On Old Doggies, Calling Out Racism, and Liberal Islamophobia

Dear Friends,

Greetings of peace! I pray you are well! This week, I spent the vast majority of my days and (often sleepless) nights caring for my dear dog, Oso, the husky who I have previously mentioned before. He is 17 years old (Huskies have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years), so in human years, Oso is about 119 years old! He is skinny and his bones creak and he has lost his ability to stand on his own. He lost his hearing years ago when he got an ear infection and his eyes are cloudy from age, so it is unclear how much he can see. But he continues to want to live (he still eats and drinks and wants to get up and walk) and I am in his service until God takes him or until he reaches the point where his quality of life is so poor that it would be more merciful to "put him to sleep." Here is his latest picture from our walk in the garden yesterday.

Taking care of an old doggie is a gift at so many levels. Because a dog's lifespan is so short, we witness the cycle of life before our eyes as a clear reminder that death will come. We see the full cycle from puppy playfulness to full maturity to old age, when caring for the elder dog takes just as much time as the puppy once required (just as the Qur'an reminds us that as human beings we begin in a childlike state and return to it at our end). But it is a different type of care at the tail end (no pun intended). At the end of life, as with humans, one must contend with the frailty of the body and the longing of the spirit. Oso would first cry whenever he needed help and was frustrated from an inability to move, or if he had fallen in an awkward position that he could not right by himself. He would call for help. Once he had the assistance to get up and running, he was okay. However, as his condition began to worsen over time, I noticed that he began to cry not because he wanted assistance to get up, but because it seemed he wanted someone to be with him. Knowing that dogs have the intellectual development of a two-year old human, I always imagine how it must feel as a toddler to be in pain or discomfort and want to be comforted. I notice that Oso responds to me, his mom, in a much different way that other caretakers in the house. Sometimes, he quiets down more readily when I just come and sit with him and stroke his head or face.

Of course, I cannot help but imagine, what if this were me? What will the end of my life look and feel like? Will I be stuck in a bed somewhere hoping that someone I love will come to my aid and assistance every time I need something and call for help? Will someone be there to just sit with me to comfort me and make me feel that I am not alone, suffering by myself? I imagine all the times I helped human loved ones in this position and how my understanding and empathy evolved from such experiences. I recall the traditions of the Prophet (saw) that tell us that God is with the ill and those who are suffering, and I know in my heart that this includes God's beloved dogs, who have spent their lifetimes serving their beloved humans. How could God not be with them, at the very least to see which humans care enough to serve their beloved dogs in their time of need? I feel that serving Oso is my way to give back and serve God and God's creation. I feel in my heart that for every sleepless night; for every instance that I feel I am going to pass out from exhaustion; for every time that as soon as I climb into bed, get comfortable, and then hear Oso crying and choose to get up to go help him, that I am engaging in a jihad for God. I remember that Prophetic tradition that if you care for someone who is ill or elderly, that when it is your time, God will send someone to help you, and I am assured that my short-term discomforts or inconveniences in serving Oso might hopefully be considered paying forward to God what I may wish to receive one day if I live to a ripe old age. I imagine all of the displaced, homeless, sleep-deprived, freedom-deprived Muslims around the world in war-torn nations, in concentration camps, in open air prisons where their homes have been stolen, in flooded homelands with nowhere to go, and I am reminded of how blessed I am to have a home, a bed, and an opportunity to serve a dog that loves me. I feel I have nothing to complain about or feel sad about. And above all else, I am grateful. Alhamdulillah.

Hanging with Oso in his bed :)

I just came across an excellent opinion piece by Professor Sahar Aziz of Rutgers University that I wanted to share. It is a must read:

Excerpt: "...Islamophobia, like other systems of bias, operates in both liberal and conservative spaces in American society, albeit in different ways. Islamophobia by conservatives is easily identifiable through hateful speech, hate crimes and support for state national security and immigration practices targeting Muslims.  The absence of such observable factors in liberal circles, however, does not make Islamophobia any less of a problem. To the contrary, the stealth of liberal Islamophobia arguably makes it more insidious.

"Liberals proudly boast their support for multiculturalism and pluralism, which purportedly includes Muslims.  Their discourse follows the usual script of diversity, equity and inclusion: religious bigotry, racism, and anti-Muslim hate has no place in liberals’ institutions.  A closer examination of behavior, however, betray those proclaimed values.

"Heightened scrutiny, tokenization, double standards, disparate application of policy, and implicit bias are the most common ways that liberals perpetuate Islamophobia—all the while claiming the higher ground in America’s culture wars.  But unspoken bias does not make it nonexistent.

"Heightened scrutiny is a telltale sign of discrimination. A Muslims’ words and behavior, unlike that of their counterparts belonging to majority groups, are scrutinized for any clues of incompetence or disloyalty to the institution.  This microscopic treatment is a constant reminder to Muslims of their outsider status...."

I was most struck by the importance of the term "Liberal Islamophobia" - adding this nuance to our understanding of Islamophobia, bolstered by the article's specificity around what this type of Islamophobia consists of give us a clearer picture and ability to call out what should not pass for acceptable behavior. Read and share widely!


The best antidote to Islamophobia is a powerful education, and we are extremely blessed to have a very generous donor come forward to aid us in our mission. This donor was so moved by our new book, The Prophet's Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam, that he has made it his cause to get a copy in the hands of every Muslim who is committed to beauty and justice in Islam.

So, we are pleased to launch our "Share With A Friend" campaign! It is easy - if you have a friend who you feel will benefit from this book, send me their name, mailing address and email, and we will send them a free copy with this lovely welcome and introduction card:

And as a thank you for helping us with this campaign, we will be happy to send you your choice of an Usuli T-shirt, Usuli Mug or an eBook version of The Prophet's Pulpit (or a paperback if you don't already have one!). That's it! :)

I believe we are all connected and perhaps one or two degrees of separation from every thinking Muslim that can make a difference. Help us get The Prophet's Pulpit in everyone's hands and elevate our collective knowledge and empowerment! Feel free to write me if you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions. 

Also, if you know Muslim journalists, academics, activists, politicians or influencers that would benefit, definitely let me know so we can send them a copy as well! May God bless our collective efforts!

Looking forward to today's khutbah and a new surah for tomorrow's halaqa!!!! Yippee!!! Hope to connect with you online soon insha'Allah (God willing)!

In Peace and Hope,

The Movement to Reinvigorate Beautiful and Ethical Islam has begun.  Join us.

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