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.”
"When we view ourselves as the protagonist of a story in which we are always right, we collect grievances about other people by noticing everything we do and noting the 'injustices' that are done to us. All of this builds resentment within us and instigates conflict. Dr. Umar’s words deepened that lesson, and were a reminder of how easy it is to remember one’s own good in worship or social relations while forgetting the good of others. Dr. Umar’s lesson taught us that instead of clinging to our actions, it is critical to do as much good as possible without caring about how our actions compare to the actions of others."
“It seems to be an attempt to mirror Al Qaeda, exactly in reverse.”
"The first is that Islamophobia is not merely confined to a war of words against Muslims. Islamophobic words, of which Breivik shared many in his 1,500-page document, often spiral into deeds."
"In light of Oslo killings, will Juan Williams suddenly become afraid of his white peers at Fox News?"
"Got a couple of media calls today about the terrorist attacks in Norway, since they consider me to be an expert on 'Islamic terrorism.' Since it appears the person responsible is a far right-wing Norwegian, I told them to find an expert on Lutheran terrorism."
"Events in Norway suggest the primary threat to European democracy has never been 'Islamofascism'--that clunking, thuggish phrase that keeps lashing out in the hope that it will one day strike a meaning--but plain old fascism. The kind whereby mostly white Europeans take to the streets to terrorize minorities in the name of racial, cultural or religious superiority."
I was listening to a lecture by a notable scholar named Habib Hussein as Saggaf. He is originally from Yemen and I believe he resides now in Abu Dhabi. But he gives weekly lessons on a series "O Beloved Son" by the great Imam al Ghazzali. I try my best to get hold of some of the lessons as there are always some important questions and answers that you discover that help you to understand yourself and those around you. In this last Friday's lesson - one student made a very important comment to the teacher's advice of seeking good company.
The student commented that at times - good people do not accept us. How can we find guidance - when good people reject us, because we are not the images that they seek around them? Some learn to embrace multiple personalities to fit in and others remain outcasts, condemned and unguided. To myself first and foremost, and then to others - let us reflect on that question as we preach tolerance and close the doors of acceptance to those whose manners don't please us.
This blog is meant for those Muslims, and others can listen in as well - who have found the doors of acceptance closed in their faces and are processing feelings of anger and hate and don't know how to embrace multiple personalities to fit in and find themselves alone and outcasts.
Below is a question and answer from a Muslim counseling site which helps troubled Muslims. My hope is other troubled Muslims will benefit from this and those in position of guidance will reflect on the voice of the questioner and the search for guidance in the midst of anger and hate. The questioner is a Muslim woman who was experiencing a lot of injustices from various domestic dimensions and relationships. Her question is rather long but the ending is the most important to reflect on:
"I am feeling useless. And I hate everyone and everything. I pray to Allah but Allah doesn't listen to me. I don't know who to ask for help or where to go. I am not normal as I'm full of hate. My day starts with hate and ends with hate. It is destroying me. But I can't do anything."
Martin Luther King Jr. reached out to these people, to steer their anger in the right direction. All we have now is closed doors, mental institutions, gangs, terror groups, or pills. I am worried when such people, Muslim or non Muslim can only find the worst of people to steer them astray or FBI informants to instigate them to say things to gather stats against American Muslims.
We have a responsibility to anchor each other. Hence, I share below the answer by a Muslim counselor that I respect and follow his responses.
Abdul-Lateef Abdullah is an American convert to Islam. He helps troubled people, both Muslim and non-Muslim. I gather his answers to help people around me who also maybe suffering. Below is his response which I felt was brilliant and share with those struggling with anger and pain out there with no where to go and no one to turn to for help.
Hatred breeds hatred. More hatred breeds more hatred. Hatred is the seed and fuel of Hell. It’s your choice, do you want heaven or hell? Right now you are in hell, you already taste its fire, anguish, misery, for you can only see hatred. You are getting the very thing that you say you hate because you do not see that all these things that have happened and that are happening to you are actually the stimulus/reason you need to TRANSFORM yourself and those around you. You see people doing things that you cannot stand and it makes you angry, al hamdu Lillah(Praise God)! You recognize them as something that you do not want for yourself and for your loved ones. So, are you going to be just like them or are you going to be different? If you follow the path of hatred, you will become just like them or worse. Allah, however, is showing you as clear as day the consequences of such behavior and actions – hell – first here in this life and then who knows what in the life to come. So, you want to follow them on that path? You have been given a gift and that gift is awareness. You can see all the negatives and consequences of what everyone around you is doing. That is the most important first step that is required in order to transform, and without it, transformation is impossible. So, what are you going to do with this gift?
Please don’t talk about Allah as if He is some giant slot machine. You put your 10 cent coin in and you expect a jackpot! Allah does not exist to respond to our demands. We exist for Him, not the other way around. We live our lives filled with hatred and refuse to see anything to be grateful for and we expect Allah to change us? Sorry, but we have to make the first move. Allah says in the Qur’an that He will only change our condition if we first change it ourselves. We have been given the gift of free will here in this life to make choices. The greatest of those choices is whether to live for God or for something/someone else. To live for God means to first and foremost surrender/align ourselves with His will, then to follow His commands and guidance on how to live lives in Islam, i.e. in peace. There can be no true peace without Islam. Islam is much more than “I pray to Allah but Allah doesn’t listen to me.” I beg to differ. Allah hears all prayers and He answers them accordingly. The fact that you think He doesn’t hear you IS the answer to your prayer. It starts with the fact that you think Allah is supposed to exist for you, not the other way around.
The first thing you must do is stop hating because it is destroying you. Yes, there is a ton of perceived injustices happening all around you. So why? Why would Allah give you the insight and awareness of all these things if He did not want you to DO something about it? And that does not mean that you have to try and change anyone else, but rather first you need to surrender yourself to His will, to first accept the way things are, to know that there is a higher wisdom taking place that you just cannot grasp yet, but that you will dedicate yourself to trying to understand so that you can do something to improve the situation for His sake.
First is to align yourself with God, for the sake of knowing and wanting to be close to Him. It’s the primary responsible of human beings before any action can be carried out, and it has to take place in your heart. It may sound difficult given all that you have experienced in life, but you have to know that what has happened to you and those around you is the direct result of NOT living for God, not the other way around. It means more than just asking Allah to make things different. First, it means a dedicated heart that realizes that you have NO POWER, and that all power resides with Allah. It means that He is showing you His clear signs that to live lives of injustice and without mercy (such as what your uncles are doing to your father) is to live in opposition to God’s love and mercy, which is enough to earn His wrath and punishment. And it means that each of us needs to first return to Allah with a pure heart before we can hope to help those around us change. You don’t need to wait for anybody else, you must take the first step because you are the one that has been given this awareness and insight. It came to you. Do something with it!
To continue to simply live in rejection of what is happening is denial. You are actually in denial of what is happening. You believe things should be different, and you cannot accept it. But until you do accept it, and try to understand it, and then try to change it, at least within yourself, is your only choice! Either that or continue to allow yourself to be destroyed with hatred. What kind of life is that? Do you really have any other choice?
Give up. Surrender yourself to His love, mercy and wisdom. Then start over. Stop seeing everything as not the way you want it to be, and start trying to understand things. Seek knowledge and insight so that you can understand what is happening around you. Start living life for the sake of knowing, worshipping and serving your Creator and start fulfilling your life’s purpose and potential. Use the internet or any other means you have at your disposal to learn. Stop hating and allowing yourself to be destroyed for you do have choices. The first choice is whether to accept God’s will and move forward or continue to reject it and burn up with hatred. But you need knowledge and you need support in your effort to do this. Find a teacher, find knowledge, find your true heart and find peace, in sha 'Allah(God Willing)…
As we reflect on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., it is beneficial for us to see the whole person and not just one moment of his life where he gave the "I have a dream speech." King was angry at the sufferings that African Americans were enduring. He was not passive, a dreamer or in denial of what was happening around him. People who are in denial of what they are experiencing cannot solve their problems, but resort to escapism solutions like drugs and alcohol.
Yet, King reasoned with himself, and he nurtured his people to understand the reality of their pain and the reality of their suffering. When we divorce or abort the whole journey of his struggle and focus on just the "I have a dream" speech - we lose the skill and insight on how to guide those who are angry and in pain within our midst today. His life was a journey to understanding and growth, and not a dream.
Regarding anger, King said, "the supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force."
However, to be clear - this anger is not for the self or the tribe, but seeks a higher consciousness and soul development and is directed against the institutions of war and injustice, rather than individuals. It does not incite one to shoot indiscriminately at civilians. This is rancour and abusive anger.
To personal matters, King admonished himself, "You must not harbor anger." To nurture society to a higher understanding and fight injustice, King said "there had developed beneath the surface a slow fire of discontent, fed by the continuing indignities and inequities to which the Negroes were subjected."
We have a responsibility to anchor each other toward values we cherish, intending growth and not domination. In times of chaos and anger, we have a responsibility to seek guidance for ourselves and nurture guidance around us.
Some of us are gifted by the grace of God to deal with trials and tribulations well. I respect such people. They know how to reason with themselves during times of anger. They have a strong sense of boundaries placed within themselves to prevent them from harming others. They are always in control of their emotions, feelings and thoughts. These are qualities we need to seek in leaders, not people who who have no sense of boundaries - yet obsess with controlling others.
I want to ask - if you held feelings of anger and pain at the government, society, a particular group or person - how did you reason with yourself? I am curious to hear from people, especially, those who by grace of God are forebearing and overlook faults. What did you say to yourself in times of anger? How do you reason with yourself when you feel that something or someone has angered you to a boiling point?
Below are some quotes that I admonish myself with and want to share. I hope others can share their own wisdom.
"Whoever holds back his anger, Allah will conceal his faults and whoever suppresses his fury while being able to execute it, Allah will fill his heart with satisfaction on the Day of Standing (Judgement)." -- Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings.
"Temper is a weapon that we hold by the blade." -- Sir James M Barrie
"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned." --Buddha
"Anger: an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured." --Seneca
"He who speaks with a sharp tongue cuts his own throat." (unknown)
"If the first inward thought is not warded off, it will generate a desire, then the desire will generate a wish, and the wish will generate an intention, and the intention will generate the action, and the action will result in ruin and Divine wrath. So evil must be cut off at its root, which is when it is simply a thought that crosses the mind, from which all the other things follow on."-- Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali
“It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” -- James 3:5-5
These are just a small set - but I want to know from you. As you are about to respond, think of someone with a loaded handgun ready to shoot at the object of their anger. What would you say if you were given a few seconds to speak to him/her?
In the following blog, I will share an analysis by a Muslim counselor on processing our anger and hate in light of injustices around us. I hope these two blogs will help someone out there seeking to process their anger, pain and suffering.