THE TIDE OF Islamophobia is rising and it seems like nothing short of a miracle will stop it. Mosques around the world are being burned down. Muslims are being attacked on the streets. Islamophobes are slandering the Prophet with impunity, fomenting fear and hatred of Muslims and Islam with little reproach. But we, as the targeted community of all this hate, fear and misinformation, must understand that it is all a trap.
We must understand that when Islamophobes organize armed protests of Islam outside of mosques around the world, it is their intention to get a reaction out of the Muslims. And they are hoping for a bad reaction.
Islamophobes are setting traps for the Ummah, and sometimes we are falling for them. They want us to be what they say we are irrational, violent, and backward. So they insult us and even attack us. And being human, we feel insulted and hurt. And some among us react. Badly. Un-Islamicly. Giving those who hate us a leg to stand on in their anti-Islam/Muslim rhetoric.
We as an Ummah must be more sophisticated in understanding the trap that is being set for us. We cannot ignore the tradition of the Prophet, the miracle we are looking for, when facing these kinds of adversities. The sophisticated answers is in Islam itself.
Most of the Prophet’s time here on earth as a messenger was spent facing one obstacle after another. He suffered insults, attacks, torture, boycott, hunger, and war all to bring us this message of Islam. He has given us his example so that we can implement it in our own lives when facing harsh treatment. And we can begin in small ways by:
We should be aware that when we make an assumption someone will treat us differently, we assume the worst about a person based on the way they look. We are being prejudice and stereotyping, i.e. doing the very thing we don’t want others to do to us.
More often than not, when we assume things about other people it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we seem disgruntled and closed off. The people we meet will mirror this behavior and seem like they are discriminating, when they are just giving back what they are getting. We can meet people free from assumptions and with an open, generous, and easy attitude so as not to cause a problem that is not already there. Allah instructs us to:
[…] Avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. [Sûrat Al-Ḥujurât, 49:12]
As we go out and face a world riddled with misconceptions, bias, and hatred, remember that our face is the first thing people see and it is often our first line of defense. So wear your best smile when facing non-Muslims, your family, or anyone you meet. Smiling is sunnah; it is charity. It improves our mental fortitude. And best of all, smiling is contagious.
The smiling contagion is something science can now substantiate. In a Swedish study where subjects were shown pictures of several emotions such as joy, anger, fear and surprise, they were told to frown when they saw a picture of someone smiling. Researchers found that people tended to directly imitate the facial expressions they saw: “It took conscious effort to turn that smile upside down.”
The Companion ʿAbdullâh ibn Al-Ḥârith said: I have never seen someone more in the habit of smiling than Allah’s Messenger. (Tirmidhi)
With those smiles on our faces, we should start asking people how they are doing, offer to help an old lady carry her groceries across the street, offer to share your umbrella if it is raining. The best way to tell people about Islam is to show them. Be the best example of Muslim manners. Prophet Muhammad said:
Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished. (Sahih Al-Jâmiʿ)
He also said:
Make things simple and do not complicate them. Calm people and do not drive them away. (Bukhâri)
Returning Evil with Good
When we are met with contention from a non-Muslim who might not know much about Islam, we shouldn’t be rude, or condescending even if they are attacking us personally or our faith. Remember that many people abused the Prophet in Makkah, and he never said anything bad back to them.
This is especially true of when dealing with people online and in social media. Many people feel that they can harass others with impunity online because they are not face to face and have a level of anonymity. And in turn we might feel the same. But we must remember that Allah knows everything we do, even in private. And when we are faced with bad treatment, Allah tells us:
And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend. [Sûrat Fuṣṣilat, 41:34]
Carrying Ourselves with Humility
Sometimes we can have a certain amount of arrogance in the way we carry ourselves. There is no reason to walk around acting as if we are better than others. People read body language better than they read a children’s picture book, and sometimes even our posture can send a message that we think we are better than others or are intimidating.
However, walking humility doesn’t mean you need to slouch and look down. We should carry ourselves with dignity, but not false pride.
And do not turn your cheek [in contempt] toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful. [Sûrat Luqmân, 31:18]
When the Prophet returned to Makkah with 10,000 troupes in victory over the Quraysh, it was expected that he would exact revenge for the many years of torture and war that they inflicted on him and his followers. But he didn’t. In an event that had never before and has not since been witnessed, Prophet Muhammad said:
O Quraysh, what do you think of the treatment that I should accord you? They said: “Mercy, O Prophet of Allah. We expect nothing but good from you.” Thereupon Muhammad declared: “I speak to you in the same words as Yûsuf spoke to his brothers. This day there is no reproof against you; Go your way, for you are free.” (Muslim)
No matter what grievances we have, none can be greater than the grievances the Prophet had against the Quraysh. And it is with the example of forgiveness that we need to move forward.
As an Ummah we must understand what is at stake here. It shouldn’t matter to us if we are personally insulted. To react to that is just false pride. But we should be appalled when people slander Islam or attack Muslims simply because of their faith because much of the world does not know what Islam is. Most of the world is looking to us, the Muslims, to see an example of how Islam looks in practice. And unfortunately, if we don’t act according to Islam, our misbehavior will still be seen as Islam. If we are claiming Islam is our way of life, then we must live all parts of it, including the toughest part—having good manners even when others do not.