Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) has been and is the most misunderstood religious figure in history. Although there is a plethora of information about his life, yet he is a religious leader who has been maligned and ridiculed not only by people of his own time but many hundreds of years later his character is still being attacked. The most recent incident which sparked a slew of violent protests in Muslim countries around the globe was the notorious YouTube film, “Innocence of Muslims”. Soon after the mayhem caused by this movie, the French magazine Charlie Hebdo published derogatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him).
To defend the honor of the Prophet of Islam, a religion with 1.6 billion adherents worldwide, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of USA has launched a nationwide campaigned titled, “Muhammad, Messenger of Peace.” The purpose of this campaign is to educate the public of the true character of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) and the true teachings of Islam. The goal is being achieved by hosting lectures and events across the country in 70 chapters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. One of these 70 lectures, sponsored by the Potomac chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was held at the Universities of Shady Grove, Rockville, MD on March 14. The event attracted guests from different walks of life and different faith communities. The keynote speaker for the evening was Dr. Faheem Younus, a physician by profession but a frequent speaker and a Huffington Post blogger on the topic of Islam.
The program commenced with the Islamic tradition of recitation from the Quran. This was followed by a brief introductory clip from the PBS documentary, “Muhammad- Legacy of a Prophet” as a segue to the presentation by Dr. Younus. The topic he chose for his presentation was, “Where Muhammad went right and Muslims went wrong.” Through slide projections juxtaposing news of the wrong behaviors exhibited by some Muslims around the world and the words of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) Dr. Younus was able to explain to the audience the difference between the actions of the Muslims and what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) really taught. If Faisal Shahzad thought that by blowing up an SUV in Time Square he was following the teachings of Islam then he clearly didn’t understand what the Prophet said about loyalty to one’s country of residence. Dr. Younus related one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) in which he said, “The one who obeys a person in authority obeys me and the one who disobeys a person in authority disobeys me.” The Prophet did not make any distinction as to whether the one in authority is a Muslim or a non-Muslim.
Dr. Faheem Younus summed up his presentation with three points. “First”, he said, “If you want to learn more about Prophet Muhammad don’t learn it from Bill O’Reily learn it from us. Second, when we go wrong in America by calling Guantanamo Bay Camp Justice, we don’t judge American values by Guantanamo Bay. We say that it is a mutation; we are better than that. We are standing up against it. Similarly those people who do these atrocities in the name of Prophet Muhammad they don’t represent us. They don’t represent Prophet Muhammad and we are here to tell you that. And finally, when my patient tells me that it hurts there and even though I have the right as a physician to touch that part, I don’t find it the right thing to poke her in her belly where it hurts. I cannot tell you with enough emphasis how painful it is when Prophet Muhammad is ridiculed. I am not saying make blasphemy laws. I am not saying take away someone’s freedom of expression. I am not saying someone doesn’t have the right to make a video of the Prophet Muhammad. All I am saying is that it hurts. If I had an option for you to hurt my parents or Prophet Muhammad – Say something derogatory to my parents or Prophet Muhammad I would say go ahead and say it about my mom don’t say about my Prophet that’s how much it hurts. That’s not the moment to give me a lecture on freedom of speech. I am not asking for your brain I am asking for your heart.”
The guests who attended the event went away with a better understanding of the Prophet Muhammad and Islam. Included among the attendees were members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring. Esther McBride, a member of the congregation, took home the message of tolerance.
“It is important to keep reemphasizing that there are bad people in any religion or non-religion. We are all people we are all human and there are thieves and murderers in every group and every culture. No one group is exempt from this. It’s truly weird to generalize,” McBride said.
Catherine Stevens found common values between her own church and Islam.
“I learned some interesting passages from the Quran and from Muhammad and some things he said that were very timely even today and in line with many values that I have and other people have in our Church community, Unitarian Universalist, and a lot of common values.”
Elizabeth Benefiel, a teacher, was impressed by the compassion shown by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) even for animals. She said, “As a teacher of young children I am always looking for ways to interpret and model values for the children in my classroom. We want our children to grow and learn and cooperate together in the world. So I thought that the very simplest stories of birds and cats are a level at which many of us can share.”
From the comments of the guests, it is apparent that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s goal to educate the Americans about the real Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was no doubt a success. Barbara Eyman, also a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church came because she had been impressed by the Community’s outreach efforts.
“I really appreciate the outreach effort to reach across the communities and educate and more importantly just send the message that we are all one and we need to treat each other with love.”