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Push Back With

What Is Better

Based on

Travelling Home; Abdal Hakim Murad

Edited by OmarKN

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"It is the universalism of Islam and its Abrahamic recognisability which opens hearts… a kind of homeward journey." AHM


{ وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ }

{ ٱدۡفَعۡ بِٱلَّتِی هِیَ أَحۡسَنُ }

{ فَإِذَا ٱلَّذِی بَیۡنَكَ وَبَیۡنَهُ عَدَ ٰوَةࣱ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِیٌّ حَمِیمࣱ }

{ Good and evil cannot be equal. Respond/ repel (to evil) with what is best, then the one you are in a feud with will be like a close friend. } 41-34

Tit-for-Tat Can Be Counterproductive

Tit-for-Tat[4] as a policy for Muslims, when confronting non-Muslim majorities' misunderstandings and rudeness, only leads to more egotism and hatred.[1] “A vicious circle is the certain outcome of this … the odds are stacked against the minorities.” Because they are in a weaker position they are under threat in “this zero-sum game.”[2]

{ وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُم بِبَعْضٍ لَّهُدِّمَتْ صَوَامِعُ وَبِيَعٌ وَصَلَوَاتٌ وَمَسَاجِدُ يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا اسْمُ اللَّهِ كَثِيرًﺍ }

{ Had Allah not repelled ˹the aggression of˺ some people by means of others, destruction would have surely claimed monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which Allah’s Name is often mentioned. } Quran 22-40

But the alternative for 'tit-for-tat', which of course is to { respond/ repel (to evil) with what is best } does confirm the fact that “justice can be and will be perfected, [and not at all - as some may fear] made ineffective by forgiveness and remission.[3]

This is so, because { in what is better and more beautiful } “justice [here, especially the justice of tit-for-tat ] may be transcended without the consequence being itself unjust.”[5] 169


A Philosophy of ’Higher Reciprocation’

When searching for a philosophy of ’Higher Reciprocation’, when should be recommended to turn to the Word of God, when Allah (may His Majesty be exalted) says in the Quran:

{ ٱدۡفَعۡ بِٱلَّتِی هِیَ أَحۡسَنُ }

{ Respond (to evil)/ repel (evil) with what is best/ more beautiful. } 41-34

”Classical Islam’s discourse of husn, of moral beauty, went much further than this… [There was] revelation’s insistence on a virtue of higher reciprocation which allowed individuals the right to respond not in kind or simply proportionally, but through … ’repelling’ - or ’pushing back’ { with what is more beautiful - idfaʿ bi'llatī hiya aḥsan }. 172/3

“The devil may cast into your heart a whispering of the lower self … because he desires to make you requite the others’ wrong with a wrong of your own. He invites you to do him some wrong yourself, but seek refuge in God from the thoughts the devil inspires.” Tabari 174[6]

Pushing Back Against Evil

Pushing back against evil with something more beautiful, for Razi, was one of the key ethical breakthroughs of the Islamic revolution, and also an epistemological one[7] which provided a key to resolving theological paradoxes and enabling dispassionate theory choices that could envisage a radically new ethical outlook. In defeating evil and ego (nafs), we open up our hearts to recognizing the Divine, and on this basis, we can discern the beauty of the higher reciprocation.182 [8]

On the Methodology of Da’wa

Confronted with the rejection of God in damaged and Islamophobic hearts we begin with the falakiyyat, cosmic arguments, appealing to the deepest and most shared human intuition which knows that differentiated and mutable[9] entities must be originated (muhdath). Then come the ayat ardyya, the signs on earth, which are usually biological. [10]

When softened by the evidence of Muslim good manners[11] and forgiveness, the enemies of faith will give heed to these signs, will make the right choices, and will restore the memory of God to their hearts. Thus the ’pushing back’ includes the possibility of enabling the gift of faith.181

And what “zealots should be helped to understand, that their abusive language, which one can hear (to cite only one platform) on a sad abundance of Muslim websites, quickly closes Western minds and hearts and makes the spread of the message of tawhid far more difficult. Sulayman ibn Tarkhan, used to say: ‘No one will accept your view if you have made him angry’.”184

Al-Razi on Endurance/ Patience

What is Al-Razi’s take on endurance/ patience (ṣabrun jamīl) ?

God tells us to push against ignorance and crudeness in what is the most beautiful of ways (ahsan al-turuq). For if you endure, and are patient with their ugly manners, again and again, and do not respond to the stupidity with anger, and do not react to the hurt that they do, they will feel ashamed of their ugly manners and will abandon their evil habits… Then they will move from hostility to affection (mahabba), and from hatred to love (mawadda).180 [12]


Related texts by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

link-in The Crisis of Modern Consciousness, Notes & Transcript
link-in Intelligence and Reason in Islam
link-in The Paradox of Our Condition, Quotes on Modernity
link-inVertical Integration of Muslim Agency

link-in Travelling Home – Abdal Hakim Murad: Tea Over Books youtube.com

From the YT summary:
Twenty years to the day since 9/11, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad talks about his book 'Travelling Home: Essays on Islam in Europe' in which he dissects the rise of Islamophobia based on Muslim theological tradition, showing that a compassion-based approach, rooted in an authentic theology of divine power, could transform the current quagmire into a bright landscape of great promise for Muslims and their neighbours.

0:00 Introduction
1:25 Why was the book's cover image chosen?
2:32 The legacy of Ishmael
= see content on YT page =

  1. A well-intentioned Muslim response should “be intelligent in its ’pushing back’ … to avoid the jahili  (ignorant disbelievers) impulses of panic and outraged pride.”  ↩

  2. Tit-for-Tat has its place in society when crimes have to be punished for “fairness and equilibrium and to protect the weak.” 168 “The lex talionis has its due place…” 171  ↩

  3. remission - released from obligation, forgiveness. (Middle English)  ↩

  4. It is called the ’lex talionis’:
    “talion, Latin lex talionis, a principle developed in early Babylonian law and present in both biblical and early Roman law that criminals should receive as punishment precisely those injuries and damages they had inflicted upon their victims. Many early societies applied this “eye-for-an-eye” principle literally.” talion | law | Britannica  ↩

  5. For this there is the historic example of the Conquest of Mecca, which is unique in human history for its level of forgiveness. Allah knows best and most!  ↩

  6. Several commentators to the verse 41–34 quoted above are cited, such as
    Tabari 173,
    Baydawi 175, + 175u,
    Zarruq 175  ↩

  7. epistemological - relating to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.  ↩

  8. more from the text: Patience and mildness can melt the most stiffy savage breast. (Abu Sufyan - an arch enemy to the man of Praise…)  ↩

  9. mutable - liable to change  ↩

  10. This is a brief synopsis of Razi’s analysis. Those should our arguments be.  ↩

  11. In any case, daʿwa is more facilitated by being true and integrated into the authentic teachings of Islamic mercy and compassion, and less by speaking words of truth, for example, “it is not enough to be mentally adept, one must accept a vocation to help the imperfect as well.”177  ↩

  12. Home p. 180; Footnote 21 Razi, xxvii, 128  ↩


* Living Islam – Islamic Tradition *