I tried to find any sort of comfort for my despair but was utterly unsuccessful. How can it be that a Muslim could do such a heinous thing as blow himself up and kill his fellow citizens in the London Underground? Or blow himself up and kill dozens of children in Iraq? Or fly a plane into the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,000 people? What has become of our world today? Is there any explanation for this madness?
As these and other desperate thoughts raged in my mind, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came straight to my mind.
It was reported that the Prophet (pbuh) once told his companions that among the signs of the Last Day are these: "Religious knowledge is taken away, earthquakes will increase in number, time will pass quickly, afflictions will appear, and Al-Harj will increase..." When asked what "Al Harj" means, the Prophet replied, "It is killing." Have we reached this period? To me, the prophetic saying seems eerily to fit our world today.
Scholars have explained that religious knowledge will be taken away by the death of the learned. Now, there are quite a few Muslim scholars left today, and it may still be a while before all religious knowledge will be totally swept away from this earth. Yet, I see the beginnings of this process. When I read about a preacher in Britain standing on the pulpit and telling his followers to "crush [the infidels'] head in your arms, so you can wring his throat. Forget wasting a bullet, cut them in half," then religious knowledge is slipping away. When you have a blood-thirsty terrorist issue an edict proclaiming all Americans as legitimate targets in an illegitimate "jihad," then religious knowledge is slipping away. When a scholar uses the Qur'an and hadith (narration about the life of the Prophet) to justify the murder of innocent people, then religious knowledge is slipping away
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Leaving aside the war zones of many of America's inner cities, the amount of killing around the word is absolutely astounding. Take the recent murder of 24 children by a suicide bomber in Iraq. Why? The children were all over the U.S. Army Humvee, because the soldiers were giving them candy, and Army officials as well as witnesses are certain the bomber had to have seen the children before ramming his car into the crowd and blowing himself up. By no stretch of the imagination could this heinous act of barbarity be justified by any religious tradition, let alone the Islamic one.
Which brings me to another saying of the Prophet that gives me serious pause. The Prophet (pbuh) was reported to have said, ""The Hour (i.e., the Last Day) will only come upon the worst of the people."
Are we the "worst of the people"? Has our humanity degraded to such an extent that the Hour will come upon us at any moment? In our world today, wars have been started based upon faulty and sloppily collected information, if not outright lies. In our world today, suicide bombers have no qualms about killing innocent men, women, and children. In our world today, you are liable to be killed for the shoes you wear on your feet. Are we witnessing the end of human civilization as we know it?
So, what are we to do? Are we to simply sit back and do nothing about the horrible injustice that infests our world today? Are we to remain complacent in the face of the evil that surrounds us?
Absolutely not. I remember a saying of the Prophet that said if the Hour is upon us and we have a seed in our hand, we should plant it anyway. No one knows when the hour is going to come. When both Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them both) were asked this question, the answer was the same for each: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36); "The one being questioned [about the Last Day] knows no more than the questioner." (Hadith in Bukhari)
Until the very last moment of time on earth, we are charged with standing on the side of justice, working to help those less fortunate than us, and striving against all that is evil and ugly in our world. When the world will end should not be our concern, and we must expend every living and breathing moment in trying to make the best of an inherently imperfect world. Thus, when we stand before the Lord on that Last Day, we can at least tell Him that we did our best--in the midst of the horrible evil of the world--to try to make our world a better place for everyone. And I am hopeful that God will reward us handsomely for our efforts.