Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Let the Pastor Go Free

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.  

We (Muslims) Have Nothing To Do With It

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.

A Prayer For Peace

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.

“Never Let Your Hatred Move You…”

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.

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