Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Running For My Angel (And Chocolate) And Being Grateful The Whole…Painful…Way

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

On November 9, I was blessed to run in the annual Hot Chocolate 5K run in Chicago. It is a fun, relaxed race that takes you through the heart of Downtown Chicago, and my wife, daughter, and I ran the race in honor of our Angel, who passed away in 2009 from cancer. Thanks be to God, I finished the race (the 5K one…not the 15K), and I thoroughly enjoyed the hot chocolate waiting for me at the end of the race.

And throughout the race – and reflecting afterwards – I could not help but be grateful.

I was grateful to have the day off from work, so I could enjoy running a fun 5K with my wife and daughter. I was grateful to even have a job, something which many fellow Americans still do not have. I was grateful to God to be given the strength to run in the first place, as there are so many others who are afflicted with physical impairments that would make running such a race, even as short as a 5K, nearly impossible.

I was grateful for the great city of Chicago through which I ran, with all of its wonderful people, and architecture, and culture, and activities. I was grateful for such a fun day in the city after the race, hanging out with my sister and her family who live not that far from the finish line. I was grateful for the safety I felt running through the city, because such safety – as too many know far too well – is something that is not always had in many cities in our world today. Such safety, in fact, is elusive in the very same city of Chicago, not that far away from where the race was run.

I was grateful for the plenty with which I have been blessed by God, so that I could spend the money for the entrance fee into the race. Although our economy is much better, there are still so many people who still struggle to make ends meet each and every day. Indeed, my left knee began to hurt not that far into the race, but I was grateful not to have suffered a more severe injury, one that could have landed me in the hospital or on an operating table.

I was – and still am – grateful for the wonderful memories of that day, and the fun I had running with my wife and daughter in the city of Chicago, which I love so dearly. There were a number of Syrian-Americans who were running that day, raising both money and awareness for the terrible tragedy in that country. That made me grateful that our country – although afflicted by forces that seek to tear it apart – is not in the midst of a civil war like that of Syria; grateful that our government – although far from perfect – is not bombing us in our cities like the horrific government of Syria does to its own people each and every day.

I could go on and on about all the things for which I am grateful, simply by reflecting over running a 5K race on a cold, autumn day in Chicago, IL.

There is so much tragedy in our world, and there are so many that suffer terrible things each and every day. I pray for them, that their suffering is relieved, and that they are given a better day soon. Yet, as we all gather together and commemorate Thanksgiving, let us all go through such an exercise: to take one event in our lives and reflect over the things surrounding that event for which we are grateful.

I pray that such an exercise will make us increase our gratitude toward our Beloved, Who has blessed us with so much which we take for granted. And I pray that such gratitude will increase us in righteousness and perhaps motivate us further to help those who are in need. For that is the true fruit of gratitude.

May you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. Amen.

Fellow Muslims: Please Say Funeral Prayers For Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig

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

The barbarians of KIL (aka ISIS) have done it again: the U.S. has confirmed the beheading of Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, an American who went to Syria to help the victims of the civil war and was then captured by KIL. Here is some background about Kassig from the New York Times:

An Indianapolis native, Mr. Kassig turned to humanitarian work after a tour as an Army Ranger in Iraq in 2007. He was certified as an emergency technician, and by 2012 he returned to the battlefield, this time helping bandage the victims of Syria’s civil war who were flooding into Lebanon. He moved to Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, where he founded a small aid group and initially used his savings to buy supplies, like diapers, which he distributed to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

In the summer of 2013, he relocated to Gaziantep in southern Turkey, roughly an hour from the border, and began making regular trips into Syria to offer medical care to the wounded.

He disappeared on Oct. 1, 2013, when the ambulance he and a colleague were driving was stopped at a checkpoint on the road to Deir al-Zour, Syria. He was transferred late last year to a prison beneath the basement of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo, and then to a network of jails in Raqqa, the capital of the extremist group’s self-declared caliphate, where he became one of at least 23 Western hostages held by the group.

It seems that something must have went wrong with the execution, as it was not shown in full barbarity as the other beheadings of Western hostages. Some suggest that he may have fought his captors. Whatever the case may be, Abdul-Rahman Kassig is the latest victim in the KIL’s reign of horror in Iraq and Syria.

My heart, my thoughts, and my prayers go out to the Kassig family. As a parent who has lost his own child, I know all too well the horror and pain of such a loss. I pray that our Beloved showers his family with the strength, love, can comfort that only He can provide.

And I ask my fellow Muslims – in America and beyond – to all say Islamic funeral prayers for him. I don’t think these evil people gave him the decency of a proper burial, let alone an Islamic funeral prayer service (Mr. Kassig converted to Islam during his captivity). Thus, as his brothers and sisters all across the world, let us do it. Let us raise our hands in prayer to the Lord for his forgiveness; that whatever suffering he may have endured elevate his status in Paradise; that he be given the status of a martyr, which he clearly is.

Peter Kassig’s adopted Islamic first name, Abdul-Rahman, means, “Servant of the Most Merciful.” And his actions of late truly showed it: he sacrificed a comfortable life in America to go to one of the most dangerous places on earth to help complete strangers; to help ease their suffering in the midst of a barbaric conflict:

Kassig was kidnapped delivering medical aid to people affected by the civil war in Syria. He had been a soldier, a Ranger in Iraq, then a college student, and, very briefly, a husband. (The marriage ended in divorce.) Along the way, the Army trained him as a medic, and he took classes to learn to be an emergency medical technician. On a vacation to Lebanon, where he encountered Syrian refugees, he realized that his medical knowledge was an asset, a gift he could hand to desperate people. Just before he was supposed to go home, he had, as he wrote in an e-mail to family and friends, “the best conversation that I have ever had with my mom. From 4,000 miles away in a shelled out parking lot in Beirut I told her about what I had been involved in over the last week.” He had found his “calling”:

Yesterday my life was laid out on a table in front of me. With only hours left before my scheduled flight back to the United States, I watched people dying right in front of me. I had seen it before and I had walked away before.… I’m just not going to turn my back this time, it’s as simple as that.

“My whole life has led me to this point in time,” he wrote. He stayed, and bandaged wounds, cared for people in clinics, and, just generally, helped.

Our Lord’s Mercy shown bright and clear through both his words and the help he tried to give to those in need. And his actions are in stark and vivid contrast to those of his killers, who claim to be acting in the name of God but do everything but. There will be a Day of Reckoning; they will have to answer to the Lord for the death of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, as well as all the others they have killed. There will be a Day of Reckoning, and of this fact the barbarians of KIL should be terrified.

Ashura: The “Muslim Passover”

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

Happy New Year. The Islamic New Year, that is. And the tenth day of the first month of the Islamic year is a very special. It is called Ashura, and this year, it falls on Monday, November 3. For Shia Muslims, it is a day of painful commemoration of the murder of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). No doubt, although I am a Sunni Muslim, the murder of Hussein is also very painful for me, but I don’t commemorate it the way some Shia Muslims do.

Rather, following the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), I will spend the day in fasting:

The Prophet came to Medina and saw the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura. He asked them about that. They replied, “This is a good day, the day on which God rescued the Children of Israel from their enemy. So, Moses fasted this day.” The Prophet said, “We have more claim over Moses than you.” So, the Prophet fasted on that day and ordered (the Muslims) to fast (on that day). (Bukhari)

Narrated Ibn Abbas: I never saw the Prophet seeking to fast on a day more (preferable to him) than this day, the day of ‘Ashura’, or this month, i.e. the month of Ramadan. (Bukhari)

The day of Ashura was considered as a feast day by the Jews. So the Prophet ordered, “I recommend you (Muslims) to fast on this day.” (Bukhari)

Now, fasting is difficult for me in general, and fasting outside of the month of Ramadan is even more difficult. But I plan to fast on Monday anyway, because the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) recommended it, and it commemorates a very special moment in our sacred history: the freeing of the Children of Israel from the brutal bondage in Egypt.

This should come as no surprise that Muslims, millions of Muslims all over the world, are forgoing food and drink in commemoration of the Exodus out of Egypt. The story of Moses figures very prominently in the Qur’an. The Prophet Moses (pbuh) is mentioned more by name than any other Prophet, much more than the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself.

The Qur’an tells of two miracles – Moses’ staff turning into a serpent and his hand glowing when he places it under his arm – that God permitted as proof of Moses’ prophethood. It also describes the plagues unleashed on the Egyptians for their refusal to believe in God and refusal to set the Hebrews free (7:133). It also relates the story of the golden calf and Moses’ anger with his people at their worshiping it as a god besides the Lord (20:85-97).

My favorite part of the story, the splitting of the Red Sea, is mentioned at least twice (2:50, 26:52-68). Furthermore, the Qur’an tells a story about Moses that I do not think is in the Bible: his encounter with the “Servant of God” in the desert of Sinai, who taught Moses an important lesson about the knowledge of God (18:60-82).

It is truly remarkable that the followers of one major religion, Islam, fast to commemorate the central figure of another major religion, Judaism. The fact that the followers of Islam and Judaism in the Holy Land continue to fight – while worshiping the same God and honoring the same Prophet (i.e., Moses) – ceaselessly baffles me. But the fact remains: one of the religious rituals of Muslims is fasting to commemorate the Exodus of the Children of Israel out of Egypt; a “Muslim Passover,” if you will.

This is true Islam, not the barbarism of KIL (aka, “ISIS”). This is the essence of what Islam is all about, even though Muslims around the world hold troubling (and largely un-Islamic) views about many different things. Loving God with all your heart; worshiping Him and doing good to all His creation because of that love; and, yes, fasting a day in celebration of the Exodus: that is Islam. My only hope and prayer is that more people come to see this reality.

And so, Monday, I will likely not stop for a cup of coffee on my way to work: all for the sake of God and His Prophet Moses (and Muhammad). My only saving grace is…the day will be an hour shorter. It is probably the only time I will appreciate the short days of winter.

 

I Pray A Happier New Year Will Come

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

Tomorrow is the first day of the Islamic New Year, 1436. Indeed, it is part of human nature that – when such time-based transitions occur – a pause to reflect over what has transpired generally happens. Clearly, Islamic year 1435 has been quite challenging.

War has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world, with so many innocent people – Muslim and non-Muslim – dying senseless deaths. What is just as bad, if not worse, are the “holy warriors” that wreak havoc, death, and destruction in the name of the faith that Muslims, including this one, hold so dearly. Whether it be Al Qaeda, or the Taliban, or Boko Haram, or KIL (aka, ISIS), there are too many horrific things that are done in the name of Islam.

I pray that the evil of these barbarians comes to an end in 1436. It goes without saying that extremism is bred in the swamps of injustice, and thus I pray that more of these swamps will be drained  in the coming year of 1436. I pray that the Syrian civil war, which helped KIL (aka ISIS) grow in power, comes to an end in 1436. I pray that peace between Israel and Palestine, elusive for far too long, can be finally achieved in 1436. I pray that the fires of hatred between Sunni and Shia, which are stoked by some solely for power and influence, can be snuffed out and extinguished in 1436.

I pray that the horror of Ebola in West Africa can be brought under control in 1436. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that, if not taken care of quickly and aggressively, Ebola infection runs of risk of becoming endemic – meaning permanently present – in the human populations of West Africa. This is quite frightening and must be avoided at all costs. I pray for comfort for the families of the victims of this terrible disease, and I also pray that a cure and/or effective treatment can be found in 1436.

I pray that the fires of division and hatred in this country are extinguished in 1436. So many times, the actions of a few are projected upon the whole. Yes, a handful of converts to Islam have committed grave crimes. But that does not mean converting to Islam will make one violent. There are thousands – if not millions – of converts to Islam who have been transformed into good, upright, beautiful people by their conversion. Their stories are the true stories of Islam, but unfortunately, most of the time, the true stories of Islam are simply not reported.

I pray that mass shootings, such as the one that took place today, come to an end in 1436. I have a daughter in High School. I could not imagine having to worry about her safety if a gunman started shooting at her high school. I pray for the families of the victims of this tragedy, for I know all too well the horror of losing a child.

There is so much evil in our world – coming from every space and every direction – that it is easy to let oneself be overwhelming and smothered by it all. But, we must not let that happen. Yes, there is bad, but there is so much more good. Let us focus on that and keep our spirits high. God is in charge, and in that fact, we should all rejoice.

Are my prayers all pipe dreams? Some may think so. But, with God all is possible. Like I said, He is in charge, and in that fact, we should all rejoice. And I have one last prayer: that one and all – Muslim and not – have a safe, and blessed, and prosperous, and happy Islamic Year 1436.

Previous Posts

Running For My Angel (And Chocolate) And Being Grateful The Whole...Painful...Way
In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord On November 9, I was blessed to run in the annual Hot Chocolate 5K run in Chicago. It is a fun, relaxed race that takes you through the heart of Downtown Chicago, and my wife, daughter, and I ran the race in honor of our A

posted 2:53:04pm Nov. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Fellow Muslims: Please Say Funeral Prayers For Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig
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posted 4:26:35pm Nov. 17, 2014 | read full post »

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posted 4:23:18pm Nov. 01, 2014 | read full post »

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In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Precious Beloved Tomorrow is the first day of the Islamic New Year, 1436. Indeed, it is part of human nature that - when such time-based transitions occur - a pause to reflect over what has transpired generally happens. Clearly, Islami

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