Tag Archives: Syria

A blessed and terrible month for the world’s Muslims

The days are long and the nights are full of newscasts.

Simply put, this has not been our month. 

I am not the most active Muslim — I like going to the mosque for taraweeh, but not every night. I like to read Quran, but at an embarrassingly sluggish pace. Still, I know that Ramadan is supposed to be the month of prayer, charity, and, if we do it right, forgiveness. But this year, it feels more like Ramadan has been a month of tragedy, hatred, and crippling sadness. We hate and kill each other, other people hate and kill us, and meanwhile, most of us would rather the warmongers and ideologists would leave us out of it so we could live and pray in peace. When it comes to human beings, I have become a cynic. I don’t believe that any one side in any conflict is good — I think everyone is pretty awful, to tell the truth.  

Bad things that have happened to Muslims (and, really, to humanity) this Ramadan:

  • Bangladesh. The Rohingya, a stateless and persecuted Muslim minority, have been banned from marrying in Bangladesh to prevent those fleeing from violence in Myanmar from marrying citizens and receiving citizenship. The ban also means they cannot marry each other, and they are prohibited by law from living together out of a state-recognized marriage.
  • China. Chinese authorities continue to try to erase the Islamic identity of Uighur Muslims by banning fasting, certain types of clothing, and unapproved Islamic literature.   
  • Iraq. When Muslims kill each other, we all lose. No matter what political agenda the different factions espouse, the (often execution-style) murder of civilians is always a tragedy. Iraq Body Count puts the number of casualties at 802 in the first 17 days of July alone. 
  • Syria. The UN has literally given up on keeping track of the number of dead in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Last week, photos of children swimming in bomb craters were all over the internet — just another reminder that it is the children who pay the price for the wars waged by men. 
  • Malaysia. A commercial flight blown out of the sky and 298 people dead for nothing. 
  • Afghanistan. The dead almost seem to run together since the U.S. invasion in 2001, so it’s important to note the 89 dead in a car bomb attack on a busy market three days ago. Way to keep that Ramadan spirit alive.
  • Gaza. This one hurts the most, maybe because I have Palestinian roots, or maybe because people the world over seem to be actually, truly convinced that it is justified. This isn’t a new conflict. Gaza has been losing a teenager every week or two to IDF bullets for years with no fanfare. But since three Israeli teenagers were murdered (no evidence at all proving who killed them has been released), Palestinian teenager Mohammad Abu Khdeir was brutally burned alive, more than 1,000 have been arrested in the West Bank, and (as of writing this), the death toll in Gaza has reached 265. Israel claims they are only hitting terrorist targets, but they have hit multiple hospitals, homes, schools, and mosques. 

Good things that have happened to Muslims (and humanity) this Ramadan (and every Ramadan):

  • Surat Al Baqarah, 185-186:

شَہۡرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ هُدً۬ى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـٰتٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡهُدَىٰ وَٱلۡفُرۡقَانِ‌ۚ فَمَن شَہِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّہۡرَ فَلۡيَصُمۡهُ‌ۖ وَمَن ڪَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ۬ فَعِدَّةٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ‌ۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِڪُمُ ٱلۡيُسۡرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِڪُمُ ٱلۡعُسۡرَ وَلِتُڪۡمِلُواْ ٱلۡعِدَّةَ وَلِتُڪَبِّرُواْ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَٮٰكُمۡ وَلَعَلَّڪُمۡ تَشۡكُرُونَ (١٨٥) وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِى عَنِّى فَإِنِّى قَرِيبٌ‌ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعۡوَةَ ٱلدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ‌ۖ فَلۡيَسۡتَجِيبُواْ لِى وَلۡيُؤۡمِنُواْ بِى لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَرۡشُدُونَ

 

The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the Criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, (let him fast the same) number of other days. Allah desireth for you ease; He desireth not hardship for you; and (He desireth) that ye should complete the period, and that ye should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that peradventure ye may be thankful. (185) And when My servants question thee concerning Me, then surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he crieth unto Me. So let them hear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright. (186)

 

  • Surat Al Qadr

إِنَّآ أَنزَلۡنَـٰهُ فِى لَيۡلَةِ ٱلۡقَدۡرِ (١) وَمَآ أَدۡرَٮٰكَ مَا لَيۡلَةُ ٱلۡقَدۡرِ (٢) لَيۡلَةُ ٱلۡقَدۡرِ خَيۡرٌ۬ مِّنۡ أَلۡفِ شَہۡرٍ۬ (٣) تَنَزَّلُ ٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةُ وَٱلرُّوحُ فِيہَا بِإِذۡنِ رَبِّہِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمۡرٍ۬ (٤) سَلَـٰمٌ هِىَ حَتَّىٰ مَطۡلَعِ ٱلۡفَجۡرِ (٥)

 

Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Qadr. (1) Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Night of Qadris! (2)The Night of Qadr is better than a thousand months. (3) The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. (4) (The night is) Peace until the rising of the dawn. (5)

 

I don’t really have much else to say, except that, no matter how cynical I may be about other people, I feel blessed to know that I can always rely on God. Maybe this is our month — we just can’t see it right now.

As always, there is much to be grateful for. God, please help us to make the most of these last 10 days of Ramadan. Ameen.

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Our silence is killing them

Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, more than 2,000 people have been killed by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and 3,000 more have disappeared. I say President al-Assad, but that’s probably not the right way to describe him. Most presidents aren’t appointed into the position after their father’s deaths. Most don’t run for the presidency unopposed, and most don’t win with a literally unbelievable 97 percent of the total votes. It would be more accurate to call him a dictator, an autocrat, or even a murderer. But, no matter what the Syrian people want, he’s still calling himself a president, and he doesn’t seem likely to give that up any time soon.

The footage coming out of Syria is disturbing. There are tanks shelling houses, there are secret police shooting peaceful protesters, and there are so many children dying, leaving behind bodies full of bullets. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Syria was being invaded — It’s hard to accept that anyone would actually do this to their own country. But the fact of the matter is, these are Arabs fighting other Arabs, an army turned against its own people. It’s horrible to watch, but, sadly, it’s really not all that surprising. And, although, someone as cynical as me probably shouldn’t be surprised by the Arab world’s reaction (or lack of reaction) to such a brutal crackdown, I still am.

If these were Israeli tanks barrelling down Arab streets, any Arab streets, there would be a swift, angry Arab reaction. Why is this any different? Why are we only capable of a passionate response when the bad guys are foreign? Everyone knows that the Arab world is full of rulers that don’t really represent their people. I don’t think most intelligent people would argue that what’s going on in Syria is right or moral. So why aren’t we doing anything about it? Or, better yet, why aren’t we SAYING anything about it? Where is the condemnation from Arab countries? Do we still have an Arab League or have they given up pretending they stand for anything? It’s like they don’t even care that dozens of people have been dying every day this week. When the same was happening in Gaza in winter of 2008, and Palestinians were dying at the hands of Israelis, there was action, from governments and civilians across the Middle East. Where is that fire? Where is that Arab compassion today?

The fact that an Arab regime is responsible for this violence means, in my opinion, that Arabs have an even bigger responsibility to step up and do what they can to stop this. The same goes for the crisis in Somalia; people who are calling themselves Muslims have been turning their country into a wasteland, and we’ve stood back and looked the other way for years. Is it because they’re Muslims too? We can’t just turn the other way because the people doing the killing share our culture. We need to tell them that, because of our culture, because of our morals and our religion and our sense of brotherhood/sisterhood to those who share it, we won’t let them kill innocent people in our name.

As long as we’re silent, we’re complicit. There may not be much that we can do, but caring would be a good start.

**

Also, please sign this petition asking India, Brazil and South Africa to put pressure on Syria to save thousands of “disappeared” (read: kidnapped) Syrian civilians… And if you hear of a local protest against al-Assad’s regime, please go. It’s Ramadan and these people need your support. Just because Arab governments are going to insist on being useless doesn’t mean the rest of us have to do the same.

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