"The Sunni, The Shi'i, and The Gift of Consciousness"

In essence, the sum total of our journey on this earth, of this miraculous event that gives us consciousness - and we enjoy this consciousness for a period of time until it slips away - the truth of the matter is, with all the speculation and all the attempts at insight and perception, what awaits us after this consciousness slips away is only truly known to God and God alone. After this consciousness slips away, is it a state of sleep until resurrection? Do we acquire some level of consciousness after death? If so, what type of consciousness? What level of consciousness? In what dimension of existence, if any? Does it start upon entering the grave? Does it begin right after death? Does it begin a period after death? After death, are we aware of our loved ones? Do we know when our loved ones pass away? Do they join us in death or are we separated forever until resurrection?


Because we are human beings that are often so vain and so silly, all we know is that consciousness granted to us is a miraculous puzzle, truly beyond comprehension. All the time that preceded us is incomprehensible to us, just as all the time that comes after us. What is the fate of the molecules that constituted your body? Even if they transform in the simple belly of an earthworm, do these molecules last forever? Matter does not vanish, it transforms. Is it relevant? Is it entirely irrelevant?

The amazing puzzle of consciousness; a gift from the Almighty, given to you with this window of opportunity to comprehend as much as you can for a limited period of time that slips away ever so quickly. Throughout the years, we experience the deaths of friends, of family, of acquaintances, and our silly ego refuses to acknowledge that but for the grace of God, this could be you. If death misses you this time, it could be right around the corner, and your opportunity, that gift of consciousness that was given to you so that you could understand more than a rock thrown in a swamp, laying in the desert, or settled upon a beach; the difference between you and that rock is that opportunity that God grants you.


Do not ponder consciousness, because it is truly incomprehensible. With all our posing about scientism, objectivism, and empiricism, there is no way that science or philosophy is capable of understanding consciousness. Moreover, there is no way that science or philosophy is capable of understanding time. Where does time come from? Where does time go? We speculate about the formation of planets over the course of billions of years, but we never have an answer for the beginning and we can never have an answer about the end; if there even is an end.


You can waste the gift of consciousness. You can be like someone who goes to Las Vegas and gambles. When you gamble, you take a risk. The nature of gambling is that, ultimately, all those who gamble are losers and the house always wins. That is the irony of gambling. Go ahead and gamble. Go ahead and say, "Although I understand nothing about where I came from and nothing about where I am going, and I understand nothing about time, and I understand nothing about consciousness, I will gamble that there is no God and that even if there is a god, this god will say, 'I am not going to hold you accountable for all the crap that you have done in your life.'" Be a Las Vegas gambler, waste this consciousness. The house always wins.


You could spend the entire gift of consciousness hoarding material things, watching your bank account grow, indulging in power, controlling other human beings, abusing other human beings, taking advantage of creation, taking advantage of the environment, taking advantage of living things and nonliving things, being a narcissist, being self-centered, being a jerk. Go ahead, take the gamble. But you know what? Believers will tell you, when you have gambled everything, life has slipped away and you meet your God after death, you will look back at the gift of consciousness and there will be nothing at that point left but memories and regret.


You can cry, you can beg, you can try to remember the few good things that you have done in life. You can plead your case: "But I was not that bad! Yes, I was selfish, but there were many others who were worse than me." You will be at the mercy of the God that you spent a lifetime ignoring. At that point, when all the bets are called, all the bets are called. You will be pleading your case, begging for the mercy of the God that you spent your consciousness mistreating, being oblivious to, being rude towards, being heedless towards. You are going to be telling this God, "Yes, I treated you like garbage, but please, I was a good person anyway."


Or, you could choose to believe that this is all a fairytale and you are just like that rock. You do not understand anything about anything. That is the way you live and that is the way you die, and you gamble. Go ahead, gamble. Students of the Qur'an will tell you, God has always told us, “If you choose to believe, go ahead. If you choose not to believe, go ahead.”


What does God want you to do with your consciousness? What does God want you to do with that gift? The rules of this game are clear. You must be cognizant of the fact that you do not own yourself. You are already owned by your Maker, you do not belong to yourself. Your title over yourself is invalid, God has title over you. God has title over your consciousness, over your body, over your will.


Your Maker told you the first rule is humility towards the One who owns you. Do not go around like a moronic tyrant, believing that you owe nothing to anyone. That is idiocy. That is arrogance. You owe everything to your Maker. Your dignity, honor and worth comes from your Maker, but so does the dignity, honor and worth of everyone else.


The first rule is to listen very carefully to what your Owner wants you to do in life. Do not go around pretending that your Maker is not speaking. That is rude. Do not go around pretending that your Maker has nothing to say to you. That is extremely rude. Do not go around thinking or pretending that you are smarter than your Maker. That is insolent and blasphemous. You are not smarter than your Maker. You do not know better than your Maker. Humble yourself and teach yourself to listen carefully.


Second, because everyone has equal worth, equal honor, and equal dignity, your Maker wants you to bear witness. "I have given you this consciousness so you can bear witness as to what is right and what is wrong." It is the exact negation of a heedless, pointless life. No. The point of your consciousness is not to hoard material things. The point of your consciousness is not to have fun. The point of your consciousness is not to distract yourself with as many distractions as you can possibly find. The point of your consciousness is not to subdue and waste that consciousness. People who drink and take drugs, what they do with their consciousness is abuse that consciousness. The point of your consciousness is so that you are shuhada’ lillah; you bear witness on behalf of God.


Only God knows whether you could have truly changed what is wrong - that is something that you and God will settle in the Hereafter. But at a minimum, was your consciousness engaged in the process of witnessing what is wrong and testifying for what is right? Was your existence superfluous to existence? It does not matter whether other people are impressed by your testimony. It does not even matter if they listen to your testimony. It does not matter if the entire world ignores you. Your audience is only one, it is God. Did you bear witness for God? What an opportunity.


Consciousness: an utter, complete, incomprehensible mystery. As mysteriously as it comes, it will mysteriously disappear, and all that will be left is the sum total of moments of witnessing and testimony. That is it. God talks about a book that each of us will carry in the Hereafter - this is the book of Shahada, the book of what you have witnessed to, the book of your testimony. You testify through your actions, that is your testimony. If you say, "I care about the poor", what do you do about poverty? If you say, "I care about orphans", well, how do you help orphans?

It makes our life far more meaningful, but it also reminds us that we carry a serious burden. Because the Maker of this life—the Maker of this mystery of existence, the mystery of eternity, the mystery of time, the mystery of consciousness, the one who is beyond science because of all the mysteries that science is incapable of even approaching—that Maker has defined the meaning of life. That Maker said, "I did not create you so that you will indulge and often indulge at the expense of others. I have created you so you can bear witness, so that you can be shuhada’ lillah." Bear witness.




Bearing witness is often a challenge, because when you truly bear witness, it is not a popularity contest. Often when you bear witness to truth, people who struggle with darkness in their heart cannot stand to hear the truth.


Recently in Albuquerque, New Mexico, four Muslims were murdered; shot to death. We were all horrified as we followed the news of the murders of these four Muslims, and most of us immediately expected that this must have been done with Islamophobic intentions. But then the police arrested a Muslim from Afghanistan; a man who used to be in the Afghan special forces, a member of the Afghan army that was funded and trained and armed by the United States. That man fought against the Taliban, and when the Taliban eventually won in Afghanistan, he emigrated to the United States.


When they stopped his car, they found an AK rifle among other guns. The police said that the bullets that killed the four men matched the guns owned by this man. This fellow claims that he is innocent, and of course he is entitled to the presumption of innocence until tried and granted his due process. We will respect that because we must respect that. But the killing of these four men raises a very important point. All four victims were Shi'a Muslims, and it is suspected that this man was upset that his daughter married a Shi'a Muslim, so he decided to kill Shi'a Muslims in his local mosque. His daughter finds it very difficult to believe that her father would kill anyone. His daughter said, "Well, he was very upset, but recently, he was more accepting towards the marriage."


The issue that this raises for me is one of the ugliest topics, one of the topics that really tests the mettle of your morality and ethics; that being the division between Shi'a and Sunni. At the outset, if you are a fair witness, you must admit that most of the acts of terrorism in which innocents are killed are committed by Sunnis against Shi'a. It is not the Shi'a who have blown themselves up in Sunni mosques in Iraq or Afghanistan, but nearly in every case, it is a Sunni who chose to blow himself up in the midst of Shi'a worshipers. It is obscene. It is disgusting. I hear what my fellow Sunnis say about the Shi'a and I fight back the urge to throw up.


I read that Hezbollah committed atrocities against Sunnis in Syria. If that is true, I condemn Hezbollah for these atrocities, and I wish there was a way to hold them responsible for every atrocity. But if they are not held responsible on this earth, they will be held responsible in the Hereafter. Of that, I am sure. But that in itself does not address the obscenity of the division between Sunnis and Shi'a.


Let us take a step back and cut to the core of the matter. There was a political disagreement after the death of the Prophet about who should succeed the Prophet as the ruler and governor. Regardless of the merits of the disagreement, it was Abu Bakr that ruled, then Umar, then Uthman, then Ali. The thing is, though; whether Sunni or Shi'a, we all agree that Ali was not treated well. Despite his esteemed position as the Prophet's cousin, Sunni and Shi'a agree that Ali confronted betrayal after betrayal. So where is the problem?


The problem is that after Mu'awiya came to power, Mu'awiya, in order to consolidate his power, killed many esteemed companions of the Prophet that supported Ali. Despite that, many Sunni scholars in history defended the credibility and morality of Mu'awiya. Although Mu'awiya decreed that Ali, the Prophet's cousin, be condemned, the practice of cursing Ali at the pulpits of Jumu'ah likely began with Yazid, not Mu'awiya. That is my belief, although historians can disagree.


But for a hundred years, it was illegal to praise the family of the Prophet. It was illegal to support the family of the Prophet. It was illegal to say anything favorable about Imam Ali. From those initial hundred years, fanaticism and radicalism was born.

Within the Shi’i tradition emerged fanatic orientations that did not just disagree with Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Aisha; that did not just believe that they erred, but would affirmatively curse them and consider them apostates. The heart of the matter is that Sunnis want to believe that all the companions of the Prophet were of equal merit, and they cling to the hadith that, "All my companions were like stars. Whoever you follow, you are truly guided."


Although the hadith - whether by chain of transmission or substantively - is extremely problematic, because you would only accept such a hadith if you really did not know the Sira of all the companions of the Prophet; because you need to first define who is a companion.


There are some of those people who converted after Fatah Mecca (The Conquest of Mecca) and who coexisted with the Prophet for a few months before he passed away, who did horrible things and cannot possibly be like stars that could guide you.


If you actually read Shi'a sources, respectable Shi'a clerics urge their followers to refrain from the practice of cursing any of the companions - not because they like these companions, but because it is haram to be obscene and to slander those who you have no way of having truly direct knowledge of. These are people who did not slaughter and murder like Yazid did.


But even if there are Shi'a that engage in the reprehensible practice of cursing the companions, these are not grounds for calling them apostates or considering their life worthless. If you find someone cursing Aisha, Abu Bakr or Umar, tell them, "That is not a rational argument. I will not engage you if your path is the path of obscenities. If you want to talk about history, we can talk about history. In fact, all I can say is, ‘May God guide you.’"


That is not grounds for considering them as if they follow a different religion. They say the Shahada, they follow the same God, they follow the same Prophet, they follow the same Qur'an despite all the nonsensical Sunni inventions about the supposed secret Shi'a Qur’an. You who engage in this type of ignorance and hatred are nothing but pawns in the hands of the manipulators of power, of the elite in the Emirates and in Saudi who want you to make friends with those who occupy Al-Aqsa and hate those who say the Shahada.


They believe that Ali is Wali Allah (Friend of God), and I believe Ali is Wali Allah. Of course Ali was Wali Allah. Any truly pious Muslim who dedicates their life to serving God is Wali Allah. Abu Bakr was Wali Allah, Umar was Wali Allah, and Ali was Wali Allah. You have a brief gift of consciousness, and you sully it, dishonor it, and disfigure it with ignorance, hate and false, irresponsible testimony.


I will close with something that I cannot ignore and I cannot be silent about. I will meet God, and I will bear witness against all of you who are silent about this, one by one. If you follow Israeli media, Israeli media celebrated the Israeli assassination of Ibrahim al-Nabulsi. Ibrahim al-Nabulsi was a 17 year old kid who had never actually engaged in an act of terrorism.


Israel said: because of the mere fact that he joined jihad, he is not entitled to due process, to life or to anything else. “We can just murder him." So Israel sent its special anti-terror unit to assassinate Ibrahim al-Nabulsi. Before Ibrahim al-Nabulsi died, this teenager took his phone and recorded a message to his mother. In this message, he told his mother, "I love you. Do not cry, we will meet in Jannah. I know that the Israelis are coming to kill me." Israel killed Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, and as Ibrahim al-Nabulsi tried to defend himself, he killed a dog trained by the Israeli special forces, named Zili.


Israeli Channel 12, politicians and activists eulogized this brave dog, Zili. They celebrated the life and death of the brave dog, Zili. But no one bothered to talk about the 17 year old who never had a chance in the course of proper law. The entire world ignored the murder. But as Israel eulogized Zili the dog, not only did they ignore Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, but they also ignored the 23 year old innocent woman who was killed, and they also ignored a five year old girl, who was also murdered by the Israeli special forces. Not a single outlet in Israel mentioned the life of this five year old or the 23 year old - innocent bystanders - in a way that is even comparable to the life of Zili the dog.


After this, the jihad retaliated, firing rockets that ultimately did not kill any Israelis, and Israel, as we all know, responded by killing dozens of Palestinians, including 16 children, by the last count that I am aware of. Still, the only thing that Israeli media has to say about it is to talk about the bravery of Zili the dog. They have nothing to say about the Palestinian children or their families that were killed, or the innocent Palestinians that were maimed. What a world we live in.


What do we do with this consciousness? What are you testifying to? What are you bearing witness to? How many Imams and how many Jumu’a congregations have even noticed?


You know, I mourn Zili the dog, I really do, because that poor dog had no stake in this fight. The poor dog had no ideology. The poor dog was trained to protect his owners and gave his life to protect what he perceived to be a threat to his owners.


But I have the morality, the ethics, and the decency to also mourn the human beings that Israel kills, that the United States—my government—blissfully ignores, and that the rest of the world blissfully ignores. The racism is deafening, the bigotry is suffocating, and the Muslim silence is unbearable. May God forgive me and forgive you.

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