أَوَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَكَانُوا أَشَدَّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعْجِزَهُ مِن شَيْءٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ إِنَّهُ كَانَ عَلِيمًا قَدِيرًا
وَلَوْ يُؤَاخِذُ اللَّهُ النَّاسَ بِمَا كَسَبُوا مَا تَرَكَ عَلَى ظَهْرِهَا مِن دَابَّةٍ وَلَكِن يُؤَخِّرُهُمْ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى فَإِذَا جَاء أَجَلُهُمْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِعِبَادِهِ بَصِيرًا
Have they not traveled in the land and seen how those in the past ended up, even though they had been more powerful? God is not that nothing in the heavens or in the earth can escape Him. Indeed, He is all-Knowing and all-Powerful!
If God held people accountable as they deserve, that would not leave a single living creature in its wake; however, He lets them stay for a certain term. Then, when their term is up, it turns out that He has been ever-watchful of all mankind.
(35:44-45 … Al-Fatir)
God has blessed me recently to travel to the land of Moses, Jesus & Muhammad (peace and mercy be always with them) … where the revelations descended and the Prophets ascended.
The streets of Jerusalem and the alleys around Al-Aqsa were silently screaming in my ears as I walked the streets of Old Quarters of Jerusalem, a.k.a. Al-Quds …
There were, in my ears, the silent screams of one thousand years from the violent era of Crusaders .
Their reign of terror ended with Salahuddin Ayyoub, a.k.a. Saladin. During his reign & thereafter for seven hundred sixty one years, the people of Star, the Cross and the Crescent lived as neighbors in relative peace.
It was thereafter in 1948 that the Palestinians were humiliatingly displaced from their homes & farms; dispossessed of their belongings & property, and deprived of a living with honor and dignity.
It is these sixty years of continued occupation that we now call the Naqba, that I went to commemorate and also to witness the wrongs in our midst, in 2008!
Brothers & Sisters ... the verse I recited refers to “travel & witnessing the past” … in it are lessons for mankind, only if they wish to learn.
‘Power & Authority’ is an ‘Amanah’ (trust) that God bestows upon those whomever He chooses.
Wise are those who receive this honor in the selfless service of the humanity.
Those who are unwise rely on ‘power’ alone, only to realize in time that their term was, but for a limited time and their tyranny of oppression will be held against them in the eternal life Hereafter.
The Occupation of Palestinian land and its people by Israel is abhorrently immoral and illegal by any and all standards.
Whether it is the East Jerusalem or the West Bank, the oppression and occupation is vividly blatant & calling upon all people of faiths and conscience to end it.
I had the painful privilege to travel through a great deal of the Occupied West Bank such as the cities of Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron & also part of Israel, such as the cities of Tel Aviv, Haifa & Nazareth …
I met restaurant waiters & bus drivers, professors & students, young & old, rich & poor, men & women, religious & secular & their cry and call is one … “Occupation Must End.”
In the city of Bethlehem, the city of birth of Jesus (may peace be always with him), I met an elected official of the city, where, in spite of a Muslim majority, the Mayor of the City is always a Christian and their City Council has always a Christian majority … clearly demonstrating that people of faiths can live side by side, in peace, with mutual respect, and as equal citizens and loving neighbors.
Contrary to Bethlehem … … in Hebron, the City of Prophet Ibrahim (the father of all – may peace be always with him), where a New York born Baruch Goldstein had killed Muslim worshippers in Masjid al-Khaleel during the Fajr prayers in the Ramadan of 1994 … continues to remain under siege by the Occupying forces of Israel & the Jewish Settlers …
In Hebron, I met and patiently listened to, a New Jersey born David Wilder (a Settler), now an Israeli Citizen (under the Israeli Law of Return) …
– who consciously chooses not to even recognize the term “Palestinian or Palestine”
– who believes that the Jewish land has in fact been stolen by Arabs for thousands of years,
– who claims that without this land, there can be no faith Judaism,
– David has the right of carrying a loaded weapon to protect less than five hundred settlers in the settlement (Kiryat Arba) while tens of thousands of Palestinians can neither walk free in the streets nor can open their stores to earn a livelihood, and …
– He & others can return from any part of the world and claim Israeli citizenship and receive full services but a Palestinian born in Hebron or Ramallah or any other occupied city, now living anywhere or in Southern California, cannot return to his homeland, if & when he/she so chooses.
Brothers & Sisters, God is indeed most just … and will hold everyone accountable to what they do and what they don’t … what they say and what they don’t and of course when they are unjust and violate the sanctity of life, dignity and honor.
We know that God alone can render ultimate justice and He tests us by giving us time to prove ourselves worthy of his grace & mercy.
As Quran is emphatically clear … that “if we were to be held accountable (fully) then not one of us would pass His test & indeed He is letting one group over the other stay in control & power for a certain term. And that term will be up sooner or later.”
There is much to say of the persecuted lands and the people of Palestine. About them and in their suffering is a heart wrenching story.
There is a wall that is continually being built, anywhere from 5 to upto 28 feet tall (with barbed wire), tearing apart families, businesses and lives.
There are check-points, where each day thousands of Palestinians’ basic human dignity is stripped bare …
Neither students nor teachers can reach their classrooms - with certainty each day
Neither doctors can render nor patients can receive medical care when needed …
Neither a son can visit his mother nor a wife can visit her beloved, at will …
But, at will, the American made Israeli bulldozers can raze orchards full of olive and fig trees and demolish homes while the inhabitants are sleeping or barely awake …
In the midst of seemingly perpetual fog and gloom, I find hope … reflecting the Quranic principle …
وَلاَ تَهِنُوا وَلاَ تَحْزَنُوا وَأَنتُمُ الأَعْلَوْنَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
“Neither despair nor grieve - for if you are true believers, you will eventually be relieved.” (3:139)
I find hope …
In the owner of that restaurant in the outskirts of Jerusalem … who offered baklawa to our group members of various faiths & said - "sweets are on-house, although we live in bitterness."
I find hope …
In Bassam Aramin, who co-founded Combatants for Peace (along with Israeli refuseniks), whose ten year old daughter, Abir, was killed by a teenage IDF soldier (January 16, 2007). A grieving but patient father, Bassam, is calling for “justice” and not for “revenge.”
I find hope …
In Emad, a father of four, from the village of B’lin, who is leading a weekly vigil, against the apartheid wall that divides his village in two parts … his part with nothing and the part on the other side, now stolen by the Israeli Military, full of olive trees and fertile land.
I find hope …
In Daoud & his family who suffer but refuse to leave their farmland (Daher’s Vineyard) in spite of being land-locked (by settlers and roadblocks) & tempting offers from ‘anonymous buyers’ offering blank checks. Instead they host people of all faiths & nations in their symbolic tent-of-nations and extend their warmth, hospitality and love to all.
And, then you’ve the concerned Jewish mothers in the southern outskirts of Haifa, whose movement calls for “civil-izing” and not “militar-izing” the society and educate and empower their sons not to join military …
And, I have also witnessed people of Judaic faith, my friends … accompanying me in the travels, courageous enough to stand by me when I was questioned of my origins and ethnicity (by the Israeli security), and who were also brave enough to visit the refugee camps and hold the hands of a Palestinian grandmother and say sorry for what had happened to her and her grandchildren.
Such is the courage, that my dear brothers and sisters, I house my hope in, for a better tomorrow.
But before I and you, hope for a better tomorrow, we ought to also recommit ourselves of our duty … “to be a firm witness for justice even if it be against ourselves.”
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاء لِلّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ
We also must remember the Prophetic legacy … “that, when you see wrong, right it with your hand, or speak against it or at least feel it in your heart – indeed that’ll be the weakest of your faith.”
Let us pray that we become of those who stand firmly for justice and are resolved against any form of injustice anywhere, against anyone by anyone.
Let us pray that we eagerly lend our ears to the silent cries of the ancient al-Aqsa, the alleys of Ramallah, the corners of Hebron and the circles of Nablus.
Let us pray that the grandmothers and grandfathers, orphans and widows, be embraced by all of us, as people who deserve dignity and honor and who are no less or more, than any other people, and that we all, one day can enjoy the fragrance of olives and the shade of a fig tree sitting with a person of any faith or color, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation with respect of all.
It is indeed, my dear brothers and sisters that we learn when we travel and explore the lands & the seas that God created and God owns … there is nothing hidden from him, neither in the depths of the oceans nor in the heights of skies … all is known to Him and we seek refuge in Him and ask him to bless us with courage, patience and perseverance to work for justice and peace for all people, everywhere, and in particular in Palestine. Amen.