Hajj Stampede Nothing New: We Were Almost Killed Ourselves

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

I still remember it as if it was yesterday: my wife and I were on our way back from the ritual “stoning of the Devil” during our pilgrimage in 2003. It was very, very crowded, and people were everywhere going in each and every direction. Literally thousands were trying to get out at the same time as others were trying to get in. Then, it happened: my wife lost her footing and fell on me. I mustered all the strength I had to keep us from falling down.

Thank God, we did not fall, and we were saved from a certain death. Yet, on that very same day, there were other pilgrims who were not as fortunate. Unless you have been there, it is really hard to imagine how many people are at the Hajj. The pictures simply do not do it justice.

Although authorities are still investigating the cause, I can totally understand how a stampede can occur. Only one person has to panic to cause a devastating chain reaction. It is actually a blessing that a major stampede does not occur every year. Yet, sadly, these sort of things do occur, and my heart and prayers go out to the families of the victims who are now dealing with the terrible pain of the loss of their loved ones.

Although I do understand that it is very difficult, if not totally impossible, to totally control a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people all converging on one place, I also do agree with some of the criticism that authorities should do more to protect the crowds…

Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonwordcommonlord#ixzz3mxgWOLa2


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

I Will Never Forget, Habeebee

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

Two years ago today, we lost our Angel, Bayan, to lymphoma. The pain is still there; the anguish is still raw; the unbearable burden still hangs heavily on our hearts. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. There is not a time that my heart doesn’t cry out in melancholy, longing to see her once again.

As the months have passed, it still does not cease to amaze that it has been two years since the unthinkable. The passing of time has been a true blessing. It has definitely help eased the pain of her loss.

But the pain is always there. And it will always be there. I love you so much, habeebee (my love). And I will never forget.

Even though the sun was warm and bright,
The day was dark, grim, and full of fright.
I miss you, my love, so much each day,
One day we will see each other again, I pray.

An Absolutely Great Man

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

Today, we buried a stalwart of the Muslim community in the greater Chicago area. Today, we said farewell to man who touched the lives of so many people that the extent of his altruism and generosity cannot be fully contemplated. Today, we laid to rest a man who was instrumental to my spiritual upbringing: Dr. Mohamed Ali Hassan of Chicago.

I have known Dr. Hassan ever since I was a very young child. He was the spiritual leader of the small Muslim Egyptian-American community here, and ever since I can remember, Dr. Hassan has led our prayers, our community gatherings, our religious ceremonies, and he has been there when we said goodbye to our loved ones, including my own child one year ago today. Moreover, Dr. Hassan was my religious teacher, and he taught me everything I know about my religion, and he also taught me (along with his wonderful wife) how to read and speak the Arabic language. I grew up listening to his Friday sermons, and along with his religious classes, they helped shape the Muslim I am today.

He was, however, more than just my teacher. He was like my father. Whenever I had a burning religious question, I would always call him, and he would always give me an answer that was wise and on sound religious footing. More than that, however, whenever you would ask him a favor, he would do it without thought of reward or even thanks. He dedicated all his life to his family, his friends (among which my family was honored to be included), and his community.

I remember being in College, and there was a personal crisis that had plagued me. When I called him, he could not have been more kind, more caring, and more compassionate. It was difficult for me to share what I was going through, but he made it comfortable for me. He really came through for me when I was in a bind.

Stories like this abound with Dr. Hassan, and you could fill a large auditorium with those whom Dr. Hassan had helped make their lives better. He and his family were pillars of, not only the Muslim Egyptian American community, but the larger Muslim community as well. Few did not know who Dr. Mohamed Ali Hassan was, and anyone who did know him could not help but speak of him with the loftiest of praise. In short, he was as absolutely great man.

All of this is in addition to his medical brilliance, and he was an astute and accomplished Emergency Room physician in the Chicago area. His colleagues – and I am honored to call myself one of them – have nothing but good things to say about him, and he was an excellent clinician who did not hesitate to help anyone in need, whether known to him or not.

There are very few people left in this world like Dr. Mohamed Ali Hassan. There are very few people with the caring, compassion, beauty, and knowledge of Dr. Hassan. There are very few people that could have done so much good in their lives like Dr. Hassan. A dear, dear friend of mine said that, at his wake, there were scores of people who were there out of pure love and gratitude. No one came out of obligation, but because they actually wanted to be there. That was the kind of man he was.

As we look toward the years we will have to spend without Dr. Hassan, there is a pain in our hearts: a pain from knowing that our leader, our captain, our Shaykh has gone back to his Lord and cannot be with us any more; a pain from seeing his family strain under the sadness that their beloved husband, father, and uncle will not come back; a pain from realizing that the beautiful Dr. Hassan is no longer just a phone call away. It will be hard, and I ask that the Precious Beloved Lord make it easy for his family as they cope with this sad, sad day.

Yet, this one thing I know: Dr. Mohamed Ali Hassan was a beautiful man who reflected God’s love and beauty on this earth among His people.

Farewell, my captain, and may the Lord bless your afterlife with the highest of Gardens of bliss. If I can be half the man you were; if I can achieve half of what you have achieved; if I can have half the people at my funeral as there were for yours, then I have been nobly blessed indeed. Throughout my life, you were always there for me and my family. It was an honor and privilege for me to be there today to pay my respects and say my final farewell.

May God bless Dr. Mohamed Ali Hassan with all that is good, pure, and holy in this universe. Amen.