Muslim leaders from Britain and around the world have shared an open letter on the website of the Muslim Council of Britain and MuslimMatters.org giving advice to Muslims about how to respond to depictions of their prophet, Muhammad.
The letter comes in the wake of last week's terrorist attack on the offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, and subsequent reprinting of that magazine's cartoons of Muhammad in the world's media.
The letter recommends that Muslims respond to offence caused by depictions of Muhammad with patience and tolerance, saying:
Most Muslims will inevitably be hurt, offended and upset by the republication of the cartoons. But our reaction must be a reflection of the teachings of the gentle and merciful character of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Enduring patience, tolerance, gentleness and mercy as was the character of our beloved Prophet (peace and Blessings be upon him) is the best and immediate way to respond. With dignified nobility we must be restrained, as the Qur'an says "And when the ignorant speak to them, they say words of Peace."
Signatories such as the popular Australian Imam Yahya Adel Ibrahim have shared the guidelines on Facebook, receiving thousands of shares.
The full statement reads:
Following the shocking murders in Paris, condemned by Muslims all over the world, and subsequent moves to depict the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once again, Imams from around the world have come together to issue the following advice to those concerned about the depiction.
1. For Muslims, love of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is a NECESSARY part of our FAITH. He is dearer to us than our parents and children. We prefer him to our own self.
2. Accordingly we regret and are naturally hurt by the depiction of our Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace), a great personality held in high esteem by 1.8 billion Muslims and millions more, in such a manner.
3. Muslims do believe in freedom of speech. And they do respect the right for people to say what they believe to be correct. However, freedom of speech should not be translated in to a duty to offend. Furthermore, it is common knowledge that absolute freedom of speech does not exist. There are laws to protect the dignity and properties of people. We urge governments, civil society and our media to foster a culture of mutual respect and unity, not one of division and disdain.
4. Most Muslims will inevitably be hurt, offended and upset by the republication of the cartoons. But our reaction must be a reflection of the teachings of the gentle and merciful character of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Enduring patience, tolerance, gentleness and mercy as was the character of our beloved Prophet (peace and Blessings be upon him) is the best and immediate way to respond. With dignified nobility we must be restrained, as the Qur'an says "And when the ignorant speak to them, they say words of Peace."
Our aim is to not, inadvertently, give the cartoons more prominence through our attention. Muslims must remain calm and peaceful in their speech and actions. Repel harm with goodness is the Qur'anic imperative and by which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived. If we feel strongly, the only course of action to us is with reasoned debate, civil activism and other legal avenues, God willing.
5.Muslims have to remember that by depicting the Prophet (peace be upon him) no one can ever tarnish his image, as he is way beyond what is depicted, as Allah says, 'We have elevated your remembrance'. We should spend such regrettable moments in supplicating with many litanies and prayers of blessings on the Prophet; may Allah's mercy, peace and blessing be upon his soul.
6. Engage with others about your feelings. Speak of your love for the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and do not be shy to let your non-Muslim friends know your justified displeasure at the mockery that is made of our faith. People need to know how much love we have for our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).
7. Learn more and share more about the greatness of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Hassaan bin Thaabit (may Allah be pleased with him) describes him with the following couplets:
"My eyes have never seen anyone more perfect than you
No woman has given birth to anyone more handsome than you
You have been created free from all defects
As if you were created the way you wished"
8. We should, through our actions and deeds, display the sublime character of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Prophet faced many great challenges but he exhibited impeccable beauty of character in his actions. He did not react inhumanely or violently. He was attacked verbally and physically in Taif but he forgave the people. His uncle and companions were murdered but he reacted peacefully and in a humane manner. And there are many such examples from the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) we must display.
9. As citizens of our respective countries, we must not allow hate to creep into our hearts due to the horrific incidents of Paris. Muslims, non-Muslims and people of all backgrounds must come together and show unity and solidarity and not let it divide our communities. We must remember the statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him) such as: "Someone who unjustly kills a non-Muslim citizen cannot attain a whiff of Heaven, even though its fragrance is felt from a distance of forty years. (Bukhari), or, "He who hurts a non-Muslim citizen hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys Allah." (Tabarani) And many other similar hadiths highlighting that Muslims are not allowed to hurt their non-Muslim brothers and sisters in humanity.
10. We must continuously supplicate to Allah that He rectifies our situation. Pray to Him that the chaos, injustice and oppression is lifted from all societies. We should pray to Allah so that He makes Britain a better, fairer and just country for all. Pray to Him to aid the oppressed and the victims of the oppressors all over the world. Pray that He allows us to contribute to a more peaceful and just world. Sincerely pray at night and beseech Him to protect our honour and our dignity.
May Allah give us the ability to do what is right and avoid what is wrong. May Allah protect the whole of humanity from trials and tribulations.
1. Mawlana Yunus Dudhwala (Head of Chaplaincy, Barts Health NHS Trust)
2. Dr Omer al Hamdoon (Muslim Association of Britain)
3. Imam Abdullah Hasan (Imams Against Domestic Abuse)
4. Imam Irfan Chishti (Chishtia Mosque, Rochdale)
5. Imam Shams ad Duha (Ebrahim College)
6. Sheikh Abdur Raheem Limbada (Tafseer-raheemi.com)
7. Imam Shafiur Rahman (Jibreel Institute)
8. Imam Ibrahim Mogra (MCB)
9. Imam Zuber Karim (Dundee Mosque)
10. Imam Abdul Wahhab (Plashet Grove Mosque)
11. Muhammad Ashraf Hansrot (Thornton Heath Islamic Centre)
12. Mawlana Abdul Mateen (Head teacher and Muslim Chaplain Quwwatul Islam Society London)
13. Mawlana Khalil Laher (Quwwat-ul-Islam Society London)
14. Imam Sulaiman Gani (Chaplain and Presenter on Iqra TV)
15. Imam Wasim Kempson (West London Islamic Cultural Centre)
16. Imam Yahya Adel Ibrahim (Al Kauthar Institute)
17. Imam Ghulam Moyhuddin (Ashton Central Mosque)
18. Mawlana Mujahid Ali (Hafs Academy)
19. Imam Saeed Algadi (Almuntada Trust)
20. Dr Abul Kalam Azad (Khateeb, Dockland Community Mosque)
21. Dr Mufti Abdur-Rahman Mangera (Scholar and Founder Zam Zam Academy)
22. Sheikh Zahir Mahmood (As Suffa Institute)
23. Shaykh Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri (Al-Mustafa Islamic Educational & Cultural Centre Ireland)
24. Mawlana Adnan Qurayshi (Al-Ashraaf Secondary School)
25. Mawlana Zakaria Maljee (Stamford Hill)
26. Imam Ahmed Desai (masjid Quba, Bradford)
27. Mawlana Abdullah Rawat (Musallah an Noor Stoke Newington London)
28. Mufti Sajid (Azhar Academy Ltd/Quwwatul Islam Mosque)
29. Imam Tahir Talati (imam Zakariya Academy)
30. Imam Ilyas ameen (Azhar masjid)
31. Mawlana Muhammad Saleem (Quwwat ul Islam)
32. Mawlana Zenulabedin Yakub (Masjide Tauheed)
33. Mawlana Said Ahmed (masjid e Salaam, Preston)
34. Mawlana Ilyas (masjid e Mahad, Preston)
35. Imam Yusuf Rios (Muslim Chaplain, The Shaukani Institute, United States)
36. Mawlana Muhammad ibn Ismail (Newham Ulama Forum)
38. Imam Qari Asim (Mecca masjid, Leeds)
38. Mawlana Imran Ali (BMACC Bearsden, Glasgow)
39. Dr Mansur Ali (Cardiff University)
40. Imam Imtiyaz Damiel (Abu Hanifah Foundation)
41. Sheikh Jaffer Ali Ladak (Hyderi Islamic Cente)
42. Imam Shabir Moosa Adam (masjid Ibrahim, Australia)
43. Shaykh Arif Abdul Hussain (Al-Mahdi Institute)
44. Shaykh Muhammad Saeed Bahmanpour (Resident scholar, Islamic Centre of England)
45. Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hilli (Noor Trust)
46. Ayatollah Seyed Milani (AlKhoie Islamic Centre)
47. Mufti Salim Ismail (Upton Park Islamic Centre)
48. Moulana Muhammad Shahid Raza (Leicester Central Mosque)
49. Sheikh Abdul Qayyum (East London Mosque)
50. Sayyed Muhammad Al-Musawi (World Ahlulbayt Islamic League)
51. Imam Fahimul Anam (Beacon Institute)
52..Imam Fadel Soliman (Bridges Foundation)
53. Dr Jasser Auda (Qatar)
54. Imam Muhammad Mustaqeem Shah (al Mustaqeem Centre, Bradford)
55. Imam Abdur Rahman Anwar (imam, London)
56. Imam Amer Jamil (iSyllabus, Scotland)
57. Mufti Muhammad Ibrahim Qureshi (Islamic Center Northridge), CA
58. Yasuf iban Steven Deardorff
59. Maulana Muhammad Mota -Jame masjid Batley, Birmingham
60. Imam Omar Suleiman- Resident Scholar -Valley Ranch Islamic Center, TX
61. Imam Ajmal Masroor (Palmers Green Mosque)
62. Imam Muhammad Tahir Kiyani (Batley, Birmingham)
63. Shybatu Hassan Ibrahim-Bayero University Kano, Nigeria
BuzzFeed News asked Abdullah Hasan, Imam/Khateeb, Masjid Khadijah & Islamic Centre, why they wrote the letter and whether he thinks British media made the right call in republishing the cartoons.
"A group of Imams, including myself, were discussing online what advice we, as teachers and Imams, could provide the community on the cartoons debacle," Hasan told BuzzFeed News. "So we began to note down some points we would like to include in the document to release for Imams to read out amongst their congregation.
"I don't think the British papers that published the cartoons were correct. I think, we as Brits, are better than that. We are more tolerant and accommodative of the sensitivities of people, especially a minority group who is being marginalised and demonised constantly in some parts of the media and elsewhere. We don't need to hurt and offend people to defend free speech. The newspapers who republished the cartoons themselves do not practice absolute free speech. They always are cautious not to offend people in case libel cases are filed against them. So it seems there is selective application of free speech!"
He added: "I hope and pray that this subsides very soon and we can begin to talk about the issues that are affecting our country."
People queued early in the morning at newsagents across France on Wednesday to buy a copy of the first edition to be printed since last week's attack.
Al-Qaeda in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed 12 people, including several of the satirical newspaper's cartoonists.