I recently attended two major Muslim conferences where Christian fundamentalists were “protesting” against a Muslim presence in “Christian” America. In each instance, the demonstrators were shabbily-clad, apparently from the poorer elements of American society. Their faces were red with anger and their violent voices exuded rage. They stood in sharp contrast to the beautiful, dignified, modestly-dressed, peaceful Muslims they were directing their scorn towards.
The scene was deeply ironic. Here was a group of Christians, whose very presence spoke of an irrational detestation void of any compassion or empathy, telling an assembly of Muslims, whose cheerful countenances and stately comportment expressed human refinement, that their religion was one of hatred and violence. In any case, they must have realized how ridiculous they appeared, for they soon packed up and left.
I thought to myself that this was probably the first time any of these folks had actually seen Muslims. The caricaturized images of the Muslim “terrorist” so prevalent in various media likely informed their idea of what a Muslim is and motivated their protests. However, the reality of the Muslims they actually encountered was a powerful corrective to those images and likely created a severe psychological conflict, which they could not easily reconcile.
The encounter was one of truth and falsehood. Truth prevailed. We should realize that whenever truth encounters falsehood truth will always prevail. God mentions in the Qur’an, “Truth arrives and falsehood perishes; falsehood is inherently perishable.” (Q. 17:81) Similarly, “Rather, We hurl the truth at falsehood and it renders it unintelligible.” (Q. 21:18)
Now is not the time for Muslims in the West to hide or run away in the face of the abuses some elements in western societies are heaping on Islam and its adherents. Now is the time for us to stand up and become messengers and ambassadors of the truth we profess. This is the only way we will beat back the lies, distortions, and propaganda that have made even some Muslims question the possibility of a positive future for Muslims in the western world.
The greatest truth we possess is not that articulated by our words. When so much negativity is associated with Islam in western lands, at a certain point, to paraphrase a popular American idiom, “Talk is cheap.” Many people, who do not know ordinary Muslims, have an impression of Islam that has been shaped by images of screaming mobs, hooded assassins and stories of unspeakable atrocities. For these folks, words alone cannot displace the images that have been etched in their consciousness, and they do little to dispel their fear.
Such images can only be replaced by an alternative image; one whose power is rooted in the fertile soil of devotion and whose strength is forged in the timeless furnace of humility. Those images first enter the heart, before they endeavor to address the mind, and they are conveyed by the gentle breezes of mercy and service. Those alternative images may also involve words. However, those words are spoken by the tongue of the state, and they spring forth from the heart, not the mouth.
Oftentimes, some of us read passages such as the above and we take them to be the empty ramblings of weaklings who dare not confront the rapacious force of western imperialism and militarism with the strength of our own Muslim arms. Such passages are seen by some as the escapist path of those who fear embracing the Qur’anic declaration, –“Fight in the Way of God those who fight you…” (Q. 2:190)
However, those who cannot see beyond this physical world have in many instances bitten into the poisonous fruit of material power. As a result, Qur’anic truths, which alert us to sources of metaphysical strength, become marginalized in both our consciousness and in our strategic thinking. We cannot see the power and strategic import of the verse, “Good and evil are not equal. Respond [to evil] with what is better. Unexpectedly, one between who you and he there was enmity becomes like an intimate friend.” We cannot understand the great power embodied in prophetic truths such as the saying of the Messenger of God, peace and blessings upon him, “…God renders mighty a servant who can pardon others, and He exalts anyone who can humble himself for His Sake.”
Veiled from seeing the reality of the metaphysical world that gives meaning and efficacy to these sort of passages, some misguided Muslims become so obsessed with a reliance on their meager human resources, and so oblivious to the boundless power of God, that they think they can augment their strength in ways that may actually turn the power of God against them. Murder, suicide, mayhem and terror become their means for seeking God’s help, as opposed to patience and prayer. When divine aid befalls them not they begin to envision ever more desperate means towards the attainment of their ends. Machiavelli may be smiling in his grave, but not Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him.
It is time for the souls who have imbibed the fragrance of the Muhammadaic truth, whose live-giving aroma is currently effusing the world, to rise. Their uprising will not be one of angry mobs demanding justice at any cost even that purchased with the currency of vengeance so bitter that it disguises the hubris of its advocates. If that is the state of the mob, perhaps Nemesis will be confused and descend upon that mob even though it is nominally advocating justice.
The uprising of the Muhammadaic souls will not be that of frenzied mobs descending into the streets. It will be the rising up of committed believers from the sweetness of sleep in the privacy of their homes to stand before their Lord in deep devotion. That uprising will not begin during the day, nor will it be played out before flashing lights and cameras. It will begin during the night before the watchful gaze of God.
The feet of its soldiers will not be clad in boots smashing against pavement. Their feet will be bare, caressing carpets, straw mats or clammy cement, supporting hearts tearfully beseeching their Lord, evoking His Grace, seeking His Succor, acknowledging their faults and limitations and seeking their strength through Him.
When they emerge into the light of day they themselves will be the light that a dark world is seeking. They will be teachers not preachers. Their message will be ancient for it will be a rearticulating of the prophetic teachings:
• Do not join partners with God in worship for doing so is an unforgiveable sin (Q. 4:48)
• Make God the ultimate object of your love, for doing so is a sign of true faith (Q. 2:165, 9:24)
• Do not commit murder or take innocent lives, for doing so is a crime that has unfathomable implications (Q. 25:68, 17:33)
• Uphold the dignity of all humans, for it is a gift from God (Q. 17:70)
• Work against corrupt, unethical business practices for they are condemned by God (Q. 26:181-183, 83:1-3)
• Feed the hungry for it wards off Hell and is a manifestation of lofty religiousness (Q. 74:44, 90:14-16)
• Assist the needy, for they have a right in our wealth (Q. 51:19, 70:24-25)
• Be loving and merciful to your spouse for it is a Sign of God (Q. 30:21)
• Do not oppress anyone, for God hates oppressors (Q. 3:57, 3:140, 42:40)
• Do not fornicate for it is a grave abomination and a source of a severe otherworldly punishment (Q. 25:68)
• Do not corrupt the earth and disrupt the natural balance governing worldly ecosystems for doing so brings about devastating consequences (Q. 33:41, 55:6-15)
• In all things follow the example of the Noble Prophet for it is a key to salvation (Q. 33:21)
• If tested with warfare do not violate the rules of engagement established by God, for victory only comes from God, not from lowly, treacherous tactics. (Q. 2:177, 3:126)
Those forces will bring life to morally and spiritually dead societies for they themselves have been revivified by the life-giving message of Islam: “O Believers! Respond to God and the Messenger when they invite you to what gives life!” (Q. 8:24) Their existence will be defined by purpose as they strive to embody the message of faith translated in lives of devotion. The lives and souls of others they touch will be quickened by those same realities.
This is the basis of the good life and the foundation of a community of virtue and service. This is the foundation of meaningful and lasting social reform. It is on this basis that we can hope for the emergence of a community of truth whose light cannot be hidden or diminished by any amount of distortion and defamation. Let each and every one of us commit ourselves to being part of that community. God is calling us and history is echoing His call. Who among us is prepared to respond?
Reprinted from EMEL Magazine
Asalamu Alakum, Imama Zaid. Masha Allah, I was recently at a rally for the park 51 mosque and I had mixed feeling about it. I went with a group and held uo a sign (given to me by the group) that said 'racist bigot out of NY'. I heard people canting things about not caring out a 'whole in the ground' because muslims are dying and I felt in sense tha maybe I shouldn't have been there. In the sense that as a muslim I DO care about 9-11 vitims and their families I care about the suffering everywhere. And I wish that no protesters were anti or for were there that day so that the 9-11 families could have peace. I went to support muslims but not to offend others. I don't want to be unempathetic to the pain of others, I don't want to be angry and I don't want this for my muslim brethen either. Were not suppose to be the ons who burns flags, commit suicide and incite hatred. Were suppose to be the follows of Muhammad (pbuh). Were suppose to be the hope for humanity. Insha Allah I hope that we can remember Allah and the fleeting nature of this life and be better examples for humanity. Shukran, for the reminder Imam Zaid.
As usual I am deeply moved and impressed by your writing. Others seem to be torn between staying silent and meek, and thinking that discretion is the better part of valor; while others are strident and angry, protesting and exchanging shouts and insults with bigots. You find the middle road. One of spirituality, activism that benefits society, dignity, self-respect, consciousness of Allah. Jazak Allah khayr.
Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly! Thank you for such a timely and opportune reminder. BarakAllahu Feek ya shaikh.
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we should respect all religions because we are a good human beings. God is One.
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