The issue of Palestine is often cited by violent extremists as the reason they believe Muslims ought to raise the banner of Jihad in this age. There is no doubt in my mind that Palestine has become the flashpoint of radical Muslim politics whether in the Middle East or here in Canada.Alliances have been formed and lines are being drawn and redrawn over this issue.
When the Canadian Somali Congress recently teamed up with members of the Jewish community in a mentorship program, leaders in the Somali community were called traitors for doing so. Some of the insults came from within their own communities and it didn’t end there.Yet no other ethnic Muslim community…not the Asians, West Indians or the Arabs…came forward to provide an alternative. What the Jewish community has offered young highly intelligent Somali men and women are internships to help them better prepare for jobs in their professional careers.And this is only one example of how a conflict half way around the world affects our communities here in Canada.
It seems that the only response to the Palestinian issue is violence and when that’s not possible, hate takes its place. I’ve visited Israel and parts of its occupied territories and produced several feature television reports from there, but I can never claim to understand the experiences of suffering and anguish on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian divide.
But Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish does. On January 16, 2009 Israeli shells rained down on his neighborhood in Gaza. He ran out of his home to help others. That’s when a shell hit his own home killing three of his daughters and a niece.
Words could not capture Abuelaish’s grief. The pictures of a physician with deep faith in God weeping for his loss captured hearts and headlines around the world.With the remaining members of his family he moved to Toronto and took a position teaching at the University of Toronto. And he has written a book, the title of which many of you may doubt, but one that reflects the very character of our blessed Prophet, Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. The title of Abuelaish’s book is “I SHALL NOT HATE.”
It is an account of a Gazan life subsumed in the pain that accompanies suffering and the humiliation that accompanies occupation. But it is not only about that, it is about coming to terms with what has happened and moving forward with courage and a determination that hate resolves nothing.
From a piece of land that’s no more than 360 square kilometers with 1.5 million refugees jammed in, comes a vision from the “Gazan doctor” as he is now called, that education for women is the only way forward in the Middle East.
Is it this remarkable vision — one man’s response to the loss of what is most dear to him — that has won him humanitarian awards around the world. Instead of seeking revenge and constantly coughing up the phlegm of hatred, Dr. Abuelaish wants the loss of his daughters to light the flame of genuine peace in the Middle East. And truth be said, it is the only proposal that’s never been given a chance.
War, occupation and the reckless stupidity of suicide bombings have brought nothing but misery to all sides in this conflict. Dr. Abuelaish is pointing us in a direction that requires courage and the ability to think anew.
The resolve of Dr. Abuelaish not to hate reflects the ethic of the Sunnah of our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings.
At the tail end of the Battle of Uhud, as the Prophet was receiving treatment for his wounds in a cave on the mountain, his enemies stood a safe distance shouting absurdities at him. When his companions became eager to respond in kind, the Prophet told them, “I was not sent to curse people, but as a Mercy.”
His was not a path of hate, but one of Forgiveness and Generosity of Character. It makes absolutely no sense to say he was merciful when his mercy did not extend to everyone, those who loved him and those who wished to harm him.
Least we forget, he pardoned a woman who poisoned meat before serving it to him. He forgave the man who drew a sword on him with the intent to kill. And he forgave those like Abdullah ibn Ubayy, who betrayed him.
Even when he suffered loss at the hands of his enemies, the Prophet of God would never become agitated and never once lost his composure. He was always in a state of tranquility…wa kana ahlamun-nas. He was the most tranquil of all people.
The word halim in Arabic can be applied to an intelligent person. A person with a calm disposition is often level-headed which incidentally is mark of great civilizations. A halim, for example, from the same word, is is dreamer. To dream one requires peace and calm otherwise the dream would quickly become a nightmare.
The path to hilm can only be achieved by enduring hardships with patience. In my own opinion, it is because Dr. Abuelaish radiates with the beauty of someone who has shown remarkable patience, his solution to this conflict strikes me as more formidable than any springing out of the soil of hatred.
If you wish to help this man please visit the charity he has set up in his daughters’ name at www.daughtersforlife.com
May God shower our community with love and guide us to a path that allows us to accept with humility and courtesy the gifts of spring and a heart that is forever grateful of His favors.