Fighting wrong notions
Islam is the religion that is as old as human race. The foremost human and the prophet is the Adam (AS) while the last prophet is Muhammad ibn Abdullah (SAW). There have been many prophets in between; some of whom gifted with the testaments. Muslim, the followers of Islam believe in all the prophets. Until the last messenger, the prophet (SAW) would be assigned to the specific region or people. The last messenger (saw) sent more than 1400 years ago has been for all the people irrespective of the creed, cast or the region. The testament revealed to the last prophet (saw) being the 'holy Quran', while the way to follow the Quranic teachings has been demonstrated/ said by the prophet (saw) best described as 'Sunnah and/or Hadith'. Muslim follows the Quran and the Sunnah/ Hadith. Contrary to the previous testaments whose contents were altered, the responsibility of the safety of contents of holy Quran has been taken by the almighty Allah (Surah Al-An'am:115).
General perception against Islamic teachings
There is generally a baseless notion like the one reflected recently by President of France, that Islam teaches violence evolving jihadis. The perception has been created by those who are either enemies of Islam or are unaware of its teachings. It must be completely refuted as one must learn that out of 114 chapters of the Quran, 113 chapters mention almighty Allah as the merciful. Even the root word of Islam literally means peace or submission, so the teaching of Islam can never be against its basic structure. There are many ayahs or hadiths that focus on the peace between Muslim and non-Muslim. Islam clearly mentions that "There shall be no compulsion in religion" (Surah 2:256). Islam preaches right to life. It preaches a perfect Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands mankind is safe. One of the Quranic ayah mentions that "He who kills a soul unless it be (in legal punishment) for murder or for causing disorder and corruption on the earth will be as if he had killed all humankind, and he who saves a life will be as if he had saved the lives of all humankind" (Quran 5:32). In one hadith the Prophet (saw) said "A true believer is from whom people's lives and wealth are safe" (Tirmidhi and Nasai). In other hadith narrated by 'Aisha (ra): the Prophet (saw) said, "The most hated person in the sight of Allah is the most quarrelsome person" (Sahih Bukhari). Apart from being in peace with others, Islam teaches to bring people close; as mentioned in one of the hadith "In him, there is no merit who is not familiar with others and with whom others are not familiar" (Sahih al-Bukhari). From entire citations one must learn that Islam preaches peace and unity among people of different faiths.
Respect for Prophet
There are many ayahs in the holy Quran that clearly define the traits of being the Muslim. Muslim is the one who believes in God and follows the teachings of Quran and of the Prophet (saw). Among various criteria is the love, respect and obedience to the sayings (Sunnah/hadith) of the Prophet (saw). In the Quran almighty Allah best describes the last messenger as 'mercy unto mankind' (Sura Al-Anbiya 21:117). In one of the surahs it is mentioned that obey Allah and his messenger (al-Maa'idah 5:92; al-Fath 48:8-9) while in the other it is clearly mentioned that obedience to the Prophet (saw) is obedience to Allah (al-Nisa' 4:80). In a more detailed one, Allah says, "Say: 'If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline: or the dwellings in which ye delight – are dearer to you than Allah, or His Messenger, or the striving in His cause then wait until Allah brings about His decision: and Allah guides not the rebellious" (Surah At-Tawbah: 24). Apart from obedience to the Prophet, the respect to the messenger in the Quran too has been clearly mentioned. "Make not the calling of the prophet (saw) among you as your calling one of another. And let those who oppose the Messenger's (saw) commandment beware, lest some Fitnah ( trials, afflictions, earthquakes, killing, overpowered by a tyrant) should befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them" (al-Noor 24:63).Apart from the Quranic verses, there is Prophet's (saw) saying reported by Anas ibn Malik that "None of you have faith until I am more beloved to him than his children, his father, and all of the people" (Sahih al-Bukhari).
This status to the Prophet (saw) has been given by God as to tell believers His position and stature. It is imminent that what good a person can achieve in this world or in hereafter is through the divine teachings being brought forth by the Prophet (saw) in pure form. Besides, the Prophet is more compassionate, kindest and merciful to the people than their own blood relations. Thus, a person is not a Muslim unless he loves Him (saw) more than anything.
How to reduce polarisation
A Muslim loves to be at peace with others provided he is not demeaned, tagged as violent and Jihadi. At first instance one must learn that Muslim loves his Prophet more than anything else and that any disrespectful comment is completely unacceptable. Invoking freedom of speech at this occasion is completely bizarre. In a recent incident, President of France, Macron, should have chosen to put a ban on blasphemy rather than taking refuge in the idea of freedom of speech. Instead he chose to portray the images on Government buildings and directly attacked the Muslims (tagging them as Jihadi's). A leader doesn't let the differences increase rather tries to mend the differences through effective laws and legislatures.
Let all the followers of different religions respect each other's faith and make religion as the basis of humanity.
Dr Mudasir Bashir Gugjoo is Assistant Professor, SKUAST-Kashmir