SOME CURRENT ISSUES

(Based on a Friday khutbah delivered on April 15, 2005)

By: Dr. Ahmad Shafaat

In this khutbah the following issues are examined in the light of Islam:

Call by a Muslim writer to suspend hudud

Threat to Masjid al-Aqsa

Imamah of a woman in salah


Call by a Muslim writer to suspend the hudud

Today the Muslim countries are in the grip of unjust systems created by oppressive dictators and kings and supported by some ‘ulama al-su` (scholars who out of malice or weakness or lack of understanding serve injustice and disobedience to Allah and his Messenger sall allah ‘alayhi wa sallam).

In some countries there is no respect for Islam. Things enjoined by Allah such as hijab may be prohibited, as in Tunisia, and things prohibited by him such as alcoholic drinks may be permitted, as in many Muslim countries. In other countries Islamic law is supposed to be in force and therefore hudud (penalties for crimes such as 100 lashes for adultery) are applicable. But the application of these hudud is done in violation of the teachings of Allah and his Messenger. The hudud are applied mostly to the poor and women. A poor person who steals something worth a few dollars can have his hand cut off while a prince can squander tens of millions of dollars of his country’s money without any accountability. A woman can be stoned to death for adultery while rich men brag about their sexual exploits without any consequences. Moreover, when the hudud are applied to the weak and the poor this is done without due process of law and without allowing them to adequately defend themselves. Worst of all, people who commit no crime can be executed simply because they, in fulfillment of their Islamic duty, criticize the dictators and kings for their injustice and their betrayal of Islamic and Muslim causes. The truth is that more than the thieves and the adulterers and the political opponents it is the rulers themselves who deserve the severest punishment, for, in the sight of Allah the biggest criminals are those who oppress people and prohibit what Allah commands and command what Allah prohibits.

It is the duty of every Muslim to fight such an unjust system according to his/her abilities. But one Muslim writer, Tariq Ramadan, has used this situation to call for the suspension of hudud, and in this way arrogated to himself authority over the Law of Allah. There is something pervert about Ramadan’s logic: If men misuse laws or apply them unjustly, suspend the laws rather than fight, with all of one’s might, those who misuse or misapply or reject Allah’s law. He refers to the report that ‘Umar bin al-Khattab (radi allah ‘an hu) suspended the hadd for theft in time of a famine. But a famine is an act of Allah and is not to be compared to the unjust conditions that cruel rulers and thoughtless scholars have created. We need to fight those men and those conditions and not the law of Allah. More relevant than the report about ‘Umar is a report about Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with both). He declared jihad against those who refused to respect the Islamic law about zakah.

It should be noted that Tariq Ramadan is not against punishment for crimes such as stealing. He would still allow Western type imprisonment for thieves. He is only against Islamic type of corporal punishments. Now in an unjust system would imprisonment be done justly? Would removing the corporal punishments make the rulers apply the law equally to the poor and the rich and would the accused get adequate means to defend themselves? Obviously not. Thus Ramadan’s proposal would only result in one more step away from Islam and towards secularism without bringing justice.

The fact is that Ramadan’s arrogant proposal is not about justice. It is about integration of Muslims in the dominant culture of this time, an integration that he champions. Hudud are often criticized in the West and he imagines, quite unrealistically, that his call to suspend them will help him and other Muslims integrate in the West.

In addition to the unjust systems imposed on Muslim countries by the dictators, kings, and some dumb ‘ulama, Ramadan uses another fact to argue for his presumptuous proposal. He refers to differences among Muslim scholars about the interpretations of the texts prescribing the hudud and about the required conditions under which they would be applicable. He then concludes: "It is necessary, therefore, to have an open debate to immediately suspend these practices as there is no consensus on the matter." Once again a very pervert logic: if scholars differ about the interpretation of the law, suspend the law. If we followed this logic, hardly any law will remain!!

The proper response to differences of interpretations is to call not for the suspension of the relevant laws but for a process that would allow the informed Muslims to conduct a rational discussion, leading to the formation of a working consensus.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! No person, no matter how brilliant, famous, or influential, has the right to abrogate or suspend the word of Allah. The right attitude of all Muslims is:

 

It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and his Messenger to have any choice about their command. If any one disobeys Allah and his Messenger, he has indeed strayed into manifest wrong. (33:36)

It seems that Ramadan should suspend his writing for a while and retreat somewhere for a few months to do some quite thinking and reflection, so that he can recover a truly Islamic perspective on things, fearing none but Allah.


Threat to Masjid al-Aqsa

Recently, we have heard again of Jewish threat to Masjid al-Aqsa. This threat is constant, although we may not hear about it often. Some of the zionists and Christian evangelists are always thinking about harming the Masjid and waiting for the right opportunity. So what should be our response to this threat?

One normally looks towards the governments to take some necessary actions, but, unfortunately, there is very little we can expect from our rulers. They are cruel to their Muslim peoples but extremely soft and friendly to the enemies of Islam and Muslims, in complete contrast to the word of Allah:

Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. And those who are with him are severe against (hostile) unbelievers, but compassionate amongst themselves …. (48:29)

If Allah forbidding, something happened to the Masjid, they will make noise for a few days and then go back into sleep in the laps of their friends among the very people who harmed the Masjid or contributed to the harm.

 

So it is the Muslim people who have to do something. They should make small groups and think what they can do to prevent the Jewish and evangelists from aggression and how to react if they succeeded in their nefarious crime. At first it would seem to us that there is nothing we can do. But let us remember the power of Allah. This world is full of hidden opportunities that become manifest if we think and make sufficient effort.


Imamah of a woman in salah

In dealing with the question whether a woman can be imam in prayers we need to keep in mind the corresponding question in Christianity: whether a woman can be a priest. For, the question about the imamah of a woman in modern times -- as also that of the rabbinate of a woman in Judaism -- has arisen in the West under the influence of the question of the priesthood of a woman – I say "in modern times" because the question of the imamah of a woman was already discussed by Muslim scholars centuries earlier (in the second century hijrah at the latest); and I say "in the West" because in some other parts of the world such as China women have been for sometime now acting as recognized imams (paid by the community) and probably without any influence from Christian trends.

We need to keep in mind the issue of the priesthood of a woman because it is important that we do not import from Christianity certain assumptions about the issue into Islam.

In Christianity, at least in the mainstream Catholic Christianity, women have always been excluded from priesthood and this exclusion was connected with a belief in their moral and spiritual inferiority and their subjugation to men. The basis for this is provided by the Christian holy book, where we read in New Revised Standard Version:

For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection [or glory] of God; but woman [should because she] is the reflection [or glory] of man. Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman was made from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. (1 Corinthians 11: 7-9)

As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church (1Corinthians 14: 34-35)

Let a woman learn in silence with full submission, I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Timothy 2:11-15).

These texts or any others in the Bible are not explicit in prohibiting women from being priests, but since teaching is one of the functions of a priest, such a prohibition is implicit here. Moreover, since a priest exercises some authority and no woman is to have authority over a man, women cannot be priests, at least not for men. Some church authorities also justifiably argued on the basis of the command to be silent in the congregation: since most priestly functions require some use of speech in the congregation, the command to be silent assumes a prohibition of priesthood. Some writers have interpreted "silence" to mean something like "not chatting unnecessarily". But the words, "if there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home," suggest that even useful talking for the purpose of seeking knowledge is not allowed.

If the Christian Bible is not explicit about prohibiting priesthood to women, it is certainly explicit about their moral and spiritual inferiority and of their subjugation to men, as is clear from the emphasized parts of the New Testament passages quoted above. And in Christianity this inferiority has always been connected with the exclusion of women from priesthood.

It should also be noted that the authority of a priest has a divine sanction in Christianity, so that exclusion of women from priesthood is exclusion from a divinely sanctioned power.

In view of the above, the fight of Christian women to become priests is a legitimate fight for them to break man’s monopoly on a divinely bestowed power and for them to be accepted as moral and spiritual persons equal to men. It is like their other successful fights such as the fights for the right to own property and the right to vote.

In Islam the situation is very different in several ways:

First, women’s right to ownership, their right to vote, and their moral and spiritual equality with men are well recognized in Islam and by a vast majority of Muslims. Also, unlike a priest, an imam does not have any special divinely bestowed power residing in his person after "ordination", from which women will get excluded if they do not act as imams.

Second, in the view of the majority of Muslim scholars the imamah of women is not denied, but restricted to certain situations. The minority view that women cannot be imam under any circumstances is not only without any foundation in the sources of Islam but it also conflicts with the few texts relevant to the subject that we do find in those sources. The view should therefore be rejected as un-Islamic and it should be concluded that there is no absolute exclusion of women from imamah.

Third, the restrictions placed on the imamah of women are not connected with the inferiority of women except in the minds of some Muslims with limited understanding of Islam. Rather, they are connected with a concern to make concentration in prayer easier.

Let us now look more closely at the sources of Islam to see what specifically they say about the imamah of women is prayers.

A) The Qur`an does not say anything about imamah of women.

B) Ahadith found in a majority of collections also do not say anything about the imamah of women. Some ahadith assume that women’s rows in prayers used to be behind the row of men in the time of the Prophet, which is indirectly related by some with the question of the imamah of women.

C) Ahadith found only in a small number of relatively less reliable collections contain the following traditions about the imamah of women.

1) One hadith in Ibn Majah (1071) says that women should not lead men in prayer. This hadith is considered unreliable by most hadith experts, since one of its narrators has received consistently negative comments from scholars, including the comment that he used to lie. But even this hadith does not exclude women from imamah, since it clearly implies that a woman can be an imam for women.

2) A tradition in ‘Abd al-Razzaq, Ibn Abi Shaybah, Daraqutni, and Bayhaqi from ‘Aishah says: "She used to lead women in prayer and used to stand in the center of the row (and not in front)".

3) In a hadith in Abu Da`ud 500, Ahmad 26022-23, Ibn Sa‘d (Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir) it is narrated that, on the order of the Prophet, Umm Waraqah led her household, including a male mu`adhdhin, in prayer:

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو نُعَيْمٍ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا الْوَلِيدُ قَالَ حَدَّثَتْنِي جَدَّتِي عَنْ أُمِّ وَرَقَةَ بِنْتِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ الْحَارِثِ الْأَنْصَارِيِّ وَكَانَتْ قَدْ جَمَعَتْ الْقُرْآنَ وَكَانَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَدْ أَمَرَهَا أَنْ تَؤُمَّ أَهْلَ دَارِهَا وَكَانَ لَهَا مُؤَذِّنٌ وَكَانَتْ تَؤُمُّ أَهْلَ دَارِهَا

Abu Nu‘aym related to us saying: al-Walid related to us saying: My grandmother related to me from Umm Waraqah bint ‘Abd Allah bin al-Harith al-Ansari: She used to memorize the Qur`an and the Holy Prophet had commanded her to lead the inmates of her house. And she used to have a mu`adhdhin (to call the adhan) and she used to lead the inmates (in prayer). (Ahmad 26023)

A longer version of this hadith states that Umm Waraqah’s household included more than one male slaves in addition to the (male) mu`dhdhin. We may assume that her household included other male members of the family, since the appointment of a regular mu`dhdhin suggests a rather large household.

Not all the narrators of this hadith are of high rank, but none of them gets as negative comments as does a narrator in the hadith of Ibn Majah. A majority of Hadith scholars trust this hadith more than that of Ibn Majah.

There are very few reported cases of women acting as imam for men in the time of the Prophet and the Sahabah. Apart from this example of Umm Waraqah, there is the case of a Kharijite woman named Ghazalah, mentioned by al-Tabari in his al-Tarikh. Ghazalah had some male warriors whom she led in prayer in Kufah when she controlled the city for one day in 77 H. She apparently memorized the Qur`an well, since she is said to have recited the two longest surahs of the Qur`an during this prayer.

E) Scholars interpret the above facts differently and arrive at different results. Here are the main opinions:

· A woman can act as an imam of other women in all prayers, nafl (supererogatory) or fard (obligatory), but not of men. This view is based on the weak hadith of Ibn Majah. Its proponents also use those relatively stronger ahadith that assume that in the time of the Prophet women’s rows used to be behind those of men. The argument is that if a woman leads in prayer she will stand in front of men and thus violate the sunnah that women should stand behind men. But some scholars have suggested that the woman imam can stand behind men and lead them from there. Also, one can put a screen between her and the male worshippers.

· A woman can lead men in nafl prayers such as tarawih and in funeral prayers but not in fard prayers. This distinction between nafl and fard does not seem to have much support from ahadith.

· A woman can lead men, if they belong to her house, both in nafl and fard prayers. This is based, on the one hand, on the hadith that Umm Waraqah led male and female inmates of her house, and, on the other hand, on the assumption that mixing genders in one’s household is not likely to have any distracting effect.

· A woman can lead men without any qualifications.

No matter which one of the above opinions or their variations we may be inclined to accept, the above review of the sources and their interpretations should make one thing clear to all of us: the imamah of a woman in any type of prayer is not as shocking in the light of the teachings of Allah and his Messenger as it might appear at first. Much more shocking is to call for the suspension of hudud prescribed by Allah and to do nothing in the face of the constant threat to Masjid al-Aqsa.

The desecration of the Qur`an that recently took place in the American torture chambers of Guantanamo Bay is not the only incident of its kind. Similar insults of Islam and its holy Book took place in some American prisons of Iraq and Afghanistan. And we do not known what goes on in the numerous secret prisons that the American army has built thoughout the world.

The USA’s racist ally “Israel” also practices desecration of the Holy Qur`an in its Megiddo Prison. In fact it is quite probable that the idea of such desecration came from the Zionist land usurpers. The USA army often avails itself of the long experience the Zionists have acquired in suppressing legitimate Palestinian aspirations and efforts to regain at least some of their usurped land.

The desecration of the Qur`an is not limited to prisons. In the USA a Muslim sister ordered a Qur`an from a non-Muslim company and received a copy with obscenities written on it. Such things have pleased some Americans to the extent that they have put at least one sign supporting the desecration. Put in front of a church on one of the most traveled highways in America a sign reads: “The Koran needs to be flushed” (down the toilets) na a‘udhu bi allah. Some Muslim and non-Muslim Americans protested and the sign was taken down, but too many Americans either like this type of hate or tolerate it in the name of “freedom of speech”, although if a Muslim expressed certain views, such as a praise of Usamah bin Ladin, his freedom of speech probably will not be respected. There is a positive chance that he will end up in some torture chamber.

As an expression of hate and hostility towards Islam, desecration of the written Qur`an may be new in form but not in substance. Similar insults have been hurled against Islam’s book and the Prophet from the earliest days of Islam.

As we all know the disbelievers of Makkah used to call the Prophet a mad man or a magician who had fabricated the Qur`an with the help of some others. It is reported that some of them also used to throw garbage at him. In Tayf the Arabs threw stones at him and wounded him. Later, in Madinah the people of the book, that is the Jews of Madinah used to insult the call to prayers (adhan), as mentioned in the following verse: 

And when you raise a call to prayer they take it as a mockery and fun. That is because they are a people who do not understand.  (5:58) 

But nowhere the Prophet and the Qur`an were insulted more than in the Christian West, especially during and after the Crusades. The Prophet was called devil, anti-Christ, liar, impostor, promiscuous, and was pictured as burning in hell. 

After the enlightenment and the coming of learning and education in Europe under the influence of Muslims this very slowly began to change. But still there is an appreciable minority in the West who hate Islam and Muslims and repeat the insults coined in the Middle Ages. On the Internet numerous websites present the Prophet in a way that brings us back to the Middle Ages. And prominent Christian leaders and TV evangelists with influence in the White House continuously attack Islam and the Prophet on their TV programs, watched with appreciation by tens of millions of viewers. Some describe the Prophet as terrorist; some describe Islam as evil and so on. 

This hate and hostility in many cases is not limited to verbal insults. It extends to actual plans and activities against Islam and the Muslim world. We need to be very conscious that there are people in the West, especially in the English speaking countries of the USA, Britain, and Australia, who, along with the Zionists are engaged in a war against us. These people are in a minority – about 20 % -- but 20% determined people in a population of hundreds of millions can do a lot of damage. Muslims must not bury their heads in the sand and behave as if such enemies do not exist. 

What is the reason behind all this hate and hostility and how can Muslims deal with it? Let us examine these questions in the light of the Qur`an itself.

 

The reasons behind the insults

 

One reason behind insults against Islam, its holy book and the Prophet is a feeling of being threatened by Islam. The threat felt may be to one’s belief system and/or to one’s own power or the power of one’s group. Insults are a way to prevent oneself or others from paying attention to the threatening message of Islam. The kuffar of Makkah tried many ways to prevent people from paying attention to that message. In addition to insulting the Prophet they used to tell people to make noise when the Qur`an was read: 

And those who disbelieve say, Do not listen to this Qur`an and make noise during its recitation so that you may dominate. (41:26) 

Both the feeling of being threatened and the disbelievers’ way of dealing with the threat is irrational. In the verse quoted above (5:58), the Qur`an gives an explanation of why the people of the book used to insult the Muslim call to prayer: 

“That is because they are a people who do not reason or understand (ya‘qilun).” 

This principle is applicable generally, so that one reason non-believers insult Islam, its scripture and its Prophet is that they lack understanding or ‘aql. Here ‘aql is used in a general sense as well as in the particular sense of understanding of Islam. Many people who insult Islam do so out of irrational hate and prejudice. They know very little about Islam, its holy book and the Prophet. This is clearly against ‘aql, which demands that we first know what we are hating and insulting. Many other people know a great deal about Islam and still hate and insult it. They may even have some “intelligent” purpose behind the insults, e.g., preventing fellow Christians/Jews from reading about Islam with an open mind, or proving themselves to be faithful Christians/Jews, or getting attention and then using that attention to promote their brand of Christianity/Judaism, or, in case of torturers at Guantanamo Bay/Megiddo Prison, to extract information from Muslim prisoners. These well-informed people lack ‘aql in a more particular sense: Despite all their information about Islam they are not able to see that the Qur`an and the Prophet, far from posing any danger to them, are in fact a source of God’s mercy for them and a healing of what is in their breasts.

 

 

The Power of the Qur`an 

But Islam’s holy Book and Prophet do pose a real danger to the powerful who use their power to oppress others. The Holy Qur`an is a mighty expression of that freedom which comes with faith in the one true God and the hereafter and with submission to the Almighty. Its message is capable of shaking the existing powers to their very core. At the very least it prevents Muslims from submitting to them. British colonial governor, after experiencing Muslim resistance in India went back to his country and spoke in the Parliament. Lifting a copy of the Holy Qur`an in his hand, he said to the ruling class: “As long as this book rules the Muslims, you cannot rule them.” It is said that soon after this, orientalist studies of the Qur`an started or intensified so that the message of the Qur`an may be undermined. Now once again the powers of the world are threatened by the Qur`an. 

The Holy Qur`an refers to its power: 

And if there had been a Qur`an with which mountains are moved or the earth is cloven asunder, or the dead are made to speak (it would have been this one[i]). In any case all command is with God. Have not then the believers yet stopped hoping (too much for the conversion of the unbelievers by accepting) that if God so willed he would have guided all people. And disaster will not cease to strike those who disbelieve or to settle close to their homes until the promise of God (for their destruction) comes to pass. God certainly does not go back on his promise. (13:31). 

In another verse the power of the Qur`an is illustrated as follows: 

Had We sent down this Qur`an on a mountain, you (O Prophet) would certainly have seen it humbling itself and tear apart for fear of God. These are examples that we put forward for the people that they may think. (59:21) 

An idea of the power of the Qur`an can be obtained by the fact that it dislodged the idols in the Ka‘bah and turned it into a masjid dedicated to the worship of the one true God. We are so used to hearing this fact that we do not realize the power that was needed to achieve it. How difficult was the task can be understood if in our time we think of turning the USA into an Islamic state with a muslim leader sitting in the white house or turning the Vatican into a masjid. Today even some Muslims cannot imagine the possibility of any of these events happening, even though global victory of Islam is prophesied in the Islamic sources. Well, one man succeeding in turning the Ka‘bah into a masjid for the one God was similar. It was like moving mountains. 

The Qur`an is more powerful than all the atom and hydrogen bombs in the whole world. That is because the Qur`an changes the hearts and minds of people and the heart and mind of man is more powerful than anything we know on earth and also because human beings can produce these bombs but they cannot produce anything like the Qur`an. 

Say: "If the whole of humankind and the Jinn were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur`an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support. (17:88) 

And how do we know that human beings cannot produce anything like the Qur`an? Because if that were possible, the British colonialists, the American "hegemonists", and the Zionist usurpers would have done it to neutralize the Qur`an!

 

Some people of the book are bound to insult the Qur`an

 

(O Prophet) say: O people of the book! You are on nothing till you establish the Tawrah and the Injil and what (else) has been sent down to you from your Lord. But surely what has been sent down to you (O Prophet) will increase in most them obstinate rebellion and disbelief. So be not sorrowful over the people who disbelieve. (5:68) 

The first part of this verse tells the Jews and Christians that they need to establish the Tawrah and the Injil. This and many other verses give respect to the Jewish and the Christian scriptures despite the fact that both the Qur`an and objective scholarship show these scriptures not to be entirely faithful to the prophets whose teachings they purport to present. If those who desecrate the book of God had read the Qur`an before insulting it they would have discovered that while they insult this book, this book gives respect and honor to their scriptures. But unfortunately most of them do not want to read it. They insist on hating it without knowing what it is. 

The second part of the verse tells us that (until the final global victory of Islam) this Qur`an is bound to increase rebellion and disbelief in the Jews and Christians. This is a theme that is repeated often in the Qur`an about the disbelievers in general. The Qur`an came as an advice of mercy and healing but many people become hostile to it. 

O humankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord and a healing for that which is in your breasts and a guidance and a mercy for the believers. (10:57) 

We have explained in this Qur`an (everything) that they may take heed, but it only increases their aversion! (17:41) 

It may at first surprise us that people hate what comes to them as healing and mercy. But if we examine our own experiences we can think of many occasions when we give advice to our friends or relatives or our sons and daughters that is for their own good but they hate not only the advice but also the one who gives it. Among psychologists and psychiatrists it is well known that patients have not onle a strong subconscious resistance to the treatment but also some hostility towards the doctor. This is the case with those who go to a doctor and therefore are probably willing to accept at least the fact that something is wrong with them. The hostility to cure is much greater in case of those who do not want to admit that they need treatment. 

Now if a person rejects a good advice or if a patient rejects the treatment, he does so at his own loss. Thus God says: 

We send down in the Qur`an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe while to the unjust it increases nothing but loss. (17:82) 

If aversion or obstinate rebellion is the reaction that the Qur`an excites in most of the disbelievers, at least in the beginning, then some at least of the disbelievers are bound to resort to insults to the Prophet and the Qur`an. This is stated more explicitly in the following verse: 

You shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your persons and you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you, from those who were given the book before you and from the mushrikin. But if you persevere patiently, and guard against evil, then that is a determining factor in all affairs (or that is among things to be pursued with determination). (3:186) 

Here verbal attacks and insults from the disbelievers are mentioned as a part of the trials and tribulations that the believers must inevitably face in order for their faith to be tested. We should face these trials with sabr and taqwa. Sabr means steadfastness and does not exclude action against verbal attacks and insults and other trials. Taqwa means guarding against what is wrong. The meaning is that in responding to verbal attacks and insults we should not cross the limits of what is just and should not fall into wrong ourselves. For example, we should not attack or insult what they hold sacred except by way of a fair rational and objective criticism.

 

Insults should be countered by protests and da‘wah 

There are two things that we should do in the face of insults that are hurled against Islam’s book. 

First, we must protest. The Qur`an says: 

He has already sent down to you in the Book (the instruction) that when you hear the signs of God [i.e. verses of the Qur`an] denied and ridiculed, do not sit with them unless they engage in a different conversation. (If you kept sitting with them), you would be like them. God will surely collect the hypocrites and disbelievers all together in hell (4:140) 

Standing up when we hear the verses of the Qur`an being blasphemed or ridiculed and ready to leave is a strong form of protest. In case of desecration that is not taking place in our presence we should adopt other forms of protests, e.g., speaking out in public, writing letters to the media, and demonstrating as the people in some countries like Afghanistan did. 

Second, we need to increase our efforts to spread the message of the Qur`an or support others’ efforts in this direction. In 6:69, just after instructing that we should protest when the verses of the Qur`an are blasphemed and ridiculed, God says: 

On those who are mindful (of God) there is no responsibility at all for them (those who insult the verses of the Qur`an). But (it is their duty to convey to them the) message that they (too) may be mindful (of God). (6:69)[ii] 

As noted earlier, one reason some Christians/Jews insult Islam’s holy book and its Prophet is that they want to prevent people from hearing and positively responding to it. Through increasing our da‘wah activity and spreading the message of the Qur`an, we can partly defeat this purpose.

 

We should not let the insults get to us

 

The last part of the verse, 5:68, tells the Prophet and through him all of us not to sorrow over what the disbelievers say and do. We should not sorrow because: 

1)      It is only to be expected that many Christians/Jews are bound to hate the Qur`an and insult this book or the Prophet. We should accept this reality and find ways to deal with it rather than to feel hurt by it.

2)      God has promised that ultimately the insulters of the Prophet and the divine message he brought will be cut off: 

Surely, he who hates or insults you (O Prophet) will be the one cut off. (108:3) 

One day those who desecrated the Qur`an in the torture chambers of Guantanamo Bay and the Megiddo Prison and others like them would be forgotten or remembered only as we today remember Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab and other Makkan Arabs who died insulting and fighting the Prophet, often torturing helpless Muslims. Similarly the current American president himself along with the Islam-hating advisers, secretaries, and generals he has gathered around himself will be gone except in the books of history. But the Holy Qur`an that they desecrate will still be heard recited in the whole world in the masajid and from the cars and on the radios and TV sets. 


[i] Another way of completing the phrase is: “And if there had been a Qur`an with which mountains are moved or the earth is cloven asunder, or the dead are made to speak, what then? Would they have then believed?” This is also consistent with what is stated elsewhere in the Qur`an, e.g., in the verse: 

And even if We had sent down unto them angels, and the dead had spoken unto them, and We had gathered together all things before their very eyes, they would not have believed unless God willed, but most of them live in ignorance. (6:111) 

It is likely that both interpretations are intended.

[ii] One can understand the verse in two other ways: 

1)       “If those who are mindful of God do sit with them, they are not responsible for their ridicule of the verses of the Qur`an, but leaving them has been recommended as a form of a reminder for the disbelievers to be more mindful.” Those who adopt this interpretation consider the verse abrogated by 4:140 where no choice about leaving the gathering is allowed, since anyone who keeps sitting in the gathering is said to become “like” the disbelievers.

2)       “The command to leave a gathering that insists on ridiculing the Qur`an is not given because the believers are responsible for what the disbelievers say, but as a way of conveying the massage to them in the hope that they pay attention to the Qur`an and thus learn taqwa.” In this interpretation standing to leave the gathering itself is the message. This interpretation recommends itself because “leaving” a gathering and conveying the “message” cannot go together, unless “leaving” itself is the message or we assume that the message is to be conveyed at some other occasion.