By Dr. Shadee Elmasry
When something is "sacred," it is untouchable. Even accidental offenses are grave. For example, if a news anchor slipped up and disrespected the victims of the Holocaust, the response against him would be swift and damning. Nothing short of a humble apology would be acceptable. Right? All of society would find outrage and subsequent regret to be a good thing; a sign of health, that we are protecting what's sacred. If the anchor gets to keep his job, he should be thankful. We expect to see him do public acts of devotion, such as visiting Auschwitz, as a sign of personal remorse and reform, and of upkeeping the right values for the next generation to see.
In our community, as Muslims, there is nothing more sacred than Allah, His Angles, His Books, and His Prophets, and above all prophets in our love and zeal, is the Messenger Muhammad ﷺ. Therefore, when a speaker recently likened the Prophet ﷺ to "our cow that gives us milk...we suckle from his breast," he was met with opposition, led by Shaykh Abdul Aziz Suraqa, may Allah reward him. How can a Muslim be blamed for being completely shocked by this analogy, even if intended as a compliment. Try using that compliment with your mother-in-law next time she visits and brings food: "you always come with such wonderful gifts, like a milk-bearing cow."
Some say, we only disagree with the 'way' in which this indignation was initially expressed. However, we also read in the Quran that when Moses saw the blasphemy of the golden calf, he smashed the tablets against the mountain. Allah says, those tablets "contained guidance and light," but He never blamed Prophet Musa alayhi salam for throwing them. At the moment of seeing blasphemy, emotions can (and should) run high, as this is a sign of true love and faith. To give another analogy: next time a man taps your wife on the backside, I would like you to smile and say, "Sir, can we have a polite word in private?" For certain circumstances, if emotions do not rage on the spot, then something is wrong.
The opinion of many pious imams must carry some weight and indicate that something was surely wrong. I pray that nobody ever falls into a blunder in public. It's one of the worst things that can happen to a person. But in such a circumstance, the person who has erred ought to just think of Allah, rather than their reputation or bruised ego. Easier said than done of course. But it is the fastest way to the least painful conclusion. In fact, good can come out of it. Allah will not humiliate a man with the courage to recognizes his error publicly, bowing his head in humility, sacrificing his own honor and reputation for the sake of the truth. In fact, such a person may become respected in the eyes of Muslims, as Allah has the power to turn people's hearts and erase their memories of our mistakes. You may become a positive example of how to face one's errors and do the right thing. If the speaker of those words ever sees this, or if anyone knows him, please send this to him, as I pray that Allah transforms all of our errors (even if accidental) into good deeds.