Notes on the Cartoon Controversy

Notes on the Cartoon Controversy
A Call To Maturity and Self-Determination

Its OK to be upset. Its not OK to act on it by doing things the Prophet would never do, in speech or by the hand.

So it’s happened again. They decided to republish the cartoons. Perhaps it is because they want to re-emphasize their opinions on the character and personality of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). Maybe because they wish to provoke more reactionary Muslims into random acts of violence or demonstration. Maybe…just to show the world that they can, and stand proud in the gleaming light of free speech.

Anyone with a sense of justice can see that the apathetic Western reaction to these cartoons – full of hate and vitriolic sentiment targeted against the heritage, culture, and beliefs of over a fifth of humanity, is unjust – when compared to the resistance such cartoons would be met with if they were targeted at other groups.

The Muslims wonder why our community can be insulted, and threatened with deportation, our holy cities threatened with nuclear weapons by a U.S. Presidential candidate (Tom Tancredo), and our most sacred figures reviled? But if a whisper is raised against any other community – if a comedian goes off on a racist tirade using the N-word, or an award winning actor and director makes anti-semitic comments in a state of drunkenness – the entire Western world rises to say: “We will not tolerate your intolerance. We are better than your hate.” But when Muslims are lambasted across the country on conservative radio shows, urging violence against them, deportation, whole-scale attacks against their countries and forced conversion to Christianity……we hear no civilized response against the unholy right-wing war talk. When a mosque is burned down by a white-supremacist group in Columbia, TN, it does not even make the news. When the enlightened West is met with comments which declare “The Other” as inferior…..there is a complicit silence.

Muslims need to realize three things:

1. Do not be surprised or shocked, emotionally, or intellectually, that this is happening.

“…[They] will never be pleased with you until you follow their religion. Say: Surely God’s guidance, that is the (true) guidance. And if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have no guardian from God, nor any helper.” (2:120)

When your Lord tells you that a group will NEVER be pleased with you, satisfied with you, or happy with you, until you follow their way, it behooves the Muslim to accept it as a fact. The continuous begging and pleading Muslims who yell: “Please don’t make fun of us! Please don’t ridicule us! We are people just like you! Please be impressed with our history!” is nothing short of pathetic – when you consider how the Muslim street mob goes to burn and attack their own streets in protest, as has happened in Pakistan, and many places all over the Muslim world. A political cartoon painting Islam as violent – followed up by Muslims…acting violent, burning things.

It is time for the Muslim to realize that the actions of a person who makes fun of the Prophet(saw), or even goes so far as to insult or ridicule God himself, is responsible for his or her own deeds. He or she will be held responsible for what they draw, say, or write on the Day of Judgment. It is not up to us to legislate against them in this world when they are living in their own countries, nor to beg powerlessly that they cease and desist their activities.

Should we defend our Prophet? Yes. Through teaching people who he was and spreading the Truth. But, It is time for us to stop being so emotionally surprised when Islamophobes insult Islam. They don’t believe in your Prophet. Or your religion. And they don’t like either of them, or you. We should grow up and deal with it. The Quran is preparing us for this reality with the verse above.

So let us be prepared.

2. If you are going to respond, respond in the manner of the Prophetic Sunnah (Tradition) which we are claiming to defend.

“And the servants of God . . . are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say ‘Peace'” [25:63]

Realize that the Islamophobes have the right to say or write whatever they want. They do. And no one will stop them. Your complaints will make them happier. They are not in a Muslim country. Our response should be a response fitting the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw) which we claim to defend so staunchly.

When some enemies of Islam once walked by the Prophet (saw) in Madinah, they said to him, “As-Sa’mu Alaikum” (Death be upon you), trying to slyly make it sound like “Assalamu-Alaikum” (Peace be upon you). They didn’t write against him, draw against him – they spoke directly to him. He, with the calm demeanor of prophethood, simply responded – “Wa alaikum”, and upon you. He did not escalate or insult – he responded by reflecting their greeting, without mentioning anything negative himself or lowering his noble speech.

“And you [Oh Prophet] are upon the noblest of character.” (64:4)

His wife ‘Aisha, who out of her love for him, acted in a way many Muslims today do and yelled: “May the curse of God be upon you, and his punishment, and his…!”

The Prophet (saw) stopped her saying: “Calm down oh Aisha, calm down. There is not gentleness in anything, except that it becomes more beautiful, and there is not harshness in anything except that it makes it ugly. So be calm oh Aisha.”

This exemplifies the Prophetic response. Calmness. Tranquility. Humility. He was active in spreading the message with “wisdom and beautiful preaching” with enthusiasm, vigor and strength, but he did not let insults take over his greatness. He engaged with those around him to teach them about God, and teach them about how to live their lives to the fullest. A model citizen. A good neighbor. A fortress of justice. An honest friend. A helper of the needy. A Messenger of God. This was his response. More than that, this was his driving mission.

“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching.” [Sûrah al-Nahl: 125]

3. It is time to stop being dependent on others to present a good image of us. They have not and will never do so reliably, save a few fair-minded individuals. Self-determination in our message, our image, and our work, is the only answer. Your image is up to you.

Yet another incident, when the Makkans used to try to make fun of the Prophet by twisting his name because of its meaning being “The one deserving of praise” , and calling him Mudhammam (belittled one) – he simply smiled and said, “They are making fun of a man named Mudhammam, but I am Muhammad!”

Rather than worrying about these insults, he spent his time propagating his message. He spent his time building his community and ensuring that every man, woman, and child could hear about what he had to say and how to worship God and come close to Him. So rather than focusing on what they produce, draw, write, and say – what has each of us done to paint the proper picture of the Messenger (saw)? Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes are making millions painting a picture of a warlord and a “Prophet of Doom”. Why are we surprised when God (swt) told us it would happen, and more importantly, what have we done to spread a positive image of the Prophet actively?

Perhaps we are arguing about whether or not praying behind someone who eats McDonald’s is allowed. Or whether wiping over our leather socks is permissible. Or if music with more than a duff is makrooh or haram. Or maybe our mufti “saab” teaches that I shouldn’t talk about Islam, Quran, or the Prophet without being in his presence or even read a book without his stamp of approval, turning us to intellectual zombies, far from the example of the Sahaabah and the righteous predecessors. Maybe we are busy arguing about Tariqahs, Madhabs, Manhaj, Aqeedah, and other things which we have no understanding of beyond a few pamphlets and classes in our neighborhoods, and of course, the Internet.

I remember my father teaching me that when the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258, the ‘ulama and the their students were discussing whether or not it was permissible to eat crows. Unfortunately, it seems we have not learned.

It is time for the Muslim to be a self-determined, educated, citizen of humanity and of Islam. Someone who’s character aims to mirror the Prophetic character. It is time for the sisters to put down their mascara and their foundation, and the brothers to put down the Nintendo Wii and XBOX controllers, and stand up and become men and women, and stop being boys and girls. It is time for for them to become self-determined individuals, who understand that the honor of this Deen and its Ummah, can only be given by God, but they must work for it. God says:

“God will not change the condition of a people, until they change what is within themselves.” (13:11)

It is time for Muslims to stop burning flags, and start burning their desires.

Stop yelling in the streets against people who are overjoyed at your anger, and whisper to God who will become overjoyed at your prayer.

Stop breaking, burning, and screaming.
Start building, learning, and calling.


25 thoughts on “Notes on the Cartoon Controversy

  1. Yus from the Nati

    PS I think that mosque burning is in Columbia, TN not Columbus, OH unless there’s another mosque burning incident recently that I’m not aware of?

    PPS I used to go school in Columbus, that’s why it caught my eye.

  2. Pingback: » The Silent Treatment: What to do About the Danish Cartoons (Again!)?

  3. Tanveer

    Ustaad well said :-). Very detailed and the message is clear and crystal.

    It’s funny how much time is spent talking about this and how many angry arguments, opinions and decisions I have heard about this issue, but never people have thought it simple to “Act upon Quran and Sunnah” and leave a message stamped on their face.

    Jazakallah khair

  4. Azeem

    I believe they re-printed the cartoons as a response to the attempted plot to kill one of the cartoonists. I think that bit of information should warrant the Muslims to chastise their own first.

  5. Ammar


    I could not have said it better myself Brother. Preach on.

    Its time people understand that Free Speech is a good thing. Its gets conversation going.
    Afterall, the Prophet Muhammad could not have preached if he were not allowed to speak. The enemies of Islam have been trying since the begining of time to silence Islam’s TRUE message. We need to be proponents of free speech, even if that means people will have different opinions than us.

    Let Allah deal with them.

    to Azeem:

    I believe you are correct, some idiots were arrested for plotting to kill that cartoonists. That is outright WRONG. It is Anti-ISLAMIC. and attempted murders like that should be thrown in jail for a long time.

  6. Muhammad Ali

    Brother Abdul Sattar,

    May Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala give barakah in your knowledge and utilize your skills for the sake of Al-Islam, Aameen !

    There is nothing dearer to Allah than the deen, Al-Islam.

  7. Pingback: Notes on the Cartoon Controversy « Abu Usamah’s Weblog

  8. ayesha

    alhamdulilla, its awesome abdul. how we forget the simple ways of life taught to us by our prophet muhammed(pbuh) and indulge in all wrong ideas of showing our love towards our religion. your article is an eye-opener. may allah increase your knowledge many many folds that would in turn guide us too through your writings….

  9. x

    “Anyone with a sense of justice can see that the apathetic Western reaction to these cartoons – full of hate and vitriolic sentiment targeted against the heritage, culture, and beliefs of over a fifth of humanity, is unjust – when compared to the resistance such cartoons would be met with if they were targeted at other groups.”

    I refer you to the depictions of Christ in the cartoon series “South Park”, Serrano’s “Piss Christ”, and Ofili’s “Holy Virgin Mary”, daubed with actual elephant dung. A photo of the last appeared as an illustration to the NY Times column explaining why they would not publish the Muhammad cartoons. There were protests to all of these “artworks”, but no one died or was injured, and no property was destroyed.

    You ignore the overall acceptance and actual defense of these “artworks”, which are far more offensive than the cartoons. You also ignore the refusal of almost everyone in the world to publish the cartoons. This makes you and all those of your religion who share your opinion not seekers of justice, but in actuality, quite simply, liars and utter hypocrites, completely uninterested in true “justice”. You want a privileged position for your religion. Many people may grant you this unofficially, but it will never be legally guaranteed.

    If Christians can live with the offensive art I’ve noted, you can live with the cartoons.

  10. Abdul Sattar Post author

    Hi X,

    Thanks for your comment.

    1. You may want to provide an actual e-mail if you are interested in a true dialogue as opposed to ranting.

    2. One who does not agree with you need not be an utter hypocrite, liar, or insincere – especially based off of one post. They may simple have a different point of view. The ability to recognize this is the hallmark of civility and mature thought.

    3. You may have not read the rest of my article. The entire POINT was that Muslims stop reacting with anger and surprise, and begin reacting the way our religion orders, with civility, mercy, tolerance, and by educating people about who we are and what we believe. I think you conveniently may have skipped over that and fixated upon one paragraph. I urge you to re-read the rest of it.

    You may have missed the part where I EXPLICITLY STATED that the cartoonists have the RIGHT to draw whatever they want.

    4. I am personally just as offended about the depictions of Mary and Jesus – as Mary is considered the highest of all women in humanity, and Jesus as a Word from God Himself (Chapter 19, Quran)

    5. I can live with the cartoons. That was precisely my point. That everyone grows up and stops making them such a big deal – Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

    6. I feel a point of distinction should be made between the depictions of Jesus and Mary, and the cartoons of the Prophet. Those depictions were not made with an intentional desire to insult Jesus or Mary as being child-molesters, callers to violence, or the root of all evil. The cartoons of the Prophet were made specifically to rally anti-Muslim sentiment, and incite it in the hearts of readers, and cause these reactions. There is quite a difference in the INTENT – one is a silly, insulting and absurd “art”, and the other is a hateful vilification directed towards a fifth of humanity.

    You should also understand that my comments which you quoted are meant in the context of the paragraph which followed it.

    I do recognize that the results for me are the same – insulting depictions of holy figures and wish that neither had to take place.

    7. One of the other hallmarks of any educated discourse, is to place anything that is read in the context of a larger work. You did not do that here, and I encourage you to read the entire article, and remember that it is advice for Muslims, not an attack against anyone.

    Peace be with you
    Abdul S.

  11. Asad

    Mashallah, you raise some good points. It’s a shame that the universal reverence that exists for people like Jesus, alaihis salaam, Buddha, and Confucius does not extend to Prophet Muhammad, p.b.u.h.. It’s a travesty that schools teach about Martin Luther King but ignore Malcolm X.

  12. asad123

    Salaam AS,
    I just started a blog on WordPress. I’d be honored if you added it to your blogroll.

  13. Firas

    mashallah this is good stuff.

    do you think you can mention the “boycott” sometime? personally i believe (although most people dont) that boycotting all danish products and attempting to hurt the danish economy is unjust. if one man who happens to be danish prints an offensive cartoon, we dont have to punish everyone whos danish.

    when Prophet Muhammad (S) went to taif, and he had stones thrown at him by every person in the city, the angel of the mountains came and asked if he wanted him to crush taif between two mountains. muhammad (S) said no, because he hoped that maybe someday one of their childrens children would become an upright muslim, so it wasnt worth it to punish them all. and the muslim general who first set foot in the indian subcontinent and brought islam there was originally from where? taif.

  14. Muhammad

    JazakAllah Khair! I used to have the “He’s able, why not get a job?” mentality…but this post completely turned me around.

  15. Pingback: Abdul Sattar on Danish cartoons

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