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Our Three Winners: The Greatness of their Lives

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By Bushra Anwar

This week, Muslim communities around the world were shocked at the brutal murders of three beautiful, young American Muslims, shot in their homes, their young lives taken away and the lives of those around them destroyed. It was a horrifying tragedy that brought a community to its knees, yet within the deeply appalling event came a message of love, hope and peace.

Deah, Yusor and Razan were deeply shining lights of their communities. They were young, they were kind, they devoted their free time to helping others, they bridged interfaith relations, and they caused all who knew them to love them. As parents, we have so many hopes and dreams for our children. We pray Allah keeps them safe, healthy and out of harms way. We raise them to be pious and God-conscious, we pray they fulfil their dreams and get the best education we can give them, we hope they grow into good people, who reach their potentials, who give back to the world, who people love and respect, and who carry Allah’s message through the lands. We have dreams for them. Out of all the stories written about Chapel Hill, one message stands out clearly. These were amazing kids. These are the kids parents want to raise. These are the type of kids who parents can look at and feel, alhumdulillah, and be proud and thankful to Allah, and feel rest in their hearts that their kids have turned out to be good people. That all their efforts, all their duas, all the hours, days, weeks, years, they spent teaching them, nurturing them, loving them, praying for them have come to fruition.

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And then this happens. These incredible children are gone. What do you say then? What do you feel then? And it is in this incredible moment that those who have undergone one of the biggest tragedies in a parent’s life, these two families, are the ones teaching us about patience and strength, placating us, instead of us them.

Above and beyond anything anyone can say or write are the amazing words said by Deah’s brother, and Yusor and Razan’s father. Deah’s family talks not about loss but about happiness. They call them winners. That they have gone “home” to their Creator, that they are no longer building blocks on the bridge to the afterlife, but they have reached their destination. And what a destination, more beautiful than any one of us can imagine. Yusor and Razan’s father spoke loud and clear at his beloved daughters’ funeral, “Raise your kids in a manner that you won’t feel sad when they die, but proud and happy.” This strength and patience. This Taqwa. This Islam. It is beyond words. It is when you look at parents like these that you can see how exemplary parents have raised such shining stars.

But for the rest of us, what comes next? After the media frenzy, the tears, we must pause. These three were chosen by Allah for a most beautiful resting place, and while their families and friends and those who love them shed tears, it opens our eyes to our own lives. Do not let their deaths just be about this tragedy. Let their lives, their shining, exemplary lives, be what we remember. Their lives are much bigger than their passing. As their community leaders said, “These were the best and the brightest that our community had produced.” Make that not only what you remember, but also what you can take forward.

Allah chose these three to revive our hearts. What beautiful deeds did these three winners do that Allah chose to honor them so that their names are known around the world? Deah, Yusor and Razan spent their young lives in service and mercy. They spread love wherever they went. They spent their boundless energies galvanizing people to work towards charity, whether it was helping the homeless or providing dental treatment to refugees. They opened their homes to other communities, Jewish, Christian and more, to invite others to see the beauty of Islam. They tweeted about goodness, condemning hate and reminding others of the afterlife.

They set a lasting example of what Muslims are and should be. Kind and gentle. Helping the needy. Educating themselves to serve others. Building bridges of peace and love. They were what we all need to be. To move past our egos and our energies spent elsewhere; to greet those whom we love and those whom we don’t, those whom we know and those who are stranger to us, with kindness and dignity. To use the education and the privileges Allah has given us in serving His people. To make Islam not about differences but about commonalities.  To open our homes and our hearts to one another and to show people all around us what Islam really is.

The two families, whose lives have been shattered beyond imagination, are true examples for all of us; they have shown strength and patience in the face of the worst tragedy and they have called not for hate nor revenge, but for peace and love. Their faces, though streaked with pain, tell volumes not about despair but of hope and dreams. They complain not, but are thankful, their lips moving only in praise of their Lord. They remain firm and steadfast, knowing that their loved ones are at peace, that Allah, their Guardian, their protector, has allowed them to achieve the best of this life and that of the next, inshaAllah.

We must not let Deah, Razan and Yusor’s deaths be in vain. We must not forget. We must look to their lives as shining examples of what our lives should be like. They were the embodiment of everything Islam. What a Muslim should be like. What people should look at Muslims and see. How each and every one of us can make our community a better place. They broke the stereotype of how the media views Muslims; let us all break those stereotypes in whatever way we can.

Look at the bigger picture

They struggled. Their tweets spoke of perseverance, not discouragement. Deah wrote of rejection from a position he applied for; but volunteered and helped anyway. Yusor talked about struggles of wearing hijab, but persevered anyway. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t think your little efforts won’t amount to anything big. Whether it’s donating a small amount to a local charity, or spending an hour helping someone who needs it, or just letting someone in line go ahead of you, every effort goes a long way.

Be a Muslim in all facets of your life

If they were Muslims inside, they were Muslims outside. They treated all with kindness, and loved everyone they met. They gave everyone their due rights whether inside their community or outside. They didn’t park next to their neighbor, simply because he didn’t like it, and drew up parking charts for their friends to make sure their neighbor wasn’t annoyed. They tried to be good and helpful to everyone, regardless of others’ behaviors towards them. They were humble, smart, and committed to helping. Muslims and non-Muslims alike gathered in droves at their funerals, in testaments to their grace and character.

Use your youth wisely

At 23, 21 and 19, their resumes were longer than many people more than their age. Since school, they volunteered at charities, spent their free time working to serve refugees and the poor, and to promote, understand and love above and beyond persistent pressures of hate. They were leaders and program coordinators, without whom many programs wouldn’t have even started. They didn’t say, “Let’s do this later”. Our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that,

The one who spends his youth in servitude to Allah will be be amongst the 7 to be in Allah’s shade on the Day of Judgment.”

Work for a common good

For too long, we are split communities; so busy in our differences we forget that we are one. We need to let go of differences amongst us, shake off our constant battles, let go of our egos and remember we are all working for a better future for our own people, families and children. We are working to give them better lives in a constantly changing landscape filled with unknowns. These three worked to create a better landscape for Muslims in America. They strove to break perceptions, to show a united and better face of Islam. They dreamed of a unified society. Let go of your differences. Hold hands and work together and present a united force of peace, brotherhood and one united aim. Support one another in goodness; remember we are a minority and already work under tremendous pressures from outside; internal ones only serve to shatter not strengthen what we build.

Talk to your children about it

Death is inevitable; it is often said that the only certainty about life is death. Deah, Razan and Yusor’s short lives were filled with service and benefit to others and countless witnesses from all backgrounds testify to their inherent goodness, pristine personalities and kindness. Talk to your children about how they would want to be remembered when they died; the killer is remembered by his ex-wife and friends as perpetually angry, ill-tempered and cruel, whereas Deah, Yusor and Razan are talked about with endless tears; about how they lived not just to please Allah but to treat everyone they met with kindness and humility.

Worship

Spend your time in dhikr, reading Quran, and studying Allah’s word. The world may have lost three of its stars, but through the legacy of their lives, carry Islam forward. Immerse yourself in learning more about deen, being a living embodiment of its ideals. Deah, Yusor and Razan’s parents are a testament to the strength of their faith and taqwa. We all know death doesn’t wait for anyone. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Be the Muslim every Muslim should be. When we can all be that, when we can show a Muslim being one of goodness and mercy, then we can replace hate with hope; anger with love, murder with peace. And lastly, remember our ultimate goal; that of serving Allah.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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