In sum, the proper response to attacks on Islam and Muslims must start with the intention to benefit those who have lost their way. Many attacks on Islam are based upon misinformation, ignorance or confusion, and patient and kindness from knowledgeable Muslims can go a long way in correcting these misunderstanding.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent and the Bestower Mercy
Alhamdulillah. Indeed, all praise is due to Allah. We praise Him and seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil within ourselves and from our wrongdoings. He whom Allah guides, no one can misguide; and he whom He misguides, no one can guide.
I bear witness that there is no (true) god except Allah – alone without a partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad (Pbuh) is His ‘abd (Servant) and Messenger.
“O you who believe! Revere Allah the right reverence, and do not die except as Muslims.” (Surah Ali Imran, 3:102)
“O people! Revere your Lord who has created you from a single soul, created from it its mate, and dispersed from both of them many men and women. Revere Allah through whom you demand things from one another; and (cherish the ties of) the wombs, indeed, Allah is ever watchful over you.” (Surah Al-Nisa’, 4:1)
“O you who believe! Revere Allah and say fair words. He will then rectify your deeds and forgive your sins. He who obeys Allah and His Messenger have certainly achieved a great victory.” (Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:70-71)
Indeed, the best speech is Allah’s (SWT) Book and the best guidance is Muhammad (Pbuh) guidance. The worst affairs (of religion) are those innovated (by people), for every such innovation is an act of misguidance leading to the fire.
Brothers and Sisters! Indeed Allah has informed us that there will always be some people who intend to misrepresent Islam and make it appear evil. Our present and modern term for this is “Islamophobia,” which means spreading fear and hatred of Islam. Most people who are against Islam have simply been misinformed and we should help to provide them with an accurate view of Islam, while others deliberately slander the religion even after they know the truth. Allah the Almighty said:
“They are those who prevent people from the path of Allah, seeking to make it seem deviant, while they disbelieve in the Hereafter.” (Surah Al-A’araf, 7:45)
And Allah the Most High said:
“They are those who prefer the worldly life over the Hereafter and they prevent people from the path of Allah, seeking to make it seem deviant. Those have been led far astray.” (Surah Ibrahim, 14:3)
“YOU SHALL KNOW THEM BY THEIR WORDS.” (MATTHEW)
Servants of Allah! We should respond to these allegations with knowledge, good character, and wisdom in order to minimise their harmful impacts and to correct the understanding of those who have been intentionally misled.
My respected people! Anti-Muslim propagandists employ some dishonest methods to achieve their goals. They often cite from apocryphal Islamic writings, such as the works of history by At-Tabari and Ibn Ishaq. These books contain some strange or awkward narrations which are not considered authentic, even by those who narrated them. Anti-Muslim propagandists will cite these stories as if they are authentic in order to undermine Islam. However, these books are not authoritative because they contain many reports with incomplete chains of narration.
At-Tabari, for example, states clearly in the introduction to his history that he mentions narrations which are likely false, sometimes reprehensibly so, and he attributes these solely to their narrators. As a historian, he intended to document what people were narrating and, unlike Al-Bukhari and Muslim, his work was never intended to be a collection of authentic reports.
Imam At-Tabari says:
“The reader should know that with respect to all I have mentioned and made it a condition to set down in this writing of ours, I rely upon traditions and reports which I have transmitted and which I attribute to their transmitters. I rely only very exceptionally upon what is learned through rational arguments and deduced by internal thought processes. For no knowledge of history of men of the past and of recent men and events is attainable by those who were not able to observe them and did not live in their time, except through information and transmission provided by informants and transmitters. This cannot be brought out by reason or deduced by internal thought processes. This writing of mine may be found to contain some information, mentioned by us on the authority of certain men of the past, which the reader may disapprove of and the listener may find detestable, because he can find nothing sound and no real meaning in it. In such cases, he should know that such information has come not from us, but from those who transmitted it to us. We have merely reported it as it was reported to us.” (See Tarikh At-Tabari)
Likewise, Imam Ahmad warned us about what is narrated in some of the books of history and exegesis (tafsir). Many of these books contain inauthentic apocryphal material that anti-Muslim writers use against Islam.
Imam Ibn Taymiyyah says:
“Allah has provided evidence establishing the authenticity or lack thereof for the narrations that are necessary in matters of the religion. It is well-known that most of what is reported in books of exegesis is similar to what is reported in books of history and battles. For this reason, Imam Ahmad said that three matters are not reliable: exegesis, stories of battles, and history. These matters are narrated without a basis or chain of narration from those who omit narrators such as what is mentioned from Urwah ibn Az-Zubair, Ash-Sha’abi, Az-Zuhri, Musa ibn Uqbah, and Ibn Ishaq.” (See Majmu’ Al-Fatawa)
Aside from apocryphal writings, anti-Muslim propagandists will cite what is authentic from the Quran and Sunnah but without its proper context and interpretation, giving it a meaning other than its intended meaning.
Allah the Almighty said:
“Do you hope they will believe in you while a group among them hear the word of Allah, then they distorted its meaning after they understood while they were knowing?” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:75)
This verse is criticising some of the Jews who would change the meaning of the Torah even after they understood the intention of its verses. Yet, it is a general phenomenon that many people who are against the religion of Allah intend to change it with various methods of dishonest interpretation. In our case, many times the Quran and Sunnah are mistranslated or cited without proper context. For example, perhaps the most misunderstood verses in the Quran are the verses that permit warfare (Jihad). Some classical scholars referred to these as the “sword verses” by which they meant the sword as a symbol of justice, but anti-Muslim propagandists reinterpret the sword as a symbol of aggression instead. They cite the saying of Allah:
“When the sacred months have passed, then kill the idolaters wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush.” (Surah At-Tawba, 9:5)
From this half of the verse, they determine that Islam prescribes killing all non-Muslims simply for being non-Muslims, but they omit the remainder of the verse:
“But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give charity, let them go on their way. Verily, Allah is forgiving and merciful.” (Surah At-Tawba, 9:5)
The verse is referring to those who initiated aggression against the Muslim community, which is why they are called to repent and, if they do so, the war would be over. In the following verse, all they are required to do to end the war is to cease their aggression:
“If any one of the idolaters seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah. Then deliver him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.” (Surah At-Tawba, 9:6)
It is only by disregarding this context and the broader meaning of the passage that anti-Muslim propagandists can derive their distorted meaning.
M.A.S. Abdul-Halim, Professor of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, says:
“The main clause of the sentence, “kill the polytheists,” is singled out by some non-Muslims as representing the Islamic attitude to war. Even some Muslims takes this view and allege that this verse abrogated many other verses including, “There is no compulsion in religion,” (2:256) and even according to one solitary extremist, “Allah is forgiving and merciful.” This far-fetched interpretation isolates and de-contextualises a small part of a sentence and of a passage which gives many reasons for the order to fight such polytheists: they continually broke their agreements and aided others against the Muslims, they started hostilities against the Muslims, barred others from becoming Muslims, expelled them from the Noble Mosque and even from their own homes. At least eight times the passage mentions the misdeeds of these people against the Muslims. Moreover, consistent with the restriction of war elsewhere in the Quran, the immediate context of this “sword verse” exempts such polytheists who do not break their agreements and who keep peace with Muslims. It orders that those enemies seeking safe conduct should be protected and delivered to the place of safety they seek. The whole of this context to verse 9:5, with all its restrictions, is ignored by those who simply isolate one part of a sentence to build on it their theory of violence in Islam.” (See The Qur’an, English translation and parallel Arabic text)
In a similar manner, anti-Muslim propagandists cite some verses of the Quran in order make Islam appear as if it is cruel to women. They cite the saying of Allah:
“But those wives from whom you fear arrogance, first advise them, then if they persist forsake them in bed, and finally strike them. But if they obey you, seek no means against them.” (Surah An-Nisa, 4:34)
They will translate the word “strike” as “beat” as if the verse gives men permission to harm their wives, but the commentators of the Quran agreed that the “striking” here should be without severity (Ghairu mubarrih). This striking is not meant to harm the wife, but rather it is a teaching mechanism intended to direct her attention to the severity of her misdeeds. For this reason, Ar-Razi said:
“It should be a striking with a folded handkerchief or his palm, and he should not strike her with whips or clubs.” (See Tafsir Ar-Razi, 4:34)
Brothers and sisters! These two issues, warfare and women, are commonly used to demonise Islam and Muslims. As a result, we need to respond with what the Quran and Sunnah really teach about warfare and women.
Regarding warfare, Allah has prescribed it as a means of self-defense and only as a last resort when all peaceful measures have failed. Allah said:
“If they incline to peace, then incline to it also and trust in Allah. Verily, He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” (Surah Al-Anfal, 8:61)
Ali ibn Abi Talib reported that: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Verily, after me there will be conflicts or affairs, so if you are able to end them in peace then do so.” (See Musnad Imam Ahmad)
And regarding women, Allah has commanded men to treat them with kindness and the Prophet said the best men are those who are best to women.
And Allah said:
“Live with them in kindness.” (Surah An-Nisa, 4:19)
Abu Hurairah reported that: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“The most complete of the believers in faith are those with the best character, and the best of you are the best in behaviour to their women.” (See Sunan At-Tirmidhi)
Respected Brothers and sisters! Anti-Muslim propagandists will attempt to perform publicity stunts in hopes that Muslims will react negatively with bad behaviour or even violence. We witnessed such events when some people publicised their intention to burn the Quran or to produce an anti-Muslim film slandering the Prophet.
Or you may hear some Anti-Muslim propagandists accusing you and lying against you without shame that you want to Islamise the county (Nigeria), or you are preparing to launch Jihad on them, or you (Muslims) are supporting terrorist and criminal’s groups against them, which are all false, malicious, deceptive, baseless, provocative, bogus, concocted, cooked-up, imaginary, misleading, off the mark, sham, unfounded, awful, bad-natured, rancorous, venomous, reasonless and unjustifiable.
Indeed, it is the plot of Satan to incite the believers to commit injustice. Satan has given up that those who pray will ever worship him, so instead he intends to exploit their anger.
Jabir ibn Abdullah reported that: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Verily, Satan has despaired of getting those who perform prayer to worship him, but rather he incites discord between them.” (See Sunan At-Tirmidhi)
Servants of Allah! When Muslims react negatively to such events, they are in fact being used by Satan. Such misbehaviour by Muslims will give them (Anti-Muslim Propagandists) a powerful weapon to use against Islam. Rather, in such cases, Allah has called upon us to be patient with those who criticize us, abuse us and our religion.
Allah the Most High said:
“You will surely hear much abuse from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) before you and from those who associate others with Allah. But if you are patient and fear Allah, verily, that is of the matters worthy of determination.” (Surah Ali Imran, 3:186)
Likewise, Allah has called upon us to forgive those who misrepresent our religion and not to seek revenge against them.
Allah the Almighty said:
“Say to those who believe that they should forgive those who expect not the days of Allah, as it is for Him to recompense people for what they have earned.” (Surah Al-Jathiyah, 45:14)
Therefore, the best way to respond to anti-Muslim propaganda is with knowledge of our scriptures and the good character of the Prophets. If we can respond positively in this way, we can minimise their harmful impact and further increase ourselves in good deeds.
My people! Islam and Muslims are being attacked today from several angles, within and without, just as it was when it was first revealed. Believers have a collective duty to respond to these attacks, for the sake of the community and to protect the faith of each individual. However, the real test is in how we respond to attacks, especially those that are particularly vicious.
The proper response to attacks on Islam begins with a good intention in two respects:
1. to respond for the sake of Allah and seeking his approval.
2. To respond with the intention to guide others to the ways of goodness and to make them understand the truth.
Brothers and sisters! Too often some Muslims respond to hateful attacks with more hatred, which only continues the cycle of vengeance. Rather, we must intend by our responses to guide and benefit the very people who launched the attacks in the first place.
Imam Ibn Taymiyyah says:
“They desire goodness for them, and for this reason whoever punishes people for sins should intend by that goodness and mercy for them, as a father intends discipline for his child or as a doctor intends treatment for a patient… Likewise in responding to the people of innovation among rejecters and others, if its intention is not to clarify the truth, guide the creation, and offer them mercy and goodness, then it is not a righteous deed. If he is harsh in condemning innovation and disobedience, his intention should be to clarify what is in them of corruption and to warn the servants of Allah, as in the texts (verses) of warning and others. A man may be boycotted as a discretionary punishment, and the objective of that is to deter him and those like him as an act of mercy and goodness, not as revenge and vengeance.” (See Minhaj al-Sunnah, 5/237)
Indeed, just as a doctor must sometimes supply bitter medicine to save his patient, Muslims should remember that those who attack Islam and Muslims are people suffering from confusion or spiritual diseases, so the response should be an appropriate remedy. The key point is to avoid the lust for vengeance and the desire to harm others.
A benevolent intention is, in fact, the key to winning the hearts and minds to Islam. The purpose is not to destroy an opponent, but rather to see them arrive at the truth. Insulting and offensive language only makes Islam look worse in their eyes, not to mention that Allah strongly disapproves of it.
Imam Hatim Al-Asam, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
“I have three traits that give me an advantage over my adversary. I rejoice when he is correct, I am saddened when he is wrong, and I guard myself from insulting him.” (See Tarikh Baghdad, 9/149)
Brothers and sisters! A helpful technique for maintaining a pure intention is to imagine yourself in the place of your opponents. What if you had been born into their lives? Would you act the same way? Doing so makes it much easier to prevent ourselves from transgressing against them in violation of Islamic manners. In short, we must treat them the way we would like to be treated if we were them.
Imam Ibn Hazm says:
“Whoever intends justice, then let him imagine himself in the place of his adversary, for he will be shown the manner of his own abuse.” (See al-Akhlaq wal-Siyar, 1/82)
In that case, we would never accept for ourselves to be the target of hatred and malice. How could we then respond in the same way? True hatred for the sake of Allah does not mean to desire harm for unbelievers. Instead, noble hatred is to hate specific sins and evil in the abstract. We hate the sins of the sinners, but we love goodness for them of guidance, repentance, and forgiveness.
Azim Abadi says:
“That he hates for the sake of Allah does not mean he harms the one he hates. Rather, the hatred is for his unbelief, attack and disobedience.”! (See Awn al-Ma’bud)
Moreover, not every Muslim must respond to every attack against Islam and Muslims. Only those who have knowledge and good manners should do so, as it is only a collective obligation. If some Muslims respond in a graceful way, others need not do so.
Good manners is, in reality, one of the most important aspects of responding to attacks against Islam and Muslims. Not only should we know what we are talking about, but we must behave like true believers. This means to respond to attacks against Islam with erudition, kindness, and forbearance. Our manners often speak louder than our words.
Imam Ibn Taimiyyah says:
“Thus, there are three necessary qualities: knowledge, gentleness, and patience. Knowledge is before commanding and prohibiting, gentleness is during it, and patience is after it… There is no commanding good or forbidding evil unless he understands what he commands and prohibits, he is gentle in what he commands and prohibits, and he is forbearing in what he commands and prohibits.” (See al-Amr bil Ma’ruf, 1/20-21)
Finally, it is best to begin with inspiring hope and interest in Islam (Targhib), instead of inspiring fear and aversion (Tarhib). Fear and hope are both important aspects of preaching Islam, but it is hope that brings people towards Allah. Fear will move people away from sins, which is good, but it does not bring people to Allah in the first place. Hence, whenever appropriate, we should focus our responses on inspiring hope and only appeal to fear when needed. If a person’s verbal attacks against Islam and Muslims are so vicious, they can be boycotted as a last resort, but only with the intention of guiding them to stop such behaviour.
Imam Al-San’ani says:
“The unbeliever should be shown Islam and his interest in it is aroused with gentleness. The sinner should be admonished by what is appropriate with gentleness, his faults are concealed, and he is prohibited with gentleness, if it is beneficial. Otherwise, he is boycotted, intending by that to discipline him, along with informing him of the reason that he might cease his sin.” (See Subul al-Salam, 2/643)
In sum, the proper response to attacks on Islam and Muslims must start with the intention to benefit those who have lost their way. Many attacks on Islam are based upon misinformation, ignorance or confusion, and patient and kindness from knowledgeable Muslims can go a long way in correcting these misunderstanding. Even when attacks against Islam are savage and insidious, we must never return hatred with more hatred, falsehood with more falsehood. Sometimes the proper response is to boycott people for their bad behaviour, but even then we should not give up hope that one day they will see the light.
Lastly, I ask Allah the Almighty to assist us in living by the Quran and Sunnah. I pray that He lets us recognise the truth for what it is and helps us to follow it, and that He lets us see falsehood for what it is and helps us to avoid it.
O Allah! Guide us and protect us from the causes of ignorance and destruction! Save us from the defects of ourselves! Cause the last of our deeds to be the best and most righteous! And forgive all of us. Ameen Yaa Rabb!
My respected people! Anything good I have said in my today’s Khutbah (Sermon) is from Allah the Almighty, and any mistakes are my own and we seek refuge in Allah from giving wrong advice and from all forms of calamities and fitnah. And I ask Allah’s forgiveness if I stepped beyond bounds in anything I said or I do.
May Allah be praised; and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger Muhammad and upon his family and Companions.
With this I conclude my Khutbah (Sermon) and ask Allah, the Almighty and the sublime, to forgive all of our sins. So seek his forgiveness, He is all forgiving Most Merciful.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Shawwal 27, 1438 A.H. (July 21, 2017), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and late Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene Kogi State Nigeria. He can be reached through: +2348038289761.