Fedwa Wazwaz

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian- American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. By profession, she is a senior data warehouse programmer with the University of Minnesota. Read more about Fedwa Wazwaz.

Posts about Society

Distinguishing free speech from hate

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz Updated: June 24, 2014 - 8:43 PM

"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use."
--Soren Kierkegaard

It is the same story.  

Around the country, speakers are warning Americans about the danger of Islam and the threat of the Muslims within.  Islam maligned, Prophet Muhammad attacked and the speakers threaten lawsuits if they are denied the space to spew their venom in an unchallenged manner.

They argue this is "freedom of speech." To such individuals, regurgitating your dirty saliva without any critical thinking or understanding of the subject matter at hand is free speech.  Yet a society that values freedom of speech is best known by the presence of the voices of its minorities and politically weak in the public square. To my knowledge, the Muslims in many European countries and here remain mainly marginalized.

There is a strong social pressure for Muslims to speak the right way, breathe the right way, sneeze the right away or fear being accused of extremism or terrorism activity.

Let us play an imagination game.

Imagine in your mind's eye the following cartoon: a Muslim with a thought bubble that reads, "What is freedom of speech?" The Muslim figure is looking at two prevailing images from Western countries with Muslim minorities: One image shows some Westerners bashing Muslims, Islam and Prophet Muhammad, and another image shows law enforcement persecuting, spying, bashing and censoring Muslims for unpopular opinions and speech.  In the first image a crowd surrounds the speaker attacking Islam and Muslims, and in the second image a drone is aiming at the Muslim speaker spewing venom at non-Muslims.  What makes one speech socially and legally acceptable under free speech and another as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, grounds for a drone attack for his inflammatory speech against the US?

Let us continue the imagination game.

Imagine a Muslim speaker who claims that American Christians and Jews "will kill your children" and that "we are in war with Crusaders," was invited to speak at Bagley High School. 

Imagine the speaker incited the audience such that some neighbors felt endangered and decided to attend to challenge the speaker with their attendance and "Love Thy Neighbor" signs.

Imagine said speaker stopped his presentation and singled these people out, demanded they leave or threatened to throw them out.

Imagine the incited crowd yells, 'Get out' and 'You weren't invited.' 

Imagine people getting up to their feet and moving towards them to lay hands on them and kick them out.

Imagine one Muslim upset at the Christian and Jewish presence, later approached the officer and asked: "Can I borrow your gun?"

Imagine one member describes the event as "The audience doesn't know where the line is, or that a line even exists. When [Muslim speaker] works a crowd, he does so skillfully, provoking responses and goading reactions. After listening to fear mongering messages the previous night, such as 'Christians are destroying the world,' 'Jews are coming to kill your children and grandchildren,' 'The day will come and Christian and Jews in America will have the upper hand, and they will kill your children for not eating what is liked. For not eating the lawful foods,' and 'Killing you is a small matter.'

Are we as Americans in favor of such speech?  Are we in favor of the views of Anwar al-Alwaki and other Muslims who spew such venom?  Would we be open to our schools allowing such views to incite crowds?

Noam Chomsky said, "If you're in favor of free speech, then you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favor of free speech."

The US killed Anwar al-Alwaki, and his children with drones.  They did not commit acts of terrorism, but al-Awlaki was guilty of spewing hatred against America.

So I would like to ask Bagley High School, are you open to a Muslim speaker who spews venom towards Christians and Jews?  I ask the Police and Law Enforcement in Bagley - had this been a Muslim speaker spewing venom against Jews and Christians - would you have handled this situation the same way?

I ask the radio stations and media in Bagley and around - had this been a Muslim speaker spewing venom against Christians and Jews - would you have favorably promoted the event on your station and paper?  Are Muslim voices that you despise heard? This demonstrates whether it was hate or freedom that is motivating speakers and the audience.

I ask the FBI who is constantly asking us to keep our eyes and ears open to questionable behavior by Muslims and to aid them in preventing terrorism - had this been a Muslim speaker spewing venom - would you have remained silent?  

According to Islamic teachings, freedom of speech is a valuable concept when embraced with a spirit engaged in the search for truth and is not laced with insults and vulgarity. For example, Islam forbids Muslims from cursing or attacking other faiths. Islamic teachings also prohibit sitting in the company of those who ridicule and mock God or the prophets.  There is no value or critical thinking in such speech.

In the Qur'an, one hears arguments raised by Satan toward God as well as the objections toward Prophet Mohammed, upon him peace and blessings, by the early Makkans. God does not censor these voices but responds to the charges raised.

Satan was given time till Judgment Day to prove that God's ennoblement of human beings over him was a mistake.  If you are for free speech, then you are for an equal platform for those you disagree with, who oppose or challenge your views and ideas, openly and transparently.  

Speech that seeks to incite a crowd and rage at any opposing voice and muzzle everyone who can respond and challenge their argument - is not free speech, but hate.  

In addition, in the Quran we are told of a conversation between Prophet Solomon, upon him peace, and the Queen of Sheba.  The Queen of Sheba was of a different faith, different gender, and different ethnicity, in other words, the "other."  When a subject of Prophet Solomon shares with him negative news regarding the Queen, Prophet Solomon responds with a call for verification and investigation.  He respectfully writes to the Queen and engages her directly, openly and transparently.

(Solomon) said: "Soon shall we see whether thou hast told the truth or lied!  "Go thou, with this letter of mine, and deliver it to them: then draw back from them, and (wait to) see what answer they return"...  (The queen) said: "Ye chiefs! here is delivered to me - a letter worthy of respect. (Quran 27: 27-29)

When a crowd is easily incited by negative comments on the "other" and fails to accept its responsibility to verify, investigate, and engage openly and transparently, then that is not freedom of speech, but hate.

The quotes shared above in the imagination game were not the quotes of a Muslim speaker; rather, they are the quotes of Usama K. Dakdok, a Christian speaker, who came to Bagley, Minnesota this past weekend to warn Minnesotans about the "disease of Islam."  I changed the quotes to help us understand that were similar quotes to be said by a Muslim toward non-Muslims, we would not be so open and receptive to such speech and we would not call it free speech.  We would easily recognize it as hate speech.

SEE:  Three-day Bagley Islamophobe event turns nasty as crowd harasses Muslim woman at high school

I do not ask for the US to hit Dakdok with a drone, but why is al-Awlaki hit with a drone, while Dakdok and others are allowed to speak in public schools or spaces under the banner of "freedom of speech?"  That is not imagination, but reality.

SEE: US cited controversial law in decision to kill American citizen by drone

The issue for me is not that Dakdok and others like him are allowed to speak, but the platform in which they speak is a platform where Muslims are marginalized, mocked and silenced.  It is a platform devoid of critical thinking, investigation, transparency, and verification.  It confuses feelings with facts, projection with analysis and promotes a demented understanding of one another, which creates an atmosphere that is unhealthy for Muslims and all citizens in Bagley, Minnesota and America at large.

Reflect

An Invitation to Grow Together

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz Updated: May 17, 2014 - 12:47 PM

"Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow."
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ninowy was invited to the Twin Cities by Muslim Volunteers to fulfill one of the group's main objectives: promoting tolerance, peace, mercy and understanding within the Muslim community and with people of other faiths.

Shaykh Al-Ninowy acquired knowledge in many fields of the Islamic sciences.  He particularly specializes in the fields of Hadeeth (sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad) and Tawheed (Islamic monotheism). Besides a strong knowledge in Islamic sciences and disciplines, he is also a scholar on Islamic spirituality. 

The group came together and discussed topics that our community is in need of, and has planned a few events to benefit the Minnesota community.  We would like to invite you to the following:


May 17th at 7pm - 9pm


Interacting with Your Non-Muslim Neighbors
Lessons from Prophet Muhammad
(upon him peace and blessings)

Dinner available for purchase at 6pm 
Islamic Center of Minnesota
1401 Gardenia Ave
Fridley, MN 55432

May 18th

  • 10am - Noon

Answering Your Questions on Islam and Islamic Spirituality
Nuruliman Institute 
2221 15th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55404

 

  • 1 pm - 3 pm

Rights of Children in Islam
Plymouth Masjid
3300 Plymouth Blvd
Plymouth, MN 55447
 

Readers Note:  Your questions on Islam and Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings are welcome at any of the events above.  A special event on Sunday was planned for answering questions from people of other faiths.  Face to face interaction over coffee and refreshments is the best approach to responding to your questions on his life and character.

Your attendance to any of these events are more than welcome.

A Respectful Muslim-Christian Dialogue about Drones and Violence

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz Updated: May 7, 2014 - 8:01 PM

"A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song" 
-Chinese Proverb

The Minnesota Council of Churches has a program called, Respectful Conversations which opens the doors to communicate across difference on areas of disagreement.  The program tries to frame the topic and design some questions for attendees to meet with trained facilitators, to have a conversation in a spirit of empathy for those with there is strong disagreement. 

If you are interested in a Respectful Conversation to bless your community, contact Jerad at (612) 230-3211.

Since the start of the project, MCC had over 1500 people throughout Minnesota who have gathered together for a Respectful Conversation on important, often divisive issues in our community. This month MCC will hold their first one in an Islamic Center!  Now is your chance to join the conversation as participants from the Islamic Center of Minnesota and the Minnesota Council of Churches adopt the Respectful Conversation model, a method of discussion promoted by Minnesota Council of Churches and designed not to change minds, but soften hearts.

In conversation with MCC, we have chosen a conversation about Drones and Violence.  

Conversations across differences and disagreement can sometimes be emotional and challenging, pick-a-side and fight-it-out discussions that leave us feeling worse about the people we disagree with, and sometimes worse about ourselves. But there is a way to talk that feels open, honest and impartial, where you can actually be heard and learn about the people with whom you disagree.  

We have designed some questions that we will use to help us explore this topic across our differences and disagreements.  We will share the questions with participants at the conversation itself, to allow each the experience of searching for themselves for the answer, and to build empathy.

Join us for refreshments and discussion and RSVP today!

Please read the this article on Respectful Conversations and see this video for further information.

When
May 18, 2014
2:00pm – 4:00pm

Where
Islamic Center of Minnesota
1401 
Gardena Ave. NE
Fridley, MN  55432

Parking
Participants in the Muslim Christian Dialogue are invited to park on the street,  in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of Minnesota or in the parking lot of Totino Grace High School directly across the street.

Please foward to friends and family and spread the word.

Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise!

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz Updated: April 21, 2014 - 6:41 AM

"It is not for the swan to teach eaglets to sing."
-French & Danish Proverb

The Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota began a dialogue series called "Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise!"

We had a dialogue on Abraham, the Angels, and Adam and Eve, upon them peace and blessings.  Our February dialogue was on Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, and one of our speakers was Dr. Terrance Nichols who recently passed away.  It was quite a shock to hear of his passing.

Those who knew Dr. Nichols, remember him for his kindness and being a great pioneer in interfaith relations.  His talk on Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, was extremely respectful.  He welcomed the dialogue series on the Prophets, and asked me to include Prophet Moses, upon him peace and blessings, as well.  It was sad to hear of his recent death.

In March, our dialogue explored Prophet David, upon him peace and blessings.  We had three speakers from the three Abrahamic faith community to explore his life and mission.  At the end of the program, some attendees were surprised that Muslims believed in the Biblical Prophets.

We continue this Sunday, April 27th, after Christians celebrated Easter on a dialogue of Jesus.  

Who is Jesus?  

Maybe it depends on who you ask…

Join us April 27 as we ask two well-respected local leaders familiar with the question. 

Their answers may well surprise you.

Dan Collison is Senior Pastor of First Covenant Church, Minneapolis, a Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research Fellow, key organizer of the Minneapolis Multi-Faith Network, and the President of the East Downtown Council business Association in Downtown Minneapolis. He received a Doctoral degree in Ministry from Fuller Seminary (CA), a Master’s degree in Divinity from Bethel Seminary (MN), and a Bachelor’s degree from The Eastman School of Music (NY). Before becoming a pastor, Dan—and his wife, Holly—ran an adult foster care home for men with developmental disabilities where he learned the importance and rewards of servanthood.

Owais Bayunus originally from Pakistan, has traveled and lived in several Muslim countries from where he has gathered fresh information about Islam and the lives of Prophets of Gods and their meaning from the original sources. After graduating from Cornell, where he was first introduced to interfaith teachings, and as former President of the Islamic Center of Minnesota, and chairman of Interfaith Dialog, he has spoken several times on the life of Jesus (pbuh) and Mary, in Colleges, Schools and religious institutions in USA and Overseas. He has also written several articles on the life of this very remarkable person in the history of the World, revered by the adherents of both, the Worlds largest religion Christianity and the second largest religion Islam.

For those who cannot attend, below is an edited version of an article I wrote in the past.  

According to Islamic teachings:

Jesus, son of Mary, peace and blessings upon them, is a revered religious figure and the bedrock of Christianity. He also is a venerated figure in Islam, the faith of some 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, said: “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary, peace and blessings upon him. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.”

Like Christians, Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, upon him be peace, and in his miracles. Jesus’ life and mission are mentioned in eleven chapters of the Qur’an. A few of the chapters are titled: Maryam (Mary the mother of Jesus); Imran (noble family of Jesus), and Ma’ida (the Last Supper). Jesus, upon him be peace, is glorified in the Qur’an and is referred to as “the Messiah,” “a Word of God,” and “a Sign of God.”

Muslims regard Jesus, upon him be peace, as one of the mightiest messengers of God. He and his supporter, John the Baptist, and John’s father, Zachariah, are two other prophets of God and are of an unbroken noble lineage going back to the patriarch of monotheism, Abraham. Peace and blessings upon them all.

His miraculous birth began when his maternal grandmother, Hanna, who was barren, prayed for a child to devote to God’s service. God answered her prayer by giving her Mary. The Quran calls Mary “the most honored woman among all nations.”

When Mary, upon her be peace, matured, Archangel Gabriel came to her and said: “‘O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter, and of (the company of) those nearest to God.’ “

Being a chaste virgin, Mary could not comprehend this news.

Gabriel comforted her by explaining that, when God wishes to create anything, He says, “Be,” and it is. Muslims find similarities between Jesus’ birth and that of Adam, peace and blessings upon them, who was created without a father or mother. 

Jesus’ miraculous birth was a sign to people of the spiritual world who understood the spirit of the Divine Law.  As Jesus, upon him peace, said in the Bible - he did not come to destroy the Divine Law, but to fulfil it, holistically.

The Laws of God were not meant for those in power to dominate the weak, but to protect the weak from the exploitation of the strong. During Jesus’ time, the laws of God were divorced from the spirit of God. The Laws became an end instead of a means to nurture hearts and aid humanity in their worship of God.

Like every woman, Mary, upon her be peace, suffered during childbirth, but her suffering was compounded by her fear of how she would explain her pregnancy to her noble family. Muslims believe Jesus, peace and blessings upon him, performed his first miracle in the cradle by defending his mother’s honor to her family and people.

Muslims do not believe in original sin or that Jesus’ death was atonement for our sins. Rather, Muslims believe Jesus’ mission was to repair the misapplication and abuse of the Divine Law, and complement the legalism of the Torah and the prevalent materialism at the time with humility and spirituality, which were missing in his time.

Like many prophets who were empowered by miracles to suit their time and circumstances, Jesus, upon him be peace, was empowered by God to communicate divinity not only in words but by many miracles as well. Jesus, the son of Mary, upon him be peace, said, “God has given me the power to give life to the dead, sight to the blind, sound to the deaf; but He did not give me the power to heal the fool of his foolishness.”

Muslims believe after plots were made to kill Jesus, upon him be peace, he was not crucified but raised to the Heavens like the Biblical figures Enoch and Elijah. It may surprise many to know that Muslims await the second coming of Jesus, this time he will come back again as a just ruler, like Moses and Muhammad, peace and blessings upon them.  He will marry, have children and lead a war against the oppressors on earth and die a natural death.

Although there are differences between the Muslim and Christian view of Jesus, upon him be peace, the Qur’an repeatedly guides Muslims not to dispute with other monotheists over matters of doctrine. 

Please join us this coming Sunday and bring your questions to our speakers.

When
Sunday, April 27
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Where
Islamic Center of Minnesota
1401 Gardena Ave. NE
Fridley, MN  55432

Parking
Participants in the Muslim Christian Dialogue are invited to park on the street, in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of Minnesota or in the parking lot of Totino Grace High School directly across the street.

Please foward to friends and family and spread the word.  

Conversation with Qays Arthur on Guidance and Faith 7

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz Updated: March 26, 2014 - 5:32 AM

"O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).  
Qur'an (49:13)

Through a conversation with Shakyh Qays Arthur, I began a series which explored some spiritual aspects behind faith and guidance in accordance with Islamic teachings.  The series ended with a discussion on surrender from the perspective of self-knowledge.  

At times understanding ourselves comes through challenges with others.  These challenges force us to face parts of ourselves that we need to work on and that we need to open up to.  Hwaa Irfan summed it best in the following advice:

"We can learn much about ourselves from the challenges that bring out our impatience, our bigotry, our lack of compassion, our need to control or to be a victim of circumstance, our ability to give and receive, and our ability to accept our own selves thus others. We are presented with an opportunity to realize what is really important, and that we are not perfect, and that we have a few issues of our own that we need to work on, or to better ourselves so that we may help others. If we are impatient for example, we ask ourselves why are we so impatient, but we do not ask and answer the question ourselves. How can we answer the question, when we still think, and perceive as before. When we think and perceive a situation without change, nothing actually changes, so we must wait for the answer to present itself to us. This will come to us in many ways, but in that process changes will be taking place within us to ready us for the answer, and to be open to that answer. By doing so, we learn more about ourselves, and are more ready to for the next stage in our jihad an nafs (struggle of the soul)!" 

We will now address some questions as promised.   Before doing so, let me address some confusion that was made apparent in the comments section.  There were some comments in the last blog that raised some issues regarding their understanding of the Qur’an.  The Qur'an was revealed in a span of 23 years, and changes were taking place to prepare Muslims to receive its revelation.  As the Qur’an was revealed – Muslims were not sitting down in a classroom learning it divorced from life and its challenges, but they were prepared internally either through trials, hardships or challenges with others to fully receive its wisdom and understanding.

At times accusations are made about the Qur’an as a book promoting hatred and violence.  A few verses that teach or guide Muslims on how to respond in times of extreme conflict like facing ethnic cleansing or genocide are taken as a general rule with how to coexist with others.  The general rule that promotes coexistence are found in the following verses:

“Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.  Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.” (60:8-9)

If we read the Qur’an in selective parts – we learn and understand nothing.  We must read it as a whole, and reconcile all its verses as a whole.  Hence, understanding the Qur'an requires study.  It is the book of God addressed to all of humanity till the end of time.   It is a book of wisdom that calls humanity to read, reflect, think, to verify, to investigate and seek to understand.  Some verses are very clear.  Some verses take time to understand, as they require us to grow to receive their wisdom.  Some verses lead to field of sciences to emerge.  For example, the laws of inheritance were the impetus behind Algebra. 

Wazwaz:  Shaykh Qays – in the first blog of this series, we discussed monotheism according to Islamic teachings.  You mentioned in that blog that the disconnection between Western Christianity and the Middle East as well as Muslims disconnection with earlier faith traditions.  You said:

"It therefore makes sense that a religion as thoroughly Semitic as Islam would be unrecognizable to them despite what is in their own books! Yet that disconnection is only perpetuated when we treat the Bible and Christianity as alien to our faith or when we look upon ourselves as some new, independent community as opposed to simply believers in God's final Prophet (peace be upon him) who continue in the legacy of the prophets of the Bible (peace be upon them all)."

That is an interesting point. Given your life experience how would you answer the following question:

"please explain how Islam can stake any claim to Adam. Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Had it not been for Moses, Islam would have no knowledge of Adam. You (or Mohammad) can not simply appropriate the words, works, deeds, etc., of an historical figure and fold them into your religion as if they belonged there all along."

Shaykh Qays:  Well the short answer to “explain how Islam can stake any claim to Adam” is: through God, the Creator of Adam, Moses (peace be upon them), and the questioner. In point of fact, as attested to by the Pentateuch itself, Moses was not its author; rather it was dictated to him by God.  Other books of the Hebrew Bible contain inspired writings of prophets as well as sages, in addition to direct revelation from God – all attributed to other than Moses yet ultimately the believer sees them all as having legitimacy from God.

If one does not accept the Divine authorship of scripture, choosing instead to belie what the scriptures claim of themselves and designate their authorship to the men who bore and transmitted them, then one will never be able to grasp “how Islam can stake any claim” to anything in previous scriptures. In fact, given what I mentioned about other books in the Hebrew Bible how can those books lay claim to what they claim. The answer is: through God.

So for Muslims there is nothing to explain or justify and there is no misappropriation taking place as the question seems to imply. The same Entity that the Bible calls men to worship and the same Entity that the Bible declares it was revealed and inspired by, has revealed the Quran. It's that simple.

Wazwaz:  The following question is regarding our last blog. Why did God ask Satan to kneel before another creation and why did Satan's refusal mean he is arrogant?

Shaykh Qays:  God commanded the Angels, in whose company Satan was, to prostrate towards Adam as an acknowledgment of the veneration and respect that God bestowed on Adam. It was an act of worship and obedience to the Lord of Adam, Most High. In a similar manner when Muslims pray today we prostrate in the direction of the Ka'ba in Makkah, thereby acknowledging its God-given status, because the Lord of the Ka'ba commanded that prayer be done in that manner. No one was commended to worship a creature be it the Adam (peace be upon him) or the Ka'ba.

Satan refused to heed the command not due to a misunderstanding or a slip but it was a willful refusal on the basis of his superiority complex – he felt he was better than another creature despite the fact that God Himself accorded that other creature a superior status. Arrogance doesn't get much better than that.

Wazwaz:  There seems to be confusion on fear from a questioner.  Healthy fear pushes people to know.  Unhealthy fear pushes people to insularity.  God mentions in the Qur'an that only people of knowledge have fear of God.  He equates fear of Him with knowledge of Him.  It is not a fear of the unknown, but a fear grounded in knowledge and reality.  I noted that humility is best defined as fearing God.  When we accept who we are, thus others, we also accept who God is - Majestic and Lord of the Worlds.  That fear pushes us to know Him and abide by His commands instead of to oppose and challenge Him.  One questioner felt equating fear with humility is unhealthy.  I also want to share a quote by Martin Luther King on this.

“Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyzes us. Normal fear motivates us to improve our individual and collective welfare; abnormal fear constantly poisons and distorts our inner lives. Our problem is not to be rid of fear but, rather to harness and master it.”

How would you respond?

Shakyh Qays:  I tend to agree with the questioner precisely because of what you mentioned about healthy versus unhealthy fear. That is, I would say that equating unhealthy fear with humility is a mistake. I would add that unhealthy fear is any fear that is for other than God or for the sake of God, just as unhealthy love is love for other than God or his sake. One constant message of the Quran is that the believer should fear none besides God – it is part of worshiping none besides Him.

The fear of God is based on the worshiper’s knowledge of His sheer unfathomable, awesome perfection – manifested in justice and overwhelming power - and it is always to be counterbalanced with love of God which is based on the worshiper’s knowledge of His sheer unfathomable, beautiful perfection – manifested in mercy and disarming tenderness. The one who is characterized by that kind of healthy, knowledge-based fear cannot help but be humble and submissive. On the other hand, unhealthy fear such as of that of losing one’s prestige or wealth, or being wronged by creatures like an evil tyrant or criminal should never be associated with humility. For that reason being defiant and apparently arrogant before a tyrant or criminal may actually be a good thing when the situation calls for it, while being humble in the face of evil is blameworthy.

Wazwaz:  Satan is quoted in the Qur'an as having fear of God.  Yet, he challenges God's knowledge and seeks time till the day of Judgment to show that God's decision to choose Adam as representative is wrong.  Even though he had knowledge of God, it was a distorted and twisted knowledge - since he had a false sense of who he was.  Would you agree?

Shaykh Qays:  Satan is not characterized as one of the God-fearing in the Quran. He is characterized as a disbeliever who was one of the God-fearing but was ruined by arrogance. He has knowledge of God and the greater realities of the unseen but he lacks faith which requires what in Arabic is called idh'an or accepting and submitting to what one knows. Satan knows reality but opposes it. His knowledge is against him and not for him. So in the sense that his knowledge is against him due to his arrogance I would agree that it is distorted. May Allah be our refuge from arrogance and knowledge that does not benefit us.

Wazwaz:  Since you are a teacher and student of sacred knowledge - what experience can you share that helped you or challenged you to see things differently to understand others?

Shaykh Qays:  At the risk of opening a whole new area of discussion as we close this one I will say that without doubt going to Saudi Arabia was a life-changing experience for me. By suddenly being immersed in a traditional and particularly austere Muslim culture and environment I learned, not only about the country and people, but also about myself in the process.

Saudi Arabia, to a Westerner, is a very “different” or “other” place – even for a Muslim from the West. It became apparent to me how important appreciating and understanding others is to self-knowledge. I also gained a new appreciation of the Sharia and the mercy that is inherent in its limits, prescriptions and proscriptions. Against the backdrop of the Sharia I could not only see how Saudi morality is influenced by their culture and norms but I could see the same with my own view of morality.

I thus also saw how misguided and potentially dangerous it can be to reduce the Sharia, the principles of which ensure that morality is upheld across different cultures, to one's own cultural manifestations while denying the legitimacy of others. To me that mistake is the result of looking at the religion, the Sharia, others, and the world through the narrow, impoverished lens of the sociologist or anthropologist or other such investigator whose judgment is deficient of genuine spirituality.

The reality is that God is greater than all of that and religion and Sharia are about Him and seeing the world through Him. That is the way of the prophets, the way of their leader Muhammad (God's peace be upon them all), and the way of Islam.

#End

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