Peace, one and all…
In a very famous hadith, the Messenger of God (alayhi al-salatu wa al-salam) is reported to have made the following profound statement:
‘Fear Allah wherever you may be; follow up a bad deed with a good one, and it will erase it; and treat people with good character’ (recorded by Tirmidhi, Ahmad and Darami).
When I first heard this hadith, I was struck by its eloquent and profound simplicity. The words of a prophet indeed.
It is, perhaps, a truism to say that, as a Muslim, I should carry the Prophet’s words and example with me wherever I go, but of late, I’ve found myself thinking about these words more and more often.
In particular, I find it comes to mind when I’m surfing the Islamosphere. When doing this, I’m immediately struck by two things. Firstly, the dramatic rise in the number, volume and intensity of Muslim/Islamic blogs, etc. This is a good thing, and insha Allah, a hopeful sign of progress to come.
However, my second observation is that many of our debating practices are found wanting, when judged by the Prophet’s (alayhi al-salatu wa al-salam) standards. As is obvious to all, we are living in important and dramatic times: 9-11, 7-7, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Muslims in Britain, Islamophobia, etc, etc, etc. These issues have rightly grabbed the attention of all concerned Muslims (and non-Muslims). In many ways, the Muslim community is under pressure, as it attempts to find its feet in the 21st century world. We have an important role to play in that world. The real question before us, though, is: how are we going to meet these challenges? That is, how can we utilise the rich, profound, and deeply humane tradition that is Islam, in addressing these issues?
I don’t have the answers to such grand, and urgent questions. I don’t even have all the right questions. I do know one thing, though. We have to answer these questions with Islam. That is, we have to reach down inside ourselves and our faith and use its potential to the full. I’m not offering any slogans, nor am I offering a pie-in-the-sky utopia. Rather, I’m talking about the nuts and bolts of such an approach, built with Islam, from the ground up.
Here, in this specific context, we need to learn how to talk to one another, without falling into the same old tired rhetoric of nifaq (hypocrisy) and kufr (accusations of apostasy). This starts from the ground up in the way that we talk to others. Insha Allah, in the next few reflective posts, I aim to explore Islamic ideas of ethical approaches to dialogue.
The first step is to listen to the words of revelation, and the teachings of our Prophet (alayhi al-salatu wa al-salam). So, I’ll end this first post with the following advice from our beloved Master (alayhi al-salatu wa al-salam):
‘Whoever guards his tongue, Allah will conceal his faults. Whoever restrains his anger, Allah will withhold His punishment from him on the Day of Judgement. And whoever apologises to Allah [beseeching His forgiveness], Allah will accept that apology’ (recorded by Baihaqi)