprint in the passages that I quoted above? Perhaps you are using a modern paraphrase??? Or, is the real issue that Muslim leaders (moderate or otherwise) are betting that most readers do not know what the Qur’an says or what the hadith records? The evidence of the truth of my statement is in the reoccurrence of the violence itself as well as the many statements of Islamists around the world encouraging more violence. Muslim violence did not start with the cheap video, Innocence of Muslims. Nor did it start with Salman Rushdie and the publishing of his book The Satanic Verses in 1989 (resulting in a fatwā issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on 14 February 1989) or Osama bin Laden and his fatwa urging global jihad against America in 1998, the fruit of which was eventually harvested on 9/11.18
As we all know, I could list example after example of fatwas issued over just the last fifty-years and fill up a page. So how can Muslim leaders tell us that the violence around the world has nothing to do with the fundamental teachings of Islam? How can Muslim leaders say “The actions of the attackers are totally inexcusable and un-Islamic.”19
Un-Islamic? How can Islam be innocent? It cannot because it is not. The evidence is in black in white in the Muslims’ book — the Qur’an. If you insult the prophet of Islam, or blaspheme the Qur’an or its source, Allah, then better keep a watch over your shoulder!
Whether the event is 9/11 or Benghazi, it is only a matter of time before it occurs again. It doesn’t really matter whether or not we understand it. Just prepare for it. It was Muhammad who stated:
“He who obeys me obeys Allah, and he who disobeys me disobeys Allah. … .”20
The guilty party is the Qur’an (and Allah, who “voiced” it). The violence can be traced to the commands of Muhammad within it. To obey Muhammad is to obey Allah. Muslims are simply obeying orders much like a soldier obeys the orders of his commanding officer. Who is the commanding officer of Islam? Allah. And, who is he, really?
Revelation 13:2, … And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.
- http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57517528/pakistan-hit-by-deadly-riots-over-anti-muslim-film/ [↩]
- Time Magazine, September 24, 2012, Flashpoint, by Bobby Ghosh, p. 31 [↩]
- “Salafi.” In The Islamic World: Past and Present. , edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t243/e294 [↩]
- http://news.yahoo.com/sen-jon-kyl-us-embassy-response-blaming-rape-031347151–abc-news-politics.html [↩]
- Khalid Yahya Blankinship, “Sword Verses,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0979″ [↩]
- as quoted in Annemarie Schimmel, And Muhammad Is His Messenger, The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety, University of North Carolina Press, 1985, p 32. [↩]
- Ibid, p 31. [↩]
- as quoted in Annemarie Schimmel, And Muhammad Is His Messenger, The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety, University of North Carolina Press, 1985, p 32. [↩]
- Welch, Alford T., Gordon D. Newby and Abdulkader I. Tayob. “Muḥammad.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World., edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236MIW/e0550 [↩]
- Jack Smith, Islam the Cloak of Antichrist, p. 67-68 [↩]
- as quoted in Annemarie Schimmel, And Muhammad Is His Messenger, The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety, University of North Carolina Press, 1985, p 34. [↩]
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 5, Number 268, as reported at http://www.answering-islam.org/Muhammad/sex_superman.html [↩]
- Ibid., p 700 [↩]
- Al-Misri, Ahmed ibn Naqib. Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller. Beltsville: Amana Publications, Revised Edition, 1994, p. 658 [↩]
- Clarke, Lynda. “Shahada.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. , edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236MIW/e0725. [↩]
- Al-Misri, Ahmed ibn Naqib. Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller. Beltsville: Amana Publications, Revised Edition, 1994, p. 822. [↩]
- Baltimore Sun, Muslim Leaders in Maryland condemn attacks, by Matthew Hay Brown, September 13, 2012, p. 9 [↩]
- Text of Fatwa Urging Jihad Against Americans (1998).” Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/book/islam-9780195174304/islam-9780195174304-chapter-65 [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Book P 40.2, Al-Misri, Ahmed ibn Naqib. Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller. Beltsville: Amana Publications, Revised Edition, 1994, p. 822. [↩]