Don't Be Stupid About Your Package, and What About Gaza?

There is a remarkable, miraculous, and even magical relationship between words and the beings that receive words, comprehend words, and go beyond that to act upon words. It is magical because without words, not only are we, human beings, unable to relate to one another or exchange our experiences, knowledge, and feelings, but words are even the way by which we relate to our own selves. Words are shorthand symbolism that enable us to even communicate with our very selves.


God communicates with us through the medium of words. I am always struck by the words in the Qur'an and the extent to which so much depends upon the agent, the human being, who receives the Qur'an and deciphers the linguistic symbolisms of the Qur'an, turning them into comprehension, into a relationship with oneself and with others, and into a full universe of meaning. In Surah Taha, God reminds us that although we have no frame of reference to fully understand what resurrection means, it will come as surely as death will come. Death is such a remote implausibility. In every moment of life, our intellects and psyches do not fully comprehend death. Even our relationship with the very word death is an endlessly complicated one. It adopts shades of meaning at different times, in different ways, and in different contexts, to different effects. But God summarizes for us that dynamic in resurrection in which after having gone through the experience of death, we will once again come to consciousness. 


Quite simply, God says, “...And whosoever bears wrongdoing will be in a state of loss” (Q 20:111). Very simple and straightforward words. You will come to your Lord and stand before your Lord in one way or another. At that moment, there are no distractions. Distraction is not possible, in the same way that escape is not possible. All you have is yourself and the overwhelming reality of your Lord, your Maker, and the Maker of the universe. God tells us clearly that those who come to meet their Lord bearing an injustice are in a state of loss. A human being intent on reflection and understanding would pause to think of the profound and numerous implications of that simple expression. When you stand before your Lord, be mindful of the fact that if you stand carrying and burdened by an injustice, you will be in a state of loss.


If words are to have meaning, we must pause and reflect on the many ways that we can be just and the many ways that we can also be unjust. How do we even begin to think about justice and injustice? At a minimum, for justice to exist, each must receive their due. Again, there is power in the very words: each must receive their due. In order for these words to have meaning, however, we must be capable of thinking about rights. What is due to a party? Think about a human being and the bundle of rights and obligations that surround a human being from the time they come into this earth to the time they leave this earth. A bundle of rights that are owed, lest we forget, to our Maker.


We indulge in all the bounties that God made available to us every moment of every day. The vast majority of the time, we take these bounties for granted, everything from good health to relationships of love, trust, respect, safety, security, and tranquility. It is all through God's bounty. If you love your mother and your mother loves you, that is not of your own doing. That is a bounty, a gift, from God. If you love your children and your children love you, that is a gift from God. If you have a roof over you, if you sleep warm and fed, if you can count on tomorrow coming while you are safe and secure, these are all blessings from the Maker — blessings that for the most part we take for granted.


We hardly think about it at all. In fact, we tend to think about them only in deprivation. After years of having a mother that loved you, cared for you, and prayed for you, we typically only realize the weight of the gift and bounty after she is gone. How much it washes over you; all the years in which you had the blessings of your mother's company. Just the fact that you could hear her voice and du’a, and count on the fact that she is there to pray for you. For so many days, so many years, you enjoyed this blessing and took it for granted. God extended it to you and for the most part, you took it for granted, just as we take for granted our ability to walk, be fed, sleep, and all the many other blessings we take for granted. If you are able to socialize and earn people's respect, love, and care instead of their scorn, hate, and jealousy, these are all gifts from God that we take for granted.


But we feel the extent of the blessing only in deprivation when we are denied the blessing. We start understanding why God is truly the al-Rahman (The Merciful), al-Rahim (The Compassionate). A God that puts forward all the blessings and gifts for you to enjoy, and is ever willing to receive you when you finally remember that you ought to be grateful. A God that will forgive you for years of obliviousness, neglect, and ingratitude just because you eventually got your act together and started being grateful. A God that will send you numerous reminders during your lifetime to reflect and think, and not to be among those who will come to meet God in due time branded an unjust human being. Unjust because you enjoyed so many blessings and expressed very little gratitude for them. 


Gratitude is not just expressed in worship or in the expression of thanks. Gratitude is expressed in behavior. If you honor the blessings of the relationships that God has given you, you would protect these relationships. You would realize that instead of every loving relationship, it could turn to its opposite, so you honor and nurture every goodness that you have in your life. That is gratitude. 


Think of all the ways that you could also be unjust toward yourself. If God has given you a talent, a gift, where does it come from? What is the reality of this gift? Even our language calls it a gift. In Arabic, a “talent” is called a mawhiba, from the root wahaba, meaning gift. If God has given you a gift, and the most miraculous gift is your intellect and heart, do not fail to give this gift its due. If you were given the gift of music, for example, then employ it to do good. Do not misuse it to perpetuate ugliness instead of beauty. If God gave you the gift of prose and words, or the gift of being able to understand mathematics, or the numerous gifts that are given through the intellect and the heart, to give such a gift its due is to nurture it, care for it, and develop it. If we fail to nurture, care for, and develop it, then perhaps we will be among those who meet the Lord carrying an injustice, the injustice committed against the self. 


God has given us the gift of the right to live as dignified human beings. But if we are to carry ourselves in an undignified fashion, if we turn ourselves into the perpetual clown who accepts being mocked, laughed at, and disrespected as a normal state of affairs, we may be among those who face their Lord carrying an injustice. God has given us the gift of intellectual freedom and independence. If we allow ourselves to end up in a relationship in which we are dominated, subjugated, and oppressed, we may be among those who face their Lord carrying an injustice. 


Beyond God and the self are all the ways that God taught us that we are obligated to think of others, care for others, and serve others. Think, then, of all the ways that we may have lived a selfish life in which we hardly thought of whether the needs of others have been met, a life that could have been very ego-centric with little thought about what others enjoy or do not enjoy. To this, God quite simply tells us, “...And whosoever bears wrongdoing will be in a state of loss” (Q 20:111). Truly lost are those that will come to meet God bearing an injustice. 


Words. You could choose not to take your God seriously. You could choose to read this and say, “Come on, this is too much. Really? I have to worry about not just making it through this life, but now I have to worry about dying, resurrection, and whether I am carrying an injustice? You cannot really mean what you say.” There are plenty willing to take this risk, but I dare tell you that this is the earmark of stupidity. Stupidity is a blight upon humanity. Stupidity is a curse. Yet we indulge in stupidity as a pastime. Stupidity is to clearly receive the notice of eviction and say, “I choose to ignore it until the day comes when I face eviction. I will worry about it then.” Do that, and you will end up homeless. 


God is telling you, “Think carefully about the package that you will be carrying when you meet Me. How many injustices are in this package? Have you honored what I have given you? Have you shown proper gratitude? Have you given Me, your Lord, My rights? Have you recognized the blessings I gave you, which include your loved ones, your friends, your education, your career, everything that you relied on and enjoyed during your lifetime? Have you treated all of that with the justice that it deserves? Have you been just toward yourself? Have you preserved your own dignity and self-respect? Have you given other human beings their due? Have you lived the life of a person aware of the mizan (balance), and how it presents you with an equilibrium of duties and rights because you are on notice? If you come to meet Me in the Hereafter, I will hold you to account for every injustice that you have been oblivious toward in your life.”


Do you see how words depend on the recipient of the words? Such a simple phrase could mean everything. It could transform you. It could transform nations and people. Or it could mean absolutely nothing. You could choose to pay attention and, instantaneously, your whole outlook upon life would become one of, “God, please help me not to meet You while carrying an injustice.” Or you could do what most Muslims do most of the time, that is, choose not to pay attention at all while reciting these very words in prayer or in any other context, and simply move on. I ask you to think about this attitude of moving on when it comes to the words of our Lord. Where has it left us? Where have we ended up? What have become of the people who were supposed to bear witness on behalf of God for the sake of justice (Q 5:8)?


It does not take a great deal of intelligence to see the way that Muslims in this day and age have truly become the living example of a people who are unjust toward themselves. Recently, there has been an overlapping set of circumstances that speak volumes about where this Ummah ought to head, and where this Ummah must reform and clean its act. 


When Morocco reached the semifinals of the World Cup, I was struck by a news story that Palestinians celebrating Morocco's victory over Portugal were attacked by Israeli police. Quite a few people were injured and arrested. Israeli police attacked them simply because they did not like the appearance of Arab solidarity. They did not like that these Palestinians found some degree of fulfillment in the victory of an Arab team over a European team. As Israeli forces cracked down on Palestinians celebrating Morocco's victory, another news item tells us that the Biden administration congratulated the new Likud government, the most racist and religiously fanatic government to date in Israel, for winning the election and reaffirming the deep ties that connect the U.S. and Israel.


The government coming to power is undeniably racist. It is a government for which as many as 30% of the individuals have a history of describing the Palestinians as nothing more than animals, calling Arabs in general a “contaminant” in Israeli society, and openly calling for a genocide against Palestinians and the expulsion of Palestinians en masse. The ideology adopted by many members of this coming Israeli government clearly conflicts even with the American immigration code that says that if you play a part in the persecution of others or advocate for the persecution of others, you are not allowed to enter the United States. Despite this, the U.S. has a strong alliance with this coming government that is filled with people who have made a career out of persecuting Palestinians and calling for the persecution of Palestinians. Our government openly congratulated them and reassured them, “Regardless of how religiously fanatic you are, regardless of political Judaism, regardless of any type of extremism, the ties between us and you are unbreakable.” 


It does not stop there. As Israeli forces attack Palestinians celebrating Morocco's victory, we read, “US announces the first ever Abraham Accords for sports peace games in hopes of bolstering normalization.” So, for the first time ever, the U.S. announces games in which Israelis, Moroccans, Bahrainis, and Emiratis are to participate. Meanwhile, just yesterday, Israel again killed Palestinian children. It happens now every week and we hardly even notice. Yet again, more Palestinians are shot dead. An article just published on Jana Majdi Zakarneh reads, “What was her crime? Agony as Palestine mourns another child killed by Israel.” Israel has shot a 15 year old girl who was found dead on a rooftop, riddled with bullets.


Palestinians are not allowed to celebrate. “We can kill you whenever we want. We slaughter your children whenever we want. We expect you to put your religious extremists in prison, while we put our religious extremists in government.” The United States will act as if Islamic religious extremism is the biggest danger to the world. The U.S. will create a center in Riyadh to track Islamic movements and jail anyone who is a part of political Islam. But political Judaism? “Welcome to the government, and welcome to the United States.” 


In fact, in a very important article, “Israel and the Rise of Jewish Fascism,” Chris Hedges writes, “Alon Pinkas, writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, calls the coalition government, scheduled to take power in one or two weeks, ‘a government by the worst and least suitable collection of ultranationalists, Jewish supremacists, anti-democrats, racists, bigots, homophobes, misogynists, corrupt and allegedly corrupt politicians. A ruling coalition of 64 lawmakers, of whom 32 are either ultra-Orthodox or religious Zionist.’” Itamar Ben-Gvir, the man who was warmly welcomed by the Emirati ambassador, is also mentioned in this article: “Itamar Ben-Gvir, from the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit, ‘Jewish Power,’ party, will be the new Minister for Internal Security. Otzma Yehudit is populated with members of Rabbi Meir Kahane's Kach party, which was banned from running for the Knesset in 1988 for espousing a ‘Nazi-like ideology’ that included advocating the ethnic cleansing of all Palestinian citizens from Israel as well as Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. His appointment, along with that of other far-right ideologues, including Bezalel Smotrich, to be in charge of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), effectively jettisons the old tropes liberal Zionists used to defend Israel—that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, that it seeks a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians in a two-state solution, that extremism and racism have no place in Israeli society and that Israel must impose draconian forms of control on the Palestinians to prevent terrorism. Ben-Gvir and Smotrich represent the dregs of Israeli society, one that promotes ‘Jewish identity’ and ‘Jewish nationalism’ in a Zionist version of fascism's call for blood and soil.” The article goes on to talk about how Netanyahu's partners in power, who are now coming to power in Israel, have long been calling for the destruction of the al-Aqsa Mosque, for an open genocide against Palestinians, and for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. 


Despite an undeniable track record of fascism, bigotry, and hate, the Emirates, that country with a Ministry of Tolerance, has not said one word of criticism against the intolerance of this new Israeli government. Has Egypt expressed any concern over Chris Hedges’ prediction that the first thing this new coalition will do is create an excuse to wage a war against Gaza? One of the first things that this Israeli government will do, as both Chris Hedges and I believe, is find an excuse to attack Gaza and level it to the ground. Israel has killed more Palestinians this year than they have since 2005, when the UN first started keeping records of how many Palestinians are killed by Israelis. This year has brought the highest numbers so far. 


We will live our lives. We will meet our Lord. And God will ask us, “What is this injustice that you are carrying?” One of the worst injustices is for a Muslim to live happy and content while Muslim children, who are just like you, live in indescribable suffering and agony. 


The UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco have rushed to make peace with Israel, and Israel responds to this by electing the most radical, fascist, and hateful government. Israel elects the most radical fascist government to date, a government that has always talked about Palestinians as nothing better than animals, using the most racist language to describe Palestinians and Arabs in general. The writing on the wall is clear. Regardless of what the Emiratis, Saudis, Bahrainis, Sudanese, Egyptians, or Moroccans say, Israel is reading these agreements as a fundamental abandonment of Palestinians, as a green light to persecute Palestinians for even experiencing the joy of a victory in soccer, and as a green light to offer these other Muslim Arabs a U.S.-sponsored sports event. 


At the same time that the most racist government comes to power in Israel, the Biden administration firms up plans started by the Trump administration to build the new U.S. embassy on stolen Palestinian land in Jerusalem. A recent article documents the undeniable fact that the land upon which the new embassy will be built is stolen Palestinian land. But it does not stop there. At the same time, the U.S. has tried to pressure the UN to terminate its blacklist of companies that are illegally doing business in occupied Palestinian lands. The United States essentially told the UN, “We do not like the fact that you continue blacklisting companies that are illegally doing business in occupied Palestinian territories. We want you to treat these companies like we treat ourselves. These companies might do business on stolen Palestinian land, but we want you, the United Nations, to ignore that, like we are ignoring the fact that we are building our embassy on stolen Palestinian land.” 


The crème de la crème, however, is when Netanyahu showed up on Saudi television to deliver a message to the Saudis of the wonderful days of peace between Israelis and Saudis to come. This, at the same time that his partners in power are openly calling for the destruction of the al-Aqsa Mosque and openly saying that any Palestinian that resists Israeli occupation will be summarily deported. What is most amazing about his message is that he urges the United States to not punish Saudi Arabia for its criminal conduct or its human rights violations. In other words, to rubber stamp whatever Mohammed bin Salman does. It is clear that all these so-called Muslim Arab governments — the Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi, Sudan, Egypt, Morocco — see that the way to America's heart is through Israel. 


Forget all the nonsense you may have learned about realpolitik and pragmatism. We do not live in a pragmatic world. We live in a highly ideological world because the United States itself is not looking to its own best interests. The United States is on a purely ideological mission. We, the U.S., will sacrifice numerous financial interests and even our principles for the sake of our ideological partner, Israel. As long as Israel is happy, we will overlook everything else, including a racist, fascist, and genocidal regime coming to power. 


When that genocide comes in the next few months, as soon as by next Ramadan, when this new government will start ethnically cleansing Palestinians and commit unprecedented crimes against Palestinians, the Emiratis will do absolutely nothing. The Saudis, the “Custodians of the Two Holy Sites,” will do absolutely nothing. The American government will pretend to be outraged by the violence, but it has effectively encouraged Israel in every possible way. When this day comes, think of your role as an American Muslim. Does your polite talk about supporting the rights of Palestinians mean you have discharged your obligations and duties, especially when you continue to praise and celebrate those who are closely aligned to Emirati and Saudi money? Think of the day when you will stand before your Lord. Think of the bundle of rights and obligations that you will be held responsible for. You have been warned. Chris Hedges warned you, and I am warning you. 


By next Ramadan, we will be hearing of a genocide and an ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. Have you as much as done something even in your heart, in your choice of who you listen to or follow on social media, or in terms of your tweets? Have you done something in terms of your most minimal activity? Have you done anything whatsoever? “As little as what I have done, here is something.” Or do you continue to be oblivious, ignorant, mindless, and stupid, like all those who appear before their Lord bearing an injustice (Q 20:111)?

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