"How Do Our Youth Make Sense of This World"


 We all know these truths that are undeniable and in our lives. We are all aware of the fragility of life, it demonstrates its fragility constantly. The extent to which human beings are surrounded by certain realities is remarkable. The reality of death and regeneration occurs every second in our lives, millions or billions of times, but we are oblivious. We all know that we could not exist if millions upon millions of cells in our body did not die and regenerate. Without that process, nothing would be. We are surrounded every second by living things that used to fly in the sky or crawl in the ground, that have expired, and yet the logic of existence comes back time and time again.


Our children, as we once did, grow up to learn pets that we used to love will die, human beings that we used to love will die, and ultimately, although we are fully aware of our own consciousness, we do not quite understand what it means for this consciousness to expire. Yet we are sure that but for the grace of God, our consciousness can easily expire. We are but a virus away from expiration. We are but a heart attack away from expiration. We are but an accident away from expiration. Anything and everything that takes away human beings daily and we witness all of that.


The very logic testifies that the Maker, the King, the Lord, the Owner of this existence has created the logic of death and regeneration. Yet it is so easy for us to be oblivious to this fact and to exist in the greatest act of non-realism, while so many of us grow up believing that we are so intelligent and sophisticated because we are realistic human beings, and religion for us is often placed in the category of the unrealistic. In reality, the most unrealistic thing is those who exist oblivious to the logic of existence that surrounds them all the time. The logic being, everything dies. We will die and death could come any second, at any time, and that regeneration and consciousness persist despite death.


What are the chances that a singular, unified logic persists in all the known and unknown - all the known universes - the logic of death and regeneration? What are the chances that this can just simply occur? Why does this entire universe follow singular laws of physics that seem ironclad, unbreakable and impenetrable? The absolute absurdity that this universality can persist throughout - the mathematical logic to existence in this vast universe - the fact that all of this would happen simply by coincidence is the most singular act of un-realism there is. It nearly borders on the insane to believe, “It is just because it is.” One must concede that the net of the logic of existence is so tight, so pronounced, that if one has any level of intelligence, one is forced to pay attention.


Yet, everything in our lives, everything that modernity has produced, everything that is the result of industry, and the investment of capital, and the logic of people selling things and people profiting from things - everything - is designed to distract us from the ironclad logic of death. Everything that we watch, everything that we read, everything that we buy, everything that we engage in, even the food we eat and the clothes we wear, is designed to distract us from the inevitability of death and to get us not to think beyond that inevitability. All of us know we will die and we cannot escape it. Death can come at any time, as it does all the time. But what happens after death? 


The possibility is that you lived, you died and you are gone, you disappear; your birth was meaningless and your disappearance is meaningless, because your entire existence was meaningless. If that is what you believe, you have no answers as to how this universe is the result of such universal laws. You have no answers as to the symphony of existence, and you ultimately have no answers as to why you matter. Coincidence created you and coincidence takes you away, and you will be forgotten like the billions of human beings that came to this life and disappeared. Even if you are remembered in the books of history, ultimately, if death is the end, the memory does not matter. Ironically, the logic of atheism is that the memory of Hitler is equal to the memory of Mother Teresa. It is all the same, because once one dies, Hitler is no longer and Mother Teresa is no longer, just as you are no longer. In this logic, it really does not matter because the pretend world we play in is anchored in un-realism.


If there is no meaning beyond death, why does it matter if I am remembered as a serial killer or a great moral teacher? After all, I am dead and the pretend world where we say, “You live on in your legacy," is a completely crazy, insane idea because you do not live on. The fact that anyone remembers you does not make any difference. The only way for anything to mean anything, is if after death, the story goes on. If, in fact, after death, there is resurrection and accountability, then there is meaning.


Our children love to think that they are independent, critical, analytical thinkers. Our children struggle searching for that human impulse, where they have a sense of the self and of dignity and a reason for self respect. What we need to become much better at - what we need to educate ourselves about - is the extent to which the cards are stacked against our children, because everything from the moment our children enter their first nursery is designed to get them not to think about death. Everything, from the time our children enter into nursery, to the phones they carry, the computers they turn on, the programs they watch, even the teachers that we supply to teach them at school are all designed to tell them, "If someone you know dies, mourn, but the most important thing is to go on, to live on. Do not think too deeply about death. Distract yourself and definitely do not think about what happens after death. Most importantly, do not think about what if after death, hell fire and punishment turn out to be true."


It is not an exaggeration to say that the way modernity has structured itself is around the logic of capital return. We need to organize things, so that those who have capital can invest it and have a return on it. That is the logical modernity, and in order for those who own capital to have a return under investments, they cannot afford to have our children think too deeply about the meaning of existence. The very logic of capitalism is the logic of distraction and heedlessness. That is the embedded logic of capitalism and that is precisely why everything - including law, economics, philosophy and psychology - is all organized around the idea that it is unhealthy and undesirable to think about death or the consequences after death. Our children never get an opportunity to understand this, except for the most rare of them; and it is usually towards the end of their lives, if they have the opportunity to get old.


It is not enough that we simply communicate to our children the Qur'an, hadiths, prayer, fasting and tell them, "Here is how to worship, so off you go, be a good Muslim." We need to think deeply about our world and teach our children to think deeply about our world, as well as to confront the simple question of what if, after death, you face hell, punishment and accountability? Are you ready? Thinking about what will happen to you in the future is precisely what it takes to be a realistic human being.




How do we help our children make sense of this world? What is this world to them? In the case of Muslim children, all Muslim children are supposed to understand that it is a critical part of their faith that they think about Islam and Muslims as a single Ummah. We are but one people, united by the belief that there is no God but God, and that all the Prophets from Abraham to Moses, to Jesus, to all the Prophets until the final Prophet Muhammad came forth with the same basic message. God does not need our worship but God decreed worship for our own good, because it teaches us to be moral, ethical beings. That is precisely why if we teach children to worship God but do not explain to them how worshipping God translates into an ethical, conscientious, moral, intelligent existence, then the very logic of religion falls apart.


We as Muslims confront this challenge more than any group in the world today because wherever we turn, we see a world that has become remarkably adept at persecuting, targeting and tormenting Muslims. From the days of the Bosnian Genocide to the Palestinian Genocide, to the genocide in Burma, to the genocide in China, to the rise of Islamophobia, it is as if the Devil himself looked upon the world and thought the last bastion of realism, logic, ethics and morality is Islam; so it must be targeted.


It is remarkable that in the same way that there are human beings that can be surrounded by the logic of death all the time, and yet think of their own death as such a remote possibility, as equally atrocious are human beings who are surrounded by the logic of human suffering all the time and yet remain oblivious to it. If Islam is the bastion of morality, again the very logic of morality is: how do you treat and deal with others. How can one have a moral order if they are not taught to think about others? If Islam is about morality, how can you raise someone to be a Muslim? 


Think, there is an atrocious genocide taking place in China, where Muslims are targeted, murdered, imprisoned and tortured, and you raise someone to "be a Muslim," but they never think about those who suffer under this genocide. They organize their lives completely oblivious to the suffering of others. They think that their lives, because of the way they are taught, is about them. What occupies their thoughts is what they will do when they wake up, what they will do before they go to sleep, what they will do with their careers, what they will do with their lives, because they are never taught it is not about that. It is about what we do for others, because that is the logic of morality. If you live for yourself, you are an immoral human being and there will be consequences after you die. No, instead [we] teach them that God wants you to worship, God wants you to fast, God wants you to do this and to do that, but [we] do not teach them what really matters. The very logic of justice is that God gives victory and supports those who are raised to serve a cause, i.e. to serve others.


It is remarkably frustrating. In my life, I grew up watching Palestinians suffer under Israeli occupation, and I have watched so many Muslims live and die, completely oblivious. Added to the ranks of Palestinians, I have witnessed the intimate details of Bosnian Muslims suffering and the atrociousness of the rape camps; and Muslims were largely oblivious. Then before we know it, added to the plate were the plights of Burmese Muslims, of Uyghur Muslims, and lest we forget the plight of Chechnyan Muslims who underwent a genocide that has completely been forgotten by the vast majority of Muslims. In fact, some of the people that tried to remind others of the Chechnyan genocide ended up being thrown in Guantanamo, simply for being activists on the Chechnyan issue.


Now a new genocide against Muslims is imminent, according to report after report. Yet another extremely detailed article has come out about what it titles as, “the imminent genocide against Muslims,” against the 200 million Muslims in India. There is an already ongoing genocide against Muslims in Kashmir, but the latest news is Pooja Shakun Pandey, a man influential in Indian Politics, has called for the immediate extermination of all Muslims in India, in addition to all the details about acts of violence and deafening anti-Muslim rhetoric in India.


As I read an article like this, I am reminded of all the Muslims who would say to me, "Why are we making such a big deal about Palestinian Muslims? We should move on. After all, are they the only people who suffer?" Eventually, they said the same thing about Bosnian Muslims. Eventually, they said the same thing about the Rohingyas and the Burmese Muslims. Right now, they are saying the same thing about the Uyghur Muslims. Are they going to say the same thing about Indian Muslims who are facing an imminent genocide?


Until when do we raise our children with the highly immoral logic that their lives are simply about themselves, their own careers, and their own success? Until when do we continue to ignore the heart and soul of Islam that we are but a single Ummah that feels as one, that acts as one, a single spirit emanates from us; flows within us and through us? Until when do we continue teaching our children that their success is measured by their paychecks, their zip codes, and their possessions, rather than their ability to do something good, just, ethical and moral?


Many Muslims are oblivious, because Muslims are very good at being oblivious, to the fact that not long ago, the UN appointed a special rapporteur to report on the conditions of Palestinians living under occupation in Israel. That rapporteur is Richard Falk, who himself is a Jew, and he wrote a report describing Israel as an apartheid state and Palestinians as living under occupation - under an apartheid system. The public activism, the investment of money by people who raise their children very differently than the way we raise ours, was so deafening that the UN was forced to make Richard Falk withdraw his report. No, it was not highly influential people who accomplished this; it was common Jewish kids in university campuses.


Currently, the UN again, responding to numerous reports of violations by Israelis against Palestinians, appointed a panel of three experts to report on the condition of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. Again, Israel has commenced a campaign to discredit and shut down whatever these three experts are going to say, while Muslims continue to be oblivious to the genocides perpetuated against the Uyghur Muslims, Bosnian Muslims and the Rohingyas, and while Muslims continue to be largely oblivious to the plight of Palestinians and Jerusalem. Because of events like Richard Falk's report and the recent appointment of an investigatory panel by the Human Rights Council in the UN, Israel has renewed yet another project. It is known as the Hasbara Campaign, which has replaced a former campaign called Solomon's Sling. The English word for this campaign is the Concert Campaign and what this campaign aims to accomplish is to dedicate anywhere from $40-80 million to spend on people in the West who do nothing but defend and polish the image of Israel, right or wrong. A small part of the budget for this campaign comes from the Israeli Government, but the majority of the budget comes from Jewish donors.


The Hasbara Campaign goes after anyone that brings attention to the reality of Palestinian suffering or the reality of the apartheid state that does exist in Israel. They spend money recruiting students, activists and scholars to do nothing but polish the image of Israel. The Hasbara Campaign is not limited to spending on Jewish organizations to defend the reputation and image of Israel, but will spend on Muslims and Arabs who are willing to take money to say false, positive things about Israel.


I want to give just one example. As our children grow up to be selfish, self-absorbed, and self-centered, I want to share the plight of one village called Deir Nidham in Palestine. Deir Nidham, a small Palestinian village in the West Bank, like so many other Palestinian villages, had Israel come in, confiscate their farms and their lands, confiscate about 600 plots to build an illegal Israeli settlement called Neve Tzuf, which has about 1500 Jewish settlers. After they stole this land from Palestinians and built an illegal settlement, of course not compensating them a single dime, they brought 1500 Jewish settlers to live in it. Most of the settlers left their Wall Street jobs, their jobs in law firms, their jobs in banking to immigrate from America. They came from the US to displace Palestinians and settle on unlawfully stolen land.


When this small village began protesting, Israeli soldiers surrounded the village and laid siege. No one is allowed to enter or exit from the village without going through numerous inspection checkpoints, searches and interrogations, and I wish it stopped there. One of the most disturbing things is the smuggled videos of Israeli Soldiers storming their schools, under the pretense of looking for students who threw stones at the illegal Jewish settlement. The video shows Israeli soldiers beating a Palestinian student in 11th grade and when his teacher tried to intervene to prevent the beating of this child, the Israeli soldiers beat the teacher. They stormed the school, in less than one year, 14 times; each time beating, harassing students and staff, arresting students without even notifying their parents. Some of these students have been released, while others have not.


To every Muslim out there, who comes from immigrant parents, you could have been the Palestinian child being beaten by Israeli Soldiers on camera. Are your children aware of that? Soon, there are going to be hundreds or thousands of children in India who will have their parents massacred, if they themselves are not killed. I am sure there will be sexual assaults, rapes, imprisonments and torture. Are your children aware that any of them could have been that suffering child in India? Did they grow up with this awareness?


Israel already suffocates Palestinians. There are no jobs in what counts as Palestine, because Israel controls the economy. Wages are so low, that the vast majority of Palestinians have to work in slave-like conditions. They have to apply for a permit to go work in Israel for low-paying jobs under horrible conditions, where they have to accept whatever the Israeli employer commands them to do. In addition, the work permits are extremely expensive and very prevalent in the black market for exorbitant prices. They work like slaves from dusk until dawn, half of their wages are paid to the middle man who actually manages to sell the work permit, and yet Israel is very well protected.


Every time someone points to the obvious and says, "This is apartheid," we have first class people in Israel, the Jewish people who live by consistently and systematically abusing another ethnicity, Arabs, and another religion, Muslims, doing all that they can to deny and erase this narrative. Israel has tons of donors who are willing to donate millions of dollars and tons of students, just like our children, who are willing to dedicate their entire career to propagating lies about Israeli Democracy, which of course does not benefit Palestinians living under occupation.


Again, the reason your children do not have a good moral example is because they often find their parents following the likes of Hamza Yusuf, who has sold out to the Emirates, who is in bed with the colonizers of Palestine; with the Emirates, who have not just sold out the Palestinians but who have even sold out the Uyghur Muslims and sold out even before the genocide occurs, like in the case of India. Yet the Emirate leadership has given Modi, the architect of the Hindu nationalistic, fascist state, an award, and has insisted that any Muslim that speaks about the plight of Palestinians, of the Uyghurs, of the Kashmiris, and of Indians Muslims that they are a part of the Muslim Brotherhood; that they are terrorists and that is “political Islam.” The Islam that those, like Hamza Yusuf, desire is an Islam that does not say a word - an Islam that does not matter. An immoral Islam. An Islam that is identical to the very hedonistic logic of capitalism.


An Islam that tells us, “Numb yourself. Enjoy your life. Do not think too deeply. Do not think about anything other than feeling good. Buy whatever makes you feel good." That is the capitalist version of Islam. The Sufi, Emirate type of Islam tells us, "Buy whatever you want, but on top of that, resort to some good old-fashioned, hedonistic, immoralistic mysticism, so you can feel good about yourself and your family." That is not Islam. That is not morality. That is not even logic. That is not even realism. It is absolutely nothing at all. Muslims with hearts have observed too many slaughters, too many atrocities against Muslims. I still remember the very details of the Bosnian genocide, of the Bosnian rape camps. I still remember the very details of the Nakba. I do not know how my system can bear to watch yet another genocide unfold against Muslims in India. Are we ever going to step up to the plate and actually make a difference? Are we ever going to teach our children that they have to make a difference? That it does not matter if they go to medical school, if ultimately all the money they make they spend on themselves, their families, on prestige and on appearances? God, forgive our sins, guide us to the straight path, help us grow closer to You. Help us be better Muslims and better human beings.


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