Common Word, Common Lord

I first heard it while listening (for the tenth time) to Disney’s “Pirate Fairy” movie in the car. Towards the end of the film, they play Natasha Bedingfield’s song “Weightless,” and it is a very catchy tune. I looked up the lyrics, and they are as uplifting as the song itself. The most profound part of the song is the chorus:

The sky is the limit
And I just wanna flow
Free as a spirit on a journey of hope
Cut the strings and let me go
I’m weightless, I’m weightless
Millions of balloons tethered to the ground
Weight of the world tries to hold us down
Cut the strings and let me go
I’m weightless, I’m weightless

My Lord, there is so much I can write and reflect about just the chorus: how the “weight of the world” and its delusions, temptations, and estrangement from our Beloved “tries to hold us down.” And all we have to do is “cut the strings” of the world’s delusions and become “weightless” to fly to the Lord our God and His love and light. I could go on and on.

But, invariably, thoughts of my daughter came to my mind when I heard this song. She died more than seven years ago, losing a battle with lymphoma. And it was these words in particular that truly affected me deeply:

cut the strings and let me go
I’m weightless, I’m weightless

As soon as she breathed her last, the “strings” that kept her “tethered to the ground” were cut, and she truly became “weightless.” She was not just such a beautiful little girl, but she was truly a beautiful soul. So kind, so sweet, so bright; she brought my wife and me so much joy, so much happiness.

But she was “tethered to the ground” by disability – she had a terribly crippling disease called Ataxia-Telangiectasia. By the time she was ten, she could no longer walk. She was “tethered to the ground” by chronic infection – she was on antibiotics every day for two years prior to her cancer diagnosis. And she was completely “tethered to the ground” by her cancer, which ravaged her poor, little body from the very moment of diagnosis.

The chemotherapy, with all of its poisonous side effects, also completely “tethered her to the ground.” And I know she felt “held down” by the “weight of the world,” because she would love it when I would spin her around in my arms. I could see on her face that she felt free. I loved those moments.

And when our Beloved decreed that He wanted her back with Him, I know that the “strings” that kept her down were finally cut, and she was finally free to “flow/Free as a spirit on a journey of hope.” She was finally free of disease, cancer, pain, misery, and disability.

But she left behind a father who was devastated; a father who is completely weighed down by the grief – horrible grief – of her loss. It’s so hard to be strong all the time. I don’t want to be sad all the time; it is not fair to all those around me and to those who depend on me. And, as a believer in and servant of the Beautiful Lord, I should be happy when He gives me moments of happiness.

Nevertheless, my heart is still smothered by the pain and constriction of her loss. Sometimes, I can’t even breathe, and I am quickly overwhelmed. It doesn’t take much to bring the sadness over the horror of her loss up to the surface.

On the one hand, I’m happy that the “strings” that held my baby down were cut. I’m happy that she finally became “weightless”, and that she could finally fly like she always wanted to do.

But, I’m not happy that she is gone. As she flew away to her Lord, she left behind a father who was – and still is – ravaged by her loss; still screaming out in terrible pain; weighed down by a sadness that no one should have to bear.

Lord! Beloved Lord! I am not complaining, but sometimes I have to let it out. Lord, Beautiful Lord, You know the best how much my heart hurts; how much my soul shakes from grief; how much I miss my baby. Lord, Beautiful Lord, I have been blessed with so much good after her loss, but – and You know best – the pain of her loss has not gone away. I know, my Lord, that she is now “weightless” with happiness; “weightless” in Your Garden; “weightless” in Your Presence and Light.

But, she left behind a father weighed down by the horror of her loss. Lord, Beautiful Lord, please tell my baby that her Baba misses her so much. Please tell her that her Baba can’t wait to see her again. Please tell her that her Baba loves her so very much. Please tell her that her Baba loves her so very much…

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

While the investigation into the motives of the suspected bomber in NYC continues, there is one aspect that gave me pause:

Multiple federal law enforcement and intelligence sources said that Rahami’s friends and family were telling investigators that they noticed a transformation when he returned from Afghanistan in 2014 regarding his dress and appearance. He had become more religious and started distancing himself from friends and family.

He had become “more religious.” What seems implicit in this statement is that his religiosity, somehow, led to his radicalization and his becoming a would-be mass murderer.

Let me say this: being “religious” and committing mass murder do not belong in the same sentence.

Now, author and internationally syndicated columnist Rami Khouri made a good point about why some people become more religious:

Still, there seems to be this contention in the minds of many that Islamic religiosity is connected with violent extremism.

This is simply not true.

In fact, Islamic religiosity should make someone less violent, not more.

If someone becomes more religious, he or she would become closer to God. This would then mean his or her love for God would increase. If one’s love for God increases, then this necessarily would mean that his or her love for God’s creation would also increase. As a result, violence would not be contemplated, since it would hurt the very creation of the God that one loves.

In the Qur’an God says:

Now there has come to you from God a light and a clear divine writ through which God shows unto all that seek His goodly acceptance the paths leading to salvation and, by His Grace, brings them out of the depths of darkness into the light and guides them onto a straight way (5:15-16)

The term “paths leading to salvation” in the above verse is literally translated as “the paths of peace.”

Thus, violence can never figure into one’s “path of salvation,” or “path of peace,” to God. They are wholly antithetical. Any non-Muslim who thinks otherwise is mistaken about our faith. And any Muslim who thinks otherwise is deluded by Satan.

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

What it’s like at a Coldplay concert during “A Sky Full Of Stars”

I have always liked Coldplay and its songs, but I have never been a true fan…until after I saw them in concert. They put on an amazing show, and it gave me a much greater appreciation for their artistic genius. Their shows also gave me a greater appreciation for songs which, heretofore, I had no idea existed.

One such song is “Sky Full of Stars.” Yes, I hear, it was all over the radio a few years back, but I confess, I do not listen to commercial radio that much. When I heard this song in concert (which was truly amazing) – and then multiple, multiple times afterwards on my phone – it has captivated me:

‘Cause you’re a sky, ’cause you’re a sky full of stars
I’m gonna give you my heart
‘Cause you’re a sky, ’cause you’re a sky full of stars
‘Cause you light up the path

As I listen to the song, I cannot help but think of God. He is more beautiful than a “sky full of stars.” And because of that beauty, I cannot help but say to Him: “I’m gonna give you my heart.” His light truly is as a “sky full of stars” that “[lights] up the path.”

When the love of God takes hold in one’s heart, one cannot help but say:

I don’t care, go on and tear me apart
I don’t care if you do

The great thing is that, when you are in love with God, His love does not tear one apart; His love is soothing and full of healing and comfort. And as the song says, when one gazes in awe at the majesty of the night sky – with all its brilliant stars – one definitely sees God:

‘Cause in a sky, ’cause in a sky full of stars
I think I saw you

The second stanza of the song applies to our Lord just as much:

‘Cause you’re a sky, ’cause you’re a sky full of stars
I wanna die in your arms
‘Cause you get lighter the more it gets dark
I’m gonna give you my heart

Every time I hear this, I pray to the Lord that I die in His arms. He indeed gets “lighter the more its gets dark,” always there to help us when times get difficult and dark. And – again, as I look at a “sky full of stars” – I behold the beauty of the Lord, and it’s “such a heavenly view.”

If my reflections on this song stop there, it would be more than enough. They don’t, however. As soon as I think of God in this song, my thoughts also immediately dwell on my daughter, who we lost to cancer in June 2009. Every single word of this song can apply to her as well:

‘Cause you’re a sky, ’cause you’re a sky full of stars
I’m gonna give you my heart
‘Cause you’re a sky, ’cause you’re a sky full of stars
‘Cause you light up the path

I don’t care, go on and tear me apart
I don’t care if you do, ooh
‘Cause in a sky, ’cause in a sky full of stars
I think I saw you

‘Cause you’re a sky, ’cause you’re a sky full of stars
I wanna die in your arms
‘Cause you get lighter the more it gets dark
I’m gonna give you my heart

I don’t care, go on and tear me apart
I don’t care if you do, ooh
‘Cause in a sky, ’cause in a sky full of stars
I think I see you
I think I see you

‘Cause you’re a sky, you’re a sky full of stars
Such a heavenly view
You’re such a heavenly view

As soon as I saw her, I gave her my heart. She lit up, not only “the path” of our lives, but everything around her. Her smile was enough to light up the room, light up our spirits, and light up my heart.

As her disease progressed, and we watched her deteriorate slowly, it tore us apart. But, we didn’t care because she was still with us. By the time she was 10, she couldn’t walk anymore, and I had to carry her everywhere we went. I knew that people would see me do that and feel sorry for me. But, I swear by the Beautiful Face of the Beloved, I didn’t care. I was the happiest man in the room, even though I may have struggled a bit to carry a fairly large child into the house.

I was the happiest man in the room because I had my “sky full of stars” in my life. What’s more, up until the very end – when her disease made her truly miserable – she never lost her smile. She never complained. She never once – again until the very, very end – say “I can’t take this anymore.” Her attitude in the face of severe disability and illness was nothing short of awe-inspiriting. Truly, truly, she got “lighter the more it gets dark.”

Her loss did not fail to “tear me apart.” The pain of her death continues to haunt my heart, and whenever I go back to those beautiful memories of her, it can become overwhelming very quickly.

And so, all I am trying to do now is live a life of righteousness; I am trying – struggling, actually – to live up to the standards of my Beloved on this earth. That way, I can be blessed with Paradise and get to see my Booboo again. And, God willing, when I do, I know that she will be “Such a heavenly view.” Truly, truly, she will be “such a heavenly view.”



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

ALTHOUGH Eid-ul-Adha is the pinnacle of the Hajj season, it is not the end of it. Starting today, and for the two days after that, the pilgrims will be staying at the tent city of Mina, worshiping, reflecting, and praying. And, each day, they will travel to the stone pillars that represent the Devil and pelt them with stones.

The story behind this ritual is that, when Abraham was on his way to sacrifice his son, the Devil appeared to try to dissuade him from going through with it. Each time he tried, the Prophet Abraham (pbuh) stoned him. Hence, the pilgrims do the same.

This ritual can become particularly emotional for many pilgrims. It is not uncommon, in fact, for one to see flip-flops and other shoes flying at the stone pillars (which are now more like long walls). I am certain that many pilgrims – if not most – recall the sins they have committed in the past and throw the stones with the intent of “getting back” at the Devil for “making them” commit those sins.

Not so fast.

Yes, we stone the Devil – or the representation of the Devil – during the Hajj. Yet, that does not absolve us of our responsibility for our actions. The Devil does not make us do anything. He merely suggests a course of action, and if we heed his “advice,” we are to blame for this decision.

That is exactly, in fact, what happened to our father Adam. Yes, the Devil suggested that he and his wife eat of the forbidden tree. But they both admitted their faults and turned to God in repentance:

The two [Adam and Eve] replied: “O our Lord! We have sinned against ourselves and, unless You grant us forgiveness and bestow Your mercy upon us, we shall most certainly be lost!” (7:23)

They did not even bring up the Devil and his trickery.

Yet, that will not stop countless human beings from trying to blame the Devil for their sins. The Devil, however, will throw them under the bus:

And when everything will have been decided, Satan will say: “Behold, God promised you something that was bound to come true. I, too, held out [all manner of] promises to you – but I deceived you. Yet, I had no power at all over you: I but called you, and you responded to me. Hence, do not blame me, but blame yourselves. It is not for me to respond to your cries, nor for you to respond to mine. For, behold, I have [always] refused to admit that there was any truth in your erstwhile belief that I had a share in God’s divinity”… (14:22)


We are all responsible for what we have earned, and we can not blame anyone else for our sin, even the Devil. So, yes, we Muslims may stone the Devil during the Hajj, but – nevertheless – we will have to face the consequences of all that we do before God.


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

I usually look at the calendar for the expected timing of the two major Muslim holidays well in advance, so I can plan my work schedule around them. When I saw the expected date for the major Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Adha, or “Feast of the Sacrifice,” my heart sank in total dread: Sunday, September 11. My elation, therefore, was palpable when Saudi authorities announced that Eid-ul-Adha is going to be on Monday, September 12 and not September 11.

Eid-ul-Adha is the major Muslim holiday that commemorates the story of Abraham and the sacrifice of his son, Ishmael (in Islamic tradition). This holiday falls right in the middle of the Hajj, or the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims should perform if physically and financially able. The rituals of the Hajj is a live re-enactment of the story of when Abraham – after being commanded by God – left his wife and young son in the barren plain of Paran (later to become Mecca).

The Hajj is the trip of a lifetime for every Muslim, and that includes me. For those Muslims not in Mecca on the pilgrimage, they celebrate Eid-ul-Adha by performing special morning prayers and sacrificing an animal to be distributed to the poor. The animal sacrifice is also in honor of the Prophet Abraham, who was ordered by God to sacrifice an animal instead of his son.

This is an important religious holiday for Muslims, for we celebrate this day in solidarity with the millions of our Muslim sisters and brothers who are blessed to perform the Hajj this year. The timing of the holiday is not in our control, as it is based on a lunar calendar. Had Eid-ul-Adha actually been on 9/11, Muslims likely would have had to think twice (or three times) about openly celebrating this holiday.

The reason for this is the toxic anti-Muslim atmosphere of 2016, especially in light of this year’s Presidential election. If Eid would have been on 9/11, given the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, there may have been the real threat of violence against the community. Why, I could even see the headlines that may have been generated in some media outlets: “MUSLIMS CELEBRATE ON NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING,” or “MUSLIMS CELEBRATE WHILE FELLOW AMERICANS GRIEVE.” Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump could have even said – and be telling the truth this time – that he saw Muslims celebrating on 9/11. (Only, it would have been 9/11/16.)

This is not right.

If Eid was on 9/11, our celebration would not have been because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It would have been because Eid-ul-Adha happened to fall on that day. In fact, Muslims would have likely prayed for the victims’ families on that day and joined their fellow Americans in memorials and commemorations. We are Americans like everyone else, and the 9/11 attacks hurt us just as much, if not more, as any other American.

Still, it is no secret that most, if not all, of us had a BIG sigh a relief when Eid was announced to be on September 12. It is sad, but true nonetheless. I pray for a day when all Americans – of every faith and stripe – no longer have to worry about being attacked for practicing their religion in their own country, even if that would mean celebrating a religious holiday that happens to fall on 9/11. I pray that day comes and comes soon.



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

It does make me pause a little that the highest ranking government official to ever address the largest gathering of American Muslims – the 53rd annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) – was the Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson. Depending on how one looks at it, it’s either a slap in the face of the community or a genuine gesture of friendship and collaboration. I’m sure there are American Muslims who are saying both. 

Still, I attended the speech, and I thought it was full of respect for the American Muslim community. Yes, there are many policies of DHS that are controversial, at best, and have harmed many innocent American Muslims. And, of course, Sec. Johnson didn’t mention any of those policies, such as the sending of informants into the community. Still, I appreciated the things he had to say. 

I appreciated when he said, “Your story is the quintessential American story.” He highlighted the many positive things American Muslims contribute to America, and he also said, “Tonight I will not talk about counterterrorism. Tonight I will simply address you as who you are, ‘my fellow Americans.'” 

The best part of the speech was when he talked about his grandfather, Charles S. Johnson. He highlighted how he had to endure the racist suspicion of African-Americans during the Red Scare in this country. He quoted a moving statement his grandfather made decades ago:

It is expected that Negro Southerners, as a result of [our] limited status in the racial system, would be bitter or hostile. . . Bitterness grows out of hopelessness, and there is no . . . hopelessness in the situation. . . . Faith in the ultimate strength of the democratic philosophy and code of the nation . . . has always been stronger than the impulse to despair.

Secretary Johnson then said, 

I believe that too. I believe that because Charles S. Johnson was my grandfather. He died a second class citizen, in fact and in law. But he had faith in this country.

And he encouraged us to have faith in our country as well. He encouraged us to:

Follow the example of many people in this room, the leaders of this organization, and become full participants in our great democratic society. Continue to prod us toward a more perfect union. Aspire, excel, contribute, engage, and vote. Channel your energy in a way such that Muslim Americans too become recognized as a full part of the fabric of this diverse society, like others who have done before you.

He then ended his speech with saying:

Like those who came before you, do not lose hope. Do not despair. Have faith in the code of this Nation. We will continue on the path toward a more perfect union.

If you know American history, take comfort in learning from it.

Yes, it is frustrating to listen to those who foment fear, suspicion and intolerance, who don’t know the mistakes of history, and are in the midst of repeating them. Have faith that the character of the American people as a whole is such that, in the end, we will choose not to drink this brand of soiled milk.

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Americans: public officials in this country are often reluctant to ask the public we serve for your help. On behalf of myself and the President, I ask for your help. Hear this message and share it with others in your communities.

Light a candle. Show others the promise and the wonder of this country.

Thank you for listening.

Thank you, Secretary Johnson. Thank you for coming out and showing your support to our community. All the bad policies of DHS notwithstanding, your words were greatly appreciated. 

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

I have been following American Muslim Hip-Hop group Native Deen for more than two decades now. Their music represents the best of American Muslims: providing entertainment that educates and uplifts. And their latest production, “Nothing Light,” does not disappoint. 

And as Native Deen always does, they combine amazing entertainment with a powerful message:

Don’t, Don’t, Don’t, Dont take innocent life, life, life
Born with the spirit, born with the spirit of the Lord.
Kill women and children tell me really what you gonna prove,
Just your a coward and lone wolf
Bringing shame to your own roof
And only pain you be going to.

In groups and religions, there’s always dudes on the fringes
Who make ruthess decisions and justify killing
They work on convincing, individuals they tend to be violent with they tendency, quick to make up enemies
Thinking that only way to solve the crisis
Is to kill and to make their heart cold as ice is

Scripture teaches every life is priceless
And you don’t know if somebody will later be righteous
Misquoting verses just to prove what they need to
Utopia and heaven they will claim they have the keys to

But, Change will never come just by go and killing people
Entrapment is real, only hell this can lead to

One innocent life, we know that it’s like,
Killing all humanity and that ain’t nothing light
Scripture told us, every human soul is,
Precious in the sight of the Lord, you should know that

To the innocent trapped in the aftermath
Of blood and tears, Allah sees it all
To the men who sat in dark rooms,
With the schemes of smoke plumes, Allah sees it all,

To munafiq who only enter masjids to pray on the weakest,
Man you gonna get yours!
To the sponsors of war leaving scores,
Shocked and appalled, man Allah see’s it all

But if you ask me, what do I see,
So many moving with those selfish type of tendencies
Gotta handle the offense that they handed me
You did it for the Lord? Na, that was iblees

Shot up the club, then he gotta it
Bombed the city, now you’re patriotic
Bloody regimes, that are despotic
Meet Allah like that, forget about it!

Don’t take innocent life,
Because it is like,
Killing all humanity
And that ain’t nothing light
All the Prophets told us,
That every single soul is
Born with the spirit of the Lord.

The first casualty of war is the truth
Then the second is the youth
Send off to die when they young
Like right before they can understand what they’ve done

Now why is this done, how does it begin
We let the means justify ends
We hope the ends will wipe away the sins that have been committed
But ya’ll don’t get it, you got me.

How’d we justify Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Mic drop! Bombs falls.
Two whole cities, killed ‘em all
All the men, the women, the children… and the dogs

Don’t, Don’t, Don’t, Dont take innocent life, life, life
Born with the spirit, born with the spirit of the Lord.

The video is truly amazing: flawless production and a biting criticism of all who justify violence against any human being. That includes American terrorists like Dylan Roof, or the savages of ISIS, or the Buddhist extremists in Burma (did you know they existed?) who incite violence against the Muslim Rohingya

They are all wrong, and they all must be exposed for the criminals they truly are. Native Deen does it flawlessly…while making you bop your head to an amazing beat. 

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

Last week, two Muslim women wearing headscarves in France were refused service by a restaurateur, claiming that “All Muslims are terrorists”:

A French restaurateur appeared to be refusing to serve women wearing the hijab on Saturday night in a video that has been widely circulated online.

“We don’t want to be served by racists, sir,” one woman can be heard saying in the video, which was captured by someone sitting at the table and does not show any faces. 

“Racists don’t plant bombs and don’t kill people,” the owner of Le Cénacle restaurant, which is in Tremblay-en-France, responded.

“Because we planted bombs, sir?” she asked.

“I don’t want people like you here,” he said. “Get out. Terrorists are Muslims and all Muslims are terrorists.”

It was caught on video, which became widespread.

The man later apologized the next day, claiming he succumbed to fear: 

A handful of people gathered outside of the restaurant Sunday to demand an explanation from the owner. He came out and apologized several times.

“I’d like to apologize to the entire Muslim community,” he said in a video captured by newspaper Le Parisien. “I freaked out; I’m scared of everything that’s happening these days.”

While his actions were detestable, his admission is the whole point: he succumbed to fear. I applaud him for his candor and his apology. 

Which brings me to another point: looking at the video, it would be easy for someone to use the video and argue that the French people are racist. He could point to that video, and the recent bans on so-called “Burkinis,” and argue that French people hate Muslims. 

Such an argument would be wrong. 

When my wife and I visited Paris last summer, we were only shown the utmost respect, hospitality, kindness, and generosity by the French people. I immediately fell in love, both with the people and the culture. After I came back, I embarked on learning the French language (j’aime bien parler français!). Videos such as the one I saw do not dissuade me from my experience. I know the truth is not the video I saw. 

The same is true with Muslims. Yes, there are savage criminals who kill in the name of Islam. But they are not the truth; they do not represent the whole; they do not tell the story of those women in France who were refused service because of their faith. 

The French are not racist, I know that to be true. You should also know that the meme, “All Muslims are terrorists and all terrorists are Muslims” is not true as well. 

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

I truly enjoy watching the Olympics, especially the Summer Olympics and its multitude of events, because of the amazing athletic ability of the athletes. The feats that these women and men achieve is truly awe-inspiring. And when they win Gold, Silver, or Bronze, it is wonderful to watch them accept their medal, many times with tears in their eyes. I share in their happiness, especially the American athletes. 

This year has featured American Muslim athletes who have won medals: Ibtihaj Muhammad (the first to complete in hijab) winning the Bronze medal in team saber competition, and Dalilah Muhammad winning the Gold in the women’s 400m hurdles. In a time of anti-Muslim sentiment, they have made our entire community proud and helped us raise our heads up high. I thank God for them and their amazing accomplishments. 

Yet, that is not the highlight of the games for me. What I love best about the Olympics is the sportsmanship between the athletes. During the competition, they are fiercely against each other. They will do whatever they can, even diving forward on the ground, to win. 

After the competition is over, however, they all shake each other’s hands in congratulations. They likely all know each other from other competitions. But still, once the race is over, they are all friends and colleagues. While there are a few unfortunate exceptions, this is the general rule at the games. 

This represents the best of humanity. Yes, we are different races, different faiths, different cultures, but we can all come together – every two years – and compete in a spirit of fairness and common brotherhood and sisterhood. 

This is, in fact, what God had intended for us:

To each of you We have prescribed a law and a way; Had God so willed, He would Have made you one nation [united in faith]. But [He willed otherwise in order] to test you in what He had given you. So race to [all that is good]. To God is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you were wont to differ (5:48)

It is so heartening to see this manifested in beautiful glory during the Olympics. And, as the Summer Olympics wind down, it is heartbreaking to realize that, in a few days time, it is likely our kind will go back to the hatred and division at which we are so effective (Election 2016 case in point). 

Is it naive of me to think that, perhaps, we can learn from the spirit of the Olympics and be better as a people? As a country? As a human race? 

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

Writer Kamel Daoud noted an interesting observation about Paradise in the modern Muslim mind in a recent New York Times opinion piece:

Paradise as a goal for the individual or the group has gradually replaced the dreams of development, stability and wealth promised by postwar decolonization in the so-called Arab world. These days, one imagines happy tomorrows only after death, not before.

He goes on the argue that this “Muslim Utopia” may be part of the reason there is rampant stagnation in the Arab and larger Muslim majority world.

He makes a valid point.

Yet the Quran’s vivid descriptions of Paradise – with gardens underneath which rivers flow, vessels of wine, robes of silk, bracelets of gold, and (yes) beautiful women as spouses and beautiful men, in fact, as servants and attendants – are only promised to the believer who restrains himself and herself in this world:

But unto him who shall have stood in fear of his Lord’s Presence and held back his inner self from base desires, Paradise will truly be his goal (79:40-41).

Still, with all these sensual delights awaiting the righteous believer, one would think that the Quran would encourage a hastened death. Indeed, that is precisely what the savage jihadist believes: by killing himself and scores of innocent people with a suicide bomb, he will earn a quick path to his garden and all those “houris,” or beautiful women, who will welcome him with open arms of sensuality.

He is wrong. Dead wrong. The Quran is stern against suicide:

and do not kill yourselves, for indeed God is a dispenser of grace unto you (4:29).

Moreover, there is a substantial portion of the Quran that speaks about earthly life, including marriage and divorce, dietary laws, international relations, rules of war, and (yes) corporal punishments. If the only goal is the Afterlife without any care about life on earth, why would the Quran address these issues?

Yet, even in the verses that speak about the Afterlife, they are linked to one’s conduct here on earth:

Woe unto the defrauders, who, when they take measure from people, demand [it] in full, and when they measure for them or weigh for them, they stint. Do they not think that they will be resurrected unto a tremendous day?  A day when humanity shall stand before the Lord of the worlds? (83:1-6)

The Quran teaches the believer to pray for goodness in this life and the next:

O our Lord! Grant us good in this world and good in the life to come, and keep us safe from suffering through the fire (2:201).

In fact, the longest verse of the entire Quran, spanning more than a page of Arabic text, details the procedure for credit transactions:

O you who have attained to faith! Whenever you give or take credit for a stated term, set it down in writing… (2:282)

The Quran’s attitude about earthly life and the afterlife is one of balance, and it is summarized in this verse speaking about the Biblical Korah, who lived at the time of Moses:

…his people said unto him: ‘Exult not [in your wealth], for God does not love those who exult [in things vain]! Seek instead, by means of what God has granted you, [the good of the life to come], without forgetting, withal, your own rightful share in this world… (28:76-77).

The Quran says that human beings were put on this earth to strive, to toil, to patiently live in obedient worship of God, and after they die in His service,
“the Angels will come unto them from every gate [and will say] ‘Peace be unto you, because you have persevered!‘” (13:23-24)

Peace be unto you, because you have persevered,” the Qur’an says, and not because you killed yourself in an act of cowardly murder.

This “jihadist fantasy,” to coin Daoud’s term, that Paradise is just a suicide bomb away is unsubstantiated by any reading of the Quranic text and is an egregious distortion and defilement of Islamic belief and tradition. And, tragically, it has been used to dupe too many young, ignorant Muslims into becoming savage murderers.

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