Quick to judge

You have given us advice, O learned one; let this ignoramus do the same: do not be so quick to judge your brothers!

In your anger, you rebuke them severely, reminding them to cover the faults of their companions. It is a form of mutual protection, you say. I say: you judge them too harshly.

In truth, the masses were not quick to judge their brother at all. On the contrary, they defended their brother against all accusations of wrongdoing, proclaiming his total innocence of the complaints levelled against him.

Instead, for over a year, they had the complainants in their sights, penning lengthy articles, published on activist websites and friendly news outlets that aimed to undermine their credibility totally. In turn, these articles were shared widely on social media and circulated by private messenger, brother to brother, en masse.

For those that complained, by contrast, there was no veiling of sins; no reminder that Allah is Al-Sattar. The sins of the Muslims amongst the complainants were used to discredit them from the very beginning. Indeed, the sins of any Muslim who dared err on the side of caution and lean towards the complainants were used to discredit them too. How many a screed was penned about the awful feminist Muslim, compromised by her alleged links to Zionists, who chose to believe a woman alleging assault in her own country?

I have observed this case from afar from the very beginning. I have watched as friends and acquaintances all around me rushed to your defence. Family friends rang around, demanding that sincere and true Muslims stand in solidarity with the victim of a great oppression. A petition with nowhere to go was circulated daily, begging for signatures and pledges of support. An old friend visited me, telling me that he knew you personally, insisting that the accusations were preposterous.

Even when you were was forced to admit to your actions, having categorically denied anything of the kind, most Muslims continued to defend you, either disbelieving the reports or offering counter-explanations. Some very prominent activists used their social media platform to torpedo any remaining credibility the complainants had and suggest that your confessions were made as a result of state torture, all whilst simultaneously claiming that everything was Islamically halal.

The truth is this: up until the moment you spoke openly about what you had done, excusing yourself before a mass audience, all of those leaders you now condemn were fully behind you, giving you complete benefit of doubt. Until they heard it from your own mouth, they were prepared to stand aside, and hide what was between you and your Lord, lest there be an alternative explanation unheard.

They had all agreed — perhaps many years ago — that for as long as it was unconfirmed, they would stand by you, however many times a complaint was made. But the moment you voluntarily appeared in public, freely and unimpeded, openly talking about your behaviour: only then did they speak out to condemn your actions.

Only then did they demand that you retreat and disappear, to focus on treating your own soul. Yes, the very same men who penned articles in your defence; who from the pulpit told their congregations to support you; who donated to fundraisers on your behalf; who spread the message far and wide that you were a wronged man. They were with you while they had complete faith in your innocence. Once you spoke openly of abominations in Islamic ethics, only then did they disassociate themselves from you.

Consider this: for all those years, these men — some who knew you intimately — were willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, erring on the side of caution rather than condemning their brother, whereas now they have heard it from your own mouth. What reason could they have to speak up now?

Is it truly to judge you as a man? Or is it rather that they have no choice but to speak out in the name of the morality they proclaim, to defend their own teachings and counteract the haemorrhaging of the young from the path?

What is the alternative? To allow millions that hold you in high esteem, taking you as a role model, to be infected with the notion that major sins are of no concern; that men and women can do as they please, so long as no one ever finds out? To convince them that behaviour severely condemned in their Holy Book is of no significance, because a better man than them — a great man — forgave himself and found courage to live in peace with what he had done?

We all fall into sin, it is true, but there is the major and the minor. The message is not served by mesmerising speech, if the actions of men betray their words. We are not called upon to stand in solidarity with those doing wrong, however otherwise great they may seem. There does not need to be unity when it comes to what is condemned. This is illogical. Even if the whole world stands against you, you should stand up for what is right and oppose what is wrong.

Your former friends may have made political calculations, or they may simply have been stirred by their conscience. But how can they cover what you yourself have made public? In truth, it is you who judge men harshly. It is now your turn to give your brothers the benefit of the doubt.

Why be so quick to judge?

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