How should we deal with mockery or ridicule, especially of the young trying to practice their religion by their peers?
Forthwith he [Noah] starts constructing the Ark: Every time that the Chiefs of his people passed by him they threw ridicule on him. He said: “If you ridicule us now, we (in our turn) can look down on you with ridicule likewise! But soon will you know who it is on whom will descend a chastisement that will cover them with shame—on whom will be unloosed a chastisement lasting.” (Hud 11:38-9)
“Our Lord! bring us out of this: if ever we return (to evil), then shall we be wrongdoers indeed!” He will say: “Be you driven into it (with ignominy)! And speak you not to Me! A part of My servants there was, who used to pray, “Our Lord! we believe; then do You forgive us, and have mercy upon us: for You are the Best of those who show mercy!” But you treated them with ridicule, so much so that (ridicule of) them made you forget My message while you were laughing at them! I have rewarded them this day for their patience and constancy. They are indeed the ones that have achieved bliss . . .” (Mu’minun 23:107-11)
Those in sin used to laugh at those who believed, and whenever they passed by them, used to wink at each other (in mockery); and when they returned to their own people, they would return jesting. (Mutaffifin 83:29-31)
It is clear from the verses above that the Qur’an regards derision and ridicule of the believers as a habit, a regular custom, characteristic of unbelievers. A Muslim may neither initiate nor return derision and ridicule of the beliefs of others: that is explicitly commanded in the Qur’an, where the reason given is that the Muslim must not provoke unbelievers into one of the greatest sins, namely blasphemy, even if the unbelievers do not recognize it as such.
Those who ridicule the believers will clearly see what they did; they will have a clear answer for it in the Hereafter, and will there curse and denounce themselves. In the brief life of this world, retaliation in kind exacerbates the harm and there is no point in that. As believers, we are enjoined not to retaliate in such situations, and we are most content with this injunction to restraint.
Believing in God and expressing surrender and servanthood to Him is the highest glory and honor for us in this world and the next. If it were permissible, we would take pride in it and boast of it.
The mockers mock our prayer, but it is our means of ascension, that makes us closer to our Creator. They mock our wudu’ (ablution); it will make us known to our Prophet beside the pool of kawthar (heavenly river) through the radiance it brings to our faces. They mock our manner of dress; it is what the Prophet commended as the way that increases our reward manifold and us in dignity. None of these are worthy of ridicule; rather, they are ways that will be acknowledged and prized for their supreme otherworldly value and reward in the Hereafter.
What is worthy of criticism is the manner of one who spurns the Creator like, or worse than, an ignorant animal. Likewise deserving of criticism are the manners of drunks, dipsomaniacs who shame and disgrace themselves and their society: of usurers, black-marketeers, monopolists, and profiteers, who defraud and disgrace the commercial life of the society; of those who profit from the weaknesses of others by systematically encouraging and exaggerating those weaknesses, drug-pushers, the dealers in pornography and the so-called sex “industry.”
Yet those who take up or support shameful practices aspire to spread them, and resent those who keep themselves aloof, safe, from their poison. Out of that resentment, their ridicule is born, and especially directed at the young. To the young Muslims so targeted, we say: find strength, assurance and solace in this description of your character:
Those who witness no falsehood and if they pass by futility, they pass by it with honorable (avoidance). (Furqan 25:72)
So when young religious Muslims, who are honored by the Qur’an, find themselves in such a situation, they must withdraw from it in an honorable, dignified way. If they pass by those putting on impertinent and doubtful attitudes, let them pass noble-heartedly, kindly and smilingly, and thus demonstrate the strength and contentment, the sheer sanity and ease, of being a Muslim. Those who mock display their own smallness of spirit. Let the young Muslims answer their smallness with largesse: behave to them with dignified seriousness, retain your natural courtesy of manner and speech, present the strength of Islam with all its grace and sweetness. Indeed, offer in your heart that even those mockers may find guidance to the Right Path. For that is most becoming to a Muslim, and will be a proof for yourselves of being on the Muhammadi way.
Each of us shall be resurrected with what we did. Those who laugh at Muslims today will be exposed to laughter and ridicule; those who are ridiculed today will be honored and glorified with the kindness and favor of God tomorrow, and they will pass over the bridge of Sirat (the very narrow bridge which leads to Heaven) like lightning, and reach the Garden of Paradise.
May God make firm the feet of those young Muslims subjected to the assaults of ridicule and scorn in the way of Islam; may they never be shaken nor made fearful, nor caused to step back from that way. May God grant them the strength and grace to see the great journey to its end. Amin.
By M. Fethullah Gulen