Muslims be humble!

Muslims be humble!
Highlights the need to recognise the universal values that existed before and under Islam.
3 min read
21 Jun, 2014
We do not live alone on this planet [Getty]

Arabs around the world recently took to Twitter to share a photo of Japanese football fans cleaning the stadium after Japan lost its World Cup match against the Ivory Coast on 14 June.


“They are not Muslims, yet they understand Islamic ethics,” was a common refrain.


The photo showed a group of supporters overcoming their disappointment, and picking up rubbish left in the stands rather than trampling over it as many others would have done. In doing so, they turned their sporting loss into a moral triumph.


Such a small but powerful action won admiration across the world, despite suggestions it had been staged to positively promote the Japanese. The Arabs took advantage of the occasion to highlight pride in their religion by repeating Imam Muhammad Abdu’s saying, “It is an Islam without Muslims” - words he used after a visit to Paris at the end of the 19th century to show his enchantment with the values of Western civilisation.


My purpose here is not to discuss whether Abdu’s saying can offer an important ethical judgement of the Japanese supporters. Instead, it is to assess its usefulness for helping us understand our religion, our understanding of Arab Islamic civilisation, and our perception of “the other”.  Undoubtedly, many of us perceive non-Muslims to be lacking in ethical values. For example, whenever we see a noble act, such as that performed by the Japanese supporters, we seek consolation in our own decaying civilisation by repeating Abdu’s words: “It is an Islam without Muslims.” In doing so, we reinforce the belief that non-Muslims lack values, ethics, conventions or customs. 


Is this permitted in Islam? Does Islam say that anything existing outside its structures lacks moral values? Is this implied anywhere in the Quran or elsewhere in sharia?


All I know on the subject is that our prophet (pbuh) said: “People’s natures are as different as gold and silver. Those who were best before Islam can still be the best under Islam.” This makes it clear that ethical values are not directly connected to religion but depend on an individual’s personality. It also makes clear that ethical values are not limited to Muslims and were not created by Islam. Islamic teachings merely reinforce these values and encourage those who abide by them.


It goes without saying that, for Muslims, Islam is the true faith. But there are universal values that existed both before and under Islam. To express surprise that non-Muslims abide by these values shows that we understand neither these values nor our own religion. On a more serious note it shows that we only accept non-Muslims reluctantly, and only then when they conform to our values. It is as if we are saying to them: “Live with us, but only in the way we like.”


By doing so we are limiting our ability to communicate effectively with both non-Muslims and other Muslims.  


Let us be humble. We do not live alone on this planet.


This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition