The Prophetic Model of Tolerance & Mercy in Today’s Intolerant World

In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful

Islam is an oft misunderstood religion, and it is well known that people often fear what they don’t understand.  Not understanding one another’s beliefs may have been excusable in the middle ages when there was no internet or library on every corner like there is today.  Today, however, the world is much more interconnected.  If one has been blessed to have access to education, to a library, or to the internet – the excuses for not having at least a basic understanding of the major belief systems of the world diminish rather quickly if one is honest with themselves.

Islam is widely said to have been founded by the holy Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).  Allah is an arabic word that translates into “God” and literally translates into “the God” in arabic.  In fact, Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was the last and seal of prophets of divine revelation that included Abraham, Jesus, and Moses, (Upon all of whom may Allah shower His peace and blessings) to name a few.  The Quran is the last of the holy books of revelation from Allah that included the original Torah and the original gospel of Jesus, and was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) through the angel Jibreel (Gabriel).  Islam teaches that all the messengers of Allah are brothers to one another.  Of the messengers of Allah, it says in the Quran in Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 285 that:

“We make no distinction between any of His messengers.”

Although in one sense there is an egalitarianism that all messengers share, each messenger of Allah had his own special qualities.  Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) possessed the special quality of mercy.  His actions, speech, and mannerisms embodied the divine attribute of mercy. Regarding Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Allah says in the Holy Quran, Surah Al-Anbiyaa, verse 107: “And We have not sent you forth but as a mercy to mankind.”  Entire compendiums have been written on the subject of Prophet Muhammad’s mercy (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), but this writer would like to share one such instance.

Prophet Muhammad’s Stoning at Ta’if

In the year 619, after what is traditionally known as the Year of Sorrow due to the passing of two of the closest family members of the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): Khadijah and Abu Talib (May Allah have mercy on them both), Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) travelled to the city of Ta’if to spread the message of Islam.  Upon reaching Ta’if, he was greeted with stones by the people of the city, perhaps due to their loyalty to the fiercely pagan Meccans.  When the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was leaving the city, bloodied and beaten, the Archangel Jibreel (Gabriel) came to Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said that if the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) wished he would topple a mountain over the city of Ta’if.  The Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) declined and instead prayed for the people of Ta’if, saying:

O Allah, To Thee I complain of my weakness, my lack of resources and my lowliness before men.
O most Merciful! Thou art the Lord of the weak and Thou art my Lord. To whom wilt Thou relinquish my fate! To one who will misuse me? Or to an enemy to whom Thou hast given power over me? If Thou art not angry with me then I care not what happens to me. Thy favor is all that counts for me.

I take refuge in the light of Thy countenance, by which all darkness is illuminated. And the things of this world and next are rightly ordered. I wish to please Thee until Thou art pleased. There is no power and no might save in Thee.

For a beautiful explanation of this incident and dua, please watch Shaykh Hamza Yusuf as he explains the dua below:

Tolerance and Mercy as The Prophetic Example

The above example is just one of many instances in which the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) set an example for his followers of tolerance and mercy.  The best way to honor someone you love is to uphold what they stood for in your own actions with honor and dignity.  If someone, in person or on the internet, calls me a name – does it make me so merely by their saying I am such?  Of course not.  In the same vein, if someone states a falsehood about the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) it does not make it so merely because they say it is such.  To engage in dialogue is the way of civility and the way of the Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).  In The Holy Quran, Surah Al-Nahl, Verse 125, Allah states: “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way.”  To take out one’s anger for the intentionally provocative actions of an individual party on the embassy of a nation is to fly in the face of logic, laws, and religion.  To murder an innocent is the worst crime one can commit.  Allah says in The Holy Quran, Surah Maidah, Verse 32: “[W]hoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.”

In short, certain groups should stop being ignorant and insulting entire swathes of the world’s religious communities for their own political and personal gain, and certain religious communities should be tolerant enough of people’s freedom of speech that they don’t react violently every time some drug addicted, convicted con-artist makes a poor quality Youtube video insulting their religious beliefs.  How sad when the actions of those who claim to be defending the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) actually denigrate him and his beautiful message.

Disclaimer: The demonstrations at U.S. embassies throughout the world were portrayed in the media as being in response to a video that insulted and told lies about the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).  It is understood that the causes and reasons behind these demonstrations may vary and have political depth to them that is not addressed by popular media.  In no way does this writer hold himself out to be a scholar/expert in religion or world events.  The opinions expressed herein are solely that of the writers and do not explicitly or implicitly represent that of any individual or group.  ICNA and ISNA have denounced violence that has recently occurred.  This post is merely a reflection of one Muslim’s limited perspective on the prophetic model of tolerance and mercy as applied to his limited understanding of recent events.   Anything correct stated herein is due solely to the grace of Allah, and any mistakes are that of the writer for which he seeks divine pardon from The Most Merciful.
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