It would serve us all well to remember that in his day, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King was labeled a radical and an extremist. He was an “agitator,” a “negro” who didn’t know his place. He broke unjust laws and stared down injustice and evil. He was stubborn. He was hated. Everyone around him told him to be more patient, more calm, to work with less urgency. And because he wisely refused, he went to jail 29 times! Twenty nine! He was a criminal in his day. Today is when we white people post our nice little tributes with out of context palatable excerpts to soothe our consciences and make us feel less responsible. Instead, we should reflect on his radical love. A love that didn’t sit quietly and pat the millions of suffering Black People on their arms and urge patience. It was a love that took to the streets. That prayed. That organized and marched and went to jail and forwent its own peace for the future peace of others. And guess what? Doctor King was murdered precisely because of his insistence in cold blood at 39 years of age. He left behind a wife and children. He died because, at the end of the day, he was merely another black man who had to be made an example to intimidate others into complacent and fearful silence. He did not live to a ripe old age. He did not spend his final years in a rocking chair marveling at the post racial paradise we too often pretend we lived in. He died in the heat of a spiritual battle for the heart and soul of a nation. This was Doctor King. He had a dream, yes. But he didn’t awake from the dream and pretend that all was well. He fought and died for that dream. He opened a festering wound in our national body that had to be lanced. It seems that we have yet to finish that unpleasant but vital task.
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Today I sat down with my husband and recorded a simple YouTube video (for those who don’t know, we regularly make YouTube videos for thousands of viewers) about prejudice against minorities in the United States. It was a respectful video, with no vulgarities, nationalism, or unkindness – more than we can say for what comes out of some politicians’ mouths these days. And guess what? As we were uploading the video tonight, YouTube told us that this video is “inappropriate” for advertisers – meaning, we’re not going to be allowed to have commercials on the video and our only income will be reduced because we won’t be allowed to earn money from our hard work.
Not only that – because a monetized video (i.e. a video in which there are commercials) are a partnership between YouTube and the content creator, when a video is monetized both the creator and YouTube itself make money. So when a video can’t be or isn’t monetized, YouTube doesn’t make money… and therefore has no motivation to suggest the video to viewers. In other words, because advertisers don’t want to be associated with Muslims, our video that is a very important discussion about exactly this sort of prejudice won’t be delivered to people who want to watch it – or for that matter, to those who don’t care enough to want to.
This isn’t the first time though. Every time we post a video in which we mention Islam, Muslim identity, or prejudice, this happens. Consistently. It even happens on other videos that we post – and this is truly a problem unique to Muslims and a few other minority groups who are vocal about owning their uniqueness. This is unacceptable. I’m telling you this to say that society disdains Muslim-ness and other forms of “different-ness” to such an extent that advertisers have made clear to a supposedly inclusive platform like YouTube that they do not want to be associated with us at all – and what’s worse is that YouTube bent to their wishes. Because, money.
When we collectively silence minority voices, especially minority voices that stand out and don’t act like they’re not minorities, we are collectively allowing minorities to be “other-ized”; that is, turned into something that seems so foreign to the majority that we become entirely dehumanized. And when we are dehumanized, we become devoid of the right to live the same life that majorities live. We stop being one of the collective “us”, and instead are perceived as the ever-distant yet somehow simultaneously ever-creeping-closer “them”. We are perceived as a menace and undeserving of the simple benefit of the doubt afforded to majorities.
This in turn can and often does lead to external weaponization of minority identities. For example, young black men are generally (and I must say, wrongly) perceived as inherently more violent, dangerous, and criminal than their white counterparts. This, because black skin is weaponized by popular culture; that is to say, people see it as a danger in and of itself. So it follows that those inhabiting such skin are dangerous too. And of course, dangers must be… eliminated. Which is exactly what society is doing by killing off or failing to nurture black children. The same logic can be applied to every minority. And how does this whole grotesque process begin? By putting proverbial duct tape over our proverbial mouths.
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Peace be upon you all ✌🏻
This week someone asked me for advice about how to find their spiritual path, knowing that I had struggled greatly to find mine. I’d like to offer this advice to all of you. It will be based on my personal experiences, and therefore I cannot promise that my advice will be perfect.
When my doubts first began, I shoved them down out of sheer terror of not knowing. What if everything I believed was… wrong? What if the things on which I was basing my eternal destination were… irrelevant? These “what ifs” were scary, so I ran away and buried myself in every possible occupation. Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know what not to do. Don’t ignore your feelings! Begin a journal and write down what you wonder about. Then pray. Pray and ask whatever Higher Power there is – and yes you can phrase it that way – to show you what’re the answers to your questions.
The other thing I did at first was not research. This was part of ignoring my feelings. I thought if I immersed myself in the doctrine that I thought was the only safe one, I’d one day wake up without doubts and it would all would finally click in my soul. Of course that didn’t work. So what I finally did – and this is what you should consider doing if you want to avoid a lot of heartache – is research. Read the scriptures of numerous religions. Try out different ways of praying. Decide what, if anything, in different religions, resonates with you deep down inside. When you read the Bible or Quran, for example, does sow,thing you read feel like Truth with a capital T to you? Do some things just feel wrong? When you find these things, write them down in your journal. As time goes on, refer back. As you read more religious texts and books about religion, you’ll eventually come across something that matches what you’ve written down that resonates with you and that doesn’t have aspects that feel inherently and deeply wrong to you.
I also recommend that you visit different houses of worship and attend services therein. Along with that, talk with members of different faiths. Let them show you what is beautiful about their traditions. As you do this you may see that in your eyes a certain faith makes its followers kinder, more spiritual, and better people in general. They may also be able to show you doctrines carried out in real life that, when you read about them, didn’t seem that important but which in real life hold great meaning.
Don’t forget to pray. A lot. Simply speak to God in whatever way feels comfortable to you. Tell him your thoughts, your fears, your beliefs, your doubts. Be honest and open. I personally had a lot of anger towards God. When I finally opened up to Him, I was transformed. God is infinitely big enough to handle your finite feelings. He can take it. So don’t be afraid to say just what you think and feel. Tell Him you’re angry! Tell Him you’re confused! Tell Him you don’t have a clue, or that you’re proud, or that you’re afraid! Tell Him everything. Trust me, doing so consistently changes everything.
You also must be patient. With yourself, with God, with the process, and with those around you. Patience was something I needed to learn and and area in which I improved due to my crisis of faith. Patience will sustain. You’ll go bonkers without it! Really. Be patient with yourself because you’ll have moments in which you’ll feel like you’re a jerk and an idiot, and like you’re the slowest person to ever try to find faith. Be patient with God because He has His own perfect timing for revealing Himself. So don’t rush Him. He knows best. Be patient with the process, because it may well be long and arduous. If you’re patient, you’ll learn to actually enjoy the journey! “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” Cliche but very true.
Finally, be patient with those around you, especially those closest to you. They will feel bewildered, left out, and frightened by your changes. That’s their right. Be patient with them as they learn to accept you. That’s good advice for a lot of things really! They may become angry. As long as they’re not abusing you in some way, allow them healthy anger. The anger will pass. Be supportive of them, but also insist on following through on your journey. Don’t let them discourage you.
As you come into faith and knowledge, whatever you do, don’t become arrogant. A sheikh I know once coined the term convertitis. By that he, meant that terrible sense of I-am-oh-so-wise-and-you-aren’t arrogance that often comes over the newly religious. Avoid that. If you succumb, check yourself, repent to God and those around you, and be more humble than ever. True faith should make you more humble and loving, not an unbearable know-it-all jerk! You’ll drive dear, good people away from you if you become arrogant. Remember, any wisdom we have comes from the Source of all True Wisdom. So be confident, but not proud. The Prophet Mohammed taught us that “He who doesn’t have kindness, doesn’t have faith,” (paraphrasing.)
Finally, never ever lose sight of God’s infinite love and forgiveness. If we the finite are capable of deep love – and we are indeed – imagine how much more infinitely loving and kind God must be! The Quran says that God says, “My Mercy encompasses all things,” (7:153). When you are overwhelmed by your shortcomings and doubts, fall back on His love. God. Loves. You. Really!
And with that, I close. Thank you for reading. If you liked this post, do share! Don’t forget, you can reach me in the comments below or on my Facebook page. Salaam ✌🏻
Peace everyone ✌🏻
Well, the dust from Charlottesville hasn’t completely settled. Charlottesville shocked the nation and the world. It left minorities reeling. I personally spent about three or four days basically in mourning. I cried a lot, that’s for sure. I worried a fair bit too. But now I just want to fight Nazis haha. I imagine many of you feel the same way, and some of you have a lot of privilege and can really make quite a difference. So here are some tips as to how to support us – us being, Muslims, Jews, other non Christians, People of Color, immigrants (especially non white and non English speaking ones), the LGBT community, and the disabled.
- Educate yourself. We minorities – this especially goes for POCs, Jews, and Muslims – are often very misunderstood and end up spending a lot of our time educating white native born US Christians about our faith, race, or culture. We’re constantly having to explain something. Now, this is usually fine with us when the questioner is sincere and actually listens to our answers. But too often the questions are more accusations than inquiries and no matter how we answer, we’ll always be guilty until proven innocent. Cue you! As a person of privilege who looks, talks, and dresses like our accusers you can educated yourself about our communities so that you can be equipped to educate others who won’t listen to us but who may well listen to you. And that brings me to my next point.
- Educate others. Like I said we’re often forced to be in full self-defense mode. This is emotionally, mentally, and spiritually draining. But if people don’t know us and if we aren’t defended, people like the Charlottesville Nazis can and often will physically or otherwise harm us. So try to take some of the burden off of us. Once you know the basics of who Muslims are, for example, or a bit about the suffering of POCs, you can pass this knowledge along to your privileged friends who act deaf and dumb around us. This may at least plant seeds of knowledge, respect, and humanity in otherwise closed minds.
- Have uncomfortable conversations. This is closely tied to #2. Educating others is never easy or comfortable if those being educated are blinded, intentionally or not, by racism, xenophobia, or something similar. With some people there simply won’t be a moment wherein they say, “Hey can you educate me on minorities’ struggles for liberation?”. It isn’t going to happen! So you need to initiate such conversations by calling people out on their prejudice whenever it surfaces.
- Use your voice and platforms. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard white Christian people say to me that they don’t like to make political or social statements on their social media profiles. So they post baby and dinner photos and gym selfies, but they never once say “Nazism isn’t ok.” Guess what? If you’re not willing to speak up, Nazis and other racists will win. You will be complicit in violence against us. Your silence tells us that we’re alone, and tells racists that nobody minds what they do or say. “But I only have one hundred Facebook friends,” you say. That’s one hundred people in who’s minds you can plant seeds of love and compassion. If everyone spoke out and up to one hundred people, the world would be entirely different. You can make a difference. But you won’t if you don’t try.
- Take care of yourself. Don’t let yourself burn out. Take social media breaks. Take a hot bubble bath. Have a good cup of coffee. Don’t wear yourself out. But once you’ve recharged your batteries, don’t throw in the towel. Pick yourself up and continue fighting the good fight. This is something I’ve had to learn. Self care is important. This is especially true for members of a minority who are trying to be allies to members of other minorities. We’re already coping with thousands of people wanting to carry out a genocide against us. This situation is like being in a crashing airplane. We have to put on our own oxygen masks before we can help those around us.
These are my top tips for helping us. Let me know what you’re doing to defend those in the line of fire at the moment. You can reach me in the comments below or on my Facebook page. Thank you!
Nazis are marching unmasked in Charlottesville Virginia and we're on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea. What world am I living in? 2017, go home. You're drunk!
Can you see their rage? Their hate? Their horribleness? You know what? You can. Because they're unafraid, unashamed, and unmasked. That terrifies me more than anything. These horrid excuses for humans want me and my husband dead or maimed, or deported at best. Deported to where? To a concentration camp or something? What am I supposed to think? What is my handsome Latino immigrant husband supposed to think? How should one feel seeing hate speech and violence being fiercely protected even as the police allow black men to be beaten and arrest peaceful counter protestors?
I'm so disappointed in humanity right now. I thought we figured out that Nazis were evil way back in the forties. I had myself convinced that this hate was going to die with my parents' generation. But no. Young people like me are out their on the front lines, fighting for… genocide. For white supremacy. For hate. Fighting to strike terror in the hearts of myself, my loved ones, and so many more. They want ethnic cleansing! They want to rule the world!
I can't even begin to understand why. Have these people not read history books and seen photos of the concentration camps that their ideology built? Of course they have. We all have. But somehow they're sick enough to think that there's something worthwhile about such a thing. Somehow harming others because of their skin color, ancestry, religion, place of birth, gender
identity or sexual orientation is… the right thing to do? Somehow that is the conclusion they've drawn. Where oh where have we as a society gone wrong in teaching history?
Was it overt, constant, all-permeating whitewashing that did this? Or was it media objectification of POC bodies? Was it the nationalism that's encouraged from a young age? Or was it white poverty? Was it liberalism? Conservatism? Or are humans just trash? We as one human race need oh-so-desperately and ever so belatedly to ask ourselves these questions and fix this sh** before more people die.
In memory of Heather Heyer, age 32. She died in the street, marching against Nazis. May her memory inspire and encourage others to fight for justice for all.
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Assalaamu alaikum everyone! Today inshallah I'll be writing about falling in love with salaat and the surrounding purification rituals.
I'll never forget the first time I prayed salaat. I prayed it very poorly and it took me about thirty minutes, but it was incredibly meaningful and emotional for me. I actually used a video to follow along, and I spoke my prayer in English. I have since learned the Arabic of course, and now prayers take me about seven minutes or so, but I feel that learning the English translation and praying it a few times prepared me well for a lifetime of loving salaat. Why? Because since Arabic isn't a language that I actually speak, this allowed me to know what I was saying and connect with it. I learned the meaning of each word and phrase in the prayers, and this means that now when I recite in Arabic it holds meaning for me. As I pray I meditate on the meaning of what I'm saying.
I also read up on why we pray as we do. Did you know that salaat just as it is prayed today was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed? Salaat is prescribed by Allah (swt) in a very specific way and therefore when done correctly is a very powerful tool to connect us with the Divine. What could be better or more precious?
As I'm sure you know, we are told that we must pray salaat five times daily every day except when menstruating. For converts, there are so many huge lifestyle changes involved in the conversion process. Praying at least five prayers a day in a language you don't know can prove very daunting and even discouraging. I recommend that you start with one prayer a day – whichever one is most convenient to your schedule – and slowly work up to the five. Then once you've firmly established praying all five on time no matter what, think of adding dhikr after salaat, or reciting new surahs, or praying tahajjud or other sunnah prayers.
Of course all this is not to mention the purification rituals. When and how to perform ghusl had me tied up in knots for weeks! At first I didn't even know it was a thing. Of course there's wudu. That has a lot of steps and they must be performed in order. I personally love the sense of sacred ritual and preparing myself for a conversation with Allah so it was more the technical side that proved challenging for me.
The logic behind these rules for prayer is simple. If one were going to have a meeting with a great dignitary such as a king or president, one would take a shower. They would be nicely groomed, probably shave or trim their body hair, keep a neat beard, hair, and nails, dress modestly, and wear clean clothes. Well, five times a day we have an appointment with the One who is indescribably, infinitely, and immeasurably more important than any human dignitary. And He is with us always. So we must always be prepared.
Now, that's not all there is to it. There are many much deeper reasons behind it. But I am not qualified to get into such mysteries. I recommend that if you want to study the deeper spiritual meanings behind Islamic ablution, that you read some books on the matter or better yet speak to a sheikh or sheikha. Also make dua that Allah would provide you with a love of obedience to Him.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala reward you in this life and the next for you efforts to love and worship Him. Ameen.
Salaam guys ✌🏻
So as many of you know, my native language is English but I also speak fluent Portuguese. Well, today I thought I'd share with you some of my language learning tips as well as why I find learning languages to be beneficial.
Lately I've been studying Spanish and practicing it with some new friends I've made online. It has proven fairly easy for me, especially in terms of understanding it, because it is fairly similar to Portuguese. It has also proven fairly easy because of some key things I'm doing that I learned to do the first time around when I learned Portuguese.
I became fluent in the Portuguese language in one year, alhamdulillah. But it wasn't easy! I had to work very hard. Some of the things I did I still do.
For one thing, when learning a language I immerse myself in it. The first time around I read books and articles in Portuguese, I watched YouTube videos, TV shows, movies, and so forth in Portuguese, I listened to Portuguese language music, I spent my days speaking Portuguese with everyone I could find who spoke it. I also basically gave up my hobbies to look up and study religiously every verb conjugation chart I could find. To this day I usually write in my diary in Portuguese. I set my iPhone and iPad settings to Portuguese. This has proven immensely helpful. I also used language learning apps like Duolingo and got my start with Rosetta Stone.
Now as I'm learning Spanish I spend at minimum half an hour a day formally studying Spanish with language apps on my phone. Duolingo, busuu, and memrise are my current favorites. I also found language partners via the app tandem. Language partners, I have found, are essential! A language partner is someone who's learning your language and whose language you're learning. You practice conversing with one another in each other's languages and in the process usually end up becoming great friends! I have found that it is best to have more than one language partner so as to get used to different regional accents.
So far I'm conversational in Spanish and understand pretty much everything people say or write. I can also translate things from Spanish to English or Portuguese with relative ease. My huge difficulty lies in properly speaking and pronouncing the language. But I feel confident that I will be able to improve this over time, inshallah.
So tell me, dear readers, what languages do you speak? If you're multilingual, how did you learn more than your native language? Drop me a line here or on my Facebook page. Thanks everyone!
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Assalaamu alaikum ✌🏻
Today’s post might be leaning more into the rant category. Today I’d like to talk about modest fashion bloggers and youtubers – or more specifically how they’re treated by the Ummah. You see, ever since I began wearing head coverings, which by the way was well before converting to Islam, I have looked up hijab tutorials on YouTube. One of the first youtubers and bloggers I found at the end of 2013 was Dina Tokio. I loved her right away. I also found many others. These people who taught me to wrap a hijab back when I was wearing it as a Christian also normalized Islam for me and educated me about it. They showed me that you could be witty, intelligent, and full of personality while also being devout. I’ve followed Dina for years and it feels like I know her because I’ve watched her grow and now her little one is growing!
But the people – especially men – who watch these ladies were far less edifying in their attitudes than were the women themselves. From the first video I ever watched, I needed only to scroll down a bit to see a flood of comments about the sisters supposedly not wearing hijab properly. Their arms weren’t covered enough. Too much neck or hair was showing. Their clothes were too tight. Blah blah blah. This attitude is appalling.
Let me tell you what I see when I watch these ladies. I see the long Arabic duas they make in the middle of their daily vlogs, duas that if I wanted to make them I’d have to read them from my little dua book! I see them fasting long hours. I see them knowing Arabic, the language of the Quran, better than I ever will. I see them being funny and sweet and compassionate. I see them working hard to cater to those of us in a market that has been tragically neglected by the mainstream. I see them struggling so hard with their hijab, deciding to wear it as best as they can, and then persisting despite cruel commenters telling them that it would be better if they just took it off! Imagine telling someone to disobey Allah subhanahu wa ta’alla just because that person finds obedience challenging! Astagfirullah. If I, a mere human, can see such goodness, imagine what Allah Himself must see through His merciful perspective! And yet there you are, typing up half a book about the horror of showing one’s forearm.
If you have so much time on your hands so as to be able to constantly and cruelly criticize others, why not instead be the pious Muslim you claim to be and go pray some sunnah prayers. Go fast on Mondays and Thursdays until you’re too tired to cuss others out. Learn to imitate our perfect Prophet (saws) by being kind and merciful. And here’s one for you: men, practice your hijab by lowering your gaze! You shouldn’t even be watching these women so intently as to know everything about what they wear. Close the video and go repent.
Let ,e know your thoughts on this topic by dropping me a line in the comments below or on my Facebook page!
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Assalaamu alaikum, everyone ✌🏻
The other day my husband and I caught a Lyft to my weekly therapy appointment. We had a young white guy from New York as our driver. He was polite and eventually the conversation turned to where we were all from and how we felt about my city of Nashville, Tennessee. My husband mentioned that we did not feel welcome here because I’m a veiled Muslim and he is a Latino immigrant. The guy was stunned! He proceeded over the course of our conversation to say that people misjudge and mistreat US Christians because of Christian terrorism too, just as they do with us. He also said that we Muslims just need to reach out more to our communities. Here is what I have to say about that.
For decades, and increasingly so after 9/11, Muslims have been reaching out to their surrounding communities through open houses, disaster relief efforts, charity, friendship, community events, Islam 101 classes, press conferences and releases, community iftars (fast breaking dinners) during Ramadan, and so forth. But so few non Muslims actually go. Who actually reads their local mosque’s press release sent out in the aftermath of a theorist attack, denouncing the perpetrators? Who goes to that Islam 101 class to see what we believe, how we practice our faith, and how we live overall? And you know what? When Muslims go to such events being put on by churches, we are proselytized to. But we don’t proselytize to our guests at our public events!
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard a non Muslim say, “I just don’t understand why Muslims don’t publicly denounce terrorism!” Well guess what. We do. Over and over and over. Sheikhs issue fatawa against suicide bombings. Imams give khutbahs (sermons) against killing. At open houses, community events of all varieties, and Islam 101 classes Imams and other Muslim community leaders stand up and speak, explaining why it is un-Islamic to commit acts of terrorism. Islamic organizations issue press releases and even hold press conferences roundly rejecting terrorism. Here’s a good example.
Just a couple of weeks ago I went to an Eid al-Fitr public carnaval at a local park. There was free food and water, music, inflatables for children to play on, face painting, and balloons. Everyone was laughing and talking. The point was to bring everyone together. Sadly though, from what I saw, too few non Muslims came. At such events, the non Muslims who come are usually the same precious few, who faithfully reach out to us as we reach out to them. That’s wonderful – but not enough. Truthully, before any non Muslim judges us and our beautiful religion, they should all come to a mosque, break bread with us, and just generally meet us halfway as we reach out to them.
What about society generalizing Christians because of groups like the KKK? Well, I can’t speak for the thoughts of millions of people. But I can tell you that the effects of such alleged “prejudice” against Christians are entirely different for Christians than are those of parallel prejudices against, say, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or Sikhs. When people don’t like Christians, they don’t go out to dinner with them. When they don’t like us religious minorities, they desecrate our houses of worship and our graveyards. They beat us and dump us in ponds. We and those who stand up for us have our throats slashed. We are pushed down subway stairs. Our religious head coverings are ripped from our heads, so often in fact that among the Muslim community videos on how to defend oneself from such an attack go viral online. I could go on and on. This is our reality every day: fear, violence, and hate.
Back to that conversation in the Lyft. I closed our conversation by saying what I’d like to say here; my religion teaches me that we were put on this earth to worship Allah with all of our being and actions. I personally believe that one of the greatest ways that we can worship Allah is to love His creation. So we need to reach out to each other in good faith and with love and mercy. One of my favorite Quran ayat (verses) is 49:13. In The Clear Quran English translation it reads: “O humanity! Indeed, we created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may get to know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most righteous among you. God is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware.” Note that it doesn’t say that our superiority depends on our race, education, or wealth. It depends on who’s a better person on the inside. It’s about our hearts and souls, our words and our deeds. We were created diverse and unique so that we can all celebrate this diversity as a sign of God’s greatness. Subhanallah!
Moral of the story: we should all be reaching out to each other. Muslims and many other minorities have been, are continuing to, and always will be doing so. Why? Because that’s what Allah wants. Now it’s your turn! Go to that open house. Talk to that Muslim hijabi in line at the grocery store. Strike up a conversation with a turbaned Sikh man. Compliment a Hindu lady’s Sari. Break bread with a Jewish family on the Sabbath. The cycles of hate, violence, and fear will never end if we don’t learn to see each other as human and therefore equally deserving of kindness, respect, and love.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on my Facebook page. Thank you! Until next time, peace! ✌🏻
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Peace everybody ✌🏻 I’m sure all of you have heard the word jihad somewhere, somehow. Probably you’ve heard it at least once in the media; most likely in the context of reports on terrorism. And I’m pretty sure you didn’t hear it in a positive context. But what is jihad, do Muslims practice it, and if so what does that practice look like? Should the world fear “Islamic jihad”? Is it synonymous with “extremism”? These are questions I’d humbly like to answer today.
Jihad is an Arabic word. It means to struggle or to strive, especially with a praiseworthy aim. Jihad can be done in a variety of ways. According to Islamic tradition, the greater jihad is to struggle against what we call the nafs: that is, the lower self that drives our base desires. The lesser jihad is warfare in the cause of justice on behalf of the oppressed, whether they be ourselves or others. Let me give you some examples of the greater jihad. Muslims are supposed to pray five ritual prayers per day, every day, right? Right. One of those prayers is at dawn, and at this time of year falls around 4:15am. During spring it was around 3:30am! That’s early! Now, my nafs, or base desires, want to be sound asleep at that time. So jihad for me looks like me setting a bunch of alarms and waking up to pray whether I feel like doing so or not. Another example would be to stand up to a tyrant by spreading truth and helping those that he or she is oppressing. This is jihad.
For example, during the Holocaust many people formed an underground resistance against Hitler and his regime. They hid Jews in their attics and lied to Nazi soldiers. This to Muslims would be greater jihad! Lesser jihad would be going to war against the Nazis as a last resort. Jihad is this: fighting evil and injustice.
Now. The lesser jihad needs to be explained, because this is the form of jihad that is soooo misunderstood. This form of jihad isn’t holy warfare. It is a struggle against oppression. A good example is when the first Muslims went to battle against the tribe of the Prophet Mohammad that was persecuting him and them. This was a battle of self defense after all other options had been exhausted. The Prophet was exceedingly merciful in his treatment of those conquered and even gave away the spoils rather than hoard them. This is lesser jihad. It is a last resort, only to help the oppressed, and only when absolutely all other options have been exhausted. There are also strict rules for warfare under Islam, as instructed by our beloved Prophet Mohammad, PBUH. Here are a few:
- “Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)
- “Do not practice treachery or mutilation.” ( Al-Muwatta)
- “Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees.” (Al-Muwatta)
- “Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food.” (Al-Muwatta)
- “If one fights his brother, [he must] avoid striking the face, for God created him in the image of Adam.” (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
- “Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship.” (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)
- “Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle.” (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)
- “Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to God to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience.” (Sahih Muslim)
- “No one may punish with fire except the Lord of Fire.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)
- “Accustom yourselves to do good if people do good, and to not do wrong even if they commit evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
I got these ten rules of warfare from this link. They are recorded in what are called Hadith: recorded sayings and events of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
Furthermore jihad is not meant to be used to compel others to convert to Islam. The Quran says in chapter 2, verse 256 that there is “to be no compulsion in religion.” So neither jihad is ever about spreading Islam. The greater jihad is about defeating our lower selves and the lesser is about defending justice.
Hopefully it is becoming apparent from these evidences that jihad is not suicide bombing, bombing in general, killing of innocents, rape, or any other form of so-called “warfare” that, rather than end injustice, perpetrate it. It is also becoming clear that groups like ISIS or Al Queda are violating every Islamic rule.
So next time someone accuses a Muslim of jihad, stand up and proudly say that you too will engage in jihad. We should all be struggling against our lower selves and against injustice!