Sajed Bhandari

America, Books, Cooking, Muslims and some other things

This Article is not about the Muhammad Cartoons

This article is not about the Muhammad Cartoons

Sajed Bhandari

Who is this?

Who is this?

Anger is one of the emotions I do well.  I’ve felt anger about so many things.  The Muhammad Cartoons debacle is not something I can be angry about anymore.  I, like many other Muslims around the world, was initially angry, upset, and confused by what was seen as hypocrisy in the face of these cartoons.  Granted, I was never willing to go hurt someone physically over the issue, I was still very upset.  The two opposing sides on the issue are the following.  A group of people see the right to draw such cartoons as fundamental to freedom of speech.  The other group of people sees it as hate speech and often cites the hypocrisy of labeling these cartoons freedom of speech while labeling nooses in trees as racist and swastikas as anti-semitic.  There is a misunderstanding with respect to why exactly is it that so many compare these cartoons to racism and anti-semitism.  I, on the other hand, just don’t care.  This article is not about the cartoons as much as it is about Rasulillah SAW.

Some might ask why I have a copy of the cartoon in this article if it is not about the said cartoons.  I put the cartoon in the article because it is important for me to understand the emotions I have upon seeing this cartoon.  This article is fundamentally about me.  What does the cartoon bring out in me?  I feel upset by the cartoon.  It elicits very negative emotions.  But who is the man in this cartoon?  My friend Steve sent me an article about Muslims-Americans on a campus who dealt with this cartoon issue.  There were a group of people drawing stick figures and writing Muhammad next to them.  Instead of burning things in the street, the Muslim-Americans at this campus went around, drew circles around the hands indicating boxing gloves and wrote Ali underneath Muhammad.  Ingenious.

This article that my friend shared with me made me re-think the whole Muhammad Cartoon issue.  The article makes one ask the fundamental question about the nature of symbols and art as a symbol. I ask myself again then, who is it that is in these cartoons that the Danes are putting out?  I look again at the black and yellow and beige paint that sits in front of me.  The Arabic calligraphy that is so familiar.  Is this Rasulillah SAW?  The picture that is formed in this cartoon, is it the same person whose memory I recall so fondly?  This is not Rasulillah SAW.  This is not the man we sang about when I was a child.  This is not a symbol or image of the man I love and the man to whose truth I testify to.  It is ink on paper; it is a few pixels on a screen.  It is not the man that is in the heart of 1.5 billion human beings.

The cartoons beg me to ask, what are my memories of this man?  This man who is only a man the way a diamond is only a stone.  The cartoons, are they the image of Rasulillah SAW that I hold in my heart and in my mind? Growing up in a Bangladeshi-American household, I would often take part in milads that were held to commemorate the dead.  We would praise God and send blessings on the dead.  But the poems and songs that were the most heartfelt were the ones in praise of Rasulillah SAW.  This is the memory I hold of this man.  A shitty cartoon is not going to replace those memories of Rasulillah SAW that I hold.

I transcend the ignorance, the hatred, the negativity that flows from this cartoon.  It is not an image of the beloved of God.  It is again, ink on paper.  It is not a symbol of the man who bled in Taif.  He bled for us and he bled for himself.  He sought earthly protection in Taif and was stoned, maligned and ridiculed.  He like all of us was looking for stability, a safe place to exist.  Rasulillah SAW, a man, bled so that there would be justice on the earth again.  That is the memory of Rasulillah SAW that I hold.

I am not angry.  I am not upset by this image.  It is not an image of the man who loved his wife Aisha, the way I can only hope to love the person in my life.  It is not the man that cared for her, played games with her, loved her and died being held by her.   That is the memory I hold of Rasulillah SAW.

The ink on the page is not this man.  It is not an image of the man who when being protected by his companions in war ended up protecting them.  This is not an image of the brave prophet who stood in the face of tyranny and oppression.  It is not an image of the man who denied the sun and the moon that were offered to him by his enemies.  He was a man that sought justice above all else, be it for those who agreed with him or those who disagreed with him.  That is the memory of Rasulillah SAW.

What will I say if I see this man on the Day of Judgment?  Will I say that, Ya Rasulillah, I spent my life in anger?  Or will I say, Ya Rasulillah, I have spent my life with your memory strewn across my actions the way the stars dot the sky?  Ya Rasulillah, I have spent my life reading about you, wanting to see you, dreaming about you and all I want to do is sit at your feet.  This is the memory of Rasulillah SAW.

What can be said about this man?  Words are empty when attempting to explain what he means in my heart.  I am a sinner.  I am not a good Muslim.  I don’t claim to be otherwise.  This is not a statement on humility as humility is not one of the things I do well.  It is a statement of truth.  But in my heart, there is love for Rasulillah SAW.  There is a love that transcends the ink on the page that is meant to be a symbol of Rasulillah SAW.  So the black and the yellow and the beige paint can continue to exist.  If it is your freedom to express this image, then it is your freedom.  But, when I am on my deathbed, it is not this picture I will be thinking about.  It is not the black turban or the evil look on the face of this cartoon that I will remember.

My thoughts will not be tainted.

My memory of this man is mine to hold.  My memory of this man is the ease in my heart.  There is no stress, no thought that can cover the luminance that this love for Rasulillah SAW creates in me.  Paint dries, newspapers crumble and are thrown away.  But love for Rasulillah SAW is a memory that will never die in me.  It is this love that unclenches my fist when I see this image.

And as the poet says,

“Love of the Prophet runs like blood in the veins of his community.” – Iqbal.


Written by sajedbhandari

May 26, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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