Since at least one person has questioned my imaan altogether because of my lack of outrage, I felt compelled to write on this topic. Others have told me that the worldwide reaction was justified, as defence of the Prophet should be our number one priority as Muslims. Some are outraged that Canada hasn't done enough to make Europe apologize. All this just doesn't make sense to me, even though I did find the pictures offensive and insulting. Personally, I feel that even if every single European nation decided to apologize, there is no way that such an apology would be sincere.
"We're sorry a bunch of cartoonists accused your Prophet of being a terrorist. And thanks to your violent protests, your burning of our embassies, the dozens of deaths which have been caused by your riots, and the death threats we've received, we can now say that we were wrong, and we regret the error."
That seems highly unlikely. I'm not saying that no apology is necessary, but this is not what we need right now; an apology at this point would only be a political gesture that would do nothing in addressing the root problem. It amazes me that this is what it took to finally unite the Muslim world on a common cause, even after we remained silent on much larger issues.
Regardless, I wanted to write about the Prophet himself and leave the politics aside. Regarding provocations and ignorant talk addressed to Muslims, the Quran states:
"You shall certainly be tried respecting your wealth and your souls, and you shall certainly hear from those who have been given the Book before you and from those who are polytheists much annoying talk; and if you are patient and guard (against evil), surely this is one of the affairs (which should be) determined upon." (3:186)
"And the servants of the Most Gracious (Allah) are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, 'Peace!'" (25:63)
Regarding the Prophet, peace be upon him, the Quran says:
"And most surely you conform (yourself) to sublime morality." (68:4)
"And We sent thee not, except as a Mercy for all the creatures." (21:107)
"You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the Final Day and who remember Allah much." (33:21)
"Say (O Prophet): 'If you do love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins, for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (3:31)
There are many more verses which illustrate how highly a Muslim must regard the Prophet, and how Muslims must follow him in all aspects of life. There is no doubt that reverence of the Prophet is fundamental, and thus any insult to him is something every Muslim will take personally.
Regarding the Prophets love for his followers:
"Now hath come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that you should suffer, ardently anxious is he over you; to the Believers is he most kind and merciful." (9:128)
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was known as a "Mercy to Mankind", but he underwent years and years of suffering in order to guide people to the Truth. Prior to Islam during the early sixth century, the Arabian peninsula was mired in the heights of depravity and ignorance. Outside the Arabian peninsula, the rest of the world was also at a moral and intellectual low. The Sasanid and Byzantine Empires, the dominant world forces at the time, were worn out and weary, as noted by H. G. Wells in A Short History of the World:
"Science and Political Philosophy seemed dead now in both these warring and decaying Empires. [...] In both Persia and Byzantium, it was an age of intolerance. Both Empires were religious empires in a new way, in a way that greatly hampered the free activities of the human mind."
Ancient India, relatively free from the traditional Imperialism of the age, was doing fairly well in scientific fields. Morality was dead, however, and the social conditions were even worse. Women were dealt out and traded in games of chance, the caste system had rendered most of the people into slaves, and lawlessness was rampant. Europe fared no better, caught in their Dark Ages during which men were barbarians, women had no rights, and the religious elite had no morals.
Effectively, the entire world was in the most squalid and humiliating conditions, and there was no reason to believe things would change anytime soon.
Enter Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. An entire biography of his life is well beyond the scope of this post, and there are numerous books which can do a much better job than I ever could. However, it should be sufficient to state that within a matter of 23 years, a worldwide revolution had begun that we are still benefitting from today. In brief, Islam conquered the tribalism that sunk Arabia to barbarism, and propelled the land to the heights of enlightenment and progress. The people united, women were honoured, the poor benefitted from generous social programs, and the entire population enjoyed the benefits of a well-governed society which brought them both spiritual and worldly advancement.
Within a century, more than one third of the known world was benefitting from the revolution brought forth by Islam, and the rest of the world started waking up in awe of the massive changes which had taken place.
And it all began with that one man, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, whose mission was only to call people towards their Creator, teach them the Quran, and serve as an example for them. The root was Islam; the fruits were the advancements and innovations brought forth by the rising Islamic world. The Muslim world excelled in math and science; the Prophet was neither a mathematician nor a scientist. The Muslim world excelled in art and literature, though the Prophet himself was unable to read or write. The Muslim world pioneered some of the most important social programs we know today, including welfare and the protection of minority rights. The Prophet Muhammad brought forth all of this change not because he was an expert in these specific fields, but because he brought people towards obedience to their Creator. And the system of the Creator will always benefit the creation; the manufacturer of any product knows best how to operate and maintain their works, and humanity is no different.
One cannot judge the Prophet in the context of the Muslim world of today. It is embarassing to see how so much of the Muslim world is in shambles, but one cannot attribute that to Islam. If anything, it is the lack of Islam, and the lack of respect for the teachings of Prophet Muhammad that has caused the ruination of the Muslim world today.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did not effect this change without facing adversity. He suffered much at the hands of his own extended family, and at the hands of the rulers of Makkah during the early years of Prophethood. He was insulted, cursed, and pelted with stones by children at Taif. He was conspired against, slandered, and opposed by people who claimed to be his friends.
He took it all in stride, knowing that he was suffering for a greater good. Instead, he prayed for the forgiveness of those who persecuted him. And as his followers were being tortured, he still pushed on with his mission, and his followers continued to support him. He urged his companions to remain discrete about their Islam so that they would not suffer. But those same companions refused to remain silent about their new way of life, also understanding that their suffering was for a greater good, and that such a valuable gift should never be kept hidden.
When that gift was exposed to the world, the world as a whole benefitted from it.
In the famous book "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History" by Michael Hart, Prophet Muhammad ranked #1 for turning the world around when it was approaching complete failure. George Bernard Shaw wrote about Muhammad, "I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness."
This is the personality we're talking about, about whom all this debate surrounds. Ignorant insults to him do not lower his stature and legacy in any way, and we will always be benefitting from that legacy whether we know it or not. Learning more about his life is left as an exercise for the reader.
Regarding the cartoons themselves, Imam Zaid Shakir has written one of the clearest and most reasonable responses to the issue I have read thus far:
Clash of the Uncivilized: Insights on the Cartoon Controversy
Regarding media responsibility on the issue, CBC editor-in-chief Tony Burman seems to have gotten this one right:
Why CBC News Drew the Line