On December 14, 2012, late in the afternoon - I became aware of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It was painful to read the stories, emails and newsfeed as they poured over the tragedy. In times of crisis and pain like this, as a Muslim I immediately turn to prayer to gain strength and to reflect on the situation. In the evening, I joined an online prayer service on SeekersHub in Toronto.
The Toronto team was able to gather a large crowd at the Hub and online for our prayer for the victims and families of the murder in Connecticut. "The believer is pained by the pain of another," said Shaykh Faraz Rabbani while leading the prayers for the affected families of Connecticut.
Mainly through social media discussions, I began reading various viewpoints regarding the shooting. Some argued for greater gun control. Is this tragedy due to a lack of gun control policies? Maybe. We can consider this argument. But let us consider the argument that frequent mass shootings of innocent people are not symptoms of lack of gun control policies as well. Did Timothy McVeigh use guns in the Oklahoma bombing?
"My third reason [for opposing the war] moves to a deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the past three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked me, and rightfully so, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today my own government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent…”
I was preparing an article to respond to the current violence in Gaza when I realized that history is just repeating itself. Thus, I looked at previous articles and decided to simply repeat what was written before. It appears to me peace to some means a hope that the Palestinians would just disappear and stop seeking their rights protected under international law. Palestinians are simply fighting for their survival, not the destruction of Israel.
“Israeli hawks represent themselves as engaged in a ‘peace process’ with the Palestinians in which Hamas refuses to join. In fact, Israel has refused to cease colonizing and stealing Palestinian land long enough to engage in fruitful negotiations with them. Tel Aviv routinely announces new, unilateral house-building on the Palestinian West Bank. There is no peace process. It is an Israeli and American sham. Talking about a peace process is giving cover to Israeli nationalists who are determined to grab everything the Palestinians have and reduce them to penniless refugees (again).”
“You can’t defend yourself when you are militarily occupying someone else’s land. Call it what you like, it is not self-defense.”
Some will argue that Israel left Gaza. However, to Palestinians, Israel did not leave Gaza, but instead turned it into an open-air prison. There was a recent report by the IDF to determine what the minimum caloric intake for Gazans should be in order to determine how many trucks of humanitarian aid can be allowed into Gaza without facing starvation.
"The tactics used by Israeli military armed forces in the Gaza offensive are consistent with previous practices, most recently during the Lebanon war in 2006. A concept known as the Dahiya doctrine emerged then, involving the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations."
“Following the 2008-2009 war in Gaza, detailed on-the-ground investigations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UNHRC and others took place that were quite critical of Hamas and accused them (and Israeli forces) of a number of war crimes. Yet they were unable to find a single case of Hamas using ‘human shields.’ (See pp. 75-78). And I'm seen no evidence that Hamas is doing that now, either. Yet members of Congress and others are still insisting that civilians being killed by Israeli bombardments are because Hamas is using ‘human shields’."
"If the Palestinians go to the UN General Assembly with a new unilateral initiative, they must know they will be subject to severe measures by Israel and the United States," the station quoted Lieberman as saying on October 24.
“I am pained by the parallels I observe between my experiences in Germany prior to 1939 and those suffered by Palestinians today. I cannot help but hear echoes of the Nazi mythos of ‘blood and soil’ in the rhetoric of settler fundamentalism which claims a sacred right to all the lands of biblical Judea and Samaria. The various forms of collective punishment visited upon the Palestinian people — coerced ghettoization behind a ‘security wall’; the bulldozing of homes and destruction of fields; the bombing of schools, mosques, and government buildings; an economic blockade that deprives people of the water, food, medicine, education and the basic necessities for dignified survival — force me to recall the deprivations and humiliations that I experienced in my youth. This century-long process of oppression means unimaginable suffering for Palestinians.”
Today, marks Eid ul-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice, one of the major Muslim holidays.
The Festival of Sacrifice falls on tenth day of the month of Dhul Hijjah on the lunar Islamic Calendar. It comes right after the fifth pillar of Islam called the Hajj or pilgrimage. The Hajj commemorates the life and trials of Prophet Abraham’s family, upon them peace and blessings. Once in a lifetime, every adult Muslim who has the physical and financial ability is required to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, home of the Ka’bah, which Muslims believe was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. Peace and blessings upon them both.
The Hajj pilgrimage is an extremely communal event as over two million Muslims, men and women of varied ethnicities and nationalities, dressed in simple white clothing symbolizing the equality of all people, perform identical rituals.
There is also an additional spiritual dimension to the occasion. The word Eid means to reconnect or to return.
In an online video, Shaykh Ahmed Saad, a notable Muslim scholar explained the term Eid as: "Return to connecting with God, and once we connect with God, we will connect with people, and once we connect with people we will connect with our family because charity begins at home. And once we connect with our family, we will be able to connect with ourselves...We should connect, and reconnect and reconnect every year with the essence of our deen(faith)."
Hence, Eid ul-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice is not the end of Hajj, but an occasion to return to our heritage and reconnect to our creator, our families, ourselves and people around us to promote unity. During this holiday, Muslims express gratitude for His countless blessings and grace, following in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad and his family, and Prophet Abraham and his family, upon them peace and blessings.
Eid ul-Adha celebrations are similar to Eid ul-Fitr with the addition of sacrificing a lamb, goat or cow to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, who Muslims believe was miraculously replaced by a lamb, similar to the Biblical story. People share the meat of the sacrified animal with the poor and needy, relatives and friends.
The day begins with a special congregational prayer followed by a short sermon. People are dressed in their best clothing, and children traditionally receive new clothing as well as other gifts. My daughter Maryam, requested two new outfits, a cool boots, and a new Wii video game. I agreed after she fasts a day to give thanks and donate something she loves in sacrifice to the poor. Children are nurtured to give and receive.
Food, holiday congratulations, and festivities such as rides, balloons, and other fun activities for children follow the prayers. The holiday lasts for four days during which people usually visit or invite each other.
I wish everyone in all places at all times a blessed Eid Mubarak (Blessed Return). May Allah accept your good deeds and all your efforts during the blessed month of Dhul Hijjah.
Additional resources regarding Warfare in the Qur'an can be found in PDF files located at SeekerGuidance here. Both Qibla and SeekersGuidance offer classes for anyone wanting to explore the journeys of other truth seekers in Islam. You are also welcome to visit your local Mosques and have face to face conversations with local teachers and Muslims.
Due to the length of this piece, it will be continued in another blog which will be posted in a few days.