Common Word, Common Lord

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

“This is for Allah!”

That’s what one of the attackers in London screamed as he stabbed a person in rage and hate. That attack came on the heels of brutal bombings in Baghdad and Kabul, where hundreds of innocent people were slaughtered, and now, Tehran was struck. It is so disheartening.

During a time which is supposed to be spent in fasting and quiet reflection, in worship and humility, the terrorist savages of ISIS have wasted no time spreading carnage and death in cities all across the world. They pervert the meaning of Ramadan, and I pray God punishes the attackers and destroys this death cult wrapped in religious garb.

These savages think that, by committing acts of terror, they are doing “good deeds” and “attaining martyrdom” in Ramadan. Yet, they are in for a very rude awakening indeed. 

There is one passage in the Qur’an that makes me think of them in particular:

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 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 nought, and no weight shall We assign to them on Resurrection Day. That will be their recompense – Hell – for having denied the truth and made My messages and My apostles a target of their mockery. (18: 103-106)

This passage applies to them perfectly. 

They think that, by killing innocent people, they are doing “good deeds” and are engaged in a “holy war.” They could not be more wrong. They are committing cold-blooded murder, plain and simple. Thus, their “labor has gone astray in this world’s life” and they “nonetheless think they are doing good works.”

Through their murder, they have “chosen to deny their Lord’s messages and the truth that they are destined to meet Him.

Someone who brazenly kills innocents – be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, or whatever – clearly has denied the messages in the Quran that absolutely condemn the murder of innocents. The Quran says that killing one innocent person is like killing all of humanity. Yet, they do not care. They kill at will and thus reject the messages of our Lord. 

Further, the terrorist that kills denies that he will meet God one day and face accountability for his actions. If someone truly understood that he will one day face God and account for all his actions – good and bad – there is no way he could commit such acts of barbarity that we saw in London or Baghdad or Kabul or Tehran. No way. Thus, these savages reject the truth of the Resurrection and the Last Day.

Hence, as the Qur’an says, “all their [good] deeds come to nought, and no weight shall We [i.e., God] assign to them on Resurrection Day.” 

These savages are in for a very rude awakening. The joys of Paradise will not be awaiting them after they die, but rather the blazing flames of punishment. This is because, by committing brazen acts of murder and barbarism, they have “denied the truth and made My messages and My apostles [i.e., Prophets] a target of their mockery.

This is true indeed: the one who kills and says “this is for Allah” makes a mockery out of God and His laws. The one who kills because he “loves the Prophet” is actually brazenly and brutally insulting him. The one who runs people over on London Bridge, or shoots Christians in Egypt, or bombs an ice cream parlor in Baghdad, or a public plaza in Kabul, or the Parliament building in Tehran, scoffs at the sanctity of life, which God Himself made sacred. This person, this terrorist savage, mocks all that is holy, and he will face justice: possibly in this life, but of a surety in the next. 

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

Kids. He killed kids. And their parents. And what’s worse, the 22-year-old savage took his own life in the process. What sort of barbarism is this? 

Now, it is true that, as a Westerner, whenever the terror of savages hits a Western city, I have more of an emotional reaction. I can’t help this. At the same time, we must remember that the sort of savagery that we witnessed in Manchester happens almost on a daily basis in Iraq and Syria. The savages (as well as governments) kill kids there as well, and with savage impunity. 

From where does this barbarism stem? Wait, I can almost hear you scream out: “The Qur’an, of course!” 

Untrue. The Qur’an does not endorse terror – any terror – and it certainly does not endorse the kind of murder we saw in Manchester. 

First of all, murder is absolutely prohibited in the Qur’an:

and do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct, save lawfully” (6:151)

“…whoso kills a soul, unless it be for murder or for wreaking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.” (5:53)

The same goes with suicide:

And do not kill yourselves. Surely God is most merciful to you.” (4:29)

And do not throw yourselves into destruction.” (2:195)

Yet, there is more than this. These savages think that, through suicide terrorism, they can bypass this world and go straight to Paradise. How wrong they are. 

This life is about hard work, about patient struggle in God’s path, and only after one lives an entire lifetime of righteousness does he get the chance to be shown Divine Mercy and enter Paradise. 

This is understood when reading these verses in the Qur’an:

“gardens of perpetual bliss, which they shall enter together with the righteous from among their parents, their spouses, and their offspring; and the angels will come unto them from every gate [and will say]: ‘Peace be upon you, because you have persevered!’ How excellent, then, this fulfilment in the hereafter!” (13:23-24)

“Upon those [blest] will be garments of green silk and brocade; and they will be adorned with bracelets of silver. And their Sustainer will them to drink of a drink most pure. [And they will be told:] ‘Verily, all this is your reward since Your endeavour [in life] has met [God’s] goodly acceptance!'” (76:21-22)

Because you have persevered. Since your endeavor in life…

We are meant to toil on this earth. Yes, in the past, and sometimes now in the present, we may be called on to defend our homes and lives in a just war. But blowing oneself at the end of a Ariana Grande concert – where there are thousands of kids and their parents – is never, and will never, be a just war. It is unjust murder. 

These savages, with their sick and depraved souls, have twisted the word of God. The question must be how could such a young soul, 22-years-old, be duped into ending his life in such an inglorious manner and murdering kids along with him? What was it about his life? Who convinced him to do such a terrible deed? I pray they are answered. 

Yet, one thing is clear: the Qur’an does not teach us to end our lives through suicide terrorism. Rather, it teaches us to toil, to strive, to struggle, i.e., do jihad, on this earth by living as righteous a life as possible. And then God will judge us in the end on how good a job we have done. The terrorists have got it all wrong. 

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

All the jokes about President Trump’s speech on Islam given in Saudi Arabia aside, I was pleasantly surprised at the text of the speech. It was moderate, humble, respectful, and optimistic. I must be honest that I didn’t think it would be like that, and for that, I thank and commend President Trump for a job well done. 

My favorite part of the speech is below:

Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith.

Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.

If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism’s devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered.

If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing—then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.

This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations.

This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.

This is a battle between Good and Evil.

When we see the scenes of destruction in the wake of terror, we see no signs that those murdered were Jewish or Christian, Shia or Sunni. When we look upon the streams of innocent blood soaked into the ancient ground, we cannot see the faith or sect or tribe of the victims – we see only that they were Children of God whose deaths are an insult to all that is holy.


That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.

Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED.

Wow. I didn’t think I would like the speech, but here I am praising the President for an excellent speech. This is how it should be. 

It’s no secret that I am not a political supporter of the President. But, politics end at the shores of our country. While in Saudi Arabia, or Israel, or Beligium, or the Vatican, he represents me and the rest of our people. Abroad, he is my President, and I wish for him to succeed and put forth the best possible face for our nation. If this speech is any indication, perhaps this foreign trip will be a tremendous success. And that can only be a good thing. 

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

So many times, Muslims – including me – have said that the terrorist savages killing in the name of Islam “have nothing to do with Islam.” And I know that, when we say this, many people may roll their eyes or slap their foreheads in disbelief. 

That is because theses self-same savages quote the Qur’an to justify their acts of sheer barbarity. For every bomb they set off, they cite a saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him. And these texts exist. That cannot be denied, and it would be disingenuous to do so.

Therefore, I will stop saying that these terrorists have nothing to do with Islam. 

I will continue to say, however, that these terrorists betray everything Islam stands for and teaches. I will continue to say that these savages twist and distort the timeless morals located within the Quran that has guided millions of people over dozens of centuries. I will continue to speak out against these savages, because the religion that they distort is far too precious to me to stay silent.

Yet, how can it be that the Quran can be used to justify violence?

Well, it is like any other text: it has a linguistic, historical, and cultural context. And what these savages do, just like they have always done throughout Islamic history, is cherry-pick verses out of that context to dress their barbarity in the garbs of righteousness.

But there is something more: the people who justify murder by using Sacred Text can only do so because they have a sick heart, which is to say, a sick spirit and sick mind. And the Quran says that, if you have a sick heart, the book will lead you further away from guidance:

YET WHENEVER a surah [of this divine writ] is bestowed from on high, some of the deniers of the truth are prone to ask, “Which of you has this message strengthened in his faith?” Now as for those who have attained to faith, it does strengthen them in their faith, and they rejoice in the glad tiding which God has given them.

But as for those in whose hearts is disease, each new message but adds another element of disbelief to the disbelief which they already harbour, and they die while still refusing to acknowledge the truth (9:124-125)

Here is another example of this in the Quran. The book will be a source of guidance only for those who are conscious of God:

THIS DIVINE WRIT – let there be no doubt about it is [meant to be] a guidance for all the God-conscious (2:2)

If someone has a sick spirit, he can open up the Quran and find the verse that will give him the justification to do an act of evil. The same goes with any Scripture, and Lord knows plenty of evil has been done citing the Bible as justification. 

Yet, I don’t condemn the Bible or Quran for this. Rather, I condemn the reader of the Bible or Quran whose sick spirit reads that evil into the text. 

This is because there are many more people who use the Bible or Quran to bring a tremendous amount of good in this world. 

Take the White Helmets, or the Syria Civil Defence, as an example. Their motto is “To save a life is to save all of humanity.” This motto comes directly from the Quran:

…if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind… (5:32)

Other examples abound, in all faiths and religious traditions. Moreover, when one has a sound spirit, if she comes across a verse that, on the surface, calls for violence, she understands that this verse has a linguistic, historical, and cultural context. Thus, she understands that the verse is not a general call for violence. 

For truly, truly: only someone with a sick spirit can blow himself up at a Coptic Church in Alexandria and think that the verse below will give him spiritual cover:

[And] fight against those who – despite having been vouchsafed revelation [aforetime] -do not [truly] believe either in God or the Last Day, and do not consider forbidden that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, and do not follow the religion of truth [which God has enjoined upon them] till they [agree to] pay the exemption tax with a willing hand, after having been humbled [in war].

Only someone with a sick spirit can kill, rape, and enslave Yazidis and think that the verse below will give him justification:

And so, when the sacred months are over, slay those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God wherever you may come upon them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every conceivable place!…

In fact, one of the assassins of the Caliph Uthman cited this verse as justification:

PERMISSION [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged and, verily, God has indeed the power to help them.

This can only be when someone reads Scripture with a sick and twisted, i.e., Satanic, spirit. And so, we must all work hard on that spirit, keeping it pure and righteous, and ever bring it closer to the Precious Beloved. 

That way, we will never fall under the sway of those who espouse the Satanic reading of the Divine Word. 

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

The chemical weapons attack on Syrian children was beyond heinous. This man, Assad, is beyond Satanic. He will face justice: possibly in this world, but most definitely in the next. Something had to be done. And, all of his problems and faults notwithstanding, President Trump acted: he launched more than 50 cruise missiles into Syria.

Analysts, politicians, and pundits are debating his true motivations for the attack. Even Nicholas Kristof, no fan of Trump in the least, praised his actions:

President Trump’s air strikes against Syria were of dubious legality. They were hypocritical. They were impulsive. They may have had political motivations. They create new risks for the United States.

But most of all, they were right.

Yet, President Trump should not have had to act on Syria. Muslims should have stopped him long ago.

The Syrian civil war has been a disaster of monumental proportions: hundreds of thousands have been killed; millions have been displaced; vicious terrorists have been given the sanctuary to thrive in the midst of the chaos – and strike at innocents both in the Muslim world and the West.

What makes this disaster all the more heinous is the fact that Muslims are fueling the fires of conflict on both sides. Muslims should know better – their Scripture tells them what to do if internecine conflict arises:

Hence, if two groups of believers fall to fighting, make peace between them; but then, if one of the two groups goes on acting wrongfully towards the other, fight against the one that acts wrongfully until it reverts to God’s commandment; and if they revert, make peace between them with justice, and deal equitably with them: for verily, God loves those who act equitably! (49:9)

Once it was clear that the Syrian uprising degenerated into a full-fledged civil war, the Muslim world should have gotten together to stop the conflict and make peace. It should not have had to come to this, if Muslims were true to their Scriptures and commandments.

If you don’t know already, nerve gas such as sarin causes an overload in nerve receptors that respond to a body chemical called acetylcholine. As a result, the victim of nerve gas literally drowns in his or her own secretions. It is an horrific death.

Those children, suffocating from sarin, are the children of all Muslims, not just their Syrian parents. Those parents, hysterical at the loss of their children, are Muslims’ brothers and sisters in, not only humanity, but also in faith. Even if the victims of the brutal Assad regime were Christians, or Yazidis, or Jews, or atheists, Muslims should have stood up for them, because God commanded them to stand up against any injustice, even if committed by one of their own.

Am I being naive by saying this? Some may think so, and I do understand that geopolitical reality is much more complicated than the ideal world of a column. Nevertheless, this is the word of God, and it is the height of hypocrisy for the so-called “Islamic republics” to be right thick in the middle of the Syrian quagmire, making it grow much worse by the day.

History will tell us what exactly motivated President Trump to strike at the Syrian regime after its barbaric chemical weapons attack. We will see if this strike is the opening salvo of escalation, or a one-time strike intended to send a message. Still, President Trump should not have had to act at all. The Muslims should have taken care of the cancer of the Syrian civil war all by themselves.

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

We may never know why this man, Khalid Masood, decided to run over innocent people on Westminster Bridge and then stab a police officer to death. Of course, many – as always – are blaming his Islamic faith, but this is far too simplistic an answer, as research into the subject of terrorism shows.

Still, it is absolutely true that many of these “holy warriors” have criminal backgrounds and – as Rajan Basra of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London told NPR – some of them seek redemption through their acts of barbaric terror:

So we looked at criminals that became jihadists, and we saw two distinct patterns. The first was that they seek redemption from their violent pasts, from their criminal pasts in jihadism. Basically the idea of redemption is intrinsically linked to the idea of martyrdom, which says that the minute that you die, you will be absolved of your previous sins. You will be able to intercede on behalf of family members on the day of judgment.

So it has a very strong effect on people that are looking for this redemption in their lives. If that’s the case, we do have to ask ourselves, well, why is it that they get involved in jihadism and they don’t become let’s say Quakers or members of the Salvation Army beecause in the marketplace of ideas, there are many, many different ideologies that can offer this redemption and the ability to wipe the slate clean. And so our research really showed that perhaps it’s down to human networks – who you know, who you’re in touch with face to face or on the Internet, to a lesser degree. And they can introduce these ideas and kind of steer this person that is searching for this salvation and redemption into extremism.

Here is where we must be absolutely clear: redemption can never be gained through murder.

When turning over a new leaf, it is normal to feel guilt and perhaps shame over one’s past misdeeds. But to think that killing innocent people in London, or Paris, or Brussels, or Beirut, or Baghdad, or Pakistan will bring someone redemption and salvation is sheer madness. Further, it betrays the very letter and spirit of Islam. The Qur’an talks about gaining redemption, and it does not speak of murder at all:

Say: thus speaks God: “O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves, do not despair of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for verily, He alone is much-forgiving, and a dispenser of grace!” (39:53)

…do not lose hope of God’s life-giving mercy: verily, none but people who deny the truth can ever lose hope of God’s life-giving mercy (12:87)

Say: “Unto whom belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth?” Say: “Unto God, Who has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy… (6:12)

This is but a small sample of the dozens upon dozens of verses that speak of God’s limitless grace and mercy. And no where does it say that, to attain God’s grace and mercy, one must resort to murder. The Prophetic literature also speaks of God’s limitless mercy:

God says: ‘O Son of Adam, as long as you invoke Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O Son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and you then asked forgiveness from Me, I would forgive you. O Son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the Earth, and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it [too].’ [Tirmithi]

Again, no where is murder mentioned as a condition for redemption. Murder is a horrific crime. When one commits murder, as the Qur’an says in 5:32, it is “as if he has killed all humanity.” There is no way that, by committing this act of barbarity, one can become right with God.

Redemption can never be gained through murder.

Our Lord is a Beautiful, Loving God. No matter what someone has done in his life, all he has to do is turn to God with sincere repentance, and he will find a God full of love and grace and mercy. No sin is bigger than God’s mercy. No sin. He is always there waiting for us to return to His Door. And killing others can never open that door up.

This message has to be spread far and wide: Redemption can never be gained through murder. Never.

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

“Why do they hate us?”

This question is perpetually asked by us Westerners regarding the terrorist savages who attack us. Now, the issue of terrorism is much more complicated than simply the terrorists “hate our freedoms.” Nevertheless, when someone decides to mow down innocent people walking on Westminster Bridge, the question is a natural one. 

Yet an equally natural question that can be asked is, “why do the terrorists hate us (the Muslims)?”

Every time a terrorist savage kills innocents in the West, it increases pressure on the overwhelming majority of innocent Muslims living in the West. It causes an inevitable backlash against them, which causes even more hurt and pain beyond the attack. How can this possibly “help the cause of Islam and Muslims,” as they commonly claim they are doing? 

What’s more, this backlash may cause some Muslims – already suffering from alienation – to think that the West is at “war with Islam,” which feeds right into the savages’ false narrative. They use it as a recruiting tool, pointing to the backlash that they created to say, “See, Muslims? The West hates you. You need to join us.”

Beyond this, it is an undeniable fact the vast majority of the victims of “Radical Islamic Terrorism,” as our President is wont to call it, is ordinary Muslims themselves

My heart bleeds for London, and Paris, and Brussels. It’s terrible what the savages of ISIS have done. 

Yet my heart also bleeds for Baghdad, which suffered an attack on March 20. My heart bleeds for Pakistan, which has seen horrific violence committed by ISIS in February. They attack and kill any Muslim who doesn’t agree with their sick and twisted version of our religion, and there is no shortage of misery that these so-called “holy warriors” have caused all over Muslim-majority countries. 

In fact, a good deal of the refugee problem is due to the fact that Muslims would rather die trying to get to Europe than live under ISIS. This is the clearest rejection and condemnation of ISIS by Muslims for which people keep calling. 

So, yes, when ISIS attacks London, it makes sense to ask, “Why do they hate us (the West)?” But it makes equal sense to ask, “Why does ISIS hate us (the Muslims)?” This shows that ISIS and the other terrorist savages are enemies to all of us, and we need to stand together against their evil. 

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

I came across this tweet the other day:

The article, published in the Harvard Business Review, had very interesting facts on how quiet is actually necessary for our brains:

Author JK Rowling, biographer Walter Isaacson, and psychiatrist Carl Jung have all had disciplined practices for managing the information flow and cultivating periods of deep silence. Ray Dalio, Bill George, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan have also described structured periods of silence as important factors in their success.

Recent studies are showing that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work, and lead. Duke Medical School’s Imke Kirste recently found that silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory. Physician Luciano Bernardi found that two-minutes of silence inserted between musical pieces proved more stabilizing to cardiovascular and respiratory systems than even the music categorized as “relaxing.” And a 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, based on a survey of 43,000 workers, concluded that the disadvantages of noise and distraction associated with open office plans outweighed anticipated, but still unproven, benefits like increasing morale and productivity boosts from unplanned interactions.

The article goes on to make some excellent suggestions on how to incorporate quiet into our lives. 

Yet there is one more opportunity that is not mentioned in the article: daily ritual prayer. 

As a Muslim, I must make five ritual prayers throughout the day and night. The daily prayer was established, primarily, as a way to always keep God in our minds’ eyes. In the Quran, God told Moses:

“Verily, I – I alone – am God; there is no deity save Me. Hence, worship Me alone and be constant in prayer, so as to remember Me!” (20:14)

It is an essential aspect of the daily spiritual life of the Muslim believer. 

And it is the perfect opportunity to incorporate the quiet our brains need. 

If we can find a quiet place to perform our prayers, that would be great. The greater challenge for us, however, is to exert every effort to quiet our minds when we enter into prayer. That way, we can fulfill two purposes simultaneously: remembering God and giving our minds (and souls) their much needed silence. 

Now, if we are Muslim and don’t perform our daily prayers, it’s never too late. God has always been calling out to us, and it is on us to heed that call:

And if My servants ask thee about Me – behold, I am near; I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls unto Me: let them, then, respond unto Me, and believe in Me, so that they might follow the right way. (2:186)

When we pray, we are actually entering the Divine Presence and talking with God. That experience deserves our full attention. Thus, I’m grateful to the Lord I came across the tweet above. It has inspired me to redouble my effort to quiet my mind and focus when I start my prayers. I pray I will be successful. 

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

Christians have been under assault in some areas of the Middle East, with so-called “holy warriors,” more like satanic savages, attacking Christian churches and forcing them to leave their homes. Add to this the historical rivalry and conflict between Islamic and Christian civilizations, and one may be forgiven to think that Muslims have nothing in common with Christians and are destined to be bitter enemies forever.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Muslims and Christians have way, way more in common than in distinction, and nothing fits this bill more than the person of Jesus Christ. And an excellent book that explains how Jesus fits into Islamic belief, theology, and history – as well as Islam’s link to Judaism – is Mustafa Aykol’s book, “The Islamic Jesus.” 

Aykol is a regular columnist for the International New York Times, Hurriyet Daily News, and His 2011 book, “Islam without Extremes” was long-listed for the 2012 Lionel Gelber Prize. “The Islamic Jesus” is an easy and excellent read. I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Aykol by email:

Why write about Jesus?

First, he is one of the most influential human beings history – perhaps the most influential one. And that is thanks to no armies, no revolution, no power – just the power of his words that were initially followed by a handful of believers. That is really an amazing fact.

Second, Jesus is a figure that connects the three major Abrahamic faiths in a very interesting way. For Jews, he is one of them. For Christians, he is their Savior. For Muslims, he is an extraordinary prophet. He has something to say, therefore, for all of these three faiths.

I also thought that after Reza Aslan’s very successful book on Jesus, Zealot, another Muslim must write the Islamic Jesus, who is not really a Zealot. Reza, to his credit, did a good job of articulating a revisionist thesis on Jesus — that he was a Jewish rebel against Roman rule. But I neither find that thesis persuasive, nor I think that is what Islam teaches me about Jesus. Hence I wrote The Islamic Jesus.

Why is there such a close connection between Muslims and Jesus?

Well, actually there is not enough connection between contemporary Muslims and Jesus — and that is one reason I wrote this book: to call on fellow Muslims to contemplate on the teachings of Jesus.

The answer to your question, however, is simply the Qur’an. The Qur’an shows outmost respect to Mary and Jesus, and tells a lot about their extraordinary stories. It praises Mary as a woman “above all women,” and tells about her virgin birth. It tell hows Jesus performed miracles and called his people, the Jews, to be better believers. It even uses exceptional words to define Jesus such as “Word of God.”

Post-Qur’anic Islamic sources, such as the hadiths (“sayings” of the Prophet Muhammad), even tell that Jesus will come back to the earth, before the apocalypse, to lead both Muslims and Christians. All of that makes Jesus certainly a crucial figure for Muslims.

Given how honored Jesus is in Islam, why has there been so much animosity between Christians and Muslims?

First, conflicts between faith communities do not always arise from faith issues — there is mere geopolitics and mundane power struggles. Ottomans fought with Austro-Hungarians many times, for example, because both were empires trying to maximize their territories.

Second, religious affinity does not guarantee harmony. Let’s not forget that different Christian sects fiercely battled with each other for centuries. Their common love for Jesus, somehow, did not stop them killing each other as “heretics.”

Furthermore, while Jesus is both respected by Christians and Muslims, there is still a major gap between the two faiths: For Christians, Jesus is the divine Son of God. For Muslims, he is a human prophet, and it is blasphemy to believe in a divine Son of God. Some Muslims have even perceived the Doctrine of Trinity, in which most Christians believe, as a polytheistic heresy.

In my book, I go over some of these bones of contention between Islam and Christianity, and argue that they might not be as sharp as often thought. The term “Son of God,” for example, is more metaphorical than what Muslims typically perceive. (When you go back to its Jewish roots, the term is even more metaphorical, and in fact acceptable from an Islamic point of view.) Yes still, the Christian Jesus and the Islamic Jesus rest on theologies with major differences.

As a Muslim myself, I believe Jesus was just part of the entire religious history of monotheism. Did your research tell you the same? 

Yes, of course. Let aside our faith as Muslims, a plain reading of the New Testament gospels suggest that Jesus was reviver of the monotheistic faith that goes back to Abraham — and, in fact, Adam, the first man. He was in line with the older Jewish prophets, such as Jeremiah, Hosea, and Elijah, who called on their fellow Jews to be more pious and sincere in their faith. Unlike them, however, he also claimed to be “the Messiah,” the saviour that Jews awaited — a claim that the Qur’an notably confirms by repeatedly calling Jesus “the Messiah.”

But did Jesus have a universal mission that went beyond the Jewish people? Paul, of course, said “yes” to the question, and gave us the Christianity that we know today, with a radical break from Judaism. We Muslims can say “yes” to the same question as well, but not by taking the giant theological leap Paul took into what I would see as a more Greco-Roman concept of God.

Therefore we Muslims are at an interesting mid-point between Judaism and Christianity. We affirm Jesus was the Messiah that Jews should have followed. But we don’t go too far on this, to the level of seeing Jesus as divine, which is the mainstream Christian position. In fact, the Islamic view of Jesus perfectly matches with a lost strain within Christianity, which is known as “Jewish Christianity.” How was that possible is one of the key themes of my book.

What can Christians learn from this book?

They can learn that, first of all, early Christianity was much more diverse than what they have now as mainstream. The identity of Jesus was a big puzzle, and diverse answers were given, many of which vanished in history as “heresies.” Moreover, one of these heresies, Jewish Christianity, seem to precede Islam in the way it defined Jesus and in terms of its overall theology.

In other words, Christians can learn that Islam is not an alien religion. With its intriguing adoration for Jesus, Islam is in fact the closest faith on Earth to Christianity. This, of course, is a fact that Muslims should realize and keep in mind as well.

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

Steve King, Congressman from Iowa, came under fire for a tweet he issued today speaking of “restoring civilization”:

He was referencing Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has advocated:

…to “de-Islamise” the Netherlands by shutting mosques and Islamic schools, banning the Koran and having “zero asylum seekers and no immigrants anymore from Islamic countries”.

Muslims make up about 6 per cent of the Dutch population, mostly from Moroccan and Turkish backgrounds.

While campaigning in February, Mr Wilders said, “there is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who make the streets unsafe, mostly young people — and that should change”.

Such a worldview, aside from being racist and xenophobic, short-changes America to such a great degree. If Rep. King wants America to “return” to an exclusively White, Christian nation (which it never truly was in all of its history), he will rob America of what already makes her great: her beautiful diversity.

One of the greatest things about being a Muslim is that I am part of a global family of believers – very similar to Christianity – from every country and walk of life. All of us, together, form one family in faith. This global family is called the “ummah.”

America is a very similar “ummah.” Our country is one of the very few places in the world where people of all origins and ethnic backgrounds – bound together by our love of this country – come together and form one American family. It is one of the greatest things about being an American.

Why would Steve King, or anyone else for that matter, see this as a bad thing?

We are strengthened by our diversity; we are made better by the fact that people of all races and walks of life can live and prosper, here, side by side. Moreover, “Deus Vult,” or “God wills it”:

And among His wonders is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colors: for in this, behold, there are messages indeed for all who are possessed of innate knowledge (30:22).

Our diversity is a wonder, a miraculous sign from God. It is a Divine gift given to us here in America, and we should show our gratitude for this gift by embracing its beauty.

Why would Steve King, or anyone else for that matter, see this as a bad thing?