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Are Other Muslims Safe From Me?
A popular Hadith of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, needs to be looked at in a new light.
The Muslim is the one from whom other Muslims are safe from his hands and his tongue (Bukhari and Muslim).
This is a very well known saying of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace. It is commonly understood to mean that the true Muslim is the one who avoids harming other Muslims with his hands (physical abuse) and his tongue (verbal abuse).
This is well and good…and wholly inadequate. This may connote an understanding that, when it comes to non-Muslims, anything goes.
A true Muslim is the one who avoids harming anyone and everyone, whether it be physically or verbally. This is why I believe in, and greatly prefer, another understanding of this saying:
The Muslim is the one who saves the reputation of other Muslims from disparagement as a consequence of the conduct of his hands and tongue.
I have heard modern day scholars interpret this saying in this manner, and I like it much much better.
Like it or not, if we are the only Muslim with whom someone comes into contact, and that interaction is poor or we treat them poorly, then that person is liable to disparage every and all Muslims. If a Muslim business owner cheats a customer, then that customer is liable to conclude, “Yeah man…all Muslims are crooks.”
Yes, it is not fair. It is, unfortunately, the way of the world.
That is why each and every interaction we have with every person - whether it be with our families, friends, neighbors, and complete strangers - should be the best possible. One of my good friends, who recently came back from the Pilgrimage to Mecca, reflected on his experience and said this:
There’s so much beauty and goodness in the world and in people that we miss because we are too busy and distracted by the minutia. And so I try to hold onto that. And I try to be a vehicle for peace and goodness and beauty in the world.
And in particular I try to look for the people who are overlooked and under appreciated and let them know I see them and appreciate them. It also makes you realize because what matters are people and relationships that there should be a very high bar for upsetting anyone: it’s just rarely worth it. Instead try to have people leave every interaction happier for having had it with me.
This was so inspiring, and it motivates me each day.
The same was true with the Prophet, upon whom be peace. So many people came to the faith because they were overawed by his tremendous character. Even his enemies were taken aback by his character. That is the standard by which we need to live our lives each and every day.
So, the proper question to ask is not, “Are other Muslims safe from me?” The proper question, rather, is “Have I made life better for each and every person that interacted with me today?”
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