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

I have been watching with amazement the political rhetoric of some politicians who vow to defend “religious liberty.” In several states, politicians have either enacted, or tried to enact, laws that are clearly discriminatory against LGBT fellow citizens, in the name of “religious liberty.” The latest is Mississippi, which passed a law, HB 1523, which:

promises that the state government will not punish people who refuse to provide services to people because of a religious opposition to same-sex marriage, extramarital sex or transgender people.

How can this not be considered discriminatory? How is this any different than refusing to serve a client who is Muslim, or African-American, or has attached earlobes? Can you imagine what would happen if a Muslim business owner refused to serve an LBGT client out of his “religious beliefs”? There would be howls of protest that these Muslims are seeking to “impose Sharia law” on the rest of the country. In fact, one such site has it’s first sentence of the article saying: “Muslims are determined to push their religious doctrines on the American people.”

Yet, more than one state is seeking to protect individuals who refuse to serve people due to their sexual orientation, in the name of “religious freedom.” Isn’t that “pushing religious doctrine” on other people, as well? Moreover, what about all the states that have laws banning “Sharia”? What about the religious freedom of Muslims?

Religious freedom is sacred in our country; it is one of the most beautiful aspects of America, and it is one of the things about which I am most grateful to God for being an American and living in America. Yet, my religious freedom does not give me the right to discriminate against other people.

For example, I do not drink, out of my religious beliefs. But, I would NEVER refuse to treat someone in my ICU for alcohol withdrawal because his or her actions “violate my religious beliefs.” If any doctor ever did that, Muslim or otherwise, he or she would be wrong and unethical. Period. And, for the record, if a Muslim business owner would refuse to serve an LGBT customer, in the name of Islam, I stand against that. That customer is a human being with dignity and deserves respect, regardless of his or her race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

Although it is 2016, we still grapple, as a nation, with issues of racism and discrimination. It is quite troubling that, now, some politicians are using “religious liberty” as a cover to shield that discimination. As a person of faith, it is quite troubling indeed.

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

In the aftermath of another terror attack committed by the savages of ISIS (or as I like to call them, KIL), yet again people like to link their actions to all of Islam and Muslims. Politicians use such attacks to smear all Muslims with the sins of its criminal fringe and hide behind “dispensing with political correctness.” With wall-to-wall coverage of the crimes of groups like ISIS, it is easy to think that Islam is somehow behind the terror we see in its name.

Yet, listen to those who are truly experts on terrorism, and the truth is very different. Joshua Holland, writer for The Nation, wrote a piece back in December about ISIS’ real motives:

Despite the existence of a good deal of research about terrorism, there’s a gap between the common understanding of what leads terrorists to kill and what many experts believe to be true.

Terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda are widely seen as being motivated by their radical theology. But according to Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago and founder of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, this view is too simplistic. Pape knows his subject; he and his colleagues have studied every suicide attack in the world since 1980, evaluating over 4,600 in all.

He says that religious fervor is not a motive unto itself. Rather, it serves as a tool for recruitment and a potent means of getting people to overcome their fear of death and natural aversion to killing innocents. “Very often, suicide attackers realize they have instincts for self-preservation that they have to overcome,” and religious beliefs are often part of that process, said Pape in an appearance on my radio show, Politics and Reality Radio, last week. But, Pape adds, there have been “many hundreds of secular suicide attackers,” which suggests that radical theology alone doesn’t explain terrorist attacks. From 1980 until about 2003, the “world leader” in suicide attacks was the Tamil Tigers, a secular Marxist group of Hindu nationalists in Sri Lanka.

What’s more, Professor Pape spoke about the motivations of suicide terrorism in particular:

What 95 percent of all suicide attacks have in common, since 1980, is not religion, but a specific strategic motivation to respond to a military intervention, often specifically a military occupation, of territory that the terrorists view as their homeland or prize greatly. From Lebanon and the West Bank in the 80s and 90s, to Iraq and Afghanistan, and up through the Paris suicide attacks we’ve just experienced in the last days, military intervention—and specifically when the military intervention is occupying territory—that’s what prompts suicide terrorism more than anything else.

You can read the rest of the entire article here. In fact, as Lydia Wilson (also of The Nation) found when she interviewed ISIS fighters, many of these “holy warriors” have no idea what Islam is all about:

They are woefully ignorant about Islam and have difficulty answering questions about Sharia law, militant jihad, and the caliphate. But a detailed, or even superficial, knowledge of Islam isn’t necessarily relevant to the ideal of fighting for an Islamic State, as we have seen from the Amazon order of Islam for Dummies by one British fighter bound for ISIS.

“But,” I can hear people saying, “these terrorists use Islam as the justification for their barbarism. These terrorists use Islam’s holy texts as proof that what they do is truly ‘Islamic.'” No. They twist the teachings of Islam to sanctify their crimes. They are no different than a gang or a drug cartel, but – and this is what enrages me the most about them – they garb themselves in the clothing of Islam and religion to hide who they truly are: psychopathic and bloodthirsty savages.

So, when we say that ISIS has “nothing whatsoever to do with Islam,” we are not “whitewashing the truth” or “being politically correct.” We are telling the truth about who they really are.

 

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

I leave aside the fact that no other community is expected to condemn the actions of its criminal fringe. I leave aside the fact that the perverse logic of assigning blame to the whole for the actions of a few tends to be applied to Muslims preferentially. I leave aside the fact that most of the victims of “Islamic terror” are other Muslims themselves. I leave aside the fact the attention of the world to acts of terror in Western countries is much more than that in Muslims countries (see recent attacks in Turkey and compare for yourself).

I put all of that aside today. I put all that aside and condemn what happened in Brussels – which took the lives of 34 people – with all of my heart, all of my soul, and all of my mind.

It’s very true that such terror is being rained on scores of innocent Muslim populations by their own governments on a daily basis. It’s very true that terror has no religion or ethnic group or nationality. It’s true that Western governments have supported brutal dictatorships in the Muslim majority world to serve geopolitical interests. That is all true.

That’s does not even begin to justify, however, attacking innocent people anywhere in the world. And just as the double standards with respect to Muslims and Islam must be called out every time, terror in the name of Islam must also be called out and condemned for what it is: pure unadulterated evil.

Occasions such as these give fuel to those who want to assign blame to all of Islam (see Trump’s statement: “Islam hates us”). Occasions such as these allow politicians to cynically use them for political advantage (see Sen. Ted Cruz saying Muslim neighborhoods need to be “patrolled”). Nevertheless, attacks such as these – for which the savages of ISIS have claimed responsibility – must be condemned with every cell in our bodies.

And the reason such violence in the name of Islam needs to be condemned is not because our silence denotes our complicity. As I said above, no other religious group is expected to condemn the actions of its criminal fringe. Rather, when the savages – “barbarians” is too nice of a word – of ISIS, or the Taliban, or Boko Haram, or Al Qaeda commit violence and cloak it in the garbs of Islam; when they touch our holy scripture with their blood-soaked hands; when they call upon the holy name of God as they commit savage acts of brutality: they defile our faith. For that, we Muslims – and all people of faith, frankly – must take great offense.

I can almost hear detractors, as they read this, say that my forceful condemnations almost never come out when a Muslim capital or city is ravaged by the terror of these savages, whether it be Istanbul, or Baghdad, or Beirut, or Ivory Coast. I must confess that, emotionally, I was much more affected by the attacks in Paris (a city which I visited and then fell in love with a few months before) than those in Beirut. Yet, that does not mean that I felt any less pain at the deaths in Beirut.

I do not feel any less pain when I see images of people being killed by savage terrorists in any city anywhere in the world. All life is sacred. And as the Qur’an says, the taking of one innocent life is like taking the lives of all of humanity. No matter who is killed, it hurts me on a personal level.

And when I realize that the murderers behind a terror attack are savages who act in the name of my faith, I seethe with outrage for they use the beautiful faith I know and love and twist it to justify their murderous savagery. That’s why I condemn them now. That’s why I will condemn them perpetually.

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

I was so very pleased to see “A Girl In The River” win the Oscar for Best Documentary Film (Short Subject). The film tells the story of Saba, an 18-year-old girl who was brutally attacked by her father and uncle because she married someone against their will. In an interview on NPR, which will air on March 7 (the same day the film will air on HBO), director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy told Steve Inskeep:

Saba was engaged to a young man and she wanted to get married to him. The family was okay with it, but the uncle was not. He decided she should marry someone else. Bravely one morning, Saba ran away from home to a local court and got married. Her father and uncle came to her in-laws’ house and said, “Let us take her back to our home, and then you come take her honorably so neighbors and society don’t look upon us as a family that has been shamed.”

But instead, they put her in a car, took her to a wooded area, beat her for a long time before shooting her, put her in a gunny sack, and threw her in a river. She miraculously survived.

In a year where diversity (or lack thereof) in Hollywood and the Academy was the talk of the town, it was wonderful to see the Academy recognize not only this film, but also shine a spotlight on the horrific practice of (dis-)honor killings. In fact, according to Ms. Obaid-Chinoy, the Prime Minister of Pakistan has vowed to change the laws in Pakistan as a result of this film:

The prime minister came out and said that he wanted to work on the issue of honor killings, and he has since then met with me. He has spoken with members of his political party to plug loopholes in the law. He’s saying that there is no place for honor killings in Islam, and we must make that clear to everybody.

If this law passes, the honor killings will be a crime against the state. A lot of things can go wrong [in trying to get this law passed]. But if three or four people go to jail, the fifth person will think twice before shooting someone in his family.

This is truly wonderful. This barbaric savagery known as (dis-)honor killings is a stain on the fabric of the societies – Muslim or otherwise – in which they occur. As a father who lost his daughter, I am utterly shocked that this man could actually try to kill his own daughter. He told the Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy:

Yes, I killed her. She’s my daughter and I wanted to kill her. I provided for her. How dare she defy me? How dare she go out without my permission? And I am ready to spend my entire life in jail because this is something I did for my honor, the honor of my family. She has shamed us.

Truly disgusting. He is the one who shamed his family, not his daughter. He is the one who has brought dishonor on his family, not his daughter, by this horrific crime. He is the criminal in this case, not his daughter, who will forever live with the trauma of almost being killed by her own father. And even though she may have been pressured to forgive him, he will not escape Divine Justice:

And do not think that God is unaware of what the evildoers are doing: He but grants them respite until the Day when their eyes will stare in horror (14:42).

Thank you very much, Academy, for doing an enormous service by recognizing this film. Thank you, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy, for making this film and telling this story. And, most of all, thank you, Saba, for your tremendous courage in telling this story for all the world to see. God bless your ways forever. Amen.

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

“I have always been fascinated by God.”

So says Morgan Freeman, the Academy Award-winning actor known, among many other things, for playing the role of God in films such as Bruce Almighty. Now, he sets out on an amazing journey to study God and how He is worshiped all across the globe.

Premiering Sunday April 3 on National Geographic Channel, “The Story of God”:

seeks to understand how religion has evolved throughout the course of civilization, and in turn how religion has shaped the evolution of society. Although in our current geopolitical landscape, religion is often seen as something that divides, the series illuminates the remarkable similarities among different faiths, even those that seem to be in staunch contrast. This is a quest for God: to shed light on the questions that have puzzled, terrified and inspired mankind, not to mention Freeman himself.

Said Morgan Freeman himself about the series:

Over the past few months, I’ve traveled to nearly 20 cities in seven different countries on a personal journey to find answers to the big mysteries of faith. I’ve sung the call to prayer at a mosque in Cairo, taken meditation lessons from the Buddhist leader of the oldest line of reincarnating Lamas, discussed Galileo with the head of the Papal Academy of Sciences and explored the first instructions for the afterlife rendered in hieroglyphs inside the pyramids. In some places I found answers, and others led to more questions. The constant through it all is that we’re all looking to be part of something bigger than us. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we certainly are.

It will be six-part series, and each episode will explore different aspects of faith: Creation, Who is God?, Evil, Miracles, End of Days, and Resurrection. In a time where religion seems to be a liability to our world, “The Story of God” will give viewers a unique perspective on faith as the believers view it. As a person of faith, I welcome this series.

“The Story of God with Morgan Freeman” is produced by Revelations Entertainment for National Geographic Channel. For Revelations Entertainment, Morgan Freeman, Lori McCreary and James Younger are executive producers. For National Geographic Channel, Michael J. Miller is executive producer; Kevin Mohs is vice president, production and development; Alan Eyres is senior vice president, programming and development; and Tim Pastore is president, original programming and production.

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

Native Deen is one of the oldest and most popular American Muslim hip hop groups. It is my absolute favorite, and I have grown up listening to their songs. In fact, way back in the 1980s group member Joshua Salaam and I went to the same religious summer school, and I remember listening to him drop hip hop rhymes with effortless mastery way back then. Their songs are at once educational, inspirational, and consoling, all the while treating listeners with amazing hip hop beats and lyrics. If you haven’t heard of them, do yourself a favor and check them out.

Yet, it is natural to wonder: what are their musical talents individually? What would they do if they broke up? Thank God, they are not breaking up. But, each has embarked on his own solo project, and the first one to release an album was Naeem Muhammad: “I Love When You Use Your Words.”

As soon I as I started listening to it, I got a glimpse into Naeem’s musical mind, and the word “jazz” kept coming up again and again. The album is very much jazz infused. Yet, he has many musical influences, as Naeem himself says:

My mom’s eclectic record collection and music taste of folk, jazz, soul, rock, and pop seemed to have forged my of own musical affinities. I can remember growing up with LPs of America, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Neil Young, and many other folk luminaries. So for me, creating an album of inspired folk rock songs, was like coming home.

And, staying true to the “Native Deen” style, each song has a particularly beautiful message. My absolute favorite song is “We Shall Overcome.” Not only does it have an uplifting message, that nothing is impossible without God, but it has a very awesome musical background. He even includes a freshly remade oldie, “Rain Song,” which tells the inspiring tale of the coming of rain after a prayer is made to God.

I have met Naeem Muhammad, and he is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. That sweetness is most definitely seen in his music, and “I Love When You Use Your Words” is a musical treat that should not be missed.

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

Don’t get me wrong. Even one American Muslim either thinking about, or planning, or trying to commit an act of terror is too many. Each case is a failure, on multiple levels. Yet, if one hears pundits, so-called “terrorism experts,” and politicians – especially those in the GOP – speak, he or she would think that there is a Muslim waiting on every corner of this beautiful country ready to pounce and kill at will.

The truth, thank God, is very different than the rhetoric.

Since 2010, Charles Kurzman, Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and specialist on Islamic movements, has been publishing a report on Muslim-American terrorism. His latest was released on February 2:

Eighty-one Muslim-Americans were associated with violent extremist plots in 2015, the highest annual total since 9/11. A majority of the individuals identified in 2015 innolved travel (22 individuals) or attempted travel (23 individuals) to join militant groups based in Syria. Three joined militant groups in Pakistan or Somalia; and four were accused of helping others travel to Syria. Twenty-eight were associated with plots against targets in the United States. One person both traveled to Syria and allegedly plotted against targets in the United States upon his return.
Again, don’t get me wrong: this picture is very distressing to me as an American Muslim. But, out of a community of at least 2.5 million people (the most conservative estimate), this is a very tiny fraction: .00324%. In an interview with Religion News Service, Professor Kurzman said:

Each year since 2010 when I began doing this report, I try to remind readers … that among the threats to public safety that Americans face year in and year out, Islamic terrorism has played a very small role. Even the numbers of disrupted plots remain much lower than the public debate would lead us to believe. And yet it remains the focus of so much of the security discourse in American politics.

And that’s the larger point I want to make. There are those in our country, including individuals running for President, that are trying to stoke up fear of Muslims for some sort of gain: political, financial, or otherwise. Yes, since 9/11, the report states that a total of 69 fatalities have occurred as a result of Muslim extremists. That is way too many. Yet, in 2015 alone, 134 Americans were killed in mass shootings.

Of course, one statistic is not better than the other. The murder of anyone, whether by a Muslim savage terrorist or a petty thief, is an enormous tragedy. But the fear of Muslims is not based on evidence, and we must resist the “otherization” of any community in this country by any and all. With the Presidential election now in full swing, I pray that more and more Americans take this lesson to heart.

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

I could not believe my eyes when I read the headline: “ISIS Militant ‘Kills His Own Mother’ In Public Raqqa Execution.”

A member of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) killed his own mother in a public execution in the city of Raqqa on Thursday, according to activists.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which monitors the Syrian civil war using a wide network of sources on the ground, and Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered, an activist group inside the ISIS-held city, both reported the execution.

Ali Saqr, 20, reportedly killed his 45-year-old mother Leena Al-Qasem “for apostasy” in front of an audience of hundreds of people outside a post office building where she was employed in the city.

I didn’t think the savages of ISIS could stoop any lower than killing innocents in Paris or Istanbul. Clearly, however, I was wrong.

Yet, such savagery shows that these monsters cannot be reading the same Qur’an as the rest of the Muslim faithful. Nowhere in the Qur’an is there ANY whiff of justification for such brutish brutality as killing one’s own mother. The Qur’an is absolutely clear on kindness to parents:

NOW [among the best of the deeds which] We have enjoined upon humanity is goodness towards parents. In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth; and her bearing him and his utter dependence on her took thirty months. (46:15)

And [God says:] ‘We have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: his mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain, and his utter dependence on her lasted two years: [hence, O humanity,] be grateful towards Me and towards thy parents, [and remember that] with Me is all journeys’ end. (31:14)

AND WORSHIP God [alone], and do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him. And do good unto your parents, and near of kin, and unto orphans, and the needy, and the neighbor from among your own people, and the neighbor who is a stranger,  and the friend by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom you rightfully possess. Verily, God does not love any of those who, full of self-conceit, act in a boastful manner; (4:36)

Say: “Come, let me convey unto you what God has [really] forbidden to you: “Do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him; and [do not offend against but, rather,] do good unto your parents; and do not kill your children for fear of poverty – [for] it is We who shall provide sustenance for you as well as for them; and do not commit any shameful deeds, be they open or secret; and do not take any human being’s life-[the life] which God has declared to be sacred -otherwise than in [the pursuit of] justice: this has He enjoined upon you so that you might use your reason; (6:151)

For your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none but Him. And do good unto [thy] parents. Should one of them, or both, attain to old age in thy care, never say “Ugh” to them or scold them, but [always] speak unto them with reverent speech (17:23)

The message is absolutely clear: one must always show kindness to his or her parents: it is given the same weight in the Qur’an as the worship of God Himself. Moreover, we cannot even say “Ugh” or even sigh out of frustration in response to our parents, as verse 17:23 says.

So how in God’s Most Beautiful Name can these savages of ISIS be even remotely considered “Islamic”?

What’s more, even if one’s parents strive to make someone worship other than God Himself, which is the worst thing a person can do in Islam, that person still must treat his parents with kindness:

“‘[Revere thy parents;] yet should they endeavor to make thee ascribe divinity, side by side with Me, to something which thy mind cannot accept [as divine],  them not; but [even then] bear them company in this world’s life with kindness, and follow the path of those who turn towards Me. In the end, unto Me you all must return; and thereupon I shall make you [truly] understand all that you were doing [in life].’ (31:15)

The fact that this mother was trying to get her son to leave ISIS shows that she cared about him; she didn’t want him following this band of sick murderers and savages. And for him to kill her, it reveals a savagery that is truly breathtaking in its brutality.

These guys must be reading a different holy book than the rest of us Muslims, because there is no way any reading of the Qur’an could justify anything that they do, most especially the murder of one’s own parents. And this begs the question, once again:

How in God’s Most Beautiful Name can these savages of ISIS be even remotely considered “Islamic”?

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

Whenever a transition in time occurs, such as the passing of the New Year, it is natural for human beings to reflect over the past and look forward to the future. Hence, many people will be making New Year’s resolutions, and there will be no shortage of people telling  you and me how best to improve ourselves in the coming year. This is all well and good.

Yet, the best “expert” on self-improvement is looking straight at us in the mirror. We know ourselves the best, and we are the best judge of what flaws we have that need improvement. And we can let Scripture help us on this journey of self-betterment.

Just as I wrote during the Islamic New Year, the Qur’an offers several verses and passages that can be used as “personal improvement checklists.” Here is such a verse:

For submitting men and submitting women, believing men and believing women, devout men and devout women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, humble men and humble women, charitable men and charitable women, men who fast and women who fast, men who guard their private parts [i.e., chastity] and women who guard [i.e., their chastity], men who remember God often and women who remember [God often], God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward. (33:35)

Here God states that He will prepare “forgiveness and a great reward” for those men and women who:

  1. Submit to God
  2. Believe in God
  3. Possess devotion to God
  4. Are truthful
  5. Have patience
  6. Have humility
  7. Are charitable
  8. Fast (and more generally, willfully deprive themselves for the sake of God)
  9. Guard their chastity
  10. Remember God often

We can use this as a “rubric” against which we can grade ourselves on a moral and spiritual level. How much do we believe in God? How much does that belief translate into action? How devout are we? How much devotion to God do we have? How truthful are we? How humble are we? And so on.

The beauty of this, and other such “checklists” derived from Scripture, is that they can be done in private, with only our own inner voices – guided by the Word and Wisdom of God – speaking to us. There is no one else pointing a finger at us, where are liable to get defensive and shut down our listening.

And, using this checklist, we can set personal goals for the coming year, and the hope is that, by this time next year, we will have achieved those goals and be better people than we are today. For some of us: we may need to work on one thing; for others of us, we may have to fix several flaws. The number doesn’t matter. What matters, rather, is that we are always working to make ourselves better human beings.

Now, some of us may say to ourselves, “Well, I am perfect the way I am. I do not need to use this or any other checklist.” Here, we have to be honest with ourselves: none of us is perfect. The only Perfect One is God Himself.

There is always room for improvement, on both an individual and collective level. Human society and civilization would never have progressed to where it is today if there was not a constant quest for betterment. We should never delude ourselves into thinking that we cannot become better people. If we are not moving forwards, then we are greatly liable to move backwards.

Thus, as we mark the end of one year and the beginning of another, it is my hope and prayer that each one of us can take some time to reflect and find ways in which we can improve and become better people. And with Scripture as our guide, our journey toward self-betterment will be both blessed and successful.

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2016 be filled with love, happiness, plenty, blessing, and incredible self-improvement for all of us.

 

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

Christmas time every year is always slightly different: the weather is different, the cultural context is different, and even the political climate is different. The Presidential Election season definitely has changed the flavor of this Christmas season, especially with respect to Islam and Muslims. Yet, unlike any other Christmas in decades, perhaps, this year Christmas will be completely unique.

December 24, Christmas Eve, will also be the very same day that many Muslims around the world will be commemorating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). While it is not the same as Christmas, the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday – also known as Mawlid-un-Nabi – is a special time for Muslims, where they commemorate the birth of the man who brought salvation to them as well. The reason it fell this year around Christmas time is because of the Islamic lunar calendar, which circumnavigates the solar calendar backwards. Thus, this year it is on December 24, and next year it will be around December 12.

The celebrations around the Muslim world commemorating this day are as varied and beautiful as the cultures from where they hail. Many Muslims hold festivals where poetry extolling the Prophet’s virtue are read and sung; other Muslims fast and have communal meals; others have elaborate dances and other celebrations; many Muslims distribute candy and other sweets to children. It is a very special day for many, many Muslims around the globe, and it is amazing that this year it will fall right around the day Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ (pbuh).

It is my hope and prayer that this fact of Christmas in 2015 will allow a moment of pause and reflection over relations between Muslims and Christians. While many Muslims may not be officially celebrating Christmas, it does not mean that Jesus Christ is not special in their hearts. There is a great deal about Jesus in the Qur’an, in fact, and Christ is mentioned more by name in the Qur’an than the Prophet Muhammad himself (peace be upon he and Jesus both). The Virgin Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an. These are facts, and I wish that more people would know these facts about Islam and its honor for Jesus and Mary.

In addition, if both Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them both) were alive today, they would be extremely close. The Prophet Muhammad called Jesus, and all other Prophets, his “brothers,” and he commanded us to make no distinction between any of the Prophets of God. That is why, despite the hostility of some Christians towards the Prophet Muhammad, no Muslim would ever dare attack or malign Jesus Christ or his mother. That would be utter blasphemy.

At a time when some Christians believe Islam is “inspired by Satan himself,” and other Christians dispute whether they and Muslims even worship the same God, it is my hope and prayer that the common love for Jesus between Muslims and Christians can bring them together. There is so much more in common between Christianity and Islam than there is in distinction. I hope and pray that more people come to know this and resist the forces of division and hatred that seek to tear our two communities apart.

From my family to yours, a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy Mawlid-un-Nabi to one and all.

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