Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Gun Rights Fantasy

I really don't understand why, after such tragic events, in this case shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, people are still more concerned about their right to have a gun than their right to live. But the strangest remark that I have heard is that if every teacher were carrying a gun then no children would've been killed. Seriously?

This is what I call a fantasy. It's a fantasy that if everybody were carrying a gun nobody would have to use it. Gun ownership correlates with gun violence. And also accidental discharge. It seems to me that gun rights activists, proponents of lighter restrictions on gun ownership, are deluded if they think that everyone carrying a gun is safer than only law-enforcement carrying a gun. The more guns that are around, the easier it is for folks who shouldn't have them to get them.

Sure, if someone is determined enough they might be able to get a gun anyway. But it would be a lot harder to keep them out of the hands of crazies who shoot up school and movie theaters. The reality is that the more people have guns, the more people use guns, and the more people can get guns, the more people will die because of guns.

Guns do kill people, and they're very good at it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What War on Christmas?

One of silliest headlines in the news these days is about some alleged war on Christmas. As if there is some concerted effort on the part of the media or maybe non-Christians to eliminate Christmas from American culture. Or perhaps just to eliminate the religious part of Christmas.

And you know that by saying there's a religious part of Christmas means there's part of Christmas that's actually not religious, right?

But if there is any sort of war on Christmas, then I think Christians lost it a long time ago. Maybe they lost it when they decided to hold the celebration around the time of the winter solstice in the first place. Or maybe they lost it when they started making Santa and home decorations more important than any religious symbol. Even when you find a nativity scene in the home of a religious family, when is it not dwarfed by the scope of other decorations? We see wreaths, lights, garland, lawn decorations and of course the huge Christmas tree (or trees, some homes now erecting more than one) boasting its own lights and shiny ornaments.

To me, most of the myths surrounding Santa Claus seem to violate religious principles. For instance, telling children that it is Santa who knows whether they're being behaving correctly or not ascribes to him a power which should belong only to God. Doesn't it compromise a child's moral compass when he's told that he needs to be good because Santa will know rather than because God will know?

And let's not forget that because Santa does not exist, just telling children that he does is already a lie. And I'm sure it's a practice in many households that some if not all of the gifts parents buy for their children are assumed to have been delivered from the NorthPole. Consequently children don't learn to express gratitude as they are instructed to believe that a mythical figure is bringing their gifts rather than their parents or other family members.

And I really wonder when it became so offensive for somebody to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Personally, I don't mind somebody telling me "Merry Christmas" even though I don't celebrate it as a holiday. But what I don't understand is the logic that says the person who celebrates Christmas should only say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." I don't go out of my way to tell people "Happy Eid" when I know that they're non-Muslim.

But I have a theory. It seems that a quick and reliable way to turn people's opinion against someone or something is to start by telling them that they are already enemies. ("Why do they hate us?") Telling them that the other side already hates them. And then they are led to believe that the best response to the hatred that supposedly already exists is more hatred in response. I think that is how FOXNews is poisoning its audience against Muslims (for starters) and also others who don't share their same worldview.


Sunday, July 01, 2012

On Loving the Prophet

When I came to Islam, I found the following ayah especially meaningful:

O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians)! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth. The Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, ("Be!" - and he was) which He bestowed on Mary and a spirit created by Him; so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not: "Three!" Cease! (it is) better for you. For Allah is One God, Glory be to Him (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is All-Sufficient as a Disposer of affairs. (4:171)

By telling the reader (me, in that case) that it's better to just not say three, I understood that the very concept of the Trinity in Christianity was distorting my perception of God. Consequently, just throwing it out simplified things immensely. I felt like I couldn't call myself a Christian after reading this ayah, and it was one of my first big steps in coming to Islam.

But with my background in a religion that has gone to an extreme in elevating its Messenger, I have had a cautious view of the role of the Messenger I learned about in the Qur'an--the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), peace be upon him. I mean that I have struggled in learning to love Muhammad (pbuh) the way so many other Muslims seem to do so naturally.

I didn't swap one Messenger for the next, and shift my love accordingly. Instead, I came to understand the proper role of Jesus as a Messenger of God, and additionally, to accept Muhammad (pbuh) as a Messenger of God as well. And I became very fearful of the excessive and profuse love which I believed, when directed towards Jesus, led to the misunderstanding of his role and unjust elevation of his status by Christians.

When I started to learn about Islam, and even when I decided to convert, it was with very little knowledge about Muhammad (pbuh). For me, the power of the Qur'an was the means in which I found guidance, and by accepting it as the truth, I accepted Muhammad (pbuh) as a Messenger even though I knew almost nothing about him.

Since then, I've had to learn to find balance between the following. First, an ayah declaring Muhammad (pbuh) is only a Messenger, and second, a hadith which demands also a love of the Messenger.

Muhammad (SAW) is no more than a Messenger, and indeed (many) Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels (as disbelievers)? And he who turns back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah, and Allah will give reward to those who are grateful. 3:144

Anas radi Allahu ‘anhu (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said, “None of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father, his children and all mankind.” (Bukhari)

Of course, there is no conflict between these two. And it is easy to grasp the need to obey the Messenger, given the specific exhortations to do so in the Qur'an. Loving the Messenger, however--acquiring that love--that's what was new for me.

When I would hear Muslims talk about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), what struck me was that they did so with more respect, more reverence, and more love than even Christians had when talking about Jesus. Perhaps that's why I was so cautious--because from my perspective, it seemed that Muslims loved Muhammad (pbuh) even more than Christians loved Jesus, and Christians thought Jesus was divine! 

And over time, I learned more about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through interacting with Muslims, taking classes on the Seerah and learning more about his life. But I continued to feel my love for him inadequate, compared to that of other Muslims. You could say I just didn't get it. 

But last weekend I had an interesting realization, due in part to another class I took about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh.) It was an AlMaghrib class that came to Seattle called The Prophet's Smile. And while the subject was primarily the characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), I was able to reflect on how his life has affected me personally. 

Though I have heard many times, occasionally in gruesome detail, about the struggles he went through in his life, and what he suffered, I was never able to personally relate to it. I understood it in a purely abstract sense, and without having grown up loving this man, it wasn't immediate or natural for me to sympathize. 

But then it occurred to me that if not for his persistence in delivering the message, and his prayers for his ummah, I might not be a Muslim today. And because I really believe that being guided to Islam is a very special gift from God, it strikes me now the critical importance of the Messenger to establishing Islam as a way of life on Earth, as extensively as is currently is. 

When I hear about how he was stoned in at-Ta'if, for example, instead of just feeling bad about what he went through, I think--he endured that so I could find Islam, so many centuries later. That he suffered abuse from his own family members so I could be a Muslim. And that he worshiped and prayed at night for the Muslims until his legs were swollen so that guidance would reach even me

And that thought brings a flood of tears to my eyes and an overwhelming emotion. Realizing that no other human being has had such a tremendous impact on my ability to receive God's message of guidance as he, I finally start to truly love him. 

May Allah's peace and blessings and mercy be upon him and his family and his companions.