Common Word, Common Lord

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

It is no secret that the result of the election was not one for which I was hoping. That said, I am not going to go as far – with all due respect and admiration – to say that Donald J. Trump is not a legitimate President. He is our President, and he was chosen by our people to lead our country. And so, as he is set to take office on January 20, I offer this prayer, imagining what I would say if I was asked to pray at the Inauguration:

Inaguration Photo

Precious Beloved Lord our God:

By Your Eternal Grace and Mercy and Love do we all stand here today

By Your Eternal Grace and Mercy and Love does our democracy flourish

Whereas in so many other places in our world, with people just as honorable as we, there are “Presidents for life,” or “Presidents for one billion years,” or election results with 99.9% of the vote going to one candidate, we stand here today – in Your Grace and Mercy and Love – witnessing, yet again in our nation’s history, the peaceful transition of power.

This is a Grace that cannot be understated, and for this, our Lord, we thank You tremendously.

And so, Precious Beloved, as the new Administration takes the reins of our most beautiful nation, I ask that you bless all of those standing here.

Endow our leaders with wisdom and forbearance; endow them with grace and poise; endow them with the ability to always see each other as brothers and sisters, even if they vehemently disagree.

Bless our leaders with the vision and foresight to do what is right for all of us. Let them always remember that right is might, and not the other way around. Let them always remember that the power they wield is a trust from You, and Lord always keep in their mind’s eye that this power should never be abused.

Beloved Lord, there is much division in our country today. Beloved Lord, there is much that tears apart at our fabric as a nation and a people. Please, O Lord, heal us of rancor toward our American brothers and sisters. Protect us from never seeing the humanity of the other, despite our disagreements. Keep away from us the Evil Whisperer, whose very aim is to destroy our unity by making hatred reign supreme among us.

And finally, O Lord, please let us never forget that we, despite all that makes us different, are still one American family, shining ever so brightly under You, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

In Your Most Holy Name do I ask these things. Amen.

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

All throughout my life – in various months of the year, in various mosques across the world – I have heard, in beautiful and melodious Arabic, the story of Christmas:

AND CALL to mind, through this divine writ, Mary. Lo! She withdrew from her family to an eastern place and kept herself in seclusion from them, whereupon We sent unto her Our angel of revelation, who appeared to her in the shape of a well-made human being. She exclaimed: “Verily, ‘I seek refuge from thee with the Most Gracious! [Approach me not] if thou art conscious of Him!” [The angel] answered: “I’ am but a messenger of thy Lord, [who says,] `I shall bestow upon thee the gift of a son endowed with purity.'” Said she: “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me? – for, never have I been unchaste?” [The angel] answered: “Thus it is; [but] thy Sustainer says, `This is easy for Me; and [thou shalt have a son,] so that We might make him a symbol unto mankind and an act of grace from US. And it was a thing decreed [by God].

At one time, I did not understand the Arabic being recited. As I became older, however, God opened up to me the doors of Arabic understanding, and my admiration and love for the passages in the Qur’an about the birth of Christ only grew in strength. The verse quoted above is only a small part of a longer passage that details the birth of Christ and the scandal it engendered among the people at the time. And that passage also includes the miracle of a newborn Jesus speaking to the people in defense of his mother: 

[But] he [Jesus] said: “Behold, I am a servant of God. He has vouchsafed unto me revelation and made me a prophet, and made me blessed wherever I may be; and He has enjoined upon me prayer and charity as long as I live, and [has endowed me with] piety towards my mother; and He has not made me haughty or bereft of grace. “Hence, peace was upon me on the day when I was born, and [will be upon me] on the day of my death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life [again]!”

These verses occur in the 19th chapter of the Qur’an, aptly named “Mary,” and it isn’t the only place in which the story of the birth of Christ is recounted. There are dozens of verses in the Quran that speak about the miracles of Jesus (5:110), the Last Supper (5:113-115), among many others. His mother, the Virgin Mary, is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an. Christ, in fact, is mentioned more times in the Qur’an than the Prophet Muhammad himself. 

If only more people knew this truth about Islam and its deep love and honor for Jesus Christ. If only more people knew that belief in, and love for, Jesus Christ and his mother is an essential aspect of Islamic faith. If only more people knew that no devout Muslim would dare attack and malign Jesus Christ or his mother as some purported followers of Christ have done with the Prophet Muhammad. 

In the aftermath of a brutal election, in which the rhetoric against Islam and Muslims was so toxic solely for craven political gain, Christians and Muslims need to come together on areas in which they agree: a common love for Jesus Christ. Ideally, Christians, Muslims, and Jews should be the closest of religious communities, for they have so much in common as the living spiritual children of Abraham. 

Yes, there are savages (“barbarian” is too nice a word) who claim to act in Islam’s name that commit horrific crimes against Christians, including the recent attacks in Cairo and Berlin. These satanic monsters betray both the letter and spirit of Islam, which teaches deep love for Jesus Christ and respect and honor for his followers. 

Peace was upon me on the day when I was born,” the infant Jesus says in the Qur’an. As we approach December 25, the day Christians celebrate this momentous occasion, I pray that this very same peace reigns over our world and over all of us who live on it. I pray that this very same peace reigns over all communities of faith, so that the forces of hatred and division do not win the day. And I pray that this very same peace reigns over our country in the months and years ahead, and that we emerge an even greater people than we already are. 

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


Beautiful Beloved Lord my God,

You know, better than anyone in this universe, how I would quickly gloss over the horrific images coming out of Syria and Aleppo

You know, better than anyone in this universe, how I would try to always put the thoughts of what’s happening there out of my mind

And You know, better than anyone in this universe, that it was because I was ashamed; ashamed at my inability to do anything to help them

There is plenty of blame to go around for the carnage in Syria.

We, the entire human community, failed the innocents in Syria

Yet, worse yet, we – the Muslim community – failed the innocents of Syria even more

You told us that they are our sisters and brothers; You told us that You made their lives sacred

Yet, the Muslim world failed them. And it failed them miserably.

What’s worse, as You know, Muslims were actively involved in the carnage.

Savages – posing as Your “warriors” – committed horrific atrocities in Your name

And others – who claim to rule by Your law – fuel the fires of conflict on both sides

The shame of this horrible war is too ugly to bear, O Beautiful Lord, and there is nothing left to say.

Except, O Lord, I am sorry.

Forgive me for my inability to help.

Forgive me for my indifference.

Forgive me for not doing more to help the innocents who suffered so much.

Please, O Lord, do not judge me harshly for my failures.

Please, O Lord, look upon me with Grace, Mercy, and Love, despite my weakness

Please, O Lord, accept me into Your Presence despite the ugliness of my conduct on earth

And please, O Lord, shower Your Grace, Your Mercy, and Your Comfort on all those who are suffering, not only in Syria, but all over the world.

Please, O Lord, grace us with Your Mercy, otherwise we will all be forever lost.


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


My Lord, truly I dedicate to Thee what is in my belly, in consecration. So accept it from me. Truly Thou art the Hearing, the Knowing.

The woman was thinking she was going to have a boy, and thus she wanted to dedicate him to service, as a Priest, in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Lord, however, had other plans because, lo and behold, the child was a girl:

And when she bore her, she said, “My Lord, I have borne a female…and I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in Thee, and for her progeny, from Satan the outcast.”

At that time, women were not allowed to be Priests in the Temple. Yet, that did not stop this little girl from becoming one of the greatest women human history has ever seen, the Virgin Mary:

So her Lord accepted her with a beautiful acceptance, and made her to grow in a beautiful way, and placed her under the care of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah entered upon her in the sanctuary he found provision with her. He said, “Mary, whence comes this unto thee?” She said, “It is from God. Truly God provides for whomsoever He will without reckoning.”

These are verses 35-38 of the third chapter of the Quran. As can be seen, they detail in great beauty the birth of the Virgin Mary, one of the greatest events in the spiritual history of humanity.

Elsewhere in the Quran, it is said:

And [remember] when the angels said, “O Mary, truly God has chosen thee and purified thee, and has chosen thee above the women of the worlds. O Mary! Be devoutly obedient to thy Lord, prostrate, and bow with those who bow.” (3:43-44)

What’s more, Mary the mother of Christ is hailed as an exemplary believer:

And God sets forth as an example for those who believe…Mary, the daughter of ʿ Imrān, who preserved her chastity. Then We breathed therein of Our Spirit, and she confirmed the Words of her Lord and His Books; and she was among the devoutly obedient.” (66:11-12)

Given all this, I often scratch my head in puzzlement when I hear Christian missionaries claim that they want to “bring Jesus to Muslims.” The truth is we Muslims have had Jesus – and his mother – all along. In fact, the only woman to be mentioned by name in the Quran is none other than the Virgin Mary, whose namesake is given to chapter 19.

Yet, there is something I left out in the first passage from the Quran above. Right after the mother of Mary said, “My Lord, I have borne a female,” God interjects in the verse:

and God knows best what she bore, and the male is not like the female,

What this means is this: no male child could ever be like this female child Mary. If this child had been born a boy, like his mother thought, he would never have become as amazing, as extraordinary, as truly awe-inspiring as this female child Mary.

As Catholics the world over celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, which commemorates the birth of the Virgin Mary, let this Muslim declare to one and all, far and wide, my love for the Virgin Mary. Let this Muslim declare to one and all, far and wide, my admiration for the strength and power of this amazing mother. Let this Muslim declare to one and all, far and wide, my desire to meet her one day in the Lord’s Garden and kiss her hand.

And let this Muslim extend his hand to one and all, far and wide, in brotherhood to all those who share the love of the mother of Christ in his or her heart.

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

Out in northwest North Dakota, where the winds hit heavy on the borderline, rural Mountrail County backed Donald Trump, as did all but two of North Dakota’s 53 counties. And the city of Ross, population 97, voted a bit more heavily for Trump than the rest of the county and the rest of the state.

That’s notable because of the place Ross holds in the history of Islam in America.

It was in this farm town that in 1929 the first mosque purposely constructed as such in the United States was established.

Thus began the column by John Nichols, the national-affairs correspondent for the Nation. I’ve been a huge fan of his work for a long time, especially because of columns like this one. I have already learned a lot from him, and this column is no different.

I have always known that Islam’s history in the United States dates back to before its independence, but I did not know – until John Nichols educated me – that the oldest mosque in America was in Ross, North Dakota.

I doubt that Donald Trump knows there is a Ross, North Dakota, let alone that Muslim immigrants constructed a mosque there before he was born. I doubt that his aides know that Muslims were living and worshiping in the United States before the founders drafted a Constitution that guarded against religious tests and then added an amendment designed to preserve freedom of religion in a country where Thomas Jefferson believed that a mantle of protection should extend to “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”

But this history needs to be recalled, and respected, as President-elect Donald Trump begins to fill his administration with men like his incoming National Security Adviser, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who has claimed that “fear of Muslims is rational.”

The emphasis was mine. Yet, I cannot agree with him more: “this history needs to be recalled, and respected…”

There are those in our country that seek to “otherize” Islam and Muslims; they seek to make Islam “foreign”; they even cast doubt on whether Islam is a religion. This is wrong, and it tears at the fabric of our unity as a people.

Thank you, John Nichols, for this wonderful piece and reminder of the beautiful and vibrant history of American faith, which includes Islam.

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

With the election of Donald Trump and the fear that comes with his picks to essential law enforcement and Homeland Security posts, it is important to highlight the truth about American Islam and Muslims. While there are some in our country who seek to incite fear of Muslims in order to marginalize them, ordinary American Muslims are hard at work making their country a better place:

For 16 years, the Chicago Muslim community has distributed free Thanksgiving turkeys to underprivileged families on the South Side. But this holiday season, the group more than tripled the number of free birds from last year to 5,000 and expanded the project to eight elementary schools in three neighborhoods.

Dr. Sofia Shakir, an organizer of the annual turkey drive, said while plans to expand the effort had been underway for almost a year, it was serendipitous that it all came together after what she considered a discouraging presidential campaign — and now amid fears of being viewed as un-American by the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

The organizers of this annual drive – to which I have been honored and blessed to contribute for several years – are my good friends, and their work on behalf of the community is truly awe-inspiring. It truly puts me to shame.

Shakir and her husband, Dr. Jihad Shoshara, called the turkey drive a homecoming of sorts. As a student at the University of Chicago, Shakir tutored children after school in Woodlawn. Shoshara attended Chicago public schools. “The turkey drive is a small way in which I feel that I can give back,” he said.

“We are all part of the same,” Shakir said. “We’re not helping others. We’re helping our own.”


Shoshara said the project puts into practice Muslim teachings and fulfills one of the five pillars of Islam called zakat, or charity. For guidance, he looks to the Prophet Muhammad, who is believed to have said: “He is not a believer whose stomach is filled while the neighbor to his side goes hungry.”

But it’s about more than feeding the hungry, Shoshara said. It’s about giving families a way to make a meal and do something for their children.

“If you can have the turkey in your own home and celebrate like everyone else in America, that gives them a sense of dignity,” Shoshara said.

This is the truth of Islam and Muslims. Yes, there are some who are savage murderers. But, they are a tiny minority and are rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims all across the words.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims – inspired by their faith – are quietly working to make this world, their world, a better place for all, this annual Chicago Muslim Turkey Drive being only one example. This kind of story does not garner headline coverage – it does not bleed or explode. But it reflects the truth about American Islam and Muslims, and more people need to know this truth.

Join me on Twitter (@GodFaithPen).

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

It’s about time. 

In the wake of the unprecedented election of Donald Trump and his worrying appointments of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim ideologues, the American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America have come together. 

On November 14, both organizations announced the formation of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. As news reports said, 

Though Jewish and Muslim groups have cooperated before, the size and influence of these two particular groups — and the prominence of the people who have joined the council — marks a milestone in Jewish-Muslim relations. 

“Our council is coming at the right time,” said Eftakhar Alam, senior coordinator at ISNA’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances. 

“We have to show the administration that as American Muslims and Jews — people of the faiths of Abraham — we are uniting to help the administration navigate in the proper constitutional manner, to uphold freedom of religion and constitutional rights for all American citizens.”

Robert Silverman, AJC Director of Muslim-Jewish relations, also said:

“The Council’s formation shows that American Muslim and Jewish leadership are now working together, focused on domestic developments. This is a first and is good news for the entire country.”

This is truly heartening and one of – I pray – will be many silver linings of the election of Donald Trump. Our two communities are natural allies: we worship the same God of Abraham; we both seek to follow in Abraham’s enormous footsteps; we are both patriotic American communities of faith which desire the best for our country. 

This is in line with the letter and spirit of the Qur’an, which says:

…help one another in furthering virtue and God-consciousness, and do not help one another in furthering evil and enmity… (5:2)

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. Compete, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all must return; and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ. (5:48)

“Compete, then, with one another in doing good works.”

This is what I have always hoped for the American Jewish and Muslim communities. There are so many things that can separate us, and it is easy to let those forces tear us apart. 

But, really, we need to work together for the common good: not just the good of our two faith communities, but for the common good of all Americans, either of faith or no faith. We are all one American family. We need each other, now more than ever before. 

Join me on Twitter (@GodFaithPen). 

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

MAKE no mistake about it: the election of Donald Trump has made me fearful. The message sent to me – a born-and-raised American son of Muslim immigrants – by Trump’s victory was that I am not welcome here in my country. This feeling stems from the openly racist and xenophobic rhetoric that came from the Trump campaign, and its wholehearted support from openly racist elements of our society. My intellectually lazy conclusion from seeing so many people voting for Trump is that all of his supporters are racist.

But that’s my point: the conclusion that “all of Trump’s supporters are racist” is intellectually lazy, if not horribly simplistic and ignorant.

So, I searched for answers as to why so many people supported Trump in this election. And my wife gave it to me: this article. It is a long read, but it is well, well worth it. The author, David Wong, explained in great detail what happened:

See, political types talk about “red states” and “blue states” (where red = Republican/conservative and blue = Democrat/progressive), but forget about states. If you want to understand the Trump phenomenon, dig up the much more detailed county map. Here’s how the nation voted county by county in the 2012 election — again, red is Republican:


Every TV show is about LA or New York, maybe with some Chicago or Baltimore thrown in. When they did make a show about us, we were jokes — either wide-eyed, naive fluffballs (Parks And Recreation, and before that, Newhart) or filthy murderous mutants (True Detective, and before that, Deliverance). You could feel the arrogance from hundreds of miles away.

“Nothing that happens outside the city matters!” they say at their cocktail parties, blissfully unaware of where their food is grown. Hey, remember when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans? Kind of weird that a big hurricane hundreds of miles across managed to snipe one specific city and avoid everything else. To watch the news (or the multiple movies and TV shows about it), you’d barely hear about how the storm utterly steamrolled rural Mississippi, killing 238 people and doing an astounding $125 billion in damage.

But who cares about those people, right? What’s newsworthy about a bunch of toothless hillbillies crying over a flattened trailer? New Orleans is culturally important. It matters.

To those ignored, suffering people, Donald Trump is a brick chucked through the window of the elites. “Are you a**holes listening now?


I truly did not understand how bad the devastation is for so many of my fellow Americans who live in rural America. I am a city-boy, always have been. Heck, there were towns in Illinois that I did not know even existed until a job change took me to the far Western Suburbs of Chicago.

By the Beautiful Grace of the Beloved, I was spared from the worst effects of the economic downturn. But, so many people were not, and the recovery has not touched them in the least. They are still in a lot of pain, and no one has been listening to them, as Wong explains:

See, rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, etc. When it dies, the town dies. Where I grew up, it was an oil refinery closing that did us in. I was raised in the hollowed-out shell of what the town had once been. The roof of our high school leaked when it rained. Cities can make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs with service jobs — small towns cannot. That model doesn’t work below a certain population density.

If you don’t live in one of these small towns, you can’t understand the hopelessness.


The rural folk with the Trump signs in their yards say their way of life is dying, and you smirk and say what they really mean is that blacks and gays are finally getting equal rights and they hate it. But I’m telling you, they say their way of life is dying because their way of life is dying. It’s not their imagination. No movie about the future portrays it as being full of traditional families, hunters, and coal mines. Well, except for Hunger Games, and that was depicted as an apocalypse.

So yes, they vote for the guy promising to put things back the way they were, the guy who’d be a wake-up call to the blue islands. They voted for the brick through the window.

It was a vote of desperation.

The article goes into much more detail, and I urge my readers to check it out. But it gave me a much better picture of what is really going on in America and a much better perspective on what happened in the election. What’s more, it has given me some relief. Trump’s (now not so surprising) victory was not because half of the country hates me for my race and religion (although, no doubt, a good many of his supporters probably do). It was because so many people are in suffering in pain, and voting for Donald Trump was their way of giving voice to that pain.

And this gives me – and the rest of the country – a starting point from which we can move forward. The country has spoken: Donald J. Trump will be our next President. But rather than sulk from this reality or cower in fear, we must come together as a people and work for the betterment of our country.

True, we must stand up to the bigots who now feel emboldened by Trump’s win and show them – with grace and goodness – that their hatred is not acceptable. But I still believe that we are one American family, we must all work together to relieve the suffering of anyone in this great American family. I hope and pray that President Trump will join us in this quest and help make America even greater than she already is.


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

I WAS BLESSED to finally see Hamilton this last weekend in Chicago. It was a birthday gift for my eldest daughter who is gaga over everything Hamilton. I must admit, I wasn’t too much into it at first, but as the show went on, it grew on me. Now, I’m a big fan. 

One thing I didn’t know going into the show was that many of the Founding Fathers – Washington, Jefferson, Madison – were played by African-American actors. I must confess it was a little weird at first. But, I am very grateful to say, as the show went on, the actors’ ethnicity didn’t matter at all. Each one of them became Washington, or Jefferson, or Madison. 

That had a profound effect on me, and it made me think of this horrifically divided election. Our healing has to start now. 

Sure, we are different on many levels: socially, economically, religiously, ethnically, to name a few. But just like I was blessed to see through the actors’ ethnicities during Hamilton, we must all see through our backgrounds and see each other for who we really are: members of one big American family. 

After everything that’s been said and done during this election, it will hard to forget that a substantial portion of my American family hates me for my faith, hates me for my background, wants me and my relatives banned from the country. While I can never bring myself to support Donald Trump with my money ever again, I have to begin the process in my own heart to prevent the anger and hurt extend to all those fellow Americans who have supported him through and through. 

I must admit, it will be very difficult. But I have to do it, for the good of our people and our country. 

Scripture has told me to do so: 
But [since] good and evil cannot be equal, repel [evil] with something that is better and lo! he between whom and thyself was enmity [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [unto thee], a true friend! (41:34)

This is the way of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This is the way of Jesus Christ (pbuh). I must strive – do Jihad – to do the same. 

If I wrote this after the election, I suspect many may say: “You talk about healing because your Candidate won.” That’s why I’m writing this now. We have to start healing our fractures and divisons now, before the results of the election are known. 

Several weeks ago, I had a very passionate (read: heated) argument with a cousin of mine about politics. Voices – mainly mine – were raised and tempers – mainly mine – flared. But when it was all said and done, I sent him this message: 

No matter how “passionate” I get, you must know my love for you runs very deep…I pray you have no hard feelings. We are blood. And at the end of the day that’s all that matters. 

I disagree with the politics of many of my fellow Americans. I am distressed that they would support a candidate who spews full-throated  bigotry and division. I am saddened that there are Americans who espouse racial or religious hatred. 

And while I don’t have to agree with them, at the end of the day, they are part of my American family. I pray, Sweet Beautiful Lord, that our people can be healed from hatred, and we can all come together as Your American children. Amen, O Lord, Amen. 

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

THE RIGHT (and privilege, frankly) to vote has not always universal like it is today. When our country was first founded, slaves were not even considered full human beings. Women were only given the right to vote in this country in 1920, less than one hundred years ago. And when African-Americans were finally freed, they were subjected to terrorism when they asserted their equal rights before the law.

Countless men and women before me have shed their blood and died to give me the right to vote. Too many people sacrificed way too much on my behalf for me to let that sacrifice be in vain.

That is why I cannot countenance, even for a second, sitting out this – or any other – election.

The same should be with the rest of us, most especially my sisters and brothers in the American Muslim community. A full 1/3 of the American Muslim community is African-American, and so they know all too well the sacrifices made for the good of the country. But many in the American Muslim community are immigrants or the sons and daughters of immigrants, hailing from countries where the rulers in power win “elections” by 99.999% of the vote.

That is why, in my mind, no American Muslim should EVER sit out an election. Too much is at stake for American Muslims to not make their voices heard. As it has been said by many, “If you not at the table, then you are on the menu.”

We cannot afford to be on the menu; especially not this year.

For far too long, American Muslims – among many other groups in America – have been used as subjects of fear and hatred for cynical political gain. For far too long, innocent American Muslims – among many other groups in America – have been the subject of hate crimes and physical attacks as a result of that fearmongering. For far too long, American Muslims – among many other groups in America – have suffered senselessly.

That is why American Muslims cannot countenance, even for a second, siting out this – or any other – election.

Writer Bob Cesca tweeted this recently:

And so I replied this way:

Too much is at stake for us to stay home on November 8. We ALL must get out and vote and make our voices heard. And that ESPECIALLY MEANS YOU, American Muslims. That especially means you.

Join me on Twitter @GodFaithPen