Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

A Welcome Addition: Women-Only Mosque Opens in Downtown L.A.

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

It always did pain me. In many mosques – too many, actually – the space for women is woefully inadequate (if not downright gross). Of course, I never saw these spaces for myself, but I learned from my own family and from my reading of some Muslim women’s experiences. Hence my complete delight at the opening of a Women-Only mosque in Downtown L.A.:

In what may have been a unique moment in America, more than 100 women gathered Friday at the interfaith Pico-Union Project. While many mosques continue to follow a tradition of separating women from male congregants, the downtown Los Angeles mosque forbids men from attending.


Female-only mosques may exist in China, Chile and India, but Muslim leaders say this could be the first in the U.S.

The inaugural prayer Friday marked the launch of the Women’s Mosque of America, a nonprofit that hopes to create a space where Muslim women can “bring their whole self,” learn more about their faith and foster bonds of sisterhood.

Of course, I believe all mosques should have inviting spaces for both men and women. I believe that Muslim women should be made to feel welcome and part of the community as a whole. In no way, shape, or form can a community prosper if its women are suppressed or mistreated. The first Friday prayer at this mosque brought some of its congregants to tears:


Because many spaces for women in many mosques are not as appealing or accessible as the areas for men, an open environment is integral for growth, said Sana Muttalib, co-president of the women’s mosque. Often, women are forced to enter through side or back doors to reach their segregated areas, she explained.

In most mosques, women are hard-pressed to find the opportunity to ask the imam questions after prayer. But on Friday, a female speaker (or khateeba) addressed women’s issues and held a discussion circle after the prayer service.

Many women expressed their gratitude at the chance to share their thoughts. Some cried and called the experience liberating.

On the one hand, it is sad that some of my Muslim sisters had to go to such a length as opening a Women-Only mosque to get a spiritually fulfilling experience. At the time of the Prophet (pbuh), such was not the case. Although they did pray separately (women behind the men), there was no barrier like there is in many mosques today. In fact, tradition states that the women would complain to the Prophet (pbuh) about the men encroaching upon their space in the mosque.


Still, such a mosque is a most welcome addition to the family of mosques in America. I pray for its tremendous success, and it would bring me no small amount of joy if more such mosques dot the American Muslim religious landscape in the near future. All of us – men and women – are the beloved children of God. Each of us deserves a sacred space in which to connect to Him.


The Protesters in Texas Would Have Learned So Much If They Just Spoke to the Muslims Across the Street

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

I watched with dismay a video of the hundreds of protesters that gathered outside a conference of Muslims entitled, “Stand With the Prophet Against Terror and Hate” in Texas this past weekend. Whenever fellow Americans gather to “protest” the presence of Muslims – who are also Americans like them – it is quite hurtful. Yet, what I found fascinating – all the while truly sad – was that there was a counter-protest of Muslims just across the street. And I wonder about the great things that could have happened if the protesters had simply walked across the street and talked to their fellow Americans who are Muslim.


One of the many signs carried by protesters read: “No Allah in America.” I found that quite odd because, Allah – which is to say, “God” – is everywhere, including America. Now, I assume this person holding the sign is a Christian. I wonder at his amazement if he learned that, in the many churches in America which cater to Arab faithful, God is called “Allah.” I wonder at his amazement when he learns that Jesus Christ himself called God by the name “Allah”:

Beyond this fact, however, is that “Allah” is also the name that Jesus Christ called God. “Allah” is the Arabic equivalent of “Elohim,” which is Hebrew for God. The “im” is a plural appendage of respect, and so the wordis “Eloh,” which is very similar to “Allah.” In addition, the Aramaic word for God is “Alaha,” and Aramaic was the language which Jesus himself spoke. Moreover, the word “Allah” is found in the English version of the Bible which we read today. In Matthew 27:46 we read: “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” The word “Eloi” is the Aramaic form of the Arabic “Allah.”


He could have learned this if he just walked across the street and talked with his fellow Americans who were Muslim. Many of the protesters would have likely been quite surprised at how similar they are to American Muslims; how American Muslims believe in and worship the very same God as they; how American Muslims honor and revere the very same Prophets as they, including Jesus Christ; how American Muslims have the same aspirations and dreams as they; how American Muslims love and believe in this amazing place called America, just like they do.

They would have learned all this if they simply crossed the street and joined their fellow Americans in dialogue. Although it could not be seen, there was a huge wall between the protest and the counter-protest. But that wall would have come crashing down if the “patriots” protesting against Islam would have crossed the street.


I know this to be true because of a personal experience I recently had. I was at a gathering of one of my neighbors when another guest walked up to my wife and me and asked, “You guys are Muslim, right?” Nervously, we both answered, “Yes.” He then proceeded to ask us what was the matter with “the Muslims.” He wasn’t particularly mean-spirited, but he was sincerely wondering based on the snippets he sees all over the media.

Frankly, given the horrific press Islam and Muslims get on a regular basis, I don’t necessarily blame him for the question. But, what I appreciated was that he came up to us and asked the question, all the while qualifying it by saying, “I see that you guys are here and having a good time.” And after my wife and I calmly explained to him that what he sees is not the reality, he hugged the both of us, in true sincerity.

That is the sort of dialogue that needs to happen more and more, all across our country. When we learn about one another, we will realize that we are much more similar than we are different. And the forces of hate and discord that seek to keep us divided will fail miserably.


An Important Story That Was Not As Prominent In The Charlie Hebdo Saga

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

There has been so much talk about Muslims and Islam in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. This talk will most certainly continue. Yet, I wanted to highlight a very important story that may have gotten lost in the wake of the attack and subsequent show of support in France:

Lassana Bathily, a young Muslim deli clerk who was working at Hyper Cacher store in Paris during Friday’s deadly hostage-taking, is being hailed as a hero. People in Paris and around the world took to social media to sing Bathily’s praises and credit him for saving six people’s lives by hiding them in a walk-in freezer. Bathily, 24, hid the customers when gunman Amedy Coulibaly, 32, stormed the market on Friday, took 15 people hostage and murdered four more. “I turned off the light. I turned off the freezer. Once we were inside, I closed the door, and I told them, ‘Stay here, stay calm. I’m going out,’ the Mali-born Parisian told BFMTV.


Although he was initially handcuffed by police when he went out to tell them about the gunman, it was his information to the police that led to the end of the siege. This man, Lassana Bathily, represents the truth about Islam and Muslims. This man, along with Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabat, tells the real story of how Muslims contribute to the greatness of each society in which they live.

Yes, I did tweet “Je Suis Charlie” in the immediate aftermath of the attack, out of sheer repugnance for the crime. But, I am disgusted by their cartoons, all the while condemning the violent response to it. In reality, “Je Suis Ahmed” and “Je Suis Lassana.” That is to say, “I am Ahmed” and “I am Lassana.”


“Je Suis Charlie”: The Paris Attackers Did Not ‘Avenge’ The Prophet Muhammad…They Spat In His Face

In The Name Of God: The Infinitely Merciful And Compassionate Beloved Lord

When I heard the news of the horrific attack on the offices of satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, my heart sank in terrible grief. Two masked gunmen, in a military-style attack, burst into the editorial offices and murdered 12 people in cold blood. And what made it worse for me is the fact that they did it in the name of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad!” Charlie Hebdo was well known for publishing unflattering cartoons and other pieces mocking the Prophet Muhammad specifically and religious extremists in general, often bringing upon it and its journalists death threats.


Apart from the revulsion I have to the murder of any innocent life, the fact that this act of terror was committed in the name of God and His Prophet is doubly painful. And what I still cannot understand is how people like this can even think that our religion gives sanction to do something like this. Of course, an insult to the Prophet Muhammad is painful for most – if not all – Muslims across the globe. Yet, no matter the attack on the Prophet, nothing justifies such a terrible crime that was seen in Paris yesterday.

Moreover, in the Qur’an, it specifically states what should be done when people mock God and His Prophet:

And, indeed, He has enjoined upon you in this divine write that, whenever you hear people deny the truth of God’s messages and mock at them, you shall avoid their company until they begin to talk of other things  – or else, you will become like them. Behold, God will gather together those who deny the truth and the hypocrites in Hell. (4:140)


The Qur’an also says:

Now, whenever you meet such as indulge in [blasphemous] talk about Our messages, turn your back upon them until they begin to talk of other things, and if Satan should ever cause you to forget [yourself], remain not, after recollection, in the company of such evildoing folk. (6:68)

Nowhere does it say that you have the right or even permission to kill such people. Nowhere does it say that you can threaten anyone who insults the Prophet Muhammad, however painful such an insult may be to hear. That anyone can justify such heinous acts of barbarity – such as that seen in Paris – is beyond my comprehension.

In addition, since childhood, Muslims have been taught that – throughout the Prophet’s life – he was the subject of countless insults and ridicule, and he never ordered anyone to kill those who insulted him. Since childhood, I was taught the story of how the Prophet’s neighbor threw trash on his front door every day, and he did nothing to that person. In fact, when that neighbor stopped placing trash, he visited her to see what was the matter. Time and time again, the Prophet forgave those who personally attacked and maligned him.


That is the example we ought to follow. That is what Islam teaches. There are so many other ways that Muslims – who truly love the Prophet – can speak out against those who mock him: they could write a letter to the editor; they can hold a candle light vigil in front of the office, speaking about all the wonderful things the Prophet has done; they can meet with the editorial board and teach them how important the Prophet is to the lives of ordinary Muslims. Anything but violence and murder.

The gunmen in Paris did not “avenge” the Prophet Muhammad; they spat in his face.

I pray that the gunmen are caught and brought to justice. I pray that, if convicted, these murderers are punished in the severest manner possible. I pray for the families of the victims and all the people of Paris: may our Lord be with you, and may He comfort you in this time of terrible grief and sadness.


Je Suis Charlie. I am indeed Charlie. I do not support the mocking of the Prophet Muhammad – any more than I support the mocking of Jesus Christ, or Moses, or Abraham – may God’s peace be upon them all. Yet, I also condemn and revile – in the severest manner possible – this barbaric act of murder supposedly carried out in his name. In no way, shape, or form is this a way to show love for the Prophet Muhammad. No way.

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