Some time ago I sat through a Jumu’ah Khutbah which while for the most part was good and beneficial, one thing that I heard from the Khateeb sounded a bit odd. This Masjid (or university musalla rather) was known to on occasion produce some weird khateebs however what this one said struck me as amazingly odd, for it was not true what he had said and was rather irresponsible, or at least that’s how I felt when I heard it. Usually Jumu’ah khutbas are known for ‘playing it safe’, its when the khateeb will address general issues and will not stray away from the generally expected themes of every other Jumu’ah.
On that certain Friday, the Khateeb was talking about dealings with non-Muslims and the need to inform them of our beautiful religion of Islām. All was well until he began to mention that whilst we must be polite with non-Muslims, if they were to offend us, we should not take their offence with simply a smile but rather we should correct them. All good and well, still no problems with what he was saying. Then he said – If a non-Muslim by chance refers to you as a ‘Muzlim’ as most non-Muslims tend to do, rather than a ‘Muslim’ you should immediately correct him, for even though he may not know it, he has actually offended you oh dear brother! I then began to wonder… Is this khateeb as pedantic as I when it comes to proper pronunciation of Arabic words? So much so that he would reprimand a non-native speaker for such a small error as this?! No.. Rather he explained to us, that this way of pronouncing Muslim as Muzlim changes the meaning of the word drastically. As we know a ‘Muslim’ is somebody who follows Islam, which translates approximately as ‘Submission unto God’. A ‘Muzlim’ however is somebody who is an oppressor. For you see he said, the word Muzlim comes from the word ظلم (Dhulm) which is commonly mispronounced as ‘Zulm‘. This word of course is not a not a nice word at all, it roughly translates as ‘Oppression’. Therefore the Khateeb was suggesting that we should not allow a non-Muslim to call refer to us as Muzlims, we should correct them and let them know they have offended us, then get on with the conversation once he has realised his error and fixed his dastardly ways.
What struck me almost immediately was that this person was telling us to correct the way that non-Muslims were pronouncing an Arabic word (ie. Muslim) yet he himself was doing the exact same thing before us! The word ‘Zulm‘ in Arabic doesn’t have any meaning, for the word which he meant to refer to is Dhulm. The verb z-l-m itself does hold certain meanings, most of which are rather positive, and as for مزلم (muzlim) it translates as ‘binding’. So our imaginary non-Muslim friend has actually not referred to us as oppressors, at worst he has called us ‘binding’, and to be honest I’d be confused rather than offended.
As for the word ‘oppressor’, in Arabic we take the word ظلم (oppression) and then make it into ظالم (Dhālim) to mean oppressor. And hey, to be honest, even if somebody not knowingly called me that I wouldn’t chastise him and ask him to apologise for it.
So I guess the first lesson in this is that especially when giving a Jumu’ah Khutbah or a public talk on Islām, we should always check our facts before saying anything lest we are wrong in what we say! How often do we hear something or read in an e-mail some amazing little fact such as this, yet we at times make no attempts to verify it. We should make further effort to perfect our Tajweed and pronunciation of Arabic words and also improve our Arabic language so that we might be able to access the wealth of knowledge lying hidden away in the libraries of the world. We can also learn that in giving Da’wah we must have wisdom. As Allāh says in the Qur’ān –
ادْعُ إِلِى سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ
Call unto the way of your Lord with wisdom (16:125)
I hope that this might help in contributing to rectifying this Muslim urban legend, and that it will serve to benefit us and others in a good way. May Allāh bless you and and may we be thankful that he has made us of those who submit unto him (Muslims)!