Thursday, August 9, 2007

How Muslims React When Slandered

And those who abuse believing men and women, when they have not merited it, bear the weight of slander and clear wrongdoing. (Surah al-Ahzab, 58)

The messengers are Allah’s beloved servants who have won His good pleasure and have been promised His Paradise. Therefore, it is necessary for every Muslim who wants to earn Allah’s good pleasure and love to behave like them. Allah reveals: “You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much” (Surah al-Ahzab, 21).

The purpose of this article is to encourage contemporary Muslims to learn from the patience and submission to Allah shown by the messengers, as well as the earlier devout Muslims and Islamic scholars.

For irreligious people or those of weak faith, slander means destruction. If unbelievers or people of weak faith were exposed to the slanders experienced by Allah’s messengers, their entire life would come apart. For instance if they were accused of adultery or theft, they would be devastated. With a pure ignorant outlook on life, they would lose their interest in life, become depressed, give way to despair, and suffer. Even a small accusation can cause them to despair, and multiple slanders would devastate them. They would think: “How can I possibly clear my name from these accusations?” or “Millions of people have come to know me in this light. How on Earth am I to put the record straight?” They could be worrying about their financial future. They could panic, thinking that “Even if I clear my name, throw enough mud and some of it will stick.” Thus, they would believe that they will always be remembered in the light of these accusations.

Believers, on the other hand, feel secure in their belief and trust in Allah. Irrespective of what they encounter, sincere Muslims will not behave irrationally or give themselves over to worry, like the people mentioned above. Having firm faith and the ability to submit to the destiny that Allah has determined for them, their attitude and behavior in such situations will differ markedly from that of people who do not live by the Qur’an.

Muslims know that being slandered is a test from Allah, that He will be pleased with them if they pass it, and that He will clear their names if they prove their patience and trust in Him. One verse reveals that, in reality, the accusations Muslims encounter are actually good for them:

There is a group of you who propagated the lie. Do not suppose it to be bad for you; rather, it is good for you. Every one of them will incur the evil he has earned, and the one who took it on himself to amplify it will receive a terrible punishment. (Surah an-Nur, 11)

People who live by the Qur’an believe with certainty that everything happens according to Allah’s knowledge and control, and that everything is created in the best way possible and in their best interest. Therefore, even if they encounter the worst slander, they know that something good will come out of it. Sure, Muslims will do everything that is legitimately possible to clear their names and distance themselves from the slanderous accusations, but they do so knowing that Allah ultimately wills goodness and benefit for them.

It is possible that Muslims will be tested by great hardship as a consequence of slander. They could simultaneously become seriously ill, or their family or relatives could be reduced to dependency or suffer financial problems. True Muslims will know that all of these are just trials sent by Allah, that a solution comes with every problem, and that patience is rewarded with Paradise. Therefore, they respond in a determined, measured, courageous, and energetic manner. They will not surrender to depression or despair and will receive all of the hardship that comes their way with the rational and disciplined manner required by the Qur’an.

Accusations Actually Benefit Muslims Even on Earth

The story of Yusuf (as) is a good example of how slanderous allegations might actually benefit believers. Yusuf (as), who had been falsely accused by the Egyptian governor’s wife, was imprisoned for many years. While there, he found the opportunity to teach Allah’s existence and Islam to his fellow prisoners. His full submission to his destiny eventually caused the news of his trustworthiness and ability to interpret dreams reach the ear of the king by means of a freed fellow prisoner. The king had him brought to the court to interpret his dream. Yusuf (as), however, requested that his name be cleared first and that the woman who had slandered him and her friends be asked to tell the truth. Now that he had established his innocence and been cleared of any suspicion, the king knew him to be a trustworthy, religious, and chaste person. Allah reveals in the Qur’an:

The King commanded: “Bring him to me straight away!” But when the envoy came to him, he [Yusuf] said: “Go back to your master and ask him what happened to the women who cut their hands. My Lord has knowledge of their cunning guile.” He [the king] asked [the women]: “What was this past affair of yours when you solicited Yusuf?” Then they said: “Allah forbid! We know no bad of him.” The governor’s wife then said: “The truth has now emerged. Indeed, I tried to seduce him then, and he has simply told the honest truth.” [Yusuf said:] “In this way he [the governor] may know at last that I did not dishonor him behind his back, and that Allah most surely does not guide the deviousness of the dishonorable.” (Surah Yusuf, 50-52)

As we can see, this slander against Yusuf (as) was exposed as a lie, and his innocence and trustworthiness came to be known to the people. After he proved his faith during this trial, Allah rewarded him for his patience and good conduct on Earth as well as in the Hereafter. The verses continue:

The king said: “Bring him to me straight away, so I may draw him very close to me.” When he had spoken with him, he declared: “Today you are trusted, established in our sight.” He [Yusuf] replied: “Entrust the country's stores to me. In truth I am a knowing guardian.” And thus We established Yusuf in the land so he could live wherever he pleased. We grant Our grace to anyone We will, and We do not allow to go to waste the wage of any people who do good. But the wages of the Hereafter are the best for people who believe and fear [and respect] their Lord. (Surah Yusuf, 54-57)

Thinking Favorably for Slandered Believers

If we reflect on these past events, another important matter emerges: While the patience and faith of the slandered Muslim is tested, the stance and good opinion of his or her fellow Muslims is also tested.

Muslims must think positively for one another, because, as in the examples of the past, those who are hostile to religion try to support their accusations with forged evidence and false witnesses. They do this in order to discredit the accused in the eyes of the people, particularly in the eyes of other Muslims, in an attempt to create intra-Muslim rifts and frictions. As we saw in the previous chapter, this is what was done to Bediuzzaman. Despite the fact that he was devoted to Islam and spiritual values, he was subjected to a smear campaign designed to portray him as a religious hypocrite. A cunning plan is at work here: The unbelievers want to turn Muslims against each other so that they will not support each other. However, Allah commands all Muslims to support each other at all times:

Those who are unbelievers are the friends and protectors of one another. If you do not act in this way, there will be turmoil in the land and great corruption. (Surah an-Anfal, 73)

Therefore, it is crucial that Muslims first know the inside story when they hear something negative about a fellow Muslim. If the accused person is known to be a believer who fears Allah and abides by the Qur’an, maintaining good opinion of him or her becomes compulsory.

The unbelievers’ hate and animosity toward Muslims is so fierce that they want to render the believers ineffective and force them to accept their own false beliefs. People who are far removed from the Qur’an’s morality will always slander Allah’s devout servants. Muslims must be very well aware of this.

Allah reveals yet another important fact in the following verses:

They concocted their plots, but their plots were with Allah, even if they were such as to make the mountains vanish. Do not imagine that Allah will break His promise to His messengers. Allah is Almighty, the Lord of Retribution. (Surah Ibrahim, 46-47)

As the verses reveal, Allah will foil all such cunning plots and lead the Muslims, as he did with Yusuf (as) and other Muslims, to a happy ending. However, until the unbelievers’ conspiracies have been frustrated, Muslims are obliged to consider their slandered fellow Muslim with goodwill, good intentions, and trust. Allah reveals how Muslims must act toward fellow Muslims who are being slandered, and warns those who respond wrongly:

A group of you propagated the lie. Do not suppose it to be bad for you; rather, it is good for you. Every one of them will incur the evil he has earned, and the one who took it on himself to amplify it will receive a terrible punishment. Why, when you heard it, did you not, as male and female believers, instinctively think good thoughts and say: “This is obviously a lie.” Why did they not produce four witnesses to it? Since they did not bring four witnesses, in Allah’s sight they are liars. Were it not for Allah’s favor to you and His mercy, both in the world and the Hereafter, a terrible punishment would have afflicted you for your plunging headlong into it. You were bandying it about on your tongues, your mouths uttering something about which you had no knowledge. You considered it to be a trivial matter, but in Allah’s sight it is immense. Why, when you heard it, did you not exclaim: “We have no business speaking about this. Glory be to You! This is a terrible slander!”? Allah warns you never to repeat the like of it again, if you are believers. (Surah an-Nur, 11-17)

Slanders Must Not Be Considered from an Ignorant Point of View

Muslims must never forget that unbelievers will always hurl hurtful words and slander toward Muslims, as this is one of Allah’s eternal laws. Therefore, Muslims need to be aware of this truth so that they will not be misled into thinking badly of, or doing some injustice to, a fellow Muslim. In fact, Muslims can even consider it to be a sign of a fellow Muslim’s sincerity that he or she be subjected to slander.

Some people can fall for whispers that are incompatible with the truth revealed in the Qur’an, such as: “Where there’s fire there’s smoke” or “Why did someone tell this about him and not me?” Such people make a serious mistake by interpreting events outside the Qur’an, just as irreligious and unbelieving people do, with their own personal (and therefore deficient) way of reasoning and behavior. In other words, they forget the realities revealed in the Qur’an. People who believe in Allah must be very careful not to make such a mistake.

Muslims must not pay attention to such slanderous accusations. Even more, they must tell the perpetrators that they do not believe their lies, as this will bring their conspiracies to naught.

In addition, even if most people play their respective roles in an anti-Muslim conspiracy, their sheer numbers cannot be taken as evidence for the truth of their allegations. Allah reveals that the majority may often be wrong:

If you obeyed most of those on Earth, they would misguide you from Allah’s way. They follow nothing but conjecture. They are only guessing. (Surah al-An‘am, 116)

If the allegations against a Muslim come from someone who does not obey Allah, they must be carefully investigated and taken seriously only if strong evidence of their validity emerges. Those who choose to believe the allegations must first act according to the Qur’an’s directives while before reaching a decision, and must either see or produce the evidence. This is an order by Allah:

O you who believe! If a deviator brings you a report, scrutinize it carefully in case you attack people in ignorance and so come to greatly regret what you have done. (Surah al-Hujurat, 6)

In order to avoid suffering from any possible remorse and regret in this life as well as the Hereafter, Muslims must always follow the Qur’an’s guiding principles and keep truth and justice alive.


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