Thank You for Making a Mistake!

The biggest mistake anyone can make is not to make any mistakes!

If we don’t have the freedom to make mistakes, we won’t have the chance to make achievements.

That was a fact of life. It’s also an Islamic rule, a prophetic promise: “If you try and succeed, your reward is double; but if you try and fail, you get a single reward”, so said the Prophet of Islam.

The intellectual struggle to try and distinguish what is right and beneficial was called “ijtihad”. You can think about a problem and come up with a conclusion or a solution that proves wrong after testing. Don’t worry; you still get the reward of trying with a sincere intention to do good. That was the spirit that caused early Muslims to build one of history’s leading civilizations.

Life always brings us something new. The problems we’re facing today are different from what our ancestors faced. Our grandchildren are sure to face challenges that we have no clue about. In Islam, deciding which way to go that is compatible with the Islamic values, once we face such unprecedented challenges, is our necessary and never ending task of ijtihad. Once we gave it up, once we became less tolerant of errors, this civilization collapsed!

If the word “ijtihad” sounds somewhat similar to “jihad” to you, you’re absolutely right. The two words have one linguistic root. As you already know, jihad means struggle (this has been repeated thousands of times, it’s “their” problem if they still don’t get it!). Ijtihad consists in making an effort in order to achieve something. In the scholarly context, the effort is intellectual, aiming at finding new solutions to new problems, while remaining loyal to the core values.

Muslim scholars have summarized the purpose of Islamic Law in two endeavors: eliminating that which is harmful, and doing that which is beneficial to people. The rest is details! That’s where ijtihad comes in. One simplistic example is television, which didn’t exist at the time of the Quran and the Prophet. What’s our religion’s say about it? Ijtihad will easily conclude that if you watch porn, television is haram, religiously forbidden. If you watch it for knowledge or entertainment, it’s permissible.

Imagine if some Muslims come and tell you that whatever the Quran and the Prophet made lawful is what we’re allowed to do, and whatever they named as forbidden we can’t do? Gosh, but the Quran and the Prophet said nothing about cars, planes, cell phones, and the Internet! What should we do now?! You get the idea!

Something similar actually happened. Some Muslims decided that the ijtihad of our ancestors who passed a few centuries after the time of Prophet Muhammad is the best that can be done, and all we need now is read and re-read their books and do what they told us to do. Anyone who tries to engage in ijtihad after them is erring from the straight path. For some reason, those Muslims gave themselves the authority to disable the prophetic good news of those who try and fail getting a single reward. They decided that instead, those who try at all are actually sinning. I don’t know how they made the rewarded intellectual efforts into punishable sins, and why anyone believed them! (Well, I might have some clue: getting the masses into a state of acceptance of the status quo was, and will always be, the best dream of despotic rulers!).

Muslims have been living a grossly misguided time of low mistake tolerance. Interestingly, the less you tolerate mistakes and allow trial and error, the more mistakes will occur and aggravate!

If you look at some of the stories of how Prophet Muhammad dealt with sinners, you’ll see the gap between his example and the harsh ways of some so called religious people. Once a man came to him confessing that he fornicated and asking to be punished, Muhammad told him to pray first then discuss the matter. The man prayed with them and went back to the Prophet for the punishment, Muhammad simply told him to go away, because his prayer erased his sin. The Prophet basically tricked the sinner out of punishment!  Jesus also asked us to throw stones at sinners… if we can be certain we’re free of sins!

Not only the self-righteous are harsh on sinners, they’re also harsh on “intellectual sinners” if you will. If your ideas are not what they like, you’re anywhere from misguided to infidel. Their understanding of religion is God’s understanding Himself, so there is no room for arguing with God!

Until we tolerate mistakes and allow trial and error with open minds and hearts, we will continue downhill… and may be even down in Hell!


Call to The Best Jihad!

I’m all for Jihad. Yes, I invite you to Jihad. You Muslims of the world, I’m not afraid and I’m not scared. Jihad has a bad reputation? I don’t care. I want us all to be Jihadists. Not only Jihadists, no, I want us to do the Best of Jihad! See, I finally revealed my true Muslim self, and gave up my Taqyia!

So, what’s the plan of our Jihad? I mean the Best of Jihad? See, I’m a Salafi too, so I stick to the sources, and our first source is the Prophet. I’m not inventing anything. The Prophet gave us the defintion and the way of this Best Jihad. Are you ready, fellow Muslims?

“The best of Jihad is a word of truth in front of a tyrant/an oppressive ruler!”

I’m sorry if I disappointed you! No, my Jihad is not against the Infidels until they accept Islam. After all, God Himself told us that whoever wants to believe is free to do so, and whoever wants to disbelieve, they’re free to do so as well (Quran 18:29).

An infidel only hurts him or herself. A Tyrant evetually hurts millions, tens of millions, and sometimes even hundreds of millions!

So, my fellow Muslims, imagine if all citizens of Mubarak, Gadhafi, Saddam Hussein (before he invaded Kuwait!), Saud, etc, etc, did the Best Jihad. All of the them said a word of truth to their rulers: You are the trash of our Earth. You are the enemies of Allah. You are the Pharaohs of our time. You’re going to Hell anyway, so we will take you the hell out of our lands, NOW!

I’m not inventing anything. That’s the Best Jihad according to our Prophet!


Living Quran

Like all believers, we Muslims see our Holy Book as a call for righteous actions, not mere intellectual or spiritual messages disconnected from our everyday life.

When the wife of the Prophet was asked to describe what he was like in his everyday life, she said that his character was a living Quran. If we read the Quran, then that’s the ideal “reading” that we strive to attain. Reading that leads to action. Prophet Muhammad used to pray God to protect him from knowledge that brings no benefit. This could mean inaccurate knowledge, or knowledge that one makes no effort to implement in his/her actions.

Muslims strive to memorize the Quran in its original Arabic. Some (not uncommon) memorize the whole book. Others memorize passages or complete chapters. I think it was Omar Ibnel-Khattab who said that the companions of the Prophet would not move to memorizing any new passages of the Quran until they feel they’re done implementing into action what they already learned. How many of our memorizing efforts nowadays follow this standard?!

When we’re told that: “And certainly We have made the Quran easy for remembrance, but is there anyone who will mind?” (Quran, 54:17), we can think of how the language of the Quran is so unique, musical and concise that some verses just seem to jump into our mind when a thought or an incident brings it up. Which makes it even easier to remind ourselves of the Quranic teachings when we need to.

I will try to use this blog to share the verses that catch my attention, and my thoughts on how to transform them into lived principles instead of mere chanted words!


Life is too short, so?

The most common conclusion, as you may know, goes like: so we have to live it to the fullest! But I believe it’s smarter to come to a more meaningful conclusion and truth, like: which means that, in the blink of an eye, we will be dead!

That doesn’t mean pessimism, in any way. It just means realism and focusing on what really matters, and especially doing the right thing. It means letting go of our selfishness, because no matter how much pleasure or how much pain we had in this short life, they will have vanished once the soul leaves the body!

 

And why even think of death. Think of right now, right this moment, then think of all the pleasures and pains that you had in the past. Where are they? Completely gone! Of course anything that we’re experiencing in the present seems too powerful for us to think that it will one day vanish, but it’s the truth, and we know it for sure, from experience.

 

According to Aisha, wife of Prophet Muhammad, one day he came back home during the Eid Al-Adha celebration, the time of the year when Muslims sacrifice animals and have to give one share to the poor, one share to their relatives and neighbors, and keep the third to themselves. Muhammad asked his wife: “What remains of the goat?” She replied: “only one leg remains, we have given away the rest”. There the Prophet corrected her: “All the goat remains, except the leg!”

 

It’s not uncommon to hear someone talking about the joy of giving. Each one might have experienced it for her or himself. It’s a universal human experience. And many times it’s way greater that the joy of simply taking.

 

If life is this short, then we should just remember the fact, and work and live accordingly. We can live it to the fullest, but only as long as we’re not harming or hurting. We should work for something bigger than our mere selves, and contribute to life and others as much as we possibly can. Because it will all vanish. And only our righteous deeds will remain forever for our joy and peace!
Whether or not we live within and for ourselves is not only about what truly remains. It affects our experience of life in the very present. It makes the difference between living in abundance or living in scarcity, from within. Selfishness is poor, giving and caring for others is rich and wealthy!

Insulting Muhammad in downtown Chicago!

It was a Friday. I was walking to the downtown mosque for the weekly collective prayer. As I was waiting for the light to cross the street, the man standing beside me started talking, or preaching. He was nicely dressed and looked decent, I looked at him and smiled, may be one of those smiles that try to say, thank you, I respect what you have to say, but I am not interested! Then I thought hearing him say: “Muhammad is down”. Then it was clear, he came closer and enthusiastically acted as if he was crushing something under his shoe, repeating: “Muhammad is down, Allah is going down”. It was a little surprise. I came across many well-meaning preachers before who stand in the streets and talk about Jesus, but I knew that none of them would publicly insult another religion; even if they believed that Allah and Muhammad are going down, they still wouldn’t say it out loud in the street.

For a while I thought the man wasn’t in his right mind. And for some other reason I didn’t feel at all offended, even though I believe in Allah/God and believe that Muhammad is a messenger, and a role model for all humans. I even thought it was funny! And to make it even funnier, I turned to him as he was insulting Muhammad and said: “Well, I am Muhammad” Then I looked at him again, smiled and repeated louder: “My name is Muhammad!” As I was now crossing the street and leaving him behind I looked at his face, trying to see the effect of my words. I thought, the guy is either not very normal, or he judged by my look that I was Muslim, and he was deliberately saying those words to me.

I have no intention whatsoever to use this little incident to play victim and give a proof that Muslims are not well liked in America. Even though they are, by some people. It’s just a human nature. I know it. I don’t think it’s right, but it’s a fact of life. The same stupidity can also be found in some of my people (Arabs, Muslims, Egyptians). People are all the same, everywhere. They have the same choices to make, no matter what color they wear or what country and culture they grew in. For an Arab, the choice can be whether or not to hate all Americans, because they hate Bush and the American foreign policy. For an American of today, the choice can be whether or not to think that all Muslims are violent, beat their wives and hate Americans for no reason. Well, a few decades ago a white American had a different choice: whether or not to go with the flow and disrespect a black human being because of the color of his or her skin! People are really the same, and the choices are the same, just with different circumstances and different names.

The Quran says that God made people different, and had He wanted to make them all into one nation, He could, but He is testing them with one another. I strongly believe in this concept. I don’t hold a grudge against this guy for insulting Allah and Muhammad, gosh I believe he deserves pity. I also believe that there is a lot of good in this country and its people, and I am confident that more and more of them will respect my religion if they just got a chance to “know better”. Knowledge. It’s a true savior! However some people will remain ignorant, no matter how much information they accumulate. Knowledge is a quality of the heart and the mind, hand in hand. I remember how the prophet Muhammad used to pray God to protect him from knowledge that would remain useless and from which he wouldn’t benefit. People need education. But nowadays we tend to forget that there is education of the mind, and yet there is one education that is the real base; it’s the one that makes education of the mind ever useful and good. We need education of the heart. It’s why God sent all those Messengers and revealed His Books.

Like learning a language, or studying for a degree, we don’t expect it to happen overnight, nor do we think that we will learn Spanish the moment we are told the rules of grammar and meaning of words. It will take time, and it will take practice. The same applies to educating our hearts and building our character. It starts with a conviction that, for example, being mean to others is no good, that we really should treat others the way we like to be treated. Once we know that, we will start a journey of falling and getting up, practicing, making a mistake then realizing that we made a mistake and committing not to make it again, etc. It’s the best education we will give ourselves, and it will get us the highest “degree” of closeness to Truth and Good/God!


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