Blasphemy: Impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things
The recent killings and the violent threats against anyone who criticizes the colossally misused and ill-founded blasphemy law in Pakistan continue to warp perceptions of what Islam is, and specifically, what kind of a man the prophet was. Meanwhile, a crowd of anti-Muslim activists, fueled by hate, chanted their pitiably ignorant slogans “Mohammad was a pervert,” “Mohammad was evil,” “Go back home!” at a Muslim charity event in California earlier this year. As a Muslim, it seems to me that the madness keeps surging to confounding proportions.
I find my faith being mangled, used and abused for all sorts of rhetorical and political purposes in the West and back home, where I grew up Pakistan. In the past decade, we have seen the Koran desecrated and insulting caricatures of the prophet used as a proud symbol of freedom of expression in the West--in this same decade, Islam’s very spirit has been desecrated by those who claim to be its saviors.
Among the many stories of the prophet I loved when I was growing up was the story of how Muhammad calmly dusted himself and continued walking after his daily encounter with a kafir (non-believing) woman who emptied out her garbage on him as he passed by her house. This went on for a long time until there was no garbage thrown at him for several days. The woman had fallen ill. He went to her house to inquire after her health; she was so shocked and moved by the gesture that she embraced Islam. The lesson: Conquer your own ego and hearts can follow. What could be a greater victory?
And when the people of Taif pelted Muhammad and his adopted son Zaid with stones, Gabriel appeared with a summons from the Almighty to punish the people of Taif; still Muhammad’s feet bled as he pleaded their case and prayed for another chance for them. The lesson: Mercy should prevail, even in the most unlikely circumstances.
There are many examples of how Muhammad practiced humility and showed mercy, even when he had the upper hand. When he returned to Mecca, the hostile home from which had been exiled, he ordered his men not to fight anyone without a weapon or any one not willing to engage in combat, nor to deface property, kill animals or cut down trees. His was not the ego-dictated course. He would stand up in respect to greet his daughter, he would mend his own clothes and was known never to raise his voice with his wives. Muhammad’s strength of character was in his gentle but upright and courageous, judicious approach to conflict. He fought battles but not without exhausting the option of dialogue with the opponent first.
The sanctimonious murderers of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti in the name of Islam, as well as the self-righteous, insult-hurling “Christian” crowd in California --the former persecuting Christians and the latter, Muslims,— both groups, by Abrahamic standards, are guilty of blasphemy.
Shadab Zeest Hashmi has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her book Baker of Tarifa is the winner of the San Diego Book Award for poetry. Her work has appeared in many journals worldwide. She has been the editor of the annual Magee Park Anthology since 2000. She has recently joined San Diego State University as the writer-in-residence. Her second collection Kohl and Chalk is due out in 2012.