By Jerrmein Abu Shahba
It is unfortunate for us to receive the most recent news that gunmen terrorists have attacked the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 12 people including the editor and celebrated cartoonist who caricatured the Holy Prophet (SA). It is the deadliest terror attack in France since 1961 during the Algerian war. In fact this is not the first time that such act of violence take place. In 2011, the satirical publication was firebombed after naming the Prophet Muhammad as its “editor-in-chief”. The cartoon controversy began after 12 editorial cartoons, most of which depicted the Holy Prophet Muhammad, were published in a Danish newspaper in 2005. Muslim groups in Denmark complained, and the issue eventually led to protests around the world, including violent demonstrations and riots in some Muslim countries.
What happened recently with the Paris attacks was announced to be in retaliation to the derogatory cartoons that were drawn about the Prophet (SA). Witnesses to the massacre have said the attackers claimed allegiance to al-Qaida in Yemen, and on videos they were heard saying they were avenging the prophet.
The question that we as Muslims must ask ourselves today – are these actions of aggression condoned by Islam and approved by the Holy Prophet (SA)? Is it permissible to kill another human being due to anger or even if injustice was committed by that person on us? It is known by all Muslims that Prophet Muhammad (SA) was the exemplar of good manners and moral and the Almighty Creator has praised him in the Holy Quran by declaring: “Indeed in the (Prophetic) Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example for him whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” [33:21] The divine declaration of the Prophet’s excellent conduct and manner is depicted in this verse, “And most surely, you have an exalted moral character”. [68:4]
Do we think that the Prophet (SA) himself would approve of the acts of aggression that took place recently in Paris, even if it is with the intention of seeking retaliation for him? After all, the Prophet (SA) was sent as a mercy to all of mankind and he is the example of the best of manners and conduct. Do the best of manners equate to killing human beings and taking their lives? Absolutely not! The Almighty Creator has advised us that even if people do evil to us, we do not respond with the same evil, rather we do good to them, lest they become guided. “And do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.” [5:8]
The shooting of artists, satirists, journalists, heck, the shooting of any human being, is an atrocity that stands as its own condemnation. For those who think that they have avenged the honor of the Prophet, in fact they have done the opposite by sullying the reputation of Islam and the Muslims and misrepresenting the religion. They have done more damage than the damage which the cartoons have caused! The Prophet (SA) is not in need of their so-called act of defense or revenge by those who are ignorant and unwise. These are not people who follow Islam or represent it. They are people who are trying to further their own political agenda while hiding behind religion.
We as Muslims should be very careful and cautious not to exceed the boundaries of legitimacy by converting our energy and passion to uncontrolled rage which creates havoc and ends the lives of innocent people. Observing wisdom and discretion is the best policy while speaking out the truth and defending our precious divine symbols and personalities to the fullest capacity. We are to be reminded of Allah’s prescription that “Whoever kills a soul, it is as if he had slain mankind entirely.” [5:32]
The Prophet (SA) seeks with those who follow and obey the commands of the religion which he brought forth. He yearns for those who exemplify good manners, ethics, and behavior. If the shooters were sincere in their intention to defend the Prophet, they could start by studying his life and teachings where they would see clearly that Prophet Muhammad actually responded to those who had persecuted him through forgiveness and mercy. He is further pleased by those Muslims who love, support, and abide by the teachings of his AhlulBayt and the members of his Household whom Allah (SWT) selected, appointed, and purified. As Allah (SWT) declared on the Quran in the words of the Prophet, “Say (O Muhammad) ‘I do not ask for any recompense (for my work as a messenger), except the love of my near relatives (AhlulBayt) [42:23]