"Choosing Death over Life and the Illusion of Liberty" and Puppy Power!

Greetings of Peace dear Friends,

I pray you are well. Last week's khutbah (Friday sermon) really hit me hard. You can read the text of it in the next section below. It is a long, powerful read about the choices we make as a society under the guise of "freedom, liberty, free will, and choice" - absent God - and the horrific consequences of those choices upon the individual, especially the most vulnerable in our society. It is where we have arrived today encapsulated in one man's example.

In a nutshell, a man gets ill and realizes it will cost so much it will make him homeless. He has no support and no one to care for him. He lives in a country that will allow him to "choose" the alternative of physician-assisted suicide, in other words, euthanasia for humans. He doesn't want to die, but feels he has no better options. It is served up to him as his "right" and a "good solution." The slope gets more slippery. This "right" to death is not only made available for the terminally ill, but for the chronically ill, and now potentially for the mentally ill and the mentally unhappy, including children...

It is served up as a "good option" because it is presumably less difficult and less burdensome on the individual and on the family. Draw back the curtain and it is actually more cost effective, streamlined, and even profitable for all those who benefit between the doctors, the insurance companies, the corporations, the health care system, and even the family members - everyone but the human being who dies. After all, in our capitalist world, if someone is no longer a source of income, productivity, or output, the next best solution is to cut costs, right?

When a relatively burden-free exit to life is served up as a co-equal alternative to a burdened, painful and unclear remainder of life, what is masked are all the corporate-driven choices that have been baked into the equation, and specifically how we, as a society, have chosen to set our priorities, ie. prioritizing profit over people. The powers that be have decided, for example, that it is more important to pour billions, if not trillions, into building up the military rather than investing in things like end of life care, mental wellness, health care, assistance for the vulnerable, education, the climate catastrophe, and... And it is impossible to overlook the clear racial and class component; the elite in society are not forced to make such draconian choices about whether to continue or end their lives.

As God-loving Muslims, we understand that it is not our right to choose death over life like this. And, we cannot simply set God to the side in such morally weighty matters. This is not about freedoms or rights or choice or liberation. It is about the choices we make as a society. It paints a bleak picture and stands in stark contrast to the moral imperatives of our faith and God's call for elevating humanity and beauty, honoring life, minimizing suffering, and caring for our world and all of God's creation within it. Why is it so easy as human beings to accept this cold, calculated, inhumane and Godless approach to life as if it is somehow normal, or worse, elevated because it is the result of "free" human choice?

All of this makes me reflect on the whole notion of choice and the idea of freedom and liberation. We live in a society in which we are told that freedom and liberty reside with the ability to choose widely and broadly, as if morality or the priorities of principle are inconsequential. For example, we see this logic taken to the extreme in the recent case of Twitter where, in the name of freedom of speech, all guardrails have been removed such that hate speech, bigotry, misogyny and the like are welcomed and placed on equal footing with reasoned, principled, and educated discourse. Is free speech really free? How about free choice?

As we have learned time and again from our engagement with the Qur'an in the Project Illumine halaqas, there are two paths: the path of light and the path of darkness. You are either on one path or the other. There is no in-between. Choices matter. Even making NO decision is a consequential choice.

Further, when we set God aside, God sets us aside. As Muslims, we understand that life is full of vicissitudes by design. The challenges of life are infused with opportunities for growth, service, love, empathy, success, forgiveness, elevation, and the full color of life that can, if we choose the path of the divine, bring us to the heights of beauty, strength, patience, fortitude, and everything good. It is a full engagement, rich and ripe with moral beauty - not easy, but extremely meaningful. Since when was anything worth anything easy? And since when was the right solution to jump ship when the going gets too difficult? In the latter situation, there is no space for God, grace, or divine guidance. It closes the door to God and opens the door to darkness.

We have built a society that makes it easy and even desirable - for those who benefit - to encourage and assist the "needy and burdensome" to stop being such a burden; to stop being a drain on resources, profitability, time and effort. This argument is compelling and convincing, especially coming from those in the seat of wealth, power, and influence. It is dressed up in the language of care and concern.

But let us not be fooled. As Muslims, we must be crystal clear that there are choices that invoke the light and choices that invite the opposite of light, even just shades of gray, where confusion can ultimately breed darkness. This khutbah hit me hard because there are people that I love that I can imagine would buy into this narrative that the best way to lighten the burdens upon those they love would be to "leave this earth in dignity by choice," as it were. As a Muslim who knows that God is real, that God is our intimate partner in life, and that God wants what is best for us even if we have no clue what that is, that the option of "choosing death on our terms" is a complete disfiguring of the truth. When we as a society choose capitalism - soul-less, God-less, profiteering - over creating sustainable, beautiful, equitable, and enriching life for all, for which we as a global society can clearly afford if our priorities were right, then darkness wins.

Muslims must be warriors for light. We must be at the forefront of everything good. Our God, our Book, and our faith demand it. It is true that it all begins and ends with choice - individual choice. Societal decisions were made by human beings, each given the power to choose light over darkness. Right now, darkness is ahead. What are we, as Muslims - as humans that can role model beauty for others and actively choose the light - going to do about it?

Just my reflections for whatever they are worth! Apologies for the late email. It was that kind of a day! ;)
The khutbah today was amazing! Looking forward to the continuation of our engagement with Surah 9: Al Tawbah (Day 8) TOMORROW at 6 PM ET! Hope to connect with you online soon insha'Allah (God willing)!
In Peace and Hope,

P.S. For anyone who needs a little puppy energy as an uplift, check out the beginning of last week's halaqa on Surah 9: Al Tawbah, Day 7! In support of our blessed four-legged companions, I have inserted Dr. Abou El Fadl's talk in support of Dogs in the Islamic Tradition among the highlighted videos! :)


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

Your donation to The Institute for Advanced Usuli Studies will help fund important work to combat extremism and ignorance. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity dedicated to research and education to promote humanistically beautiful and morally elevating interpretations of Islam. We seek to support our brightest minds to advance knowledge and to build a community of individuals founded on dignity, respect and love for all of God's creation. See The Usuli Institute Credo for our statement of values. Please give generously to support a beautiful, reasonable and vibrantly human Islam for future generations to come. All donations are tax-deductible and zakat eligible.


Subscribe to Our E-mail List for Weekly updates and Latest News: