My New Location: Chicago Now


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

Recently, I have been blessed to be added as one of the new bloggers on the “Chicago Now” website. It is a great platform for Chicago-based bloggers to share their thoughts with the world. My blog, “Midwestern Muslim” is there.

I have moved most of my newest writing there. You can check out all of my old writings/posts here, but please be sure to check out my writings on my Chicago Now blog: “Midwestern Muslim.”

Thanks very much for all of your support, prayers, and thoughts. I look forward to engaging with you on “Midwestern Muslim.”

A Very Telling Gaffe


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

A gaffe by a Rick Santorum staffer says a lot. Speaking to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Monday, spokeswoman Alice Stewart said:

There is a type of theological secularism when it comes to the global warmists in this country. That’s what he was referring to. He was referring to the president’s policies in terms of the radical Islamic policies the president has.

She quickly called MSNBC after the segment and said she misspoke, actually meaning “radical environmental policies.”

Ohhhh, I see! She meant environmental rather than Islamic.

This makes me wonder about a couple of things: first, does the spokeswoman’s slip mean that – deep down – she thinks that President Obama really is a “secret Muslim”? And second, is the association between “radical” and “Islamic” so ingrained, so natural, that it can easily slip out of one’s tongue? In either case, it makes me very sad.

It makes me very sad that still, in 2012, associating President Obama with Islam is used as a smear. It recently happened at a Rick Santorum campaign event, in fact, and Senator Santorum did not correct the person making the assertion. This is wrong. It is wrong to try to smear someone by wrongly accusing them of being Muslim (or Jewish, or Christian, or any other religious faith). We should have better respect for religious faith and choice than that.

It is equally sad that the association between “radical” and “Islamic,” it seems, has indeed become so natural. Yes, the Muslim worldwide community has its radical elements: but so does every other religious community. Yes, extremists who called themselves Muslims attacked the country on 9/11: but so did extremists who were Christians in 1995 in Oklahoma City. Yes, there are Muslims who have been caught plotting terrorist attacks, but as a recent study shows, their numbers are dwindling and the threat from American Muslims has been exaggerated.

I wish religion and religious faith would be taken out of politics and the Presidential campaign. Whatever religion we choose to profess: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, or no “-ism” at all, it should not matter. That is a personal choice, and we must all have respect for each other’s personal religious beliefs. That is what makes our country so wonderful: that we can live and work with people of all faiths in peace, harmony, and brotherhood.

It is the way that the Lord wanted us to live on earth, and so let us work to make His desire a reality.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/commonwordcommonlord/2012/02/a-very-telling-gaffe.html#ixzz1my7M7STD

Tax on the Rich Rooted in Judeo-Christian-Islamic Principles


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

This was published on my Patheos column, "An American Islam."

President Obama aims to live by the Christian principle that a person who is blessed with much must give back to the community. That seems to be the underlying sentiment of his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in early February, where the President framedhistaxpolicieswithinbiblicalprinciples: "But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.’"

Here, the president is quoting Luke 12:48: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." Indeed, Jesus Christ did stress the importance of helping the poor, saying once: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Mt. 25:40)."

The President then added, "It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others." Here, he is absolutely correct: In Islam, there definitely is the principle that "unto whom much is given, much shall be required."

That is, in fact, is the entire purpose of zakah, which is the "fourth pillar" of Islam. Zakah is a wealth tax; Muslims must annually give 2.5 percent on unused wealth accumulated over the course of the year to the poor and needy. The word zakah, in fact, means "purifying dues," because such a tax "purifies" the person from greed and miserliness. (Interestingly, some professors and directors of economic think tanks have recentlycalledforasimilartypeoftax.)

In the Quran, this concept is explicitly explained:

Verily, the human being is born with a restless disposition. [As a rule], whenever misfortune touches him, he is filled with self-pity; and whenever good fortune comes to him, he selfishly withholds it [from others]. Not so, however, those who consciously turn toward God in prayer. [And] who incessantly persevere in their prayer; and in whose possessions there is a due share, acknowledged [by them] for such as ask [for help] and such as are deprived [of what is good in life] (70:19-25).

Another passage in the Quran reads:

[But,] behold, the God-conscious will find themselves amid gardens and springs, enjoying all that their Sustainer will have granted them [because], verily, they were doers of good in the past: they would lie asleep during but a small part of the night and would pray for forgiveness from their innermost hearts; and [would assign] in all that they possessed a due share unto such as might ask [for help] and such as might suffer privation (51:15-19).

President Obama, in fact, is asking less of the rich than Jesus did. When a man came to Jesus asking how he can attain eternal life, he told him: "Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me" (Mk. 10:21) and "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" (Mk. 10:23)

The President is only asking the rich to pay a few percentage points more than what they are paying now. In his latest budget, Obama proposed a 30 percent tax on those with incomes above $1,000,000. Conservative Christian leader Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition criticizedthisconcept, saying that tying this tax policy to Jesus’ teachings was "theologically threadbare and straining credulity." But it is Reed’s response that strains credulity.

The wealthy should pay their fair share of taxes. The obligation of those who are doing well to help those that are less fortunate is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian (and Islamic) traditions. This is because the ultimate source of this concept is the God of Abraham Himself who, despitethecontentionofsome, is worshipped by Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.

You would think that this common belief in a common Lord would bring people together on an issue such as this. But, this is the 2012 election season. Very little, it seems, makes sense.

Forgiveness, Not Death, For Hamza Kashgari


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

This was published on altmuslim

The ultimate fate of Saudi blogger, poet and writer Hamza Kashgari is still unknown. The 23-year-old, who formerly worked for the Saudi Arabia newspaper Al Bilad, recently tweeted some critical comments about the Prophet Muhammad (saw), which left conservative Saudi clerics crying blasphemy and calling for his blood. Kashgari’s cause has been taken up by Muslims around the world, many who say the call for his execution goes against the Prophet’s emphasis on love and forgiveness.

On the Prophet’s birthday (which fell on Feb. 12), Kashgari tweeted these statements, in 140 character increments, of course:

On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you. On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more. On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.

Because of those tweets, conservative clerics are clamoring for his death. I, and many others, spoke out against his execution, citing the fact that there is no evidence in the Qu’ran that calls for the death penalty for apostasy. But what’s more sorrowful is that in the heated rhetoric surrounding this young man’s tweets, lost is the substance of what he wrote. No one, it seems, focused on this statement: “I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.” That, I think, is the key: He did not understand many aspects of the Prophet, his life and ministry.

Well, especially if that is the case, then the response should be compassion and education, not death and destruction. And, even if he had completely denied the prophet hood of Muhammad, he shouldn’t be executed. His faith, or lack thereof, is his choice. Kashgari, like all of us, will be judged by God, and it is not our place to play God’s role.

Maybe, despite his having been born and raised on the same piece of earth as the Prophet, Kashgari really did not know the Prophet Muhammad’s story, his life and his ministry. Maybe he did not really know the beauty of his character, the sanctity of his method or the magnanimity of his conduct. Maybe he did not really know how much his contemporaries loved him, how much his family adored him and how his followers were devastated when he was gone. Maybe Hamza Kashgari just does not understand, as seems to be from his tweets.

The Prophet’s story and life is indeed inspirational, as young Hamza himself said. Prophet Muhammad’s life has inspired me so much that I was blessed to publish his story entirely in poetry. And, if those who call for this blogger’s death truly love the Prophet, then they should follow his example and have compassion for the man. Those who are against him should lead by the example of the Prophet and set the blogger free.

The Prophet’s life is full of stories of how he forgave his worst enemies. Time and again, he refrained from taking personal revenge against anyone who slighted him, attacked him or even tried to kill him. His own uncle, Abu Lahab, would follow the Prophet wherever he went and tell people, “Don’t listen to him! He is a madman.” The Prophet did not even try to stop him. And when he marched triumphantly in Makkah, where I am sure many of Hamza Kashgari’s detractors now live, he told the Quraish tribe — his most bitter and brutal of enemies — “Go now and be free, I forgive you.”

Where has that spirit of forgiveness and compassion gone? Where has that kindness and generosity gone in the land of the Prophet (pbuh)? Why this rush for blood and death? This is reminiscent of the reaction to the silly Danish cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). If one really loves the Prophet, then he will react in the way the Prophet would react: with kindness and generosity. Listen to the word of God:

 ”But [since] good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou [evil] with something that is better and lo!, he between whom and thyself was enmity [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [unto thee], a true friend! (41:34)”

Yes, the tweet may have been imprudent and disrespectful. But, is killing him the answer? Is calling for his death going to make him come back to the faith and love the Prophet even more? Absolutely not. Our faith is all about love and compassion for all, to spread the light of God’s love to the rest of the world through our actions and thoughts. Why is it that, so many times, our people completely fail to see this?

May His Comfort Reign


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

I was standing in my  mother’s kitchen when I first heard the news: Whitney Houston, a singer to whom I grew up listening, had died at the age of 48. Since then, and in full from at the Grammy Awards, people and celebrities all across the country have sent in their condolences and prayers. I add my voice to that chorus:

May His comfort reign supreme over Whitney Houston’s family, especially her daughter. As a father who lost his child, I know full well the pain and suffering that loss of a dear loved one can bring. Ever since that horrific day, whenever I learn of the death of anyone, my heart twinges with pains of empathy. And my empathy extends to the Houston family.

As I reflect upon her death, it is amazing how much the country is affected whenever a celebrity dies. Although Whitney Houston did die at a young age, still, as my wife pointed out to me, it seems like celebrities are not subject to laws of God; it seems that they will always be with us to grace us with their talent. As we can see, it is sadly not true. Celebrities, like the rest of us, are human beings: they live, they die; they eat, they sleep; and they are plagued with the same things with which we all are.

Still, whenever one dies – anyone, really, – my response will be the same: may His comfort reign over all those touched by her death. For the truly greatest comfort comes from the Precious Beloved Lord alone. Amen.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/commonwordcommonlord/2012/02/may-his-comfort-reign.html#ixzz1mHz8Xj3n

Study: American Muslims Pose Little Threat


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

Let me start with this: I have never understood and completely abhor those fellow Americans who plot to hurt innocent people in this country. It is a betrayal beyond all measure, and they deserve to be punished severely, if convicted of the allegations made against them. And, definitely, homegrown terrorism is a threat that must be dealt with. Yet, especially during this election season, we cannot let alarmism and fearmongering win the day.

Some elected politicians have talked about the threat from – not “homegrown terrorism” in general – but “Muslim” or “Islamic” homegrown terrorism specifically. Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, held four hearings in 2011 to examine “the extent of Muslim-American radicalization by al-Qaeda in their communities today and how terrible it is, the impact it has on families, how extensive it is, and also that the main victims of this are Muslim-Americans themselves.”

A study by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security examined Muslim homegrown terrorism, and it declared:

Threats remain: violent plots have not dwindled to zero, and revolutionary Islamist organizations overseas continue to call for Muslim-Americans to engage in violence. However, the number of Muslim-Americans who have responded to these calls continues to be tiny, when compared with the population of more than 2 million Muslims in the United States and when compared with the total level of violence in the United States, which was on track to register 14,000 murders in 2011.

As the report says, this number is not “negligible,” but it is far less than some people would have you believe. And the number of plots and those who support them have been decreasing:

In addition to the decline in violent plots, the number of Muslim-Americans indicted for support of terrorism — financing, false statements, and other connections with terrorist plots and organizations, aside from violent plots — fell from 27 individuals in 2010 to 8 in 2011, bringing the total to 462 since 9/11.

Again, not “nothing,” but not a “scourge” as some would have you believe. In fact, a significant proportion of those plots were foiled by Muslims themselves: 

Muslim-Americans continued to be a source of initial tips alerting law-enforcement authorities to violent terrorist plots. Muslim-Americans turned in 2 of 14 individuals in 2011 whose initial tip could be identified, bringing the total to 52 of 140 since 9/11.

The findings of this study have been replicated by other studies as well. The point is: homegrown terrorism is a very important issue, and again, as an American I expect law enforcement officials to expend every effort to stop terror plots from being materialized. But, as Professor Charles Kurzman, author of the current study, told the New York Times: 

terrorism by Muslim Americans  [is] “a minuscule threat to public safety.” Of about 14,000 murders in the United States last year, not a single one resulted from Islamic extremism, said Mr. Kurzman

Let not the forces of hatred succeed in dividing us through fear and misinformation. Let us be a better people and better nation than that.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/commonwordcommonlord/2012/02/study-american-muslims-pose-little-threat.html#ixzz1lqif3AaP

A Poem For His Birthday


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

On that day, the world was lighted
Darkness was on that day banished
The day bright, Heaven was delighted
The rule of man, at last, would vanish

Balconies and curtains of power shaken
Criers with another book would scream
“O sons of man, your souls awaken!”
For his light on all places would gleam

Family and friend would be utterly amazed
A father twice over was overly pleased
Signs of his greatness continue to daze
His coming is as a cooling breeze

“Continually Praised” is what he was called
A name of grace for all the ages
Forces of evil will forever be appalled
And his wisdom would feed a myriad of sages

Year after year, this day we rejoice
We revel in the knowledge that he came
For he gave our spirits a beautiful voice
And the portrait of Prophets a majestic frame