Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Though Not Technically Celebrating Christmas, Jesus Is Still On My Mind As A Muslim

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

I must admit: at this time of year, sometimes it feels lonely. Practically the whole country is gearing up for the Christmas holiday, which is less than two weeks away. And while technically I do not celebrate the religious festival that is Christmas, it would be nice to feel included. I mean, some people are even afraid of saying, “Merry Christmas,” fearing that it would “offend” me. Nothing is farther from the truth. What is more nice than wishing me a happy day on December 25?

Still, as a Muslim, the religious celebration of Christmas is not one of my religious holidays. Yet, that does not mean that Jesus Christ is not on my mind. Far from it. Christ, in fact, is all over my Scripture. There are dozens of verses in the Quran that speak about Jesus, including his birth (3:45-49), his miracles (5:110), the Last Supper (5:113-115), among many others. Chapter 19 of the Quran is named “Mary,” after his mother, who I revere and honor just the same.

Jesus, as the Quran says, “shall be of the righteous” (3:46). “Peace be upon me the day I was born,” says Jesus in the Quran, “and [will be upon me] on the day of my death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life [again]!” (19:33). The Quran also calls upon its readers to remember “she who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit and caused her, together with her son, to become a symbol [of Our grace] unto all people” (21:91), referring to Mary and Jesus. Many will be surprised to know that Jesus Christ is mentioned by name in the Qur’an many more times than the Prophet Muhammad himself, peace and blessings be upon them both.

Yet, more than Jesus (and Muhammad, of course), many of the Prophets of God are part and parcel of my daily life.

Every day I utter the prayer of Moses, as recounted in the Quran, when he was charged by God to take the Children of Israel out of slavery:

O my Lord! Open up my heart to [Thy Light]; And make my task easy for me; And loosen the knot from my tongue, so that they might fully understand my speech. (20:25-28)

It brings me comfort as I start my day at the hospital.

I utter the same prayer as Joseph, after he was reunited with his family in Egypt after all those years:

Originator of the heavens and the earth! You are near to me in this world and in the life to come. Let me die as one who has surrendered himself to You, and make me one with the righteous. (12:101)

I even turn the praise of God by Jesus Christ, as mentioned in the Quran, into a prayer:

Behold, I am a servant of God. He has vouchsafed unto me revelation and made me a Prophet. And [He has] made me blessed wherever I may be…” (19:30-31).

Thus, there is hardly a day that goes by that I do not ask the Lord: “Make me blessed wherever I may be.”

This is one of the most beautiful things, as far as I am concerned, about being a Muslim: not only am I directly connected to the Lord our God, my Creator and Sustainer, but also to His many Prophets that He sent throughout the millennia, including Jesus Christ. I follow their footsteps as I take this journey back towards to the Lord our God, hoping and praying that I do as good a job as possible. I follow a tradition, starting with my Creator, that dates back to the very beginning of history itself.

That is why I am so utterly outraged at the rabid barbarians – “extremists” is too kind a word – of groups such as Boko Haram, the Taliban, and KIL (a.k.a., “ISIS”). They have resurrected centuries old barbarism – one that Islam came to eradicate – and cloak it with the garbs of faith and righteousness. In the process, they defile Islam with their filth. I hate them, and I pray that they be destroyed once and for all.

But, as far as Christmas Day is concerned, it is likely that I will not be exchanging gifts with my friends and family or having a formal Christmas dinner. Yet, do not think for one second that Jesus Christ will not be on my mind.

A very Merry Christmas to one and all!

“No Male Could Ever Be Like This Female”

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

Throughout my childhood, I have grown up listening to this story being recited out loud:

When the wife of ‘Imran said, “My Lord, indeed I have pledged to You what is in my womb, consecrated [for Your service], so accept this from me. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” But when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And God was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of God ].”

So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow in a good manner and put her in the care of Zechariah. Every time Zechariah entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, “O Mary, from where is this [coming] to you?” She said, “It is from God . Indeed, God provides for whom He wills without account.”

This is not from the Bible, but the Qur’an (verses 35-37 of Chapter 3). It is the story of the birth of the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ (peace be upon them both). This event is what is celebrated by the Catholic Church on December 8: the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. When I attended Marquette University, a Jesuit institution, I would get the day off from school (always a welcome occurrence). I always thought it was the conception of Jesus. Only recently, however, did I learn that it was actually the conception of Mary. Yet, this fact only made me happier, for Mary is very special to me as a Muslim.

This should come as no surprise. The Mother of Christ is highly regarded and praised in the Qur’an:

And [mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds. (3:42)

The Qur’an mentions that the Virgin Mary and her son Jesus are a sign of God’s grace:

And [remember] she who guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her of Our Spirit, and caused her, together with her son, to be a symbol [of Our Grace] unto all people (21:91).

In fact, the Qur’an makes the Virgin Mary an example of the ideal believer:

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)

Moreover, in 3:35-37, most translators of the Qur’an interpret the saying of Mary’s mother, when she was born, that “the male is not like the female,” as it is stated above. Yet, there is another interpretation which I like better: “no male child [she might have hoped for] could ever have been like this female.” When the mother of Mary had dedicated the child in her womb to God’s service, she thought it was going to be a male child. When Mary was born, this was not possible at the time. But God is saying in the Qur’an that no male child could ever be like this amazing female child, Mary.

How true a statement that is. What an amazing reward it would be for me to be able to greet the Virgin Mary, kiss her hand, and express to her the love I have for her in my heart. What an amazing reward it would be for me to dwell in Paradise with the Virgin Mary and be in her company. What an amazing reward it would be for me to be able to enjoy her company in highest of Gardens.

Precious Beloved Lord, please make this dream of mine a reality. Amen.

 

 

 

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.

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In the Name of God: the Infinitely Compassionate and Merciful Beloved Lord I must admit: at this time of year, sometimes it feels lonely. Practically the whole country is gearing up for the Christmas holiday, which is less than two weeks away. And while technically I do not celebrate the religiou

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