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Clipped Wings: Musings on Faith & Philosophy

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Beautiful words by Br. Ismail Royer, sent to MM by his wife. Br. Royer is incarcerated at Terre Haute (address provided below; please try to drop him a line). Inshallah, we will send the comments/thoughts to Br. Ismail on this article. So, you are not only talking to MM readers, you have the opportunity to talk to Br. Ismail too :)

CLIPPED WINGS royer-in-chicago.jpg
Ismail Royer
6/14/08

A student of philosophy laments that I am a religious person. He tells me that my “wings are clipped,” that my belief prevents me from soaring in the heights of thought and wisdom. Rather, the right example is that of a tree. It requires for its health that its dead and stray branches be trimmed. The more skillfully this is done, the more fruitful the tree will be.

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“Have you not considered how God presents as a parable a good word as a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches stretch forth to the sky. It produces its fruit all the time, by the permission of its Lord…And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability.”

The wisest and most insightful man, relying only on himself or other men, will find the truth sometimes, and at other times he will wander in error. He would have profited by guidance as to which ideas were worth pursuing, and the most perfect of such guidance is the guidance of the Author of truth.

Many of those gifted with great intellects do not see that they are burdened with a test: their abilities tempt them to pride and amazement with their faculties. They see that the ordinary people are satisfied with religion; as they are not ordinary people, they must be somehow above it. But the religion of God, to borrow a metaphor, is shallow enough for children to paddle in, and deep enough for the wise to swim in. As ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdasi said of religious knowledge: one can never plumb its depths, but can only hover about its shores.

Faith, it has been said, is the resting of the soul in truths that are worthy of belief. When ideas are presented to us, we judge their truth by what we already know and intuit to be true, independent of our experience. Whether our judgment is sound depends on the quality of our insight and our honesty with ourselves. Thus, in a sense, when it comes to the eternal truths, we are not taught anything, but are only reminded of what we already know. “And none will be reminded except those of understanding.”

When I was a Catholic, I loved going to mass. As I knelt before God, I felt — I knew, and I still know — that He was looking upon His servant, that He heard his prayer, that He was pleased by his submission. And I loved Jesus, peace be upon him: to me, his teachings were life itself. But the idea of God as three, that Jesus himself was God, never truly settled within my heart; it troubled me, so that when I prayed, I prayed only to God himself.

Later in life, when for a short period I was seduced by modern political theories, I abandoned belief in God altogether. But a person of insight, a person sensitive to his own heart, cannot maintain such absurdity, despite his best efforts. He cannot be untrue to himself. And so, after a period of searching, I discovered the Qur’an, a book whose every letter resonated within me, a book in harmony with what I already knew to be true, a book the truth of which the universe within me and without testified to, a book — like the teachings of Jesus, of all prophets — is Truth and Life itself.

I am amazed at the man who will not consent to hear a word of revelation, even when the same word is found in the books he admires. Yet I deign to read his books; I judge their ideas by what I know to be true, I trim their dead and stray branches and benefit from their fruit, from wisdom that amounts to a commentary on and restatement of eternal truths. My faith gives me health and life; his pride clips his wings, and dooms him to wander, to never find his way home.

See Also:

Letters can be sent to Br. Royer here:

Randall Royer
46812-083
FCI TERRE HAUTE
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
P.O. BOX 33
TERRE HAUTE, IN 47808

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Muslima

    July 7, 2008 at 6:59 AM

    salaamalaikum.

    Absolutely beautiful. I think he sums of ‘faith’ i.e. ‘iman’ quite nicely, masha’Allah.
    I like how he presented the counter parable, to represent how faith roots us firmly and provides a healthy and solid ground. Iman provides such vast and infinite comfort. Alhamdulillah. It is such a sad thing when such insightful and wise people still cannot submit to truth. It can be very hard to explain why we ‘believe’ to those who consider faith an impediment to attaining higher wisdom and knowledge. The truth is, once one tastes faith their whole understanding of ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ is actually looked through a clearer lens…it almost becomes transparent the more grounded in faith we are!

    Anyway I think br. Ismail Royer explained it best.

    may Allah SWT reward the brother and FREE him soon ameen…and may He guide those who are seeking Him… ameen .

    Salaamalaikum

  2. Dawud Israel

    July 7, 2008 at 1:01 PM

    Bismillah
    Masha Allah this was a good read. Prison is the university of the Muslim. :)

    I’ll save this and use some of the ideas here in future dawah material.

    Jazaka Allahu khayran akhi Ismail.

  3. Amad

    July 7, 2008 at 1:54 PM

    Mashallah, beautiful.

    While Br. Ismail talks about the struggle between faith and philosophy at a mutually exclusive level, there are then those who use philosophy to relegate islam below their own aql. The ultra-progressives aren’t much different from the arrogant deniers. They are just half-there to total denial.

    Reminds me of this related and unrelated post: When Intellectualism Meets Arrogance and Mockery

  4. Amad

    July 7, 2008 at 1:55 PM

    Also, like before, inshallah I’ll try to collect all comments and thoughts on this post and send it to the brother. So, not only are you talking to MM, you are talking to Br. Ismail.

  5. Hidaya

    July 7, 2008 at 3:10 PM

    Any idea on when is his term in prison ending>?

  6. ummfatima

    July 8, 2008 at 9:21 AM

    Thank you Br. Amad. Ismail can receive emails know so i will copy and past all the comments from here and email it to him. JKH

    ummFatima

  7. Amad

    July 8, 2008 at 11:05 AM

    Salam Sr. UmmFatima,
    Can you please tell us how long Br. Royer has left, may Allah preserve him?

    ws

  8. coolred38

    July 8, 2008 at 12:09 PM

    We as Muslims must also recognize the fact that sometimes even a good solid tree must be uprooted and thrown away to make room for new growth. Not everything that appears to be solid and good…necessarily is. A large grounded deep rooted tree might be harboring roots that are sucking the surrounding area dry…refusing adequate water to reach other foilage trying to grow…also a growing tree darkens the sky and prevents the blessing rays of the sun from reaching the ground and allowing new growth to take root and prosper.

    When standing before a tree, no matter how beautiful and wide spread are its branches, Muslims must strive to make sure that tree is grounded in Islam and watered with proper Sunnah…and the sun that shines on it causing it to grow and mature is the God created sun…and not the sun created by man.

    I hope your patience is never ending…your perseverance always prevailing.

    coolred38

  9. Musa Maguire

    July 8, 2008 at 12:15 PM

    I love Ismail for the sake of Allah and all the other brothers locked down in Terre Haute. They’re in the gardens of patience and we’re imprisoned by our desires

  10. Umm Reem

    July 8, 2008 at 4:02 PM

    They’re in the gardens of patience and we’re imprisoned by our desires

    SubhanAllah….

  11. aarij

    July 8, 2008 at 4:19 PM

    subhan Allah, how amazing.

  12. ummfatima

    July 8, 2008 at 9:05 PM

    Sellam

    .On June 26, 2008 it was 5 years that he is in prison. So he got 20 years. Is like 2 years good behavior. I think he has left 13 years more. May Allah bring them home before that AMIN.

    Sellam
    Ummfatima

  13. faiez

    July 10, 2008 at 2:49 AM

    “But the religion of God, to borrow a metaphor, is shallow enough for children to paddle in, and deep enough for the wise to swim in.”

    Simply Amazing

  14. Sara

    July 20, 2008 at 12:41 AM

    MashAllah what beautiful writing and he voices so well what it is sometimes difficult to explain to others.There was a time when I considered religious people to have ‘clipped wings’, and many of the people in my life still hold this sentiment, (although inshallah I can show them otherwise). Thank you for this article. May Allah continue to guide him.

  15. Amir

    December 10, 2008 at 11:16 PM

    Why is he in jail?

  16. Hester

    December 13, 2008 at 7:31 PM

    “Royer, 31, pled guilty in January 2004 to a two-count criminal information charging him with aiding and abetting the use and discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and with aiding and abetting the carrying of an explosive during the commission of a felony. In his plea agreement, Royer admitted to aiding and abetting co-defendants Masoud Khan, Yong Ki Kwon, Muhammed Aatique and Khwaja Mahmoud Hasan in gaining entry to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba, where they trained in the use of various weapons. Royer also admitted to helping co-defendant Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Hamdi gain entry to the Lashkar-e-Taiba camp, where Al-Hamdi received training in the use of a rocket-propelled grenade in furtherance of a conspiracy to conduct military operations against India.”

    http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2004/April/04_crm_225.htm

    Your “brother” conspired to aid and abet the enemy.

  17. Amad

    December 13, 2008 at 8:02 PM

    “Hester” and others who are so eager to point out the DOJ charges, well, I think you missed the boat. If we truly believed that DOJ acted out in fairness and justice, we would be having a different conversation.

    All I can say at this point that when you are facing a choice between life in prison by fighting against the charges, and pleading not-guilty (as happened to one of Randall’s friend) or get “only” 20 years by pleading guilty, then you look at your wife and children and make a choice that I hope many of us never have to make.

    When all it takes these days to convict a Muslim or a Muslim organization (consider the Holy Land Foundation case) is to flash a photo of Bin Laden for the jury, or to have an anonymous agent of a foreign state make accusations that you cannot argue with, or have some “secret evidence” that you can’t fight, then 20 years may be a better bet.

    • Fard

      April 20, 2010 at 3:48 PM

      A subject matter jurisdictional question is not waived by a guilty plea.

  18. Hester

    December 14, 2008 at 1:46 AM

    “Hester” and others who are so eager to point out the DOJ charges, well, I think you missed the boat. If we truly believed that DOJ acted out in fairness and justice, we would be having a different conversation.

    Yes sir, that is always the official line, isn’t it? Nobody is guilty, the DOJ is always unfair, and Muslims are always being persecuted, and those who do plead guilty are doing so out of concern for their families’ ordeal, right? Luckily for our country, there are millions of Muslims who do not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood backed or Saudi funded organizations, who do not buy into the victimhood you so carefully foster, and who quite clearly KNOW there is a small percentage of Muslims in America who do sympathize with and support aiding and abetting the enemy.

  19. Amad

    December 14, 2008 at 2:51 AM

    I am glad to see that you think that the percentage is small, though I would not even call it small, more like speck… probably as many as there are non-Muslims in this country who would be glad to nuke Mecca or even turn on their own country for a foreign entity’s interest, like for instance Israel maybe? Yes, there are extremists in all sides.

    And DOJ is not always unfair, but we saw in the last administration when politics entered the justice department (unless you missed the entire reason why our friend Alberto quit), there were far too many over-enthusiastic US attorneys, and far too many over-enthusiastic agents, and a far likely chance for a highly biased jury of peers (no fault of theirs, its just the islamophobic climate) that we did have the miscarriage of justice time after time. I think anyone who feels that there isn’t a big shadow of doubt hanging over every political and “war-against-terror” arrest under the Bush administration, is living in denial.

  20. Hannah

    November 15, 2010 at 8:43 PM

    Very sad to see this young man reject the atoning grace provided by Yeshua the Messiah, in favor of a life full of hate for his fellow Americans. He should check out an evangelical prison ministry to listen to the truth.

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