Tag Archives: worship

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.

The Final Deadline: A Tool For Success

Do you work better under pressure? Do you procrastinate and at the final hour suddenly give it your all?

In Islam, the inclination of human beings to procrastinate has been accounted for and we’ve been given tools to help prevent us from waiting to the last minute to truly live with purpose.

We’ve been taught to remember the thing that effectively destroys all the attractions of life on earth and puts priorities into perspective: death.

It can come at any moment, therefore we are technically perpetually in that potential final hour.

If we remain aware that this could very well be our last day, our last meal, our last conversation, we could be propelled to weigh our words and actions more thoughtfully.

We will be less inclined to hold on to material things and put more importance on lasting things, like treating others well and giving gratitude to the source of all we have, whether rich, poor, well or sick, etc.

So although death may seem like a taboo topic, a downer, a negative subject worthy of avoidance, Muslims actually welcome it as a subject of thought and even discussion.

Knowing our deadline may be around the corner encourages us not to waste time or live oblivious to our purpose.

When we think of death, it is a motivator. Motivating us to do more good, both in our private spiritual lives as well as with our families and communities. It also causes us to fear doing wrong, because we would hate to face our Maker with wrongdoing on our account, especially as our last deed.

If you were to remember death more often, do you think it would also motivate you to strive to be a better person?

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.

The Real Reason to Hate Islam

Islam has pretty much always had haters. Every prophet we know of had adversaries.

Some well known examples are Noah and Jesus. Both had plenty of detractors in their times.

The thing is, the haters hated the message for the right reason; because of its core belief:

There’s nothing worthy of worship except the One and Only God.

In previous times, some didn’t like the idea of change, of leaving the “traditional” religions of their forefathers.

Some were profiting grandly from idolatry, as was the case in Makkah at the time of the prophet Muhammad.

Others did not like that they should shift their attention from profiting at others’ expense to instead humbly devote themselves to One more worthy.

Still others didn’t accept the concept that they would be accountable for their actions being in accordance with a purpose for their existence.

Whatever the complaint, it went back ultimately to the belief in and service of One Eternal Creator and Sustainer who has absolutely no partners.

Prophets were killed and threatened.

Ridiculed.

The prophets weren’t hated for the reasons people claim to hate Islam today.

The contemporary complaints are divorced from Islam itself. They all have solid rebuttals and evidence that proves the complaint baseless and inappropriate.

Islam does not condone or promote:

Terrorism
Murder
Violence
Domestic abuse
Pedophilia
Racism
Oppression
Lying/cheating
Smelling bad
Being dirty
Worshipping anything in creation such as the sun, the moon, people, black boxes etc.

And whatever other false accusations are flying around. In fact quite the opposite.

So if you want to hate Islam, hate it because it calls to the recognition, appreciation and service of the One God, who created all that exists. Because that’s what it’s all about.

Otherwise it’s simply not Islam you hate.

And if you don’t have a problem with calling to serve and acknowledge the One Creator of all creation, then you don’t have a problem with Islam.

Period.