Kingdom of Heaven


In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

I finally got around to seeing the film Kingdom of Heaven this past weekend. It was a great film, and I really enjoyed watching it. You all should rent and watch it (although I did not like the love scene…they always try to insert sex where it truly does not belong…humph!). The film had tons of lessons that I truly hope moviegoers understood.

For instance, the theme that our faiths are more similar than they are different flowed throughout the film. For example, early on in the film, when Balian (Orlando Bloom) sees “Saracens,” or Muslims, praying, his companion translates subhanna rabbi al atheem, or “Glory be to my Lord the Great.” Balian replies, “Isn’t that similar to our prayers?” I almost wanted to scream, “Yes!”

In his town of Ibelin, Balian had Christians, Muslims, and Jews living together under his tutelage. In the end of the film, he goes over the claim of Jews, Christians, and Muslims on Jerusalem and concludes: “Who has claim?…None has claim.” I believe this means that no one can call the other’s claim to the city as illegitimate. Yes, the Jews lived in Jerusalem and had their Temple there, the Temple of our beloved Solomon (pbuh). Yes, our beloved Christ (pbuh) walked the streets of Jerusalem preaching the Gospel to the people. Yes, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) visited Jerusalem and prayed with all the Prophets and Messengers there. This blessed city is all of ours: each of us can call it home.

Yet, I could not help but feel pride at seeing the Muslims under the lead of Salahudeen, or Saladin. Not because he “crushed the infidels.” But, because, being in an era when Muslims are being raped, tortured, murdered, occupied, maligned, and attacked, it felt good to hearken to an era when the Muslim World was the beacon of light and magnanimity for all the world. There was a time when speaking Arabic in Europe was a status symbol and not a cause for arrest and detention. There was a time when noblemen and their children sought out the Muslim universities for higher learning. There was a time when people of all faiths flourished under Islam.

That time, unfortunately, is long gone, and Muslims have none but themselves to blame. Because we have fallen short of the Divine Standard given to us by God and explained to us by our Prophet (pbuh), we are in the state we are. “God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves,” the Qur’an says. Until we all – each of us, individually – work to make ourselves good and pure, our people will never be good and pure, and the glory that was the Muslim World will never return.

But, you know what? So many Muslims nowadays think of victory, power, and greatness in military terms. They call us to remember the conquests of Mecca, and Jerusalem, and the like. Yet, that is not where our greatness, or ‘izzah, lies. Our greatness is in our moral strength and fortitude; our greatness is in our proximity to the Divine Will, as outlined for us by all the Prophets of God who were sent to us.

The fact that the Prophet Joseph (pbuh) was practically king of Egypt was not his greatest hour: no, he was at his greatest when he forgave his brothers. When they realized who he truly was, they said to him: “‘By God! Most certainly has God raised thee high above us, and we were indeed but sinners!’” Joseph replied to them: “’No reproach shall be uttered today against you. May God forgive you your sins: for He is the most merciful of the merciful! ‘” (12:91-92). Despite all that they did to him and his brother, Benjamin, he still forgave them. That was my Master Joseph’s (pbuh) greatest hour.

When the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) marched into his beloved city of Mecca, with 10,000 soldiers at his command, that was not his greatest hour. No, he was at his greatest when he stood before the people of Mecca – the very same people who cursed him, attacked him, killed his Companions, maligned his character, drove him out and nearly killed him in battle – and said to them, “You are free to go,” giving them a general amnesty. That was my Master Muhammad’s (pbuh) greatest hour.

In the movie, when Balian surrendered Jerusalem to Saladin, Saladin let all of the Christians go safely. Balian reminded him that the first Christiaconquerorsrs of Jerusalem massacred the Muslims in the city. Saladin replied, “I am not one of those people.” That was when he was at his greatest, that is what Islam has taught us to be.

Military victories come and go: any army can be defeated by an even bigger army. But the victory of the heart and soul over its evil tendencies: that is a victory that can never be taken away. That is the victory that Islam gives us. That is the victory that will get us – by God’s Mercy – into the Kingdom of Heaven.

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