Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

A Doctor on Doctor’s Day

In the Name of God: The Extremely, Eternally, and Infinitely Loving and Merciful

Today is National Doctors’ Day, and all around the country, hospitals and medical offices are celebrating by thanking the thousands of physicians that work hard every single day to help patients feel better. Our hospital’s celebration was last week, and it was very nice to be appreciated in such a nice fashion. 

Becoming a physician is not easy. It takes eight years of schooling, and anywhere between 3 and 6 years of post-graduate training before one is allowed to practice medicine. That does not count the many licensing examinations that must be passed if one wants to get a license in the United States. 
When I went through training, there were no work hour restrictions that exist today. I would frequently work 30 hours in a row and nearly collapse from exhaustion. Now that I have been practicing for ten years, the challenges that face our field have never been greater. 
Our hours are long. Our work is tough. Just last night, I had to come back to the hospital at 4 AM to tend to a very sick patient in the ICU. 
We have to comply with endlessly changing regulations and rules, and there are not enough hours in the day to finish the enormous paperwork sometimes. In addition, the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” has thrown so many uncertainties into the future of Medicine. All this does not even mention the constant threat of malpractice litigation that looms over every physicians’ head. 
The pressure can be overwhelming at times, and many physicians have cited dissatisfaction with their careers. In fact, I have heard so many of my colleagues say that they would not advise their children to pursue a career in medicine. 
I have not been immune to this pressure. Yet, despite all of this, words cannot express my gratitude to the Lord for being a doctor. Ever since I was a young child, being a doctor is all I ever wanted to be. It’s the only career I envisioned for myself, and I never stopped thinking about it. 
Yes, it is hard work. Yes, the hours are long. Yes, the pressure is enormous. But to help a patient come back – by the grace of the Lord – from the brink of death gives me a feeling that is truly indescribable. The Quran says that saving a life is like saving all of humanity. I get to do that for a living. The privilege is truly extraordinary. 
Thanks be to the Lord, we have many, many more successes than failures. The overwhelming majority of our patients do well. Yet, sadly, sometimes they do not. And at that moment, I am given a chance to comfort the patient’s family which faces the horrific reality that their loved one will pass away. Moreover, if I can help relieve the suffering from that patient who will, unfortunately, not get better, it is an enriching experience as well. 
I am very grateful that I have been chosen to be a physician, for, truly, healthcare is a calling. Like most of my colleagues, I share the anxiety that comes with an uncertain future of healthcare in America. Yet, I would not want to be anything else but a physician. 
Over the years, I have heard so many physician colleagues sarcastically say – when asked how they are doing – “I’m living the dream.” I know they say this out of the enormous frustration that comes with being a doctor today. But for me, I am truly living my life dream each and every day. 
And I can never be fully grateful to the Precious Beloved Lord for it. 


The Young Muslims That Join ISIS Threaten Their Very Salvation 

While, certainly, news of young Western Muslims running away from home to join the savages of ISIS deeply disturbs me – especially as a father of a teenage daughter – it also deeply saddens me. These misguided young Muslims do not understand how they are not only putting their futures at risk, but also their very eternal salvation. 

It is quite obvious that the militants of ISIS are nothing more than Kharijites, which are a fanatical and violent offshoot of Islam that dates back to the early years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Prophet (pbuh) predicted their advent, and his descriptions of them are extremely accurate. 


In one such saying, the Prophet (pbuh) said (emphasis added): 

There would arise from my Ummah (i.e., followers) a people who would recite the Qur’an, and your recital would seem insignificant as compared with their recital, your prayer as compared with their prayer, and your fast, as compared with their fast. They would recite the Qur’an thinking that it supports them, whereas it is an evidence against them. Their prayer does not get beyond their collar bone; they would swerve through Islam just as the arrow passes through the prey.

This is quite frightening. These young people who join ISIS think they are joining a group of believers, but they are in fact joining rebellious barbarians who the Prophet (pubh) said would “swerve through Islam just as the arrow passes through the prey.” The Qur’an that they recite, thinking it supports their claims, actually refutes their claims. 


Take this verse, for example, which accurately describes those young Muslims who are joining ISIS: 

Say: “Shall we tell you who are the greatest losers in whatever they may do? [It is] they whose labor has gone astray in this world’s life, and who nonetheless think that they are doing good works. It is they who have chosen to deny their Lord’s messages and the truth that they are destined to meet Him.” Hence all their [good] deeds come to nothing, and no weight shall We assign to them on Resurrection Day. (18:103-105).

These young people think they are joining the only “true believers” in the world. But they are mistaken; gravely mistaken. These savages of ISIS do everything that Islam and the Qur’an speak against: murder of innocents, mayhem, public corruption, and savagery. The fact that they continue to do these things, despite Islam’s prohibitions, clearly show that they have “chosen to deny their Lord’s messages.” 


Moreover, the fact that they kill innocent people – with savage brutality – also shows that they are not concerned with the fact that they are going to account one day for their actions. Thus, they also “deny…the truth that they are destined to meet Him.” And as a result of all this, “all their [good] deeds come to nothing, and no weight shall [God] assign to them on Resurrection Day.” 

How can these young people not see this? How can they be so naive? It is a manifest tragedy. But, it is our job – all of us Muslims – to continue to speak out and show our youth that following the savages of ISIS is following a path of destruction. Not only will they be aiding and abetting barbaric criminals, but they are also putting their very eternal salvation at great risk. 


“House of Cards” Shows The Quest For Absolute Power Can Be Destructive

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

The third season of the smash Netflix hit “House of Cards” comes out on February 27. I must admit, that I have been waiting for it with great anticipation. The series thus far has left me riveted, and I have watched with awe and fear as the ruthless Francis Underwood – masterfully played by Kevin Spacey – has finally reached the pinnacle of power: The Presidency of the United States of America.

Spoiler Alert: You may not want to read further if you haven’t seen the series.

Francis Underwood, now President Underwood, has stopped at nothing in his quest for ultimate power: greed, lust, hypocrisy, manipulation, deceit, and – yes – even cold-blooded murder. His wife, Claire (Robin Wright), is equally ruthless, and two have proven to be unstoppable in their race to the top. And as my shock at the brazenness of their scheming grows with each episode, I cannot help but wonder about how their “House of Cards” will eventually come crashing down.


I guess we will have to watch the next season to possibly find out.

This quest for power is innate in the human being. And channeled properly, it can be a good thing: an entry-level worker would like to become a supervisor one day; a supervisor would like to become a manager; a manager would like to become a bigger manager, and so on. Yet, the merciless path that Francis Underwood has taken is neither natural nor healthy. And his conduct shows exactly why power so often corrupts.

The test of power is the one of the greatest, if not the greatest, tests for the human being. When one is given power, any power, how will she conduct herself with it? Will she use that power to achieve good for all? Or, will she wield that power to help only herself, no matter the consequence?


Those that have no moral compass, no sense of right and wrong, to achieve power will eventually face justice for their deeds. While that accounting may or may not be in this world, rest assured that it will most definitely happen on Judgment Day, when the Most Powerful will take everyone to task for what they have done. Underwood’s contempt of God is stupid because, all power ultimately belongs to Him and He alone, and He is always in charge.

The House that Claire and Frank Underwood have built indeed looks powerful on the outside: gleaming white stone and marble, massive and daunting, with a solid foundation and unbreakable barrier. I must admit it has been fun watching them build it.

Yet, because of their ruthlessness, that House is no more than an edifice of paper, on pillars of salt and sand. And when the waters of Justice and Righteousness come – and they will come – it will all come crashing down. And I watch because, I want to be there when it happens. The creators of the show are brilliant.


More on How The Atlantic Got It Wrong About Islam: Are Beheadings “Islamic”?

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

In the widely-cited, and very long, article by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic, it is written:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.


Now, there is much in this article that is quite problematic. As its proof of ISIS’ “Islamicness,” it cites one scholar who is not even Muslim and backs it up by interviewing the likes of Anjem Choudhry, a well-know British Muslim extremist. Really? Would any journalist dare do the same with Judaism, for instance? Of course not. Cough…Double Standard…Cough.

That said, let us take his point head on. Is ISIS truly “Very Islamic,” as Wood claims? Already, there have been numerous scholarly – and very good – responses to the article. Think Progress has even interviewed the scholar cited in the piece, Bernard Haykal, to get more detail about his views.


Yet, let us take this passage:

All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”


Let us deal with one of these behaviors, namely, beheadings. Is this Islamic? Enter this verse:

Now when you meet [in war] those who are bent on denying the truth, smite their necks until you overcome them fully… (47:4)

Are you saying, “Gotcha!”? Have I been disproven?

Umm…no. The verse is speaking about meeting the enemy on the battlefield, and it is encouraging the believers to fight vigorously. Isn’t this normal? Wouldn’t you want to have your soldiers fight valiantly on the battlefield? This is what the verse is doing: exhorting them to fight valiantly on the battlefield.

What about the words “smite their necks”? Aren’t the savages of ISIS following the letter of the Qur’an with their gruesome beheadings? No. At the time the verse was revealed, the main weapon of war was…a sword. And, when you kill your enemy on the battlefield with a sword, many times you strike at his neck. This is what the verse is saying.


The verse is NOT saying kidnap a relief worker (or journalist) – helping to relieve the terrible suffering of the Syrian people – and then behead them on camera if their sick demands are not met. The verse is NOT saying kidnap 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians and behead them on camera. No way can this verse be used to justify these horrific practices.

Moreover, here is the verse in full:

Now when you meet [in war] those who are bent on denying the truth, smite their necks until you overcome them fully, and then tighten their bonds; but thereafter [set them free,] either by an act of grace or against ransom, so that the burden of war may be lifted: thus [shall it be]. And [know that] had God so willed, He could indeed punish them [Himself]; but [He wills you to struggle] so as to test you [all] by means of one another. And as for those who are slain in God’s cause, never will He let their deeds go to waste.


According to almost all classical Qur’anic exegesis, “tighten their bonds” means take prisoners of war. It must noted that this verse was revealed at a time when prisoners of war were typically mercilessly slaughtered. The Qur’an sets a standard by which these prisoners of war – not kidnapped civilians – can be eventually set free.

Moreover, the “ransom” mentioned in the verse can also comprise – according to some interpretations – a mutual exchange of prisoners of war. In fact, after the first major battle during the Prophet Muhamamad’s life – the Battle of Badr – some prisoners of war were set free after teaching ten Muslims reading and writing.


If anyone in ISIS thinks that kidnapping innocent people and then beheading them for the camera can be justified by a reading of verse 47:4, then he must have a serious psychological problem. This is why we Muslims – the vast, vast majority of us – say that ISIS is “un-Islamic.” They have no understanding of the very basic tenets and principles of Islam, and they use a horrifically simplistic and psychopathic reading of Islamic texts to justify their actions.

Yes, they may call themselves Muslim, but their actions are wholly antithetical to very essence of our faith. Their actions are not normative Islamic practice; they are barbarism par excellence. Contrary to Wood’s claim, ISIS is not “Very Islamic”; it is Very barbaric.


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