Tag Archives: Quran

No Matter What They Say

 

Was the murderer – who brutally killed 84 people, injuring hundreds more in Nice, France, a practicing Muslim? Or, was he, as reports indicate, a depressed, lonely man with mental health problems, a propensity for using drugs and alcohol, and a criminal history – the very antithesis of a practicing Muslim? The answers to these questions don’t seem to matter to everyone. Several politicians, TV personalities and pundits, set out to form public sentiment surrounding the attack within the very first hours after it occurred. Before any details were available, the branding of this attack as a radical “Islamic” terror attack had already begun.

I heard the terms “Islamic terrorism” and “radical Islamic terrorism” repeated over and over again. I heard people insist that these attacks won’t stop until we “call it what it really is” and dutifully attach the word “Islam” to every single terror instigating crime we witness. High profile people such as Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich– and a slew of far right-wing politicians and networks framed this attack as a sign of a clash of civilizations – clear as day – a war between Islam and the west. Gingrich went so far as to say, “Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of Muslim background and if they believe in sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.”

I believe in Shariah, which is the same thing as believing in Islam.

Do they know that being kind to your family is part of the Shariah, along with prayer, charity, being honest, oh – and don’t forget – obeying the laws of the land in which we live? Do they care? For American Muslims, being good citizens is literally mandated by the Shariah. I don’t know where Mr Gingrich would like to send me. My great grandparents were born here in the USA. There are American Muslims whose ancestry dates way further back in America than mine – some can trace back centuries, some all the way to the Mayflower, and some American Muslims trace their heritage straight back to the Native Americans. If the Native Americans who are now Muslims could be deported back in time… that would be interesting, because there’d be no sign of Gingrich’s ancestors or Trump’s on American soil.

Imagine, all this vitriol, all this certainty, all this “educating” went on before any information whatsoever, aside from the rising death toll, had been uncovered. Clearly, this notion of testing and deporting Muslims isn’t tenable – but what all these hateful statements did, was perpetuate the notion that Muslims are foreign – period. This divisive view of our world – us vs. them; paints a black and white, and very frightening picture for vulnerable Americans. The more people see a polarized world, the more they feel obliged and compelled to take a side.

They are training us to instinctively see all horrific incidents as being tied to Islam. Whether they really are or not is beside the point. This helps to advance the positions and agendas of powerful politicians and corporations – but tears our society apart, and that does matter.

SMH and Complain?

I can get upset and shake my finger at this irresponsible use of fame and ability to reach millions of people’s brains. I can fight every troll on the Internet and argue about just how anti-Islam these crimes really are. Yes, the facts prove the islamophobes and everyone else trying to force a war down our throats, utterly wrong – but the truth alone cannot alter the toxic atmosphere being systematically created. So what’s a Muslim to do?

The Heat is On

One of the effects of being constantly suspect is that the one under suspicion begins to feel guilty – even if he or she is totally innocent. Dalia Mogahed explained how she felt after 9/11 saying,  “Not only had my country been attacked, but in a flash, somebody else’s actions had turned me from a citizen to a suspect… for the first time in my life, [I was] afraid for anyone to know I was a Muslim.”

This is reinforced by a few, very loud voices claiming that we are all suspect. After the Nice attacks, Kelvin Mackenzie, a columnist from the UK’s Sun newspaper wrote a controversial column questioning why a “young woman wearing a hijab” had been allowed to report on the attack in Nice. He was appalled that the reporter, Fatima Manji was visibly Muslim. He asked. “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?”

Avoiding the Herd Mentality

More than 1/3 of the dead, killed by the attacker in Nice, were Muslims. If it’s offensive for a Muslim to report the attack on television, is it also offensive for us to mourn our dead? We have to reject this idea and think critically: Is it wrong for white Christians to report news about attacks committed by white Christians? To suggest so is clearly, easily and immediately recognized as preposterous.

In the face of this monumental and growing problem, I refuse to allow others to determine how I feel about myself. We have to be the leaders of our own thoughts – to employ reasoning, and thoughtfully listen and consider the facts and points of view before settling on our position. The Quran differentiates between those who think rationally and those who are unthinking and sheep-like, following the rest without intelligent thought: “Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are not except like livestock. Rather, they are more astray in [their] way.” (Quran 25:44)

Fighting Doubts

The Prophet Muhammad said, “The people will see a time of patience in which someone adhering to his religion will be as if he were grasping a hot coal.” (Tirmidhi)

Yeah, Islam is kind of like a hot coal right now. This is certainly one of those times. In light of this terrorism epidemic and the mounting negative public opinion towards Islam and Muslims, some of us may feel like giving up. It’s exhausting constantly being under scrutiny, guilt-tripped, cursed at, ridiculed, and hated. Maybe this would all be easier if we just took our headscarves off, shaved our beards and changed our names to Moe.

The thing is, the solution is in the same statement – the crux of the issue, is that we Muslims adhere to our faith. By doing so, we will become better people, who manifest the best of character and manners, we will increase in patience and follow this guidance: “Repel [evil] by that which is better; and thereupon the one who between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” (Quran 41:34)

Why should I?

“Do you think that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? … Yes! Certainly, the Help of God is near!” (Quran 2:214)

The truth is – according to Islam, all of this life is intended to be a test. If it weren’t this, it would be something else. So, as a Muslim, I remember the advice of Prophet Jacob to his sons, “Despair not of relief from God. Indeed, no one despairs of relief from God except the disbelieving people.” (Quran 12:87)

This is how we avoid despair and strive to become even better people. These difficulties can be good for us. They remind us to get back to the basics, to assess our lives, and reorient our priorities. We remember that we can’t achieve any success without the aid of the Owner of the heavens and the Earth. The answers lie in the Quran and in our prayers – in our Islam

So, I encourage my fellow Muslims to spend less time obsessing over the latest news and step away from the bickering and argumentation – To look into the eyes of our loved ones – To take a moment to step outdoors and observe the beauty of God’s signs in His creation – To help one another more, give back to our communities. And most of all, to spend more time with the Quran. Turn off the TV. Sign out of Facebook and Twitter. Open the Quran, read it and understand it.

“So be patient.  Indeed, the promise of God is truth. And ask forgiveness for your sin and exalt with praise of your Lord in the evening and the morning.

Indeed, those who dispute concerning God’s signs without authority having come to them – there is not within their hearts except pride, [the extent of] which they cannot reach. So seek refuge in God. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Quran 40:55-56)

 

In this book, I find solace, I find hope, I find peace. No matter what they say.

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If Islam is Hate, Why Are People Still Converting?

It’s an odd thing: Thousands, upon thousands of people around the world – around 20,000 every year in America alone, are choosing to become Muslims.

Muslims. You know, those people who’ve murdered scores of civilians – brutally and mercilessly?

Not only are alleged Muslims behind atrocities like 9/11 and the massacre in Paris, they claim their violence is inspired and sanctioned by Islam itself – don’t they?

The word Terrorism has come to be directly – instinctively – associated with Islam. Think about that word: Terror. What kind of people would desire to terrorize others? What kind of monsters slaughter indiscriminately men, women, and children-Children – the epitome of innocence?

Well, if you believe what you hear and see, in far too many media and “news” outlets, the answer would appear to be: the Muslim kind.

This begs the question: “What kind of people would convert to a religion that promotes carnage and chaos like this?” Naturally, one might imagine these converts must be people with sociopathic tendencies – self-hating psychopaths perhaps.

But that’s just not the case.

Who Converts to Islam?

From youthful, pre-pubescent teens, to sage elderly grandfathers and grandmothers such as Georgette Lepaulle of Belgium who converted at the age of 91 – Islam seems to be attracting all kinds of people – the vast, overwhelming majority of whom definitely don’t fit the description of terrorist.

Johannah Segarich, now a retired college Music professor, asked herself this question in the midst of the confusion after the 9/11 attacks: “What kind of religion is this that could inspire people to do this?”

Johannah had studied other religions, but hadn’t thought to learn about Islam. She decided to buy a copy of the Quran, wondering if her notions of Islam as a male-controlled and now apparently violent religion, would be confirmed.

She read the first chapter, “In the name of God, The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful…. All Praise is due to God, The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. … You alone We worship, You alone we ask for help, Show us the straight way, the way of those who have earned your favor…” She finished the Quran a few weeks later, and then started reading it again. About half way through, barely 10 weeks after 9/11, “I came to the realization,” she said, “that I had a decision to make.”

She decided to convert to Islam.

A travel bug took Angela Collins Telles, a quintessential California girl, to Egypt and Syria. She made friends abroad, and found most people to be generous and kind. When anti-Muslim rhetoric flared after 9/11, She felt a need to do something.

“I saw my country demonizing these people as terrorists and oppressors of women, and I couldn’t think of anything further from the truth,” she said, “and I felt a need to stand-up and defend them. But then I realized that I couldn’t argue without knowledge.”

Realizing she had no basis upon which to defend the people she felt were being wrongly demonized, she began studying Islam. Regarding her findings she said: “The concept of God was the most beautiful thing, and that concept fit with what I believe,” She converted only a few months after 9/11. (Source)

For Caleb Carter, becoming a Muslim took years. Sept. 11, 2001, was a turning point — specifically his teacher’s hostile response to Islam that day.

“I was a junior in high school at the time, taking a class called Nonwestern World Studies,” said Carter, “For him, it was purely, ‘This is what Islam teaches. We shouldn’t be surprised.’ He played the whole ‘Islam equals terrorism card.’”

But Carter wasn’t buying his teacher’s opinions, nor was he “educated enough to judge it either way.” Studying Islam and other world religions became his mission, and he converted to Islam in 2006. (Source)

Davi Barker, a writer and artist from California, also converted in 2006. Barker lived in Saudi Arabia and the Maldives for a few years as a child and knew “Muslims in Muslim countries,” so he didn’t believe that the religion was to blame for the terrorist attacks. He said he “saw the propaganda campaign going on” against Islam, something that continues to this day.

Canadian Micheal Atwood, was raised to be a practicing Christian. He first heard about Islam on the anniversary of 9/11. He was not intrigued to learn about it right away, but he later found out that Muslims believe in Jesus while on a class trip to a museum.

In 7th grade he overheard his Muslim friends talking about the Quran, and decided he wanted a better understanding of the Bible. What he found when he began researching its authenticity and history, left him un-impressed.

Atwood became curious about the Quran and began reading its translation online. He said, “I couldn’t stop reading the Quran. It was beautiful.” He learned about the practices of Islam and felt Muslims follow Jesus even more than he had learned to as a Christian. Half way through 7th grade, he converted to Islam at only 12 years old. (Source)

The internet is chock full of the stories of people, young and old, from every corner of the Earth, and how they decided to convert to Islam. From high-power, successful business men and women, to bartenders; from the highly confident and blissfully happy, to the ones who felt lost, lonely or depressed; from the party guys and girls who just wanted to have fun, to studious intellectuals – Islam appears to attract people from every walk of life.

Indeed the Quran confirms that it is in fact a message for all mankind: {This (Quran) is direction and guidance for the whole world.} (Quran 38:87)

Why are conversions increasing with terrorist activity?

I encourage every reader to read and listen to the stories of the people who made this choice. 9/11 and other terrorist atrocities did not influence people to learn about Islam, because they like violence. Rather, they fall into several categories:

  1. Some of those whose conversion began with knowledge of a terrorist crime wanted to better understand how areligion could possibly be that evil. It’s an outrageous claim that isn’t easily swallowed by everyone. These people needed to find out for themselves. What they found not only defied their original suspicion; it spoke to them in the most beautiful way.
  2. Others, like me, wanted to expose Islam for the hoax we thought it really was – until we realized it wasn’t. Conversion for my kind is often difficult, because it requires the admission of having been utterly incorrect, and often becoming the person who would have previously been the butt of your own jokes.
  3. Then you have the ones who knew Muslims already. They knew they weren’t the bloodthirsty, deranged caricatures they appeared to be on TV. These people felt a strong sense of injustice and wrongful portrayal, slander of the innocent. In order to make their point though, they realized they needed to have knowledge for their stance to be credible.
  4. For other people, the apparent chaos and strife in our world makes them begin thinking about life, God and inevitably, religion. Their searching eventually leads them to Islam. Had it not been for the unfortunate and misguided crimes committed in the name of Islam, many people would have never thought at all about Islam.

I’ve noticed in my extensive research of Muslim converts, that just about every single one of them did extensive research which included reading the Quran, most often the entire Quran, sometimes several times over before coming to a decision. The people who convert to Islam, rather than exhibiting and increase in anger or bloodthirstiness, express that they have become kinder, gentler, more patient and caring people.

Being a Muslim in these times where Islam is so grossly misunderstood is not necessarily easy. We are wrongfully stereotyped and feared. But, the benefits each and every one of us has gained – God – an understanding of the true purpose of life and death, guidance – dwarf any of the challenges we face.

Originally Published at AboutIslam.net: http://aboutislam.net/reading-islam/understanding-islam/islam-hate-people-still-converting/

 

The Male Is Not Like the Female

Muslim women who are scientists, doctors, engineers, police officers, firefighters, American soldiers, lawyers and even Judges,  exemplify the diversity of Muslim women in the world.

These examples demonstrate the fact that Muslim women can – and do – follow their dreams and strive for achievements outside the home. Such pursuits undertaken by modern Muslim women are not foreign or new. In the time of the prophet Muhammad, Muslim women assumed many roles; they were entrepreneurs, scholars, poets and more.

But, part of the beauty of Islam is the way women are valued. Our worth does not stem from what we accomplish in terms of careers, or how we stack up against men –  rather our femininity itself is valued and we elevate ourselves via piety.

In our modern society, women who are”housewives” or “stay at home moms”  often feel a sense of inadequacy. No doubt when asked the question, “What do you do?” they often answer with dread, and are met with awkwardly incredulous, blank stares. The questioner often is not sure if they should express sympathy for the homemaker or provide encouragement that they can be so much more.

Muslim women however, have no reason to feel deficient. We’ve been created female and don’t need to try to be like men to prove anything! In Islam, a “housewife” is not considered inadequate, instead her inherent value is acknowledged and appreciated.

In Islam, it’s made clear that it is no accident that humans come in two forms. Although distinct, males and females are equal in the sight of God as He explained in several places throughout the Quran. For example:

“Never will I allow the work of [any] worker among you to be lost, whether male or female; you are of one another.” (Quran 3:195)
In nature, we see creatures in pairs, from plants to animals.  Reproduction of most species occurs via two mates. Human beings have also been made in pairs, like halves that complete a whole. This completion is possible, due to the differences between the male and female.

Men and women are complimentary, physiologically and functionally.

While one might argue that men have certain advantages over females, and much of the last century (take a look at the feminist movement) has been in large part about proving women can do whatever men can do – the fact remains that women are the ones who can do what men cannot.

I personally don’t understand how this has been overlooked. The female’s unique qualities have been all but utterly disdained by feminists who often forsake marriage and motherhood in favor of corporate advancement, for example.

In Islam, due to the special, divinely endowed nature of women, special status is afforded to females. Take a look at one example from the Quran:

“O mankind! Reverence your Lord, who created you from a single person – created, of like nature, its mate, and from them both, dispersed many men and women;- reverence God, through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for God ever watches over you.” (Quran 4:1)
It is made clear here that men and women are of like nature, but women are singled out in this verse for reverence. This is because it is through women both males and females come into the world.

When Mary, the mother of Jesus was born, God said regarding her:

“The female is not like the male.”(Quran 3:36)

Because, Jesus the messiah , one of God’s chosen messengers was to be developed in her womb, born through her labor and pain, raised in her enveloping care, and fostered with her wisdom and piety – all without any male intervention or contribution.

God could have informed us about Jesus without mentioning his mother, but instead, an entire chapter is named after her (chapter 19). She was not merely a vessel for delivery of the Messiah. Her lofty character was a critical part of the birth and development of Jesus Christ.

We see the importance of motherhood in this and many other examples from the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad. A mother is not deficient if she is primarily a mother, wife and daughter. In Islam she is continuously revered.

The prophet Muhammad said that mothers are most deserving of their grown children’s companionship. Even caring for her in her old age is an honor, rather than a burden.

Mothers lovingly struggle  to bring generations into the world. Mothers nourish and nurse future leaders, inventors, heros. Mothers comfort, reassure and support the best of humanity. Mothers are the backbone of the human race.

But women are not only valued as mothers.

Islam honors women as daughters and affords great status to parents who raise their daughters well.

Women are also highly regarded for being wives. Spouses are described in the Quran as garments for one another. (Quran 2:187) This description represents the closeness, protection, intimacy, shielding and adornment spouses provide one another. No one feels complete without his or her clothing. Husbands and wives fulfill each other’s vital needs and provide a sense of wholeness and satisfaction that is difficult to attain in any other way. Marriage is described in the Quran as follows:

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (Quran 30:21)

 

In my life, it was Islam that enabled me to truly appreciate being a female, and it brought out my femininity in many ways.

I love knowing now that I am meant to be a woman. That my Maker does not discriminate between men and women. That I have equal opportunity to achieve success, and that I am not held to standards I am not made for.

I don’t feel pressured to prove my worth to anyone. I don’t feel inadequate or inferior. And I will strive to endow my daughters with this knowledge, appreciation and sense of worth, so they can grow up confident and comfortable in their own skin.

 

Kill Them Wherever You Find Them?

A few years back, my house was invaded by flying ants. I would find them crawling near my kitchen window. Sometimes I would see them fall down out of the air – weak.

One had fallen into a cup of water, writhing.

Ants are small, but they run away from danger. They find their way out of difficult situations. They help each other.

They’re alive and they clearly have a will to live.

I preferred to remove them and place them outside. If I saw them struggling, near death, I resorted on a few occasions to ending it quickly for them – in order to remove the suffering.

For me, killing an ant is a moment of agony. You can see it on my face. It’s hard to take the life even of a small insect.

In Islam, we’ve been permitted to remove pests that may be harmful to us or our homes, even if it means exterminating them; but the appreciation and respect for life we are instilled with by the Quran and the example of the last prophet, Muhammad, make it difficult to do that.

In Islam, we’ve been permitted to eat meat- to kill a living being in order to provide nutrition for our bodies, sustenance for our lives. We’ve been given that permission by the one who gave them life, but there are very strict guidelines on how to do it.

The animal is to be given consideration. It should be treated well, with care. It should never be frightened by witnessing the slaughter of another animal, or even by seeing the blade being sharpened. The blade must be extremely sharp so that the animal doesn’t feel it.

Then, we have to say “Bismillah” – In the name of God.

Because taking a life is no small thing.

So, imagine: Muslims have been instructed to respect life, the lives of animals – even insects.

How could it be possible that human life is easy to destroy? How could it be okay to just kill people?

There are verses in the Quran. Some people love to pull them out and present them all by themselves. Here’s one of them:

“And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give charity, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Quran 9:5)

It’s clear why this verse arouses discomfort and distaste.

Bear with me…

Islam provides guidance for virtually all aspects of life- including war, which is an unfortunate reality that is not going to vanish any time soon.

War is not encouraged in Islam, but it is permitted where there is untenable oppression, or for self-preservation of an established, valid Muslim state.

Violence is not permitted for individuals or rogue or vigilante paramilitary organizations. Only in the context of justifiable war executed by a viable government or ruler.

What would you expect your country to do if it is attacked or threatened?

Or better yet, what does your country do when it is attacked or threatened? If you are an American like me, our country is at war – i.e. killing people – right now.

But, war in Islam has it’s own stringent guidelines and restrictions. All of the guidelines focus on accomplishing what is necessary in the most merciful way. Always with respect for life, fear and reverence for the One Who created life, as well as with methods that reduce damage and unnecessary harm.

In a legitimate war, only combatants are to be fought. Women, children, the elderly, Priests, Rabbis, Monks and even trees are forbidden from being harmed.

Yes, I said trees.

Muslims may not cut down trees or damage structures during combat. Muslims may not slaughter the enemy’s animals except if necessary for food.  All unwarranted damage is forbidden. 

The verse I quoted above, was revealed in a particular context of a specific war that occurred at the time the Quran was being revealed. That is the case with all of the Quranic verses sanctioning or mentioning fighting.

The Muslims at that time had been suffering years of persecution and oppression at the hands of the Quraysh – for nothing more than believing in One God. The fact that Muhammad’s followers were increasing had caused anger amongst the polytheistic culture and the establishment who profited from idolatry. This inevitably induced the powerful Quraysh tribe to inflict harsh punishments, torture and humiliation on Muhammad and his followers.

The persecuted Muslims ultimately migrated in order to escape the persecution and were invited to a place called Yathrib, which then became Medina, the new Muslim state. As the leader of this new nation, Muhammad established treaties with neighboring tribes. Some of those tribes who entered into treaties with the new Muslim nation later betrayed their treaties and committed acts of aggression.

This verse was permitting retaliation against those idolaters who had committed acts of betrayal and violence and who violated the treaties. If it had meant that Muslims should kill non-Muslims in any context wherever we find them, then the verse which follows the previous verse would be rather peculiar:

“If any of the polytheists seeks asylum from you, grant him asylum until he hears the Word of God. Then convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.” (Quran 9:6)

This is still in the context of war. The one seeking asylum is not a Muslim, but a polytheistThey are to be granted safety and even escorted by Muslim fighters to a place of safety where they will not be harmed by either side.

If the previous verse had generally meant to kill all disbelievers wherever you find them, there would be no verse commanding Muslim fighters to escort disbelieving soldiers from their enemy during a war, to a place of safety.

And there is this:

“Fight in the way of God those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed, God does not like transgressors.” (Quran 2:190)

Here it is made clear that permission is being given to fight those who attack. This permission was necessary, because prior to this allowance, retaliation had not been permitted and the Muslims had passively and patiently endured unspeakable torture and oppression for more than ten years.

It is important to note that the word used for fighting in the Quran is not “jihad”, but “Qital” in Arabic and in the entire Quran there is no mention whatsoever of “holy” war. 

In the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad, the ones who accepted Islam and followed him had found the greatest source of peace and happiness. They were most willing to endure the oppression of their people and to struggle to share the beauty of Islam with others, in spite of all the difficulties and rejection. Their souls had found peace and satisfaction, like I have, and like so many millions have in Islam, and when the permission to fight in self-defense was given, many of them were shocked and somewhat disappointed.

This was due to the realization that they could no longer bask in the beauty and tranquility of their faith, they would have to instead struggle, strive and even fight to defend its existence.  The threat against them was in fact, an existential one. If they had not fought against the powers threatening them, Islam could have vanished altogether.

Regarding this, the following verse was revealed:

“Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And God Knows, while you know not.” (Quran 2:216)

This verse is important to me because I see it as a metric. It tells us that the natural disposition of a believer, of a Muslim, is not one that inclines towards violence. Rather, the Muslim, finds war and violence hateful. This example is enough for us to realize that there is something remarkably wrong and tremendously un-Islamic about the bloodthirsty, merciless extremists we see today, though they pretentiously claim validity via Islam.

Furthermore, the reasons for fighting have been explained in greater detail via the Quran. Above, we saw that fighting was sanctioned against those who commit aggression (fight those who fight you). The following verse embellishes the reason war is sometimes necessary:

“[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, “Our Lord is the one God.” And were it not that God checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of God is much mentioned. And God will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, God is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” (Quran 22:40)

If people are oppressed such that they cannot live in peace, when they are driven from their homes unjustly because of their faith in the One God, then there is justification for war under the right circumstances. And it is mentioned here that if God had not checked some people by means of others, many places of worship would have been destroyed. In other words, the right of worship would have been at risk.

The order of words in the Quran is significant. Please take notice of the order of the places of worship referred to. Before Mosques were mentioned, Monasteries, Churches and Synagogues are put forward. This indicates that war is required to protect the right of people to worship when there is oppression and an existential threat.

Perhaps most importantly in understanding war in Islam – in the context of war, if the aggressor – the enemy inclines to peace, the Muslim nation is REQUIRED to also incline to peace:

“And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon God. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.” (Quran 8:61)

This means that if Idolatrous Country A attacks Muslim Country B, Country B may fight back, without transgressing the stringent rules of war in Islam. If Country A wants a ceasefire and to make peace, the Muslim country B is categorically forbidden from continuing hostilities. Country B is required to come to the table and make peace, no matter what atrocities had been committed by the Idolatrous Country A.

Islam imbues in its followers respect and reverence for all life. It is God who gives life and takes it away. We are allowed by the giver of life, in certain instances to take life, such as when it is necessary to remove insects from our homes, or to slaughter an animal for food without going to excesses.

Above all plant, animal and insect life, human life is more sacred. The Quran tells us of God’s established law of old,

“…Whoever kills a soul, unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And Our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.” (Quran 5:32)

This verse expresses the magnitude of murder. Killing one innocent soul is like killing all of humanity. There are so many more examples to give, so many ways in which Islam honors life. The instances in which taking the life of a human being is sanctioned are very few and subject to strict criteria. Harm is to be minimized in all matters.

Violence by individuals is not permitted (except appropriate self defense) nor by vigilante groups that declare themselves a state out of nowhere. It is forbidden to kill innocent men women and children. Even during legitimate war, harming them is to be avoided. In a true Islamic war of self-preservation, drones would not be dropping bombs on innocent civilians.

Islam does not make people violent. It does not encourage people to hate. It is not scary and terrorism has no relationship to Islam.

The people who commit crimes and try to cover them with the blanket of Islam will indeed find justice. Meanwhile, we the people must strive against the tyranny of their lies and refuse to let liars dictate our actions.

We must look deeper and more critically into all current geopolitical issues and into history, which can inform our understanding of much of what is happening today. We must also remember the countless other deranged groups and people who have, and continue to commit crimes against humanity of the worst kind from many different ethnicities – with and without religion as a factor. They include Christians, Jews, Atheists and even Buddhists (such as in contemporary Myanmar). Radical, violent extremists exist across cultures.

Everyone on this planet can do better by having a copy of the Quran and reading it several times at least for a decent grasp of what it says. I recommend suspending judgment on all matters, until sufficient information from many angles has been ascertained and considered.

Remember when you read, that it is meant as guidance for all times and places, but the context in which each verse was initially revealed adds additional understanding about its implementation. So, although verses were revealed dealing with specific wars for example, the guidance is applicable in future wars. But, the original context provides details about the conditions and the reasons and methods for implementation.

May God grant us understanding and remove from us our unwillingness to see. Ameen.

Why My Halloween is Different.

My goal is to present the familiarity of Islam to my fellow Americans, but some instances require highlighting differences.

In Islam, we are taught to think and to research. We are told to make our decisions based on careful consideration, and to always seek the best path in all matters.

The people we should aspire to be are the ones mentioned in the Quran:

“Those who remember God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth…..” (Quran 3:191)

And when we act it should be with knowledge:

“And do not follow that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.” (Quran 17:36)

So, when we are presented with a recurring celebration,  such as Halloween, it is a good idea to take a deeper look at it before jumping on the bandwagon.

What I find when I research the origins and history of Halloween*, is that its foundations are not in line with what I am striving for in this life. I don’t see how it will help me get any closer to my Maker, or fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

While one may argue, “it’s just for fun”, “it’s not really based on any meaning anymore, “there’s no harm in it” – For me, those are not strong enough arguments. I could argue back, saying that I am not doing any harm by not celebrating it or partaking in it, either.

Although it may not be practiced with the intentions and meanings it once held, there are still practices which do not fit well with my way of life, such as begging (trick or treat) and making fun of the dead and death (think mummies and ghouls – lawns “adorned” with bloody heads and skeletons).

My children are free to play dress up and eat candy now and then, but they don’t need to on a day that is based on a conglomeration of pagan rituals and superstitions.

In my very sincere opinion, I am deeply saddened for the Muslims in our day, who have departed from the path of thinking and learning and who have embarked upon the path of blindly following others by celebrating Halloween and in many other matters. We have been urged to be careful of whose footsteps we walk in:

“…do not exceed limits in your religion beyond the truth and do not follow the inclinations of a people who had gone astray before; who misled many and have strayed from the sound path.” (Quran 5:77)

Islam provides me a sweetness sweeter than a million nights of candy: The sweetness of faith, the sweetness of knowing where we come from, where we are going – The sweetness of following the generous guidance of the Owner of all things and His help. I’m so  grateful for that and I seek God’s protection from ever passing it up for a momentary thrill or to “fit in”.

*You can learn more here: http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

For My Dad. My Quiet Hero

I have three sisters. My house was usually overflowing with girlish giggles, chit chat about hair, shoes and even sensitive topics that would make any man writhe in his seat. Our girlfriends would often come to visit, adding to the weight on the feminine side of the scale in our home.

But my father, although often quiet and reserved, didn’t fade into the shadows. His example and support shaped each one of our lives. From the honest integrity with which he ran his business, to his passion for cars, he provided an independent, brave example that was unwilling to compromise on ethics to get ahead.

Some of my fondest memories are the exciting swap meets I enjoyed with him as a child, and watching him restore regal, but dated cars to their original glory in our garage on weekends. I grew to love all the smells of oil and polish, grease, and metal. I loved when he would take me with him on an errand, like a trip to a special parts supplier far away, or to job sites for his business.

In Highschool I wound up the only girl in car care class, where I learned how to change the oil and brakes on my ’87 Monte Carlo. I was proud to hear its small block 305 engine rumbling as I drove it into the high school shop. My Dad’s influence is clear in many of my own passions and aspirations.

He taught me about how to handle turns on a race track and I think of him everytime I take curves on the parkways (even in my minivan). But more than love of cars, hard work and getting dirty, he provided numerous other examples and a special kind of support. My Dad never pushed me to go in any particular direction. Instead he listened, and payed attention to what mattered to me. What I was passionate about. What made me happy. Then, with his quiet demeanor he stepped in to make it happen. He never announced his favors, or reminded me about them. They were always just there. Just right.

Like many fathers, my Dad worked hard (and still does!) for his family. Successfully running his own business, the stress of which I recognize more keenly now. Even with the ups and downs and uncertainty of that difficult endeavor, we were his primary concern, before himself.

He invested so much in my family – in me.

I’m sure when I announced my decision, that I had become Muslim, it couldn’t have been easy for him. But he put my happiness first. He affirmed that I could believe whatever I wanted to.

The stage following my decision to enter Islam was tough for me and my family at times. When I moved back to my parent’s house after a year or so developing as a Muslim away from home, there was inevitably some tension.

I knew my mom felt uncomfortable about me covering my head. It must have been hard, seeing her daughter looking so unlike the girl she had raised.

I was torn between not hurting my mom and wearing a piece of cloth – an identity that had become beloved to me. So, When I would go off to work in the morning, I’d wear the hood on my jacket from the house to the car. Once in my car I would awkwardly struggle to fix my hijab in the rearview mirror. Upon returning home, I would remove my scarf and replace it with my hood once again.

I thought no one knew.

But, my Dad was so aware. He always seemed to somehow know what was going on. One day he approached me and informed me, he had seen what I had been doing.

“You don’t have to do that.” He gently told me.

He assured me I didn’t have to hide my hijab. I saw the compassion in his eyes.

Though all my family has gradually become somewhat more comfortable with my Muslim identity and my choice  to cover more of my body, my Dad has perhaps shown the most support. Warning me when a Man is coming over or at the door and making sure I am dressed before he allows them in.

When he met my then to-be husband, he asked “How are you going to take care of my daughter?”

He held my hand at my marriage. kneeling on the floor in a mosque, he facilitated yet another happiness for me.

That is real love. The kind of love to ponder – that boggles the mind and fills the heart.

I pray I will grow to be a better daughter, to express that same kind of love to my father. To give back a little, even a fraction of what he’s provided me. To make him know that he’s my hero.

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My Dad and I, on my wedding day

Father’s Day: The Elephant in the Room

It’s always awkward for me when holidays like Father’s Day roll around.

A special day to celebrate our fathers and let them know how much we care? Sheesh! In Islam, we’re supposed to do that every day!

But…  I don’t. Not adequately at least. In fact, by the standard of Islam, I should be doing a lot more for both my parents.

So, when Father’s Day comes, it’s like an elephant in the room for me.

I want to avoid making something of it because we just don’t participate in extra ritualized “holy” days. At the same time, that huge elephant is crowding my space, reminding me that I don’t show my appreciation for my Dad enough. I suddenly feel so small, so pathetic – and I want to call, but at the same time I want to ignore it. I should have called yesterday, or the day before!  So I put it off and put it off, rehearsing my words each time, until, it becomes late in the evening. I’ll call tomorrow. Rationalizing my hesitation to myself.

So here I am, a day late, or 364 days early depending how you look at it.

The truth is, Islam affords parents very high status. Treating them right, showing them gratitude and mercy is a fundamental part of showing gratefulness to God. In the Quran this is emphasized to the extent that kindness to parents is put directly following the most important pillar of Islam, worshipping God:

“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them graciously.” (Quran 17:23)

If nothing else, Father’s day and Mother’s day serve to show me the glaring deficiency in my treatment of my parents. The fact that I know they will feel neglected by me that day only highlights the neglect on every other day, because in fact, every day should serve to honor them, and every day they should feel my love, my appreciation for them – whether by presence, words, actions, or some small token.

These holidays are probably like elephants in the room for my family as well; my absence must be painfully obvious. A heightened awareness of my silence or apparent lack of appreciation may linger in the backs of their minds, unspoken, all day.

The only way to overcome this would be: to be the kind of daughter I should be, the kind God has instructed me to be, on a daily, or at least regular basis, such that when holidays roll around, my family will still know how much they are loved and appreciated – whether I’m there to party with them or not. Even if I happen not to call that day.

Following Noah

I love to talk about Islam. It’s the most important thing in my life. It makes me happy, brings me peace, gets me excited.

Sometimes I just wish I could sit and share my favorite thing with a family member; my Mom, Dad, Sister, Grandpa, Aunt, anybody… and just have a nice deep, open discussion.

It’s hard sometimes you know, loving something your loved ones seem allergic to.

Something about which at least one has said, “this is our last conversation about this”.

But, that’s my situation.

I don’t feel comfortable talking about the thing I love most with the people I love. 😦

I always have enjoyed a challenge. I also enjoy discussion.

You can talk to me about many things I may not agree with and I will either present my point and listen to yours, or ask questions to gain a better understanding. (I can’t promise I won’t get impassioned)

I don’t mind if someone comes to me and tells me I’m on the wrong path and is willing to explain why. I’m open to that and I try to listen.

It seems people are willing to say “I disagree” but not to elaborate. Not to discuss.

The end of many an attempt is, “We have to agree to disagree.”

But, I don’t understand why we have to worry about whether or not we agree… If they don’t agree with me that’s fine, it doesn’t bother me. What’s wrong with learning? Understanding? Seeing things from one another’s perspective?

I do not get personally offended when people come to me and explain why they worship Jesus, or why they are atheist. I find other people’s beliefs and thought processes interesting.

But it seems, when it comes to Islam, it is as if the topic itself causes barriers to be set in place and people’s hair to raise on end.

My belief is that this reaction is linked with their lack of knowledge about Islam, yet the reaction forbids knowledge from being attained.

See the problem?

Although I love a discussion and I don’t mind being challenged, I know others do not. I don’t really like to bother people, so…

On the one hand, I feel like suppressing every word.

Hiding my thoughts and feelings.

On the other hand, I feel like I should keep trying, keep talking and not remain silent.

The prophet described in the Quran who comes to mind, is Noah.

Noah was telling his people about God for ages – and boy, did they ever dislike listening to him!

They hated Noah and his message from the Creator so much, they used to cover up their ears and turn away from him. They got so fed up, they threatened to stone him to death!

They really ridiculed him when he was building a ship in the middle of the desert. He was a laughing stock and his followers were very few.

Even his son abandoned him.

But Noah was persistent, because his care for his people surpassed his care for his own self, in the respect that, rather than protecting himself from their hatred and ridicule, he persisted in giving them the message that could benefit them.

He didn’t give up in the face of so many obstacles and his goal wasn’t to fit in and just make the people happy with him. His goal was to please only his Creator, by trying to help his people understand.

I think about Noah and then I look at myself and I see that I’m so weak.

I have something that I know could benefit my family, even if only they were to gain a better understanding based on knowledge,

but I don’t talk about it, because they will get annoyed with me.

Perhaps I am more fearful of displeasing them than I am my Lord?

I’m a Muslim, but I Never Miss Christmas

The holiday season has a certain something that brings joy to people of all ages. The excitement of gifts and gift giving, great food and delicacies that only appear once a year, family gatherings, shopping, decorating; the list goes on and on.

It’s many people’s favorite time of year. It used to be mine too.

I know most people are really living it up and enjoying themselves this time of year. Some may be wondering, “Don’t you miss Christmas?”

My sister said to me recently, while she was in the midst of decorating bliss, “I don’t know how you don’t do this, it’s so much fun!”

If you take a look at the things that really give meaning to Christmas, we can find similarities in Islam, but 365 days out of the year.

Here are just a few examples:

1. Gift giving. Giving, sharing and showing care are all great things. The prophet Muhammad said, “Give gifts.” Because they increase the love between people. No special occasion needed.

2. Charity. Charity is an integral part of Islam. Once  every year Muslims must pay an amount from their saved wealth, and charity is encouraged every day, by both the Quran and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad. We should always try give something, even if it as little as a smile. We are taught that we are not truly believers, if we do not love for our fellow human being what we love for ourselves. That throws covetousness out the window and makes us want to raise others up, as we would like to be helped, especially in times of need.

3. Family. Family is the most important structure in society. Islam has all sorts of ways of helping families stay together and encourages giving your company primarily to your family, especially parents. Eating together, consulting one another, and being there for each other in all circumstances, are all values we are taught in the Quran and by the prophet Muhammad.

4. Jesus. Muslims love Jesus. In the Quran, the story of Jesus begins even before his mother Mary was born. We see God’s wisdom in choosing the best of women, Mary, who was utterly devoted to the worship of the Creator, and who was a perfect vessel to carry and rear the very special Jesus Christ. We believe in Jesus’ virgin birth and in the many miracles Jesus did by God’s will. His story and the story of his mother in the Quran, bring tears to our eyes and move our hearts every time we read them. The chapter named Mary in the Quran, is beyond beautiful. Whenever I read it, I just wish I could share it with my Christian friends and family. We love Jesus so much, but we don’t worship him, we follow him: Jesus did not decorate trees, nor did he teach children about an omnipotent man with flying reindeer who lives in the North Pole. He did not tell anyone to celebrate his birthday. He did not celebrate Christmas, so neither do we.

5. Fun. To some of you, Muslims might seem a bit boring. Most of us are not found out and about, seeking thrills all too often. The reason for that though, is that we feel very satisfied. We know what our purpose is and strive to stay on track towards successfully completing our goal. So on the one hand, we are already quite content and don’t feel the need to go out seeking pleasure and happiness. (Although, there is nothing wrong with having some good clean fun!)  And on the other hand, we are busy trying to please our Maker. We’d rather not waste time away from remembering Him. Worshipping Him. In Islam, worship is very comprehensive, so everything that God is pleased with, can be an act of worship. A smile can be an act of worship. Intimacy with one’s spouse is also an act of worship in Islam, because it is enjoying that pleasure in the right way, in a marriage, as opposed to in extramarital relationships. So, for Muslims, worship is also fun!

Islam has all the best parts of life built in.

That’s why, I never miss Christmas.

In Plain Sight

nativity3

Muslims believe in Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus. We believe in Jesus the Messiah. We believe in the prophet John, Mary’s cousin, and John’s father Zakaria, also a prophet of God.

In fact, we follow in their footsteps; at least we should, according to the Quran.

Who were they? What kind of people were they?

They were people utterly devoted to their Creator and Sustainer. People who kept God’s commandments, whose lives were focussed on seeking God’s pleasure and the ultimate reward of paradise.

They studied God’s revelations and spent their days remembering Him. Praying,

like God’s chosen ones before them – Abraham, Noah, Isaac, Jacob, Solomon, Moses…

It’s always been essentially the same since Adam and his wife set foot on Earth: Worship none but the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, follow His guidance and don’t lose sight of the purpose of life.

Islam is exactly that.

And if you wonder: Why then, do so many apparently despise Islam?

Remember that they wanted to kill Jesus.

They tried to kill Abraham too.

Jonah and Lot were rejected.

Noah – he was ridiculed and spent the longest time calling his people to the truth, but only very few believed and followed him.

Moses led his people and they made it so difficult, yet they found the worship of a golden calf… easy.

This is the way it’s always been. If there are people slandering and smearing Islam today, it’s nothing new!

If they disparage the prophet Muhammad, prophets were disparaged before him.

So the question really is, where do you stand? If Jesus and Mary were alive today, would you be one of their detractors, or one of their followers?

If you heard someone speaking ill of them, would you go and find out for yourself, or believe the hearsay?

There is plenty of evidence Islam is not the strange religion some people would have you believe. Some of the evidence is right under your nose!

Sometimes even on your neighbor’s lawn.

In plain sight.