Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Nothing “Islamic” About ISIS: How Those Barbarians Defame Islam

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Compassionate and Merciful Lord

That I condemn ISIS with every cell of my body goes without saying. Their barbarism knows no bounds, and I pray that the Lord brings to an end their reign of terror and inhumanity. The murder of American photojournalist James Foley, who was exposing the Syrian government’s brutality, just further shows that these thugs are nothing more than psychopathic barbarians, cloaking their evil in religious garb. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mr. Foley and all other victims of ISIS’ brutality.

That being said, they do purport to act in the name of Islam, and they claim to have re-established a “Caliphate,” which is a polity allegedly governed in succession to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Yet, what they do defames both the letter and spirit of the Prophet and his faith. This is the first in a series of posts that will outline how far they have strayed from true Islamic teaching.

First and foremost, ISIS violates the sanctity of life, which the Qur’an defends vigorously:

Come, let me convey unto you what God has [really] forbidden to you: “Do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him; and [do not offend against but, rather,] do good unto your parents;  and do not kill your children for fear of poverty – [for] it is We who shall provide sustenance for you as well as for them;  and do not commit any shameful deeds, be they open or secret; and do not take any human being’s life-[the life] which God has declared to be sacred -otherwise than in [the pursuit of] justice: this has He enjoined upon you so that you might use your reason. (6:151)

And do not take any human being’s life -[the life] which God has willed to be, sacred-otherwise than in [the pursuit of] justice. (17:33)

In no way, shape, or form does the killing of Foley, or any other civilian, even possibly come close to being in the “pursuit of justice.” In fact, the Qur’an deems that the taking of innocent life is like killing all of humanity:

Because of this did We ordain unto the children of Israel that if anyone slays a human being-unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth-it shall be as though he had slain all mankind… (5:32)

How is punishing Foley because of – justified, I might add – American attacks against ISIS be just? How could killing people – just because they follow a different religion – be characterized as just? It is not. It is inhuman, and completely un-Islamic.

Which brings me to the second (of many) point about ISIS. News reports detail how the barbarians of ISIS told Iraqi Christians: “convert, pay a tax, or die.” This is wholly antithetical to both the letter and the spirit of Islam. Freedom of faith is paramount in Islam. The Qur’an cannot be clearer:

There shall be no coercion in matters of faith…(2:256)

That verse is enough, but the Qur’an goes even further:

And [thus it is:] had your Lord so willed, all those who live on earth would surely have attained to faith, all of them: do you, then, think that you could compel people to believe? (10:99)

But wouldst you [O Muhammad], perhaps, torment yourself to death with grief over them if they are not willing to believe in this message? (18:6)

And say: “The truth [has now come] from your Lord: let, then, him who wills, believe in it, and let him who wills, reject it.” (18:29)

Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto you… (5:48)

For had God so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community; however, He lets go astray that wills [to go astray], and guides aright him that wills [to be guided]; and you will surely be called to account for all that you ever did! (16:93)

Have, then, they who have attained to faith not yet come to know that, had God so willed, He would indeed have guided all mankind aright? (13:31)

And [because He is your Creator], it rests with God alone to show you the right path: yet there is [many a one] who swerves from it. However, had He so willed, He would have guided you all aright. (16:9)

It is not required of thee (O Messenger), to set them on the right path, but God sets on the right path whom He pleases. (2:272)

This mantra “convert or die” is not and has never been part of Islamic teaching. In fact, the only groups who believe that Islam says “convert or die” are Islamophobes and the barbarian terrorists to who kill in its name. (More about the “tax” on Christians later)

Bottom line: there is nothing remotely “Islamic” about ISIS and its ilk. They are evil, satanic, barbarians, and they must be resisted – in other words, a jihad must be waged – against them by all who believe in decency and justice.

To be continued…

A Prayer For Peace In The Holy Land

In The Name Of God: The Infinitely Merciful And Compassionate Beloved Lord

It has been heartbreaking to see conflict emerge – yet again – in the Holy Land over the last several weeks. Children being murdered: shot to death and burned alive. Rockets being fired at civilians, and bombs being dropped on houses. People all across the Holy Land are being terrorized and forced to mourn for the loss of their loved-ones, and the hatred and guile that fuels more death goes unabated, unopposed. In fact, it looks like the conflict has no end in sight.

Precious Lord our God, please stop the killing.

Glorious Lord of Hosts, take the hatred away from the Holy Land so that her children can live and play in peace. This is the land of Abraham, father to us all; the land of David, Singer of the Lord’s Praises; the land of Solomon, Majestic King and Servant of God; the land of Christ, who walked to and fro calling his people to the Lord. And this is the land to which the Prophet Muhammad was brought, to pray to God as one, in solidarity with all his Prophet-brothers of old.

Precious Lord our God, please stop the killing.

For far too long has the soil of the Holy Land been poisoned by the blood of innocents. For far too long has mother had to wail over the death of her child. In a place that has been blessed since the start of creation, for far too long has the legacy of Cain stained the land and her people.

Precious Lord our God, please stop the killing.

I will leave the analysis of why this war started and who is to blame to the analysts. I think if we knew the real truth behind all this violence and conflict, we would be disgusted to the core. But all I want is the killing to stop. All I want is the death to stop. All I want the pain of loss to stop. I know first-hand the horror of losing a child: my eldest daughter died of cancer five years ago. I do not wish that on anyone, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

And so, all I can do is pray: Precious Lord our God, please stop the killing.

 

Ramadan And The World Cup: There Ought To Be No Controversy At All

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

Although the number of Muslim football players participating in this year’s FIFA World Cup has dwindled considerably, there are still a number of players who are slated to play this weekend in the Quarterfinal matches. A number of them have already indicated that they will not be observing the fast of Ramadan, due to health reasons.

As a physician, I completely understand this stance. It is quite dangerous to play a fast-paced football game without the ability to hydrate oneself (if the game is before sunset). A couple of years ago, I simply played golf (riding in a cart, no less!)  in a hospital outing on a very hot day and nearly collapsed after six holes. I vowed never to do that again, and that sort of “physical activity” pales in comparison to a football game in the World Cup.

And the players have received scholarly support from Al Azhar University in Cairo, one of the oldest Sunni Islamic institutions in the world:

[German player Mesmut Ozil] has been backed by the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, who reached an agreement with the German FA in 2010. The Central Council had asked for an expert opinion by the Islamic Al-Azhar academy in Cairo, which came to the conclusion that fast-breaking is allowed for professional footballers.

Of course, for some Muslims, this may be seen as controversial, as the fast of Ramadan is one of the most important rituals in Islamic practice. Yet, there really should be no controversy at all. The Qur’an gives Muslims “an out,” so to speak, with respect to the fast of Ramadan:

 Whoever of you is ill or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days… (2:184)

In other words, if you are traveling, you are exempt from the fast of Ramadan, although you must make up the days at a later time (before the next Ramadan).

Thus, there should be no controversy about whether a player should fast while playing a game in the heat and humidity of Brazil. Since they are traveling, they are allowed to break the fast. It is true that whether or not a person chooses to fast is personal, and it should not be the subject of international media attention. Nevertheless, the Muslim players should have no anxiety about not fasting during the World Cup at all. They are traveling.

Of course, the fast of Ramadan is more than just abstaining from food and drink: it is also about upright moral conduct, self-reflection, self-discipline, charity and concern for the poor. I would hope and pray that the players keep this in mind as they rest and recuperate before the games tomorrow and Saturday, even if they are not fasting.

It would be great, in fact, if they would all get together to pray the nightly Taraweeh vigil, as a show of religious solidarity and keeping in the spirit of this blessed month. It would go a long way to show that, even if they are on opposing teams during the World Cup, they are still brothers in faith and can stand side-by-side in prayer to God. We will have to see, I guess.

But, they don’t have to fast, regardless of the medical reasons, because the Qur’an allows travelers to break their fast. And they can make up those days missed in the winter…when the day is much shorter.

A most Blessed and Happy Ramadan to all!

Ramadan in Summer: No Less Dread, But Fasting In June and July Is The Very Least I Can Do

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

I cannot lie: I have no small amount of dread at the coming of the month of Ramadan, which starts June 28. Due to the lunar nature of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan this year (and for the next ten years) will fall during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. This means that fasting will last from approximately 3:30 AM until 8:30 PM, with frequently hot weather to boot. It is by no means an easy task, especially since fasting includes abstinence from even water. I pray the Lord that He makes the fast easy for all those who choose to do so, including this poor soul.

But I cannot lie and say I’m excited about fasting in June and July. In truth, I should be very excited: there is so much blessing and reward in this month. Islamic tradition states that the gates of Paradise are open, and the gates of Hell are closed; demons and devils are chained up; the reward for righteous deeds are multiplied many times over in Ramadan; during this blessed month, the Qur’an was revealed so that I can live a life in the light of God’s guidance and mercy.

But I cannot lie and say I’m excited about fasting in June and July.

During Ramadan, Muslims’ homes and their houses of worship are alive with people, and worship, and prayer, and the recitation of scripture. It is a wondrous time of fellowship and piety. Frequently, Muslims will get together to break the fast, and it is nice to get to see people you may not necessarily get a chance to see during the year. It is also a wonderful time of charity and concern for the other, especially since the fast of the day reminds you of those less fortunate, who frequently go hungry out of need and not choice. And with so many crises in the Muslim world today, concern for the less fortunate is particularly acute.

But I cannot lie and say I’m excited about fasting in June and July.

Yet, my God, look at me! All this whining about fasting during – yes – a very long day! Of course, if there one cannot fast due to a medical reason, then the fast is no longer obligatory on that person. In addition, pregnant and nursing mothers are also exempt from fasting, but they must make up the days later.

Still, every time Ramadan comes for the last few years, my face strains from the dread of knowing that I can’t drink my cup of coffee on my way to work…for a month. I can’t have that coveted 3PM cup of coffee that is just enough to keep me going until the end of my shift…for a month. I can’t have that occasional iced coffee (that is only 99 cents now) on the way home from work because, even after I leave from a long day at the hospital, there is still well over three hours before the sun will set…for a month.

My God! I am such a whiny wimp. Summer fasting is the very least that I can do for sake of my Beloved.

Now, of course, if Ramadan was not in the summer, I seriously doubt I would voluntarily fast (which would truly be magnanimous) on a long and hot July day. There are many Muslims who do just that, and my the Lord bless them tremendously. But, now, Ramadan is in the summer. Thus, if I am able to do so, I see fasting as the very least I can do in gratitude for all that the Beloved has done for me.

There is not a day that goes by during which I am not making mistakes; not falling short of what God wants of me; not succumbing to my weaknesses as a human being. Yet, despite the ugliness of my sins, the Lord shows me the Beauty of His Grace. Despite the horrible face I show Him, He continually shows me His Beautiful Countenance.

Thus, when the time comes for Ramadan, I should shut up and fast. It is time for me to show my gratitude in a way that I would not normally do: not eat or drink for 17 hours in the summer. It is time for me to step up for God because so many, many, many times, God has stepped up for me.

No, it is not going to be easy, and I cannot say that I will be fasting with a smile on my face. But, what keeps me from going into a full-on panic is the fact that – for every single moment of this man’s life – the Lord continually graces me with His Love, His Grace, His Beauty, and His Mercy. And I’ve done nothing – and can never do anything – for God to deserve this Grace.

So, when Ramadan starts this weekend, I plan to shut up and fast. It is the very least I can do.

Previous Posts

Nothing "Islamic" About ISIS: How Those Barbarians Defame Islam
In the Name of God: The Infinitely Compassionate and Merciful Lord That I condemn ISIS with every cell of my body goes without saying. Their barbarism knows no bounds, and I pray that the Lord brings to an end their reign of terror and inhumanity. The murder of American photojournalist James Fole

posted 3:20:55pm Aug. 20, 2014 | read full post »

A Prayer For Peace In The Holy Land
In The Name Of God: The Infinitely Merciful And Compassionate Beloved Lord It has been heartbreaking to see conflict emerge - yet again - in the Holy Land over the last several weeks. Children being murdered: shot to death and burned alive. Rockets being fired at civilians, and bombs being droppe

posted 10:46:52pm Jul. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Ramadan And The World Cup: There Ought To Be No Controversy At All
In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord Although the number of Muslim football players participating in this year's FIFA World Cup has dwindled considerably, there are still a number of players who are slated to play this weekend in the Quarterfinal matches. A n

posted 10:52:04am Jul. 03, 2014 | read full post »

Ramadan in Summer: No Less Dread, But Fasting In June and July Is The Very Least I Can Do
In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord I cannot lie: I have no small amount of dread at the coming of the month of Ramadan, which starts June 28. Due to the lunar nature of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan this year (and for the next ten years) will fall during th

posted 1:50:49pm Jun. 22, 2014 | read full post »

'Islamic Jew-Hatred': It's NOT in the Quran
In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Pamella Geller has put up bus ads in Washington, D.C. that say: Islamic Jew-hatred: It's in the Quran. Two-thirds of all US aid goes to Islamic countries. Stop racism. End all aid to Islamic countries. Her contention is flat-

posted 1:22:08pm Jun. 06, 2014 | read full post »


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