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Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Pillar of “Native Deen” Goes Out On His Own

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

Native Deen is one of the oldest and most popular American Muslim hip hop groups. It is my absolute favorite, and I have grown up listening to their songs. In fact, way back in the 1980s group member Joshua Salaam and I went to the same religious summer school, and I remember listening to him drop hip hop rhymes with effortless mastery way back then. Their songs are at once educational, inspirational, and consoling, all the while treating listeners with amazing hip hop beats and lyrics. If you haven’t heard of them, do yourself a favor and check them out.

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Yet, it is natural to wonder: what are their musical talents individually? What would they do if they broke up? Thank God, they are not breaking up. But, each has embarked on his own solo project, and the first one to release an album was Naeem Muhammad: “I Love When You Use Your Words.”

As soon I as I started listening to it, I got a glimpse into Naeem’s musical mind, and the word “jazz” kept coming up again and again. The album is very much jazz infused. Yet, he has many musical influences, as Naeem himself says:

My mom’s eclectic record collection and music taste of folk, jazz, soul, rock, and pop seemed to have forged my of own musical affinities. I can remember growing up with LPs of America, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Neil Young, and many other folk luminaries. So for me, creating an album of inspired folk rock songs, was like coming home.

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And, staying true to the “Native Deen” style, each song has a particularly beautiful message. My absolute favorite song is “We Shall Overcome.” Not only does it have an uplifting message, that nothing is impossible without God, but it has a very awesome musical background. He even includes a freshly remade oldie, “Rain Song,” which tells the inspiring tale of the coming of rain after a prayer is made to God.

I have met Naeem Muhammad, and he is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. That sweetness is most definitely seen in his music, and “I Love When You Use Your Words” is a musical treat that should not be missed.

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One Is Too Many, But “Islamic Terrorism” Threat Is Small

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

Don’t get me wrong. Even one American Muslim either thinking about, or planning, or trying to commit an act of terror is too many. Each case is a failure, on multiple levels. Yet, if one hears pundits, so-called “terrorism experts,” and politicians – especially those in the GOP – speak, he or she would think that there is a Muslim waiting on every corner of this beautiful country ready to pounce and kill at will.

The truth, thank God, is very different than the rhetoric.

Since 2010, Charles Kurzman, Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and specialist on Islamic movements, has been publishing a report on Muslim-American terrorism. His latest was released on February 2:

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Eighty-one Muslim-Americans were associated with violent extremist plots in 2015, the highest annual total since 9/11. A majority of the individuals identified in 2015 innolved travel (22 individuals) or attempted travel (23 individuals) to join militant groups based in Syria. Three joined militant groups in Pakistan or Somalia; and four were accused of helping others travel to Syria. Twenty-eight were associated with plots against targets in the United States. One person both traveled to Syria and allegedly plotted against targets in the United States upon his return.
Again, don’t get me wrong: this picture is very distressing to me as an American Muslim. But, out of a community of at least 2.5 million people (the most conservative estimate), this is a very tiny fraction: .00324%. In an interview with Religion News Service, Professor Kurzman said:

Each year since 2010 when I began doing this report, I try to remind readers … that among the threats to public safety that Americans face year in and year out, Islamic terrorism has played a very small role. Even the numbers of disrupted plots remain much lower than the public debate would lead us to believe. And yet it remains the focus of so much of the security discourse in American politics.

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And that’s the larger point I want to make. There are those in our country, including individuals running for President, that are trying to stoke up fear of Muslims for some sort of gain: political, financial, or otherwise. Yes, since 9/11, the report states that a total of 69 fatalities have occurred as a result of Muslim extremists. That is way too many. Yet, in 2015 alone, 134 Americans were killed in mass shootings.

Of course, one statistic is not better than the other. The murder of anyone, whether by a Muslim savage terrorist or a petty thief, is an enormous tragedy. But the fear of Muslims is not based on evidence, and we must resist the “otherization” of any community in this country by any and all. With the Presidential election now in full swing, I pray that more and more Americans take this lesson to heart.

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ISIS Cannot Be Reading The Same Qur’an As The Rest Of Us

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

I could not believe my eyes when I read the headline: “ISIS Militant ‘Kills His Own Mother’ In Public Raqqa Execution.”

A member of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) killed his own mother in a public execution in the city of Raqqa on Thursday, according to activists.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which monitors the Syrian civil war using a wide network of sources on the ground, and Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered, an activist group inside the ISIS-held city, both reported the execution.

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Ali Saqr, 20, reportedly killed his 45-year-old mother Leena Al-Qasem “for apostasy” in front of an audience of hundreds of people outside a post office building where she was employed in the city.

I didn’t think the savages of ISIS could stoop any lower than killing innocents in Paris or Istanbul. Clearly, however, I was wrong.

Yet, such savagery shows that these monsters cannot be reading the same Qur’an as the rest of the Muslim faithful. Nowhere in the Qur’an is there ANY whiff of justification for such brutish brutality as killing one’s own mother. The Qur’an is absolutely clear on kindness to parents:

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NOW [among the best of the deeds which] We have enjoined upon humanity is goodness towards parents. In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth; and her bearing him and his utter dependence on her took thirty months. (46:15)

And [God says:] ‘We have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: his mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain, and his utter dependence on her lasted two years: [hence, O humanity,] be grateful towards Me and towards thy parents, [and remember that] with Me is all journeys’ end. (31:14)

AND WORSHIP God [alone], and do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him. And do good unto your parents, and near of kin, and unto orphans, and the needy, and the neighbor from among your own people, and the neighbor who is a stranger,  and the friend by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom you rightfully possess. Verily, God does not love any of those who, full of self-conceit, act in a boastful manner; (4:36)

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Say: “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)

For your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none but Him. And do good unto [thy] parents. Should one of them, or both, attain to old age in thy care, never say “Ugh” to them or scold them, but [always] speak unto them with reverent speech (17:23)

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The message is absolutely clear: one must always show kindness to his or her parents: it is given the same weight in the Qur’an as the worship of God Himself. Moreover, we cannot even say “Ugh” or even sigh out of frustration in response to our parents, as verse 17:23 says.

So how in God’s Most Beautiful Name can these savages of ISIS be even remotely considered “Islamic”?

What’s more, even if one’s parents strive to make someone worship other than God Himself, which is the worst thing a person can do in Islam, that person still must treat his parents with kindness:

“‘[Revere thy parents;] yet should they endeavor to make thee ascribe divinity, side by side with Me, to something which thy mind cannot accept [as divine],  them not; but [even then] bear them company in this world’s life with kindness, and follow the path of those who turn towards Me. In the end, unto Me you all must return; and thereupon I shall make you [truly] understand all that you were doing [in life].’ (31:15)

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The fact that this mother was trying to get her son to leave ISIS shows that she cared about him; she didn’t want him following this band of sick murderers and savages. And for him to kill her, it reveals a savagery that is truly breathtaking in its brutality.

These guys must be reading a different holy book than the rest of us Muslims, because there is no way any reading of the Qur’an could justify anything that they do, most especially the murder of one’s own parents. And this begs the question, once again:

How in God’s Most Beautiful Name can these savages of ISIS be even remotely considered “Islamic”?

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Let Scripture Be Your Guide To A Better You In The New Year

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

Whenever a transition in time occurs, such as the passing of the New Year, it is natural for human beings to reflect over the past and look forward to the future. Hence, many people will be making New Year’s resolutions, and there will be no shortage of people telling  you and me how best to improve ourselves in the coming year. This is all well and good.

Yet, the best “expert” on self-improvement is looking straight at us in the mirror. We know ourselves the best, and we are the best judge of what flaws we have that need improvement. And we can let Scripture help us on this journey of self-betterment.

Just as I wrote during the Islamic New Year, the Qur’an offers several verses and passages that can be used as “personal improvement checklists.” Here is such a verse:

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For submitting men and submitting women, believing men and believing women, devout men and devout women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, humble men and humble women, charitable men and charitable women, men who fast and women who fast, men who guard their private parts [i.e., chastity] and women who guard [i.e., their chastity], men who remember God often and women who remember [God often], God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward. (33:35)

Here God states that He will prepare “forgiveness and a great reward” for those men and women who:

  1. Submit to God
  2. Believe in God
  3. Possess devotion to God
  4. Are truthful
  5. Have patience
  6. Have humility
  7. Are charitable
  8. Fast (and more generally, willfully deprive themselves for the sake of God)
  9. Guard their chastity
  10. Remember God often

We can use this as a “rubric” against which we can grade ourselves on a moral and spiritual level. How much do we believe in God? How much does that belief translate into action? How devout are we? How much devotion to God do we have? How truthful are we? How humble are we? And so on.

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The beauty of this, and other such “checklists” derived from Scripture, is that they can be done in private, with only our own inner voices – guided by the Word and Wisdom of God – speaking to us. There is no one else pointing a finger at us, where are liable to get defensive and shut down our listening.

And, using this checklist, we can set personal goals for the coming year, and the hope is that, by this time next year, we will have achieved those goals and be better people than we are today. For some of us: we may need to work on one thing; for others of us, we may have to fix several flaws. The number doesn’t matter. What matters, rather, is that we are always working to make ourselves better human beings.

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Now, some of us may say to ourselves, “Well, I am perfect the way I am. I do not need to use this or any other checklist.” Here, we have to be honest with ourselves: none of us is perfect. The only Perfect One is God Himself.

There is always room for improvement, on both an individual and collective level. Human society and civilization would never have progressed to where it is today if there was not a constant quest for betterment. We should never delude ourselves into thinking that we cannot become better people. If we are not moving forwards, then we are greatly liable to move backwards.

Thus, as we mark the end of one year and the beginning of another, it is my hope and prayer that each one of us can take some time to reflect and find ways in which we can improve and become better people. And with Scripture as our guide, our journey toward self-betterment will be both blessed and successful.

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2016 be filled with love, happiness, plenty, blessing, and incredible self-improvement for all of us.

 

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A Most Unique Christmas in 2015

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

Christmas time every year is always slightly different: the weather is different, the cultural context is different, and even the political climate is different. The Presidential Election season definitely has changed the flavor of this Christmas season, especially with respect to Islam and Muslims. Yet, unlike any other Christmas in decades, perhaps, this year Christmas will be completely unique.

December 24, Christmas Eve, will also be the very same day that many Muslims around the world will be commemorating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). While it is not the same as Christmas, the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday – also known as Mawlid-un-Nabi – is a special time for Muslims, where they commemorate the birth of the man who brought salvation to them as well. The reason it fell this year around Christmas time is because of the Islamic lunar calendar, which circumnavigates the solar calendar backwards. Thus, this year it is on December 24, and next year it will be around December 12.

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The celebrations around the Muslim world commemorating this day are as varied and beautiful as the cultures from where they hail. Many Muslims hold festivals where poetry extolling the Prophet’s virtue are read and sung; other Muslims fast and have communal meals; others have elaborate dances and other celebrations; many Muslims distribute candy and other sweets to children. It is a very special day for many, many Muslims around the globe, and it is amazing that this year it will fall right around the day Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ (pbuh).

It is my hope and prayer that this fact of Christmas in 2015 will allow a moment of pause and reflection over relations between Muslims and Christians. While many Muslims may not be officially celebrating Christmas, it does not mean that Jesus Christ is not special in their hearts. There is a great deal about Jesus in the Qur’an, in fact, and Christ is mentioned more by name in the Qur’an than the Prophet Muhammad himself (peace be upon he and Jesus both). The Virgin Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an. These are facts, and I wish that more people would know these facts about Islam and its honor for Jesus and Mary.

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In addition, if both Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them both) were alive today, they would be extremely close. The Prophet Muhammad called Jesus, and all other Prophets, his “brothers,” and he commanded us to make no distinction between any of the Prophets of God. That is why, despite the hostility of some Christians towards the Prophet Muhammad, no Muslim would ever dare attack or malign Jesus Christ or his mother. That would be utter blasphemy.

At a time when some Christians believe Islam is “inspired by Satan himself,” and other Christians dispute whether they and Muslims even worship the same God, it is my hope and prayer that the common love for Jesus between Muslims and Christians can bring them together. There is so much more in common between Christianity and Islam than there is in distinction. I hope and pray that more people come to know this and resist the forces of division and hatred that seek to tear our two communities apart.

From my family to yours, a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy Mawlid-un-Nabi to one and all.

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Yes: Christains and Muslims DO Worship the Same God

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

I was quite surprised when I read the news.

Tenured Wheaton College professor, Larycia Hawkins, was suspended because she claimed that Muslims and Christians worship the same God:

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote in a Facebook post on December 10. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

In response, the College issued this statement explaining its actions:

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Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion, and theological clarity,” the college stated in announcing the decision. “As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college’s evangelical Statement of Faith.

There is a common contention among many evangelical Christians that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God. Yet, as the Professor said herself, this contention goes against a great deal of historical and religious evidence:

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Whether or not you find this position [i.e., Muslims and Christians worshiping the same God], one held for centuries by countless Christians (church fathers, saints, and regular Christian folk like me), to be valid…

The Qur’an itself says the same thing:

“O followers of earlier revelation [i.e., Jews and Christians]! Come unto that tenet which we and you hold in common: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall not ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, and that we shall not take human beings for our lords beside God.’ And if they turn away, then say: ‘Bear witness that it is we who have surrendered ourselves unto Him.’” (3:64)

Over the many centuries during which Islam and Christianity have co-existed, the theological debate was not that Muslims and Christians worship a different God, but that this very same deity has a different nature. Christians contend that God is triune in nature, with Jesus Christ belonging in this Godhood. Muslims, on the other hand, insist that God is only One, and Jesus is His messenger and servant, and not His begotten son. The contention that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God is quite new, relatively speaking.

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The fact that most Muslims call God “Allah” stems from the fact that the scripture of Islam, the Qur’an, is in Arabic, and the Arabic name for “God” is “Allah.” Pick up an Arabic translation of the Bible, and the name for “God” is…”Allah.” Speak to an Arab Christian – like I have countless times – and he or she also calls “God” by the name “Allah.”

What’s more, if Jesus Christ himself were alive today, he would also call God by the name…”Allah.” How can this be so? The reason is that Jesus did not speak Greek, the language of the Gospels, but Aramaic. And the Aramaic name for God is “Alah” or “Alaha”:

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ˀlh, ˀlhˀ   (ˀĕ/ălāh, ˀĕ/ălāhā)   n.m.  god

No, Muslims and Christians do not agree on the nature of God and Jesus Christ. But, we can agree on – and come together around – the fact that we both worship the very same God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them all). Rather than seeking to divide the Children of Abraham – to which both Christians and Muslims belong – we should be looking for ways to come together and work for the common good of all on this earth. Wheaton College was wrong in its decision and should reinstate Professor Larycia Hawkins today.

 

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Amid So Much Anti-Muslim Hate, I Have So Much Hope

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

Every time there is a spectacular act of violence that garners media attention – whether domestically or internationally – there is widespread anxiety within the American Muslim community. After each incident, I am confident that – in American Muslim households all across the country – people were praying, “Please, dear God, don’t let the attacker be a Muslim.” Certainly, I was saying and feeling this in the hours after the horrific shootings in San Bernardino, California.

And when the perpetrators turn out to be Muslims – like in Paris and now San Bernardino – there is a collective feeling of dread and sighs of, “Here we go again.” This is not because – CNN International anchors’ contentions notwithstanding – we are somehow “responsible” for the acts of the criminals in our midst. We are not.

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Rather, the dread comes from the near certain backlash against the Muslim community, because there are many people who cannot separate ordinary, peaceful, patriotic Muslims – the vast, vast, vast majority – from the criminals who commit acts of terror in Islam’s name. And the backlash has certainly come in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings.

What is making it worse this time, however, is Presidential politics, with Donald Trump openly calling for the registration of Muslims and now a “complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration into the United States. The climate against Islam and Muslims, it seems, has not been this hostile since 9/11. And such hostility certainly takes its toll on me, my family, and other American Muslims.

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Then, I get this text:

Hi Guys. I just wanted to let you know that we have been thinking about you during these days where…Trump has been spewing such vitriol. Inasmuch it is hard for us to hear that, it would be twice as hard for you. Hopefully the country will wake up and see him for [who] he is. In the meantime please know that my family, as well as many others, stand with you!!!

After expressing my deepest thanks for the support, my friend responded:

I’m serious. I will not be silent about this. Mi familia esta con la tuya (My family is with yours).

My friend used harsher language than this, and I left it out. I did the same with another text I received from another friend:

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[I really don’t like] Donald Trump…If [he] gets elected I’m moving to Canada…Export the Mexicans, marginalize the Muslims. Sounds a lot like Hitler to me.

Again, when I expressed my thanks for his support, he responded:

I’m quite sure I speak for all of your friends and colleagues…People are scared and they develop a defensive gang mentality without thinking (or being able to think) beyond base instinct. This is exactly what the terrorists are trying to achieve. Lots of idiots walking around…many of them with guns too, but at the end of the day they are the vast minority. It’s unfortunate that they have mouth pieces like [Sen Ted] Cruz and Trump rattling Sabres.

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Soon after the Paris attacks, my wife had an incident where someone yelled at her at a local store. The support she received both personally and on social media was overwhelming. 

These texts and other shows of support come amid a heartening and vociferous condemnation of Trump’s proposals and rhetoric, by politicians, pundits, journalists such as Tom Brokaw, and even American Muslim sports heroes like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Then there was the post of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, offering his support:

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I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world. After the Paris attacks and hate this week, I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others. As a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities. Even if an attack isn’t against you today, in time attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone. If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.

All this and more has given me tremendous hope and comfort, and I thank the Lord our God for that. The cacophony of American voices – both Muslim and non-Muslim – standing up to anti-Muslim hate shows me, and the rest of the world, that the vast, vast, vast majority of the American people – my people – are beautiful human beings who reject hatred and bigotry and will stand up to reject anyone who spews it.

And when two of those myriad voices reached out to me, personally, to show me that they supported and stood by me and my family, it meant more than any words can truly express. And it also gave me hope that America, the country I love with all my heart, is still as beautiful as I know her to be.

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A Muslim’s Love For The Virgin Mary

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

More than two centuries ago, there was a devout woman in Palestine who made an appeal to her Lord:

O my Lord! Behold, to You do I vow [the child] that is in my womb, to be devoted to Thy service. Accept it, then, from me: verily, You alone art all-hearing, all-knowing!

She was expecting a male child, and she planned on devoting him to the priesthood, which only males could do. Yet, the boy she expected was born a girl. Thus, knowing that she couldn’t make her a priest, she prayed thus to the Lord:

O my Lord! I have been given birth to a female, and I have named her Mary. And verily, I seek Your protection for her and her offspring against Satan, the accursed.

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This story was not taken from the Bible, but rather the 19th chapter of the Quran, which is, in fact, named after her. This may surprise many of my Christian readers, but it should not. Both Christ and his mother are very highly revered in Islam and by Muslims all over the world.

Yet, in the passage about the birth of Mary, which Catholics commemorate today, December 8, in the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, there is a key passage that many translators of the Quran have completely missed despite its huge significance. The literal phrase in Arabic is laysal dhakaru kal untha, which means “the male is not like the female.” Many translators have interpreted the verse like this: “But when she had given birth to the child, she said: ‘O my Lord! Behold, I have given birth to a female’—while God had been fully aware of what she would give birth to and the male is not like the female…

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Twentieth-century Quran translator Muhammad Asad interpreted it differently, and it is one that I like so much better:

But when she had given birth to the child, she said: “O my Lord! Behold, I have given birth to a female”—while God had been fully aware of what she would give birth to, and [fully aware] that no male child [she might have hoped for] could ever have been like this female…

Let’s look at that Quranic quote again: “No male child [she might have hoped for] could ever have been like this female…

That is the greatness of this woman, Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. The passage finishes with the Lord lavishing praise upon the newly born child, Mary, the magnificent woman born centuries ago in Palestine:

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And thereupon her Lord accepted the girl-child with goodly acceptance, and caused her to grow up in goodly growth… (3:35-37).

No male child she might have hoped for could ever have been like this female, Mary. She was the mother of Christ; bearer of the Word of God, which was communicated unto her. Mary took on a terrifying task: having a son without a father and having to face the utter shock and likely disgust of her community.

She would have to face horrific accusations and terrible maligning of her character. This character was so impeccable, in fact, that her people—as the Quran mentions—nicknamed her “Sister of Aaron”—and not just any old “Aaron,” but the brother of Moses himself. It was an enormous test, and it was so difficult that she cried out as Christ was being born:

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Oh, would that I had died before this, and had become a thing forgotten, utterly forgotten! (Quran 19:23).

But, she did it with grace, faith and a fortitude that would shame most of the staunchest believers. She was an amazing woman, and I am truly blessed that my faith calls upon me to honor this Mary in the most reverent way possible. In fact, the Quran challenges me to be like Mary:

And [We have propounded yet another parable of God-consciousness in the story of] Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb], and who accepted the truth of her Lord’s words—and [thus] of His revelations—and was one of the truly devout (66:12).

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The Quran holds up the example of the Virgin Mary as how one should be God-conscious. And, the Quran holds up the example of the Virgin Mary for all believers—male and female—for all time to come. Truly, truly, no male child could ever have been like this female, Mary. I pray that one day I can enter His highest of Gardens and get to see the Holy Virgin, the magnificent mother of my Master Jesus, and enter into her presence and kiss her hand.

Amen, O my Beautiful Lord, Amen.

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God Can “Fix This,” But He Wants Us To Do It

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

NY Daily News said, "God Isn't Fixing This"

NY Daily News said, “God Isn’t Fixing This”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the wake of the horrific shooting and apparent terror attack in San Bernardino, California, the NY Daily News raised eyebrows with their headline saying, “God Isn’t Fixing This.”

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And on the cover, it showed pictures of the tweets of various politicians who called for prayers of the victims of the massacre. I, too, added my prayers for the victims as well.

Yet, leaving aside the accusation by some politicians and religious leaders that the NY Daily News is somehow “prayer shaming,” I think there is a larger point that has been missed.

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As a person of faith, I believe wholeheartedly in prayer. I do it every day: both ritually and non-ritually. It is my opportunity to talk to God, all day and every day. It is incredibly powerful and comforting. It helps me feel and live the presence of God in my daily life.

At the same time, however, prayer alone is not enough. It is not enough that I pray for “a lot of money” but then refuse to get out of bed and go to work. It makes no sense to pray to God for “protection” but then not lock the door to the house or car. Yes, we should pray to God for the victims of gun violence all over our country (and world), but we must also act – in numerous ways – to help prevent such tragedies from happening again.

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I think this is what the NY Daily News was trying to say, and I agree.

Make no mistake about it: God can fix the problems of the world; in the blink of an eye. But, He wants us to strive and work to fix those problems, and at that moment, we should ask for His help and guidance and strength. Many of the problems of our world are by our own hands, and thus it is up to us – with God’s help – to do what we can to alleviate those problems. The Qur’an tells us so:

Corruption has appeared on land and in the sea as an outcome of what the people’s hands have wrought: and so He will let them taste [the evil of] some of their doings, so that they might return [to the right path] (30:41)

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In another passage of the Qur’an, it says:

…Verily, God does not change the condition of a people until they change their inner selves… (13:11)

We have to work to fix our world; we have to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by God to make our world better; we have to struggle – to do jihad – to rid our world of the evils which plague it.

And that “we” is any number of groups: we Americans must enact common sense rules to prevent guns from getting into the hands of mentally ill or radicalized violent extremists; we Muslims must never cease countering the satanic, toxic narrative of the savages who commit horrific violence in the name of our preccious faith; we citizens of the world must come together to solve the growing number of threats that endanger us all.

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We have to get up and do it, and as we do the hard work necessary, we should look to the sky and turn our hands up – in complete humility – to the Lord our God and ask for His help and guidance. This is the way of the Prophets, such as Jesus Christ (pbuh), whose birth Christians the world over are celebrating later this month.

Jesus could have asked God to fulfill his mission for him, which God could do straightaway. But, Jesus did not do that. He struggled, he worked, he preached, he hit the streets of Galilee and Jerusalem, all the while praying to God for help and strength. The same was true for the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), whose birthday we Muslims will also celebrate later this month.

As a believer, I know that God can “fix this”; He can fix anything. But, He wants us – all of us, regardless of race, creed, culture, or status – to work together to do good on this earth, and when we do so and ask for His help, He will come to our aid like only He can.

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Most Americans Do Not Know Truth About Islam’s Values

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

In a poll of Americans released by Public Religion Research Institute, a majority of Americans said that “The values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life.”

Most Americans Feel Values of Islam Are At Odds With American Values

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And this feeling is consistent across various religious and racial groups of Americans.

Yet, when I first came across the results of this study, my reaction was not, “Wow, how bigoted Americans are!” Rather, my feeling was that we need to teach the majority of my fellow Americans what the true values of Islam are.

I would suspect that the Americans surveyed gleaned the values of Islam from the incessantly negative coverage of all things Islamic and Muslim. Yet, the truth is quite different. Islam’s values are many, but – the opinions of Islamophobes and Islamist extremists notwithstanding – they have nothing to do with violence, terror, and death.

First and foremost, Islam is about peace. I am sure many a reader is rolling his or her eyes now. But, it is the absolute truth. Islam is about attaining inner peace through the willful submission of one’s will to that of God:

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O you who have attained to faith! Surrender yourselves wholly unto God [or, enter wholeheartedly into peace], and follow not Satan’s footsteps, for, verily, he is your open foe. (2:208)

Verily in the remembrance of God hearts do find rest (13:28)

AND [know that] God invites [humanity] unto the abode of peace, and guides him that wills [to be guided] onto a straight way (10:25)

It is clear that Muslims make a universal brotherhood and sisterhood across the world. The Qur’an is explicit in saying so. Yet, Islam connects all humanity together through our common father and mother, Adam and Eve:

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)

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Islam is also about piety, kindness, charity, and compassion:

True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west – but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance – however much he himself may cherish – it – upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God. (2:177)

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And as important as peace, Islam is about love: love for God; love for fellow humanity; love for the world; for the poor; love for you family; love for your spouse; love for everything. Every surah (“chapter”) of the Qur’an, except one, begins with the same phrase which I begin every blog post: “In the Name of God, the Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring.” The Qur’an is full of the love and care and mercy of God, and there is not a page that is turned in the Qur’an without the love of God overflowing.

Now, of course, many can find in the very same Qur’an verse after verse that seem violent, intolerant, belligerent, and sectarian. Many a commenter on this blog has done just that. Yet, there has to be enough of a sophistication to understand that these tough verses have a context, a mainstream understanding, and an explanation. Every scripture has tough verses that can be used to justify unspeakable crimes; Islam is no different.

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Yet, that is not what Islam has taught me. Violence, and death, and murder are not spiritually fulfilling, but rather, they defile one’s spirit and soul. If that was truly what Islam was all about, it would not have endured all these centuries; it would not have inspired a civilization that greatly contributed to human history; it would not provide comfort for billions of people around the world today.

The values of Islam fit perfectly with the values of America and the rest of the world. That is the truth. The fact that most Americans do not think this is true simply means that we have more teaching to do. And, God willing, I will continue to do my best to do just that.

 

 

 

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