Common Word, Common Lord

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?

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

While reading my Twitter feed, I came across a post that had the hashtag “deusvult.” I had never seen that before, and I subsequently learned that it was the battle cry of the First Crusaders, Latin for “God wills it.” It made me think of the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is the Greatest.” Unfortunately, many a savage terrorist will use this phrase as a “battle cry” today.

Now, the phrases themselves – “Deus Vult” and “Allahu Akbar” – are not problematic; in fact, they speak words of truth. But their particular historical contexts make their connotations unpleasant or even loathsome.

We need to change these connotations.


“Allahu Akbar” was never intended to be the “battle cry” of Muslims, the contentions of many notwithstanding. I hate it when Muslim terrorists use (and subsequently defile) this phrase. “Allahu Akbar” teaches us humility. It reminds the Muslim believer that God is Supreme, that God is greater than anyone or anything in this universe. Muslims use this phrase to begin each of their daily ritual prayers, and it is a major portion of the Muslim call to prayer.

Yes, Christians may have used “Deus Vult” as a battle cry to justify their slaughter of Muslims and Jews in the Holy Land, but to me, it means something completely different. To me, it is a reminder of what God really wants of humanity:

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, therefore, 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)

God has never “willed” for us to kill and slaughter one another. Never.

Rather, God wants us to work together for the common good. God wants us to see beyond our differences and focus on our common humanity and common love for Him and His people. God wants us to come together, both as believers in Him and fellow human beings, to make this world as beautiful a place as it can possibly be.

This is because “Allahu Akbar,” or because “God is the Greatest.” When we come together as one, it is because “Deus Vult,” or because “God wills it.”

I would be honored if joined me on Twitter

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

The religious hatred I have been seeing in our country has made me very concerned. Almost by the day, there are threats to Jewish Community Centers, Synagogues, and even Jewish children’s museums. Muslims have not been spared, either, as hate crimes against Muslims in America have soared, especially since the election of Donald Trump.

In the eternal words of Master Yoda: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” People fear what they do not know, and it does not take much for that fear to lead to hatred. And some, unfortunately, take this hatred and use it to commit violence, be they the savages of ISIS or right-wing terrorists. The only way to lead out of the darkness of hate is to bring in the light of knowledge.

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Enter Reza Aslan and his new show, “Believer.” Premiering on Sunday March 5, “Believer” takes the viewer on a spiritual journey alongside Aslan, scholar of religion and author of many books, most recently Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

Last week’s episode delved into the Aghori sect of Hindusim, and – as someone who knows very little about Hinduism in general – it was very enlightening for me. And it reiterated, to me, the utmost importance of getting to know one another so we can erase hatred of each other.

We are in an age where there is so much religious-based hatred and violence. Here in America, Jewish centers are targeted by bomb threats; mosques are set on fire; Jewish cemeteries are desecrated; Sikhs are shot after being told to “get out my country.” The only way we can erase the scourge of hatred is to increase our understanding of each other.

CNN’s “Believer,” I believe, is an attempt at increasing this understanding. For certain, the series will not be perfect, and already, the first episode was not without its critics. Still, I appreciated learning whatever little there was about Hinduism and the Aghori, and I look forward to watching the rest of the series in the weeks ahead.

It is very easy to retreat into corners of ignorance and hate: it doesn’t take much intellectual energy to hate. But seeking understanding of the ways and faiths of others take work and time. It is as the Quran says:

Humanity! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware (49:13). 

It is my hope and prayer that “Believer” can help bridge some divides of ignorance and help all of us get to better know one another.  That way, we can, God-willing, avoid the “Dark Side” of hatred.


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I would be honored if joined me on Twitter

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

In an interview on NPR, White House Special Assistant to the President, Sebastian Gorka, had this exchange with host Steve Inskeep:

INSKEEP: On Feb. 3 when you were on the program, we asked if you felt the president believes Islam is a religion. The reason we had to ask that is because the previous national security advisor Michael Flynn made some statements suggesting he didn’t believe it was a religion. You weren’t aware then what the president’s view was. Have you learned since? Does the president believe Islam is a religion?

GORKA: It would be nice if you actually reported things accurately. I didn’t say I would refuse to do anything of the sort. This is not a theological seminary. This is the White House. And we’re not going to get into theological debates. If the president has a certain attitude to a certain religion, that’s something you can ask him. But we’re talking about national security and the totalitarian ideologies that drive the groups that threaten America.

While he did say, immediately afterwards, that Islam is not the enemy, it was a bit concerning (to be generous) that Gorka refused to say whether the President thinks Islam is even a religion. The concern, on the part of many (including this writer), is that if Administration officials do not believe Islam is a religion, then they can deny Muslims their First Amendment rights.


This begs the question: what is religion?

I put this question to religion scholar Reza Aslan, host of the series “Believer” on CNN which premiers on March 6 at 10 PM EST:

There is no standard definition of religion in academia though many have tried to provide one. Mine follows that of Levi-Strauss and others who view religion as a form of communication. I define it as a systematized language of symbols and metaphors that allows a particular community to communicate with each other the ineffable experience of faith.

Islam, just like Christianity and Judaism, fits this definition quite well.

Yet, let us go a little further and compare the three faiths on their basic beliefs:

Christianity and Judaism both believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So does Islam. Christianity and Judaism both believe that God sent down revelation to humanity to teach it how to conduct itself: for Judaism, it’s the Torah, and for Christianity it is Jesus Christ himself. So does Islam: its scripture is the Quran, which has a great many similarities to the Bible.

As an outgrowth of revelation, Christianity and Judaism both believe that, throughout the ages, God has sent Prophets as guides and teachers for humanity when it deviates from the truth. So does Islam, and many of the same Prophets in the Bible – such as Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Noah, Ezekiel, among others – are mentioned in the Quran.

Both Christianity and Judaism have a concept of an Afterlife, where humanity will stand before God to account for its actions on earth. So does Islam, and the Quran is full of vivid descriptions of the Last Day.

Moreover, the key figures of both Judaism and Christianity loom very large in Islam. Moses, for instance, is mentioned in more than 70 passages in the Quran. The stories of his birth, his rearing in the Palace of the Pharoah, his mission, his miracles, the Passover, and the Exodus are all detailed in the Quran. It was Moses, according to Islamic tradition, who was behind our having to pray only five times a day (it was originally supposed to be 50). Thanks, Master Moses!

Jesus Christ, as well, is a very prominent figure in Islam and the Quran. He is described as the “Word of God,” a “spirit emanated from Him,” and being “strengthened by the Holy Spirit” in the Quran. The only woman mentioned by name in the Quran is Mary, the Holy Virgin and mother of Christ. In the Quran, Jesus heals the sick, cures the blind, and even raises the dead. One cannot be a Muslim if he does not believe in Jesus. Mustafa Aykol has written an excellent book about Jesus in Islam (about which I will write very soon).

These are only a small number of the similarities between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. These three faiths come from the same source, the God of Abraham, and all hearken to this self-same Patriarch.

Thus, if Islam is not a religion but rather a “totalitarian ideology,” as some are wont to claim, then neither can Christianity nor Judaism be considered religions, either. Such a notion is preposterous, of course. And so is that claim about Islam.

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

We are natural allies, Muslims and Jews. We worship the same God. We honor the same Prophets. We have very similar theology and religious law. We both harken to the same patriarch, Abraham. 

Yet, for some reason, and for many years, Muslims and Jews were not always standing together. I suspect it had a lot to do with the conflict in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians. While unfortunate, it was nevertheless reality.

But recent events may be changing this reality. 

In the wake of the election of 2016, there has been a shocking wave of threats directed toward the Jewish community. Most recently, it took the form of bomb threats to JCCs and Synagogues and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Muslims, too, have also been the target of repugnant acts of hatred and violence. This includes multiple arson attacks on mosques across the country.

And in response, the Muslim and Jewish community have stood up for each other. 

The Religion News Service detailed how Jews in Florida rallied to help local Muslims who had their mosque attacked by arson. It also outlined  other instances of interfaith support:

When vandals damaged headstones in a Missouri Jewish cemetery last month, Muslim activists raised more than $125,000 to fund repairs.

When a Victoria, Texas, mosque was razed by vandals in late January, members of a local Jewish congregation allowed the displaced Muslim worshippers to worship in their synagogue.

And when vandals toppled more than 100 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia last weekend, Muslims and others traveled from other states to repair them.

The Muslim Student Associations of Florida State and Florida A&M universities delivered bouquets of flowers to campus Jewish organizations and local synagogues in a show of solidarity after the two cemetery attacks.

Muslim veterans have offered to help guard Jewish sites.

Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-Semitism watchdog group, received a standing ovation when he said at a conference that if U.S. Muslims were forced to register with the government, he would register as a Muslim, too.

This truly warms my heart to see, and I pray these recent actions sow the seeds for deep and lasting cooperation and friendship between American Jews and Muslims for many years to come. 

And while I am sad that it took repugnant acts of hatred against the Muslim and Jewish community to motivate this wonderful interfaith work, it is better late than never. And may any differences between Muslims and Jews, either real or perceived, never let them forget who they really are: Children of Abraham who must always stand together. 

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

And it came to pass, that, as he [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he [Jesus] said unto them, When ye pray, say, 

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. (Luke 11:1-4)

This is one of my absolute favorite passages of the Bible. It encompasses all the values which I strive to live each and every day as a Muslim. The beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, as it is known, starts with “Our Father in Heaven.”

This “Father in Heaven” is the God whom I worship. Now, of course, I don’t call Him “Father.” Most if the time I call Him “my Lord,” or “my Beloved,” or simply “God.” There are times, however, when I do call him “Allah.”

Now, there are those who claim that “Allah” is some sort of foreign god, not the same God of Jews and Christians. In fact, former Senator and Presidential Candidiate Rick Santorum once said,

“Where do you think this concept of equality comes from? It doesn’t come from Islam. It doesn’t come from the East and Eastern religions…It comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that’s where it comes from.” 

Well, the God of Abraham is my God. The Quran says so:

Say: “We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus; and that which has been vouchsafed to all the [other] prophets by their Sustainer: we make no distinction between any of them. And it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.” (2:136)

When a “certain ruler” came to Jesus and asked him, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18), Jesus replied: “Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God” (Luke 18:19). The “only thing that is good” according to Jesus is the God Whom I worship.

When, according to the Gospel account in Mark, Jesus was on the cross, he cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). The “El” upon Whom Jesus called is the God that I worship.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims call this God by the Arabic name “Allah.” The word “Allah” comes from the same root word that forms the basis for the words used for God in the Bible: “Elohim,” “ha Elohim,” and “ha Eloh.” Pick up an Arabic translation of the Bible, and you will find that the word for God is none other than “Allah.”

What’s more, the very name that Jesus Christ, who spoke Aramaic and not Greek (the original language of the New Testament), is none other than “Alaha,” which is the Aramaic name for God.

The God that I worship as a Muslim is the God of us all. His name has changed from epoch to epoch and people to people, but He is the self-same God of the universe, our Loving Creator Who gave us life and sustains it for us.

Muslims may call Him “Allah,” many Christians may call Him “Father”; to me, there is no difference. What is most important is this: for people of faith, our common belief in a common Lord should serve to help us work together.

Even for those who don’t believe in God, the fact that I do doesn’t alienate me from them. Because of my belief in God, I want to live and work with everyone: to make my America and my world a much better place for all.

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

It happened again today: more bomb threats targeted Jewish Community Centers all across the country, including right here in my home town of Chicago. As reported on CNN’s website:

“I’ve been in the business for 20-plus years, and this is unprecedented,” said Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, which advises Jewish organizations on security. “It’s more methodical than meets the eye.” No bombs have been found, but Jewish leaders hesitate to label the calls “hoaxes.” The chaos and terror the calls have caused are real, as are more tangible consequences.

This comes on the same day as an attack on a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. As the Huffington Post reports, “There have now been at least 67 incidents at 56 Jewish Community Centers in 27 states and one Canadian province since the start of 2017…”
This is wrong. This is un-American. As an American Muslim, I must speak out against this unprecedented wave of anti-Semitic hatred just as much as I speak out against Islamophobic attacks across our country.
There is no room in our country for religious hatred, no matter the faith of the perpetrator or the victim. A bomb threat against a Jewish Community Center, or a Synagogue is an attack on all houses of worship. I am just as offended when a Sikh Gurudwara is attacked as when a mosque is vandalized. An attack on any religious institution is an attack on all. We stand together, or we all fall down.
My sister, Eman Hassaballa Aly, penned an important piece in Patheos about the urgent need for Muslims to stand with all and forge alliances with other communities in the wake of the new Administration:
It’s time to make alliances with folks we don’t typically ally with. It’s time to have difficult conversations about difficult subjects. It’s time to recognize who has stood up for us and stand up for them as well, even if we don’t align theologically — we align as humans. It’s time to really be honest about how we can improve and where we failed. It’s time to say sorry for being not so nice to one another. It’s also time to stop criticizing people openly and so frequently.
Let me do my part and say to the Jewish community: I stand with you. May God protect you and all your community centers and places of worship. And may God protect us all from the hatred that has reared its ugly head in our country. Amen.

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

A while back, I discussed the fact that the new Trump Administration seems to espouse a “dark view of Islam,” in the words of the New York Times, and this “dark view” colors every thing with respect to terrorism, extremism, and some aspects of foreign policy.

Yet, Trump and other members of the new Administration are not the only ones who have a “dark view” of Islam.

The savages who act in Islam’s name – such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda – also espouse this  “dark view of Islam.” They espouse a satanic, violent interpretation that is alien to the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world.

What’s more: many Muslims, including this one, have insisted time and again that these savages “have nothing to do with Islam,” and I know that, when we say this, so many people react to this statement with utter disbelief.

This is because it is absolutely true that, for every act of sheer barbarity committed by savages such as ISIS, an Islamic text can be found to buttress it. It is absolutely true that the savages who act in Islam’s name can point to something in Islamic tradition that can justify their crimes.

So, how can Muslims like me say that ISIS has “nothing to do with Islam”?

It is because – while indeed Islamic sacred text can be cited to cover for horrific atrocities – the understanding of these texts by the overwhelming majority of Muslims and Muslim scholars are completely different than that of the savages. I read the very same texts as the savages and come away with a completely different view.

I, and the overwhelming majority of Muslims, understand that the Islamic texts that seem to justify acts of barbarism have a context: a linguistic, historical, cultural, and textual context. I, and the overwhelming majority of Muslims, read these texts in those specific contexts and comprehend that they do not represent the normative understanding of Islam that has buttressed thousands of years of Islamic civilization.

It is exactly akin to my home town of Chicago. Almost every day, there are headlines of horrific shootings that take the lives of innocent people, including one that recently killed a 2-year-old girl. Yet, those of us who live in Chicago know that this terrible fact does not represent the truth of Chicago, which is a truly wonderful city in which to live and raise a family. 

It is also akin to calling every American who voted for Trump a “racist,” just because there were indeed some of his supporters who openly espoused racist views. The whole can never be smeared by the sins of the few, and this applies to Islam just as much as it applies to Trump supporters or the city of Chicago.

Admittedly, it is a little frustrating having to deal with a President and Administration that seemingly can’t differentiate between all Muslims and the tiny minority of its criminals (case in point: the Muslim ban). But, they are not the only ones who espouse this “dark view of Islam.” 

The savages who commit barbarism in Islam’s name also have a “dark view of Islam,” and as a Muslim, it is my duty to speak out against them, and combat this “dark view” with calm, patience, and peace. 

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







Let us leave aside several facts:

1. African-American Muslims have been an integral part of the civil rights struggle in America for decades. A substantial portion of the slaves brought to America were Muslim, and thus, Black History is American Muslim history. 

2. The Quran exhorts the believer to stand up for justice, even if it means bearing witness against his or her own family or community:

O You who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them. Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do! (4:135)

O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of any-one lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do. (5:8)

3.  The Quran also holds Muslims to a high standard: “Enjoining the good and forbidding evil”:

You are indeed the best community that has ever been brought forth for [the good of] mankind: you enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and you believe in God… (3:110)

4. It is part of our faith as Muslims to stand up for those who are oppressed, no matter who they are. 

5.  Scores of African-Americans (Muslims among them) fought, marched, protested, bled, and even died to give me the privilege to live where I live, work where I work, and vote where I vote. Black History Month commemorates and honors their most important part of our American history. As an American Muslim, I am forever indebted to their sacrifice. 

Let us leave all that aside, as important as that is, for just a moment.

If for no other reason, we American Muslims have to show up and take our place at the vanguard of those fighting for the rights of others, because so many fellow Americans showed up and stood up for us, including African-Americans.

Look at the thousands upon thousands of ordinary Americans who showed up at airports all across our country to object to the Muslim ban. Look at the thousands upon thousands of ordinary Americans who showed up to mosques and show their support. Look at the thousands upon thousands of ordinary Americans who letting this Administration know that discrimination is not who we are as a nation and a people.

It is so very heartening, and I am so very grateful to God for such beautiful neighbors.

Now, this is not to say that American Muslims have not fought for the rights of others. On the contrary, Muslims have been among the leaders of the fight for social justice.

Nevertheless, from this point and forever forward, American Muslims cannot shirk their responsibility to stand up for the rights of all who are oppressed; from this point and forever forward, American Muslims must see the struggles of others as their struggles; from this point and forever forward, an affront to justice against anyone else must be an affront to them personally.

We are already seeing heartening signs of this in the Trump Administration, and it must continue and strengthen over time. If the exhortations of the Qur’an to stand up for justice are not enough, then the extraordinary support that ordinary Americans have shown their Muslim neighbors must motivate American Muslims to stand up for their neighbors who are oppressed. Failure to do so would be a travesty of ingratitude.