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In the Name of God, The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring


The chemical weapons attack on Syrian children was beyond heinous. This man, Assad, is beyond Satanic. He will face justice: possibly in this world, but most definitely in the next. Something had to be done. And, all of his problems and faults notwithstanding, President Trump acted: he launched more than 50 cruise missiles into Syria.

Analysts, politicians, and pundits are debating his true motivations for the attack. Even Nicholas Kristof, no fan of Trump in the least, praised his actions:

President Trump’s air strikes against Syria were of dubious legality. They were hypocritical. They were impulsive. They may have had political motivations. They create new risks for the United States.

But most of all, they were right.

Yet, President Trump should not have had to act on Syria. Muslims should have stopped him long ago.

The Syrian civil war has been a disaster of monumental proportions: hundreds of thousands have been killed; millions have been displaced; vicious terrorists have been given the sanctuary to thrive in the midst of the chaos – and strike at innocents both in the Muslim world and the West.

What makes this disaster all the more heinous is the fact that Muslims are fueling the fires of conflict on both sides. Muslims should know better – their Scripture tells them what to do if internecine conflict arises:

Hence, if two groups of believers fall to fighting, make peace between them; but then, if one of the two groups goes on acting wrongfully towards the other, fight against the one that acts wrongfully until it reverts to God’s commandment; and if they revert, make peace between them with justice, and deal equitably with them: for verily, God loves those who act equitably! (49:9)

Once it was clear that the Syrian uprising degenerated into a full-fledged civil war, the Muslim world should have gotten together to stop the conflict and make peace. It should not have had to come to this, if Muslims were true to their Scriptures and commandments.

If you don’t know already, nerve gas such as sarin causes an overload in nerve receptors that respond to a body chemical called acetylcholine. As a result, the victim of nerve gas literally drowns in his or her own secretions. It is an horrific death.

Those children, suffocating from sarin, are the children of all Muslims, not just their Syrian parents. Those parents, hysterical at the loss of their children, are Muslims’ brothers and sisters in, not only humanity, but also in faith. Even if the victims of the brutal Assad regime were Christians, or Yazidis, or Jews, or atheists, Muslims should have stood up for them, because God commanded them to stand up against any injustice, even if committed by one of their own.

Am I being naive by saying this? Some may think so, and I do understand that geopolitical reality is much more complicated than the ideal world of a column. Nevertheless, this is the word of God, and it is the height of hypocrisy for the so-called “Islamic republics” to be right thick in the middle of the Syrian quagmire, making it grow much worse by the day.

History will tell us what exactly motivated President Trump to strike at the Syrian regime after its barbaric chemical weapons attack. We will see if this strike is the opening salvo of escalation, or a one-time strike intended to send a message. Still, President Trump should not have had to act at all. The Muslims should have taken care of the cancer of the Syrian civil war all by themselves.

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In the Name of God, the Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring


We may never know why this man, Khalid Masood, decided to run over innocent people on Westminster Bridge and then stab a police officer to death. Of course, many – as always – are blaming his Islamic faith, but this is far too simplistic an answer, as research into the subject of terrorism shows.

Still, it is absolutely true that many of these “holy warriors” have criminal backgrounds and – as Rajan Basra of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London told NPR – some of them seek redemption through their acts of barbaric terror:

So we looked at criminals that became jihadists, and we saw two distinct patterns. The first was that they seek redemption from their violent pasts, from their criminal pasts in jihadism. Basically the idea of redemption is intrinsically linked to the idea of martyrdom, which says that the minute that you die, you will be absolved of your previous sins. You will be able to intercede on behalf of family members on the day of judgment.

So it has a very strong effect on people that are looking for this redemption in their lives. If that’s the case, we do have to ask ourselves, well, why is it that they get involved in jihadism and they don’t become let’s say Quakers or members of the Salvation Army beecause in the marketplace of ideas, there are many, many different ideologies that can offer this redemption and the ability to wipe the slate clean. And so our research really showed that perhaps it’s down to human networks – who you know, who you’re in touch with face to face or on the Internet, to a lesser degree. And they can introduce these ideas and kind of steer this person that is searching for this salvation and redemption into extremism.

Here is where we must be absolutely clear: redemption can never be gained through murder.

When turning over a new leaf, it is normal to feel guilt and perhaps shame over one’s past misdeeds. But to think that killing innocent people in London, or Paris, or Brussels, or Beirut, or Baghdad, or Pakistan will bring someone redemption and salvation is sheer madness. Further, it betrays the very letter and spirit of Islam. The Qur’an talks about gaining redemption, and it does not speak of murder at all:

Say: thus speaks God: “O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves, do not despair of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for verily, He alone is much-forgiving, and a dispenser of grace!” (39:53)

…do not lose hope of God’s life-giving mercy: verily, none but people who deny the truth can ever lose hope of God’s life-giving mercy (12:87)

Say: “Unto whom belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth?” Say: “Unto God, Who has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy… (6:12)

This is but a small sample of the dozens upon dozens of verses that speak of God’s limitless grace and mercy. And no where does it say that, to attain God’s grace and mercy, one must resort to murder. The Prophetic literature also speaks of God’s limitless mercy:

God says: ‘O Son of Adam, as long as you invoke Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O Son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and you then asked forgiveness from Me, I would forgive you. O Son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the Earth, and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it [too].’ [Tirmithi]

Again, no where is murder mentioned as a condition for redemption. Murder is a horrific crime. When one commits murder, as the Qur’an says in 5:32, it is “as if he has killed all humanity.” There is no way that, by committing this act of barbarity, one can become right with God.

Redemption can never be gained through murder.

Our Lord is a Beautiful, Loving God. No matter what someone has done in his life, all he has to do is turn to God with sincere repentance, and he will find a God full of love and grace and mercy. No sin is bigger than God’s mercy. No sin. He is always there waiting for us to return to His Door. And killing others can never open that door up.

This message has to be spread far and wide: Redemption can never be gained through murder. Never.

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In the Name of God: The Eternally and Extremely Loving and Caring

“Why do they hate us?”

This question is perpetually asked by us Westerners regarding the terrorist savages who attack us. Now, the issue of terrorism is much more complicated than simply the terrorists “hate our freedoms.” Nevertheless, when someone decides to mow down innocent people walking on Westminster Bridge, the question is a natural one. 


Yet an equally natural question that can be asked is, “why do the terrorists hate us (the Muslims)?”

Every time a terrorist savage kills innocents in the West, it increases pressure on the overwhelming majority of innocent Muslims living in the West. It causes an inevitable backlash against them, which causes even more hurt and pain beyond the attack. How can this possibly “help the cause of Islam and Muslims,” as they commonly claim they are doing? 

What’s more, this backlash may cause some Muslims – already suffering from alienation – to think that the West is at “war with Islam,” which feeds right into the savages’ false narrative. They use it as a recruiting tool, pointing to the backlash that they created to say, “See, Muslims? The West hates you. You need to join us.”

Beyond this, it is an undeniable fact the vast majority of the victims of “Radical Islamic Terrorism,” as our President is wont to call it, is ordinary Muslims themselves

My heart bleeds for London, and Paris, and Brussels. It’s terrible what the savages of ISIS have done. 

Yet my heart also bleeds for Baghdad, which suffered an attack on March 20. My heart bleeds for Pakistan, which has seen horrific violence committed by ISIS in February. They attack and kill any Muslim who doesn’t agree with their sick and twisted version of our religion, and there is no shortage of misery that these so-called “holy warriors” have caused all over Muslim-majority countries. 

In fact, a good deal of the refugee problem is due to the fact that Muslims would rather die trying to get to Europe than live under ISIS. This is the clearest rejection and condemnation of ISIS by Muslims for which people keep calling. 

So, yes, when ISIS attacks London, it makes sense to ask, “Why do they hate us (the West)?” But it makes equal sense to ask, “Why does ISIS hate us (the Muslims)?” This shows that ISIS and the other terrorist savages are enemies to all of us, and we need to stand together against their evil. 

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

I came across this tweet the other day:

The article, published in the Harvard Business Review, had very interesting facts on how quiet is actually necessary for our brains:

Author JK Rowling, biographer Walter Isaacson, and psychiatrist Carl Jung have all had disciplined practices for managing the information flow and cultivating periods of deep silence. Ray Dalio, Bill George, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan have also described structured periods of silence as important factors in their success.

Recent studies are showing that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work, and lead. Duke Medical School’s Imke Kirste recently found that silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory. Physician Luciano Bernardi found that two-minutes of silence inserted between musical pieces proved more stabilizing to cardiovascular and respiratory systems than even the music categorized as “relaxing.” And a 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, based on a survey of 43,000 workers, concluded that the disadvantages of noise and distraction associated with open office plans outweighed anticipated, but still unproven, benefits like increasing morale and productivity boosts from unplanned interactions.

The article goes on to make some excellent suggestions on how to incorporate quiet into our lives. 

Yet there is one more opportunity that is not mentioned in the article: daily ritual prayer. 


As a Muslim, I must make five ritual prayers throughout the day and night. The daily prayer was established, primarily, as a way to always keep God in our minds’ eyes. In the Quran, God told Moses:

“Verily, I – I alone – am God; there is no deity save Me. Hence, worship Me alone and be constant in prayer, so as to remember Me!” (20:14)

It is an essential aspect of the daily spiritual life of the Muslim believer. 

And it is the perfect opportunity to incorporate the quiet our brains need. 

If we can find a quiet place to perform our prayers, that would be great. The greater challenge for us, however, is to exert every effort to quiet our minds when we enter into prayer. That way, we can fulfill two purposes simultaneously: remembering God and giving our minds (and souls) their much needed silence. 

Now, if we are Muslim and don’t perform our daily prayers, it’s never too late. God has always been calling out to us, and it is on us to heed that call:

And if My servants ask thee about Me – behold, I am near; I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls unto Me: let them, then, respond unto Me, and believe in Me, so that they might follow the right way. (2:186)

When we pray, we are actually entering the Divine Presence and talking with God. That experience deserves our full attention. Thus, I’m grateful to the Lord I came across the tweet above. It has inspired me to redouble my effort to quiet my mind and focus when I start my prayers. I pray I will be successful. 

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

Christians have been under assault in some areas of the Middle East, with so-called “holy warriors,” more like satanic savages, attacking Christian churches and forcing them to leave their homes. Add to this the historical rivalry and conflict between Islamic and Christian civilizations, and one may be forgiven to think that Muslims have nothing in common with Christians and are destined to be bitter enemies forever.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Muslims and Christians have way, way more in common than in distinction, and nothing fits this bill more than the person of Jesus Christ. And an excellent book that explains how Jesus fits into Islamic belief, theology, and history – as well as Islam’s link to Judaism – is Mustafa Aykol’s book, “The Islamic Jesus.” 


Aykol is a regular columnist for the International New York Times, Hurriyet Daily News, and Al-Monitor.com. His 2011 book, “Islam without Extremes” was long-listed for the 2012 Lionel Gelber Prize. “The Islamic Jesus” is an easy and excellent read. I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Aykol by email:

Why write about Jesus?

First, he is one of the most influential human beings history – perhaps the most influential one. And that is thanks to no armies, no revolution, no power – just the power of his words that were initially followed by a handful of believers. That is really an amazing fact.

Second, Jesus is a figure that connects the three major Abrahamic faiths in a very interesting way. For Jews, he is one of them. For Christians, he is their Savior. For Muslims, he is an extraordinary prophet. He has something to say, therefore, for all of these three faiths.

I also thought that after Reza Aslan’s very successful book on Jesus, Zealot, another Muslim must write the Islamic Jesus, who is not really a Zealot. Reza, to his credit, did a good job of articulating a revisionist thesis on Jesus — that he was a Jewish rebel against Roman rule. But I neither find that thesis persuasive, nor I think that is what Islam teaches me about Jesus. Hence I wrote The Islamic Jesus.

Why is there such a close connection between Muslims and Jesus?

Well, actually there is not enough connection between contemporary Muslims and Jesus — and that is one reason I wrote this book: to call on fellow Muslims to contemplate on the teachings of Jesus.

The answer to your question, however, is simply the Qur’an. The Qur’an shows outmost respect to Mary and Jesus, and tells a lot about their extraordinary stories. It praises Mary as a woman “above all women,” and tells about her virgin birth. It tell hows Jesus performed miracles and called his people, the Jews, to be better believers. It even uses exceptional words to define Jesus such as “Word of God.”

Post-Qur’anic Islamic sources, such as the hadiths (“sayings” of the Prophet Muhammad), even tell that Jesus will come back to the earth, before the apocalypse, to lead both Muslims and Christians. All of that makes Jesus certainly a crucial figure for Muslims.

Given how honored Jesus is in Islam, why has there been so much animosity between Christians and Muslims?

First, conflicts between faith communities do not always arise from faith issues — there is mere geopolitics and mundane power struggles. Ottomans fought with Austro-Hungarians many times, for example, because both were empires trying to maximize their territories.

Second, religious affinity does not guarantee harmony. Let’s not forget that different Christian sects fiercely battled with each other for centuries. Their common love for Jesus, somehow, did not stop them killing each other as “heretics.”

Furthermore, while Jesus is both respected by Christians and Muslims, there is still a major gap between the two faiths: For Christians, Jesus is the divine Son of God. For Muslims, he is a human prophet, and it is blasphemy to believe in a divine Son of God. Some Muslims have even perceived the Doctrine of Trinity, in which most Christians believe, as a polytheistic heresy.

In my book, I go over some of these bones of contention between Islam and Christianity, and argue that they might not be as sharp as often thought. The term “Son of God,” for example, is more metaphorical than what Muslims typically perceive. (When you go back to its Jewish roots, the term is even more metaphorical, and in fact acceptable from an Islamic point of view.) Yes still, the Christian Jesus and the Islamic Jesus rest on theologies with major differences.

As a Muslim myself, I believe Jesus was just part of the entire religious history of monotheism. Did your research tell you the same? 

Yes, of course. Let aside our faith as Muslims, a plain reading of the New Testament gospels suggest that Jesus was reviver of the monotheistic faith that goes back to Abraham — and, in fact, Adam, the first man. He was in line with the older Jewish prophets, such as Jeremiah, Hosea, and Elijah, who called on their fellow Jews to be more pious and sincere in their faith. Unlike them, however, he also claimed to be “the Messiah,” the saviour that Jews awaited — a claim that the Qur’an notably confirms by repeatedly calling Jesus “the Messiah.”

But did Jesus have a universal mission that went beyond the Jewish people? Paul, of course, said “yes” to the question, and gave us the Christianity that we know today, with a radical break from Judaism. We Muslims can say “yes” to the same question as well, but not by taking the giant theological leap Paul took into what I would see as a more Greco-Roman concept of God.

Therefore we Muslims are at an interesting mid-point between Judaism and Christianity. We affirm Jesus was the Messiah that Jews should have followed. But we don’t go too far on this, to the level of seeing Jesus as divine, which is the mainstream Christian position. In fact, the Islamic view of Jesus perfectly matches with a lost strain within Christianity, which is known as “Jewish Christianity.” How was that possible is one of the key themes of my book.

What can Christians learn from this book?

They can learn that, first of all, early Christianity was much more diverse than what they have now as mainstream. The identity of Jesus was a big puzzle, and diverse answers were given, many of which vanished in history as “heresies.” Moreover, one of these heresies, Jewish Christianity, seem to precede Islam in the way it defined Jesus and in terms of its overall theology.

In other words, Christians can learn that Islam is not an alien religion. With its intriguing adoration for Jesus, Islam is in fact the closest faith on Earth to Christianity. This, of course, is a fact that Muslims should realize and keep in mind as well.

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

Steve King, Congressman from Iowa, came under fire for a tweet he issued today speaking of “restoring civilization”:

He was referencing Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has advocated:

…to “de-Islamise” the Netherlands by shutting mosques and Islamic schools, banning the Koran and having “zero asylum seekers and no immigrants anymore from Islamic countries”.

Muslims make up about 6 per cent of the Dutch population, mostly from Moroccan and Turkish backgrounds.

While campaigning in February, Mr Wilders said, “there is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who make the streets unsafe, mostly young people — and that should change”.

Such a worldview, aside from being racist and xenophobic, short-changes America to such a great degree. If Rep. King wants America to “return” to an exclusively White, Christian nation (which it never truly was in all of its history), he will rob America of what already makes her great: her beautiful diversity.

One of the greatest things about being a Muslim is that I am part of a global family of believers – very similar to Christianity – from every country and walk of life. All of us, together, form one family in faith. This global family is called the “ummah.”

America is a very similar “ummah.” Our country is one of the very few places in the world where people of all origins and ethnic backgrounds – bound together by our love of this country – come together and form one American family. It is one of the greatest things about being an American.

Why would Steve King, or anyone else for that matter, see this as a bad thing?

We are strengthened by our diversity; we are made better by the fact that people of all races and walks of life can live and prosper, here, side by side. Moreover, “Deus Vult,” or “God wills it”:

And among His wonders is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colors: for in this, behold, there are messages indeed for all who are possessed of innate knowledge (30:22).

Our diversity is a wonder, a miraculous sign from God. It is a Divine gift given to us here in America, and we should show our gratitude for this gift by embracing its beauty.

Why would Steve King, or anyone else for that matter, see this as a bad thing?

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

While reading my Twitter feed, I came across a post that had the hashtag “deusvult.” I had never seen that before, and I subsequently learned that it was the battle cry of the First Crusaders, Latin for “God wills it.” It made me think of the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is the Greatest.” Unfortunately, many a savage terrorist will use this phrase as a “battle cry” today.

Now, the phrases themselves – “Deus Vult” and “Allahu Akbar” – are not problematic; in fact, they speak words of truth. But their particular historical contexts make their connotations unpleasant or even loathsome.

We need to change these connotations.

Map_to_illustrate_the_Crusades,_showing_the_principal_routes_of_the_first_four_crusades_(14596690557)

“Allahu Akbar” was never intended to be the “battle cry” of Muslims, the contentions of many notwithstanding. I hate it when Muslim terrorists use (and subsequently defile) this phrase. “Allahu Akbar” teaches us humility. It reminds the Muslim believer that God is Supreme, that God is greater than anyone or anything in this universe. Muslims use this phrase to begin each of their daily ritual prayers, and it is a major portion of the Muslim call to prayer.

Yes, Christians may have used “Deus Vult” as a battle cry to justify their slaughter of Muslims and Jews in the Holy Land, but to me, it means something completely different. To me, it is a reminder of what God really wants of humanity:

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. Compete, therefore, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all must return, and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ. (5:48)

God has never “willed” for us to kill and slaughter one another. Never.

Rather, God wants us to work together for the common good. God wants us to see beyond our differences and focus on our common humanity and common love for Him and His people. God wants us to come together, both as believers in Him and fellow human beings, to make this world as beautiful a place as it can possibly be.

This is because “Allahu Akbar,” or because “God is the Greatest.” When we come together as one, it is because “Deus Vult,” or because “God wills it.”

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In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

The religious hatred I have been seeing in our country has made me very concerned. Almost by the day, there are threats to Jewish Community Centers, Synagogues, and even Jewish children’s museums. Muslims have not been spared, either, as hate crimes against Muslims in America have soared, especially since the election of Donald Trump.

In the eternal words of Master Yoda: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” People fear what they do not know, and it does not take much for that fear to lead to hatred. And some, unfortunately, take this hatred and use it to commit violence, be they the savages of ISIS or right-wing terrorists. The only way to lead out of the darkness of hate is to bring in the light of knowledge.

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Enter Reza Aslan and his new show, “Believer.” Premiering on Sunday March 5, “Believer” takes the viewer on a spiritual journey alongside Aslan, scholar of religion and author of many books, most recently Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

Last week’s episode delved into the Aghori sect of Hindusim, and – as someone who knows very little about Hinduism in general – it was very enlightening for me. And it reiterated, to me, the utmost importance of getting to know one another so we can erase hatred of each other.


We are in an age where there is so much religious-based hatred and violence. Here in America, Jewish centers are targeted by bomb threats; mosques are set on fire; Jewish cemeteries are desecrated; Sikhs are shot after being told to “get out my country.” The only way we can erase the scourge of hatred is to increase our understanding of each other.

CNN’s “Believer,” I believe, is an attempt at increasing this understanding. For certain, the series will not be perfect, and already, the first episode was not without its critics. Still, I appreciated learning whatever little there was about Hinduism and the Aghori, and I look forward to watching the rest of the series in the weeks ahead.

It is very easy to retreat into corners of ignorance and hate: it doesn’t take much intellectual energy to hate. But seeking understanding of the ways and faiths of others take work and time. It is as the Quran says:

Humanity! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware (49:13). 

It is my hope and prayer that “Believer” can help bridge some divides of ignorance and help all of us get to better know one another.  That way, we can, God-willing, avoid the “Dark Side” of hatred.

 

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In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

In an interview on NPR, White House Special Assistant to the President, Sebastian Gorka, had this exchange with host Steve Inskeep:

INSKEEP: On Feb. 3 when you were on the program, we asked if you felt the president believes Islam is a religion. The reason we had to ask that is because the previous national security advisor Michael Flynn made some statements suggesting he didn’t believe it was a religion. You weren’t aware then what the president’s view was. Have you learned since? Does the president believe Islam is a religion?

GORKA: It would be nice if you actually reported things accurately. I didn’t say I would refuse to do anything of the sort. This is not a theological seminary. This is the White House. And we’re not going to get into theological debates. If the president has a certain attitude to a certain religion, that’s something you can ask him. But we’re talking about national security and the totalitarian ideologies that drive the groups that threaten America.

While he did say, immediately afterwards, that Islam is not the enemy, it was a bit concerning (to be generous) that Gorka refused to say whether the President thinks Islam is even a religion. The concern, on the part of many (including this writer), is that if Administration officials do not believe Islam is a religion, then they can deny Muslims their First Amendment rights.

Sebastian_Gorka_Congress_Testimony

This begs the question: what is religion?

I put this question to religion scholar Reza Aslan, host of the series “Believer” on CNN which premiers on March 6 at 10 PM EST:

There is no standard definition of religion in academia though many have tried to provide one. Mine follows that of Levi-Strauss and others who view religion as a form of communication. I define it as a systematized language of symbols and metaphors that allows a particular community to communicate with each other the ineffable experience of faith.

Islam, just like Christianity and Judaism, fits this definition quite well.

Yet, let us go a little further and compare the three faiths on their basic beliefs:

Christianity and Judaism both believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So does Islam. Christianity and Judaism both believe that God sent down revelation to humanity to teach it how to conduct itself: for Judaism, it’s the Torah, and for Christianity it is Jesus Christ himself. So does Islam: its scripture is the Quran, which has a great many similarities to the Bible.

As an outgrowth of revelation, Christianity and Judaism both believe that, throughout the ages, God has sent Prophets as guides and teachers for humanity when it deviates from the truth. So does Islam, and many of the same Prophets in the Bible – such as Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Noah, Ezekiel, among others – are mentioned in the Quran.

Both Christianity and Judaism have a concept of an Afterlife, where humanity will stand before God to account for its actions on earth. So does Islam, and the Quran is full of vivid descriptions of the Last Day.

Moreover, the key figures of both Judaism and Christianity loom very large in Islam. Moses, for instance, is mentioned in more than 70 passages in the Quran. The stories of his birth, his rearing in the Palace of the Pharoah, his mission, his miracles, the Passover, and the Exodus are all detailed in the Quran. It was Moses, according to Islamic tradition, who was behind our having to pray only five times a day (it was originally supposed to be 50). Thanks, Master Moses!

Jesus Christ, as well, is a very prominent figure in Islam and the Quran. He is described as the “Word of God,” a “spirit emanated from Him,” and being “strengthened by the Holy Spirit” in the Quran. The only woman mentioned by name in the Quran is Mary, the Holy Virgin and mother of Christ. In the Quran, Jesus heals the sick, cures the blind, and even raises the dead. One cannot be a Muslim if he does not believe in Jesus. Mustafa Aykol has written an excellent book about Jesus in Islam (about which I will write very soon).

These are only a small number of the similarities between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. These three faiths come from the same source, the God of Abraham, and all hearken to this self-same Patriarch.

Thus, if Islam is not a religion but rather a “totalitarian ideology,” as some are wont to claim, then neither can Christianity nor Judaism be considered religions, either. Such a notion is preposterous, of course. And so is that claim about Islam.

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring 

We are natural allies, Muslims and Jews. We worship the same God. We honor the same Prophets. We have very similar theology and religious law. We both harken to the same patriarch, Abraham. 

Yet, for some reason, and for many years, Muslims and Jews were not always standing together. I suspect it had a lot to do with the conflict in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians. While unfortunate, it was nevertheless reality.

But recent events may be changing this reality. 

In the wake of the election of 2016, there has been a shocking wave of threats directed toward the Jewish community. Most recently, it took the form of bomb threats to JCCs and Synagogues and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Muslims, too, have also been the target of repugnant acts of hatred and violence. This includes multiple arson attacks on mosques across the country.

And in response, the Muslim and Jewish community have stood up for each other. 

The Religion News Service detailed how Jews in Florida rallied to help local Muslims who had their mosque attacked by arson. It also outlined  other instances of interfaith support:

When vandals damaged headstones in a Missouri Jewish cemetery last month, Muslim activists raised more than $125,000 to fund repairs.

When a Victoria, Texas, mosque was razed by vandals in late January, members of a local Jewish congregation allowed the displaced Muslim worshippers to worship in their synagogue.

And when vandals toppled more than 100 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia last weekend, Muslims and others traveled from other states to repair them.

The Muslim Student Associations of Florida State and Florida A&M universities delivered bouquets of flowers to campus Jewish organizations and local synagogues in a show of solidarity after the two cemetery attacks.

Muslim veterans have offered to help guard Jewish sites.

Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-Semitism watchdog group, received a standing ovation when he said at a conference that if U.S. Muslims were forced to register with the government, he would register as a Muslim, too.

This truly warms my heart to see, and I pray these recent actions sow the seeds for deep and lasting cooperation and friendship between American Jews and Muslims for many years to come. 

And while I am sad that it took repugnant acts of hatred against the Muslim and Jewish community to motivate this wonderful interfaith work, it is better late than never. And may any differences between Muslims and Jews, either real or perceived, never let them forget who they really are: Children of Abraham who must always stand together.