"Whosoever kills an innocent human life, it is as the killing of all humanity. Whosoever saves a human life, it is as saving all of humanity."The event of September 11th defied language. As an American Muslim, I stood aghast after the attack on my fellow citizens--up to 15% of which may have included U.S. Muslims. And as an ER doctor on duty in New York City that day, I treated victims and relief workers whose suffering was incomprehensible, as all suffering by innocents is.
--Qur'an (Islamic Revelation)
Shortly thereafter, I reached ground zero. Unfortunately, I could contribute little, due to the scant number of survivors recovered. Tears fell many times at the scenes that followed. Ironically, some were tears of relief as I observed American Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Parsis, those of the Baha'i faith, and others side by side, selflessly helping with relief in any form.
From my diagnostician's perspective, the tragedy joins others as a horrible symptom that has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with corrupt sociopolitical and economic agendas that result in endless cycles of pain and violence. These have plagued civilization since the dawn of history, of course. But in modern times, we face the horror of more quantitative damage as media manipulation, industry, and technology can be used to inflict suffering upon innocents on an unprecedented scale.
The underlying causes of these symptoms is what must be challenged and defeated. It is the struggle against a behavioral cancer; against a barbaric viciousness recessed in the human psyche; against a darkness that makes any sane individual ashamed of belonging to the human species; against a suffocating, malignant and constricting egoism. These in turn manifest as fanaticism, reactionary hysteria, and elitism.
When these qualities overcome an individual or group, they ultimately lead to mass crimes against humanity in the name of an ideal. And we can recognize these same deadly elements in the backlash acted out in "retribution"--with people targeted solely on the basis of skin color or dress.
The struggle against these dangerous facets of the psyche is the way of the prophets, saints and sages in all traditions. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) called this struggle against those dark elements found within your own self the Greatest Jihad. "Jihad," a very misunderstood term, does not mean holy war--there is no such concept in Islam. It literally means "struggle." This struggle, this Greatest Jihad, is not being waged often enough and the consequences are disastrous.
I feel that the hosts of heaven, the angels and the souls of the great spiritual masters that have tread this earth, protest and weep over the actions of humanity during this past century. The Qur'an says angelic beings protested when God created humans, asking why He would create a being which would do mischief and shed blood. Divinity responded, "I Know that which you do not."This knowledge related to the Godliness within all humans, which now, more than ever, we need to search for and retrieve.
It is categorically clear that no authentic way of life based upon submitting to peace and divinity allows indiscriminate slaughter; be it in the form of massacre and pillaging, genocide, enforcing foreign policy that directly leads to famine and death in whole countries, using weapons of mass destruction, incinerating entire cities via nuclear assault, or any other means of mass killing. You can label these as effects of modern warfare, collateral damage, or terrorist acts, but the final common denominator leaves us with the horrific suffering of innocent people.
These acts have nothing to do with Islam, Judaism, Christianity or any other religion or peaceful ideology. This is true no matter how eloquently the criminals speak, how many times the word "God" and religious phraseology emerge from their mouths, or how often they use the terms "justice", "freedom", and "national interests." The long beards and flowing robes or the clean-cut articulate impression of neat-fitting suits should not fool those committed to peace. At the same time, the military response to the tragedy of terrorist attacks may further fuel a cycle that causes innocents to suffer terribly.
Islam is defined, in essence, as that perennial way of peace that began with Adam and evolved through the messengerships of the prophets Noah and Abraham, referred to in the Qur'an as "Muslim"--that is, one who is at peace with divinity and therefore all of creation. The way of Islam evolved with hundreds of prophetic luminaries, including those mentioned in the biblical traditions such as David, Solomon, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, John, and Jesus. May Peace be upon all of them. The message of all was to live in a state of Islam thereby earning the title of Muslim in the Qur'anic sense. These sentiments are also echoed in the words of Ahura Mazda, Buddha (may Peace be upon them), and in the Hindu tradition. Thus the Qur'an as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him), who crystallized the way of the Muslim, embraces all that is authentically divine and true in all other religions. It asks for all to converge on what is common to all good people.