Back in 1993, when I was sharing an apartment with John during the school year, he suggested that I see the newly released movie “Dave” starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. The storyline of the movie was about an affable car salesman with uncanny resemblance to the U.S. President who finds himself forced to replace the real President in an attempt by the White House staff to avoid a potentially explosive scandal.
I found the movie slightly amusing, but there was one scene, actually two, that I always remember. Dave, the imposter in the movie, had the following conversation with Duane, the secret service agent:
Dave: You know, I’ve always wondered about you guys. You know, about how you’re trained to take a bullet for the president?
Duane: What about it?
Dave: Is that really true? I mean, would you let yourself be killed to save his life?
Dave: So, now that means you’d get killed for me too.
Duane did not answer this question immediately, but it was so obvious that he felt its heaviness. Later on towards the end of the movie when Duane discovered the real character of Dave he finally answered the question:
Duane: I would have taken a bullet for you.
I wondered then about whom would I take a bullet for. Several years later, I was having coffee in the office of Rumaih (my colleague and good friend) when he and I discussed this topic again: Who would I/he take a bullet for? We both agreed that this person must be someone whom we hold dear, whose life we regard as more important than our own lives, and for whom we would sacrifice anything, including our own lives. Our fathers were identified as ones for whom we would take bullets, for example. But I would not take a bullet for Rumaih’s father and he would not take a bullet for my father.
I had not thought about this topic for a while.
Recently, however, the violent reaction of many Muslims to the offensive portrayal of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) in cartoons published by a Danish daily newspaper, reminded me of this issue. Many Muslims lost their lives in violent protests that turned deadly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya.
Several of my non-Muslim colleagues did not understand why would Muslims be so angry with those cartoons, and why would they go so far as to sacrifice their own lives. And I immediately remembered what Duane said to Dave at the end of the movie: I would have taken a bullet for you.
Muslims are taking bullets for the Prophet (P.B.U.H.). That was my answer.
‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab told the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) once: “O Allah’s Apostle! You are dearer to me than everything except my own self.” The Prophet said, “No, by Him in Whose Hand my soul is, (you will not have complete faith) till I am dearer to you than your own self.” Then ‘Umar said to him [having reflected upon the matter], “However, now, by Allaah, you are dearer to me than my own self.” The Prophet said, “Now, O ‘Umar, (now you are a believer).” [Albu’kary: Book of Oaths and Vows]
I cannot be absolutely certain of the exact mental arguments that ‘Umar entertained before he gave his final answer, but I am almost sure that he asked himself the following question: “Would I take a fatal blow to save the Prophet?” And his entire self, mind and soul, answered emphatically: “YES”.
The companions of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) held him dearer to themselves, to the point that they would rather suffer the most horrible deaths than wish upon the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) the slightest pain. When ’Kubayb, a companion of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) was captured and was about to be executed, his executioners asked him: “Would you want Mu’hammed to be in your lieu?” He answered them: “I would suffer being hacked to death to spare the Prophet a thorn prick in his home.” He, ’Kubayb, was hacked to death, but did not waver in his love for the Prophet (P.B.U.H.).
Muslims may differ on a lot of things, but they would all agree on one thing, namely, their absolute and unwavering love of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.). Muslims cannot take a bullet for the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) now, since no bullet can hit him physically in his grave, but they would take bullets for his sake anytime to protect his sanctity from anything that might tarnish it.
Is this an extreme reaction to a trivial offence? After all, derogatory and outright offensive cartoons are commonplace these days. But nobody reacts the same way Muslims do when their Prophet (P.B.U.H.) is offensively portrayed in cartoons.
The reason is that no offense is trivial in the eyes of Muslims when it is directed to Prophet Mu’hammed (P.B.U.H.). Muslims would take bullets willingly to protect the sanctity of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.), for his sanctity is much more valuable to them than the life of the U.S. President to his secret service agent.
I would take a bullet for him.
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