Conversations must have boundaries to lift the chaos

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

Not to know is bad, not to wish to know is much worse.  –Nigerian Proverb

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A companion of Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, named at-Tufayl was once told, before he had become a companion, that he shouldn’t listen to Muhammad. Don’t listen to him, al-Tufayl was told. He’s a wizard. He’s a magician!

The Prophet’s enemies told at-Tufayl that the Prophet had fragmented the community, that his words were like magic, and that he severed the ties between father and child, between husband and wife. You must avoid him, the community told at-Tufayl.

At-Tufayl said that they insisted and insisted until he decided that he would not hear anything from him, and inserted earplugs so he would not hear a word from him.

He went to do a mini-pilgrimage or Umrah at the sacred precinct in Mecca, the Kaabah.  At-Tufayl had earplugs in his ears. Thus equipped, he went not to hear what the Prophet had to say, yet he saw him there at the Kaabah and observed his presence. This way, he would be safe.

At-Tufayl reasoned with himself, that he was an intelligent man, a poet, and one who could differentiate the good from the bad.  If what Muhammad says is good, he prepared himself to accept it.  And if it was bad, he felt intelligent enough to reject it.  So he decided to listen, to hear. Then, he removed his earplugs and listened to what was being said.

One thing we know about the Prophet was that, before he was a speaker, he was a listener. So when at-Tufayl approached, he told him what others were saying about him, and wanted to share his poetry.  He recited his poetry. And the Prophet listened.

In the end, the Prophet told him: I also have words, so hear me as well. At this, he recited three surahs or small chapters of the Qur’an, that Muslims use to protect themselves from those who are seeking to harm them.

Ikhlaas (Unique Attributes of God)

In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;
Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;
He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
And there is none like unto Him.

Al-Falaq (Seek refuge from God from all evil)

In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn
From the mischief of created things;
From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads;
From the mischief of those who practise secret arts;
And from the mischief of the envious one as he practises envy.

An-Nas (Seek refuge from hidden evil of mankind)

In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
Say: I seek refuge with the Lord and Cherisher of Mankind,
The King (or Ruler) of Mankind,
The god (or judge) of Mankind,-
From the mischief of the Whisperer (of Evil), who withdraws (after his whisper),-
(The same) who whispers into the hearts of Mankind,-
Among Jinns and among mankind.

So the Prophet knew what at-Tufayl had been told: This man is a wizard! He seeks to overpower and harm you! He’s brainwashing you! But he didn’t present arguments to the contrary. Instead, he shared verses with at-Tufayl that said: This is how you seek protection from those who would steer you wrong.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, knew that accusations cannot be met with counter-accusations. Many people will embrace the accusations, and there is nothing that can sway them. There are, as I write, many people who would suggest that Muslims are wizards who can take over the US, as though the country is some small island nation, and as though Muslims have not—since the 1500s—been an integral part of the growth of this nation.

But as the Sanskrit proverb says, “When understanding is demented, destruction is near.”

There cannot be coexistence where there is chaos. When the public square is full of chaos and arguments and is ambiguous on the rights of people, we cannot build or promote coexistence. When we have conversations, they must have boundaries to promote clarity and lift the chaos.  

This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, currently titled Reflections of Faith: Lessons from the Prophets.

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US.  She is a public speaker and writer and lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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