These days we hear a lot about the need to be “Critical” as part of an effort to “reform” a community (whether it is the Muslim community, the American community, the human community.)

Being in academia, I hear a lot about “critique” and being “critical.”    My own understanding of “critique” is largely inspired by the writings of the late and great Edward Said.  For Said, Criticism had to be “life-enhancing”, liberatory, and opposed to tyranny:

Criticism must think of itself as life-enhancing and constitutively opposed to every form of tyranny, domination, and abuse;
Its social goals are noncoercive knowledge prodcued in the interests of human freedom.

Edward Said

Edward Said

Said rightly pointed out that those who engage in social criticism have an obligation to do so not with a view towards status quo, or to support the privileged, but to stand by, with, and for those who are marginalized:

“The intellectuals representations–what he or she represents and how those ideas are represented to an audience–are always tied to and ought to remain an organic part of an ongoing experience in society: of the poor, the disadvantaged, the voiceless, the unrepresented, the powerless.”

And there is a lot of good insight there.   And much that I have tried to learn from.
But what I don’t hear enough about is love.
I don’t hear enough about community.

martin-luther-king-2

For that, I have had to turn to the teachings of Dr. King, who in his letter from Birmingham Jail addressed the White Church, and stated that he was writing out of a deep disappointment as a man of the cloth, and that his disappointment was rooted not in anger, but in a love:

for there can be no great disappointment where there is also not great love.

And I think all three are vital: yes we need to be critical.
And that critique has to be rooted in a deep and abiding love, even when the critique is rooted in a disappointment with how things are now (compared to how they should be).

And community. There is a tremendous different between positioning oneself in the very midst of a community and trying to uplift all of us, and standing on some mythical cloud and pointing an accusatory finger AT the community.

In my experience, people can and do tell the difference, and they respond very different.

Lastly, it is not enough to critique.

One must be able, willing, and committed to offering a more generous, a more beautiful alternative, and work diligently and patiently to make it a reality.
May it be that all who seek to engage in social criticism and “reforming” a community do not stop at critique, but also ground themselves in love and community.

 

17 Comments

  1. Muhsin bin Ahsan

    I think you have missed the self- criticism that pave the way for social critique, and it would be built brick by brick, and its ultimate edifice will be as beutiful as love.The holy Quran upholds the point of view of self/soul-crtique through which social critique is successfully achieved.

  2. The problem with doing any criticism, uplifting or otherwise, of the Muslim community from “the very midst” of it is that fellow Muslims are the first to attack and ostracize you, meaning you do not stay in the midst very long. We are in a community that is taught from the beginning to “fear Allah” rather than “love Allah” and that it is not possible to comprehend Allah–this does not create an atmosphere conducive to criticism.

    • Deborah,

      You make an excellent point. I was actually intending to write a paper on a similar topic one day, so perhaps I will start it in my post to you.

      Muslims are taught to “fear Allah”, but that is not what the Quran actually teaches as a general rule. “Fearing Allah” is emphasized in a much more restrictive context and in only about 40 verses or so in total, such as when one is being tempted to do something wrong or when a warning of punishment is referenced. In other words, just like Christianity and Judaism, Islam teaches Muslims to “fear punishment” for wrongdoing, but not to “fear Allah” as a general rule in terms of how one relates with Allah (God) as a pious Muslim. The latter would imply that God is somehow arbitrary, whimsical or unpredictable in meting out justice. Unfortunately, every English translation of the Quran that I have ever seen is riddled with fatal translation errors, and this error is one of the big ones. I have not done the full analysis yet, but I can give you the basics of my findings so far here.

      In essence, when the Quran references fear of punishment, a completely separate triliteral root is used, “khā shīn yā”, as in verse 2:150 as one arbitrary example. This root is generally translated correctly as “fear”, since it is only common sense that we should fear God’s punishment when we are not pious. However, when the Quran is referencing the feeling or awareness that a Muslim should generally have towards God, the triliteral root “wāw qāf yā” is used instead. The main noun derived from this root is something many Muslims may already be familiar with: “taqwā”.

      The noun form of this root is, surprisingly, translated almost correctly in most English translations as “piety” or “righteousness”. However, the best translation of this word that I have ever seen is actually “God-consciousness”, since that translation captures the essence of the root word as a deep feeling of affection and transcendent awareness of God, whereas “righteousness” could merely imply someone who is just following all of the rules. “God-consciousness” also implies a constant, yearning connection with God — a connection not driven by fear, but rather by love.

      By stark contrast, it is the verb form of “taqwā” (e.g., “ittaqū”) that is the real problem in English translations. It is, I believe, the primary reason for the gross distortion of Islam as a religion where God must be “feared” at all times, when this is most certainly not the case. Just to put the scope of this mistranslation in perspective, the verb form of the word appears about 182 times in the Quran! Naturally, this amount of repetition would send a very strong and unequivocal message of “fear God” if this were the correct translation describing how one should relate with God as a general rule. And that is the same false message that a lot of Muslim families pass onto their children, as you so correctly pointed out.

      Can you imagine how the Quran would read if it were translated more correctly? How would it read if the command “fear God” was replaced and, in its place, the same beautiful message was repeated over and over again, 182 times: “Be conscious of God”? That message would now become a stunning epiphany of love – not to mention of simplicity and common sense, since it would describe the exact antithesis of “Kufr”, which is defined in the Quran as the constant denial of God.

      Can you also imagine the correctly translated Quran finally being consistent with the true nature of God, as repeated over and over in the Quran: God as the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, etc., and never, ever God as fearfully arbitrary or unfair in justice? Those who are truly God-conscious should never have to “fear God” in their pious relationship with God. That would be a logical absurdity and a complete contradiction of the rest of the Quran.

      The fundamental message of the entire Quran is thereby transformed to the core for all those who have been relying on incorrect translations to understand this overwhelming message of love – never fear – in one’s pious relationship with God. This revelation affected me so much so that it literally sent shivers down my spine when I first discovered its truth by researching the original Arabic. It was that powerful. It finally reconciled with exactly how I already viewed my relationship with God. I hope that it has a similar effect on you.

    • Omid Safi

      Actually there is a very rich tradition of love of God in Islam, perhaps most clearly exemplified in the mystical tradition of Sufism. As for the “fear” of God, couple of points should be kept in mind. First, it is also a part of the whole Abrahamic tradition, as in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…” Second, what is often translated as “fear” of God is actually more accurately rendered “being in awe” of God.

      • I finally understood the “being in awe,” fear of separation, and be cautious, meaning of words and phrases translated as “fear” and “terror” in the Qur’an, but only after a very long and lonely search. There is no way it should be that difficult for people to get information so vital for proper understanding, especially those trying to raise children in this faith. It should be easily and readily available, especially to anyone teaching about Islam. This state of affairs is nothing short of a disaster. I was raised with the “God-consciousness” idea Chameleon_X refers to, but that went out the window after my marriage to someone born and raised in the Muslim community.

        • Deborah,

          You say, “…but only after a very long and lonely search. There is no way it should be that difficult for people to get information so vital for proper understanding, especially those trying to raise children in this faith. It should be easily and readily available, especially to anyone teaching about Islam. This state of affairs is nothing short of a disaster.”

          Oh, my, you have hit the nail right on the head with that comment. I couldn’t agree with you more. I find it utterly disgraceful that there is not a single English translation of the Quran that is not riddled with errors like this. And what could possibly be more important in a religion than how pious individuals are supposed to relate to God — via love or fear? How could so many “Muslim scholars” get that basic fact so wrong? In fact, the degree of ignorance and lack of objectivity in the Muslim scholar community is simply stunning to me. They are like sheep parroting the same age-old propaganda that they have been taught for centuries instead of questioning to see if those teachings reconcile with actual facts.

          I say this not as an opinion, but as a proven fact based on my own research and analysis over hundreds of hours. A couple of high profile cases in point are the opinions and translations of scholars with respect to the “beating” of women in verse 4:34 and “concubines” per other verses, where scholars are largely in agreement that these traditional interpretations are correct to one degree or another. I personally did my own bottom up analyses on just about every last fact on these topics, and after about 40 single-spaced pages of analysis later on EACH of these topics, the end result is that I have totally destroyed these traditional interpretations beyond any shadow of a doubt. “Beating” of women is absolutely not permitted in Islam; and, no, there are no such things as “concubines” in Islam. I have yet to see anything on the Internet even approaching the level of analysis that I have done, and I don’t even consider myself a Muslim scholar. How can that be?

          I plan to publish these two papers on a website, and the next one I am working on will be a similar paper (insha’allah) destroying the argument that Islam in any way tolerates, let alone promotes, unjust violence of any sort. But once again, this begs the obvious question: Why the hell did I have to go through all of this myself when I have almost no time available to do this? Are Muslim scholars that incompetent that they could not do this analysis themselves? It frankly shocks me every time I am reminded of it.

          You also say in another post, “People outside the religion are not afraid of the ideology, but of Muslims who are misusing it.”

          I see where you are coming from and I partly agree. However, I think you are giving non-Muslims way to much credit to be able to discern the difference between the religion itself and abuses of it. Based on what both of us have already stated and agreed upon, how can you assert that non-Muslims are only scared of how Muslims are “misusing” their religion when even “Muslim scholars” don’t know what Islam actually says about some very high profile topics? If Muslim scholars are getting it wrong, and Muslims themselves are getting it wrong as a result, then how can non-Muslims possibly see through all the smoke of propaganda to discern who is truly “misusing” Islam and who is actually following it? It is a vicious cycle, which is why I feel compelled to write such topical papers by myself to try to stop it, at least in my little world. Whether you like the word or not, Islamophobia is very real, since many non-Muslims do indeed have a very strong and irrational fear of what they THINK Islam teaches.

          • You say, “No one would have any fear of an accurate representation of Islam–there would be no reason for it.”

            Oh, how I wish this were true. There are many who do indeed fear an accurate portrayal of Islam, and I am not just talking about the obvious personal motives of people who have a different faith, since that is just a very small part of it. There is a massive amount of money being spent to distort Islam deliberately, and a lot of this fear mongering is driven by a desire to demonize Muslims and Islam as a legitimate enemy. There is a huge profit motive behind this from the proverbial “military-industrial complex”. There is also a huge “antiterrorism” budget protection motive to justify wildly excessive budgets to fight an almost nonexistent problem that no politician would dare suggest abating or reallocating to much more valuable projects. And finally, there is a huge amount of pro-Zionist money behind the demonization of Islam to allow Israel’s continued persecution and oppression of Muslims in apartheid Israel and the Palestinian territories. The latter is documented quite extensively in the independent “Fear, Inc.” report that I cited in other posts, which was done by a well respected non-Muslim think tank in D.C., the Center for American Progress. For example, Robert Spencer has been paid compensation of about $130k per year by one of these well known pro-Zionist groups. The money behind deliberate propaganda does not lie.

  3. I agree with Deborah. The Achilles Heel of Islam is self criticism. Islam is locked into its own history and any criticism from inside the community is most often viewed with lack of belief. Criticism from outside the culture is relegated to the term Islamophobia (I still have a hard time with getting my head around that term).
    Most people are scared to talk about!

    • Dear Marty,
      Islam is not a locked religion. Had that been the case more and more people wouldn’t have been accepting it esp. in the west. It is just a superficial statement like any other statement in the media against Islam. The problem lies in the fact that people start criticizing without doing a proper research. It is similar to a famous stock market joke http://www.myconfinedspace.com/2008/01/17/a-normal-day-at-the-nations-most-important-financial-institution/.
      People hear things and start making them their critical views without verifying the facts. God has stated in His Holy Book Quran Chapter 49:6 ‘O you who believe! If some transgressor brings you news (that requires taking action), verify it carefully (before you believe and act upon it), lest you harm a people in ignorance and then become regretful for what you have done.’

      When an insider criticizes, he/she goes public without first trying to clear his/her doubts from the respected scholars of Islam. It is a bound duty of scholars to help the common folk like you and me in their beliefs and doubts, if any. They will welcome but only if people turned towards them. Please don’t think that a person born as Muslim is aware of Islam in its full glory. Yes, he/she will be knowing the basic tenets of Islam. But majority of Muslims today, is very much unaware of the real soul of Islam. Same is the case with outsiders.

      • Quote ‘Muslims study their history in order to adjust their present course in conformity with its teachings about God’s providential acts. To become a Muslim is to submit to its history and be formed by it’
        The book is called ISLAM and the Muslim community written by F. Denny.
        Furthermore, I am not a gifted speaker and neither did I go to university. However I have the God given ability to reason. God says in Isaiah 1:18
        Come now, let us reason together, says The Lord:
        though your sins be as scarlet,
        they shall be white as snow;
        though they are red like crimson,
        they shall become like wool.
        Without this ability to reason we could not enter into a relationship with God and as many people enter Islam in the west many leave in the east.

        • You have quoted from Isaiah 1:18, that is what we Muslims do. We quote from our Book namely Al-Quran revealed in the past and also follow the teachings of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). And this is what Mr. Denny calls history. By quoting from your book, shall I also judge you as one who lives in the era of Jesus(peace be upon him)? Of course not.

  4. Rayznack,

    Since the other article (5 dumbest things said about the Boston Marathon Explosions) has been closed to further comments, I am replying to you in this article thread instead. I don’t understand how comments could be closed within days of the article going up, nor how entire articles (e.g., the open letter to Asra Nomani article) can just mysteriously disappear without explanation. I have come to the conclusion that my short stint on this website is coming to an end, since I can no longer trust that it will work appropriately going forward. At any rate, below are my comments in response to your three posts:

    POST #1

    You ask, “What statements, by them, are you basing this on [with respect to the motive of the Boston bombers]?”, along with a related rebuttal.

    You are conflating wrongful political motive with vulgarized universal justification. Please read my other posts for further explanation. The motive was political, as the surviving terrorist clearly admitted in his hospital interview, and the justification was based on the universal (but completely vulgarized) principle of self-defense, a principle that is not at all unique to Islam. Even if you analyze those YouTube videos, you will generally find that they pump up viewers with the same universal motive of “self-defense” combined with a twisted political affiliation to other Muslims and a hate of innocent individuals simply because of their political citizenship or affiliation. When they do throw in some quotes from the Quran as fodder for “justification” of the political motive, it is invariably based on junk translations and interpretations invoking the same arguments of “self-defense” or phony kill orders to murder that clearly don’t exist.

    As for Asra’s claims against Islamic doctrine that it supposedly promotes unjust violence, I am referring to her other writing, not so much to this one article. You really should read up on that. The Loonwatch web site, among others, has documented these citations.

    You say, “Anyway. Is the taking of slaves, booty, retaliation, expulsion, etc violate Just War theory? I’m pretty sure attacking non-Muslims to make them feel subdued certainly does.”

    Enslavement is categorically forbidden by Islam. You are referring to the propaganda around “concubines”, often even promoted by so called “Muslim scholars” throughout history, which is a totally fallacious interpretation of Islam. There are no concubines in Islam, only captives and refugees of war. Those captives and refugees, when under the care and responsibility of Muslim families, are referred to very idiomatically as “those whom your right hands possess”, where “right hands” implies the just and righteous hands of the Muslim community as a whole. Institutionalized cages (aka “prisons”) for captives is a more modern invention. Captives, as is the case under Just War theory, must be freed after a ransom is taken or, at the latest, once war has come to an end, per verse 47:4. There is no ambiguity in this verse whatsoever.

    As for compensation (aka “booty”) being taken from the aggressors in war when that war is fought for a just cause, that is also in full compliance with Just War Theory.

    As for “retaliation”, this is most definitely in compliance with Just War Theory, since it implies a response to aggression. However, per the Quran and Just War Theory, such retaliation must only be against those who attacked you (i.e., not against innocents), per verse 2:190, 2:193, among others; and only in proportion to the degree you were attacked, per verse 2:194 (i.e., not like the U.S., which has slaughtered innocents by the hundreds of thousands in its bloodbath of retaliation for 3,000 killed on 9/11). Are you some pacifist dimwit angling to win the next Darwin Award for not believing in fair, constrained, and fully justified retaliation against those who attacked you?

    As for “expulsion”, this too is in accordance with Just War Theory when you are expelling aggressors who unjustly expelled you from your homes or made every attempt to do as a community/tribe when they had the power and chance to do so. This is codified in the Quran, for example, in verse 2:191: “expel them from wherever they have expelled you.” There is no command in the Quran to support expulsion of others from the larger community just because of their faith or some other unjust cause. If you believe that such a command in the Quran exists, then produce it. The same applies to reckless attacks against others just to “subdue them” – such a verse does not exist, and, no, that is not what verse 9:29 says. Fighting to subdue is only permitted when someone is fighting you or not respecting basic law and order — again, just common sense policy that all modern states follow.

    You say, “And last, but certainly my favorite: How about the command to kill enemies of Allah? Certainly that’s a scriptural loophole to justify killing almost anyone you could fly a 747 through.”

    Now isn’t it funny how you can’t recall that kill order from the Quran, even though it is your “favorite”. Aren’t “favorites” something you just don’t forget? When you actually find that dark and nefarious kill order to back up your claim, then please let me know. As I emphasized in my last post, you are a propaganda pawn and you don’t even realize it.

    POST #2

    Now, moving on to your next post, you say, “Particularly since most of these so-called references were lifted from another writer Anders appropriated in his manifesto.”

    So if these references were “lifted”, how does that make the words or the message of hate any different from those of the terrorist Spencer? No one is making the argument that Breivik actually corresponded directly with Spencer any more than anyone is arguing that so many other terrorists corresponded directly with their inspirational leaders. However, we do know that Breivik was an avid reader of Spencer’s hate site, and there is strong evidence that Breivik corresponded with Spencer’s partner in hate, Pamela Geller. A Norwegian closely fitting Breivik’s profile even warned Geller that he was “stockpiling weapons” before the terrorist attack. Geller and Spencer did not even inform the authorities of this terrorist threat in spite of how much they are supposedly against terrorism! Even more shocking, they actually tried to edit and then delete this evidence of their complicity in a mass terrorist act, but the Internet cache history lingered on, and they failed. But will the FBI investigate them for this direct connection to Breivik? Of course not, since they are the #1 “advertising agency” for the FBI to help drum up more fear against Islam and Muslims, thereby helping justify the FBI’s bloated “counterterrorism” (aka anti-Muslim) budget.

    You also say, “Osama bin Laden’s ratio of citing a Koranic/hadith/Islamic scholar per word compared with Breivik”.

    Actually, Bin Laden’s main argument and overwhelming motive for the 9/11 attacks was due to the foreign policies of the U.S. and Israel: i.e., their invasion and occupation of Muslim-majority lands. In his short one page “Declaration of War on America” in the late 1990s, he cited the continued “occupation” of Muslim lands no less than SIX times as his motive. Bin Laden even explicitly stated that he would have still attacked the U.S. even if he retained the pagan religion of his ancient Arab ancestors! You really need to watch some Scott Atran videos on this topic. Atran is a world-renowned expert on terrorism who has done extensive research in the field and academically, and he has even negotiated with terrorists. He also happens to be an atheist, not Muslim.

    The idea that religion motivated bin Laden is a joke. The one verse of aggression that he did bother to quote in his Declaration was verse 9:5, the so called “verse of the sword”. This verse can only possibly apply to pagan idolaters, NOT to the Christians or Jews he was declaring war against, and it only applied in the historical context when idolaters broke their treaty of mutual protection with Muslims and, instead, attacked the Muslims FIRST, as the Quran states. Once again, even in its historical context, it is in full compliance with Just War Theory. Bin Laden knew that his quote of this verse was a junk interpretation, especially since he could read the Arabic Quran and when he bankrolled some phony mullah to rubberstamp his justification. This was nothing more than a political ploy to rally the uneducated Muslim masses, as Scott Atran and others affirm. In short, bin Laden’s motive was political, not religious, just like nearly every terrorist in history.

    You ask, “And you seem to shy away from what these citations of Spencer actually consisted of. Were they exhortations to violence and militancy like the Koran verses OBL cited?”

    Spencer desperately needs to maintain a veneer of legitimacy and moral high ground in his hate-filled “fight against Islamic supremacism”. However, even that does not stop him and his minions from supporting mass ethnic cleansing and even genocide against Muslims. You really need to spend some time on his personal website, Jihadwatch, to sample some of the vomit for yourself. Moreover, there are extensive articles on Loonwatch and Spencerwatch providing all the citations that you could ever need, many of which he has tried to hide after the fact. Also, try to argue with his minions against their hate or dare to challenge Spencer to a credibly informed debate, and you will be blocked from his site, whereas those who advocate mass genocide over and over again are never censored or even reported to the FBI. They are egged on even more.

    You really need a lesson in how propaganda hate campaigns work. Promoting ethnic cleansing and genocide directly and by proxy does not compare to anything Noam Chomsky has written about. Spencer and his hate crew teach that Islam and any Muslims practicing true Islam are an existential threat against Americans that cannot be negotiated with, cannot be assimilated into mainstream society, and can never be tolerated or appeased because of some mysterious, bloodthirsty “Islamic” desire to kill everyone who is not Muslim. So, you tell me, how are Spencer and company not responsible for the terrorists and thugs that they create? Their hate zombies are led by the nose to the inexorable conclusion that the only possible logical response to this existential threat must be illegal, violent via hate crimes against “Islamic supremacism”, especially given that all democratic constitutions protect Muslims and their practice of Islam. The key difference between Spencer and Chomsky is that Spencer is advocating illegal, unconstitutional and mob efforts, whereas Chomsky advocates fighting within the boundaries of the existing constitution and democratic system. A big difference indeed.

    You say, “The vast majority of Europe’s terrorism deaths occur in Russia (>90% for most years). When you want to be taken seriously you can collate the data to provide a quantitative breakdown of attacks in that country.”

    You don’t know much about statistics, do you? First, you pulled that 90% figure from your backside, and then you use that as a rebuttal against the most verifiable and reliable data set on European terrorism that exists on the planet? What a joke. I did not hide any data from the data set, as you imply – everything was included. It doesn’t matter if non-EU countries were not part of the study, since 4% of all EU citizens (excluding Turkey) are Muslim. There are about 20 million Muslims in the EU, which is a massive statistical population to draw conclusions from about Muslims in general vs. non-Muslims in comparable modern societies. What this data tells us is that non-Muslims in the EU are 10 times more likely to commit terrorism than Muslims (4% of the population is Muslim / 0.4% of terrorist attacks = 10X). Did that register in your brain? 10 TIMES. As for Russia, you are bringing in war zone data related to conflicts in Chechnya and elsewhere. Sorry, but criminal acts done as part of politically-motivated wars (remember when that used to be called “guerilla warfare”) do not count as terrorism. If they did, then the U.S. would be guilty thousands of time over for such “terrorism”.

    POST #3

    Now on to your third post, where you say, “Why don’t you bother reading polls showing overwhelming support for”… blah, blah, blah.

    So where’s the beef in your claim? What polls might those be? These are just more fact-free claims pulled from your backside. Moreover, what the hell does primitive cultural baggage derived from oppressive dictatorships or ancient practices have to do with Islam? Shall I impugn Christianity based on the actions of some primitive Christian communities as well? That could take weeks given the long and bloody history of Christian and western society.

    You also claim, “Fiction writer, John Esposito, can cook the numbers in his books…”

    I’m sorry to pop your delusion, but the poll you are referring to was conducted by Gallup with hundreds of staff, NOT by John Esposito. He only presented the data in a book, which Gallup stands behind. He did not participate in any data collection or tabulation, as Gallup notes. I already destroyed your argument against this unprecedented and highly reliable worldwide poll of Muslims before you even replied to me, since you are just parroting the same hackneyed arguments that other people wrote. Check out my review of this book on Amazon for my full rebuttal.

    Finally, you offensively stated, “Sure Goebbels. Whatever you need to tell yourself.”

    I do enjoy it when I hear that predictable ad hominem squeal of defeat. Ad hominem is always the last refuge of those who have nothing intelligent left to say.

  5. Chameleon_X
    The deliberate propaganda against Islam you speak of was a speck on the horizon when I first became involved in the Muslim community, but it gradually faded and disappeared altogether behind the wall of confusion and negativity put up by devout Muslims whose families had been Muslim for generations. Compared to their misinformation the people you refer to were just whistling “Dixie.” By devout I mean they prayed every day on time, (even when traveling, although that is not required), they strictly observed the rules regarding diet, fasting, charity, and interest, as well as going on pilgrimage, not once but multiple times and without staying in any expensive accommodation, etc., etc. It is remarkable that so much money is spent to invent negative propaganda when the Muslims themselves provide such an abundant supply free of charge.

  6. There was a time I thought Jesus, upon him be peace, was more about love than Muhammad, upon him be peace. I disagree with my former opinion now. In reality, we don’t have much of Jesus’ words and actions to emulate. And often the beautiful words on Love are deeply moving, but they are hard to follow for many of us. We end up thinking only someone like Jesus could turn the other cheek.

    Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

    The Prophet, pbuh, taught us so many ways to do this. There are many sayings about kindness to animals, planting trees so human beings and animals can eat from it, refraining from pointing out others faults, smiling being charity, all a persons sins being forgiven for one act of compassion, raising orphans, forgiving people, showing kindness even to enemies. It goes on and on.

    God is truly closer than our jugular vein because the message of God lives in the heart. It took me many years to get that. I knew God was love, but how was I supposed to turn the other cheek? I couldn’t practice ahimsa. Yet I could do the best I could. I could learn to count to ten when I was angry or say I was sorry when I reacted in anger. I could learn from the mistake. I could repent. Recently, in the past year, I have learned that repenting means letting God take it. God longs to forgive us. There is a hadith qudsi where God says if God couldn’t forgive us, S/He would create a new species so S/He could forgive. When we allow ourselves to be forgiven, we learn to forgive. And the inner critic learns to love, We’re all wounded inside and we just need allow love to enter our lives, to let it become part of the rhythm until we are no longer guarding ourselves. We guard ourselves because we are frightened, but there is nothing to fear when we finally open ourselves up to God’s Love and Mercy…we learn to dance like children in the light of the sun again.

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