Islam: A Call to Life Not a Call to Death

A Khutba (Sermon) delivered by Dr. Maher Hathout on Friday, July 22, 2005 at the Islamic Center of Southern California ..

7/29/2005 - Religious Political - Article Ref: IC0507-2755
By: Dr. Maher Hathout

"O, our Lord, make us surrender ourselves unto Thee, and make out of our offspring a community that will surrender itself unto Thee, and show us our ways of worship, and accept our repentance: for verily, Thou art the Acceptor of repentance, the Dispenser of Grace. O, our Lord! Raise up from the midst of our offspring a messenger from among themselves, who shall convey unto them Thy messages, and impart unto them revelation as well as wisdom, and cause them to grow in purity: for verily, Thou above art almighty, truly wise." (Quran 2:128:129)

These verses, in the form of a supplication, became our prayer since the days of Prophet Abraham, both for ourselves and our generations to come. By uttering these words, the worshipper seeks that combination of faith, worship, vision, knowledge, wisdom and purity that is an elixir of guidance and success in this life as well as through the eternal life of the hereafter. Our need for this supplication and for this awareness was accentuated by the recent flurry of horrific terrorist attacks which have claimed over 130 lives in less than a month.

Two weeks ago, we saw how a group of young Muslims swallowed the bait of fiery rhetoric riddled with out-of-context verses spun in order to serve a nihilistic ideology of anger and despair offered to them disguised as Islam. Within a short period of time, these young men fell prey to the hate-filled dogma and were transformed into beings capable of blowing themselves up, taking with them innocent lives whom God has also blown in them from his spirit and "conferred dignity on the children of Adam" (Quran 7:70) which cuts through barriers of race, gender and creed. 

As they commit the crime against themselves and others, they drag with them the reputation and image of the religion they claim to venerate. They not only violate its basic teachings, but disfigure the message of "mercy to the worlds" into a justification for cruel, cowardly and repulsive behavior. In this way, hearts that were supposed to be opened to the word of God got closed and minds that were hoped to have been opened to the light of guidance are shut.

In the face of such a stunning challenge, experts and commentators continue to discuss whether this is a British, American, global, political or security problem. While they may all be correct, from our prospective as Muslims, we believe that this is our very own challenge to tackle. We are now talking about our future generation, a generation that has proven in every way how bright, distinguished and capable it is. If we lose one, just one of them, to this counterfeit Islam it is one too many.

It is our responsibility -- young and old, parents, sons and daughters, teachers and students, leaders and activists -- to rally together to plug the holes through which the distorting predators pass through and push the substances that kill brain cells and fill hearts with despair and hate.

There are certain basic principles of Islam which need to be highlighted, emphasized and shared especially now:

1. This religion of ours is based on thinking. Those who do not think are not addressed by Islam. The message is "Li qawmin yaaqiloon," which means "to people who think". The signs of God are revealed to those who use their brains to reflect, ponder, analyze and contemplate, which are all characteristics mentioned in the Quran as a prerequisite of a believer. Those who cancel their intellect or relegate their thought process to others are reduced to be like animals or even worse. It is in the absence of thinking that people can be misled, blinded by emotions, hypnotized by false prophets, brain washed, tunnel-visioned and deprived of wisdom. Free thinking is an Islamic duty.

2. In this religion of ours, each person is individually responsible, accountable and answerable to God. We are born individually, we die individually and we will be called for the Day of Judgment individually. Each is accountable up to his or her own individual capacity to understand. This ought to protect against mob reactions, herd mentality, and cultist belonging or blind following. No group, party, association or tribe will protect or speak for a person on that Day except for an individualÕs intention and deeds.

3. Our religion is a call to life and success, not a call to death and despair. The Quran says: "O you who have obtained to faith, respond to the call of God, the Apostle, whenever he calls you unto what will give you life..." (Quran 8:24). Five times a day, the call to prayer calls individuals to success "Hai Al Al Falah", which means "come to success". Our young people are called to life, a gift from God that is to be cherished and appreciated, not trashed and trivialized. 

In this life they should reach the peak of success. They should master the skills, power of knowledge and enlightenment. They should be qualified to enjoin what is right and forbid what is bad, evil and unjust, in a constructive guided way that actually and realistically may make a difference. We are people who love life but are not intoxicated by it. During our life on this planet, we pursue happiness and we vie with others to capture goodness as the Quran teaches. We seek life, not death, but if death comes, we hopefully accept it as the will of God who designed the end of the worldly phase. We practice life, we promote it and celebrate it. 

We don't go out seeking to die, and needless to say, we don't deliberately bring death on ourselves or on others who are innocent. Martyrdom is a concept that has been distorted to mean nihilism ought to be reclaimed to its truth. A martyr dies against his or her own will. Dies because death has been either an accident or a crime committed against the martyred, who could not avoid it, or maneuver away from it. Instead, you should maneuver to a safe position, or to join another protecting group.

"...for whoever on that day (when the enemy attacks) turns his back on them - unless it be in a better maneuver or in an endeavor to join another troop..." (Quran 8:16)

The Prophet, peace be upon him, taught his followers not to wish for facing the enemy in confrontation but if confrontation is inevitable, they ought to be steadfast. He also said, "Never wish to die!" It is sad to see the gurus of hate programming young people to blow themselves up while the gurus remain in their homes safe and sound.

4. In our religion, we are taught and sensitized to verify, examine and question the statements that we receive. The Quran even invites us to think and reflect upon its own statements. When information is passed to us, we are to pass them through filters of reason, public and private benefit, compliance with the word of Allah, productivity and credibility before we accept them and, needless to say, before we act upon them.

"Oh you who have attained to faith, if anyone gives you news, ascertain the truth, lest you harm people unwittingly, and afterwards repent for what you have done." (Quran 49:6)

Moreover, the Quran warns, "Now there is the kind of man whose speech about this world's life may dazzle thee, and he calls God to witness about what is in his heart; yet he is the most contentious of enemies" (Quran 2:204). This verse is a lesson to us all but particularly to our youth: never let the dazzling rhetoric of a good orator cloud your good judgment or swerve you away from reason and rationality.

5. We should never forget the main item of our religion, what I called before the "highway" of Islam, not the "side streets". The main signs are the oneness of God, mercy, justice, human dignity, freedom, and good manners. In a nutshell, the supremacy of Allah, and the goodness of life.

Of these, we have to notice the emphasis on mercy - the most mentioned word in the Quran and the one that has been described correctly and eloquently by one of the scholars as the mission statement of the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh). It is obvious that these acts we are referring to truth and justice, which we are ordered to uphold even if the outcome will be against ourselves or the people closest to us. Justice cannot be violated even if the adversary is unfair and hostile. Thus, we stand for justice for the friend and the foe alike.

"O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye
distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do." (Quran 4:135)

"O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do." (Quran 5:8)

In summary, what we need is the combination that Abraham and Ismail asked God for. The surrendering to God alone, the practice of worship, the forgiveness and acceptance from God, the Revelation, the knowledge, the wisdom and the purity.

The points we need to share across generations are:

  1. Thinking is a prerequisite for Islam.

  2. Individuals are responsible and accountable for their actions.

  3. Islam is a call to life and success, not to death and despair.

  4. Muslims have a duty to verify and question, not be dazzled by words and follow blindly.

  5. Our focus is the highway of Islam, marked by the supremacy of good, compassion, justice, and human dignity.


Dr. Maher Hathout is the Senior Advisor for Muslim Public Affairs Council


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