By: Rabiah Gul, Naima Ismail, We’am Hussain, Anam Hussain and Fatema Albaloosh (member of Muslim Student Association)
Editor’s Note: This article is a collaboration of several members of the Muslim Student Association: Rabiah Gul, Naima Ismail, We’am Hussain, Anam Hussain and Fatema Albalooshi.
“Who is Muhammad?” has been a recent inquiry that has dominated social media platforms. From the controversial events in France involving Charlie Hebdo’s satirical weekly magazine featuring unfiltered and highly offensive cartoons published in 2006 to the appalling shootings of innocent people working for the magazine in 2015, people have been bombarded with nearly paradoxical views and highly contrasting perspectives of who Muhammad is—essentially questioning whether or not he was a prophet of peace.
While these recent terroristic events are reprehensible and sickening, Muslims all around the world created an opportunity to emphasize how terrorism does not have an Islamic origin. Muslims have redefined the narrative and redirected the attention to “Who is Muhammad?” Thousands upon thousands of Muslims have used the hashtag “Who is Muhammad” to raise awareness of the peaceful reality of the Prophet Muhammad and Islam. This hashtag became a worldwide trend and a brilliant educational opportunity.
Curiosity about the Prophet Muhammad increased when many individuals observed how nearly all Muslims were insulted and dismayed by the cartoons, which others perceived to be benign illustrations. People who observed the incident did not grasp the complexities of why this man, loved profoundly by more than 1.6 billion people in the world, was such a big deal. To understand his influence, we must step back and begin with his history and moral perspective.
He was a man of humble beginnings and an orphan since age six. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH—standing for Peace Be Upon Him, as a title of respect) was given the designation “the most truthful” from even before his Prophethood due to his moral character and compassion.
He was known to be a mercy to all creations, and his teachings and actions resonate in nearly all places—the U.S. Supreme Court has a plaque honoring the Prophet saying, “Prophet Muhammad honored by U.S. Supreme Court as one of the greatest lawgivers of the world in 1935.”
Moreover, Michael Hart, the author of the famous “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History” ranked the Prophet Muhammad as No. 1, stating “My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels. Of humble origins, Muhammad founded and promulgated one of the world’s great religions and became an immensely effective political leader.”
While people may be shocked at this distinction, understanding Muhammad’s teachings may lead to clarity as to why. The Prophet Muhammad once said, “The strong person is not the one who can wrestle someone else down. The strong person is the one who can control himself when he is angry.” He also stated that “Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.” The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was an exemplar of kindness and peace.
Although the media portrays a small minority of individuals who claim otherwise, mainstream Islamic scholars and a majority of Muslims and Muslim organizations have condemned these acts of violence. Muslims recognize that the terroristic response to Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons do not reflect Islam and the Prophet’s teachings.
An example from the Prophet’s own life comes from when he started preaching publicly; he faced many tribulations and opposition. In fact, his own tribe, the “Quraysh,” was angered by the spread of Islam, and they sought to defame him by calling him “Mudhammam,” which in Arabic translates to meaning “shameful.” When the companions of the Prophet heard this, they were very disturbed, but the Prophet calmly appeased them saying, “Is it not wondrous how God turns me away from the insults of the Quraysh? They insult Mudhammam, whereas I am Muhammad!” He viewed the taunts that others threw at him as a light hearted excuse, and did not take it to heart. After all, he knew that his worth was not defined by what others called him.
Educated individuals, of all faiths and doctrines, respect the immense changes in the world that were brought on by the Prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims have whole-heartedly condemned the Paris attacks as we speak out for harmony and justice. After all, God commands us in the Quran to “Be maintainers of justice and bearers of true witness for God, even if the truth goes against your own selves or parents or relatives or someone who is rich or poor” (4:135). Therefore, we encourage education and awareness about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his role and influence on Muslims in order to eradicate stereotypes. Ultimately this knowledge will help to bridge gaps of misunderstandings and increase respect, cooperation, and most importantly, peace.