Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Fellow Muslims: Please Say Funeral Prayers For Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig

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

The barbarians of KIL (aka ISIS) have done it again: the U.S. has confirmed the beheading of Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, an American who went to Syria to help the victims of the civil war and was then captured by KIL. Here is some background about Kassig from the New York Times:

An Indianapolis native, Mr. Kassig turned to humanitarian work after a tour as an Army Ranger in Iraq in 2007. He was certified as an emergency technician, and by 2012 he returned to the battlefield, this time helping bandage the victims of Syria’s civil war who were flooding into Lebanon. He moved to Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, where he founded a small aid group and initially used his savings to buy supplies, like diapers, which he distributed to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.


In the summer of 2013, he relocated to Gaziantep in southern Turkey, roughly an hour from the border, and began making regular trips into Syria to offer medical care to the wounded.

He disappeared on Oct. 1, 2013, when the ambulance he and a colleague were driving was stopped at a checkpoint on the road to Deir al-Zour, Syria. He was transferred late last year to a prison beneath the basement of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo, and then to a network of jails in Raqqa, the capital of the extremist group’s self-declared caliphate, where he became one of at least 23 Western hostages held by the group.

It seems that something must have went wrong with the execution, as it was not shown in full barbarity as the other beheadings of Western hostages. Some suggest that he may have fought his captors. Whatever the case may be, Abdul-Rahman Kassig is the latest victim in the KIL’s reign of horror in Iraq and Syria.


My heart, my thoughts, and my prayers go out to the Kassig family. As a parent who has lost his own child, I know all too well the horror and pain of such a loss. I pray that our Beloved showers his family with the strength, love, can comfort that only He can provide.

And I ask my fellow Muslims – in America and beyond – to all say Islamic funeral prayers for him. I don’t think these evil people gave him the decency of a proper burial, let alone an Islamic funeral prayer service (Mr. Kassig converted to Islam during his captivity). Thus, as his brothers and sisters all across the world, let us do it. Let us raise our hands in prayer to the Lord for his forgiveness; that whatever suffering he may have endured elevate his status in Paradise; that he be given the status of a martyr, which he clearly is.


Peter Kassig’s adopted Islamic first name, Abdul-Rahman, means, “Servant of the Most Merciful.” And his actions of late truly showed it: he sacrificed a comfortable life in America to go to one of the most dangerous places on earth to help complete strangers; to help ease their suffering in the midst of a barbaric conflict:

Kassig was kidnapped delivering medical aid to people affected by the civil war in Syria. He had been a soldier, a Ranger in Iraq, then a college student, and, very briefly, a husband. (The marriage ended in divorce.) Along the way, the Army trained him as a medic, and he took classes to learn to be an emergency medical technician. On a vacation to Lebanon, where he encountered Syrian refugees, he realized that his medical knowledge was an asset, a gift he could hand to desperate people. Just before he was supposed to go home, he had, as he wrote in an e-mail to family and friends, “the best conversation that I have ever had with my mom. From 4,000 miles away in a shelled out parking lot in Beirut I told her about what I had been involved in over the last week.” He had found his “calling”:


Yesterday my life was laid out on a table in front of me. With only hours left before my scheduled flight back to the United States, I watched people dying right in front of me. I had seen it before and I had walked away before.… I’m just not going to turn my back this time, it’s as simple as that.

“My whole life has led me to this point in time,” he wrote. He stayed, and bandaged wounds, cared for people in clinics, and, just generally, helped.

Our Lord’s Mercy shown bright and clear through both his words and the help he tried to give to those in need. And his actions are in stark and vivid contrast to those of his killers, who claim to be acting in the name of God but do everything but. There will be a Day of Reckoning; they will have to answer to the Lord for the death of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, as well as all the others they have killed. There will be a Day of Reckoning, and of this fact the barbarians of KIL should be terrified.


Ashura: The “Muslim Passover”

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

Happy New Year. The Islamic New Year, that is. And the tenth day of the first month of the Islamic year is a very special. It is called Ashura, and this year, it falls on Monday, November 3. For Shia Muslims, it is a day of painful commemoration of the murder of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). No doubt, although I am a Sunni Muslim, the murder of Hussein is also very painful for me, but I don’t commemorate it the way some Shia Muslims do.

Rather, following the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), I will spend the day in fasting:


The Prophet came to Medina and saw the Jews fasting on the day of Ashura. He asked them about that. They replied, “This is a good day, the day on which God rescued the Children of Israel from their enemy. So, Moses fasted this day.” The Prophet said, “We have more claim over Moses than you.” So, the Prophet fasted on that day and ordered (the Muslims) to fast (on that day). (Bukhari)

Narrated Ibn Abbas: I never saw the Prophet seeking to fast on a day more (preferable to him) than this day, the day of ‘Ashura’, or this month, i.e. the month of Ramadan. (Bukhari)

The day of Ashura was considered as a feast day by the Jews. So the Prophet ordered, “I recommend you (Muslims) to fast on this day.” (Bukhari)


Now, fasting is difficult for me in general, and fasting outside of the month of Ramadan is even more difficult. But I plan to fast on Monday anyway, because the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) recommended it, and it commemorates a very special moment in our sacred history: the freeing of the Children of Israel from the brutal bondage in Egypt.

This should come as no surprise that Muslims, millions of Muslims all over the world, are forgoing food and drink in commemoration of the Exodus out of Egypt. The story of Moses figures very prominently in the Qur’an. The Prophet Moses (pbuh) is mentioned more by name than any other Prophet, much more than the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself.

The Qur’an tells of two miracles – Moses’ staff turning into a serpent and his hand glowing when he places it under his arm – that God permitted as proof of Moses’ prophethood. It also describes the plagues unleashed on the Egyptians for their refusal to believe in God and refusal to set the Hebrews free (7:133). It also relates the story of the golden calf and Moses’ anger with his people at their worshiping it as a god besides the Lord (20:85-97).


My favorite part of the story, the splitting of the Red Sea, is mentioned at least twice (2:50, 26:52-68). Furthermore, the Qur’an tells a story about Moses that I do not think is in the Bible: his encounter with the “Servant of God” in the desert of Sinai, who taught Moses an important lesson about the knowledge of God (18:60-82).

It is truly remarkable that the followers of one major religion, Islam, fast to commemorate the central figure of another major religion, Judaism. The fact that the followers of Islam and Judaism in the Holy Land continue to fight – while worshiping the same God and honoring the same Prophet (i.e., Moses) – ceaselessly baffles me. But the fact remains: one of the religious rituals of Muslims is fasting to commemorate the Exodus of the Children of Israel out of Egypt; a “Muslim Passover,” if you will.


This is true Islam, not the barbarism of KIL (aka, “ISIS”). This is the essence of what Islam is all about, even though Muslims around the world hold troubling (and largely un-Islamic) views about many different things. Loving God with all your heart; worshiping Him and doing good to all His creation because of that love; and, yes, fasting a day in celebration of the Exodus: that is Islam. My only hope and prayer is that more people come to see this reality.

And so, Monday, I will likely not stop for a cup of coffee on my way to work: all for the sake of God and His Prophet Moses (and Muhammad). My only saving grace is…the day will be an hour shorter. It is probably the only time I will appreciate the short days of winter.



I Pray A Happier New Year Will Come

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

Tomorrow is the first day of the Islamic New Year, 1436. Indeed, it is part of human nature that – when such time-based transitions occur – a pause to reflect over what has transpired generally happens. Clearly, Islamic year 1435 has been quite challenging.

War has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world, with so many innocent people – Muslim and non-Muslim – dying senseless deaths. What is just as bad, if not worse, are the “holy warriors” that wreak havoc, death, and destruction in the name of the faith that Muslims, including this one, hold so dearly. Whether it be Al Qaeda, or the Taliban, or Boko Haram, or KIL (aka, ISIS), there are too many horrific things that are done in the name of Islam.


I pray that the evil of these barbarians comes to an end in 1436. It goes without saying that extremism is bred in the swamps of injustice, and thus I pray that more of these swamps will be drained  in the coming year of 1436. I pray that the Syrian civil war, which helped KIL (aka ISIS) grow in power, comes to an end in 1436. I pray that peace between Israel and Palestine, elusive for far too long, can be finally achieved in 1436. I pray that the fires of hatred between Sunni and Shia, which are stoked by some solely for power and influence, can be snuffed out and extinguished in 1436.

I pray that the horror of Ebola in West Africa can be brought under control in 1436. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that, if not taken care of quickly and aggressively, Ebola infection runs of risk of becoming endemic – meaning permanently present – in the human populations of West Africa. This is quite frightening and must be avoided at all costs. I pray for comfort for the families of the victims of this terrible disease, and I also pray that a cure and/or effective treatment can be found in 1436.


I pray that the fires of division and hatred in this country are extinguished in 1436. So many times, the actions of a few are projected upon the whole. Yes, a handful of converts to Islam have committed grave crimes. But that does not mean converting to Islam will make one violent. There are thousands – if not millions – of converts to Islam who have been transformed into good, upright, beautiful people by their conversion. Their stories are the true stories of Islam, but unfortunately, most of the time, the true stories of Islam are simply not reported.

I pray that mass shootings, such as the one that took place today, come to an end in 1436. I have a daughter in High School. I could not imagine having to worry about her safety if a gunman started shooting at her high school. I pray for the families of the victims of this tragedy, for I know all too well the horror of losing a child.


There is so much evil in our world – coming from every space and every direction – that it is easy to let oneself be overwhelming and smothered by it all. But, we must not let that happen. Yes, there is bad, but there is so much more good. Let us focus on that and keep our spirits high. God is in charge, and in that fact, we should all rejoice.

Are my prayers all pipe dreams? Some may think so. But, with God all is possible. Like I said, He is in charge, and in that fact, we should all rejoice. And I have one last prayer: that one and all – Muslim and not – have a safe, and blessed, and prosperous, and happy Islamic Year 1436.


Bill Maher and Sam Harris Just Don’t Get That, Truly, Islam Is Not The Problem: Take Apostasy For Example

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

So much ink has been spilled about the now famous debate about Islam on Bill Maher’s show between bill Maher, Sam Harris, and Ben Affleck. As I read and watch and hear the back and forth, I’m exasperated at what is lost in the debate. Lost in this debate is the fact that, despite what various polls show – and there is a lot of nuance in those polls – many, if not all, of the alleged “Islamic beliefs” that horrify the likes of Maher and Harris are simply based on a total misreading of Islam and the Qur’an. Whenever I hear claims like “Islam demands the murder of apostates…” or “Islam claims the infidel must be killed…“, I simply shake my head in disbelief because, it is simply not true. And I go to the very scriptures themselves to back this claim up.


As an example, one of those “Islamic beliefs” that is mentioned time and again is the supposed death penalty for apostates, i.e., those who leave the faith of Islam. Now, polls, such as the Pew poll of Muslim attitudes, show that sometimes 80% of Muslims in this country or that believe that “Islam demands the death penalty for apostates.” Yet, Islamic Scripture completely rejects this belief, no matter how many Muslims believe it.

In fact, I have had this very discussion with a number of Muslims, and I simply cannot understand from where they get the notion that apostates are to be murdered. It is not because I am naive (although some may think so); it is not because I am lying (although some may claim so). Rather, it is because the Scripture is explicitly clear over the issue of freedom of faith.


Here are the scores of verses in the Qur’an that explicitly uphold freedom of faith:

There shall be no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from [the way of] error… (2:256)

Say [O Muhammad], ‘The truth is from your Lord:’ Let him who wills believe it, and let him who wills, reject (it). (18:29)

If it had been your Lord’s will, they all would have believed – all who are on earth. Will you, then, compel the people, against their will, to believe? (10:99)

Have, then, they who have attained to faith not yet come to know that, had God so willed, He would indeed have guided all mankind aright? (13:31)

And [because He is your Creator], it rests with God alone to show you the right path: yet there is [many a one] who swerves from it. However, had He so willed, He would have guided you all aright. (16:9)


It is not required of thee (O Messenger), to set them on the right path, but God sets on the right path whom He pleases. (2:272)

But would you, perhaps, torment yourself to death with grief over them if they are not willing to believe in this message? (18:6)

God wants us to come to Him willingly. God wants us to follow His path by our choice, not under pain of death. The Qur’an says as much:

O you who have attained to faith! Respond to the call of God and the Apostle when he calls you unto that which will give you life…(8:24)

And If My servants ask you [O Muhammad] about Me, behold, I am near. I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls unto Me. Let them, then respond unto Me and believe in Me, so that they might follow the right way (2:186)


Right and wrong do not make any sense if there is not total freedom of will. Reward and punishment do not make sense if there is not total freedom of will. Hence, the Qur’an does not proscribe a punishment for those who leave the faith.

Yet, more than just this, the Qur’an specifically speaks about apostasy,  and no where is there mention that the one who leaves is to be harmed in any way:

… [Your enemies] will not cease to fight against you till they have turned you away from your faith, if they can. But if any of you should turn away from his faith and die as a denier of the truth – these it is whose works will go for naught in this world and in the life to come; and these it is who are destined for the fire, therein to abide. (2:217)


Verily, as for those who are bent on denying the truth after having attained to faith, and then grow [ever more stubborn] in their refusal to acknowledge the truth, their repentance [of other sins] shall not be accepted: for it is they who have truly gone astray. (3:90)

O you who have attained to faith! If you ever abandon your faith, God will in time bring forth [in your stead] people whom He loves and who love Him – humble towards the believers, proud towards all who deny the truth: [people] who strive hard in God’s cause, and do not fear to be censured by anyone who might censure them: such is God’s favor, which He grants unto whom He wills. And God is infinite, all-knowing. (5:54)

Any one who, after accepting faith in God, utters unbelief – except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in faith – but such as open their breast to unbelief, on them is wrath from God, and theirs will be a dreadful penalty. This because they love the life of this world better than the hereafter: and God will not guide those who reject faith. (16:106-107)


Now, no doubt, the text is harsh against those who leave the faith. The text threatens these people with eternal punishment. Indeed, the verses in the Qur’an that speak harshly about apostasy are akin to this Biblical verse:

Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth. (Deut. 6:14-15)

Harshness towards apostasy seems to be an Abrahamic religious thing. But, again, the Qur’an does not say the apostate is to be killed. The fate of the apostate is left up to God in the Hereafter. There is no punishment whatsoever to be meted by anyone in this world.


Why, the Qur’an even speaks about “serial apostasy”:

Behold, as for those who come to believe, and then deny the truth, and again come to believe, and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn in their denial of the truth, God will not forgive them, nor will He guide them in any way. (4:137)

No where does it mention that a hair is to be touched on this person’s head, let alone killed. Given all this Scriptural evidence, I simply do not understand how anyone can claim the Qur’an demands death for the apostate.

In fact, diversity of faith is part of God’s plan for this earth. And the Qur’an itself says so:

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… (5:48)


For had God so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community; however, He lets go astray that wills [to go astray], and guides aright him that wills [to be guided]; and you will surely be called to account for all that you ever did! (16:93)

Moreover, one of the reasons that armed conflict is sanctioned in Islam is to protect religious freedom:

If God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which Gods name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed. (22:40)

A more detailed analysis and explanation – citing Islamic sources including Prophetic tradition – of apostasy and Islam is available for those who want to read more. It is beyond the scope of this post here.


And it must be said: there is one Scripture that calls for the death penalty for apostates. The Bible (emphasis added):

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (Deuteronomy 13:6-10).


Bottom line is this: Freedom of faith is paramount in Islam. Period. Freedom of faith is fundamental to the very essence of Islam itself. Period. No doubt, the belief that apostates must be put to death is prevalent among a distressingly large number of Muslims. But, Islam has nothing to do with this. Bill Maher and Sam Harris are simply wrong about this issue.


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.


Nothing “Islamic” About ISIS, Part Two: What the “Jizya” Really Means

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

Last time, we began the conversation about how ISIS and its actions are hardly “Islamic.” Now, we will delve, a little, into the issue of this “tax” that the barbarians of ISIS demanded be paid by Iraqi Christians, called the jizya. The extremist forces of ISIS told Christians that they can either “covert, pay the jizya, or die.” We already explained how this completely violates both the spirit and letter of Islamic teaching. But, this “tax” called the jizya needs some explanation.


Enter Sohaib Sultan, Muslim chaplain at Princeton and personal friend:

ISIS has also given Christians another option if they want to remain in Iraq: to pay jizya. Jizya is a tax that Muslim empires imposed upon non-Muslim constituents in return for military exemption, protection against persecution and considerable religious freedoms. Most Muslim countries today no longer impose jizya on non-Muslims. The change in political order, rise of nation states and assumptions of citizenship today render certain medieval systems incongruent with modern realities and sensibilities. The Quran makes a reference to the jizya system (9:29), but its application is vague and it can very well be argued that such an imposition was only intended to manage troublesome and treacherous religious minorities. This is all to say that ISIS has no basis whatsoever to force Christians in Iraq to pay the jizya let alone the fact that they cannot even be considered a legitimate government by any stretch of the imagination and, therefore, cannot rightfully impose any taxes on anyone.


Sultan referenced verse 9:29, which the extremists use to justify their imposition of this tax, and Islamophobes use to prove Islam’s barbarity. Here is the verse in its entirety:

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

Qur’anic commentator Muhammad Asad makes these notes on this verse:

Lit., “such of those who were vouchsafed revelation [aforetime] as do not believe…”, etc. In accordance with the fundamental principle-observed throughout my interpretation of the Qur’an – that all of its statements and ordinances are mutually complementary and cannot, therefore, be correctly understood unless they are considered as parts of one integral whole, this verse, too must be read in the context of the clear-cut Qur’anic rule that war is permitted only in self-defense (see 2:190-194, and the corresponding notes).


In other words, the above injunction to fight is relevant only in the event of aggression committed against the Muslim community or state, or in the presence of an unmistakable threat to its security: a view which has been shared by that great Islamic thinker, Muhammad `Abduh. Commenting on this verse, he declared: “Fighting has been made obligatory in Islam only for the sake of defending the truth and its followers…. All the campaigns of the Prophet were defensive in character; and so were the wars undertaken by the Companions in the earliest period [of Islam]” (Manar X, 332).

Asad continues:

This, to my mind, is the key-phrase of the above ordinance. The term “apostle” is obviously used here in its generic sense and applies to all the prophets on whose teachings the beliefs of the Jews and the Christians are supposed to be based – in particular, to Moses and (in the case of the Christians) to Jesus as well (Manar X, 333 and 337).


Since, earlier in this sentence, the people alluded to are accused of so grave a sin as willfully refusing to believe in God and the Last Day (i.e., in life after death and man’s individual responsibility for his doings on earth), it is inconceivable that they should subsequently be blamed for comparatively minor offenses against their religious law: consequently, the stress on their “not forbidding that which God and His apostle have forbidden” must refer to something which is as grave, or almost as grave, as disbelief in God.

In the context of an ordinance enjoining war against them, this “something” can mean only one thing-namely, unprovoked aggression: for it is this that has been forbidden by God through all the apostles who were entrusted with conveying His message to man. Thus, the above verse must be understood as a call to the believers to fight against such – and only such  – of the nominal followers of earlier revelation as deny their own professed beliefs by committing aggression against the followers of the Qur’an.


This is his explanation of the jizya tax, which I find convincing and informative:

Sc., “and having become incorporated in the Islamic state”. The term jizyah, rendered by me as “exemption tax”, occurs in the Qur’an only once, but its meaning and purpose have been fully explained in many authentic Traditions. It is intimately bound up with the concept of the Islamic state as an ideological organization: and this is a point which must always be borne in mind if the real purport of this tax is to be understood.

In the Islamic state, every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to take up arms in jihad (i.e., in a just war in God’s cause) whenever the freedom of his faith or the political safety of his community is imperiled: in other words, every able-bodied Muslim is liable to compulsory military service. Since this is, primarily, a religious obligation, non-Muslim citizens, who do not subscribe to the ideology of Islam, cannot in fairness be expected to assume a similar burden. On the other hand, they must be accorded full protection of all their civic rights and of their religious freedom: and it is in order to compensate the Muslim community for this unequal distribution of civic burdens that a special tax is levied on non-Muslim citizens (ahl adh-dhimmah, lit., “covenanted” [or “protected”] people”, i.e., non-Muslims whose safety is statutorily assured by the Muslim community).


Thus, jizyah is no more and no less than an exemption tax in lieu of military service and in compensation for the “covenant of protection” (dhimmah) accorded to such citizens by the Islamic state. (The term itself is derived from the verb jaza, “he rendered [something] as a satisfaction”, or “as a compensation [in lieu of something else]” – cf. Lane II, 422.) No fixed rate has been set either by the Qur’an or by the Prophet for this tax; but from all available Traditions it is evident that it is to be considerably lower than the tax called zakah (“the purifying dues”) to which Muslims are liable and which – because it is a specifically Islamic religious duty – is naturally not to be levied on non-Muslims.


Only such of the non-Muslim citizens who, if they were Muslims, would be expected to serve in the armed forces of the state are liable to the payment of jizyah, provided that they can easily afford it. Accordingly, all non-Muslim citizens whose personal status or condition would automatically free them from the obligation to render military service are statutorily – that is, on the basis of clear-cut ordinances promulgated by the Prophet – exempted from the payment of jizyah: (a) all women, (b) males who have not yet reached full maturity, (c) old men, (d) all sick or crippled men, (e) priests and monks.

All non-Muslim citizens who volunteer for military service are obviously exempted from the payment of jizyah. My rendering of the expression `an yad (lit., “out of hand”) as “with a willing hand”, that is, without reluctance, is based on one of several explanations offered by Zamakhshari in his commentary on the above verse. Rashid Rida’, taking the word yad in its metaphorical significance of “power” or “ability”, relates the phrase can yad to the financial ability of the person liable to the payment of jizyah (see Manar X, 342): an interpretation which is undoubtedly justified in view of the accepted definition of this tax.


So, this is what the jizya is all about, and like Sohaib Sultan mentioned, it is largely moot in today’s day and age. Just because ISIS has the word “Islamic” in its name, it doesn’t mean that anything it does is in line with true Islamic teaching. In fact, everything ISIS does is the total antithesis of what Islam is all about.


Think Muslims Haven’t Condemned ISIS? Think Again

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

A very common, oft-repeated mantra among pundits and “experts” is that Muslims haven’t roundly condemned the extremism committed in Islam’s name. So many times, we hear people saying, “Where are the Muslim voices in condemnation?” “Why aren’t Muslims speaking up against extremists like ISIS?”

Well, the fact is, Muslims have been speaking out against ISIS and other extremist groups. The problem is, some times, people either don’t know or choose not to know this fact. Enter in this excellent post by Media Matters For America, which documents the round condemnation of ISIS by Muslim groups all across the world:


The Organization Of Islamic Cooperation: The Islamic State Has “Nothing To Do With Islam,” Has Committed Crimes “That Cannot Be Tolerated.” As the Vatican’s internal news source reported, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 1.4 billion Muslims in 57 countries around the world, condemned the Islamic State’s persecution of of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq, saying the “forced deportation under the threat of execution” is a “crime that cannot be tolerated.” According to the Vatican:

The Secretary General also distanced Islam from the actions of the militant group known as ISIS, saying they ‘have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.’ [Vatican Radio, 7/25/14]


Al-Azhar: Islamic State Is Corrupt And “A Danger To Islam.” Lebanese paper The Daily Star reported that Al-Azhar’s Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, Egypt’s highest religious authority, denounced the Islamic State as a threat to Islam and said that the group both violates Sharia law and humanitarian law: “[They] give an opportunity for those who seek to harm us, to destroy us and interfere in our affairs with the [pretext of a] call to fight terrorism.” [The Daily Star, 8/13/14]

Arab League: “Strongly Denounced” The “Crimes Against Humanity” Carried Out By The Islamic State. On August 11, Nabil al-Arabi, the Arab League Chief, denounced acts committed by the Islamic State in Iraq as “crimes against humanity,” demanding that they be brought to justice. According to Al Arabiya News, he said in a statement that he “strongly denounced the crimes, killings, dispossession carried out by the terrorist (ISIS) against civilians and minorities in Iraq that have affected Christians in Mosul and Yazidis.” [Al Arabiya News, 8/11/14]


Turkey’s Top Cleric: Islamic State’s Threats Are “Hugely Damaging,” “Truly Awful.” Turkey’s highest ranking cleric, Mehmet Gormez, decried the Islamic State’s declaration of a “caliphate” and argued that the statements were damaging to the Muslim community, according to Reuters:

“Such declarations have no legitimacy whatsoever,” Mehmet Gormez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, the highest religious authority in Turkey, which, although a majority Muslim country, has been a secular state since the 1920s.

“Since the caliphate was abolished … there have been movements that think they can pull together the Muslim world by re-establishing a caliphate, but they have nothing to do with reality, whether from a political or legal perspective.”


Gormez said death threats against non-Muslims made by the group, formerly known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), were hugely damaging.

“The statement made against Christians is truly awful. Islamic scholars need to focus on this (because) an inability to peacefully sustain other faiths and cultures heralds the collapse of a civilization,” he told Reuters in an interview. [Reuters, 7/22/14]

CAIR Repeatedly Condemned The Islamic State As “Un-Islamic And Morally Repugnant.” In a July 7 statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called the terrorist group “un-Islamic and morally repugnant,” noted that the Islamic State’s “human rights abuses on the ground are well-documented,” and called on other Muslim community leaders to speak out against the violence. CAIR reiterated the condemnation of the Islamic State as “both un-Islamic and morally repugnant” on August 11, and on August 21, CAIR once again condemned the group, calling the killing of American journalist James Foley “gruesome and barbaric”:


We strongly condemn this gruesome and barbaric killing as a violation of Islamic beliefs and of universally-accepted international norms mandating the protection of prisoners and journalists during conflicts.

The Geneva Conventions, the Quran – Islam’s revealed text – and the traditions (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad all require that prisoners not be harmed in any way. There can be no excuse or justification for such criminal and bloodthirsty actions.

We also call on those holding Steven Sotloff and other prisoners to immediately release them unharmed so they may return to their loved ones. [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 7/7/14; Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/11/14; Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/20/14]


The Muslim Council Of Great Britain: “Violence Has No Place In Religion.” The Muslim Council of Great Britain condemned the Islamic State’s actions and expressed that they do not represent Sunni Muslims, according to The Independent. Shuja Shafi, a member of the council also said: “Violence has no place in religion, violence has no religion. It is prohibited for people to present themselves for destruction.” [The Independent, 7/11/14]

The Islamic Society of North America: The Islamic State’s Actions “Are To Be Denounced And Are In No Way Representative Of What Islam Actually Teaches. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) released a statement denouncing the Islamic State “for its attacks on Iraq’s religious minorities and the destruction of their places of worship.” ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid said, “ISIS actions against religious minorities in Iraq violate the Quranic teaching, ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’ (Surat al-Baqara 2:256),” adding, “Their actions are to be denounced and are in no way representative of what Islam actually teaches.” [The Islamic Society of North America, 8/9/14]


100 Sunni And Shiite U.K. Imams: The Islamic State Is An “Illegitimate, Vicious Group.” As the Huffington Post reported, 100 Sunni and Shiite Imams from the U.K. came together to produce a video denouncing the Islamic State, releasing a statement that they wanted to “come together to emphasise the importance of unity in the UK and to decree ISIS as an illegitimate, vicious group who do not represent Islam in any way.” (Please see below)

Saudi Arabia’s Highest Religious Authority: Terrorists Like The Islamic State Is The “Number One Enemy Of Islam.” On August 19, Al Jazeera reported that Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, the country’s top religious authority, said that terrorism is anti-Islamic and said that groups like the Islamic State which practice violence are the “number one enemy of Islam”:


Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilisation, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims. [Al Jazeera, 8/19/14]

Muslim Public Affairs Council: Condemned The Islamic State And Called For “Stand Against Extremism.” On August 20, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) released a statement condemning “the barbaric execution of American Journalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).” MPAC urged “all people of conscience to take a stand against extremism” and offered condolences to Foley’s family. MPAC also noted the importance of countering ISIS and other extremist groups by working “to empower the mainstream and relegate extremists to the irrelevance they deserve.” [Muslim Public Affairs Council, 8/20/14]


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So, the next time you hear someone say, “Few Muslim voices have condemned ISIS or any other extremist group,” know that this statement is clearly not true.

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