The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement
presenting Islam as peaceful, tolerant, rational, inspiring
1. Islam

Articles and booklets
Islamic teaching on tolerance of verbal abuse
2. Publications
3. Activities
4. Ahmadiyya Movement
5. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
6. Non-English material

Discussion forums
Site Statistics
Contact us
Search the website


Islamic teaching on tolerance of verbal abuse

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 means only.)

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 Prophet Muhammad:

"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."
(Mishkat, Book: Ethics, ch. 'Gentleness, modesty and good behaviour')
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!

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:

  • 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)
In connection with these verses, it is recorded in the Hadith collection Bukhari:
"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 hurtful words."
Book: Commentary on the Quran, ch. 16 under Sura 3.
Addressing the Holy Prophet, God says in the Quran:
  • 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)
In all the verses quoted above, Muslims are taught to bear their feelings of hurt and anger with patience, and to ignore the abuse.

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 in Bukhari:
  • 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.)
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.

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".
(Bukhari, Book: 'Testimony', ch. 15.)
He then resumed providing assistance to Mistah, as before.

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 and magnanimous.

Website created and published by: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha`at Islam Lahore Inc. U.S.A.
Contact us.