Not yours

It isn’t about ‘My land’ or ‘Your land’, but rather, ‘We are a part of this land’, and will someday return to it.

“From this very earth We created you and to the same earth We shall cause you to return, and from it We shall bring you forth to life again.” (Qur’an 20:55).

We all have some good in us.

Originally published in the Huffington Post:

This past Ramadan I was on a spiritual high. I felt the power of prayers, fasting, charity, and enduring patience. Satan is supposed to be locked away in Ramadan and any sins we procured are considered to be purely from our own nafs (self). I believe this is the hardest test to endure in Ramadan. To realize what our own self is willing to do without the constant waswas (whispers) of Shaitan (Satan). So this Ramadan when we were being terrorized with multiple atrocities in Orlando, Istanbul, Baghdad, etc. There was no Satan! It was the pure evil of man shedding blood for unforetold reasons.

It constantly reminded me of the question the angels asked Allah (SWT) and I couldn’t grasp the resolution behind His divine puzzle.

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.” They said, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?” Allah said, “Indeed, I know that which you do not know.”” (Qur’an 2:30)

It led me to question more about human kind? And before I knew it Ramadan was gone, Satan was back, and the killings were multiplied.

It seems as though we are doomed by our own self-destructing prophecy; but God does go on to inform the angels that He was giving human kind not only freewill but also knowledge of His other creations.

“And He taught Adam the names of all things…” (Qur’an 2:31)

That the destruction the angels feared was just a small part of what humans were meant to be. That perhaps God gave us knowledge to atone the sins of our freewill.

The knowledge to understand and question things, the knowledge to seek good from bad, the knowledge to know the right from wrong, and the knowledge to recognize His other creations.

We are all different no doubt but the first thing God taught Adam (AS) was to learn the names of His other creations.

So what is it about us humans that we have disregarded the basic principles of seeking and understanding the creations of Allah (SWT)? That we have lost our sense of right and wrong? That we have forgotten that ‘justice’ is one of the basic guiding principles in the Qur’an?

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” (Qur’an 5:8)

…And that in order to be ‘just’ we must first learn about the other side.

This segmentation, this constant disregard of others is blinding us from true justice. It is making us take sides, and causing even more hatred towards one another other.

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” (Qur’an 4:135)

I guess my plea to humankind is to seek knowledge, to be open-minded, and to try and learn about the ‘other’ before passing judgment. I am sure I am guilty of this myself, but I am hoping we are able to move beyond our prejudices to realize that we are but mere creations!

The Muslims, the Hindus, the Christians, the Jews, the atheist, the blacks, the whites, the gays, the lesbians, the transsexuals, the poets, the Sufis, the politicians, the lawyers, the doctors, the cops, the Trumps… All of Us!

We all have some good in us. We all have the power to seek knowledge of the other.

Labeling Myself ‘Muslim’ For What It Really Matters

Published on 02/29/2016 on the Huffington Post.

Wars, killing, genocide in the name of religion have never really been in our control, i.e. you and me, everyday individuals, who live our life in simple ways believing in love and respect for all, but what about things that are in our control? Things such as: Righteousness, Justice and Well-doing? “For religion standeth in righteousness, justice, and well-doing.” – Latimer (c. 1485-1555).

I work as the National Program Director of a volunteer based non-profit called Hunger Van | Muslims Against Hunger, whose founder is Zamir Hassan. Zamir is retired but has been working tirelessly as champion for interfaith feeding events for the hungry and homeless for over 10 years now.

We at Muslims Against Hunger want everyone to understand, learn and acknowledge that ‘Hunger has no religion’ and our goal is to engage communities through service.

I have always believed through my up bringing that religion shouldn’t be a factor in terms of whom we are helping, but a practical question often begged to differ: ‘If hunger has no religion what does religion have to do with feeding the hungry’? Why do so many non-profits constantly coin themselves as a religious group against a social injustice?

At Muslims Against Hunger we do not hand out any practical teachings about Islam except promoting the act of charity and yet we pride ourselves in being called ‘Muslims Against Hunger’. Our projects, on interfaith feeding, have grown so big that we even have a branch called ‘Faiths Against Hunger’. Religion somehow seems to overshadow our genuine will to do good in this world.

I do believe that having an ethical perimeter and a moral compass are inherent and there really should be no need for religion in that. So what makes religion so vital from an already moral standpoint?

All major religions force us to focus on issues that we forgo in our everyday lives. They teach us to pause, go beyond our daily interactions, and look at the injustice and suffering in the world, constantly commanding us to do something about it.

As a Muslim I am forced to reckon with the 5 pillars of faith, one of which is Charity (Zakah), on a daily basis. I am also commanded to be righteous, just and work on the well doing of the world.

“We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you. Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God and He will inform you regarding the things about which you differed.” (Qur’an, 5:48)

“God commands justice and fair dealing…” (Qur’an 16:90)

Justice is a common theme found in most religions:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just. (Deuteronomy 16:18-20)

Justice or being just is a moral virtue, an equal distribution of sorts, and or understanding it as evenhandedness. In Jewish traditions, Tzedek or justice is more than a legal system, it is ‘tempered by compassion’.

And I honestly believe that even though compassion is something we are born with it is in constant need of nurturing.

I personally love and live by this quote, often attributed to Mother Teresa: “The problem with this world is that we draw the circle of family too small”. We easily forget the person panhandling for food or the homeless person shivering on the sidewalk as we rush to work. We forget about compassion! And religion is here to remind us, to not forget our humanity in this busy world of being just humans.

If someone is able to do this without the help of religion, I think that it is completely fine as long as they have a way to nurture compassion, a method to keep this constant reminder in their heart.

As human beings we must all value and know what compassion is worth, and we must be willing to spend time working on it, any which way. And as a Muslim if I am able to remind myself or even one person of our necessary commitment towards righteousness, justice, and well-doing I guess it is worth putting it in my title.

– Falak Zaffer Ghatala, American Muslim (Muslims Against Hunger)

The Quran defining itself

Naif Al-Mutawa, my favorite Clinical Psychologist and the creator of the comic book series ‘THE 99’ wrote an essay about this: and here are my thoughts:

It’s just common sense isn’t it? That after every Salaat if we ask Allah for guidance it is because we know that everything is not just black and white, there is a grey area. If we were to be parrots or even angels for that matter we wouldn’t have to worry about sensibility. The fact that Allah has given us free will and asked us to seek guidance and knowledge is proof enough for me that depth and perception is required and a must in Islam. In terms of language I think the essence maybe lost in translating it so we must try our best to learn Arabic however restricting it’s revelation and reading it without understanding, I believe loses then main premise of Allah’s revelation. It is said “So We have made this (the Quran) easy in your own tongue (O Muhammad, SWT), only that you may give glad tidings to the Muttaqun (the pious) and warn with it the Ludd (the evil doer) people.” Chapter 19, Verse 97. The Quran was revealed in Arabic as it was the Prophets native tongue and the language spoken and written by the people in that area. Arabic is a beautiful language that can be written concisely and no one can seriously translate the authenticity of Allah’s words or even capture the literally miracles presented in the Quran, but the Quran is revealed as ‘A Book for All’ and that’s how it should be.

Here is an amazing video regarding the literally miracles in the Quran: