By Duston Barto
“You will surely be tested in your possessions and in yourselves. And you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient and fear Allah – indeed, that is of the matters [worthy] of determination.” Qur’an 3:186
In recent issues of the magazine, we’ve addressed the topic of dawah and interfaith. We’ve interviewed Imams who are passionate about propagating Islam and sharing the wisdom of Allah(SWT) and His Messenger (SAWS) with the world. However, we have to address the ongoing war of ideology that is battering Muslims from all areas here in America.
Muslim-Americans cannot go more than a few days without being confronted with anti-Muslim or anti-Islamic rhetoric via the media, people in the community or even friends and family members. Often it can be challenging to address certain concepts without preparation. Insh’allah, our goal with this article is to provide key talking points that will help disarm certain arguments and disprove others.
Before we get into point-by-point analysis; first of all we have to consider the conduct and etiquette of Rasoulullah (SAWS) when he dealt with people who spoke against him and his message. When people insulted him, pelted him with rocks and threw garbage at his door he responded with patience and continued providing knowledge and wisdom until they came to love Islam through his actions. While we may not be strengthened in the same way that Muhammad (SAWS) was, we can be resolute to live by his example. If someone is going beyond bounds and is being foul, cursing or being verbally abusive then you have no obligation to respond to an assault like that. Instead, I suggest that you try to get the individual to calm down by saying “Excuse me, I would like to discuss this with you. Please be as respectful to me as you would like me to be respectful to you about your religion.” If that doesn’t work then find a way to leave, do not engage someone who will not entertain a rational discussion because nothing good will come out of it.
“The believers are nothing else than brothers to each other. So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.” Holy Quran 49:10
We are compelled by Allah to fix relationships among the people of the book who are believers like us. When a Christian or Jew in our community has negative views on Muslims then it is our duty to correct those views so that we can realize the brotherhood of faith that Allah commands us to sustain. As we have mentioned in the dawah articles, beginning with friendly invitations are always the best and bridging differences by building on similarities goes a long way to eliminate hate.
However, we must address harsh comments and questions that are fired at us. What follows is a series of topics, comments or direct questions which are commonly heard in anti-Muslim rhetoric along with some simple, straightforward statements that you can make to disarm or defeat them and the logic behind those statements.
- Did Muhammad marry a child?
The anti-Muslim crowd loves to make blanket statements about Aishah (RA) without understanding. There are several points here to address: Firstly to always refer to Aishah (RA) with respect when addressing this issue to anti-Muslims. By saying “Our Mother Aishah…” before addressing facts it is expressing the deep love that we have for the wife of our beloved Prophet (SAWS). Secondly, most historical accounts place their marriage and consummation when Aishah (RA) was about 14 years of age. This is not at all unusual and logically one must recognize that this was even common in America until about a hundred years ago. In fact, there are many elderly women today whom you could likely interview who were married as Christians at age 14! Thirdly, her age is not relevant because the wisdom of Allah (SWT) bringing Aishah (RA) into the marriage of Muhammad (SAWS) allowed her to become the first scholar of Islam. Aishah (RA) had an impeccable memory and it is through the hadith transmitted via Our Mother Aishah (RA) that we are able to see so much of the example of a gentle and loving husband that Muhammad (SAWS) was and how he never physically harmed or verbally abused his wives.
- Why do you kill people who leave Islam?
There is a big misconception that anyone who leaves Islam must be killed; that all people who leave Islam are apostates. However, apostasy is not merely leaving Islam; rather it is leaving a community of Muslims and then using information about the community to lead enemies in an attack which seriously harms the community. Therefore, the best definition of an apostate is not someone who leaves the religion; rather it is a traitor. In American law, treason is punishable by death, why should it be any different under other laws?
- What about the verses that tells you to kill non-Muslims?
When I encounter people who accuse me of wanting to kill them because they are not Muslim I respond “Why? Are you threatening me? Are you planning to attack me or try to kill me family? Because all those verses you’re talking about are referring to defensive fighting!”
Of the entire list, this one is the easiest to address. All you have to do is look at the verse in context and the solution reveals itself. Invite the accuser to sit down with you. You could say “Well, that’s a good question. Let’s sit down together with the Qur’an and look at those verses.” Then you will be making the individual part of the discovery process which reinforces information and will make a lasting impression.
- What about the torture of soldiers and beheading of reporters?
Just like all religions, there are many people who claim to follow it but do not practice it. The reality is that torture is explicitly prohibited by the ethics that Muhammad (SAWS) taught. Muhammad clearly expressed the displeasure that Allah (SWT) takes in seeing torture as he said “Allah tortures those who torture the people in this life” (classified as Sahih by Imam Muslim). Notice that there is no exception or exclusion in this hadith, indicating that there is never an appropriate time or place for torture to be acceptable in the eyes of Allah (SWT). Regarding the death of innocents, even in times of war our beloved Prophet was adamant. In Malik’s Muwatta it is recorded that Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) said “I advise you ten things: Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.” Likewise, Allah (SWT) declares in the Qur’an “Whoever kills a human being for other than restitution for murder or for spreading corruption on the earth, it shall be as though he had killed all of mankind, and whoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” (5:32). Therefore, any Muslim who kills an innocent, even if the fight is a righteous fight, is guilty of murder.
- What is Shariah law and why do you want it in America?
Don’t worry about the scholarly representation of Shariah, that’s not important to these folks at all; instead, break it down into very simple terms. I like to say “Shariah is basically just a framework of applying Islam from the Qur’an and Hadith into everyday life for a Muslim.” Then I explain that it covers every aspect of worship from how to pray to what we wear and how we wash ourselves, etc. Then I summarize two major points “The biggest thing about Shariah is that it really only applies to Muslims. Taking Shariah away from Muslims is basically the same as telling Christians and Jews that they can’t have the Ten Commandments anymore.” That comparison is probably the most accurate and immediately helps even the least educated person understand.
There are many other points that could be addressed; these tend to be the most common. One other that I have dealt with frequently is the accusation of taqiyyah. Ironically enough, I had been Muslim for almost a decade before I even encountered the expression of taqiyyah and it was from anti-Muslim bigots. Once again, the disarming phrase I use is “Why, are you threatening my life? I ask because taqiyyah (denial of one’s religion or lying about aspects of the religion) is only used when one’s life is at risk.” Don’t bother with explaining about it being a Shia practice and then having to explain Shia versus Sunni ideology. None of that will matter to them.
Most important in all of these situations is that when you are dealing with anti-Muslim rhetoric there should only be two goals: 1) to show that the comments are ignorant 2) to address the core issue in a way that is simple and direct. Your goals are not to convince them that Islam is the right path; your only mission is to de-fuse the hate and fear so that the next encounter will leave them open to the love and peace of Islam.
Above all things, answer everything with truth to the best of your knowledge and do not fear the truth of Islam because Allah has promised us in the Qur’an “We hurl the Truth against falsehood, and it knocks out its brain, and behold, falsehood doth perish!” (21:18)