Although America is intended to be a united country, the current climate in our country is one that is full of division and discord. We have two choices, either to continue with the path of stereotypes and enmity or learn to live peacefully. The world is more connected than ever and we are able to connect with other humans all over the globe. This provides the opportunity to communicate with others and develop new methods of engagement and understanding. We are not the first, nor the last, society to witness discord. There are many lessons to be learned from those who preceded us.
During the first thirteen years of Islam, the Muslims and non-Muslims of Mecca were at odds. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him delivered a message that was at odds with the norms and customs of Arabia. He criticized customs such as idol worship, burying daughters alive, racism, and economic inequality. This threatened the status quo and those who were in power. At the same time, those who were weak in society found this message appealing because it empowered them to stand up for justice. As a result, they were tortured, boycotted, and killed. They were eventually driven out of Mecca and forced to migrate to the city of Medina.
Most people would have considered the Meccans to be the enemy or “the other.” However, the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him never behaved ill toward anyone, even his enemies. Despite the many harmful things that were done to the Prophet and his Companions, he always treated everyone humanely. Even the Qurʾān praises Muslims who fed those their own enemies when captured. And they give food, despite their love for it, to the poor, the orphan, and the captive Saying: We feed you, for the sake of Allah only. We wish for no reward nor thanks from you (Qurʾān 76:8-9).
America is a diverse country that will always have differences in religion, style, culture, and political opinions. It would be foolish to imagine a fairytale place where everyone is the same and the entire country is in complete agreement. Currently, however, our society is veering into a dangerous direction, especially politically. The “right” and “left” are no longer in conversation and trying to convince each other of their respective positions. Rather they are out to destroy each other. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him had enemies who were out to kill him, they cracked his helmet and his face was full of blood. During the battle of Uhud, they not only killed seventy of his Companions, but they shredded their bodies and in some cases ate their livers. Despite the fact that his enemies took every opportunity to try to kill him, he always treated them fairly. Each individual was treated with dignity and respect that all humans deserve. Put differently, the Prophet did not seek to destroy his enemies, but he sought to conquer their hearts. The Qurʾān highlights this point:
Perhaps God will bring about love and friendship between you and those of them with whom you are in enmity. God is All-Powerful, and God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate (Qurʾān 60:7).
The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him married Umm Habiba, the daughter of Abū Sufyan, a political leader among the Meccans and an enemy of Islam. Umm Habiba was a Muslim and became a single mother when she lost her husband after they escaped the torture of the Meccans by fleeing to Ethiopia. The Prophet peace be upon him established ties of kinship with Abū Sufyan by marrying his daughter. Abū Sufyan now visited the Prophet’s home to see his daughter and grandchild. This provided the Prophet peace be upon him the opportunity to remove Abū Sufyan’s misconceptions about Islam and win his heart. Gradually, Abū Sufyan began seeing the Prophet peace be upon him and the Muslims for who they were rather than the demonized “other.”
We live in a time where most of our communication, or shouting, is done from behind a screen. There is very little face to face or human interaction. Take a step back from the insults found on social media outlets and have a face to face conversation with others. It is important to remember that we are all humans at the end of the day. What each of us wants is safety, food, shelter, and health. Instead of placing people into broad groups such as conservative or liberal, extremist or moderate, perhaps we might be better off looking at people as individual human beings. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him offers the model for healing the wounds found in our society today. It is one that is based on self-reformation and subduing feelings of hatred for the betterment of society. Good and evil cannot be equal. Repel evil with what is better and your enemy will become as close as an old and valued friend (Qurʾān 41:34).