He looked straight at her as he called her profane names, loud enough for everyone to hear.
“Dude, you’re embarrassing me! Stop. Besides, I don’t think she is Muslim,” I said.
“She is Palestinian, isn’t she? What is she doing? Going out with a white guy…” he said conspicuously in Arabic, adding in several more profanities.
This took place about thirteen years ago and has stuck with me since. She is someone I met through the Arab Students’ Association on campus. She is Palestinian but, as I recall, barely spoke Arabic. From our very brief encounter, I suspect that she is not Muslim. The hot-blooded friend of mine took it upon himself to call her out in the middle of a coffee shop by stating that such indecent behavior is unbefitting of a Palestinian woman.
You might look at this and wonder why assume that the man she is sitting with is her boyfriend? Could he be her husband? Maybe he is a cousin, a family friend, a classmate? They were not holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes, or making out. They were having coffee at a coffee shop on campus.
Being eager to protect the sanctity of Muslims is admirable, but one must understand what Allah tells us in Surat Al-Hujurat:
“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin.” (Qur’an, 49:12)
Negative assumptions only give the shaytan (Satan) easy access to our hearts and minds, making us lose control.
Even if it was not an assumption but factual, and the relationship was truly illegitimate, yelling profanities at someone is not going to set them straight. Is this the way the Prophet ﷺ preached the message of Islam? He was definitely strict and unwavering when it came to the halal (permissible) and haram (impermissible), but he was also kind and wise in how he delivered the message. As Allah says in Surat Ali Imran,
“And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you.” (Qur’an, 3:159)
This is a lesson for us by way of the Prophet ﷺ. Allah says: “(O Mohammad) had you been harsh, ill-natured, and fierce of heart, brutish and coarse towards them, they would have dispersed, split away, from about you” (Tafsir al-Jalalayn).
So yelling at your child to pray without any proper teaching is not going to get them to pray. Belittling the iman (faith) of your spouse or your friends is not going to encourage them to learn more about their religion. Spitting nails while giving a khutbah (sermon) about the haram-filled life in non-Muslim lands is not going to be of benefit. We must be conscientious of how we approach people and how we give advice because a person’s faith is so volatile that saying the right thing the wrong way might prove destructive. Allah says in Surat Al-Nahl,
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best.” (Qur’an, 16:125)
That incident at the coffee shop also indicates an alarming phenomenon in the Muslim Ummah (community). His anger over her assumed actions was precipitated by the fact that she was Palestinian, or Arab, and not because she could be Muslim. By perhaps having a boyfriend, especially a white man, she had insulted him and his Palestinian heritage. Culture, lineage, and tribal mentality have resurfaced since the fall of the Ottoman Empire; we are regressing to the days of jahilyah (ignorance) in which die-hard nationalism and unquestionable allegiance to the flag take precedence. If we do not return to our religion then we will be divided and conquered by our own ignorance.
But you know what the most frightening thing is about this incident? I have since learned that my hot-blooded friend was infamous for preying on drunken girls at bars. Immediately what comes to mind is what Allah says in Surat Al-Baqarah,
“Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves?” (Qur’an, 2:44)
It is frightening because anger, assumptions, brutish behavior, and misconceptions about religious and cultural interactions can all be corrected, but hypocrisy that is masked by self-assumed righteousness is a cancer that would soon consume the body of the Ummah.
I pray that Allah forgive my sins and guide me to His righteous path and I pray that His mercy has led him and her to repentance and forgiveness.