I receive many letters complaining that I do not like to defend myself against
my detractors or respond to their accusations. They argue that this stance is
not always right. The say that sometimes my accusers are confused about things
that I say and understand me incorrectly, so if I would only make things clear
to them, I could remove their confusion and put an end to a lot of problems.
No doubt, it is an individual's right to defend himself, but it is rarely his
duty to do so. Defending oneself is time consuming and diverts the mind. It channels
one's efforts away from more pressing issues that affect Islam and the Muslims.
It never extinguishes the fire of the detractors' rage or puts an end to problems.
It only makes things worse by adding new fuel to the fire. They will no doubt
respond to the defense and try to expose its weaknesses. By defending yourself,
you reinforce the idea that there are two conflicting parties. Therefore it is
better just to leave one group attacking and avoid conflict, keeping yourself
busy with more important tasks. In the end of it all, what is right is right.
There are more than four billion people living on Earth today who do not have
a correct understanding of their Lord. Many of them go so far as to deny His existence.
Should we not busy ourselves with helping these people to understand?
There are also over one billion Muslims. Ignorance is widespread among them. Heretical
innovations are rife. There are Muslims worshipping graves and praying to saints.
There are Muslims engaging in wanton sexual behavior and trafficking in usury.
Some Muslim lands are subjugated to the wrath and oppression of unbelieving rulers,
like the Jews, Christians, and atheists, wherein Muslims suffer at their hands
the ugliest forms of abuse. They are being slaughtered and their women are being
raped. There are Muslims peoples in this world living a life far removed from
Islam, a life steeped in errors and sins.
I am not disparaging of this nation that Allah has selected. The Muslims, with
all their sins and shortcomings, are in our hearts and our sentiments, and we
recognize their Islamic identity. Even those who have, in their ignorance, fallen
into polytheism, we prefer to blame it on their ignorance and at least recognize
the Islam that they are still on. Allah's mercy encompasses all things and we
pray that we will not be cut off from His mercy on account of our sins. We do
not wish that fate on any Muslim.
We hope that we will benefit from our detractors. We can benefit by having our
attention drawn to any mistake made by any one of us. The Prophet (peace be upon
him) said: "Every descendant of Adam is a sinner and the best of sinners
are those who are penitent." [Sunan al-Tirmidhî
(2499) and Sunan
If our critic is sincere to us, we say: "May Allah have mercy on a person
who shows us our faults." If he loathes us, we say a poet once said:
A grace and a blessing are my enemies for me,
So may the Beneficent not distance them from me.
They seek out my errors so I can abstain from them,
And compete with me so I can aspire to excellence.
Some people respond to criticism by obstinately continuing in their mistakes or
becoming even more absorbed in them. This is a defect of character and shows a
lack of self-confidence. Others try to justify themselves, sidestep, or excuse
themselves from what is right, even saying things that are blatantly wrong to
protect themselves from the criticism of certain people. This shows not only weakness
of character but a lack of integrity.
We also benefit from our detractors in that we become used to hearing criticism.
We learn how to take insults and verbal abuse. We learn how to deal with accusations.
This is good, because no one can live his whole life without experiencing these
things. A person who is accustomed to hearing praise all the time will not be
able to handle criticism when it comes, not even the most well-meaning and constructive
criticism. Too much praise makes a person think too highly of himself. It fosters
in his heart ostentation and pride.
What we want from our brothers throughout the world is for them to refrain from
coming to the defense of anything besides their religion. They should not busy
themselves with anything other than the truth itself. They should restrain themselves,
even if they hear people fabricating lies and hurling accusations and even if
they see other people believing them. This is a small thing. The issue of this
person or that should not become a cause for disputes and arguments. It is best
to refrain from such things.
We also prefer our brothers to engage in fruitful work, learning, teaching, calling
to Islam, helping others, and effecting reform. We should affiliate ourselves
with the Muslims generally and cooperate in all good works in all areas. We must
develop our media capacity, our economy, and our society. We must develop our
strengths, our skills, and our creative abilities.
Petty squabbling and trivial accusations should not command the least of our attention.
They neither stimulate the mind nor improve the quality of our thinking. They
have no constructive purpose whatsoever. They neither foster love between Muslims
nor bring about positive reform.
If a Muslim decides to spend his life cursing and criticizing the leaders of unbelief
- people as notorious as Pharaoh and his lackeys or as bad as Abû Jahl or
Abû Lahab - he should be rebuked for wasting his time, neglecting his duties,
and being heedless of the remembrance of Allah. A Muslim might spend his whole
life until he dies without ever knowing about those people and attain the highest
rank in Paradise. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Do not
curse the dead and cause discomfort for the living." [Sunan al-Tirmidhî
(1982) and Musnad Ahmad
(18210)] In another narration, he said: "…because
they have already attained what they have earned." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî
(1393)] A'ishah explained that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said
this in reference to Abû Jahl, the "Pharaoh of the Muslim world".
A person who busies himself with the failings of others, who collects their mistakes
and errors to use in attacks against them, is a sick person. Fire ultimately consumes
itself if it cannot find something else to consume.
A person can do severe injustice to himself by depicting others in a narrow framework
of mistakes and errors. Every person is a complex, multidimensional being. Every
person has some good qualities that, if cultivated and encouraged, can bring about
a lot of good for others. Therefore, reformers must focus on this potential and
try to awaken the latent good that exists within everyone. This can be achieved
through deserving but moderate praise.
We can see this in the praise that the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave to different
individuals, tribes, and regions. He used to take care not to injure the prestige
or status that people enjoyed in their communities. This is why the Prophet (peace
be upon him) said on the day he entered Mecca: "Whoever enters the house
of Abû Sufyân will be safe." [Sahîh Muslim
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: "Pride brings about the rejection
of truth and the contempt of others." [Sahîh Muslim
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was a modest man who did not try to put himself
above everyone else. This is why the he said: "May it be easy upon you, for
I am not a king. I am but the son of a woman who ate dried meat." [Sunan
The Prophet (peace be upon him) would readily accept the truth, even if it came
from a dubious source. He once said to Abû Hurayrah: "That man had
spoken the truth to you, though he is an ardent liar. Do you know who you were
talking to these three nights, O Abû Hurayrah? It was Satan." [Sahîh
(3275)] On another occasion, the Prophet (peace be
upon him) confirmed what a Jewish man said about the punishment of the grave.
(1372) and Sahîh Muslim
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was made happy by the successes of others. We
should not feel that their success is on our account. The scope for success is
wide and there are many opportunities.
The most open enemies of Islam are achieving great successes in many ways, often
at our expense and at the expense of our faith, but this does not seem to bother
us, or at the very least, we do not show our discomfort. But here is where we
should be expressing our concern, for here we are confronting pure and unadulterated
falsehood. On the other hand, the faults of our brothers that we are so ready
to expose and criticize, are at the very worst truth soiled by error.
I feel that the Muslim youth are in dire need of correcting their outlook and
their way of thinking. Errors in a person's thought processes lead a person to
erroneous conclusions. Therefore, correcting errors of this sort should take priority
over correcting mistakes in particular issues. If a factory is set up incorrectly
or is poorly integrated, then its production will be stymied and the quality of
production uneven. It is imperative to make changes to the factory itself. It
would be utter foolishness to divert the company's resources into repairing each
unit of production as it comes off the line.
I wish to take the liberty to anticipate a possible objection that some brother's
may have to this article, so that I may respond to it now. They might feel that
I am rejecting the very idea of defending the honor of one's Muslim brother. This
is not the case. That is not what I am trying to say. I am talking about avoiding
fights and squabbles that waste time, cause confusion, and inspire within our
enemies feelings of malicious joy. I prefer that we avoid such unscrupulous conduct
and busy ourselves with what will prove to be of greater profit. There is nothing
wrong with a Muslim coming to the defense of his brother's honor.
I have been as brief as I believe possible in discussing this matter and have
avoided a lot of detail. I hope, however, that I have made a small contribution
to improving our way of thinking, the "factory" of our ideas.