By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
Following a studio appearance on an episode of BBC Big Questions, Maajid Nawaz, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, reposted a cartoon via his Twitter account that (allegedly) depicts the prophets Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them, saying ‘Hey’ and ‘How ya doin’. Important to note, Maajid didn’t actually draw the cartoon, but merely reposted it, along with the comment that he wasn’t offended.
After his tweet, an online offensive was launched against Maajid Nawaz, petitioning Nick Clegg to remove him from his prospective candidacy. This was followed by a counter petition calling for the Liberal Democrats and anyone who believes in our innate rights and freedoms, to rally behind him.
The offensive against Maajid Nawaz, even included death threats, which is as criminal and incredibly shocking, as it is blatantly ridiculous that someone should have their life threatened, over what in truth amounts to nothing! Did Maajid Nawaz draw any cartoons? No! He commented on a picture, saying nothing more than he wasn’t offended by it! Even if Maajid had drawn a cartoon, which he didn’t, issuing death threats is most certainly not the way to protest against that…
The matter of drawing or painting pictures of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is not even clear cut within Islam. While it’s certainly true that some Muslims strongly oppose making pictures, there are many paintings that date back centuries, produced by Muslims more religious than those making such a fuss about this today.
The fact that Maajid Nawaz didn’t even draw a thing, but merely reposted an image drawn by someone else and said, “As a Muslim, I’m not offended” makes this all the more absurd. I’m not offended either and more to the point, really don’t see what Maajid has supposedly done wrong here, either within British politics, or the religion of Islam.
What’s funny, is that like most of the other pictures some people keep jumping up and down about; the depictions don’t even look like what one would imagine either prophet to have looked. If there’s no resemblance, then clearly we are not talking about an actual image of Jesus or Muhammad, peace be upon them, even if that’s what some people think it depicts. So, how therefore can we really be offended by it?
While I can understand the offence caused by previous cartoons featuring a bomb turban, these images are really tame; some Muslim friends on Facebook, even referred to them as ‘cuddly’.
Muslims have always varied in how they interpret many aspects of Islam and until very recently, this was accepted by most. Although many Muslims today assume it to be haram to depict Prophet Muhammad in works of art, in actual fact there are many historic depictions of the Prophet in Islamic art. In response to this reality, small minded critics hit back with lines like, “Every picture maker is in the Fire. A soul will be placed in every picture made by him and it will punish him in the Hell-fire.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
But does that mean, everyone who owns a passport (even a Saudi one) or helps to produce it, is destined for the fires of Hell? Such people lack even the most basic understanding of Islamic jurisprudence. For any point found only in a hadith, not the Holy Quran, we must first consider it’s authenticity, context and degree of importance before jumping to any hasty conclusions.
Due to the history of the community in which Prophet Muhammad lived, there was understandably a profound concern about 3D sculptures that could be used as idols. The hadith is referring to that, not 2D pictures. Which certainly makes more sense in terms of the overall message of Islam, starting with the Kalima Shahada, “La ilaha il Allah…” (No gods beside God). Even 3D sculpture is not haram, if produced as a tool for learning or as a piece of art. The issue was always predominantly with the worship of statues, not the statues themselves. Cartoons as we understand them now, didn’t even exist back then, so how could any hadith be referring to them?
Seeing as these fanatical puritans like to make reference to history, it’s important to realise that people of their mentality were mostly mocked and ignored by Muslims in the past – not listened to and obeyed!
If Islam had been a religion of such petty small mindedness over the centuries, our religion today would not have over 5 madhabs (schools of thought) along with countless Sufi tariqats and other groups, or left us with such a diverse wealth of heritage in all fields of Human endeavour. These facts alone, are proof of Islam’s long tradition of broad mindedness, tolerance and understanding.
Jumping to conclusions, making 5 minute fatwas and takfiring (excommunicating) people is most certainly not the Sunnah (example) of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who always advised people to consider the consequences of their intended actions before they act.
“And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint none but persons of the greatest good fortune.”
~ Holy Qur’an 41:35 (A. Yusuf Ali)
Self-restraint and thinking before we act, are powerful weapons that will enable us to overcome our weaknesses and go on to make our dreams a reality. Needless to say, lacking in these qualities will result in the exact opposite.
Maajid Nawaz, like many Muslims who refuse to tow the wahabi islamist party line, is one of the latest to have his life threatened. Hang on, what does Islam say about threatening to murder people, especially brothers and sisters of the same faith?
“…if anyone slays a human being – unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth – it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind…”
~ Holy Qur’an 5:32 (M. Asad)
Among the same people who most passionately (and rightly) highlight the killing of Muslims in Palestine, Syria, Myanmar and elsewhere, are often found those fanatics who swiftly issue death threats to anyone with whom they merely have a disagreement. Do they really think this is what Allah SWT wants of them? Have they not read the many verses of the Holy Quran discussing hypocrisy? Is this not blatantly hypocritical?
I’ve been counselled by well meaning friends who advised me to stay out of this one. However, I have a duty to put the record straight. Many of Maajid Nawaz’s critics, especially the more fanatical ones, are themselves acting well outside of Islamic teachings. Were I not to say anything, I’d be a willing accomplice in the further distortion of the teachings of our Human Family’s second largest religion. Were I to stand back, I would truly be disrespecting Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his legacy, the Deen of Islam.
Today, too many Muslims claim to be ready to die for the Prophet, peace be upon him, but who is prepared to live like him? Something to consider…