Posted in Everything Else, News & Relevant Topics

The Disappearance of Mike Williams

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Crime Watch Daily just ended for the day and today’s big story was the disappearance of Jerry Michael Williams. Today he’s been missing for 15 years, 9 months and 14 days. He was 31 when he went missing and would be turning 47 on October 16th. I first heard about his case on the TV show Disappeared on Investigation Discovery that I’ve recently been binge watching and his case has always left me with chills because despite all the inconsistencies, there was next to no physical evidence left behind. You can find the full Disappeared episode that aired November 18th, 2011 about him here titled Mystery on Lake Seminole. If you don’t have the opportunity to watch the entire episode, here’s a little rundown of what we know happened to him:

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On the morning of December 16th, 2000 Mike set out to go duck hunting on Lake Seminole in Florida, something he loved doing and was good at. It was also his wedding anniversary that day and he promised to be back by noon so he and his wife of six years, Denise, could go to a bed and breakfast and have a relaxing time. The hours tick by and Mike doesn’t come home. Later that day, Denise calls her father and Mike’s best friend Brian Winchester and go look for Mike themselves but they soon call in the authorities.

An extensive search was done over a period of 44 days but very few clues were discovered. Mike’s boat was in the water and his truck was nearby but there were no signs of him. No body, no clothes, no equipment, nothing. It was suggested that Mike had fallen out of his boat and drowned, not being able to get out when water filled his waders and that alligators had subsequently eaten him so no criminal investigation was opened at the time but there are several things wrong with this theory.

The first was that at the time of his disappearance it was quite cold, below freezing actually, and during such temperatures alligators don’t move around very much and rarely ever feed. Furthermore, an alligator could not have swallowed whole a man on his size without leaving some evidence behind. Some six months after Mike went missing, his waders, vest, hunting license and flashlight that still worked were discovered in pristine condition on the lake. It is believed that these items were planted after the fact because they had not been recovered in the original extensive searches and there was no slime or anything whatsoever on the items. If they had surfaced after six months, they would not have been in such good and clean condition.

If he had been eaten by alligators, there would also have been teeth marks on his clothes but there was nothing. Drownings on Lake Seminole are nothing new, but missing people who were presumed to have drowned on the lake have basically always been recovered. This leads some investigators to believe that Mike was never at the lake to begin with. In addition, there were other suspicious findings at the scene:

  • The boat launch where his truck was found, which he would presumably have used to put his boat in the lake, was an undeveloped patch of mud. Yet very nearby were concrete, finished launches that he was known to have used in the past.
  • The storm the night after he was reported missing had easterly winds that should have blown the abandoned, unmoored boat across the lake to the other side.
  • When the boat was recovered, its engine was off, yet the gas tank was full. According to the manufacturer, if it had been on when Williams allegedly fell out of the boat, as investigators had theorized, it should have stayed on, with the boat running in circles until its fuel was exhausted.
  • On Crime Watch Daily today, it was also added that the shotgun found aboard the boat was not the type he usually used to go duck hunting.

His mother Cheryl is the one who pushed for a criminal investigation into his death and eventually the authorities came to believe that foul play was indeed suspected but with little evidence and no body, there is not much to go on. Mike’s wife Denise even threatened Cheryl that if she opened a criminal investigation into Mike’s disappearance and presumed death, she would not be allowed to see her grandchild, Mike’s only daughter. To this day Cheryl has not seen her grand-baby. To make things even more suspicious, his young widow was highly uncooperative, quickly had him legally declared dead and then cashed out him 1.5  million dollar life insurance policy and shacked up with his best friend Brian, the man who had sold that very insurance policy. While that doesn’t make them killers, it’s definitely suspicious. If they both loved Mike so much, why were they so quick to put his disappearance behind them instead of being cooperative and forthcoming to help the authorities find him?

Now, this is where things get really interesting. In 2012 Denise and Brian separated and she filed for divorce the following year in 2013. Just under two months ago, on August 5th of this year, the house the couple shared was to be appraised and then the appraisal was to be filed with the court, Denise climbed into her car and Brian was in there and threatened her with a gun. He is still in jail, awaiting further proceedings on his pending charges, at the time that I’m writing this. Mike’s mother Cheryl hopes that this will lead to a break in the case with either Denise or Brian deciding to finally talk. Although Mike’s mother still have hope that he might be alive since there’s no actual irrefutable proof that he’s dead (be it that all circumstantial evidence points in that direction), she’s beginning to suspect his wife and/of Brian although neither of them have officially been named suspects of persons of interest in the case by law enforcement officials.

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You can find periodic updates about Mike’s case and several other missing persons cases on the Help Find Jerry Michael Williams and Alligator Alibi Facebook pages. While I may not be in any position to throw accusations out against anybody, I’m definitely suspicious about Denise and Brian considering the timing of events and their lack of cooperation. All I can hope for now is that something comes out of Brian’s recent arrest and that all the recent publicity surrounding this case can put pressure on Denise to talk. We all know that dirty secrets have a way of coming out in an explosive fashion and that sometimes cases are solved decades later. Watch Unusual Suspects also on Investigation Discovery if you need a few examples of that.

My own two cents is that I unfortunately don’t believe that Mike is still alive. I doubt that he was ever at Lake Seminole to begin with. If Denise and Brian didn’t do it (nobody would like to believe that they did) I have no doubt in my mind that they know a lot more than what they are saying. The investigation into Mike’s disappearance is very much still active so if you know something, say something! Please help the media buzz going by sharing posts and links about Mike’s case. We never know what could lead to a new piece of the puzzle. In the meantime I will continue to keep an eye on this case and will post new updates as they come out. I have high hopes that with Brian’s recent arrest we will see progress in this case.

As much as I hate thinking that Mike is no longer with us, at least everybody’s minds will be at rest. There will no more wondering. If he was murdered, justice will at least have the chance to be served.

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Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Praying For Those Who Are Murderers

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Lately it seems like the only thing I’m doing and responding to my own previous posts, but don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of new topics coming up next month. Anyway, after another discussion with my friend after yesterday’s post I wanted to share a few things about praying for Muslims who are murderers. I found a great article on SeekersHub about deceased Muslims and those who have killed during this life.

It is important to note that just because you pray for the repentance and forgiveness of a person in the eyes of God, it does not mean asking for a get out of jail free card with the human justice system. Although I disagree with the modern practice of the death penalty, prison is where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev belongs. But despite his evil actions, God still loves him. In Islam it is a well known fact that God’s mercy is much greater than His wrath. As we look at our prophet, he prayed for his enemies in the face of opposition and oppression. It seems to be forgotten among Muslims today that our teachings are very similar to what Jesus was saying about praying for and forgiving his enemies.

With blood dripping form his face (Muhammad), he said, “O Allah, forgive my people for they know not what they do” [Bukhari]. One of the scholars said that the verse that give us the most hope is, “Say, ‘O my servants who have transgressed against themselves, do not despair of the Mercy of Allah. Indeed Allah forgives all sins” [Quran 39:53].

This goes hand in hand with what Jesus said on the cross:

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:33-34)

God only knows how much Dzhokhar (among many others) needs prayers. While there is redemption after death in Islam, you really don’t want to take a trip to hell. We don’t know what God’s plan is for Dzhokhar (or for you or me for that matter) but while we ask for justice to be adequately served, we also wish for the redemption of all our brothers and sisters of the faith. God created us out of love because He loves to be known and loves to bless us and we should love and support each other, the good guys and the bad guys alike. God chose to save Dzhokhar’s life in the boat for some reason unknown to us, and similarly we should also ask for the salvation of his soul because his life, just like ours, will end at some point. God redeemed him once, we can do it again.

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“I’m just absolutely against the death penalty. I don’t know how many thousands of rounds were shot at that boat,” a man only identified as Juror 353 said, referring to Tsarnaev’s April 19, 2013, capture in a boat parked in a backyard in Watertown. “You couldn’t kill him then. I’m not gonna kill him now.”
This isn’t about the death penalty, it’s about redemption. God chose to let him live on this earth after being critically wounded, now we should ask God to also redeem his soul. I’ve come across endless pages and blogs online with the primary topic being to pray for Dzhokhar in at least four languages (English, Russian, French and Spanish that I’ve found so far) spanning across both Christianity and Islam. These people recognize that despite his actions, there is very much still hope for his soul and out of our love for God and the love that He has given us for each other, we don’t want even him to perish. May we not despair in God’s mercy for all of us.
Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

A Trip From Hell

Or should I say, a trip to hell… and back. In response to my previous few posts about hell and God’s mercy one of my friends and faithful reader of this blog asked me a question that really seemed to disturb her: Are you really telling me that one day the good people will kick it in paradise with truly terrible people like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? She asked this because this blog is named after a famous quote from his youngest victim, Martin Richard. But I’m not the one who invented this, I simply quoted the scriptures!

It was a similar story with Jeffrey Dahmer going to heaven after he converted to Christianity in prison. Many hardcore Christians were grossed out by the thought that a man convicted of his crimes could ever have a place in heaven but the Christian scriptures indeed promise him a place up there! I myself was a Christian before I found Islam, and the book that actually introduced me to Christianity was the one written about Jeff’s journey to faith. Personally, it never grossed me out to think that one day we may hang out in paradise because I understand God’s love for His creation and His desire to redeem us. While I don’t believe in the Christian teaching that by accepting Jesus you get a free pass to heaven, but as I’ve stated in previous posts, God desires to redeem even the worst of sinners. For some Muslims, their sins will be forgiven and they will go straight to heaven while others will take a dip in hell for a mixture of punishment and rehabilitation before being fit to enter paradise.

It’s without a doubt gross to think that a murderer and a cannibal could inherit heaven, but what people fail to realize is that Jeffrey Dahmer’s sins were erased (in the context of Christian teachings) rendering him blameless in God’s eyes and fit for heaven. That may not be something that us humans understand or want to accept, but that is something that God wants. Throughout the Old Testament, New Testament and the Quran the message is the same: repent! Don’t burn in hell! The three testaments were sent as a warning to mankind and a blessing to believers. In Islam, God’s mercy is greater than His wrath and wants all of us to be right with him. A similar message is present in Judaism and in Christianity with the following verse probably being the most famous on the topic:

“Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. (Ezekiel 18:23, NLT)

And this message continues in a later chapter, among many others across the three Abrahiamic faiths:

Tell them, ‘When sinful people die, it does not give me any joy. But when they turn away from their sins and live, that makes me very happy. And that is just as sure as I am alive,’ announces the Lord and King. ‘So turn away from your sins! Change your evil ways! Why should you die, people of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11, NIRV)
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My previous blog already answered my friend’s question about whether or not the bad guys will one day be fit for paradise but now I will tell you a little story to illustrate what I mean in plain English. This is a true story that my grandmother told me many years ago. She had a Catholic friend who was into some form of saint worship and she had these little statues of the saints all around her house. When she wanted or needed something she would ask the appropriate saint to give it to her and when they didn’t, she would take that respective statue and dunk its head into the toilet bowl. I laughed at that for years (and still do) but that story illustrates something valuable about what a dip in hell could be like for someone who goes there before entering paradise.

Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind. (Quran 5:32)

Heaven is not a reward for killing people. Contrary to what ISIS teaches and what the Tsarnaev brothers believed, killing people without just cause (self-defense for example) is one of the worst sins a person can commit. Now in Dzhokhar’s case, he apologized for his actions and if he is truly sincere, then he meets the basic requirements for God’s forgiveness but that doesn’t automatically give him a ticket to heaven. While God does forgive and wants to forgive, you’re not guaranteed to be exempt from the punishment and considering the magnitude of evil done at the marathon that day I think we can all agree that a stern punishment should definitely be in order.

But those who committed evil deeds and then repented afterwards and believed, verily, your Lord after (all) that is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Quran 7:153)

The way I explained things to my friend is that while we should pray that God accepts Dzhokhar’s repentance (the same way we want ours to be accepted) we shouldn’t stand in the way of the justice that also needs to be served. And then I alluded to the story of the saints in the toilet saying that while I don’t know what God has planned for him, he would definitely be a candidate for a good head-first plunge in the toilet bowl of burning sulphur but ultimately those statues were pulled out and put back on the shelf. As I’ve stated before, God ultimately plans on pulling us out of the fire too. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shouldn’t get a free pass for the evil he’s done, but it would also be wrong of us to wish that he would burn in hell. God will deal with him appropriately (the same way He will with you and me and Jeffrey Dahmer) regardless of whether or not a trip to the toilet bowl will be in order. So what can you do? Pray for him. God knows he needs it. Pray for the people he hurt, pray for the city he and his brother attempted to destroy.
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It’s also important to note that if a trip to the toilet (hell) is in order for either him (or me or you), he will not the be same person who went to the marathon with evil in his heart when he gets out. In Islam hell is compared to either a prison or a hospital. It’s unpleasant and it serves to correct things and make them fit for heaven. Similarly with Jeff Dahmer, the people with him and heaven do not see him as a killer and a cannibal because such has been wiped away. One day God will set everybody straight, both the good guys and the bad guys and there will be no more hurting people. God’s creation will be back in order, wrongs will be made right and there will be peace. In the meantime we should all work towards making the world around us a better place with our prayers to God and dedication to mankind. Nobody is beyond temptation and nobody is beyond redemption.
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The above image is one popular on Twitter among Christians and even us Muslims can take away a valuable lesson from this when it comes to God’s redemption. God could give Jesus power to resurrect the dead, He most certainly has the power to redeem the rest of us imperfect human beings who screw up. You and me and Jeffrey Dahmer and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev included. While God’s love is supreme, we should still live in a way that does not lead us down that toilet drain because I can assure you that being worked on down there prior to paradise will not be a pleasant experience by any means.
Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects, Personal & Opinion

Not in the Name of Eternity!

My previous post about hell got me thinking, but it also got me up most of the night doing some research and I believe I’ve come to a conclusion now. I previously said that I did believe that there was a hope for salvation after death for at least the majority of people and today I’ve come across more information that holds up this belief. Firstly, this article explains a good deal of it along with the other things I’ve mentioned in my previous post but since I’ve dug deeper into research I’ve come to the conclusion that God’s plan is to ultimately redeem everyone. What is not to love about a God that wishes to redeem instead of condemning?!

Think of hell as a hospital where sick souls belonging to any religion will be admitted for, not punishment, but treatment, albeit a painful one. And since there is no health insurance company known to man that would be willing to pay for an eternal hospitalization…

For me Islam was a simple choice. This religion called me. It’s the most inclusive and loving of all while not tampering with a person’s common sense and going hand in hand with science. I don’t think you can get any better than that! But it does! The most inclusive part of Islam is that no soul is destined for permanent hell. That’s just an un-Islamic concept. But that also doesn’t give anyone a free pass to sin as much as they want because I’m telling you that a dip in hell, however long it may last, is not something anyone wants. The Quran contains some very scary and painful descriptions of hell and I can’t see anyone actually wanting to go to such a place. While scholars will never all agree on this matter (since when do they agree on anything anyway?) but I think that there’s enough evidence to say that people will eventually come out of hell. Even if it’s not all of them, some will, although I personally stand on the side that hell will one day be completely empty.

Prophet Muhammad said, “Verily a day would come over hell when there shall not be a single human being in it” (Kanzul Ummal Vol. VII, page 245)

How can you dispute something like that? To someone on the outside it’s easy to think that the Quran contradicts itself but once you study the context behind the text and the roots of the language it was revealed in, you will see that it is not only a beautiful and mysterious text, but one that makes complete sense and if free from error. Like any other it will always be subject to interpretation, and may God lead us to what is right and true.

“A time will come when no one will be left in Hell; winds will blow and the windows and doors of Hell will make a rattling noise on account of the blowing winds.” (Tafsir-ul-Maalam-ul-Tanzil under verse Hud:107)

Now that’s all inclusive! As a Muslim, I couldn’t ask for more! But there is more! A lot more too!

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I will inflict my punishment on whom I will. But My mercy encompasses all things (Quran 9:157)

Among many others… Of course words mean different things to different people and unless you’re a master in Arabic the English versions of the Quran are interpretations done to the best of the abilities of the translators and God only knows that humans aren’t perfect. It’s the same concept with all the different translations of the Bible. The words in each translation of the Quran may be slightly different from each other but they all carry the same meaning and tell the same stories. All come from the 100% original and authentic Quran in Arabic, the same that God wrote through Muhammad some 1400 years ago.

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Islam is quite similar to Judaism, which also believes that Gentiles (non-Jews) are able, or at least eligible, to inherit paradise as long as they follow the Noahide laws. The Islamic debate is more complex than the Jewish one when it come to the afterlife but you can definitely see that Muslims follow in the footsteps of the Jews with what I’ve mentioned previously. While not everyone is convinced that hell is only temporary, we can agree that relief is possible. The most common belief is that hell is permanent but God can scoop a person out of hell as He pleases. God is definitely powerful enough to do that.

I can say that I believe that hell itself is a place that will exist forever, but I’m not convinced that people will be there forever, at least not everyone. I’m convinced that a person who honestly loves God and follows their spiritual teachings have a room in paradise at some point or another. I believe that the bad guys who seek redemption in hell will find it eventually after God finishes “rehabilitating” them so to speak. I still believe that there is enough support in the Quran and Hadith to uphold my belief that hell is not permanent and that there will come a time where God will redeem all of his creation. After all, God created us out of love and not out of hatred! God’s mercy encompasses everything and everyone and it is the belief of Muslims that God’s mercy is greater than His wrath but God still punishes so do not underestimate the pain and torture of hell!

It was narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Whoever said “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah and has in his heart good (faith) equal to the weight of a barley grain will be taken out of Hell. And whoever said: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah and has in his heart good (faith) equal to the weight of a wheat grain will be taken out of Hell. And whoever said, “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah and has in his heart good (faith) equal to the weight of an atom will be taken out of Hell. (Sahih al-Bukhari 44, Book 2, Hadith 37, Vol. 1, Book 2, Hadith 43)

What do you think about this? I’m always seeking to deepen the understanding of my faith and I would like some more perspectives if you have any that are different or similar to this one. Please also read the other articles I’ve posted on this topic and check out the following links for varying viewpoints on this topic:

I should note that the “People of the Book,” the Jews and the Christians, are most definitely eligible for paradise since God allowed Muslims to intermarry with them. Why would God want us to marry people of the Hellfire? He doesn’t. Now it’s important to also note that being Muslim doesn’t automatically grant you entrance into paradise, many Muslims will take a dip in the fire before they are ready for paradise. Islam allows interfaith marriage with Jews and Christians but not with what the Quran calls infidels, so we can deduct that Jews and Christians are not considered to be infidels. If they were, the scriptures would most certainly have made it clear! This verse makes it clear to not marry unbelievers:

Do not marry idolatresses (al mushrikāt) till they believe; and certainly a believing maid is better than an idolatress even though she would please you; and do not marry idolaters (al Mushrikīn) till they believe (hata yūminū), and certainly a believing slave is better than an idolater, even though he would please you. These invite to the Fire, and Allah invites to the Garden and to forgiveness by His grace, and makes clear His revelations to mankind so that they may remember. (Qur’an 2:221)

And in this verse you see that God allows marriage between a Muslims and a Jew or a Christian:

As to marriage, you are allowed to marry the chaste from among the believing women and the chaste from among those who have been given the Book before you (are lawful for you); provided that you have given them their dowries, and live with them in honor, not in fornication, nor taking them as secret concubines. (Qur’an 5:5)

Interestingly enough, Pope Francis even said that atheists are eligible for heaven too. He may not be Muslim, but he has an interesting perspective that is worth looking at. Lastly, I have an interesting PDF book about the afterlife according to Islam which you can use to draw your own conclusion based on scripture. But if there is any chance for unbelievers to go to heaven, it’s worth praying for them. At the end of the day only God knows best but if we have the power to help someone be right with Him, we should definitely not pass up the opportunity. May God bless you all!

 

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Praying For Non-Muslims After Their Death

One of the things I really love that Islam teaches contrary to what Christianity teaches is that you’re not doomed to forever burn in hell if you don’t accept Jesus as your savior. Christianity teaches that because of the original sin of Adam and Eve everyone is doomed to hell unless the find Jesus. Islam teaches that whether or not you will ever enter paradise is based solely on what you do. I also adore that Islam gives you hope of salvation after death! That clearly shows how much God loves us all!

The only unforgivable sin in Islam is shirk, which is disbelief in the One true God at the time of a person’s death. This can be either by worshiping false gods or simply denying God completely when your hour is come. Shirk is forgivable while you are still alive. When you repent God wipes away your sins as if you never committed them in the first place! Asking for forgiveness is super easy too! Acknowledge that what you did was wrong and feel sorry for it, commit yourself to not engage in this behavior again, and lastly call on God’s love and mercy so that He may forgive you. Rest assured that God desires to forgive you and wants you to be well.

One of my non-Muslim friend recently asked me about the eternal destiny of non-Muslims and whether or not it’s appropriate to pray for them. In order to answer this, it’s important to consider the following points:

  • God is the perfect judge and will never unjustly deal with anyone
  • God does not punish those who have never heard of Islam or those who have a vague or incomplete knowledge of it
  • God does not punish those who do not have the mental capacity to understand even after being adequately told
  • All it takes to enter paradise is an atom’s weight of faith
  • Ultimately God chooses who He will have mercy on

Punishment isn’t even in the equation for those who have never heard, or heard a false or incompletely warning or revelation. For many people these days, the only thing they know about Islam is terrorism and they may be afraid to approach Islam. God does not hate them for that. Others might have heard a little bit about Islam but not in a way that got their attention or enticed them to want to know more. God also won’t hold it against those who are incapable of understanding. Even for those who aren’t mentally deficient the concept of God and the afterlife may be very abstract and strange and they may not completely understand the meaning or the importance of such.

All it takes to be eligible for paradise is an atom’s weight of faith from a person, regardless of how distorted or incomplete that faith may be. As long as that person’s mind and heart is open to God, God is open to that person. Nobody is guaranteed entrance into paradise, but those mentioned above are eligible for it. A website called Islamic Insights has an interesting article on what will happen once you enter the grave, both the Muslims and unbelievers.

Those who will not enter paradise are the hypocrites (those who claim to be Muslim but in fact hate Islam) and those who openly reject Islam after a clear and proper warning. It’s important to note that just because someone doesn’t show any outward signs of being Muslim it doesn’t mean that they ever disbelieved in Islam. Such a person could be among those asked questions and tested on the Day of Judgment. From there God will choose who goes to heaven and who goes to hell accordingly with his perfect balance of both mercy and justice.

It is not for the Prophet and those who have believed to ask forgiveness for the polytheists, even if they were relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are companions of Hellfire. (The Qur’an 9:113)

As for this verse, God placed the prohibition of forgiveness only on those who turns out to belong to hellfire. This means that if the state of the one who we ask forgiveness for is not determined, then there is no reason for refraining from asking for forgiveness for them. There are varying perspectives on whether or not hell is permanent for everyone and if the unbelievers have any chance at repentance while in hell. Others claim that hell or not for punishment, but rather for reform prior to entering paradise and that you’ll only be there for the amount of time you need, and not forever. Many others go as far as saying that the suffering of those in hell could be lessened by our prayers therefore there is no limit to God’s mercy and generosity and there is no impediment which holds you back from praying for the deceased  seeking God’s forgiveness and hoping for God’s acceptance of your intercession on their behalf.

According to Hanafi scholars, it is permissible to pray on behalf of a dead non-Muslim with the hopes that they will become Muslim and then be eligible for paradise too. Ultimately it is God who chooses who goes where and how long they stay there, but from what I’ve been able to gather here it’s fine to pray for the redemption of dead non-Muslims and it’s also apparent that there is hope to get out of hell even if you were not Muslim at the time of your death.

As for those who were [destined to be] wretched, they will be in the Fire. For them therein is [violent] exhaling and inhaling. [They will be] abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except what your Lord should will. Indeed, your Lord is an effecter of what He intends. And as for those who were [destined to be] prosperous, they will be in Paradise, abiding therein as long as the heavens and the earth endure, except what your Lord should will – a bestowal uninterrupted. (The Qur’an 11:106-108)

You can read more of the context of the above passage here. Only God truly knows the truth regarding this matter and I hope that this article has opened your mind to look deeper into the issue yourself, but I’m leaning towards the side that there is hope even in hell and for that little shred of hope I believe there is, I will continue to pray for these people and also pray that my efforts may be accepted!

 

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects

Praying For Others

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Whoever prays for his brother behind his back has an angel saying to him, ‘And for you the same’ (Muslim)

In Islam when you pray for others, God dispatches an angel to pray for you. Can it get more beautiful than that? By praying for others, not only do you fulfill your duty to God but also your duty to humanity! Prayer is an intimate talk with God, a powerful tool for good, and an equally powerful weapon against evil. In this life there is nothing more beautiful than spending this kind of time with God.

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Islam goes much deeper than just the ritual prayers five times a day. Making dua or more specifically, saying a prayer of supplication, is equally important. You can do this at any time under any circumstances and you can rest assured that when you make dua, a beautiful angel sent just for you will be making dua on your behalf too! God loves it when you talk to him and loves to be known! All you need to do is talk to him through prayer. You can pray for nearly anyone and anything:

  • The blessing of a good person
  • The repentance of a bad person
  • The guidance of an unbeliever

It’s a common misconception that you’re only allowed to pray for other Muslims, good Muslims, but that is definitely not the case. God’s primary attribute is His mercy and He desires everyone to repent and be right with Him. The only time you ought not to pray for the good things to come to a person is when this person is the enemy of the Muslims. Why would you ask God to bless someone who fights against His people? However, you can and should pray for the divine guidance and repentance of this person so that then they may inherit a blessing. It is prohibited to pray for someone else to be harmed, even the bad guys. It is however permissible to pray for protection from your enemies. It is also permitted to pray that someone who harmed you be brought to justice and not get away with what they’ve done, but that is completely different than wishing harm upon another person. Hearts filled with love, mercy and forgiveness cause God to pour out His blessings onto you and others, and you’ll be made a blessing to others along the way too!

‘Uqbah b. ‘Âmir Al-Juhanî – Allâh be pleased with him – once passed by a man who looked like a Muslim, so he greeted him with salâm, and he replied, “And upon you [be peace] and the mercy of Allâh and His blessings.” A boy informed him, “He is a Christian!” So ‘Uqbah got up and followed the man, caught up with him and said, “The mercy of Allâh and His blessings are upon the believers; however, may Allâh give you a long life, and make plentiful your wealth and offspring.” (Al-Bukhârî, Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)

As you can see from the above passage, the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) loved the Christians and prayed for a follower of Jesus. Also read about how Muhammad treated the people who opposed him and who were downright cruel to him. Never did he will ill upon another person! And neither should you!

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O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses to fair dealings and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just, that is next to piety. Fear Allah, indeed Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do. (The Qur’an 5:8)

Islam calls us to show both justice and mercy to both the ones we love and the ones we hate without prejudice between the two. That is indeed an attribute of the great and an attribute that God loves of His followers! Let’s look at another passage:

Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong if they do evil. (Sunan At-Tirmidhî)

And another one:

Whoever suffers an injury done to him and forgives (the person responsible), Allah will raise his status to a higher degree and remove one of his sins. (Sunan At-Tirmidhî)

What’s an easy way to repay an evil deed with a good one? Pray! Pray for your own healing, pray for that person’s repentance, pray for forgiveness and pray that all will be made right. Prayer has the power to change hearts, both yours and the other person’s. God has the power to turn a former enemy into a friend and who will inherit a blessing here? Both of you! It can’t get much better than that!

The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend. (The Qur’an 41:34)

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There is another common misconception that exists within Islam when it comes to dealing with the bad guys and showing kindness to them. Many misinterpret the following verse saying that evil is to be repaid with evil but that is not the message of the following in its proper context:

And those who, when tyranny strikes them, they defend themselves, And the recompense of evil is punishment like it, but whoever forgives and amends, he shall have his reward from Allah; surely He does not love the unjust. And whoever avenges himself after having been wronged – those have not upon them any cause [for blame]. The way (of blame) is only against those who oppress mankind, and wrongfully rebel in the earth. For such there is a painful doom. (The Qur’an 42:39-42)

Nothing in this verse says to repay evil with evil. It means that you have the right to seek appropriate justice. Here’s an example: If you found out that someone robbed your house while you were away, would you repay them by robbing their house in return? Of course not! The repayment for that would be to take them to trial and have them properly prosecuted in a court of law. Think about it this way: if you repaid them by doing another act of evil, wouldn’t that make you just like them? Not to mention it would also make you a criminal!

The above verse refutes the “turning the cheek” doctrine in Christianity which implies that when someone does you wrong the appropriate thing to do is let them continue and do nothing. Such a concept is erroneous, but so would be robbing the house of the robber who robbed your house to punish him for his actions. Avenging yourself and repaying evil with punishment means that you have the right to seek proper justice against these individuals for the wrong they’ve done and it will not be held against you because it is your right, this passage does not mean that you have the right to engage in evil and sinful acts of your own.

Choose to do something good instead and pray! You will be rewarded for it! 🙂

Posted in Islam & Interfaith Subjects, Reblogged Posts

Muhammad Liked Christians, Muslims Should Too

Yet again, an amazing article by Dr. David Liepert from his Huffington Post blog. You don’t have to go far to know that I simply adore his writings and they fit within my interpretation of not only modern Islam, but true Islam.

I have a lot of great friends from a variety of religions, best evidenced by the outpouring of support, affection and prayers when my wife had major cancer surgery last month. I was truly touched when I received word of prayer services in churches, mosques and synagogues literally from around the world. Words cannot express the depth of our gratitude for all your earnest kindness. My wife was particularly moved to learn that across her birth country of Pakistan and the Middle East, food was donated and hungry people were fed in her name. God bless you all.

But my agnostic friends also deserve a shout-out. Because even though they weren’t sure whether their prayers could do any good, they were in there with me throughout all the same, doing everything they could think of to help out too, as far as I’m concerned doing just as good of a job honoring God’s commands that we look after each-other as everyone else did, even though they’re not even sure whether God exists or not!

However, it’s the prayers I want to talk about.

Because although my Muslim and Jewish friends didn’t feel it necessary to clarify exactly which God they were praying to because everyone of us knows we pray to the same one. Many of my Christian friends — respectfully, kindly and to my mind tragically — felt they needed to assure me they were praying to the God of Abraham rather than to Jesus, because they thought I’d be offended otherwise.

And as far as I am concerned, that’s mostly because Muslims for the last thousand years have consistently failed to live up to either the commands of the Quran or the example of Muhammad regarding interfaith relations, and thereby have warped the development of both major world religions, leading up to the growing and unnecessary conflict we see developing between Islam and Christianity today.

Frankly, it’s gotten so bad between us all that I even have to clarify my admission that I have great Jewish and Christian friends. Because extremist Muslims and extremist non-Muslims alike will tell me I can’t because the Quran says Muslims shouldn’t be friends with Jews or Christians.

The verse they’re talking about is 5:51, which many translate as if it says, “O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians for friends (awliyaa). They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.”

But they do so in woeful ignorance of the real meaning of the word awliyaa, because it doesn’t mean “friend” at all. It’s actually something much closer to “protector,” “helper” or “guardian.” It is from a family of words that mean “leader” or even “crown.”

In ancient times, a person’s awliyaa was an important role more akin to a modern day power of attorney. In that context, the command isn’t against having friends among Jews or Christians, it’s against putting our destiny into their hands: something that remains good advice to Muslims today.

But the way that command is willfully mis-translated by conflict seeking Muslims and non-Muslims alike speaks not just to how far we’ve all stepped off the path to peace God’s prophets promote, but also how easy it would be for us to step back on if we’re willing to listen.

In simplest terms, the question we have to ask ourselves is this: Does God care so much which team we play for, or does he care more about how we play the game?

Muslim/Christian religious chauvinism’s not new, and it’s not one-sided. In his “Narnia Chronicles,” C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite Christian writers, wrote about a “false-God-follower” who, when he met the character Lewis thought represented the true God, was told: “I take to me the services which thou hast done to Tash [the false God] … if any man swear by him and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.”

The thing is, in that series, the Calormen —who worshipped Tash— obviously played to the worst anti-Arab stereotypes, demonstrating that Lewis wasn’t immune to prejudice, but he made an important point about faith, which he clarified:

I think that every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false god, or to a very imperfectly conceived true God, is accepted by the true God and that Christ saves many who do not think they know him. For He is (dimly) present in the good side of the inferior teachers they follow. In the parable of the Sheep and Goats those who are saved do not seem to know that they have served Christ.

And regardless of his prejudices, Lewis is certainly far kinder than many current Christian theologians, who seem quite prepared to consign even the best Muslims to eternal damnation. More importantly though, he’s also completely in line with the teachings and behavior of Muhammad, Abraham, Moses, David and the Christ, among others, alike.

Because Muhammad liked Christians! And he liked and respected Jews and Judaism, too. (If you’re interested, Google “Mukhayriq” and the Constitution of Medina.) His uncle Waraqah, the first person who declared his prophethood, likely remained a Christian til the day he died! What he didn’t like was Christians and Jews who said one thing and did another, but he disliked Muslims who did that even more.

But more important from an Islamic perspective than his personal feelings were the way he treated Christians, and the promises he made them. The biggest theological difference between Islam and Christianity has to be belief in the Trinity, and that’s the main doctrinal point the Quran takes issue with: few Christians today recall that belief in the Trinity wasn’t even part of Christianity until the fourth century A.D., or realize that today’s Muslims are likely much closer to the beliefs the earliest Christians held dear than today’s Christians are.

But belief in the Trinity was taking hold among Christians at the time of Muhammad, and he had to deal with many Christians who not only believed that God could be Three as well as One, but also the belief that Jesus was God as well. Did he condemn them or abuse them for it? Absolutely not!

In fact, when the Christians of Najran came to Medina to debate theology, they quite respectfully asked permission to leave the city to worship the Christ. And even more respectfully, Muhammad told them they didn’t have to leave the city at all, and invited them to use his own mosque for their worship! Because Muhammad knew that even though their belief was wrong, it was sincere, and like C.S. Lewis, among many others, he too knew that all good prayers and good deeds go to the same good place and the same good purpose, regardless of how much we know about it. And when they left Medina — still Christians — he promised them Muslim protection for their freedom of religion forever.

I often pose “dogmatic” believers a simple question: If I raised my children on a desert island, with no other influence but mine, to believe God wanted nothing more than for them to paint their bellies blue, and if they died with blue-tinged abdomens, would God punish my children or me? You’d be surprised how many figure out some way to justify God punishing us all.

Muhammad, on the other hand, didn’t care so much about doctrinal purity. In fact, there’s a Christian monastery that’s been at the foot of Mount Sinai for the last 1,500 years, which cherishes a document that was dictated by Muhammad and transcribed by Ali (whom Shiite Muslims also revere) that promises Muslim protection for Christians and for Christianity, a promise they made binding on all Muslims everywhere till the end of time.

This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.

No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.

Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (the end of the world).

Muslims in Nigeria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia in particular should take note.

Now, I think the reason why believers find themselves in conflict with other believers so often is a simple one: The one belief everyone shares, but that divides us from one another regardless, is that we’re right about what we believe and we think it matters.

But how much do we know about exactly what Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael believed about God, beyond believing God was One and, as such, above believer’s polytheistic playing-one-God-against-another manipulations? Did Moses think God’s covenant was only with the children of Israel, or did David think Jerusalem’s Temple was for Jews and Jews alone? Did Jesus need to indoctrinate either Samaritans or Roman Centurions before he served them? The answer to all those questions is a resounding “NO!” if you take the time to find out the answers for yourself.

And I think it’s incredibly important that we all do so and soon. Not only does the belief that God cares WHAT we believe more than what we do about it divide us unnecessarily, it is also the belief that sits at the heart of the religious radicalism that’s currently plaguing us all.

Thinking God cares more about your team jersey, about whether you play for the Saints or the Cardinals, the Servants or the Crusaders, than whether you play by the rules He’s set out is:

  • what allowed the 9/11 bombers to destroy the World Trade Centre and think they could still make it to Heaven
  • what allows Jewish settlers to abuse non-Jewish Palestinians and think they’ve serving God’s purpose for Israel and
  • what allows Christian theologians to exhort Americans to vengeful conquest and still think they’re somehow serving the Christ.

They all sound equally crazy to me.

But I’m Muslim, and so I ask all my Muslim brothers and sisters around the world, and especially those who think they can or should abuse, mistreat or even kill non-Muslims: Does Allah really care so much what we believe, so much that He doesn’t care what we do? Al-Baqarah 177 says otherwise:

It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in the Lord and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the Prophets; and giveth his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and who sets slaves free; and who observeth proper worship and payeth the poor what they are due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the God fearing.

Because honestly? I think thinking YOU can make God do something; like let YOU into Heaven no matter what YOU do because of what YOU believe, makes YOU bigger than God — at least in your own mind — and that’s the biggest sin in Islam!

So what’s my bottom-line? Heaven can be as big as God wants it to be, even big enough for everyone if He chooses to make it so, and I think it’s my agnostic friends who so far have the best of it.

Because by not trying to put God into a box of their own making by way of their own believing they show God the most respect of all of us, regardless of their uncertainties, which quite frankly are mostly the fault of us “true-believers” because of the awful things we’ve done purportedly on God’s behalf anyways.

We Muslims and Christians and other believers, on the other hand, are well on our way to making earth a living Hell for all of us by pretending otherwise. We should put that sort of self-serving, short-sighted believing behind us, before it’s too late for all of us.

Posted in Reblogged Posts

What Religion Would Jesus Belong To?

This was a very interesting thing to read! 🙂

The Muslim Times

Source: The New York Times

By 

ONE puzzle of the world is that religions often don’t resemble their founders.

Jesus never mentioned gays or abortion but focused on the sick and the poor, yet some Christian leaders have prospered by demonizing gays. Muhammad raised the status of women in his time, yet today some Islamic clerics bar women from driving, or cite religion as a reason to hack off the genitals of young girls. Buddha presumably would be aghast at theapartheid imposed on the Rohingya minority by Buddhists in Myanmar.

“Our religions often stand for the very opposite of what their founders stood for,” notes Brian D. McLaren, a former pastor, in a provocative and powerful new book, “The Great Spiritual Migration.”

Founders are typically bold and charismatic visionaries who inspire with their moral imagination, while their teachings sometimes evolve into ingrown, risk-averse bureaucracies…

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