Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

May The Hajj Be Safe From the Evil of KIL (aka, ISIS)

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

This is a special time of year for Muslims all over the world. As I write this, millions of Muslims from around the world are descending upon the holy city of Mecca to begin what will likely be the most powerful spiritual experience of their lifetimes. The annual Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is set to begin tomorrow. The Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage and series of rituals that every Muslim – if physically and financially able – must perform.

I was blessed to perform the Hajj in 2003, and it was as if it was yesterday. The lessons and experiences I had during that time will always be with me, and no matter where I am, the holy places always call me back to them.

Unfortunately, however, this year there seems to be extra concern over the threats of an attack by the barbarians of KIL (aka, ISIS):

Each year, as the crowds of millions of Muslims who come to Mecca for the hajj continue to grow, Saudi Arabian authorities have stepped up safety and security measures. There is a long list of troubles they hope to avoid: crime, fire, stampedes, the spread of infectious disease.

But this year, Saudi officials are on alert against a new threat: Islamic State militants and offshoot groups inspired by them.

Indeed, attacks by extremists are nothing new:

“Judging from its published statements and videos and its penchant for revolting acts of violence, I would not be surprised at all if ISIS tried to disrupt the hajj in some fashion,” said Fahad Nazer, a terrorism analyst with the Virginia-based contractor JTG Inc. and a former political analyst at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. “After all, a group with very similar extremist views did lay siege to the Grand Mosque in 1979, shortly after the end of the hajj season that year.”

The 1979 incident, where hundreds of militants led by Saudi national Juhayman al-Otaybi seized Mecca’s Masjid Al-Haram, also known as the Grand Mosque, for two weeks, was the most dramatic case of violence around the time of the hajj. But it was far from the most recent. In 1987, a riot caused by a clash between anti-American Iranian demonstrators and Saudi security forces led to more than 400 deaths, while two bombs set off in 1989 killed one pilgrim and injured 16. Saudis beheaded 16 Kuwaiti Shias for the crime.

Still, for the barbarians of KIL to try to do anything to disrupt the Hajj would be a new low. The whole area surrounding the holy shrine at Mecca is considered a haram, or sacred sanctuary. No living thing is supposed to be harmed within its boundaries. This law dates back to the Patriarch Abraham himself. The pagan enemies of the Prophet Muhammad dared not violate this sanctity.

Yet, would I be surprised if KIL tried to commit acts of violence during this or any subsequent Hajj? Not really. These criminals have shown themselves to have little regard for basic human decency, let alone the sanctity of life. But it will only increase my already strong revulsion for them and their ilk. Every sacred space – no matter where the place and the faith – should be a place of peace and sanctity.

I pray that the Lord God protects His house – and the guests blessed to visit it – from the bloody hands of these monsters. And I pray that every pilgrim is blessed with the most powerful spiritual experience in their life, and that they come back from Mecca with both their faith and their spirituality renewed and recharged.

The Real Name for ISIS Should Be KIL: “The Kharijites of Iraq and the Levant”

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

Now that airstrikes against ISIS positions in both Iraq and Syria have begun, it seems that the United States has entered into a long war against the barbarians who call themselves the “Islamic State.” Now, I have a real problem with this name, because what they are doing is hardly Islamic, even though they have “Islamic” in their name. In fact, some have noted the deliberate effort on the part of Administration and other officials to call this group by another name: ISIL, i.e., “The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.”

Yet, they should not be called ISIS or ISIL at all. I have a different name for them: KIL, or the “Kharijites of Iraq and the Levant.”

Who were the Kharijites?

The Kharijites (lit., “those who went out”) go back to the very beginnings of Islamic history. During the reign of the fourth caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib — the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, and the first Imam in Shia theology — a dispute raged over leadership, and it ended up causing civil war. The governor of Damascus, Mu’awiyah, was one of Ali’s principal opponents, and their forces met during the Battle of Siffin in 658. After this battle, both Ali and Mu’awiyah agreed to arbitration.

The Kharijites rejected this arbitration and rebelled against them both. Their theology was extreme, believing that anyone who commits a grave sin is no longer a Muslim and is to be killed unless they repent. They wreaked havoc on Muslim societies for decades, initiating many rebellions against Muslim authorities. In fact, caliph Ali himself was assassinated by the Kharijites.

The barbarians of ISIS, like Al Qaeda and other extremists, are the Kharijites of our time. If you are not a Muslim like them, then you are an “apostate” who should be killed. The barbarians of ISIS – just as the Kharijites – divide the world into the dar al Islam (“realm of Islam”) and dar al harb (“realm of war,” i.e., nonbelievers). The barbarians of ISIS – just as the Kharijites – believe that a perpetual war must be fought to turn all areas into dar al Islam, and this can include murder against innocents.

The term khawarij, Arabic for Kharijite, has a particularly negative connotation among Muslims across the world, as this history is well-known and well understood. If the prevailing perception of ISIS can be changed from “jihadi” to “khariji,” i.e., Kharijite, it would go a long way to poison their image and expose them for who they really are: violent extremists.

Thus, rather than calling them ISIS, I will call them KIL.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) predicted the coming of the Kharijites:

There would arise from my Ummah (i.e., followers) a people who would recite the Qur’an, and your recital would seem insignificant as compared with their recital, your prayer as compared with their prayer, and your fast, as compared with their fast. They would recite the Qur’an thinking that it supports them, whereas it is an evidence against them. Their prayer does not get beyond their collar bone; they would swerve through Islam just as the arrow passes through the prey.

What’s more, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali, talked about the Kharijites as well:

When you see the black flags, remain where you are and do not move your hands or your feet. Thereafter there shall appear a feeble, insignificant folk. Their hearts will be like fragments of iron. They will have the state. They will fulfill neither covenant nor agreement. They will call to the truth, but they will not be people of the truth. Their names will be parental attributions, and their aliases will be derived from towns. Their hair will be free-flowing, like that of women. This situation will remain until they differ among themselves. Thereafter, God will bring forth the Truth through whomever He wills.

The barbarians of KIL are exactly as Caliph Ali described:

  1. Their flags are black.
  2. They will be ruthless, with hearts like “fragments of iron.”
  3. They will claim a state.
  4. They will have long hair (look at pictures of many of their fighters).
  5. Their names will be parental attributions, and their aliases will be derived from towns,” i.e. “Abu Bakr al Baghadadi,” which means “Abu Bakr from Baghdad”; or “Abu Abdallah al Beljiki,” which means “Abu Abdallah the Belgian.”

I have been writing since at least 2008 that terrorists such as Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and now ISIS, should be called Kharijites. All Muslims should heed the advice of Imam and Caliph Ali: “Remain where you are and do not move your hands or your feet,” which means do not join them or support them.

No one should be fooled by these religious charlatans. They are barbaric killers, and they must be opposed by every means necessary.  And part of that effort should be calling them who they really are: Kharijites. Thus, from now on, at least to me, ISIS will be now known as KIL, “The Kharijites of Iraq and the Levant.” May the Lord of Hosts destroy them and their evil actions.

Noor Inayat Khan: A Muslim Heroine For Everyone

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

In today’s day and age, there seems to be little patience for context and nuance. Much of the information obtained about truly complex issues is reduced to sound-bytes, headlines, and video clips. This is especially true when it comes to issues related to Islam, Muslims, and the happenings in the Muslim world.

And much of the news coming out the Muslim world today is not good at all.

Worse, much of that terrible news – such as the barbarism of ISIS – gets conflated with Muslims and their faith. Yet, the truth belies the headlines and video clips. There is so much more to the Muslim community, both here and abroad, and there are many, many more good stories about Islam and Muslims than there are bad. They just have to be told.

Enter Unity Productions Foundation, an American not-for-profit media company that seeks to, in the words of co-founder Alex Kronemer, “serve the cause of peace and understanding in part by expanding the narrative about Muslims to American audiences.” On September 9, UPF will air its latest film, “Enemy of the Reich,” to a nationwide audience on PBS. The film is a  “docudrama” about Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim woman of Indian and American descent who worked as a covert British agent assisting the French resistance against Nazi occupation during World War II.

Driven by deep-rooted Muslim spiritual values, her courageous actions in Nazi-occupied Paris are nothing short of extraordinary. The story of Noor Inayat Khan is truly inspirational, and Ms. Khan is a heroine – a Muslim heroine – that can inspire everyone to greatness. The film is very well done, and it is something the whole family can enjoy.

In an interview for this piece, Executive Producer Alex Kronemer said:

[Co-Executive Producer Michael Wolfe] and I were doing a bit of research and started uncovering several stories of Muslims who did heroic things during World War II.  The more we looked the more we found, such as the Paris Mosque, which hid Jews during the war; the Franco-Muslim Hospital in Paris that sheltered shot down US and British aviators and was awarded a medal from President Eisenhower after the war, the many Algerian Immigrants  who joined there French Resistance, and the fact that the largest volunteer army during World War II were from the Indian subcontinent.  What we found, in fact, was that Muslims did many heroic things during the war on the Allied side, yet few of those stories had been told. 

The release of this film is particularly relevant because, this year is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and as Kronemer said, “including at least one of the Muslim stories…is important at a time when most of what people hear about Muslims focuses on bad guys.”

Yet, as important as telling this story to American audiences is, it is just as important for Muslim audiences as well:

For any one raising Muslim children in America, it is important that they have Muslim heroes and heroines who are relevant to this American society that they are growing up in. There is sometimes a bit of a schizophrenia that our children experience between their Muslim identities and American identities.  This story is one that unites those identities by telling a story of a Muslim woman who did something important to Western History. 

“Enemy of the Reich,” narrated by Academy Award winning actress Helen Mirren,  is a truly amazing documentary, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film. I must confess that, before this film was made, I had no idea who Noor Inayat Khan was. I am blessed to know her now, and I am confident you will as well.

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Indonesia: One Of The Many Places You Can Find True Islam (RNS)

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

While the barbarians of ISIS – and Islamophobes – like to claim that they are the only true Muslims on the earth, reality says something much different. My good friend and Editor-in-Chief of the Religion News Service, Kevin Eckstrom, wrote a beautiful post about Islam in Indonesia, and how this is one of the real faces of Islam, as opposed to the barbarism shown by ISIS:

JAKARTA, Indonesia (RNS) I woke up this morning to the news that the thugs in the Islamic State had beheaded yet another American journalist. Not a great way to wake up.

The name “Islamic State” is unfortunate on a number of levels – the group behind it is neither Islamic nor a state. Sure, they may be Muslims acting in the name of Islam, but the Muslim leaders I’ve met here are clear that it’s not a form of Islam that they recognize, or embrace.

“ISIS is not born from the heart of the Muslim people,” said Kyai al-Hajj Ali Musthafa Ya’qub, the grand mufti of the national mosque of Jakarta, using another acronym for the Islamic State. “Islam is what Allah the exalted says, not what Muslims do.”

Here in the heart of the world’s most populous Muslim nation, you encounter a different vision of Islam than the one most Americans see beamed out of the Middle East. Some would call it moderate, or centrist, and tolerance for other faiths is deeply embedded in its DNA. In a country that is 87 percent Muslim, there’s a surprising amount of room for everyone else.

“We need to change this idea that the Middle East is where we need to look” for what Islam looks like, said Lukman Hakim Saefuddin, the government’s minister of religious affairs.

Which brings us back to this idea of an Islamic state — a concept that has never found much favor in a country that claims more Muslims than any other. To be sure, there are controversial blasphemy laws, and the province of Aceh has implemented Shariah law (more on that in a later post). But the country remains a secular democracy whose founding principles include a “belief in the One and Only
God,” but doesn’t mention the term Allah.

Unlike Pakistan or Iran or Egypt, Islam is not the state religion here. Islam certainly has primacy of place, but it’s one of six officially recognized religions. There’s a sense of “Godly nationalism,” as one scholar put it, where Islam is just one of many claims on a national and individual identity.

“We are Indonesians who happen to be Muslims, not simply Muslims who happen to live in Indonesia,” Saefuddin said. For a man charged with safeguarding the faith of some 200 million Muslims, that’s quite a statement.

He goes on to explain the particular characteristics of Indonesian Islam and society. It is a great read, and it shows that the face that ISIS shows the world is far from the true face of Islam, an example of which is shown in Indonesia. Read the entire post here.

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