Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

In 2002, I penned an article on this website about my belief about Halloween. At that time, I said that I will not participate in the activities surrounding Halloween:

Halloween is upon us, and scores of children dressed up as everything imaginable will soon hit the streets, going door-to-door for candy. This year my five-year-old daughter is old enough to go. Alas, I will not let her. This is not because I am afraid for her safety, or I do not want her to eat her body weight in candy (though these are legitimate concerns). My decision is based on Islamic principles.

Islam accepts the cultural traditions of a people as long as those traditions agree with Islamic values. Thus, blue jeans, baseball caps, hot dogs, and other quintessential American items are wholeheartedly accepted by Islam. I am perplexed when some American Muslims wear Arab dress and pass this off as “Islamic” attire. Nonsense. A pair of jeans and a T-shirt is as Islamic as it gets. A similar argument can be made about such holidays as Mother’s or Father’s Day. Honoring our parents is so strongly stressed in Islam; Muslims should have no problem commemorating such holidays.

And this is why I will not send my daughter trick or treating this year or any other year. Halloween honors Celtic and Roman gods. Islam is strictly monotheistic, and anything having to do with the worship of any other god besides the Most Holy One is out of the question.

Well, many things have happened to me since I typed those words: I have gotten a bit older, I have had more children, and my views on Halloween itself have softened quite a bit. In fact, for the past several years now, I have been trick-or-treating with my kids in the neighborhood, and we have been passing out candy to the children who come to our door.

First of all, not answering the door so as to “not participate” is really not neighborly at all. I did that one year, and it felt terrible. If I am truly to be godly, which I always strive to be, I must be a good neighbor. But, then I started to reflect over Halloween itself. Yes, it may have once been a Roman/Celtic festival…but in America today, it is a day when people have fun by dressing in costume and passing out candy to children. There is nothing religious to it at all, and that is why I will be walking around the block and saying, “Trick or Treat.”

No, I am not going to start celebrating Christmas, even though it can be argued that it has lost all religious significance. But, Halloween is really a cultural thing here in America, and I now feel that there is nothing wrong with taking part. Indeed, some may claim that I have “flip-flopped” or “sold out” be “more American.” I reject that completely.

I am an American: 100%. I am not ashamed of this at all. As an American, I participate in various cultural traditions if I want, such as Fourth of July or Memorial Day celebrations. One of these cultural traditions is Halloween, and because it is fun for both me and my children, I am going to participate. Nothing gruesome or grizzly…just nice, clean fun. This year, I am going as a Jedi Knight, one of the things I have always dreamed of being.

When I look back at what I wrote, I chuckle a bit, because I see the writing of a devout, but perhaps naive, former version of me. I have not lost any of my zeal for the Lord or, I hope, any of my devotion to Him. But, I have taken the advice of many of the commentators who chimed in on my article: “lighten up.” Indeed, I have done just that.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

I was totally taken aback by this news article:

Crosses in every room at Washingon D.C.’s Catholic University of America are a human rights violation that prevent Muslim students from praying. That’s the complaint to the Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights filed by a professor from rival George Washington University across town. GWU Law School Professor John Banzhaf takes the Catholic institution to task for acting “probably with malice” against Muslim students in a 60-page complaint that cites ”offensive” Catholic imagery all over the Catholic school, which he says hinder Muslims from praying.

The first reaction that came to mind is: really?

The article elaborates further about the allegations:

He alleges that the university, “does not provide space – as other universities do – for the many daily prayers Muslim students must make, forcing them instead to find temporarily empty classrooms where they are often surrounded by Catholic symbols which are incongruous to their religion,” according to the Tower, Catholic University’s student newspaper.

Come on.

I attended Marquette University, and there were crosses everywhere…and I was never offended. Yes, the University was kind enough to offer us a space for our Friday prayers, but even if there wasn’t, we would have made do. And if there was a cross in the room, we would have prayed anyway. Currently, I practice in a Catholic hospital, and there are crosses hanging in every single room of the hospital. I am not the least offended. In fact, I have even prayed in the chapel of the hospital, with life-size Jesus’ hanging on crosses. No big deal.

For us as Muslims, the entire earth has been made a place of prayer for us…as long as it is clean and sanitary. If the time for prayer comes, and I happen to be in a Catholic church or chapel, with crosses everywhere, I simply face Mecca and pray. The cross does not diminish my prayer, and I am not offended by the symbol at all. And I think that the majority of Muslims feel the same way that I do.

God only knows what the real motivations of this lawsuit are. But, even if we disagree about the nature of Jesus and what happened at the time of his death/disappearance, if a Catholic university wants to hang crosses everywhere, that is its right. There could be crosses all over the place, and it should not offend Muslims in the least. If you don’t like the crosses, then don’t go to that university. You have no right to force the university to take down the crosses.

This sort of suit does nothing to help promote interfaith harmony and understanding. In a time when there are so many forces in our country that are trying to divide us on so many different lines, we should be working as faith communities to come together. The last thing we need is a silly lawsuit about crosses in a Catholic university.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful 

I recently received an email with the subject, “An Honest Question.” It read:

Dr. Hassaballa:

I have discovered your blog, and greatly appreciate what you say.  You seem very thoughtful, and I particularly applaud your condemnations of violence — even if your choice of words sometimes leaves me wondering exactly what you mean, or how complete the condemnation really is.  In any event, I have a well-meaning question (an honest one, no setup intended) about how far your view of egalitarianism between Christians and Muslims actually extends. 

In the current world political climate, I can envision a time when Muslims, through proselytizing or otherwise, might gain majorities in one or more of the current Western democracies.  In the event Muslims were to gain control of the American government — far-fetched, perhaps, but not an impossibility — how would my rights and freedoms as a Christian be affected?  For example, would a Muslim-controlled government preserve and ensure fully equal rights — of all kinds, including all religious expression, evangelization, activity, and speech — for Muslims and non-Muslims alike?  Or should the Christians expect some form of dhimmitude to be implemented, even if the majority views the resulting stratification as benevolent and merciful (which, I imagine, the impacted minority would not)?  In a related vien, would a Muslim-controlled government preserve and further the elevated position (i.e., with sharia clearly subordinated) of the current U.S. Constitution?

I agree that parts of the Qur’an seem to urge benevolence or mercy toward Christians — although other provisions seem to urge something quite different, and harmonizing the conflicting provisions is difficult at best.  What I don’t see anywhere, however, is a clear assurance of either (a) full equality for Christians,  or (b) at least a dhimmitude-like benevolence toward people not “of the book” (e.g., atheists) under any Qur’an-based Islamic rule.  That lack of clarity, plus history (at least since the 1300s or so), makes me think that that a Muslim rule would assure neither of these states; that Christians would find themselves as second-class citizens with fewer-than-equal rights; and that complete unbelievers, or apostate Muslims, should, perhaps, be concerned for their freedom or lives.   Am I wrong on any of this?  If so, please show me, if you can find the time. 

He then ended the message with: “I don’t want to fight, and am not interested in a debate, by email or otherwise.  I have no axe to grind.  I only seek truth and clarity, for my own information and use (and, perhaps, some peace of mind).”

To be honest, I was surprised by his question. I was not angry by any means, but just surprised at the fact that he would think that we Muslims have some sort of “hidden agenda.” But, I sensed that he was truly sincere in his questioning, and I truly appreciated that.

This was my response:

I appreciate your questions. I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits. First, I am surprised by your wonder about my condemnations of violence. When I say “innocent” I mean just that: all non-combatants. I do not parse my words or mean something I don’t say. No “hidden meaning.” I have heard this before…and I am still surprised when people think that my definition of innocent is something other than innocent. I just want that to be clear.

As far as your question about Muslims in power…I don’t think that situation will ever occur. As an American, the law I follow is the U.S. Constitution. I am not waiting to supplant that law with “Sharia.” That is simply a fallacy that Islamophobes want you to believe. In fact, let me tell you this: America, the current Constitutional system, is the most “Islamic” government on the earth today. America follows Islam’s principles more than any other Muslim country on earth. I truly believe that. 

That is why I am so blessed to be an American Muslim. In a truly Islamic system, citizens are citizens, irrespective of their religion. Islam upholds freedom of religion and consciousness. In fact, I have learned that some classical Scholars consider the building of Churches in a Muslim country to be part of the maintenance of the earth. The way Islam has been presented by various so-called “Muslim” governments is quite distorted. 

Anyway, this is a very long and broad topic, but I just want to tell you…the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are nothing to fear. They care about and love this country as much as everyone else. 

Sorry it took me so long to respond…
Yours in His love, 
Hesham Hassaballa
He then replied:
Thank you for such a thoughtful, kind response.  I am glad that folks like you care enough to write, and email, about these very important issues.  I also respect your faith and obvious commitment to a way of peace. Thanks again.

He then gave me permission to write about it here. The most important point about this situation is the fact that we both reached out to each other to attain mutual understanding. He took the time to write to me and ask a sincere question on his part, and I took the time to respond to his question. And at the end, we both came away closer together, as both people of faith and brothers in country.

And herein lies the power: peaceful dialogue to understand one another. It is very likely that neither of us shall change our faith tradition, but the point of our discussion is not to convert, but to understand, to reach out to one another and learn about the feelings of the other. And both of us are all the stronger because of it.

I could imagine someone responding to such a question from a reader with disdain and anger, or simply ignore it altogether. But, then nothing good comes out of it. Indeed, there are some who reach out to me for no other purpose than to attack me and my faith. My only response to them is “Peace,” as the Qur’an commands:

“For, [true] servants of the Most Gracious are [only] they who walk gently on earth, and who, whenever the ignorant address them, reply with [words of] peace;” (25:63)

But for anyone who asks a sincere question, seeking only to gain understanding and mutual peace, my inbox is always open. And we will both be better because of it. I am truly grateful to the Precious Beloved for this man’s question, and if I am ever questioned again, I pray that the Lord grants me the wisdom to answer in the best possible manner.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

At long last, the battle for Libya appears to have been won. Today, Libyan dictator Moammar Ghaddafi was captured and killed, to the jubilation of Libyans everywhere. This man brutalized his people for so many years, and finally, they are free of his brutality.

I will not ask God to forgive this man – may the Lord deal with him as he deserves.

But, I will pray for the freedom and safety of the Libyan people. I pray that they live together in peace and brotherhood/sisterhood. I pray that prosperity finally be showered over their land. I pray that they are safe from any other extremist or barbarian that may want to prey upon them. May the Libyan people be free forever, and may no other brutal man terrorize them again.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

The sectarian violence that has gripped the land of my ancestors, Egypt, has been truly sickening to watch. The attacks on Christians and Christian churches in the past weeks are horrific, and they must be condemned. Not that my condemnation necessarily means much, but at least I – an American Muslim of Egyptian descent – have spoken out against it before God.

This internecine violence the world is currently witnessing is a totally new phenomenon in Egypt. Many of my relatives have grown up in Egypt and they all told me that this Muslim-Christian thing had never existed until after the Revolution. Egyptians always lived together in peace, not caring who is Christian and who is Muslim. One of my patients is an Egyptian Coptic Christian, and she just came back from Egypt, where she stayed at her Muslim friends’ homes and broke the Ramadan fast with them. This is the true spirit of the Egyptian people.

No doubt, there are some in each community who desires to see violence against the other. But, they are a tiny minority. Their rhetoric of violence and exclusion must also be condemned. But, what I can see – and it is clear as day – is that this interreligious violence is being  stoked by nefarious elements within society. And what I urge Egyptians – Christians and Muslims – to see through the aims of those who want Christians and Muslims to attack each other and resist it.

The governing Council must do everything within its power to protect all Egyptian citizens – Christians and Muslims alike. They must do everything within its power – within the rule of law – to stop those who want to attack fellow Egyptians simply because are Christians. Yet, more than this, I urge Egyptians – those with my very same ancestry – to remember who they are: Egyptians, citizens of one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known.

This sort of violence is a stain upon our heritage as people of Egyptian descent.  This violence is beneath both Egypt and her people. The Egyptian people are better than this, and I urge them to remember this fact. And for those Muslims who think that Christians are to be attacked, I remind them that this is totally against everything for which Islam stands. Moreover, it is a direct affront to the directives of our beloved Prophet:

This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them.

Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.

No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.

Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet.

Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.

The Muslims are to fight for them.

If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.

Their churches are to be respected.

They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).

Please see this for what it is: evil people trying to destroy all the good which the Revolution has brought by stoking violence between people who are actually brothers and sisters. Do not let the evil ones win.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Here we go again: an Iranian Pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, faces execution if he does not recant his conversion to Christianity. Last year, Mr. Nadarkhani was found guilty of “apostasy” last year, which was upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court. Now, if he does not recant, he could be executed.

Why? Why should he be executed? Because he left Islam? That is totally his choice.

What I do not understand is this claim, by many Muslims, that anyone who leaves the faith does so upon pain of death. From where did this come? Clearly not the Qur’an. A cursory reading of even a poor translation of the Qur’an would reveal that Islam places the sanctity of human life at the utmost of importance:

And do not take any human being’s life – [the life] which God has willed to be sacred – otherwise than in [the pursuit] of justice… (17:33)

And do not kill yourselves, for God has been merciful to you. (4:29)

Furthermore, the freedom to choose one’s own spiritual path is tantamount in the Qur’an; one only has to look, and it would not be hard to find:

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… (5:48)

For had God so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community; however, He lets go astray that wills [to go astray], and guides aright him that wills [to be guided]; and you will surely be called to account for all that you ever did! (16:93)

There shall be no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from [the way of] error… (2:256)

Say [O Muhammad], ‘The truth is from your Lord:’ Let him who wills believe it, and let him who wills, reject (it). (18:29)

If it had been your Lord’s will, they all would have believed – all who are on earth. Will you, then, compel the people, against their will, to believe? (10:99)
Have, then, they who have attained to faith not yet come to know that, had God so willed, He would indeed have guided all mankind aright? (13:31)

And [because He is your Creator], it rests with God alone to show you the right path: yet there is [many a one] who swerves from it. However, had He so willed, He would have guided you all aright. (16:9)

It is not required of thee (O Messenger), to set them on the right path, but God sets on the right path whom He pleases. (2:272)

The evidence is overwhelming: Islam firmly upholds freedom of choice in matters of faith. In fact, it is part of God’s plan to have different faiths and to allow the humans to choose their own path. What’s more, the Qur’an states that the reason war is sometimes necessary- as a last resort and in self-defense – is to preserve religious freedom:

If God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which Gods name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed. (22:40)

Moreover, the Qur’an is not silent about apostasy. There are numerous references to apostasy, but not one verse says the apostate is to be killed for his or her choice:

… [Your enemies] will not cease to fight against you till they have turned you away from your faith, if they can. But if any of you should turn away from his faith and die as a denier of the truth – these it is whose works will go for naught in this world and in the life to come; and these it is who are destined for the fire, therein to abide. (2:217)

Verily, as for those who are bent on denying the truth after having attained to faith, and then grow [ever more stubborn] in their refusal to acknowledge the truth, their repentance [of other sins] shall not be accepted: for it is they who have truly gone astray. (3:90)

O you who have attained to faith! If you ever abandon your faith, God will in time bring forth [in your stead] people whom He loves and who love Him – humble towards the believers, proud towards all who deny the truth: [people] who strive hard in God’s cause, and do not fear to be censured by anyone who might censure them: such is God’s favor, which He grants unto whom He wills. And God is infinite, all-knowing. (5:54)

Any one who, after accepting faith in God, utters unbelief – except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in faith – but such as open their breast to unbelief, on them is wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful penalty. This because they love the life of this world better than the hereafter: and God will not guide those who reject faith. (16:106-107)

And even if someone were to leave Islam multiple times, there still is no death penalty imposed on him. The following verses are effective proof of this:

Behold, as for those who come to believe, and then deny the truth, and again come to believe, and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn in their denial of the truth, God will not forgive them, nor will He guide them in any way. (4:137)

Do the above Qur’anic verses warn of a severe chastisement for apostasy? Absolutely. In fact, these verses are akin to this passage in the Bible: “Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.” (Deut. 6:14-15)

Apostasy is chastised to some degree by all the Abrahamic faiths. Yet, could it be any clearer that the punishment addressed in the Qur’an is in the hereafter and not the here and now?

Given this enormous and overwhelming evidence against a scriptural basis for the murder of apostates, how could any Muslim cleric claim that Islam calls for the murder of apostates? What sort of faith keeps its adherents in its fold by threatening death if one leaves?

If Islam claims that the humans have complete freedom of will – which they do – then how can an apostate be killed? What kind of faith is so threatened by the rebellion of some of its adherents that it mandates they be murdered? Contrary to the contention of many, Islam is not that kind of faith.

Let the Pastor Go Free.  

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Federal law enforcement authorities have arrested an American Muslim on charges that he plotted to attack the Pentagon and the Capitol with model airplanes loaded with explosives. FBI agents posing as members of Al Qaeda sold the man what he thought to be explosives, and he allegedly plotted to:

use three remote control airplanes measuring up to 80 inches (200 centimeters) in length. Ferdaus allegedly planned to pack five pounds (2.27 kilograms) of explosives in each plane, while saving some of it to blow up bridges near the Pentagon.

The planes, guided by GPS and capable of speeds greater than 100 mph (160 kph), would hit the Pentagon and blow the Capitol dome to “smithereens,” according to Ferdaus’ plan, detailed in the affidavit. Ferdaus then planned a follow-up automatic weapons attack with six people divided into two teams, according to the affidavit.

Now, many experts truly doubt that using model airplanes as remote-control bombs would even be possible. According to the Associated Press:

Counterterrorism experts and model-aircraft hobbyists said it would be nearly impossible to inflict large-scale damage of the sort Ferdaus allegedly envisioned using model planes. The aircraft are too small, can’t carry enough explosives and are too tricky to fly, they said.

“The idea of pushing a button and this thing diving into the Pentagon is kind of a joke, actually,” said Greg Hahn, technical director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

Rick Nelson, a former Navy helicopter pilot who is now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Ferdaus would have had to hit a window or other vulnerable area to maximize damage, and that would have taken precision flying.

“Flying a remote-controlled plane isn’t as easy as it actually looks, and then to put an explosive on it and have that explosive detonate at the time and place that you want it add to the difficulty of actually doing it,” he said.

Nevertheless, if it is proven that he wanted to kill innocent Americans with those model planes, then he deserves to rot in jail for many, many years – precisely as the criminal that he is.

As an American, I am disgusted by this man’s alleged plans. To plot to kill his fellow Americans because he thinks his country is “evil” is sickening, and I am thankful to the Lord that he was arrested and his plot was foiled. As a Muslim, I am even more apalled: that he would think that our God would command him to commit such an atrocity is immensely offensive.

Yet, as an American Muslim, I am totally innocent of this man’s crimes. I am sure, when news of this arrest had surfaced, that many people pointed to this as “further proof” that Islam is “violent” and that Muslims are nothing but “terrorists.” Yet, this man, if what is alleged is proven to be true, is nothing but a pathetic criminal, and his plot was the product of a sick and twisted criminal mind. We American Muslims have nothing to do with his satanic machinations.

Yes, Muslim extremists cite the Qur’an and other Islamic sacred texts as inspiration for their crimes; and the Pope cited Biblical scripture to justify the Crusades. And during the First Crusade, Muslims and Jews were mercilessly massacred in Jerusalem in 1099. Yes, Muslim extremists say that Islam commands the “murder of infidels”; and the KKK also cited the Bible for their terrorism against African Americans. Yes, Muslim extremists think they are committing God’s will. Yet, so do Christian extremists as well.

No community should be blamed for the actions of its criminals. Ordinary, innocent Americans should neither be blamed nor targeted for the perceived foreign policy crimes of their government. Ordinary, innocent Catholics should neither be blamed nor targeted for the crimes of pedophile priests. And on the same vein, ordinary, innocent American Muslims should neither be blamed nor targeted for the crimes of the extremists acting in their names.

If this man is found guilty for this alleged plot, then he should rot in jail, and he will ultimately face God for his crimes. But, we ordinary, innocent American Muslims – which is the vast and overwhelming majority – having absolutely nothing do with him or his crime at all. Period.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

As the diplomats wrangle and negotiate over the future of the Holy Land, there is very little a person who honors and loves the Holy Land, like me, can do or say to make a difference. It is high time that peace spread its wings over the lands of Israel and Palestine. If I could snap my finger and bring out a final peace between the parties, I would have done so a long time ago. I, however, do not wield such power.

Yet, the Lord and Creator whom I worship has such power. And so to Him I pray:

Lord of Hosts, Merciful Creator of all that is in the Universe, seen and unseen
Lord of Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac, who called the Holy Land home
Lord of David and Solomon, whose rules glorified Your Magnificence
Lord of Christ Jesus and Muhammad, who honored this land with their footsteps

None more than Thee knows the strife and pain and anguish that presides in the Holy Land
None more than Thee hears better the cries of mothers over the deaths of their children
None more than Thee hears the prayers of the innocent who are brutalized
None more than Thee can feel the fear of children from rockets and bombs and bullets and tanks

Lord our God, this land would be nothing more than dirt had it not been for Your decree
Lord our God, it is by Your Word that made this space on earth blessed beyond all
Lord our God, it is by Your Leave that so much anguish has choked and suffocated that holy place
Lord our God, it is  none other than thee who can change the conditions on the ground in the blink of an eye

And so, Lord, I turn to thee in sincere prayer:

Precious Beloved Lord, King of the Heavens and the Earth!
Bring about peace in the Land is that is so Holy by Your Word!

Lord of Abraham, bring about peace between his children in the Holy Land!
Lord of King David, let the Majesty of Your Peace reign over his Kingdom!
Lord of King Solomon, let the power of Your Love rain down upon that far away Temple!
Lord of Christ Jesus, let the land upon which his footsteps tread no longer be poisoned by the blood of innocents!
Lord of Muhammad, let that land upon which all of Your Message Bearers prayed be at peace once and for all!

Guide those who wish to lead in that land, O Lord, to the Path of Peace!
Let the faces of the children, all of the children, light up with the gleam of Your Happiness!
Lift up, Precious Beloved, the darkness of hate that yet lingers in the land of Thy Holiness!
And bring about, O Lord, a peace that will last forever and ever in the land of Israel and Palestine!

In Your Most Holy Name do I make this prayer, O Precious Beloved Lord my God. Amen.

In the Name of the GOD, the Compassionate, the Merciful

It seems hard to believe that ten years – a full decade – have passed since that horrific day in September when the country endured a trauma unlike any she has ever suffered. I still remember the unimaginable scenes of terror, horror, dread, and destruction. I hoped and prayed that what I beheld on the television screen was a terrible dream, with the disgusting realization that it was no dream at all.

Reflecting over the past decade since 9/11, during which almost everything that has occurred had something to do – either directly or indirectly – with said attacks, there is one thing that comes into my mind time and again:


Never allow your hatred of a people lead you to commit injustice… (5:8)

This verse of the Qur’an, perhaps one of its most powerful, is wholly relevant to the events that transpired in the decade since 9/11.

Of course, our country had the right to bring those who attacked our country to justice. Of course, our country has every right to pursue those barbarians who seek to harm our people at every chance they get. But, that should not mean that we give ourselves the right, in the name of 9/11 and those who died on that day, to attack, and bomb, and invade at will all across the globe. It is not right or honorable or proper to lead to the deaths of tens of thousands and the displacement of  millions of equally innocent people in the name of self-defense.

We must “never let [our] hatred of [those vicious barbarians] lead [us] to commit injustice...”

Some of our people have shown us – meaning the American Muslim community – an ugly face. Some of our people, seeking “revenge” against the terror committed in the name of our faith by those who do not truly follow the faith, have attacked American Muslims, attacked their houses of worship, attacked women who wear the headscarf, and tried to make them feel unwelcome in their own country. They must remember to “never let their hatred [for the terrorists] lead them to commit injustice.”

These terrorists have nothing to do with us. We have nothing to do with these terrorists. They are mindless murderers, who twist our faith to try to justify their violence and murder. They are like all religious extremists: they will use their sacred texts to justify their actions. But, that does not mean that what they say is true. That does not mean that we are like them. We are not like them. Attacking us and smearing our faith does not fight the terrorists: it only emboldens them to continue their violence.

Please remember: “never let your hatred [of the terrorists] move you to commit injustice” and attack American Muslims. We are on your team and are part of your family as Americans. We are not the enemy: the terrorists are…and we are not those people.

On the same token, we must remember that, despite the actions of those ignorant people among us who seek to lump all Muslims into the same “terrorist” bag, the majority – the overwhelming majority – of our people are good people who are not like the ignorant among them. The majority – the overwhelming majority – treat their Muslim neighbors with kindness and respect, becoming of the spirit of America. Despite the hatred of those ignorant people, we American Muslims must “never let [the hatred of the ignorant ones] move [us] to commit injustice.”

We American Muslims must never let the hatred of the ignorant make us recoil in hatred and separation from the rest of our country and her people. Despite the actions of the few ignorant ones among us, it must never let us give up on America. America is beautiful, her Lord is Beautiful, and her people are beautiful, despite the ugliness of the ignorant.

On this day of prayer and remembrance, ten years after the horrific attacks on our country, we must all – every American of every stripe – pledge to reject the hatred of those who want to hate. We must pledge to work together, be together, and move forward as one people. It is the way the Lord wants us to be, and it is the way we can honor those who died on 9/11, ten years ago.

In the Name of GOD, the Compassionate, the Merciful

It has only been a few days, but it almost seems that Ramadan is a distant memory. Now, I am eating and drinking during the day, and although it still feels a little weird, it is a most welcome change. Indeed, I am trying to keep up  the good habits I learned during Ramadan, and I am trying to keep it’s spirit alive for as long as possible. Yet, when I reflect over the past month of fasting during the very hot days of August, I can only smile with happiness.

I am so very glad I did it.

It feels so great to have been able to fast during the month of Ramadan this year. There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment, perhaps because of the fact that the days were long and frequently hot. Yet, on a more important level, I am so glad that I was able to suck it up and fast despite my tremendous fear as the month started. I am so glad that I overcame my weakness and stuck it out for God.

More than any other ritual practice of Islam, fasting is the one ritual that God says is for Him. According to the Sacred Tradition, God said: “Fasting is for Me, and I give the reward for it.” That is because, more than any other ritual practice, you can’t fake fasting. When you are alone – and it is hot, and you are very, very thirsty – you simply cannot keep fasting if you are doing it for show.

But, if you are doing it for God, as an act of love in return for His tremendous love for you, then despite all the thirst and hunger in the world (assuming you don’t get sick), you simply will not break down and eat or drink. You will suck it up and stick it out. At least, I did so, even on days when I could not bear the hunger or thirst. And I am so happy that I did, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to do so.

I hope and pray that the Lord will accept my fasts this year and every subsequent year until the day I die. Although I can’t predict the future, I do pledge that I will do my best to fast and fast faithfully each and every year, because I love God so very, very much.

And that is because He loved me first.

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