"The True Measure of Piety"

Recently, I had an opportunity to watch a documentary that focused on characters such as Jeffrey Epstein and Robert Maxwell. Both individuals are rather infamous at this point. Of course, Robert Maxwell is the British media tycoon who died under mysterious circumstances. He is also the father of Ghislaine Maxwell, the woman who allegedly aided and conspired with Jeffrey Epstein to procure underage women, in what amounted to a rather extensive sex trafficking operation. But what struck me in this documentary was something mentioned as a side note. 


Robert Maxwell, as influential and powerful as he was, and as deeply involved with the world of money and wealth as he became, started doing many services for the state of Israel, especially after he had become quite powerful. He took it upon himself to help thousands of Russian Jews emigrate to Israel, and he developed a relationship with Israeli Intelligence and used his media contacts to help the state of Israel and Israelis in ways that we will never become privy to. Although there is a rather large book that discusses Maxwell's ties to Israeli Intelligence, the book concludes that Maxwell was likely assassinated by the Mossad, because towards the end, he threatened to expose things that the Israelis have done if they did not support his financial empire, which was facing bankruptcy.


At that point, although the man had performed many services for the state of Israel, the Israeli Intelligence allegedly got rid of him. Only God knows, of course, what the truth is. But even with a sick individual like Jeffrey Epstein, his ties and services for the state of Israel were extensive. According to an ex-member of Israeli Intelligence in this documentary, Israel was the secret superpower behind Epstein's wealth, and Israel exploited Epstein's contacts, especially with individuals in the Muslim world. Israel exploited his contacts with people like Bill Clinton and other famous American politicians and influential policy makers in the United States. But they were also interested in his contacts with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and as is well known now, a Saudi passport was even found in Jeffrey Epstein's belongings before his death. It was well known that he had a very close relationship with Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.


What is notable and what has always caught my attention, is that you can say whatever you want about the moral and ethical character of these individuals, but time and again you find that their sense of identity makes their commitments and loyalties very clear. Their sense of identity, whether they are devout, practicing Jews, or even good or moral Jews aside, it is a clear sense of identity that always draws them into the sphere of doing services, promoting the interests of Israel as symbolic representatives for the welfare of Jews around the world.


What was also clear from this documentary and from the research that I have done afterwards, as well as from the book on Robert Maxwell, is that among these services, there are billions of dollars that Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein, in the course of their careers, gave to Israel or to pro-Israeli American politicians. It makes you pause and wonder, people who are deeply morally and ethically flawed still have a clear sense of their self and their loyalty, clear enough to make them understand that as morally deficient as they are, their wealth has a purpose beyond themselves and to use that wealth and that power to help their cause.


This has made me think back to something very straightforward and simple. When we are presented before God on the final day and the straight forward question is posed, "How much support have you given towards your cause?" If you are Jewish, "How much did you spend to serve what you consider to be legitimate causes for the Jewish people?" If you are Hindu, "How much money was spent to support what you consider to be legitimate causes for the Hindu people?" And of course the obvious question, if you are Muslim, "How much money was spent to support what you as a Muslim believe is a legitimate cause for the Muslim people?"


That comparison was rather chilling, because if you know the history of how Muslims have spent on the Palestinian cause or on the cause for Jerusalem, how much money Muslims spent without the expectation of profit on any cause, including the Uyghurs of China, or the Rohingyas of Burma, or the Bosnians in Yugoslavia; how much money was spent, including on anticolonial causes like the Algerian War of Independence against the French. Dollar for dollar, I believe that we would be vastly, vastly deemed to have underspent. Muslim money in the modern age goes largely for items of consumption, and at the scale of states and countries, to buy military hardware that is largely then used against fellow Muslims. The military hardware bought by Muslim countries is not a cause because it is largely focused on staying in power. All the money spent on mosques that Muslims have built in the modern age, which I suppose is the biggest priced item in Muslim social life, would equal practically nothing compared to the level of spending that people with an actual cause engage in.


But what is the problem? One can hardly turn a page of the Qur'an without God reminding us that spending in the way of God is a core Islamic precept. God even tells us, "You will never achieve true piety (birr’) unless you spend from what you love." Dollar for dollar, we are highly deficient. But even at another level, effective spending - at least in relation to causes - takes an educated, thoughtful, conscientious people.


It is astounding that after all these years, Palestinian refugees are largely supported by a UN organization called UNRWA. When Trump terminated payments by the US to UNRWA, UNRWA became bankrupt. Many Palestinian refugees were left without any support. As we speak, the condition of Muslim refugees around the world, Syrian and Yemeni and Libyan and Somali, is abysmal. Under the Biden administration, Biden restored American payments to UNRWA, which allowed it to barely avoid absolute financial ruin and collapse.


Pause for a second. We are not in shortage of grand ideas. So many Muslims love to pretend to be deep thinkers. So many Muslims think that their contribution is to stand on a podium and play the role of imam. So many Muslims, and I have personal knowledge of this, among their favorite things to do is, if they have money, to create a think tank and get together and pretend like the world is going to be saved by the ideas that they generate.


But time and time again, God reminds us of the role of spending in God’s cause. When the most basic and obvious causes are underfunded: the cause of Jerusalem, the cause of Palestinians, the cause of the Rohingyas, the cause of the Kashmiris, the cause of the Uyghurs, leave alone the absolute destruction in Yemen and the absolute destruction in Somalia, and suddenly you look around and you find not just Muslim money is absent, but along with this absence goes a great deal of obfuscation and self-inflicted confusion. And in its place, you hear the excuse of the stingy, "Well, we are not sure of this or that."


Just recently, a painful scandal broke out that many here in the US must already know about. It turns out that the director of a CAIR chapter in Ohio, Romin Iqbal, for over a decade, has been spying against fellow Muslims, spying on his own organization, for the benefit of an organization known as Investigative Project on Terrorism, the IPT. The IPT is a non-profit created by Steven Emerson, an infamous Islamophobe, that claims to study terrorism and perform the public service of educating Americans about terrorism and its threats. But of course the IPT is a thinly veiled organization for Islamophobia. Steven Emerson has a long history of the most fascist type of Islamophobia one can imagine. He is a man who does not hesitate to fabricate and invent evidence.


But again, what catches our attention is that the IPT is but one of the Islamophobic organizations in the United States, among literally dozens of them. Although it is not the biggest organization or the most influential organization or the most famous organization, the IPT has, according to its tax returns, an annual budget of more than $2 million. Emerson himself has reported an annual income of more than $3 million through both his nonprofit and for profit organizations. 


Although I do not know what motivated Romin Iqbal to betray his own people, to betray Islam, and to spy for a notorious Islamophobe like Steven Emerson, we have to confront reality. The reality is, Romin Iqbal does not come from a vacuum. The reality is, Romin Iqbal, like so many other Muslims, watched as an entire Muslim country, the United Arab Emirates, has systematically and consistently funded Islamophobic organizations throughout Europe and in the US. Romin Iqbal, like so many, watched the deep-seated hypocrisy of the “Servant of the Two Holy Sites” being a person who is notorious for his close relationship with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein. The “Servant of the Two Holy Sites” is a notoriously unethical character.


Think of the spending. There are people that are willing to dedicate millions of dollars to do nothing more than malign Islam consistently and systematically. Someone like Steven Emerson does not have to worry about arrogant coreligionists or people of his own identity saying, "Why should we pay your salary?" Steven Emerson can live as a millionaire and can even buy Muslims and turn them into informants, simply because those who support his cause are willing to spend to serve this cause.


Often, young people think that the solution for many problems is to engage in deep analysis and deep thinking. But quite often, the solution is blatantly simple and straightforward, as straightforward as the Qur'anic narrative on people and what they spend on. Why does God constantly remind us, every time, of that critical issue, “What do you spend your money on?” Because far more than any rhetoric, far more than any days you fast, far more than the number of prayers you do, far more than whether you wake up for Fajr or do Tahajjud or not, far more than whether you pray the Sunna or not, far more than whether you wear the hijab or not, far more than whether you follow this aspect of the Sunna of the Prophet or not, it is their relationship to money that often testifies to their piety or lack of piety, that testifies to whether they are truly a person with a cause or a hedonistic human being that is drowning in egoism. The remarkable thing is so many of these Muslims who love to play imam, who often are medical doctors or engineers or computer scientists, that play the game of imam or shaykh, in their extracurricular time are also the people who will not part with their wealth or their money in service of a cause.


Imagine, what if God says, "You know what? I am simply going to support whoever spends the most for their cause." What if God says, "I will declare a winner according to what people spend in service of their cause. Then the way I plan the fate of this world will be like a pure capitalist model.” It is a supply and demand type of logic. Can you imagine how Muslims would fare in this type of reality? We would be vastly outspent. We would be left behind, miles and miles behind. So sometimes the answer is the simplest, most straightforward solution and issue.


Consider the following. Just recently, Ilhan Omar introduced a bill in the House of Representatives, proposing something actually quite modest. What the bill proposes is to create a U.S. Envoy as part of the State Department that reports annually on Islamophobia in the world. According to this bill, the State Department would have an appointee, most likely a presidential appointee or perhaps a congressional appointee, but this person would be reporting to the State Department. And as an envoy, this person would prepare an annual report on Islamophobia. Why? Well, as the bill sponsors explain, Muslims are being butchered in China because of Islamophobia. Muslims are butchered in Burma because of Islamophobia. Muslims were butchered in Bosnia because of Islamophobia. There is rising Islamophobia in India, and there are deep concerns about what is going to take place in India with the rise in Hindu nationalism and the explosion of Islamophobia.


Now, this bill is modeled after an earlier bill in 2005, that created a U.S. Envoy reporting in the State Department about antisemitism. So we already have a position like that in the State Department reporting on antisemitism in the world. Mind you, this envoy would not report on Islamophobia in the U.S. This individual would only report on Islamophobia internationally, but not domestically. Do some research and you will discover some mind-boggling things. The bill passed in the House. Whether it will ever, in fact, succeed is another matter altogether, because there is a possibility of a filibuster that would take place in the Senate to block it. All we are talking about is a person that writes a report, like the one done on antisemitism, but a report about the slaughter of Muslims worldwide because of Islamophobia.


The bill passed in the House by a very narrow margin. I believe it was 219 to 212 or something very close like that. In the course of the discussions on the bill, largely Republican representatives said the most Islamophobic things one can imagine, including calling Ilhan Omar a jihadi, and accusing her of being an agent of terrorists. Republican members mocked the bill in clearly offensive, deeply offensive language.


Dan Meuser, a Republican representative said, "Why don't we pass a bill on skinny kids that get picked on? Why stop at Islamophobia?" Brian Mast said, "This is a bill that targets those who hurt somebody's feelings," and that is why he did not support the bill. Representative Ken Buck of Ohio offered an amendment to the bill that specifies that it shall not be considered Islamophobia for an individual to criticize a brother marrying a sister for the purpose of committing immigration fraud in the U.S. That is an amendment proposed to the bill. Another amendment by Scott Perry of Pennsylvania is that Islamophobia shall exclude any the action taken by the Israeli government, including actions to counter terrorism.


When you bear in mind that there was a Muslim government, ostensibly Muslim, that had spent money trying to get Ilhan Omar defeated, and again, of course, it was the United Arab Emirates. And there is a Muslim government that considers Ilhan Omar and CAIR to be extremists. And when you bear in mind, even worse, that all the Republicans that made racist, bigoted, Islamophobic remarks, mocking the bill and voting against the bill, do not fear Muslim money. They do not fear Muslims spending millions of dollars to make sure they are not re-elected. Not only that, but they can bank on the fact that some Muslims like those at Zaytuna, ie. Hamza Yusuf, even support people like Trump and support countries like the United Arab Emirates. Then you start to understand why God allows us to continue being plagued by individuals like this guy that worked for CAIR in Ohio. This is not a mystery. 


Do we offer a reason for God to side with us? When so many Muslims think that their brain is God's gift to the world, and so few Muslims are willing to sacrifice their careers or their wealth to support a cause; when every Muslim you run into has an attitude and many opinions, and they are always willing to share their insights with you but they are not willing to share their dollars, you ask them, have you supported CAIR? They have a million opinions, a million bribes, a million complaints. Well, how about if you have a problem with CAIR, how about supporting Ilhan Omar? How about supporting other Muslims to run for Congress? How about defeating individuals with the most rabid Islamophobic views? And you only get the deathly silence, that profoundly pathetic stare, and the addiction to defeatist attitudes. They always want to share with you the millions of different things that they see wrong. No. Shut up and pay up. 


Instead of spending more money on yourself and on your career and on your own egoism, support clearly established causes. No. Remember that as the Israelite army is marching to meet Jalut in the battlefield, a vastly outnumbered army, God imposes on them a simple, straightforward test: do not drink to your heart's content from this river. Prove your resilience and dedication by only drinking a handful of water. Although you have been marching for days and you are thirsty, prove your commitment and dedication by only drinking a handful of water. A lesson in how to discipline your ego and live the meaning of sacrifice. 


These stories are in the Qur'an for a reason, they are not just there to entertain us and for us to say, “Praise be to God, look at the Israelites.” Those same Israelites are now far ahead of Muslims, because apparently, they learned from history. They learned that there is no cause unless you spend. They learned to support all types of individuals that hold up the banner of a common cause and a common purpose, while we continue to support those who tell us, "Worry about getting married and raising your children, and that is it." 


On Muslim wealth and the consequences of how we deal with wealth: just recently, the United States again authorized a sale worth hundreds of millions of dollars in military hardware to Saudi Arabia. Although Biden had promised to end the humanitarian nightmare in Yemen by not selling arms to the Saudis, the Biden administration came up with a technical distinction between the offensive use of weapons and the defensive use of weapons. And of course, under this rubric, one can sell the Saudis anything and all they would have to say is, "Well, they are going to use it to protect themselves against the terrorism of the Houthis or whatever. And as a result, millions continue to starve and thousands continue to be murdered in Yemen every day in what is described as the worst humanitarian disaster the world is confronting. Where is Muslim money? Well, the money that would end the problem of poverty in the Muslim world forever is being spent on military hardware that is in turn used to kill fellow Muslims. And when you tell a fellow Muslim, "Isn't it time that we hold the so-called ‘Guardian of the Holy Sites’ up to a moral standard? Isn't it time that we support politicians that would refuse to sell weapons to the Saudis so that they do not continue murdering fellow Muslims?" you get philosophizing in return.


Every Muslim is either an engineer, or doctor, or computer scientist, pretending to be God's gift to the world. Or if they are going to law school or getting a PhD in Islamic Studies, they are also pretending to be God's gift to the world. They cannot see clearly through such a straightforward issue, but they want to engage others in deep ideas about deep things that are meaningless. "Are you saying that the solution is as simple as supporting spending to support an end to slaughter?" Yes, that is exactly what I'm saying, "Oh, how simplistic, we are Muslim graduate students, we are deep thinkers, we need to pontificate about this theorist or that theorist."


Where is Muslim money? Yes, buying weapons to slaughter fellow Muslims. Where is Muslim money? Well, God, a wonderful news item: Saudi Arabia has just engaged in a massive New Year's entertainment campaign, where they have spent millions of dollars flying in the most famous Western entertainers for glamour and glitz performances that rival what takes place in New York and Hollywood - and exceeds it, costing millions and millions of dollars. Where is Muslim money? Well, it is a well-known fact that corporations in Bahrain have complained and filed numerous lawsuits because people from Saudi Arabia hop over to Bahrain and have wild sex parties; and these wild sex parties are so wild, are so decrepit, are so immoral that they leave damage to the hotel rooms and conference rooms that they rent.


Each time, the damage for one night of partying comes out to £200,000 pounds or close to $300,000 to fix, and hotel managers have but one objection. Yes, sure, the Saudi clients pay up to fix the damage, but they always have to clean up feces and defecation because people get so stoned and so drunk that they urinate and defecate all over these rooms. Can you imagine how many refugees, how many cares, how many causes would be supported by just one night of partying? These are the ‘Guardians of the Holy Sites’ and we are told, "Mind your business, take care of your wife and raise your children, and love the country of tolerance that arrests, tortures, and maims people: the United Arab Emirates."


Where is Muslim money? Follow the news of how much money Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Egypt give to Israeli companies so that these companies can help them spy on Muslims worldwide. It is to the point that Loujain Hathloul, who is a human rights activist in prison in Saudi Arabia and was released from prison because the Americans wanted her released but is not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia, has filed a lawsuit against UAE companies who, with the help of Israelis, spied on millions of Muslims, including Hathloul, allowing the Saudi government to intercept her and imprison her. And it is likely that she will win her lawsuit and collect whatever she will collect, but that is what Muslim money is spent on. You tell me, what should God do? What should be the divine position when you see people committed to their cause and spending in their cause, and you see on the other hand, people addicted to egoism, to pontification, to self-indulgence, to self-promotion.


But that is it, they do not take a position on their holy sites; they do not take a position on Jerusalem; they do not take a position on fellow Muslim refugees oppressed in the world; they do not take position on any real moral cause; they do not even take position on a politician who defames and maligns Islam They will not even take a position on defeating that politician in politics. They just want to build mosques where they can perform the role of the great hero and the great savior; the role of the great leader who strolls in and gives a wonderful lecture, which is never actually wonderful, but is always boring and entirely mind-numbingly dull.


Yes, the solution is that simple. If you want to be brilliant, think of ways to convince Muslims to part with their money and defeat their egoism, be an example yourself that will help far more than any grand degrees, or grant anything that you think the Muslim Ummah is so badly in need of.

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