Cartoongate: The Sermon That Wasn’t Given
Today being Friday and all, I dusted off my old khutbah-writing skills to compose a sermon warning against the scandal-mongering we’ve seen following Maajid Nawaz’s tweeting of a cartoon.
Brothers and Sisters, as we reflect upon the recent uproar that has engulfed sections of our community following the distasteful depictions of our beloved prophet, it is important that we as Muslims seek to avoid the chaos that can so easily spread in these sorts of instances.
If we do not tread with wisdom, if we do not behave in a manner that is in accordance with the guidance given to us in the Book of Allah and in the noble tradition of his Prophet, peace be upon him, then we make ourselves and our communities susceptible to a great deal of evil.
Know that it is incumbent upon us as believers not to rouse disorder and mayhem amongst our ranks. Indeed, it is our duty avert harm and to rectify the faults of our brethren with sincerity and in confidence.
We must know that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, has forbidden us from spreading turmoil amongst the community through the transmission of inflammatory statements, as Al Mughira narrated “The Messenger of Allah forbade us from spreading ‘it was said’ and ‘he said’.”
Also, Allah the Mighty and Majestic has said, “Obey not every despicable swearer; Detractor, spreader about of malicious gossip.”
And He, glory be unto him, has further said, “Woe to every scandal-monger and back-biter!”
So, brothers and sisters, it is our duty diffuse situations in which fitnah can arise–not to seek to spread the fitnah further.
But for those who chose to fan the flames of fitnah with regards to this controversy, for those who sought to spread it to the far corners of the Earth, even as it had first gone unnoticed, I ask you: what good did you hope to achieve? What benefit to the Muslim community was there in inflaming the masses?
Allah the Mighty and Majestic has said, “And when there comes unto them a matter impacting security or fear, they spread it about publicly. But had they referred it back to Allah, His Messenger, and those of them in proper authority, those among them who are able to think out and draw correct conclusions regarding the matter could have tested it.”
Instead, there were those who chose to spread about this explosive matter publicly. They aroused the fires of irrational frenzy that ruin the reputation of Islam, that provide fodder for our enemies, and that pit Muslim against Muslim.
Was not the turmoil that engulfed the Muslim world in past instances a sufficient lesson for you? Was not the violence and destruction caused by events in Denmark–200 lives lost and millions of dollars in damage–enough for you?
Would it not have been better for you to keep this matter to yourselves, to deal with it rationally, intelligently, and privately with the brother involved? Would not it have been better to spare the Muslim community of this unnecessary discord?
Rather, there are those who sought to spread the evil of scandal throughout the ummah of Muhammad, just as scandal was spread by hypocrites during the time of the Prophet.
“When you received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things of which you had no knowledge; and you thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of Allah.”
Oh Muslims! What positive came from further exposing this transgression of your brother, if you indeed believed it was a transgression? Had it been an image of you engaging in a private sin of yours, would you have sought to spread it in this manner? Or would you have sought to keep it discreet in hopes that your brothers would have advised you to a better way.
The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said, “Whosoever conceals the faults of his brother in this life, Allah will conceal his faults in the hereafter.”
And for those who say that this fault is greater because it came from a respected community leader, then let them know that the Messenger of Allah has commanded us to take even more care with the affairs of leaders because of their potential to inflame the masses. The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Whoever desires to advise one with authority then he should not do so openly, rather he should take him by the hand and take him into seclusion (and then advise him). And if he accepts (the advice) from him then (he has achieved his objective) and if not, then he has fulfilled that which was a duty upon him.’
All of these recommendations are meant to preserve the honor and dignity of the Muslim community amongst the public and to quell the confusion caused by stoking scandal amongst the believers.
What is more, it is clear to anyone who examines this matter objectively that our brother, brother Maajid–as mistaken as he may have been–was not looking to incite fitnah. Rather, he stated his opinion that the image he depicted was not offensive, then gave Allah the glory of being above such petty matters. Be he correct or mistaken, Allah will judge him as per his intentions, as the Messenger of Allah said, “Verily, actions are judged by their intentions.”
And finally, for those who have gone as far as to accuse our brother of disbelief, then I warn you of the danger of judging one who has openly testified that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah. As the messenger of Allah said, “Whosever accuses his brother of disbelief, then it is certainly true of one of them.”
What a burden you would carry on your shoulders in front of Allah if, because of your rash judgment, some harm would befall your brother who testifies that there is no God but Allah. So I remind you of the manner in which the messenger of Allah chastised his companion Usama bin Zaid who had killed a man after he had said the testimony of faith, “Did you open his heart to see if he said it sincerely?” And the Messenger of Allah said, “To destroy the Kaa’ba stone by stone is a lighter matter in the sight of Allah than to take the life of a believer.”
So beware, brothers and sisters, of the evils that come about from not dealing with the affairs of the Muslims with care and with wisdom. And hold your own selves to account before you are held to account. And beware of the judgment of Allah against your own souls on a day you will be returned to Him, then he will inform you of all that you did.
Glory be to your Lord, the Lord of Might. Exalted be he above all that they falsely ascribe to him. And may peace be upon all of his Messengers. And all praises are due to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.
(It should go without saying that this does not ACTUALLY represent my view on this matter. It does, however, show that there is a strong, religiously sound case to be made against the manner in which ‘cartoongate’ was handled by so-called “Muslim community leaders. Alright, that’s enough. I hate having to explain puns and irony.)