Common Word, Common Lord

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

I was blessed to attend the 52nd Annual Concention in Chicago this past weekend. Among the many great sessions was the launch of the campaign to make mosques in America more woman-friendly. It was an electrifying session. 

Yet, not only did I witness the launch of this initiative, but I was blessed to add my own signature on both forms of the document: online and on paper. 


For a long time, Muslim women have complained that their spaces were woefully inadequate. They were absolutely right. In fact, despite the beauty of the mosque in Paris, which I was blessed to visit recently, the women’s space was terrible. 

For such a long time, it seemed little was being done about it. Well, now things have changed. The Islamic Society of North America, the largest American Muslim organization, is trying to do something about it. 

The statement ISNA released reads as follows: 

We, the undersigned Muslim scholars, leaders, organizations and concerned Muslims, voice our strong commitment to uphold and realize the Prophetic ideal of masjids being open and inclusive of women. Striving to realize the Prophetic model, we call upon all masjids to ensure that (1) women are welcomed as an integral part of masjids and encouraged to attend, (2) women have a prayer space in the main musalla which is behind the lines of men but not behind a full barrier that disconnects women from the main musalla and prevents them from seeing the imam; and (3) women actively participate in the decision-making process of the masjid, best realized by having women on the governing bodies of masjids.

The full statement outlines the theological basis for their stance. 

It’s about time! 

This initiative is the result of the hard work of scores of Muslim women (and men) who have strived to make mosques and Islamic institutions live up to the Quranic ideal: 

The believing men and the believing women are awliya’ (supporters, helpers, protectors, patrons) of one another: they (both) enjoin what is known to be good and forbid what is known to be bad; they establish salah and pay zakah; and they obey God and His Messenger. These are the ones on whom Allah will bestow mercy—indeed Allah is exalted in power, wise (9:71).

There is no way to live up to this ideal if our sisters, who are at least half of the community, have to enter the mosque from the side or pray in a terrible space. 

I’m so proud to be a signatory. I’m so grateful to have been there to witness the launch of the campaign. And I pray that these noble words of truth and commitment translate into concrete action and results. Our sisters deserve as much. 

It’s about time. 


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

There are many times that the songs I may happen to hear will cause me to frown. So much of popular music today is comprised of lyrics that are questionable (at the absolute best) in their morality and message. Yet, sometimes, a song will come along that strikes a deep chord in me. Such is the case with Echosmith’s song, “Bright”:

I think the Universe is on my side
Heaven and Earth have finally aligned
Days are good, and that’s the way it should be

You sprinkle stardust on my pillowcase
It’s like a moonbeam brushed across my face
Nights are good, and that’s the way it should be

And I see colors in a different way
You make what doesn’t matter fade to gray
Life is good, and that’s the way it should be

I also really like the chorus:

Did you see that shooting star tonight?
Were you dazzled by the same constellation?
Did you and Jupiter conspire to get me?
I think you and the moon and Neptune got it right, ‘cuz now I’m shining bright
So Bright. Bright, so bright.

Now, the song’s narrator feels this way because she is in love. In fact, she says to her lover: “I get lost in your eyes.” When I hear this song, however, I think of my “shining bright” in the love of God.

When one is enveloped by the warm, soothing love of God, it is only natural that she feels “the Universe is on [her] side,” and “Heaven and Earth have finally aligned.” When one is embraced by His love, it is only natural that he feels that both “days…nights are good.” It is only natural that one sees “colors in a different way” because God indeed makes “what doesn’t matter fade to gray.” When one is in the bright light of God’s love, life is good indeed, and “that’s the way it should be.”

In fact, when I hear that chorus, I see myself saying some of those exact words to the Beloved Himself: “Did You and Jupiter conspire to get me? I think You and the moon and Neptune got it right, ‘cuz now I’m shining bright.” I say this because: when I see “that shooting star tonight,” or that “constellation,” or Jupiter, “the moon and Neptune,” I can’t help but be dazzled by the beauty of God and His creation.

Everything in this Universe is but a reflection of His Beauty, His Glory, His Majesty. And so I can see myself asking God if He indeed used the beauty of Jupiter, and the moon, and Neptune to ensnare and engulf me more in His Love. For when I am rendered breathless by the creation of The Beloved, I am only further wanting to immerse myself in His Love.

And once I am blessed by His Love, I indeed shine “bright, so bright.”

Every time I hear this song, I feel so comforted because it makes me think of the Love of God and how beautiful it is. And how blessed I am to be living and breathing in it. And when I hear the last words of the song, “And I get lost in your eyes,” I make this prayer:

Lord, Beautiful Lord. Please let me get lost in the beauty of Your eyes and Face in the Hereafter!

Amen, my Beautiful, Beloved Lord. Amen.


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

It was so refreshing to read Harry J. Bentham’s post, “Islam is part of the West now, live with it.”

I will let Mr. Bentham speak for himself:

One type of misinformation that should be watched vigilantly is the way Islam is endlessly singled out as a violent religion. This is done by selective coverage of events and constant emphasis on any connection to Islam when talking about violence.

As I have written before, it takes a very selective memory of history and even recent events to see Islam as a violent religion. Not only is Christianity’s own history marred by the Crusades and the Inquisition, both of which were carried out in Christ’s name, but there are warlords alive today who committed unspeakable atrocities in the name of Christ and even Gautama Buddha.

We are told stories such as the recent one in France, where a girl in a bikini was assaulted by apparent Muslim women attackers offended by her choice of dress. However, we are not told of the comparable stories of the Muslim women threatened and attacked by racists in France or Britain even though we know such attacks are equally real.

I applaud his pointing out the absurdity of associating the crimes of a few with the whole of a group:

Defenders of Muslims are often accused of being Muslims themselves or even extremists, just as anyone who stood up in defense of Jews in Germany in the 1920s or 30s was labelled a Jew and a communist. Just pointing out the facts is enough to offend some people, who believe their racist hostility towards a group of humanity is justified on the grounds that “Islam is not a race”. The people who make this foolish statement clearly know nothing about either anti-discrimination laws, or the history of tolerance and social theories behind those laws. They know nothing about why racism is wrong in the first place and are likely to justify segregation or even killing for the same reasons applied by racists in the Twentieth Century.

Here, here, Mr. Bentham!

It is high time to reject the constant association of the crimes of a few on the character of the whole. All these pundits and politicians (and even some religious leaders) who attack all of Islam for the sins of a few savages and criminals would never dare do the same for any other ethnic or religious group. But if it is wrong to do so with any ethnic or religious group – which it is – then it is wrong for Islam and Muslims. It is high time for the double standard to stop.

God bless you, Mr. Bentham, for pointing this out. Would that so many more heed your words of wisdom.


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

A woman in Chicago was pulled from her burning car by a Good Samaritan who stopped to help. He saved her life. That Good Samaritan was my very good friend.

Ahmed Elsayed, an engineer from Aurora, was on his way to an appointment with his 9-year-old son when he saw the smoke. He pulled over and ran to her window.

“I was just screaming for her to get out of the car, get out of the car. So when she did, I kind of grabbed her by the arm and pulled her towards my car and we got in and moved further away,” Elsayed said.

The car went up in flames.

Ahmed gave me more detail about the incident:

I originally stopped to simply help her, thinking her car was overheating and then noticed the flames as I was walking towards her.

His walk then turned to a “frantic run to get her out of the car.”

The woman said afterwards: “I feel that I’m alive today because of him. And I owe him a great deal.”

After seeing this story, I wanted to post about how such stories about Muslims do not get enough play. I wanted to post about how, all over the world, Muslims do good like this, and no one hears about it. All anyone ever hears is the barbarity of savages who act in the name of Islam.

When I posed the post idea to Ahmed, he refused. He said:

I’d be happier to leave faith and ethnicity out of this. I’m human, she’s human. I helped when I could.

He continued:

The sooner we can get over the labels and just help each other because it’s the right thing to do, the better this world will be.

Wow. How true.

It would be so nice to live in a world where people don’t see each other through labels; where people don’t see a woman wearing a headscarf and immediately think she can’t speak English or tell her, “Go back to your country!” It would be so nice to live in a world where people don’t judge you based on your name or color of your complexion. It would be so nice to live in a world where people do not kill in the name of religion and houses of worship are never attacked in brazen, vicious manners.

Ahmed’s actions and his subsequent profound words of wisdom should teach us all to “get over the labels and just help each other because it’s the right thing to do.” It’s so easy to retreat to that corner of our minds where we see everyone else through their “labels.” It is much harder to see everyone for who they really are: fellow human beings who have dignity and deserve our respect and good will. I pray that my friend Ahmed Elsayed inspires us to do just that.


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

In a famous saying of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), it is said that the Devil and his minions are chained during the month of Ramadan, which is almost half way done at this point. Thus, the believer is spared from his constant and unrelenting whispers and temptations. While this is a good thing, it does leave open one disconcerting implication: any evil thoughts or actions during Ramadan can no longer be attributed to the Devil. They are all ours to own.

In fact, I have a big problem with the retort that “the Devil made me do it,” whenever one is confronted with their mistakes. The Devil does not make anyone do anything. He is quoted as saying this very thing in the Qur’an:

And when everything will have been decided, Satan will say: “Behold, God promised you something that was bound to come true! I, too, held out [all manner of] promises to you – but I deceived you. Yet, I had no power at all over you: I but called you, and you responded to me. Hence, do not blame me, but blame your own selves… (14:22)

Whenever we want to blame the Devil for the things we have done, he will sell us out every time. We have to take responsibility for all the evil we have wrought. The Devil is not a puppeteer that controls our every moves. He is only an evil whisperer – a weak one at that – and we are the ones who choose to heed his evil suggestions.

But now, with the Devil being chained in Ramadan, we will have to come to terms with our true selves. And we may not be very happy with whatever base desires that our own selves may conjure.

Yet, that is the whole purpose of the fast of Ramadan. It is an opportunity for us to get to know our true selves and – armed with the spiritual power of fasting, prayer, and reflection – learn to overcome those temptations and make ourselves better people. And when Ramadan is over, and the Devil returns to his evil whispering, all the fasting and prayer we have done will make us steadfast in the face of his temptations. This can only be a good thing, and it will make all those long hours of hunger and thirst worth it.


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

My daughter first told me about the song, and I really had no idea what she was talking about. But, I had a chance to listen to the song on a long drive back home after a short trip with the family. And I really liked the song’s message:

It’s been a long night here, and a long night there
And these long long legs are damn near everywhere
(hold up now)
You look good, I will not lie
But if you ask where I’m staying tonight
I gotta be like oh baby, no baby, you got me all wrong baby
My baby’s already got all of my love

So nah nah Honey, I’m good
I could have another but I probably should not
I’ve got somebody at home, and if I stay I might not leave alone
No, honey, I’m good
I could have another but I probably should not
I’ve got to bid you adieu
To another I will stay true
(oo oo I will stay true)
(who who I will stay true)

The beginning of the second verse is really awesome as well:
Now better men, than me have failed
Drinking from that unholy grail
And it is truly an unholy grail. And to top it off, the narrator of the song tells off his would be temptress with this:
Oh, I’m sure ya, sure ya will make somebody’s night
But oh, I assure ya assure ya, it sure as hell’s not mine
You can read the whole song’s lyrics at: Andy Grammer – Honey, I’m Good Lyrics | MetroLyrics

What a refreshing message of fidelity! In this day and age, the concept of staying true to one person for life has been steadily dwindling. How many songs talk about relationships as a “test drive”? For so many people, cheating on a spouse or partner is no big deal. In fact, some aspects of popular culture even glorify infidelity.

But, infidelity is a big deal; a horrible betrayal; and a very hurtful and harmful thing. While I understand that some people make mistakes, with infidelity being among them, but at least, let’s not have an unequivocal attitude towards infidelity. It is wrong. It always has been, and it always will be, no matter how many people do it.

And I really love that the song makes fidelity cool. It makes being loyal to your mate desirable. I love it that it says, “I’ve got to bid you adieu/To another I will stay true.” How refreshing!

And the video is really, really awesome. Check it out:

YouTube Preview Image


In the Name of God, The Extremely, Eternally, and Everlastingly Loving and Caring

This past week, we commemorated “Critical Care Week” at our hospital, which celebrates the women and men who dedicate their lives to taking care of the sickest and most critically ill patients: those admitted to an ICU. They are nurses, physicians, patient care technicians, among many others, and I am blessed and forever grateful to be counted among them.

Because these patients are the sickest of the sick, God and faith are frequent topics of discussion, especially when having to discuss the difficult reality that a patient may not get much better. So many times, patients’ family members have told me, “Well, I believe in God,” as if I do not believe in God or, somehow, I am a skeptic of religion and religious faith.

Indeed, there are many physicians that either do not discuss religion and spirituality with patients or, perhaps, are truly skeptics themselves. Indeed, in an article in the Chicago Tribune, it said:

[Experts] believe that as the gap between health care and religion has widened, the quality of care for patients has diminished.

Still, although there may be this gap between medicine and religion, when patients’ families say to me, “I believe in God,” my response to them is, “Well, I believe in God, too.”

I suspect that by telling me “I believe in God,” they are sending me the message that it is He, and not me, that will heal their very sick loved one. Well, I believe the very same thing. I know that, ultimately, it is God that heals and not me.

Now, this does not mean that I will not exert every single effort to help a patient get better. There is nothing I will not do to help my patients. I will stay longer after my shift; stay up for hours on end; and either do my own research or ask other colleagues about something I do not know. I have lost count of the number of times I have been unable to sleep because I have been thinking about my patients’ cases.

All this, and I still know that, at the end of the day, it is God who is the Ultimate Healer. It is God that saves lives, not me.

Thus, when a patient’s mother or wife tells me, “I believe in God,” I am not offended. In fact, because I believe in God, I am very comfortable speaking the language of faith, and this puts those family members who are religious at ease. 

So many times I have said to families, when it is inevitable that their loved one will pass on: “Let your loved one go back to God,” or “Because your loved one is a child of God, let them die with dignity, not connected to tubes and machines.” And because we have this connection of faith in a common Lord, these difficult discussions are much easier to have.

Although I am very careful not to impose my religious faith unto my patients, and I am equally careful not to let my personal religious convictions cloud my medical judgment, I believe being a believer in the Intenisve Care Unit has only enhanced my skills as a physician. And it has made me all the more grateful than ever for being blessed to be in Medicine. 



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

The title of this post is the response of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to a man who expressed a desire to perform jihad in the path of God. It is likely that this man was thinking about a military battle. The Prophet (pbuh) instead asked him, “Is your mother alive?” When the man replied in the affirmative, the Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Go and cling to her feet, because Paradise is there.”

The duty we have to our parents in general, but to our mothers in particular, is enormous in Islam. The Qur’an is full of references to the duty we have to our parents:

For your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none but Him. And do good unto [your] parents. Should one of them, or both, attain to old age in your care, never say [even] “Ugh” to them or scold them, but [always] speak unto them with reverent speech and spread over them humbly the wings of your tenderness, and say: “O my Lord! Bestow Your grace upon them, even as they cherished and reared me when I was a child!” (17:23-24)

Now [among the best of righteous deeds which] We have enjoined upon humanity [is] goodness towards parents…(29:8)

AND WORSHIP God [alone], and do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him. And do good unto your parents…(4:36)

Say: “Come, let me convey unto you what God has [really] forbidden to you: “Do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him; and [do not offend against but, rather,] do good unto your parents…(6:151)

And here, the Qur’an speaks more specifically about mothers:

NOW [among the best of the deeds which] We have enjoined upon man is goodness towards his parents. In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth; and her bearing him and his utter dependence on her took thirty months. And so when he attains to full maturity and reaches forty years, he [that is righteous] prays: “O my Lord! Inspire me so that I may forever be grateful for those blessings of Yours with which You have graced me and my parents…(46:15)

And [God says:] ‘We have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: his mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain, and his utter dependence on her lasted two years: [hence, humanity] be grateful towards Me and towards thy parents, [and remember that] with Me is all journeys’ end. (31:14)

The Prophetic literature is also full of other traditions stressing the importance of honoring the parents. One of the greatest sins, according to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is disobeying and maltreating one’s parents. Once, a man came to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and asked, “Who amongst my near ones has the greatest rights over me?” The Prophet replied, “Your mother”. The man then asked, “Who after that?” The Prophet replied again, “Your mother”. The man then asked a third time, “Who after that?” The Prophet said a third time, “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Who after that?” At this, the Prophet said, “Your father.”

Once, a young man was dying, and he could not utter the testimony of faith prior to death. They brought this to the attention of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and he asked, “Did this man offer his prayers?”, and they replied in the affirmative. He then asked for his mother to be brought to the dying man’s house. He asked, “Respected lady, is he your son?” She replied in the affirmative. He then asked her, “O respected lady, if we threaten to throw your son in a raging fire, will you recommend him to be forgiven?” She replied that she would definitely do so. The Prophet then said to her, “If so, declare, making God and me your witnesses, that you are now pleased with him!” The old woman readily declared, “O God, You and your Messenger be my witness that I am pleased with this beloved son of mine.” After this, her son was able to utter the testimony of faith.

This man was persistently disobedient to his mother, and this story tells me that my salvation is at stake when I disobey my parents, especially my mother. And you know what, they deserve it. I will never understand what it is like to be a mother. Sure, I love my children, but my love will never reach the love that my wife has for our kids; never reach the love my mother has for me and my siblings.

Truly, truly, it is fitting that Paradise lies at the feet of our mothers. Although every day should be Mother’s Day, at the very least, let us all reach out to our Moms this Sunday, kiss their hands, and tell them “Thank You for all that you have done!” And if our Moms are no longer with us, then let us pray to Our Beloved that He bless them with eternal bliss and Paradise. Amen.


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

I scanned the major headlines on a news search engine today, and there was barely a mention of the Oklahoma City bombing, which occurred on this day 20 years ago. Of course, there was a headline about the savages of KIL (which I will not link here). Yet, the tragedy that was the Oklahoma City bombing still causes daily pain to all the families of the victims, especially those parents who lost children on that day. That pain – the pain of the loss of a child – never goes away. I know that all too well. I pray for all the victims of that terrible bombing, that the Lord our God brings them comfort from their grief.

Nevertheless, the tragedy of Oklahoma City, just like 9/11, reminds us that evil comes in all forms. Many want to have you think that the evil of terrorism comes only in the “Islamic” form. Time and again, the facts have borne out that this is simply not true. While every act of violence against the innocent is terribly tragic – and should be condemned in every way, shape, and form – we cannot let fear get the best of us. In 2014, depending on which definition you use, there were anywhere between 24 and 283 mass shooting incidents with four or more casualties. These incidents had nothing to do with “Islamic terrorism.”

Evil comes in all shapes and forms. Yes, many people commit terrible atrocities in the name of God. But, they are not exclusive or unique. Criminals have various motivations, but in the end they are all the same: criminals who deserve justice and punishment. The bombers of Oklahoma City faced their justice in this world, and they will face Ultimate Justice in the next as well. So will the savages of KIL (aka ISIS), Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, the Lords’ Resistance Army, and others.

God is in charge, reminding us of this clearly in His Word:

And do not think that God is unaware of what the evildoers do: He but grants them respite until the Day when their eyes will stare in horror. (14:42)

He is the King and Master of the Day of Judgment, and everyone will be brought before Him to answer for what he or she has done. In this, we should all feel comfort. But, also, in this, those who do wrong should be shaking in fear.


In the Name of God: The Extremely, Eternally, and Perpetually Loving and Merciful

The trial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is set to enter jury deliberations this week. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the jury is going to convict Tsarnaev. This should come as no surprise to anyone. He is clearly guilty. Even his defense attorneys know that. Their main job is to persuade the jury to spare his life.

Thus, it is my sincere hope and prayer that he be not put to death. This is not out of any sort of sympathy for the savage. He deserves to be put to death for the terrible pain and suffering he and his brother caused on that terrible April day two years ago. Yet, that is exactly what Tsarnaev wants: he wants to die as a “martyr.” He said so himself:

As [Tsarnaev] hid, he used a pencil to scrawl what prosecutors called a “manifesto,” in which he said he was jealous of his brother for dying as a martyr and reaching paradise. He also lashed out at the United States for policies he said killed Muslims, writing, “I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished. We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.”

First of all, he does not speak for me or the billions of other Muslims around the world. We reject his act of savagery in the name of our faith. He is a low-life criminal, thinking that he was doing “God’s will” by killing innocent men, women, and children. In fact, he acted against God’s will. He is no “martyr.” He is a murderer.

And as such, he should rot in jail for the rest of his life. He should be locked up and never released. He should never know freedom again. This is the best punishment you could give him. Executing him would be easy, and it may give him some amount of joy, in a sick sort of way. Yet, even that small amount of joy should be denied him. He should sit in a jail cell, humiliated, until God’s takes his life at some point in the future. And it will not be long before no one will care about Dzokhar Tsarnaev.

And after all that time, he will face justice again. This time, however, it will be Ultimate Justice for the crimes he committed. He will stand before the King and Master of the Day of Judgment and account for his murders. He will be asked why he killed children, when God’s word said he could not. He will be asked why he shed the blood of innocent fellow Americans, when God’s word told him that this was forbidden. He will be asked why he felt killing people watching a marathon is “justice” for the injustice dealt to Muslims thousands of miles away.

And I suspect he will have no good answer.

It is natural to want to see this savage killed for what he did.  Yet, that is what Tsarnaev wants. Thus, we should do the exact opposite: let this “holy warrior” live out the rest of his days in a jail cell. It is a fitting recompense for all the suffering he caused.

Previous Posts