The Trouble with Rage
By Suhaib Webb
As we sat together in the back of Al-Azhar, the heat of the sun was apparent more than its light. The air was thick; a fusion of CairoĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s pollution, dust and its famous humidity.
Like birds on a scarecrow, we sat motionless under the shadow of an ancient Ottoman pillar as the SheikhĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s face and words proved more than sufficient to illuminate our dark circle: Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Sheikh Ahmed Derder was the Sheikh of the Malikis (a school of legal thought in Islam) in his day. He used to teach in the back of the mosque. One day the Sheikh was taking his lunch and he noticed a cat sliding through the wall of students. Suddenly one of the students hit the cat and pushed it aside. The Sheikh stood and scolded the student reminding him that this poor creature should be treated with dignity. At that moment the Sheikh began to crumble his food and serve the cat. From that day onward the cat would come to the Sheikh at lunchtime and purr his way into the SheikhĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s heart. And every time the Sheikh would serve the cat as a servant serves his master. A short time later another cat came, until, after a few weeks, whenever the sheikh would enter the masjid, there were no less than a hundred cats following him, and he would do his best to serve them whatever he had.Ă˘â‚¬Âť As we listened to this story our hearts flew as birds over high mountains. Then, suddenly, the Sheikh paused, looked at us and said, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Here is one of our greatest legal scholars, a saint and teacher. Look at how he treated a cat! And today, people are killing innocent human beings in the name of Islam!Ă˘â‚¬Âť Sadness overcame the Sheikh and he paused and suddenly, although in front of us, it was though he had traveled 1000 miles away from our small circle.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Did you hear what happened in London today?Ă˘â‚¬Âť At that moment I began to recognize an evil voice. It was the echo of a voice that visits me on certain occasions. It is dark and haunting, but it comes and overpowers me until IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘m forced to bow before its reality. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“No,Ă˘â‚¬Âť I responded. IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘d just returned from the sheikh and my heart was still flying and had not heard any news on the streets. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“There were five explosions! Many people are dead and theyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘re saying it was us!Ă˘â‚¬Âť Yes Ă˘â‚¬Â¦ it was that voice. I ran home and quickly checked the BBC. As I read the reports of carnage and bloodshed, I began to reflect on the words of the Sheikh and found my heart jumping and legs shaking.
I felt compelled to help explain the relationship and rights that our fellow non-Muslim brothers and sisters share with us. It is my hope that the Muslim communities in the West will mature and move towards a more inclusive role with their fellow countrymen. And that our non-Muslim brothers and sisters will learn to distinguish between orthodoxy, which possesses a great history of compassion and mercy, and the actions of those, who out of religious zeal, have rocketed past the tradition, values and moral teachings of Islam.
LEARNING ABOUT EACH OTHER
Prior to, but particularly after, 9/11 a large number of Muslims repeated, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“The West needs to learn about Islam.Ă˘â‚¬Âť Indeed, as a citizen of the West, I couldnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t agree more! However, the QurĂ˘â‚¬â„˘anic model for building relationships does not encourage one to sit and listen while others sermonize. The basis for this understanding is found in the following verse: Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each otherĂ˘â‚¬Âť (Sura Al-Hujurat, verse 13). The word Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“to know each otherĂ˘â‚¬Âť in Arabic represents an action that involves two parties. Thus, the Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“knowingĂ˘â‚¬Âť here is not merely a one-way street, but involves active participation by both parties. Instead of saying that the West needs to know about Islam, we should say, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“We need to learn about each other.Ă˘â‚¬Âť Based on this principle Western Muslims should take the time to learn and benefit from their fellow brothers and sisters. It is sad to see a large number of our community completely out of touch with the trends, history and situations that exist within their countries of origin.
Building relationships with oneĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s fellow countrymen is and excellent way to start. The Prophet (may the Peace and Mercy of God be upon him) was given the ability to speak multiple dialects of Arabic by God. In fact, the Prophet said, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘m the most eloquent of those who speak Arabic.Ă˘â‚¬Âť In addition, the Prophet (may GodĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s blessings and mercy be upon him) was aware of the events and happenings that surrounded him. Once KĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ab bin Malik came to the Prophet. This was prior to KĂ˘â‚¬â„˘abĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s acceptance of Islam. KĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ab was known as a great poet. When he met the Prophet (May GodĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s blessings and Mercy be Upon him), the Prophet asked him his name. He responded, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“KĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ab bin Malik.Ă˘â‚¬Âť The Prophet (may GodĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s blessings and mercy be upon him) looked at him with a warm smile and said, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“The poet!Ă˘â‚¬Âť KĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ab stated later after his conversion to Islam, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“That was the most beloved day of my life.Ă˘â‚¬Âť Thus, it is crucial that we take the time to learn and understand our environments so we can play an active role in benefiting it.
OH THOSE INFIDELS
It is common to see the word Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“infidelĂ˘â‚¬Âť used by many non- Muslims when quoting Muslims. Although a misunderstanding of the actual word, there are still a group of Muslims who insists on using the word for non-Muslim and, in some extreme cases, Muslims themselves. Our discussion here is not based on a mistranslation of the word, but its usage.
If we look towards the QurĂ˘â‚¬â„˘anic model we find that non- Muslims are usually addressed with words which are more polite and respectable. For this reason Dr. Yusuf Qaradawi states:
The QurĂ˘â‚¬â„˘an teaches us not to address others with the term, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Rejecter of faithĂ˘â‚¬Âť even if it is true. Instead it teaches us to used terms such as, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Oh MankindĂ˘â‚¬Âť (Sura Al-Baqara verse 21), Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Oh SonĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s of AdamĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ (Sura Al-Araf, verse 31)
, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Oh People of the BookĂ˘â‚¬Âť (Sura Ali Imran Verse 71),
and Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Oh My (GodĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s) servantsĂ˘â‚¬Âť (Sura Al-Zumar, verse 53).
In fact, you will not find the term Ă˘â‚¬ËśRejecter of faithĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ used as a direct address to anyone except twice in the QurĂ˘â‚¬â„˘an. One used for those who rejected faith in the Hereafter. The second was addressed to those people who tried to kill the Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) and his companions and expel them from their homes. (Sh. Qaradawi, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Our Address during the Age of GlobalizationĂ˘â‚¬Âť, p.44)
Thus, the norm for the Muslim is to address his fellows with terms that are honorable and respectable. The QurĂ˘â‚¬â„˘an states, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Say to My servants to speak speech which is excellentĂ˘â‚¬Âť (Sura Israh, verse 53). By replacing the word Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Rejecter of faith,Ă˘â‚¬Âť with Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“non-MuslimĂ˘â‚¬Âť, we can look at our fellow friends and countrymen with a merciful eye. Such a feeling is extremely important if we want to better understand and grow together.