The 40 American Hadith — Hadith #5: Allah’s Mercy is Pervasive Even In the Darkest Hour

My new piece is out for ImanWire from my 40 American Hadith series, “Allah’s Mercy is Pervasive Even In the Darkest Hour”:

Silah asked Hudhayfah: “What benefit can there be for a people who don’t fast, pray, worship or give to charity, instead simply saying ‘La ilaha illallah’?” Hudhayfah replied, “Silah! It will save them from Hell!”

Read the whole piece here.

Remembering Sat-Chan – Sadako Sasaki’s 75th Birthday and How Little the World Has Changed

وَإِذَا المَوءودَةُ سُئِلَت

بِأَيِّ ذَنبٍ قُتِلَت

“And when the baby girl buried alive is asked: ‘for what crime she was killed’?” —
Qur’an 81: 8-9

Her name was Sadako “Sat-chan” Sasaki (佐々木 “さtちゃん” 禎子). She was born January 7th, 1943. She would have been seventy five years old today — if she hadn’t had a bomb dropped on her. And while there is plenty of blame to go around as to who’s fault the war was, nonetheless an innocent life was lost. Sasaki was two years old when the bomb dropped hardly more than a mile from her house in Hiroshima. She became part of that group known as hibakusha: “bombed person” (被爆者). And while the militaries of the world attempt to legitimize this or that conflict; this or that incursion, can we truthfully give a justifiable answer as to “why was this girl killed?”

It is now 2018 and still the world — or better yet, the men of the world — has not learned its lesson. Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump play at words that would deliver frightening consequences: the bomb that dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki would seem almost a mere firecracker to the nuclear power now at our disposal. Like the ancient Arabs of the Hijaz, who were consummed by their anger and their need for revenge, we stand at another abyss and it gazes back at us, asking: “will you change or will you destroy yourself?”

The sun set on Sasaki and as the title of the above Surah suggests, it will also set on us yet what will be our answer? Will we learn or will we burn?

Have We Traded Our Bedrock Convictions For The Shifting Sands Of Values?

“The social and cultural conditions that make character possible are no longer present and no amount of political rhetoric, legal maneuvering, educational policy making, or money can change that reality.” — James Davison Hunter from The Death of Character

While Hunter makes an interesting observation, I do believe the one thing that he left off his list which can restore character is religion, specifically Islam. I mean this in no cheap or reductionist way. I mean a religious and spiritual practice that returns us to silence. The silence we so desperately need as individuals but also the communal silence by which we, by standing together in ranks for prayer, tune out the world and tune in to the Oneness of The Creator. This, I still believe, can achieve that elusive goal of restoring character.

I do concur with Hunter’s conclusion that “character is formed in relation to conviction and is manifest in the capacity to abide by those convictions even in, especially in, the face of temptation.” This speaks to heart of many of the struggles I witness in Muslim youth. They have hearts but have not been spiritually trained to have conviction. And by barring them from sharing in the vision of our community they have been given little opportunity to develop religious and spiritual conviction. It’s as if they know what Islam is gesturing but they do not know what it’s saying. Out of a misplaced sense of love and lack of trust — that it is God who makes a believer — we have stifled this all important aspect of Muslim development. This is akin to my statement of sucking all of the oxygen out of a room:

Another way to think about the challenges we face is how we’ve supplanted creeds with values. This has been concurrent with the secularization of the Muslim mind. As Hunter puts it, “Values are truths that have been deprived of their commanding character. Many of us, not only youth, have been inculcated into internalizing Islam, not as a fundamental truth claim, one which places demands on us, but merely as a set of “values” which can be altered, rearranged, or even deleted, depending on what our social circumstances demand of us or what we desire (demand!) from society. Or as Bo Burlingham quoted in his book Small Giants, “mediocrity is our greatest competition”.

To better understand the dilemma of values, I quote Hunter again: “the very word ‘value’ signifies the reduction of truth to utility, taboo to fashion, conviction to mere preference; all provisional, all exchangeable”. And therefore we must also ask ourselves: “what is conviction”? It is, as Hunter explains: “the commitment to truths made sacred”. Likewise, what is its absence. Again, Hunter: “There is nothing there (values) that one need believe, commanding and demanding its due, for ‘truth’ is but a matter of taste and temperament”. This elegantly echoes the Qur’anic verse,

كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۖ وَعَسَىٰ أَن تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

“Fighting (in the cause of God) is a duty laid down upon you, even though it might be unpleasant for you. However, you may hate something that’s good for you and love something that’s bad for you. God knows, and you don’t know.”Qur’an 2: 217