Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Please See It For What It Is

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No compulsion is to be on them.

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

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

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

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

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

The Muslims are to fight for them.

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

Their churches are to be respected.

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

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

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

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.

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