Bismillahi ir-Rahman ir-Raheem.

In the Name of God, the Universally Merciful, the Singularly Compassionate.


Most in my heart and mind this Ramadan is that part of our human family who resides in the place known as ‘Gaza.’ In what has been reduced to the likes of a concentration camp, the people of Gaza are targeted, oppressed, punished, and murdered in plain view of the world.

Action against this and every other injustice is a collective, moral obligation. How many more atrocities need occur before we gather the courage to take a stand and stop all crimes against humanity? The evidence demonstrates that the global collective is in a state of dire, spiritual loss. In the Noble Qur’an, God sums up the general state of humanity in Surat al ‘Asr (Chapter 103), as well as the condition of the believers:

By the declining day,

Indeed, mankind is in a state of loss,

Except those who believe and do good works,

And encourage one another to truth,

And encourage one another to patient perseverance.

The spiritual response to life is described in no unclear terms, yet we have collectively fallen quite short. As individuals living in what often seems like an age of global, moral bankruptcy (the age of the “declining day” mentioned above), it is easy to feel powerless when faced with the scale of our collective decay, which seems massive, complex, entrenched, sinister, and ominous. If you have felt guilty and ashamed for living somewhere safe, comfortable, and comparatively uneventful while others are living in a state of daily fear and insecurity, gasping for their lives, then you can actually breathe a sigh of some relief, because your feelings are a sign that you have a heart and a conscience. If you are instead coasting through life without a care, then this might actually be a cause for concern. There is a big world out there with no dearth of people in dire need, whose plight we should be naturally attuned to through hearts in solidarity.

The horrors of Gaza are further compounded by the fact that this is all happening during Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic year, now coming to a close. If you desire a theme of reflection, consider the self-inquiry, “What am I doing to improve the condition of others?” I pray that I ask this question every day, and that I not ever get so comfortable that I join the ranks of the walking dead.

In the face of the pogram in Gaza, people of conscience cannot help but think that all other life concerns should really be peripheral. Yes, we are directly responsible for the context God has placed us in, appearing as so many immediate, local responsibilities that call us, perhaps to an extent that we don’t have the inner and outer resources to extend ourselves much further. In a globalized world, however, common knowledge of world events has necessarily expanded our sphere of responsibility. Yet, we are incapable of action beyond our own capacity. I’m sure that these kinds of thoughts are quite familiar to most of you. Otherwise, you would probably not be reading this post. The sincere aspirant on the path of truth must ask these questions and investigate until arriving at a place of confidence in a personal response to recognized injustice. Inaction can indeed be a form of complicity. There is always something that can be done. If you persist in your personal query, I have full confidence that Allah Most High will assist you in recognizing the contribution that you are perfectly capable of making, both inwardly and outwardly. And know that in the ontological scheme of things (i.e. you are a spiritual being having a human experience), the inward response must be established clearly in order for any outward response to be sound.

My hope is that this post will help to expand the conversation beyond the obvious (i.e. that there is half-century long injustice against the Palestinians that has continually escalated). First, the Palestinians include both Muslims and Christians, among others, and Israel is a secular state, the creation of which has been disputed and opposed by many orthodox Jews. In other words, this is not a religiously-based conflict. Billions of dollars are fed into the propaganda engine of misinformation, in order to maintain the status quo, keeping the global masses ignorant, agreeable, and passive. The reality is quite different. What is happening is a calculated strategy, an ethnic cleansing of an entire population where no mother or child is left behind – yet another genocide.

Like it or not, the entirety of humanity is a family, albeit one with dysfunctional, splintered segments, some of whom would like to see the ‘other’ wiped off the face of the earth. However, there is no real ‘other.’ A human being is a human being. Existence is its own proof. ‘Otherization’ is the immature response of an ignorant, wounded soul, and though its impressions may be based on some facts, these are at best relative truths that frame a narrative of suffering and decay, not a living reality of healing and rebirth.

The cycle of ‘loss’ is a downward spiral that can be summarized as follows. Ignorance gives rise to fear (of an ‘other’ who is fundamentally different from me, that poses a threat to my existence). Fear gives rise to aggression (the defense mechanism). Chronic ignorance transforms into blind hatred (prejudice that doesn’t see beyond its own perceptions of the world) and, consequently, into division (fences, walls… i.e. refusal to meet, communicate, and break bread together). Hatred leads to extremism, which is fundamentally violent (which includes the perspective that “the best defense is a good offense”). This mess invariably leads to genocide. Understand a key point – this is a never-ending cycle of suffering and destruction, the greatest of which is the loss of one’s own soul, one’s sense of humanity. Reconciliation, however, always offers a way out. God says in the Holy Qur’an (Chapter 8, verse 61), “But if the enemy inclines towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in God.”

Some argue that we need to snap out of the fairytale ideal of global peace and harmony and accept the ‘harsh realities of the world.’ Too often, we are convinced that the events that are presented to us by the media represent the true or real story. In addition to not being shown all of the news, all of the miracles taking place from one moment to the next, these are all still events that have both a beginning and an end in time. It is our unwillingness to let go of the narratives of suffering that is really in question. We have bartered truth for illusion. And so we join the circle of the traumatized.

Trauma unresolved most often leads to the victim becoming the victimizer. It is like the bite of a rabid dog. Once bitten (and untreated), you become rabid. The bitten then becomes a biter. And the cycle goes on. The perpetrator, however, is in need of profound, deep healing.

The behavior of the aggressor, albeit in the sense of self-preservation, arises from ignorance. We should see right through it and tend to the suffering that drives it. Consider these words of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi:

 Trust your wound to a teacher’s surgery.

Flies collect on a wound.

They cover it,

those flies of your self-protecting feelings,

your love for what you think is yours.

Let a Teacher wave away the flies

and put a plaster on the wound.

Don’t turn your head.

Keep looking

at the bandaged place.

That’s where

the Light enters you.

And don’t believe for a moment

that you’re healing yourself.

A severely ill patient cannot supervise his own healing process nor administer the treatment. Suffering clouds our ability to see the truth that lies outside the box of our perceptions and it obstructs the resolution of conditioning. If the wound is not cared for by a skillful heart-hand, it solidifies into a scar that is now removed from the life-blood of feeling and connection. One is literally numbed from feeling the plight of his brothers and sisters in humanity. Thus, the patient spirals further into darkness.

Furthermore, whatever solution we envision for any situation must include customized healing for everyone involved. No one can be left out. Indeed, every life is precious, as stated in Holy Qur’an (Chapter 5, verse 32):

For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.

The communal healing process has stages: the permanent cessation of hostility, aggression, and conflict, mutual accountability, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness, and the realization of an abiding peace.

We all basically want the same essential things in life: to live with dignity and in mutual respect, and to partake equally in the blessings of life. How we envision the attainment of these experiences, however, varies from one person to the next. This is where the light of knowledge is essential to guide us through the darkness of ignorance. We must rise to the spiritual occasion and be all that we are created to be – beings of essential and exquisite goodness. There is a potent account in the Old Testament that beautifully summarizes the conundrum of perception (Genesis 4:8-12) of the self-centered soul who does not see himself in the other, who does not know himself in the context of the greater whole, who does not have an embodied sense of the oneness of existence:

Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He replied, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”

Friends, pray with all your heart for the oppressed, as well as the oppressor, as they are two sides of a singular coin of mutual co-existence. We are each and every one of us entrusted with the moral responsibility of being our ‘brother’s keeper,’ one and all. Otherwise, what hope can we possibly have of returning to God, pleasing and satisfying to Him, and pleased and satisfied with Him. May we never lose the way. And if we do lose the way, may we forever respond to the call home and realize a joyous return. As Rumi says so well,

Come, come, whoever you are.

Wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire, it doesn’t matter.

Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Come even though you have broken your vow a thousand times,

Come, yet again, come, come.


W’Allahu ‘alam.


©2014  Ilyas al Kashani