A Letter to a Christian Priest
(Bringing Islam to the World One Concept at a Time!
Taking the Qur'an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It --
And which One Does Not?)
Thank you for writing.
Islam does mean "submit." But that is just one meaning of it. A derivative, really.
The root word SLM (Seen Laam Meem) spawns a rich multitude of meanings. The word Salaam is derived from that root, what most people, including many Muslims, somewhat narrowly translate as "peace."
In a broader and deeper and perhaps more accurate sense, the expression Salaam stands for everything good and nice and noble and salubrious and wonderful.
In this world as well as in the next world.
In other words, if it is something good, in any conceivable form or shape, then it is subsumed under the rubric of Salaam.
So much so, one of the 99 (and more) celebrated and most beautiful names of God Almighty is As-Salaam: The Salaam!
"Submit," however, has never been my cup of tea. I do have to admit that fact about myself.
Even though Discipline defines everything I do. It always has. You can call it my forte if you wish, although with a small "f."
As does Commitment.
I have been aware of my issues with the "Submit" part. And I have been trying to deal with them, as best as I could, over all these long, eventful and exhilarating years.
You can say I always had trouble blindly accepting authority. Regardless of source, whether it was from my father, whom I loved and respected very, very much and who was perhaps the wisest and strongest and most disciplined and committed of men I ever met.
Or even from God Almighty himself for that matter. May God Almighty forgive me for thinking or saying something so wild and preposterous.
But when it came to Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, that native mulishness I had always appeared to melt away. The only emotion I experienced all through my life with regard to Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was awe and amazement and a sheer sense of wonderment.
And a continuing and nagging sense of bewilderment, how in the world did he do what he did, and the way he did it.
And how in the world did he say the things he said and chose to couch and say them the way he did.
Does that mean I would jump a Red Traffic Light knowingly, deliberately, routinely? Heaven forbid, no. Can't even think of it.
Even at my place of work, all I needed to know was what the policies and procedures stated. And I could not dream of violating any of them, regardless of whether or not anyone was watching me.
After the clear pronouncements of the Qur'an and the Hadith, and within the clear bounds of morality and law and accepted rules, my Fatwa for action almost always came from my own heart.
Nobody ever got away telling me what to do or how to do it.
The Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, is as clear on this subject as it can be. He said what I am paraphrasing here:
"Follow the Fatwa of your own heart?"
His blessed words were:
And then, I distinctly seem to recall, he added the words below.
Others, however, need to check the exact wording of the hadith, for, there is no more risky or dangerous enterprise in this world than to quote a Hadith Sharif wrong.
Wa In Aftaakan Naasu Wa Aftawuka!
"No matter how many Fatwas other people give you!"
This kind of revolutionary rhetoric in Seventh Century? Enough to make a fellow like me Muslim.
And it did. Along with other similar things.
So, unquestioning "Faith" was not my natural ally from day one – not during my childhood; not during my adolescence; not during my university days; and never thereafter.
Things had to make sense to me. And that was always a rough ride.
But do I accept God's dispensation in any and all specific things? If that is the question, let me counter it with a question of my own: Do I have a choice?
What are my options? What alternatives are there to a respectful acceptance of God Almighty's decisions in your life?
But let us not forget that in Islam "Trust in God" is neither blind nor thoughtless nor random. The most amazing and beautiful Hadith makes it clear that the first step in the Trust Process Sequence is to "Tie the Camel" in a most secure and safe place.
The next step is to Place the Camel in God's Trust.
I don't know how anyone can improve on this divine model:
"Tie the Camel First, Then Trust in God"?
Again, this is one of those things that clinched the deal for me in favor of Islam. This kind of Zero-Loss equation to inform and guide human affairs is not, cannot be, of human coinage.
Therefore, by simple logic, the one where this formula came from is who God is and his Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, is.
But do I gripe and moan and sulk when God Almighty decides my affairs in ways that do not seem to jive with my expectations -- or even understanding? Well, what can I say?
But I have been working on it all my life. And there does appear to be a ding. I hope a day will come, right here in this world, and very soon too, when I can close my eyes and say: "Thy Will Be Done!"
As Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, did even in some of the most trying times and circumstances that overtook him, a fact that never ceased to amaze me.
Forgive me Father, you are the one who is supposed to be preaching to me. Not the other way around. I can't wait to hear your sermons.
The vandalism damage to the house is significant and substantial. The police are "seized" of the matter as they say. And that is where it has "stopped." That is where things are.
What can I say? I have no idea how long, or in what particular form, they will remain so: Seized of the Matter, I mean.
But for the first time in my life the dent in my psyche seems to be more serious. For the first time, I sense a trace of fear and insecurity which were alien concepts to me until now, even though all my life I have wandered some of the darkest and shadiest nooks of this world alone and more or less unafraid.
Again, thank you Father for investing your precious time in a sinner like me. A very flawed and inadequate and delinquent man in every respect. I don't know much about God, but this much I know about myself.
God Almighty's Blessings!