Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Smile of Islam

Terrorists are hijacking Islam. Islam is the victim of terrorism. Islam is being killed, and Islam is being blamed.

In London, that became apparent when a young British girl and those riding with her were mercilessly killed whilst travelling to work. She was a young bank clerk, the pride of her migrant family. She was a devoutly religious girl, and yet her sweet smile and gentle demeanour revealed the face of a truly modern British woman.

She was British. She was young. She was smiling in her published photograph. She was on her way to work. She was contributing to her society, to her economy and to her nation. She died at the hands of terrorists. At memorial services across the UK, she was being remembered and prayed for.

Tony Blair and George W Bush and John Howard and others paid tribute to her. As did other western leaders. Even those otherwise hostile to her could not help but remember her bravery.

If anyone was a martyr in this terrible tragedy, it was people like her. She was the symbol of modernity, of civilisation. Her death inspires us to fight on, to address the scourge of terror.

When we speak out against terror and its ideology, we will remember her name. When we face and address the emotions of our confused and frightened non-Muslim neighbours, we will be doing her proud.

God tells us that we should not regard martyrs as dead. They are alive. God is providing for martyrs, even if we do not perceive it.

She is a martyr. Her name and what it represents is being martyred. But her name and what it represents is not dead. Indeed, it is alive, sustained by God in ways only people of wisdom will understand.

We must fight terror so that her death not be in vain. We must fight terror so that her parents’ tears are wiped dry and replaced with the joy of knowing their daughter is a martyr and will enter paradise insh’Allah.

Islamic theology teaches us that martyrdom is not an automatic ticket to paradise. We are taught that amongst the first people to be judged on the day of judgment will be a martyr. He will be brought before God and questioned on why he died.

“I died to serve you and to make your Name respected and your Greatness acknowledged”, the martyr will say.

“No you most certainly did not!”, will be the Divine response. “You died so that people would say how great you were, so that people would write songs and poems and eulogies devoted to your bravery. And they did this. You have been rewarded. Today, there is nothing for you but the Hellfire!”

This is what he, the martyr, will be told before being dragged to hell.

He. Not she.

She had no intentions of glory or fame. She just intended to go to work. She was one of millions of anonymous Britons leaving the safety and comfort of their homes for the uncertainty of economic activity.

Now, in death, she has attained fame and glory. And her name deserves to be remembered and mentioned again and again.

She is from our family. We are from her family. She may be British, but she is also from the family of Islam.

The family of Islam are a British family. They are as British as the Blair family. They are as British as Prince Nassim or Nasser Hussein or other establishment figures. They are as British as Tim Winter and Zaki Badawi. And as Cat Stevens.

She shares her surname with the adopted name of the Cat. She is Shahara. She is the daughter of Britain, the daughter of the West, the daughter of progress and civilisation. And how fitting that she be the daughter of Islam.

Because Islam is not the enemy of progress, of civilisation, or indeed of the West. When terrorists attack the West, they attack Islam. They maim and murder Islam.

And they murdered Shahara, a daughter of Islam.

We will not allow her death to be in vain. We must fight for the family of Islam, for the name of Islam, for the reality of Islam. We will continue our fight.

We will not frown at our neighbours when they question our loyalty. But like Shahara, we will smile in the face of death. We will face the hatred of Islamophobes and their terrorist allies with the smile Shahara left us with, a smile that millions across the world saw.

We see her smiling face and we learn that the murder of Islam inspires some people to smile and others to weep. When Islam is murdered, we weep. When Islam is murdered, her enemies smile and cheer and dance.

When Islam is murdered, conservative columnists and professional Islam-haters cheer and congratulate each other. They tell the world to fight and kill Islam just as Shahara Islam’s murderers killed her. For indeed, Islam-haters and terrorists are both out to kill Islam.

But Islam will not die. God will preserve Islam. That is God’s promise. Islam can only be martyred. Islam doesn’t die.

Yes, we will say it. The London bombings were about martyrdom. Islam was martyred. British values and culture and traditions were martyred. British peace and liberalism were martyred. These British values are steeped in Islam. And they will not die. We must not let them die.

Lest the argument be spoilt by lengthy repetition, I end with the words of Shahara’s brother-in-faith and in humanity. Her brother Yusuf, also from the family of Islam, sang these words years before he ever thought of joining the family of Islam. These words are a virtual second national anthem for the people of London. We will remember these words as we simultaneously mourn and rejoice the martyrdom the smiling Shahara …

Oh I’ve been smiling lately,
Dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be,
Some day it’s going to come.

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
There rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
Come take me home again.

Now I’ve been smiling lately,
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
Something good has begun …

Now I’ve been crying lately,
Thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating,
Why can’t we live in bliss.

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
There rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
Come take me home again.

© Irfan Yusuf 2005