by Imam Luqman Ahmad
Genocide, murder, rape, mass executions, beheadings, the persecution of Christians, the persecution of Muslims, the persecution of Yazidis, a religion that most of us have heretofore never heard about, and a level of Muslim extremism that sends chills down your spine. This is the perceived reality of the ISIS phenomena which many people call a crisis. Despotic, bloodthirsty leaders, foolish followers, whole families slaughtered, and the image of a prepubescent Muslim boy holding up a decapitated head as if it were a fish that he might have caught in the local creek. Such are the workings of people who claim to be the puritans of Islam, sanitizing the path. Babies, shot point blank in the head, and scenes of outright savagery, all in the name of Islam. Thanks to world-wide (and largely controlled and censored) broadcast and social media, this is part of what makes up the images of Islam and Muslims in the 21st century.
The ISIS crisis in the Levant is not the only episode of Muslim ideologues run amok, or of Muslim on Muslim fratricide or of tribal wounds flared into full scale civil war; it’s going on in many places, and it just didn’t start during this century, or the last century for that matter; this is centuries old behavior and a chronically diseased spiritual and mental state that has always plagued parts of the Muslim world, and which traditionally has largely been ignored by the rest of it. The gruesome scenes of bloodshed that we are witnessing today are just individual examples of a much larger issue, which is total lack of regard for the most sacred things of our faith by people who claim to act in the name of our faith.
It seems that the most prominent casualties in all of this carnage, specifically in the case of ISIS, are the very things that our Prophet ﷺ had declared sacred on the day of Arafat during his Farewell khutba (sermon); Innocent blood, honor, and wealth and property. The very things that we were commanded to hold dear, are the very things that have become casualties of sacrilege. This is not to dismiss the carnage that recently took place in Gaza or the sectarian violence of Muslim on Muslim killing and strife that is going on in Syria, Libya, in the Mali, and in Northern Nigeria with Boko Haram.
There are so many theaters of violent and visceral discord going on in the Muslim world that if you were to pay attention to or weigh in on any one of them, you run the risk of being accused of ignoring the other. Some of it is Muslim against non-Muslim and some of it is Muslim against Muslim. If you talk about the carnage in Iraq, then someone will say; well what about the Palestinians in Gaza (another tragedy), and if you talk about the civil war going on in Libya, that seems to be engineered by the West, then someone will say well, what about BOKO Haram, and their kidnappings and murders, and so on.
The sad reality is that there is a very deep rooted mindset in parts of Muslim world, and even amongst Muslims living in the West, that is prone to dismiss the sacredness of blood, honor and wealth, in favor of your group, your sect, your spiritual leader, your race, your ethnicity, or your nationality, or your profit margin. There is a pandemic culture of sectarianism that drapes the Muslim world and that has extended well beyond its borders. It represents itself as racism, tribalism, nationalism, regionalism, terrorism, sect, sub-ideology, and political aspirations, all with the same result; Muslim killing, violence, savagery and butchery, all in the name of Islam, in the name of Allah, or in the name of, of all things, justice. People make, break, and change alliances and allegiances all the time in the Muslim world, so many times, we don’t even know the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. We’ll cheer on one group one moment and demonize them the next. We never really know who is paying who, to do what, who is supplying who, who’s selling out to who, who is lying and who is telling the truth, who it is that are simply misled, who it is who are profiting, and who is it that are just plain evil.
Most of us are just online, and media driven spectators to all of this, for various and sundry reasons. Some of us are drawn to the sensationalism but indifferent to the underlying problem, others are truly concerned and looking for answers and still others have given up, and see no hope to the problem of widespread Muslim on Muslim killing and what it means to our civilization. Still, this confluence of spectacularly violent, and unconscionable incidents of Muslim savagery, all converging at once in real time, is leaving its mark of death, trauma, suffering, anger, and confusion. Yes, it is enough to make your head spin and propel you into a complete state of apoplexy. In the middle of it all, some of us are concerned, and rightfully so, about the image of Islam and Muslims in the world. On this point, I got news for you; what we need to be really concerned about is not just our public image; but about the people that we have become, and the state of our collective morality. This is not about public relations here; what we are dealing with is a severe and seemingly growing moral dysfunction in our ranks.
I’m not ignoring the horrendous acts of violence, aggression, and political manipulation directed at Muslim groups and countries by non-Muslim actors, states, and military corporations; the bombs, bullets, grenade launchers, armored personnel carrier, flak jackets, goggles, boots and uniforms, and all the instruments of war and mass destruction cost money, and their non-stop use is making some people very wealthy. Some of these instances of violence going on in the Muslim world is simply a matter of pre-orchestrated warfare engineered and financed by outside entities, where they supply all the tools of carnage and sit back and watch as Muslims kill each other, while wealthy financiers, greedy contractors, and unscrupulous weapons manufacturers count their profits.
Network and cable television is replete with political analysts opinions about which Muslim group should be armed to fight which other Muslim group, and with what kinds of weapons, for how long, and how many advisors, and at what level of technical assistance. Knight to King’s rook four; like a chess game with the Muslim people as pawns. After the destruction of homes, towns and infrastructure, they send in contractors to profit again at the expense of poor indigenous Muslim populations. Why so many of us fail to see the pathetic irony in that, is beyond me. But that’s a topic for another article.
The bottom line is that there are more Muslims killed, maimed, and made homeless refugees by other Muslim than by anyone else. There is absolutely no justification for rape, the killing, torture and maiming of the innocent, for murdering women, children, and elderly men tending to their farms, no matter what their race, religion, nationality, or ethnicity.
There is no moral justification for forced conversion to Islam; not ever. We have become almost completely desensitized and nearly oblivious to our own moral failings as a Muslim civilization. Muslims certainly are not the only people with modern moral challenges. However, as Muslims, we are responsibly for our own moral condition. I’m relatively certain that these sad but news worthy events we are talking about will soon fade into history and will be all but forgotten about in our short term memory, but the diseases of violent, Muslim on Muslim sectarianism, and the unhealthy penchant for massacre and the taking of innocent lives, will remain, only to raise its ugly head again in the near future. I don’t claim to have the solution to all of this but I will say this; things will not change for us, until we change. And Allah knows best.
Sri Lankan Muslims To Fast In Solidarity With Fellow Christians
On Sunday morning Sri Lankan Christians went to their local churches for Easter services, as they have done for centuries. Easter is a special occasion for Christian families in ethnically diverse Sri Lanka. A time for families to gather to worship in their churches, and then to enjoy their festivities. Many went to their local church on Sunday morning to be followed by a traditional family breakfast at home or a local restaurant.
It would have been like any other Easter Sunday for prominent mother-daughter television duo, Shanthaa Mayadunne and Nisanga Mayadunne. Except that it wasn’t.
Nisanga Mayadunne posted a family photograph on Facebook at 8.47 AM with the title “Easter breakfast with family” and had tagged the location, the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. Little would she have known that hitting ‘post’ would be among the last things she would do in this earthly abode. Minutes later a bomb exploded at the Shangri-La, killing her and her mother.
In more than a half a dozen coordinated bomb blasts on Sunday, 360 people have been confirmed dead, with the number expected to most likely rise. Among the dead are children who have lost parents and mothers & fathers whose families will never be together again.
Many could not get past the church service. A friend remembers the service is usually so long that the men sometimes go outside to get some fresh air, with women and children remaining inside – painting a vivid and harrowing picture of the children who may have been within the hall.
Perpetrators of these heinous crimes against their own faith, and against humanity have been identified as radicalised Muslim youth, claiming to be part of a hitherto little-known organisation. Community leaders claim with much pain of how authorities were alerted years ago to the criminal intent of these specific youth.
Mainstream Muslims have in fact been at the forefront not just locally, but also internationally in the fight against extremism within Muslim communities. This is why Sri Lankan Muslims are especially shaken by what has taken place when men who have stolen their identity commit acts of terror in their name. Sri Lankan Muslims and Catholics have not been in conflict in the past, adding to a palimpsest of reasons that make this attack all the more puzzling to experts. Many here are bewildered as to what strategic objective these terrorists sought to achieve.
Sri Lankan Muslims Take Lead
Sri Lankan Muslims, a numerical minority, though a well-integrated native community in Sri Lanka’s colourful social fabric, seek to take lead in helping to alleviate the suffering currently plaguing our nation.
Promoting love alone will not foster good sustainable communal relationships – unless it is accompanied by tangible systemic interventions that address communal trigger points that could contribute to ethnic or religious tensions. Terror in all its forms must be tackled in due measure by law enforcement authorities.
However, showing love, empathy and kindness is as good a starting point in a national crisis as any.
Sri Lankan Muslims have called to fast tomorrow (Thursday) in solidarity with their fellow Christian and non-Christian friends who have died or are undergoing unbearable pain, trauma, and suffering.
#MyFastMySriLanka Terror at its heart seeks to divide, to create phases of grief that ferments to anger, and for this anger to unleash cycles of violence that usurps the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Instead of letting terror take its course, Sri Lankans are aspiring to come together, to not let terror have its way.
Together with my fellow Sri Lankan Muslims, I will be fasting tomorrow from dawn to dusk. I will be foregoing any food and drink during this period.
It occurs to many of us that it is unconscientious to have regular days on these painful days when we know of so many other Sri Lankans who have had their lives obliterated by the despicable atrocities committed by terrorists last Sunday. Fasting is a special act of worship done by Muslims, it is a time and state in which prayers are answered. It is a state in which it is incumbent upon us to be more charitable, with our time, warmth and whatever we could share.
I will be fasting and praying tomorrow, to ease the pain and suffering of those affected.
I will be praying for a peaceful Sri Lanka, where our children – all our children, of all faiths – can walk the streets without fear and have the freedom to worship in peace.
I will be fasting tomorrow for my Sri Lanka. I urge you to do the same.
Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. Surah Maidah
My Heart Shook In New Zealand
One would imagine that a person would be dead-tired and ready to crash in his bed after a grueling, 36-hour journey from Christchurch, New Zealand to Washington, DC. And I will admit, that was the way I felt. Yet somehow, all my somnolence vanished as soon as my head rested on my pillow and I closed my eyes to rest. A wave of recollections fell over me: memories of the survivors, the emotions they expressed, and their feelings of an uncertain future as they planned their lives after the loss of their family members. These feelings instantly took away all the desire to get rest and sleep. I sit upright now and begin writing this reflection of a once in a lifetime experience- a voyage of grief and hope to Aotearoa- land of the white cloud as the indigenous people call New Zealand.
With lost baggage, long flights and too many connections, at times it seemed unlikely that my eldest son Moaz and I would make it to Jumm’ah and Janazah prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand. But Allah accepted our prayers so that we could fulfill the guidelines set by our beloved, the Prophet Muhammad . We were able to fulfill one of the rights of a Muslim over the others; that when he is sick visit him, and when she dies, offer her funeral and be part of her burial.
Hagley Cricket Ground was supposed to have a cricket test match between Bangladesh and New Zealand that Friday. Commentators reckon that it would have been the final day of that test match. But the 22nd of March 2019, brought a much bigger crowd to this world-famous cricket ground than what anyone would have seen on the final day of that test match.
Officials and security directed us towards the VIP area as they wanted to pay respect to the guests who traveled all the way from the USA, Canada, and Australia. The environment of love, solidarity, and respect, coupled with the hijab-clad women standing in solidarity with Muslims in that enormous crowd, created an impact which cannot be articulated by mere words. Every single uniformed female officer was carrying their firearm while donning a hijab; creating a welcoming gesture in a rather somber and gloomy atmosphere.
I do not have the words to thank the leadership of Charity Australia and the Islamic Forum of Australian Muslims (IFAM) for providing us with logistics, facilitating meeting the families of the “shuhudaa” (martyrs) and arranging to visit those injured in the tragedy. ICNA, Helping Hand, and Charity Australia banners highlighting the slogans of “American Muslims stand in solidarity with Victims of Christchurch New Zealand” were the center of attention for thousands of local New Zealanders gathered in solidarity that day. Their hugs, sincere prayers and tearful eyes were the greatest gift that I want to share with everyone reading these reflections.
Right after Jumm’ah, the majority of the crowd attended the collective Janazah prayer of 27 of the martyrs. In those emotional moments, I met with the most courageous woman on earth, the wife of 51-year-old Shaheed Naeem and the mother of 21-year-old Talha Naeem, the two spirited souls who gave their lives to save others in the mosque that day. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met. She mentioned that her husband, Naeem, was a person who lived the life of a man of service, always ready to help others. She described Talha as an angel who was too pious and too noble to be away from Jannah too long. We heard similar feelings from Naeem’s mother (grandmother of Talha) the next day when we visited their home.
The visit to the home of New Zealand’s national soccer team player, Atta Elayyan (33), was not only emotional but also deeply inspiring. Atta lost his life and his father (the founder of Al-Noor Masjid) was severely injured during this brutal and hateful attack. There were several scholars from the United States, including Sheikh Omer Suleiman, in the visit to Atta’s home. We could offer nothing to console the brave mother of this shaheed, who greeted us with words of courage and wisdom. We had no words to accompany the tears in our eyes, except prayers for the most noble young man who helped so many in coming close to Allah .
Our visits to Al-Noor Masjid and the Linwood Islamic Center were also filled with memories of love, harmony, and reverence. There was a continuous influx of hundreds of visitors, not only from New Zealand, but also from different countries including, but not limited to, Australia, Fiji, and Canada. Thousands and thousands of flower bouquets and other items of love were left by these visitors. I was really thrilled to see that local Muslims left many Qur’ans and flyers with basic concepts of Islam and addressing the common misconceptions about Islam for those visiting. I witnessed many people visiting these mosques were taking those Qur’ans and other books with them in order to learn more about Islam.
We also met Mr. Aziz, the unsung hero who repeatedly attacked the killer with different objects including an empty gun —which the killer had discarded. The terrorist fired on Aziz multiple times, but Allah not only saved him, but he also forced the killer to flee from the Linwood Islamic Center. Mr. Aziz was one of the reasons why the number of casualties in this mosque was only seven, compared to the 43 martyrs in Masjid Al-Noor. We also met certain individuals whom Allah saved miraculously. A young man showed his trousers fenestrated with holes of bullets but had no signs of injury. The husband and wife who entered the premises of the mosque and only to be showered with a burst of 26 bullets while in their car, leaving it completely destroyed. Yet Allah saved both of them while they took shelter in their vehicle.
The visit to the hospital’s ICU was simply heartbreaking but at the same time increased our resolve and commitment to help these families as much as possible. We encountered a Turkish brother who was in a coma for nine days and met his elderly parents, who spoke to us in the very little English they knew. The only thing which we could understand from their hushed voices was the request for du’a and tears of helplessness in their eyes. The 71-year-old father of a local Pakistani from Hafizabad, who had arrived two weeks ago to visit his son, was now on a ventilator fighting for his life. As a physician who has worked in ICU settings for a long time, I simply did not have enough medical reasoning which could have provided him any words of hope!! Similarly, I was not able to provide any glimmer of hope to a brother from Bangladesh whose wife will never be able to walk again and will be paralyzed for the rest of her life.
While I saw hope and felt resilience from every victim in that hospital, this hospital visit was brutally heartbreaking.
Lastly, I cannot imagine the pain, agony, and helplessness that the father of Mucad Ibrahim must feel after losing his 3-year-old son in his own arms. I gave him the longest hug possible, as he taught the whole world the meaning of Beautiful Sabr (Patience).
After seeing the devastation caused by the terrorist attack, and the work that must still be done to heal the community, Helping Hand USA, ICNA Relief Canada, and Charity Australia have formed an organization called the “Christchurch Family Support Network”. The operations have already begun, and our team is on the ground. The first group of mental health professionals with a background in Islamic Integrated counseling are set to leave to provide victims and their families immediate psychological assistance.
We ask Allah to accept our work, bring healing to the community, protect our brothers and sisters, and accept the shuhadaa’ in the highest level of Paradise.
Because Muslims Matter | Honoring The Martyrs Of #Christchurch
As the days go by, it is easy to forget the names and faces of the people who passed away. The horror of the act eclipses their memories. We do not want that to happen to our brothers and sisters in New Zealand.
اللهُـمِّ اغْفِـرْ لِحَيِّـنا وَمَيِّتِـنا وَشـاهِدِنا ، وَغائِبِـنا ، وَصَغيـرِنا وَكَبيـرِنا ، وَذَكَـرِنا وَأُنْثـانا. اللهُـمِّ مَنْ أَحْيَيْـتَهُ مِنّا فَأَحْيِـهِ عَلى الإِسْلام ،وَمَنْ تَوَفَّـيْتَهُ مِنّا فَتَوَفَّـهُ عَلى الإِيـمان ، اللهُـمِّ لا تَحْـرِمْنـا أَجْـرَه ، وَلا تُضِـلَّنا بَعْـدَه
Allaahum-maghfir lihayyinaa, wa mayyitinaa, wa shaahidinaa, wa ghaa’ibinaa, wa sagheerinaa wa kabeerinaa, wa thakarinaa wa ‘unthaanaa..
O Allah forgive our living and our dead, those who are with us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our menfolk and our womenfolk…