Two years ago, cartoons caricaturing Prophet Muhammad appeared in a Danish newspaper, sparking riots and protests throughout much of the Muslim World.
Last week, Danish authorities arrested three people for alleged involvement in a murder plot against one of the cartoonists behind these infamous drawings.
In retaliation for the “terror-related assassination” attempt, 17 major newspapers in Denmark reprinted the caricatures, wounding the sensibilities of over 1.3 billion Muslims who revere the Prophet of Islam as the final messenger of the Creator to humankind.
In February, 2006, a professor in one of my classes at CSU began to display the 12 notorious cartoons one by one. Some of my classmates chuckled, others laughed hysterically. I felt very despondent, hurt and alone.
Much to the astonishment of the professor and students, my voice quavered with emotion as I spoke to them about respecting what others hold sacred. Collegian reporter Brandon Lowrey described me as “still teary-eyed just after 2 p.m., when class let out.”
Since people naturally tend to build barriers of fear and prejudice between themselves and matters about which they lack knowledge, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly speak about some aspects of the life of Prophet Muhammad.
Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah al-Qurashi was born in 570 C.E. in Mecca, Arabia, in a society beset with paganism and multiple social evils.
During his young manhood, Muhammad was known for his absolute truthfulness and for his wisdom in resolving conflicts that otherwise would have resulted in decades of tribal combat.
At the age of 40, while Muhammad was in seclusion in a cave near Mecca, he was visited by the archangel Gabriel, who transmitted to him the first of numerous revelations from God, which continued until the end of his life at age 63. There can be no greater testimonial to the excellence of his character than the first few comforting words spoken by his wife when he reported to her what he had experienced.
“Do not worry. By God, He would never leave you, for you are good to your relatives, you are true to your word, you help those who are in need, you support the weak, [and] you feed the guest,” she said.
After the proclamation of his mission, calling to the Oneness of God, his people received him with antagonism and wars. Yet, his forbearance in victory was noteworthy. During the battle of Uhud, his most beloved uncle and friends were killed; the Prophet himself suffered broken teeth and wounds. Angered by these occurrences, the Prophet’s companions asked him to pray against the enemy.
He replied, “I have not been sent to damn people. I have been sent as a caller [to faith] and a mercy. O God, forgive my people, for they know no better.”
And after the peaceful conquest of Mecca, he forgave and freed the Quraish, who had long oppressed him and his followers, with the words, “Go; you are all free.”
Prophet Muhammad taught his followers to treat women and people of other beliefs and cultures with respect and kindness. In his last sermon, among many other matters, he said, “Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed supporters.”
And in an attempt to eradicate all forms of discrimination that sabotage freedom and equality, he once said, “All humankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab, and a white person has no superiority over a black one nor does a black one have any superiority over a white one except through piety and good action.”
Muhammad’s impact on human history throughout the fifteen hundred years since he passed away has been profound beyond description.
Concerning him, Michael Hart, the author of The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, wrote, “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 level.”
In conclusion, let me cite an injunction of the Prophet that is much needed in today’s troubled world: “Show mercy to those who are on Earth, and the One who is in heaven will show mercy to you.”
Let’s take this profound prophetic message out to the world and implement it for the sake of those whose lives have been torn apart by wars, famine and natural disasters.
Zaki Safar is a senior electrical engineering major and the president of the Muslim Student Association. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.