Monday, September 20, 2010

The Young Die Good

In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful

8.1 million.

According to recent estimates by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), that’s how many children under age 5 died in 2009…8.1 million…more than 22,000 children a day.

So much innocence lost….

You see, one of the beautiful things about kids, is their innocence. When we see them, we naturally gravitate towards them because we see something we like. The human soul is naturally inclined towards good; it’s part of our fitrah. It’s how we were created.

We like it when a toddler asks you a question but can’t pronounce the words properly.

We like it when that 7 year old girl flashes a beautiful smile.

We like it when little kids are running around all over the place.

We like these things…and in my opinion, one of the reasons why: their complete innocence.

What actually made me think about all this was a recent reflection on the story of Moses (peace be upon him) and Khidr found in Surat al-Kahf in the Qur’an. In this Qur’anic account, Moses (peace be upon him) meets Khidr (who is regarded as either a prophet or a pious person in the Islamic tradition) so as to learn some knowledge that Khidr had been taught. Khidr agrees, and tells Moses (peace be upon him) to not ask him any questions, until he (Khidr) speaks to him (Moses, peace be upon him) about it.

So there end up being 3 particular incidents that the Qur’an makes mention of. At each one, Moses (peace be upon him) is aghast at the seemingly evil things that Khidr is doing, and when he speaks out against it, Khidr reminds him that he (Moses, peace be upon him) is not supposed to ask questions. At the end of the third incident, Khidr finally explains to Moses (peace be upon him) what’s going on, and the wisdom behind his actions.

But of these three incidents, it is the second one mentioned that is of prime importance here.

Essentially, Khidr murders a young man:

“Then they proceeded: until, when they met a young man, he slew him. Moses said: ‘Hast thou slain an innocent person who had slain none? Truly a foul (unheard-of) thing hast thou done!’ He answered: ‘Did I not tell thee that thou canst have no patience with me?’” (18:74-75)

Later on, Khidr explains his actions here:

"As for the youth his parents were people of Faith, and we feared that he would grieve them by obstinate rebellion and ingratitude (to Allah and man).”So we desired that their Lord would give them in exchange (a son) better in purity (of conduct) and closer in affection.” (18:80-81)

A few important points I want to make here:

1) Notice Moses’ (peace be upon him) response; it emphasizes the innocence of the young boy

2) As for Khidr’s explanation, it shows some of the knowledge that he had been given by The Creator

3) And lastly, the most important point – In a lecture I recently listened to, a prominent shaykh points out how Khidr’s actions actually helped out the young man himself

But how?...

You see, in the Islamic tradition, young children, before they reach puberty, are not accountable for their deeds. They’re forgiven. In other words, they’re innocent…and as for those young souls who depart from this world before they reach that point:

Ibn Katheer (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: With regard to the children of the believers, there is no dispute among the scholars. Al-Qaadi Abu Ya’laa ibn al-Farraa’ al-Hanbali narrated that Imaam Ahmad said: there is no dispute concerning the fact that they will be among the people of Paradise. This is what is well known among people (i.e., the majority of scholars) and this is what we are definitely sure about, in sha Allaah. (Tafseer al-Qur’aan al-‘Azeem, 3/33).

Imaam Ahmad (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: who has any doubts that the children of the Muslims will be in Paradise?!

Imaam al-Nawawi said: the reliable Muslim scholars agreed that any Muslim child who dies will be among the people of Paradise, because he was not responsible (i.e., had not yet reached the age of account). (Sharh Muslim, 16/207).

So the point being made was that Khidr’s actions were not only a mercy to the parents, but to the boy himself…He was saved from a troubled future…Subhan’Allah (Glory be to Allah).

Now in all fairness, there is a difference of opinions for children born into families of other faiths, although this apparently seems to be the majority view:

That they will be in Paradise. Some of them said, they will be in al-A’raaf [a place between Paradise and Hell]. And the reason why it was said that they will be in Paradise is because this is the ultimate destiny of the people of al-A’raaf. This is the view of the majority of scholars, as reported from them by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr in al-Tamheed, 18/96.

(Please see for more info on this topic, including the differences of opinion on this latter subject matter…and The All-Knowing knows best)

But the point of this post is not to get into a theological debate, which I am quite frankly, unqualified to get into. Instead, I just wanted to write something that, Insha’Allah (God-willing) helps us out a bit when we see these images on t.v., or read about these stories in the newspapers…about these young kids dying because of war, or violence, or disease, or poverty, or famine, or drought, or even before birth…whatever the case may be…just something that helps us get through the day…something that reminds us not only of the infinite Mercy of The Creator, but of His infinite Justice as well…just something that helps us out a bit when we feel overwhelmed by the loss of so many innocent babies…just something when these things make us weep…just something so we remember why children are so precious…just something to help us think about the infinitely expansive beauty and majesty of our Creator…just a little something to reflect on…just a little something, Insha’Allah.

Peace be unto you all.

Any goodness in this post is solely from Ar-Rahman (The Most Gracious), Ar-Raheem (The Most Merciful), and you should be thankful to Him for all of that. Any shortcoming in this post is solely from myself, and I ask Al-`Adl (The Utterly Just) and the people to forgive me for that. Ameen.

This post is dedicated to all those young kids who died innocent in all the occupations and wars…all those child victims of crime and violence…all those little ones who passed because of disease and starvation...all those young ones who never got to see their dreams…all the fallen kids…the dead babies...the little girl who will be questioned for what sin she was buried alive…all those young souls…

The young die Good.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Allah's Dawah

So we’ve all seen the growing Islamaphobia in the US with the recent Quran burnings and Park 51 controversy. My question is so what’s new? The religion of Islam has been under attack ever since the time of the Prophet Muhammad SAW (oh wait…come to think of it it’s always been under attack.. since Noah, Moses to Jesus to the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon them all).

If we to turn to the seerah and the Quran we’ll see many solutions to the growing problem of Islamaphobia (and other answers to the many many problems we have). I cannot think of specific ayahs or surahs for us to reference, but reading the Quran we can find many instances in which the same rhetoric has been said before by people who hated the Muslims and Islam during the time of the Prophet Muhammad SAW (i.e. he’s a madman, if Allah wanted to make us Muslims why didn’t he already? Why weren’t angels sent with him? He’s a poet, etc. etc.), but I encourage you to seriously look into the Quran and start to parallel today’s current Islamaphobic rhetoric with that of the rhetoric of the past---it’s amazing how similar it is.

Where our problem lies is the apathy, laziness and lack of pro-activism in the Muslim community. We are a very reactionary people overall. When someone does take action we often criticize (much like the hypocrites of Madinah did whenever the Prophet SAW used to do things in Madinah and propagate Islam). In the eight years President Bush was in office and the hatred of Islam and Muslims was at its peak in the world and in the US, Muslims were scared and looking everywhere for help frantically. We’re a people with short memories and forget easily the things we take for granted. We never feel pain or the reality for those who are incarcerated unjustly (i.e. Ahmed Abu Ali, Sami al-Arian, etc.), tortured, and killed unjustly until it hits home. When it happens to us that’s when we wake up and get active, but very rarely as a people do we come up with positive and productive solutions to our problems. We’re quick to point fingers and criticize, but are the first to step back when told to take action. Unfortunately, we have the characteristics of the hypocrites of Madinah who said they believed in Islam, yet did not believe and merely criticized every action taken by the Prophet Muhammad SAW.What's important is for us to continually educate people about Islam and Muslims and not just become reactionary people. Keep up the dawah people!

Another element to our reactionary nature is our emotions. We’re a very emotional people and the xenophobes/Islamaphobes are very aware of this emotional element of the Muslims. They know exactly what button to press to make Muslims behave or react a certain way. What’s needed is for Muslims to show composure, dignity, and honor in these times of hardship. We need eloquent leaders who speak for Muslims and are aware of the Islamaphobes’ rhetoric and tactics---you’ll see whenever they’re cornered or defeated in a debate they’ll either switch the topic or say “We have nothing against Islam”---yet their entire rhetoric is blatantly anti-Muslim or Islam. What’s needed by Muslims is for Muslims to not necessarily avoid bigots or Islamaphobes, but rather address these people in an intelligent manner, but after this come up with a harder campaign against Islamaphobia.

One piece of advice I’d like to give Muslims is to educate themselves fully about issues that Islamaphobes bring up BEFORE engaging them (if they’re given the opportunity). But, as a rule of thumb most Islamaphobes are not willing to listen to intelligence or not really looking to learn more about Islam. The people you should engage are the genuinely ignorant people about Islam. There are what I’d like to call the Islamaphobe ring-leaders and then there are the ignorant masses who follow---it’s these people you’d like to educate because the ring-leaders are pushing for Islamaphobia for political reasons, so your success rate with educating them is a lot less than with the ignorant masses. Let the more qualified people deal with the ring-leaders like imams, Muslim media experts, etc.

One mistake Muslims can make though in defending Islam is watering Islam down when certain touchy/controversial issues come up. It is here I’d advise people to talk to imams and scholars on how to best express and address these issues, but as a whole Muslims need to educate themselves prior to engaging Islamaphobes, because for the layman Muslim many things Islamaphobes say can really shake your faith if you’re not strong in knowledge and faith.

Now a few solutions to the problem of Islamaphobia: Start of simply by reaching out to your non-Muslim neighbor and talking about Islam to them, ask your local masjid to hold an educational event to educate non-Muslims about Islam, talk to co-workers, fellow students about Islam, hold events with your local MSA. THINK!

Now back to our issues at hand with the rise of Islamaphobia in the US. We’ve seen in recent history the Danish cartoons, the ban on niqab/hijab, the xenophobia in Europe, the indiscriminate hatred/torture/killings of Muslims, and now the Quran burnings and Park 51 controversy---again I ask what’s new? This stuff was inevitable and is a growing trend---so what? Let’s deal with it intelligently as the Prophet Muhammad SAW did. We can complain about how bad life for Muslims or……we can change it. Allah says in the Quran:

“Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls)” From 13: 11

However, I want to draw our attention to the beauty of this growth in Islamaphobia. Yes, I said BEAUTY. Subhanallah, if you’re to look at the positive things that have come out of this you’ll see a lot of good coming out of it---namely it forcing Muslims to think about their identity and religion and go back to their religious texts. You’ll see Muslims who really not practicing before becoming better Muslims due to this. You’ll see non-Muslims although initially having bitter hatred to Islam becoming interested in Islam. You’ll see people converting to Islam. I kind of feel this is Allah’s dawah in a sense because as a whole the Muslims have been lacking in doing dawah. What does that tell us as Muslims? Are we truly serving Allah’s deen to our utmost ability? This is really a mercy of Allah upon the Muslims that he’s bestowed us with this challenge of Islamaphobia because it’s forcing us to search deep within ourselves to figure out who we are, where we stand on issues, and forcing us to come back to Allah. Allah’s dawah is two-fold, it’s calling Muslims and non-Muslims back to Islam. So let’s not be emotional about the pictures, the words, the actions taken by Islamaphobes---they’re looking for a fight, don’t give it to them and take the higher ground. Let’s look to Quran and Sunnah for answers of how to conquer this Islamaphobia. We certainly should know that we’ve been blessed by Allah’s dawah so let’s answer Allah’s call!