Islamic teaching on tolerance of verbal
It is entirely false and totally unfounded to allege that Islam teaches
Muslims to murder anyone who verbally abuses their religion, mocks it,
or offends their feelings towards their faith.
On the contrary, Islam requires its followers to show patience under
provocation, and to disregard and ignore the abuse. (Of course, if the
abuse contains any allegations against Islam or the Holy Prophet Muhammad
which require to be refuted, then these should be answered, but by verbal
Below we give arguments from the Holy Quran and the life of the Holy
Prophet Muhammad to prove the above points. We are confident that no
one can cite any verse of the Holy Quran which contradicts the position
set out below.
We may preface our discussion with the following saying of the Holy
"The Muslim who mixes with the
people and bears patiently their hurtful words, is better than one who
does not mix with people and does not show patience under their abuse."
What a noble and wonderful piece of guidance, which is so applicable to
the modern world in which people of differing faiths have to mix and come
into contact so closely!
(Mishkat, Book: Ethics, ch. 'Gentleness, modesty and good behaviour')
Teachings of the Holy Quran
As a general point, it may first be noted that the Holy Quran itself records
the accusations made against, and the insults heaped upon, the Holy Prophet
Muhammad by his opponents (e.g. that he was insane, or that he fabricated
his revelation), and it answers these charges, but nowhere does it require
Muslims to inflict any kind of punishment on the accusers. The Quran has
itself, therefore, given permanence to these allegations and the replies
thereto, obviously anticipating that similar charges would be made by
critics in later times. If such abuse or criticism could damage a Muslim's
faith, and requires to be silenced by force, why should the Quran itself
have quoted so much of it from its opponents' mouths?
The Holy Quran tells Muslims:
In connection with these verses, it is recorded in the Hadith collection
- 1. "You will certainly hear much abuse from the followers of
previous books and from the idol-worshipping people. And if
you are patient and keep your duty -- this is surely a matter
of great resolution." (3:185)
- 2."Many of the followers of previous books wish that they could
turn you back into disbelievers after you have believed, but you should
pardon and forgive." (2:109)
"The Messenger of Allah and his Companions used to forgive
the idolators and the followers of previous books, as Allah had commanded
them, and they used to show patience on hearing
Addressing the Holy Prophet, God says in the Quran:
Book: Commentary on the Quran, ch. 16 under Sura 3.
In all the verses quoted above, Muslims are taught to bear their feelings
of hurt and anger with patience, and to ignore the abuse.
- 1. "Bear patiently what they say."
(20:130 and 50:39)
- 2. "Obey not the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and disregard
their hurtful talk." (33:48)
Another verse having some bearing on this subject is as follows:
"And if you invite them to guidance, they hear not;
and thou seest them looking towards thee, yet they see not. Hold fast
to forgiveness and enjoin goodness and turn away
from the ignorant." (7:198-199)
This directs us that when we have to deal with people who are blindly
prejudiced and ignorant, and therefore fail to understand the guidance,
we must not give vent to anger, fury and violence against them. We should
treat them with forgiveness, do our duty of enjoining simple goodness,
and then turn away from them, leaving the matter in the hands of Allah.
Withdrawing from company
Muslims are told:
"When you hear Allah's messages disbelieved in and mocked
at, sit not with them until they enter into some other discourse."
(4:140; see also 6:68).
These verses deal with the case when the religion is being mocked and
derided (as distinct from being criticised). A Muslim is required to do
no more than to withdraw from such a company,
and even that only while the mocking continues, and to actually rejoin
the same company when they have changed the subject! How far from ordering
Muslims to kill such people!
Any criticism underlying the abuse must, of course, be answered. But
the response to any sheer abuse, ridicule or mockery is withdrawal of
oneself from the company.
Some incidents from the Holy Prophet's life
1. A man called Suhail ibn Amar had a voice suited to oratory,
and used to employ this talent in making speeches against the Holy Prophet.
He was captured by the Muslims at the battle of Badr and brought before
the Holy Prophet. A Muslim suggested that some of Suhail's teeth should
be knocked out to disable him from speaking well. The Holy Prophet replied:
"If I disfigure any of his limbs,
God will disfigure mine in retribution".
2. Once when the Holy Prophet divided some wealth among his followers,
one man accused him to his face of being unfair and told him: "Fear
God, O Muhammad". After the man had left, the following conversation
took place between Khalid ibn Walid and the Holy Prophet, as recorded
Here a man insults the Holy Prophet to his face, and a Muslim asks permission
to kill the man. The Holy Prophet advances the possibility of there being
some good in the culprit, but Khalid argues that the man's prayers are
only for show. The Holy Prophet then makes it clear that we cannot know
about people's motives or sincerity, but have to accept that what they
are doing is in good faith.
- Khalid: "Shall I strike off his neck?"
- Holy Prophet: "No, perhaps he is a man who says prayers."
- Khalid: "There are many people who pray, but what they say
is not what is in their hearts."
- Holy Prophet: "I have not been commanded
by God to cut open people's chests to see what is inside their hearts."
(Book: Maghazi, ch. 63.)
3. Some Jews, when addressing Muslims, would distort the greeting
as-salamu alaikum and say it as as-samu alaikum, which means "death
be upon you". When they once addressed the Holy Prophet in this
manner, his wife Aisha retorted back in the same words. The Holy Prophet
disapproved of this reply and said that God did not like harsh words.
4. Once there were four men who spread an accusation of immorality
against the Holy Prophet's wife Aisha. Their allegation was ultimately
proved to be false because they failed to back it up with any witnesses.
One of the four men, called Mistah, used to receive financial assistance
from Abu Bakr, Aisha's father. After this incident, Abu Bakr swore never
again to help Mistah. The following verse was revealed to the Holy Prophet
on this occasion:
"Let not the possessors of grace and means among you
swear against giving to the near relatives and the poor and those who
had to flee in God's way. Pardon and overlook. Do you not love that
God should forgive you?" (24:22)
Hearing this, Abu Bakr exclaimed:
"Indeed, I certainly love that God should forgive me".
He then resumed providing assistance to Mistah, as before.
(Bukhari, Book: 'Testimony', ch. 15.)
Note that this allegation was not made against just an ordinary Muslim
woman, but the wife of the Holy Prophet, and therefore it struck at
the holy household at the centre of the religion of Islam, which was
required to be a model of purity for all Muslims. In view of this, the
forgiveness taught in the above verse becomes all the more generous