Last night, Paris was hit with the worst attacks of terrorism since World War II. As suspected, ISIS claimed responsibility for these attacks as if it’s their own sick badge of honour. My prayers go out to the families of the deceased and to the injured. May they find a measure of peace in these difficult times. And also to the people of France as well; I pray that this cowardly act of barbarism doesn’t blind them to the humanity present in each and every one of us; I pray that they do not seek revenge against Muslims that, with them, denounce these radicals.
As for ISIS, I’ve already made my statement regarding them. I will not apologize for them, nor for Islam, because Islam is greater than those who pervert its teachings. These self-aggrandizing dogs carried out an inhumane act of terrorism and brutality, and these words have no place in Islam. They understand themselves to be God’s army, but they don’t even understand God’s book.
Instead I want to turn this discussion to us. You and me. Humanity in general, and my fellow Muslims in particular. I post this question to my human family: where do we go from here?
How we answer that is up to us. But to understand where we’re going, we must first know where we came from. And that is where I’ll start.
“I know what you do not know.”
The creation of Adam is mentioned many times in the Qur’an, but the first time it is mentioned we are given the following scenario. When God created Adam, the angels asked, “Will You place in it someone who will spread corruption there and shed blood while we praise You and glorify Your Name?” (2:30). Their question was well founded. Prior to humans, the earth was a place for the jinn—another creation of God that, for the sake of simplicity, I can’t cover here. The jinn were constantly fighting and killing and spreading corruption. It got so bad, in fact, that the angels were eventually sent to intervene with their constant wars. And so when the angels learned that God was making another creation, to be placed on earth as a calipha (which I will explain below), they probably had reason to fear that this creation—mankind—would behave much like the jinn did.
Now, take a look at any history book. Even better yet, just open up the morning news. Were the angels right about us? Have we spread corruption and shed blood? Yes. So often, yes. In Paris. In Vietnam. In Rome. In Babylonia. The earth has pretty much been soaked in the blood of man.
So when the angels asked why God would create something that would spread corruption and shed blood, this was God’s response: “I know what you do not know.” (2:30)
What did God know?
The most beautiful interpretation I heard is this: God knew the potential of mankind.
The term “calipha” mentioned above has many meanings, but in this context it can be roughly translated to mean “representative” or “ambassador”. Simply put, it refers to the stewardship of the creation of God. The stewardship of the earth, the animals and the people—always the people. What matters is whether we choose to accept this responsibility or not.
In His Wisdom, God allowed us to have free will. He allowed us to have the responsibility to choose. He gave us all equal opportunity to be greater than angels or lower than animals. In our time on earth, we have done remarkable things: simply look at the architecture around you, the extent of our scientific discoveries, the reaches of our knowledge. We can go to the moon. We can make thousands of pounds of metal fly in the air. We can instantly connect with someone on the other side of the world. We have almost any piece of information readily accessible at our fingertips. Whether or not these things are used for good or evil is up to us. But the fact remains is that this is not the work of angels; this is the work of humans. Us.
And so the question remains: where do we go from here?
Our capacity for love and hate is in equal measure. We can show mercy and brutality in equal regard. In the wake of attacks like the one in Paris, many will immediately condemn Muslims and the Islamic faith in general, as if ISIS speaks for us. But many will also equally come to the defense of Islam, even if they aren’t Muslim. Our response to tragedy is what defines us: do we reciprocate hate, or embrace mercy?
Within each of us is the potential to do what God intended for us—to become the stewards of the earth and everything and everyone on it. But within each of us is also the potential to prove the angels right—to spread corruption and shed blood.
This is a question mankind must face at large. Where do we go? Do we continue to mindlessly shed blood, voraciously devour the earth’s natural resources, and arrogantly place ourselves in a pecking order above people we deem “lesser”? Or do we do the opposite? As for what the opposite is, what it looks like, and how it works: this is up to us. Each and every one of us. Change begins with the self, and blossoms outward. And if each and every one of us chose to change, mankind would blossom from an earth that’s been so needlessly watered with our own blood.
The coming years will tell where we go from here. As we face the evils of groups like ISIS and vices like greed and the possibility of world destruction, the potential for peace and change is there. But it’s the responsibility of each of us to decide how we can contribute to that change—if we choose at all.
And so in closing, I ask you and I ask myself:
Where do you go from here?