Divali, Thanksgiving, Christmas!
It Is Us! It Is Us! It Is Us!
(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?)
What a Glorious World We Live In!
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – December, 2007 – It was not too long ago that Hindus around the world celebrated Divali.
The Americans then jumped into the fray with their own celebration of Thanksgiving.
And now the whole world is set to celebrate Christmas.
Earlier, Muslims came out of the glorious month of Ramadan to celebrate Eidul Fitr and now are on their way to celebrate Eidul Adha and Hajj.
What a glorious world do we live in!
And how happy should all of us be to be part of a world in which chunks of humanity under different names and in different places and ways celebrate one good thing or another.
And what a wonderful way it is to unite a strife-torn humanity by trying to find common elements in what people do, rather than always focusing on all the things that divide and separate humanity. On all the things that people do different.
“Come to the Common Elements Among Us!”
Qur’an Invites Humanity to Unite!
Come, let us sit down together and see what things we have common among us. That is the timeless call of the Qur’an as a way to bridge the gaps that divide human beings everywhere.
Qur’an: Ta’aalaw ilaa kalimatin sawaa-im bainanaa wa bainakum!
Paraphrase: Let us coalesce around the points that we all cherish together.
Believe it or not, Divali, Thanksgiving and Christmas all show us how it is possible for Muslims to find common cause with non-Muslims. They are also opportunities and occasions for non-Muslims to begin to take a fresh look at Islam and Muslims and realize that, despite all the propaganda to the contrary, their mission on earth is not to divide and destroy humanity but to unite it and build a better world for all.
Islam Is All Good
Show me one good thing anywhere in the world, and I will show you how it coincides with something equally good or better in Islam.
That is because Islam is good. It is from a good God, in whom all good and beautiful names and attributes inhere.
As the Qur’an says: Lahul asmaa-ul husnaa.
Paraphrase: All good and beautiful names and attributes are his. They all, rightfully and legitimately and in the truest and fullest sense, belong to him.
Those good things are the common basis which should pull us together and unite us. And they do. But all too many of us, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, have trained and conditioned ourselves for too long to focus and obsess on all that is NOT common among us. On all that divides and separates us.
You Can’t Be Everything to Everybody
But there is a case for that too. There are areas of principle on which Islam – and Muslims – cannot afford to compromise.
Not due to rigidity or stubbornness, but because those are the lines that demarcate identities and determine destinies: for individuals; groups; nations; cultures; societies; as well as for what people call “religions.”
You compromise on those, and then you are no longer you. You become something else. You compromise your identity. You lose your soul.
You then become like that proverbial crow that tried to walk like a swan and ended up forgetting his own natural gait.
They say it most beautifully in India’s two beautiful languages Urdu and Hindi: Kawwa hans ke chaal chala.
Paraphrase: How a crow that tries to imitate the walk of a swan.
Or you become what they say in Urdu and Hindi: Choon choon ka murabba.
Paraphrase: A hotchpotch – totally without character or identity; everything to everyone.
Fixed Parameters Critical to
Successful Life on Earth
Life is fluidity and flexibility. Rigidity and rockiness are qualities of death and, well, rocklike states and objects. But the great paradox of life is that it is a happy confluence of both.
And the key to happy and successful living on earth is knowing where the boundaries lie. It is having a set of fixed parameters surrounded by areas of fluidity and resilience.
God sent Islam to define and delineate the boundaries of each. It came to tell and show human beings how far they could go in any particular direction without jeopardizing their or anyone else’s safety and security in this world as well as their ultimate success and well-being in the next world.
So, when those Red Zones of human safety, security and well-being, both in this and the next world, are approached, Islam sounds an alarm.
“Danger!” it warns.
“Don’t go near them!” it says.
Qur’an: Tilka hudoodullahi falaa taqrabooha!
Paraphrase: Those are boundaries set up by God, don’t go anywhere near them!
Dealing with Differences:
Agreeing to Disagree
Now then, the question is this: What do you do when two groups disagree on what is fundamentally right and wrong? When they have exhausted all their wonderful areas of commonality and arrive at a dead end?
Where do they go when they come to a point on their great big road to commonality where a huge sign says, “Road Closed”?
Like, for example, the question of the “worship” of one God vs. devotion to multiple gods.
Islam has the answer for that one too. Islam says take what is common and build on it and leave what is problematic to revisit another day.
Hear the Qur’an say it in its own words.
Qur’an: Al-laa na’buda illallah, wa laa nushrika bihi shai-aa.
Paraphrase: Let us make God the basis of our agreement such that we shall worship none but him, and we shall associate none as partner or joint-God with him, and that we shall not handover the role of master of this and the next world to anyone but God Almighty.
Not only that, what about who controls whom and who decides the destinies of whom in this world itself? To whom do we hand over this world and its rights, powers and privileges?
Let the Qur’an answer that question.
Qur’an: Wa laa yattakhiza ba’dunaa ba’dan arbaabam min doonullah.
Paraphrase: Let us agree that we won’t claim rights and powers over each other that belong only to God; that we will not become the overlords, worldly masters and Shogans of one another in this life.
If we can’t agree on any of this, let us then, for the time being at least, agree to disagree and leave each other alone.
Qur’an: Lakum deenukum wa liya deen.
Paraphrase: You go your way and I shall go mine.
Dear Islam: How Beautiful You Are!
Islam, thy name is compromise – where compromise leads to goodness and truth.
Islam is all compromise where compromise opens the door to greater justice, compassion and equality for all.
Islam is all accommodation where accommodation makes possible the building of a better and more peaceful world for all.
Islam is all negotiation where negotiation helps people to set aside their prejudices and hate and phobias and take a more honest and objective look at the truth that came to them in the form of the Qur’an and Islam.
Islam is all peace where peace enhances human rights, dignities, liberties, freedoms and opportunities for all – regardless of race, religion, gender, tribe, territory, country or class.
Islam, how beautiful you are!
Who but God Almighty could have fashioned you?
You are so wonderful and so encompassing and embracing of all, Dear Islam, that anything truly good and genuinely beautiful in any place or culture or society in this world, we can put a flag on it and call it Islam.
And claim it as our own.
Divali or Deepavali: A Festival of Lights
A festival of light did you say? Now, wait a minute. That is us. Light is us.
Islam is all about light.
Not in some small, marginal way, but in a most fundamental, sweeping and global way.
According to the Bible, God said: Let there be light! And there was light.
Islam goes beyond that. Way, way, way beyond that.
According to the Qur’an, God Almighty not only set up the universe with the light fixtures of the sun, the moon and the stars, but much more than that, God Almighty himself is the light of the heavens and earth, the Qur’an declares.
Allahu noorus-samaawaati wal ard, says the Qur’an.
And then that most beautiful passage from the Qur’an – like all other passages of the Qur’an, each one of which is more beautiful than the other – which says: And then the earth would have lit up with the light of her master!
Every time I read that miraculous passage or Aayat of the Qur’an, I feel like closing my eyes and going into a trance. That is how magical it is – the notion of divine radiance and light suddenly sweeping and filling the earth.
Here are the words of the Qur’an. Close your eyes and recite them as often as you can and see if you feel anything.
Wa ashraqatil ardu bi-noori rabbiha.
Triumph of Light over Darkness
So, when you want to talk about a celebration of light, then you are talking to the right crowd. I mean the Muslims of course. The Muslims, as usual, may be somewhat clueless about it, but that is what Islam is all about. It is about light.
When you want to talk about the triumph of light over darkness, that is us too, because that is what God does.
And that is what God’s book came into this world to do. And that is what God’s last and final messenger and prophet came into this world to do. Pull people from all kinds of darkness into divine light.
In the words of the Qur’an: Yukhrijuhum minaz zulumaati ilan noor.
So, let the Hindus of India and the world know that they are not alone in celebrating the victory of light over darkness; of knowledge over ignorance; of enlightenment over superstition; and of good over evil.
The Muslims are with them. And Islam is with them.
True Enlightenment Means
Worship No One but God
But there is one thing Muslims will not do, and Islam does not permit. And that is worship anyone or anything but God Almighty – the maker and master of all things.
Not Sri Rama.
Not Sri Bharata.
Not even Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
Nor, can, do or shall they worship the lovely lands on which they were born, whether it is India or Arabia.
Muslims don’t and cannot worship anyone born of a mother or of a father. For, true enlightenment means the realization that none deserves to be worshipped but God.
For, God Almighty is the only one who is worthy of all worship and adoration. And he has neither a father nor a mother. Nor does he have offspring or a family.
As the Qur’an puts it: Lam yalid wa lam yoolad.
Paraphrase: He neither begets, nor is he begotten.
As a result: Laisa ka-mkithlihee shaiyi’.
Paraphrase: He resembles nothing; nothing resembles him.
Allahu Akbar! How clear God’s word is. And how simple, elegant and clear this Qur’an is.
And how much in need of clarity humanity is at all times and in all places.
As a result, those who believe in one true God cannot worship, not just humans, but also any other creation of God such as animals or trees or anything else.
“Me Too!” or “We Too!” Never Had It So Good!
And yet the concept of “Me Too!” or rather “We Too!” never had it so good. That means any thing good that exists anywhere around the world, Islam has – and Muslims should have – no problem or hesitation in declaring an instant affinity with it.
Examined deeply and historically, chances are these are all things that go back directly to Islam. Islam either as it was finalized and perfected at the hands of God’s last prophet and messenger Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
Or Islam as was sent down by God through all his other prophets (May God Bless Them All!) from the beginning of human life on earth, regardless of whether those prophets are named – as many of them are in the Qur’an – or not, as we have not been made privy to the names and identities of many others of them.
Allahu Akbar! What a system this Islam! How universal and how inclusive it is! And how open the borders of God’s blessings are that no one with anything good in or about them is excluded!
Qur’an: Wa man-ya’mal mithqaala dharratin khairany yarahoo.
Paraphrase: Even an atom’s weight of good anyone does shall not be lost.
Mind you this is language – on our earth – from 1400 years ago: an atom and atom’s weight or worth? What is this Qur’an if not a standing, running miracle?
Filial Duty (to Parents) Is Us!
So, you tell us about Sri Rama’s prodigious filial duty to his parents, we are ready to cry out: Me Too! We Too! We are ready to point out and claim and argue that it goes right to the very heart of Islam.
And everyone everywhere knows about Islam’s family values, whether it is duty to parents or love of spouse and children.
Ram’s love and regard for his brother? Hey, that is what Islam is all about: loving your family, both immediate and extended, and being kind and generous to them in every way you can.
Of course all this within the parameters of Halaal and Haraam – right and wrong.
I wish I had the time to tell you about all the wonderful things the Qur’an says about duty to parents and relatives, but I am afraid I don’t.
Marital Bliss and Brotherly Love:
That Is Us Too
And then Sita’s love and regard for her husband and vice versa? That is Islam too.
How I wish I had the time to go into the details of what Islam says how a husband and wife should treat each other. But I am afraid I don’t.
But do allow me to cite a small part of a saying of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, that simply says it all, and in the fewest words – no more than three words in fact.
Hadith: Khairukum, khairukum li-ahlihi.
Paraphrase: The best of you, as human beings and as Muslims and as everything else, are those who are best to your families.
That is the bottomline, ladies and gentlemen, that is the bottomline. It is does not get simpler or clearer or more powerful or more complete or more comprehensive than that.
You know, in fact, if you can say it better, try and say it, and share it with me. That is what I am going to call these things from now on. I am going to call them The Pasha Challenge.
So take The Pasha Challenge and try to improve “Khairukum, khairukum li-ahlihi.” Try to capture the essence and dynamics of family devotion and duty in three or fewer stronger or equally powerful words.
I am not saying you cannot. But I will be vastly surprised if you did. And I will be most certainly interested in knowing it.
So, let the Hindus of the world know that next time when they celebrate Rama’s filial duty (a son’s duty to parents) or Sita’s and Rama’s devotion to one another as husband and wife, they are not alone. The hearts and minds of the one-plus billion Muslims of the world are with them.
Even though the Muslims themselves may be somewhat clueless about some of these connections.
Once again, of course, all this, like everything else, within the clear boundaries and parameters of of Halaal (what is lawful) and Haraam (what is not lawful) as defined by God in the Qur’an and by the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, in the Hadith.
As for the devotion and brotherly love that Ram and Bharat had for each other, well, what can I say? That is what Islam came into this world to teach. Not just to blood-brothers and consanguine relatives but to all believers – and to all of humanity.
Koonoo ‘ibaadallahi ikhwaana, is a quintessential Islamic cry in this regard.
Paraphrase: All of you, O Allah’s slaves, become and behave like brothers and sisters.
Fa-asbahtum bini’matihi ikhwaana, is the Qur’an.
Paraphrase: And then, believers, due to the blessings and bounties God Almighty showered upon you, you became a tight-knit brotherhood.
Hanuman Is Ours Too
Earlier I used the expression Hanumanji. No cause for alarm. I am not starting a new Shuddhi movement and asking Muslims to convert to Hinduism. I am just trying to point out the obvious.
First of all, the suffix “ji” is nothing more than a term of respect and affection. It is an endearing way of referring to someone. And what could endear Hanuman to any fair-minded person more than his risking his life to save the life, liberty and honor of an innocent woman?
No, we do not worship Hanuman. Not because we do not like him, but because we cannot worship anything or anyone other than God Almighty. So, whether it is a monkey like Hunuman or a man like Ram, our hands are tied, and our commitments are spoken for. We worship none, and we adore none, save the maker and master of all things living and non-living, God Almighty.
But we have no trouble with the basic concept of non-human beings and presences in the universe being mobilized in the service of humanity. If Hanuman was Ram’s man in Sri Lanka, Hudhud was our emissary to the Queen of Shiba – was it?
Read the Qur’an and you will know.
And if Hanuman’s flying monkeys helped defeat Ravan’s army of demons, we have our own air force of little birds that destroyed the human-demons of Abraha who came to destroy the Ka’abah.
Again, read the Qur’an and you will know.
Animals Are People Too, Says the Qur’an
And as for birds and animals of all kind, including all the Hanumans and Hudhuds of this world, we have a position that we would like the rest of the world to consider. They are all people and nations just like us.
Umamun amthaalikum, is how the Qur’an puts it.
Paraphrase: Nations and societies just like you.
Actually read the larger passage. For that specifically covers monkeys as well as birds.
Here goes: Wa maa min daabbatin fil ardi wa laa taa-irin yateeru bi-janaahaihi, illa umamun amthaalukum!
Paraphrase: There isn’t an animal on earth, or a bird that takes flight on its two wings, but the fact is that they are all nations, societies and peoples like you.
It sounds like a cliché and almost seems to lose its meaning, but I don’t know what else to say other than to exclaim, I have never heard the intricate dynamics of life on earth described in clearer, stronger or starker terms.
If humanity had paid heed to this simple Islamic doctrine of the place of non-human life on earth, so many thousands of the most wonderful animal species – all those animal nations, societies and peoples of the world – would not have become extinct, much of which was the result of the contempt in which we held animal life and the resultant depredations for sport or greed that we visited upon them.
Thanksgiving and Christmas:
Hold Your Horses, Muslims Are Coming!
I am not going to elaborate much on either the American Festival of Thanksgiving or the Christian Festival of Christmas, except to point out one or two things quickly. I will, however, revisit these topics at some point in future, should God Almighty enable me to do so.
Simply put, Thanksgiving is us, as giving thanks to God Almighty is our first, middle and last name.
Alhamdulillah – Praise the Lord and Thank You Lord! – could be the name of every Muslim in the world. Because Muslims say Alhamdulillah all the time. They say it when they get something. And they also say it when things don’t seem to go right.
They start their “prayers” or “worship” – at least 17 times a day – with it.
They sneeze, they say it, which to my mind beats “Excuse Me!” hands down, even though “Excuse Me!” is quite functional from a strictly social point of view.
But get deeper into the why and what of sneezing and you will begin to see why Alhamdulillah begins to claim priority.
If Alhamdulillah is the beginning, the end of the Muslim story is also Alhamdulillah.
And so is the middle. As a Muslim how he or she is doing and they will say the magic word – or two words: Alhamdulillah.
As for celebrating the birth of Jesus, son of Mary, whom we refer to as Hazrat Maryam, Alaihassalaam, don’t even start.
Jesus is our man and Mary is our lady. Allah bless them both.
Jesus is not a swear word to us. We love Mary and Jesus more than we love, honor and cherish our own parents, whom, of course, we love, honor and cherish most mightily….
I don’t know – I am not saying there isn’t – if there is a book that is at least 1400 years old, like the Qur’an is, that talks about Jesus and Mary with the same tenderness, love and respect that the Qur’an does.
Muslims and Non-Muslims
Must Relearn Islam Together?
But I will, Inshallah, address and re-address these topics as time and resources permit.
In the meantime, let me sum up again what I was trying to say in the beginning:
Christians, Hindus and Americans!
If only you had taken a minute to understand Islam for what Islam really is,
away from your prejudices, phobias and politics,
and independent of the appearance that Muslims have given Islam,
you would have seen that Islam and Muslims are with you, whether it is Divali, Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Not in every thing you may do, but strictly within the parameters of the lawful and the unlawful as ordained by God. Within the bounds of what the Qur’an calls Halaal and Haraam.
And then who will tell the Muslims that maybe they should spend a bit more time relearning their Islam too and trying to understand the world in which they live. Because those who do not understand the world can neither understand Islam nor hope to practice it in a true and successful sense.
© 2007 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.