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Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of the God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

A gaffe by a Rick Santorum staffer says a lot. Speaking to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Monday, spokeswoman Alice Stewart said:

There is a type of theological secularism when it comes to the global warmists in this country. That’s what he was referring to. He was referring to the president’s policies in terms of the radical Islamic policies the president has.

She quickly called MSNBC after the segment and said she misspoke, actually meaning “radical environmental policies.”

Ohhhh, I see! She meant environmental rather than Islamic.

This makes me wonder about a couple of things: first, does the spokeswoman’s slip mean that – deep down – she thinks that President Obama really is a “secret Muslim”? And second, is the association between “radical” and “Islamic” so ingrained, so natural, that it can easily slip out of one’s tongue? In either case, it makes me very sad.

It makes me very sad that still, in 2012, associating President Obama with Islam is used as a smear. It recently happened at a Rick Santorum campaign event, in fact, and Senator Santorum did not correct the person making the assertion. This is wrong. It is wrong to try to smear someone by wrongly accusing them of being Muslim (or Jewish, or Christian, or any other religious faith). We should have better respect for religious faith and choice than that.

It is equally sad that the association between “radical” and “Islamic,” it seems, has indeed become so natural. Yes, the Muslim worldwide community has its radical elements: but so does every other religious community. Yes, extremists who called themselves Muslims attacked the country on 9/11: but so did extremists who were Christians in 1995 in Oklahoma City. Yes, there are Muslims who have been caught plotting terrorist attacks, but as a recent study shows, their numbers are dwindling and the threat from American Muslims has been exaggerated.

I wish religion and religious faith would be taken out of politics and the Presidential campaign. Whatever religion we choose to profess: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, or no “-ism” at all, it should not matter. That is a personal choice, and we must all have respect for each other’s personal religious beliefs. That is what makes our country so wonderful: that we can live and work with people of all faiths in peace, harmony, and brotherhood.

It is the way that the Lord wanted us to live on earth, and so let us work to make His desire a reality.

In the Name of God, the Infinitely Merciful, Most Gracious

I was standing in my  mother’s kitchen when I first heard the news: Whitney Houston, a singer to whom I grew up listening, had died at the age of 48. Since then, and in full from at the Grammy Awards, people and celebrities all across the country have sent in their condolences and prayers. I add my voice to that chorus:

May His comfort reign supreme over Whitney Houston’s family, especially her daughter. As a father who lost his child, I know full well the pain and suffering that loss of a dear loved one can bring. Ever since that horrific day, whenever I learn of the death of anyone, my heart twinges with pains of empathy. And my empathy extends to the Houston family.

As I reflect upon her death, it is amazing how much the country is affected whenever a celebrity dies. Although Whitney Houston did die at a young age, still, as my wife pointed out to me, it seems like celebrities are not subject to laws of God; it seems that they will always be with us to grace us with their talent. As we can see, it is sadly not true. Celebrities, like the rest of us, are human beings: they live, they die; they eat, they sleep; and they are plagued with the same things with which we all are.

Still, whenever one dies – anyone, really, – my response will be the same: may His comfort reign over all those touched by her death. For the truly greatest comfort comes from the Precious Beloved Lord alone. Amen.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Let me start with this: I have never understood and completely abhor those fellow Americans who plot to hurt innocent people in this country. It is a betrayal beyond all measure, and they deserve to be punished severely, if convicted of the allegations made against them. And, definitely, homegrown terrorism is a threat that must be dealt with. Yet, especially during this election season, we cannot let alarmism and fearmongering win the day.

Some elected politicians have talked about the threat from – not “homegrown terrorism” in general – but “Muslim” or “Islamic” homegrown terrorism specifically. Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, held four hearings in 2011 to examine “the extent of Muslim-American radicalization by al-Qaeda in their communities today and how terrible it is, the impact it has on families, how extensive it is, and also that the main victims of this are Muslim-Americans themselves.”

A study by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security examined Muslim homegrown terrorism, and it declared:

Threats remain: violent plots have not dwindled to zero, and revolutionary Islamist organizations overseas continue to call for Muslim-Americans to engage in violence. However, the number of Muslim-Americans who have responded to these calls continues to be tiny, when compared with the population of more than 2 million Muslims in the United States and when compared with the total level of violence in the United States, which was on track to register 14,000 murders in 2011.

As the report says, this number is not “negligible,” but it is far less than some people would have you believe. And the number of plots and those who support them have been decreasing:

In addition to the decline in violent plots, the number of Muslim-Americans indicted for support of terrorism — financing, false statements, and other connections with terrorist plots and organizations, aside from violent plots — fell from 27 individuals in 2010 to 8 in 2011, bringing the total to 462 since 9/11.

Again, not “nothing,” but not a “scourge” as some would have you believe. In fact, a significant proportion of those plots were foiled by Muslims themselves: 

Muslim-Americans continued to be a source of initial tips alerting law-enforcement authorities to violent terrorist plots. Muslim-Americans turned in 2 of 14 individuals in 2011 whose initial tip could be identified, bringing the total to 52 of 140 since 9/11.

The findings of this study have been replicated by other studies as well. The point is: homegrown terrorism is a very important issue, and again, as an American I expect law enforcement officials to expend every effort to stop terror plots from being materialized. But, as Professor Charles Kurzman, author of the current study, told the New York Times: 

terrorism by Muslim Americans  [is] “a minuscule threat to public safety.” Of about 14,000 murders in the United States last year, not a single one resulted from Islamic extremism, said Mr. Kurzman

Let not the forces of hatred succeed in dividing us through fear and misinformation. Let us be a better people and better nation than that.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful 

I know that, as the weeks and months pass during this year’s presidential campaign, that the issue of President Obama being a “secret Muslim” will come up again and again. It did so not that long ago at a Rick Santorum event (I swear I am not picking on Rick Santorum) during the campaign. A woman asked that, since the President was an “avowed Muslim”: “Why isn’t something being done to get him out of the government. He has no legal right to be calling himself president.”

Rather than correcting her, he sheepishly said: “Yeah, I’m doing my best to try to get him out of the government.”

Here is my fantasy; a daydream that I have almost on a daily basis:

At a campaign event somewhere, sometime in America: 

Candidate X takes a question from someone at his town hall meeting. 

“Yes, sir,” the Candidate says, pointing his finger to the person. 

“You know, this President Obama, is a fraud. He never should have been President. He wasn’t even born in this country, and he is an avowed Muslim…” 

“Uh, excuse me, sir. Let me stop you right there,” says Candidate X, who suddenly has a very serious look in his eyes. Staring right back at the questioner, the Candidate says: 

“First of all, President Obama was born in this country. I think that is clear. And, it is also clear that he is a Christian. He has said it on numerous occasions. But, more importantly, what if he was a Muslim? So what! Does being Muslim somehow disqualify someone from running for public office? From being an American?”

Several people in the crowd yell “Yes!”

Candidate X chimes in sternly: “The answer is no, folks. This is America. We are nation that believes in freedom of religion, the freedom to worship or not worship whatever you want. It is one of the things that makes this country as beautiful as it is. And if an American who happens to be a Muslim runs for public office, there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong at all.” 

Sigh. What a wonderful thing…if it were to ever come to pass. But, I’m not holding my breath…and I’m a lung doctor.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful 

It seems that former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s presidential run is running out of steam. According to the Huffington Post, Santorum is “taking a pause from Florida campaigning just days before the Tuesday primary that even he expects to deal him a third consecutive loss.” Yet, despite the fact that he is likely not going to become President of the United States, there is something he said while campaigning in South Carolina that intrigued (and amused) me. 

At a town hall meeting before the South Carolina vote, Santorum asked a crowd: “Where do you think this concept of equality comes from? It doesn’t come from Islam. It doesn’t come from the East and Eastern religions…It comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that’s where it comes from.” He meant that, if people want equality, then they must live by God’s rules since the concept of equality “doesn’t come from Islam” but from “the God of Abraham.” This begs the question: which rules are God’s rules and who is say what those rules are? But, I digress…

Still, his statement was quite telling because it is painfully obvious that Santorum has absolutely no idea that the God of Islam is the very same God of Abraham. Islam has always maintained that Muslims worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the Hebrew Prophets. In fact, Islam is nothing less than the religion of Abraham himself, as outlined numerous times in the Quran: “And lastly, we have inspired thee [O Muhammad, with this message,] “Follow the creed of Abraham, who turned away from all that is false and was not of those who ascribe divinity to aught besides God.” (16:123).
Yes, many Muslims call God by His Arabic name “Allah,” but so do Arab Christians. In fact, open up an Arabic Bible, and the name for God is none other than “Allah.” Why, even Jesus Christ himself called God “Allah.” If someone wants to become “Leader of the Free World,” I would expect that he or she would know that Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews. That’s pretty basic information. 

I take Mr. Santorum at his word that he loves and worships the God of Abraham. So do I. That should be our point of reference; that should be our point of convergence. No, we don’t worship the same way, but that is totally irrelevant. The fact that we both call upon the God of Abraham makes us brothers, and as brothers, it should move to bring us together to help make our country better. Presumably, that is why is running for President: to make our country better. So why the divisiveness over the God of Abraham, Who should always be a force for unity and brotherhood.

The same should go for all Americans of faith (and it should extend to those who do not profess an “official faith” or any faith at all). Our common love and worship of the God of Abraham should bring us together. It is what the Lord our God wanted for us. Why not heed Him?

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

I am no fan of the Taliban. I hate their barbaric distortion of Islam and their barbaric practices and tactics. They are as much my enemy as they are the enemy of the Afghan people. Also, I – like most Americans – grow weary of the war in Afghanistan, and I look forward to our troops finally coming home from that conflict.

Nevertheless, there is no excuse for what those Marines allegedly did on that video. Yes, the Taliban are our enemy. But, we don’t urinate on their corpses. That is not what Americans should do. Ever.

Imagine, for a moment, if Taliban fighters killed our soldiers, urinated on their corpses, and then posted that footage online. How would that make us feel? How outraged – totally rightly – would we be in this country? Just hypothesizing such a thing incenses me to an infinite degree. Thus, we cannot think that what these Marines allegedly did was excusable. We cannot praise what they did, not even for one second.

It reminds me of this verse of the Qur’an: “Never let your hatred move you to commit injustice…” (5:8). No matter how much those soldiers hated the Taliban, that should never give them justification to urinate on those dead bodies. The same is true with Muslim extremists. No matter what America or “the West” has done wrong (in their minds), this never makes attacking innocent American civilians justifiable. It never allows killing the innocent to be right.

Yet, there is another issue at work here. The actions of American soldiers around the world, right or wrong, reflect upon America as a whole. But everyone in America knows that this video is not the accurate reflection of America. This video does not represent the truth of who we are as a people and what our nation is all about. People cannot look use that video and judge all Americans by that truly repugnant footage. We Americans are not those soldiers on the video who acted in our name.

The same goes with extremists who act in Islam’s name. Their actions do not speak for all Muslims. Their crimes do not represent the overwhelming majority of Muslims. We Muslims are not those extremists who act in our name.

If there can be any good that comes out of this terrible episode, it is that perhaps people can understand that the whole can never be judged by the crimes of the few. Just as it would be terribly wrong to attack an innocent American tourist in London because of this video, it is terribly wrong to firebomb a mosque in NY because of the action of Muslim terrorists around the world. The whole is never like the crimes of the few. Never.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful 

As the year of 2011 comes to a close, there are so many things over which we can reflect. As I look to the next year, I turn my eyes skyward and beseech the Lord our God for many things, some which I will share here:

Precious Beloved Lord, to You belongs all the praise in the Heavens and Earth. To You belongs the Majesty of the Universe. To You belongs the sovereignty and power over everything. I cannot truly praise You as You deserve to be praised, and so I praise You as You have praised Yourself. Lord our God, hear my prayer. 

As You continue Your life-giving love and life over us in 2012, I pray that You continue to bless us with health, sustenance, ease, and happiness. As the next year begins, I pray that You send Your comfort to all those who have lost loved ones. I ask that You bring jobs to the jobless. I ask that You bring shelter to the homeless. I ask that You bring hope to the hopeless. Lord our God, hear my prayer.  

As the days, weeks, and months of 2012 pass, I pray that violence against the innocent ends. I pray that Your protection be extended to everyone on the earth. I pray that You frustrate and foil the Satanic machinations of all those who seek to kill, maim, and mar this world with senseless violence. I pray that You frustrate all the plans of those who seek to murder others and think You told them to do so. For there can be no evil that is truly done in Your Name. Lord our God, hear my prayer. 

Precious Beloved, as the 2012 Presidential Election truly heats up, I know that Islam and Muslims will, once again, come to the fore. There will be those who try to cast fear and division about the “secret Muslim agenda.” There will be those who will speak about the “threat” of “Sharia law” to United States. There will be those who want to marginalize the Muslim community from all aspects of American life. I pray that You frustrate these plans.

Moreover, I ask that You frustrate all plans to divide on the basis of religion. The agenda of all people of faith – whatever faith they may be – is to do Your work on this earth; to spread peace and mutual respect; to work together to make this world better for all. Lord please stop the forces of division and hatred in our world. You are the only One to do it the best. Lord our God, hear my prayer. 

Most of all, Precious Beloved Lord, I ask for Your unending blessings and grace. Extend Your blessings over me, and my family, and my practice of medicine, and my writing, and everything else that I do. I ask that You pour Your blessings over me as a father, a husband, a brother, a son, a cousin, and a human citizen.

Yet, as Your Noble Messenger told me, I cannot truly believe until I wish for others what I wish for myself. Therefore, please extend Your blessings upon everyone else in the exact same manner above. Your blessings, and mercy, and grace, and love, and beauty are infinite and endless, and so shine their light upon us all. Lord our God, hear my prayer. 

All of this do I ask in Your Most Holy Name, Lord, and thus – Lord our God – hear my prayer. And may the New Year of every single person on earth be blessed, healthy, happy, and prosperous.

Lord our God, hear my prayer. 

In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

Clearly, those Christian “patriots” who want to silence TLC’s “All-American Muslim” series have no idea what is in our scripture and our faith about Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Clearly, these people have no idea about Islam in general. Otherwise, they would not try to bully advertisers into dumping “All-American Muslim” for a truly silly reason: that the Muslims on “All-American Muslim” are “too ordinary.”

No, my house is not decked out with lights or a Christmas tree. Yet, I still love Jesus so very much. As this poem I penned attests:

 

What was it like, when you stood there alone?
Praying in the East, on you His Light ever shone?

What was it like, when the angel came before thee?
Frightening you greatly, shattering your tranquility?

What was it like, when you were told the news:
That unto you was born the Messiah of the Jews?

Did you not know, that you were more than worthy?
That God chose you above all, that He favored you greatly?

Did you not know, that before you came to be,
The Lord already declared that magnificent were thee?

What was it like, when the Spirit was blown:
When our master was conceived, a miracle to be shown?

What was it like, as you left in fear?
Afraid of the slander that may be placed in the ear?

How did it feel, when the pangs came in earnest?
Did you feel deserted, that the Lord had no interest?

What did it sound like, when our master to you spoke?
How soothing was his voice, covering you like a cloak?

How sweet was the fruit that fell from the tree?
Did it comfort your mind, fill you with tranquility?

How sharp were the stares when, with him, you arrived?
Did their shock give you pain, that they would think you would connive?

How powerful was his voice, when he proclaimed the truth?
Were they amazed by his grace, as he shattered the lies of the uncouth?

O Blessed Mother, upon you I perpetually pray for peace.
And also upon your son, I pray blessings cover him as a fleece.

And if, O Blessed Soul, I get a chance to kiss your hand,
It would be the most honored place I could ever stand!

 

 

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Today was always a special day for me, ever since my university days. For three years of my life, I would have this day off, in fact. I would do nothing special on this day, but it was still nice not to have to attend any classes. Before I attended Marquette University, I had no idea that this special day even existed. Nevertheless, ever since that time, there is a special place in my heart for this day: the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Now, naturally, I had thought this day was about Christ (pbuh). Yet, I was surprised to learn that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was not about Christ, but rather his mother, Mary (pbuh). Her story is especially beautiful, as it is recounted in Scripture:

when a woman of [the House of] `Imran prayed: “O my Sustainer! Behold, unto Thee do I vow [the child] that is in, my womb, to be devoted to Thy service. Accept it, then, from me: verily, Thou alone art all-hearing, all-knowing!” But when she had given birth to the child, she said: “O my Sustainer! Behold, I have given birth to a female” – the while God had been fully aware of what she would give birth to, and the male is not like the female – “and I have named her Mary. And, verily, I seek Thy protection for her and her offspring against Satan, the accursed. And thereupon her Sustainer accepted the girl-child with goodly acceptance, and caused her to grow up in goodly growth…

It may surprise you that this story is not from the Bible, but rather the Qur’an (3:35-37). Indeed, the story of Jesus and his mother (peace be upon them) is in several places in the Qur’an, and the Virgin Mary, in fact, is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an. She is also the only woman to have an entire chapter of the Qur’an named after her.

That is why this day, December 8, is special for me. No, it is not a religious holiday for me. It is not a “Holy Day of Obligation” for me as a Muslim. Yet, that does not mean that the subject of this day, the Holy Virgin, is not very special to me. Indeed she is. In fact, the Qur’an sets up the example of the Virgin Mary as the model of what a true believer should be:

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 Sustainer’s words – and [thus,] of His revelations// – and was one of the truly devout. (66:12)

Indeed, I will be truly successful if I am just a fraction as good as the Virgin Mary. What’s more, in the verses I quoted above from Chapter 3, there is an alternative interpretation of the literal phrase, “and the male is not like the female.” According to the classical commentator Zamakshari, whose interpretation I share, this phrase actually means:

The male [child] which she had prayed for could not have been like the female which she was granted” – which implies that Mary’s excellence would go far beyond any hopes which her mother had ever entertained.

I like this meaning much more. I have said before, and I say again, that I pray the Lord God on High that I may enter His garden and be admitted into the company of the Prophets. And then, I hope to seek out the Virgin Mary, greet her emphatically, and kiss her hand. It would be the best gift the Lord could ever bestow.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

During these days, many of my patients, as they are leaving, tell me: “Er…Happy Holidays!” I know they mean well: they don’t want to offend me by saying “Merry Christmas.” But, I’m here to tell you: I would not be offended if you say to me: “Merry Christmas.”

I mean, that is a very nice thing to wish me: happiness on Christmas Day. No, I don’t celebrate Christmas…but that doesn’t mean that you can’t wish me happiness on Christmas Day. I would welcome such a wish, because, Christmas Day for me is so boring.

Nothing is open…nothing! A couple of years ago, I had to work on Christmas night, and I was looking for something to eat: nothing but the Muslim-owned Mediterranean restaurant was open. But, I didn’t want that food: I wanted Chinese food. But, all the Chinese restaurants were closed! I was totally devastated.

If the wishes of my patients for a “Merry Christmas” came true for me, I would find all restaurants open for business on Christmas night only for me, and if I go to any of them, they will give me food for free in gratitude for coming in on Christmas night. So, please, wish me a Merry Christmas, for God’s sake!

I see no problem for me as a Muslim wishing my Christian friends and neighbors “Merry Christmas” during Christmas season. The same goes for my Jewish friends and neighbors during Rosh Hashana. Once I told a patient, whom I knew to be Jewish, “Happy New Year.” She was quite surprised, and she said, “Happy New Year to you, too?” (Asking if I was Jewish). I said, “No, but I know it’s Rosh Hashana.” I knew she appreciated it, and that made me very happy.

We should do more of this sort of thing. If we each wish our neighbors a “Merry Christmas” during the Christmas season; a “Happy New Year” during Rosh Hashana; a “Happy Kwanzaa” during Kwanzaa; a “Happy Divali” during Divali; the bonds of our brotherhood and sisterhood will be all the stronger. The barriers of hate and fear will be destroyed. And our country will all the better for it.

So, to one and all, I say to you: Have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous, Happy New Year.