What would Muhammad Do?
How would the Prophet have his community respond to the defamation of his character?
With the wave of demonstrations in many countries, these questions have a political relevance, and there is a time and place to talk about those tensions. But for today, for this Friday, I want to sit with the spiritual challenge that these questions pose to us as people of faith. What would the Prophet have us do?
As a Muslim, we remain committed to the realization that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was chosen by God, purified by God, and sent as a mercy not just to this world, but to all the worlds.
Our tradition tells us that were it not for him, God would not have created the world.
We know that Muhammad ascended to see God face-to-face, and was given a choice of staying with God or returning to creation. The Prophet chose to return to humanity so that we too have a chance of ascending to God and seeing God face-to-face.
Such a luminous being does not need to have his honor defended from the hateful producers of the anti-Muhammad movie "Innocence of Muslims." No, the Prophet does not need to be defended against the hateful lies of a convicted felon working with a porn director working to spread falsehood, filth and hate across continents.
No, the Prophet does not need us to defend his honor.
God guarantees the very honor of the Prophet, as the Quran says: "Indeed God and the angels bless the Prophet" (Quran 33:56).
We do not need to protect the honor of the Prophet.
We honor him by fulfilling the very reason that he returned from God's presence to us: to become ennobled.
If the Prophet needs something from us, it is to embody his akhlaq, his manners.
The Prophet said: "I was sent to bring nobility to the manners."
God said of him: "You are of an exalted nature." (Quran 68:4)
The question is not about the Prophet's nature.
That is already exalted.
The question is about ours: our nature, our manners.
Let us show nobility in manners.
Let us show nobility not when times are easy, but when times are hard.
Let us be noble and beautiful when we are mocked and called names.
Let us be virtuous as Muhammad was virtuous.
These are times that try the souls of humanity.
These are times that stir the souls of humanity, and everything rises to the top.
These are times that the scum is rising toward the top, and we see hatred and prejudice rising to the top.
Let it also be a time that the cream also rises to the top.
Let the best of our character rise to the top.
Let the Muhammad-like layer of our soul rise to the top.
Let the part of our being that responds to insults the way Muhammad responded to insults rise like cream to the top.
May the hateful voices and souls purify the scum of their own soul,
and may we purify the scum of our own soul.
Muhammad was sent by God to bring nobility to manners.
He was sent to us not because we are already noble, but because we yearn to be noble, because God wants for us to be noble.
Ya Rasul Allah, O messenger of God,
we need you to make us noble now.
We need you now.
Our hearts ache.
Our souls are tender.
There are hateful voices all around.
There are hateful people blaspheming you.
There are hateful people mocking you.
There are hateful people calling you names.
O Messenger of God,
we need you now.
That child of the Prophet, Rumi, once said: "I take on my disciples because they have bad manners. I have the gift of alchemy. That's why I keep buying fake gold, to alchemically transform what is like lead into what is golden."
O Messenger of God, we need you to take what is like lead in our soul, and make it luminous, make it golden.
O Messenger of God, work your alchemy on our hearts.
The Prophet says to us in the Quran: "If you love God, follow me, and God will love you, and forgive you your sins; God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate" (Quran 3:31).
Come, let us follow him.
Let us be like him.
Let us adorn ourselves with him.
Let us perfume our soul with his fragrance.
Let us respond to this hateful episode the way he would respond.
Let us embody prophetic consciousness, and ask the necessary question at this time:
What would Muhammad (Peace be upon him) do?
How would he have responded?
How would he have us respond?
We do not have to imagine the answer to these questions.
We know these answers.
We know Muhammad.
If we are hurt that the world doesn't know Muhammad and calls him every offensive insult imaginable, let us not forget that we know Muhammad.
Let us not forget Muhammad.
We know Muhammad like the producers of the hateful "film" don't know Muhammad.
The person they attack is not the real Muhammad, but a figment of their own imagination.
We know Muhammad.
Let us not forget Muhammad.
The Prophet said that no prophet had suffered the way he suffered,
yet he refused to curse his own people.
We know that our Prophet was the target of repeated assaults and mockery for years.
He had trash thrown on him, insulted and even stoned.
He was abused and persecuted for 13 years, and exiled from his homeland. Then, after 23 long years, when he was powerful enough to return triumphantly to his homeland and had the power to punish his enemies, he chose to set a higher moral example.
He chose forgiveness.
Those whom he forgave and drew to the beauty of his soul are today counted among the first generations of Muslims.
In this age where everyone has Muhammad on their lips and on their mind, let us be Muhammad-like.
Let us chose forgiveness not because it is easy, but because it is Divine.
God forgives humanity for our sins,
and the Prophet forgave his enemies so that they can live in friendship and fellowship.
Let us offer forgiveness not because it is cheap, but because the alternative is the carrying on of rancor and hatred.
Hate is too big of a price to pay.
Anger is too poisonous of a substance to carry in our hearts.
Let us choose love and forgiveness.
Real forgiveness is not a one-way bestowal.
It is not simply granted.
But it has to start.
Let it start with us, for it leaves the door of redemption open to others.
Those who insult the Prophet have serious work to do on their own hearts. There is real and genuine racism and xenophobia in this country and other countries, and that poison has to be vomited out of our system. We will be participants in restoring nobility to these societies as well, but let us begin with our own hearts.
Let us begin with offering forgiveness so that the wells of our own heart do not become poisoned with the bitterness of anger and hatred.
We invite Muslims from every country to raise their voice and be heard, and let us do so in a way that honors the very example of the manners, the ethics, the path and the being of the Prophet that we so adore.
To do this, we turn to the Prophet.
God tells us in Quran 94:5:
Inna ma'a al-usri yusra.
"Indeed with every difficulty there is ease."
We as Muslims tend to misread this verse.
We read it often, all too often, as "after every difficulty there is ease."
Yet that is not what we are told. The verse says Ma'a: with.
With difficulty there is ease provided.
Already included inside every difficulty, there is ease.
And that is the case here.
We live in difficult days, when our faith in God and Prophet is mocked and ridiculed.
And yet, because we know that our God is a merciful God, already provided with this difficulty there is ease provided.
The difficulty we know: the difficulty of seeing our beloved Muhammad being mocked.
The difficulty we know: the Prophet who is dearer to us than our own souls is insulted. But there is also ease, and that ease comes not after, but rather with the Prophet.
The ease is the Prophet himself.
Seek shelter in the Prophet.
Hang on to the Prophet.
Everyone else will let you down, but he will never let you down.
He will never let his people go.
The ease is the Prophet, because he gave us a model of grace, of not returning evil for evil.
The ease is the Prophet, refusing to curse his people, after he was cursed and mocked for 13 years.
The ease is the Prophet, because he gave us a model of redemption.
Seek the Prophet.
Seek shelter in the Prophet's manners.
Seek shelter in the Prophet.
May God ennoble our behaviors through the Prophet.
May God ennoble our heart and souls through the Prophet.
May God make us worthy of being among the people of the Prophet.
Oh God, as our sights were not graced in this world by the sight of Prophet,
grace our sights in the Hereafter by the sight of Muhammad.
Oh God, bless Muhammad in the Here
And bless Muhammad in the Hereafter.
Bless Muhammad as you blessed Abraham.
Bless Muhammad as you blessed Moses.
Bless Muhammad as you blessed Christ.
Bless the family of Muhammad,
Bless the companions of Muhammad,
Bless the community of Muhammad.
Oh God, bless the community of Muhammad by having us embody the manners of Muhammad.
Bless us by the manners of Muhammad in the times of ease
And bless us by the manners of Muhammad in the times of difficulty.
Bless us by letting us seek shelter in him,
he who will never let us down.
Bless Muhammad in the beginning
And bless Muhammad in the end.
Omid Safi is the author of 'Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters.'