Last night I did an online interview with my friend and mentor Zaid Adib Ansari. He is promoting his new book “Cracked Mirrors: From Emmitt Till to Barak Obama & my Path to Authentic Islam”. This book takes you to the inside, the inside of a persons heart so you can make your own conclusions.
After the interview he challenged me, like he always does. He asked me where my sense of justice comes from. I was thinking, “Where does my sense of justice come from?. Uh-oh, here we go again!” Then I thought about it. Where does my sense of justice come from? Of course that which is right and that which is wrong comes from the Quran and Sunnah, that is the default for every Muslim. Err…umm…at least it’s supposed to be. However knowing Zaid he meant something deeper than that. He meant to ask about what shaped my sense of justice even before I was Muslim up until now. After all, the Messenger of Allaah said: “The best of those before Islam are the best of those in Islam, provided they have the proper understanding”. So this means that our sense of justice and dealings with people to some extent flows from our experiences.
When I was a young boy I rarely had the fancy clothes, no slick talk for the ladies, and I was a bit…well…odd I guess is the word for it. For these reasons I was an easy target for any would-be bully looking to make a name for himself. I hated giving up my space in the lunch line just because so and so wanted it. I figured it was better to go down swinging rather than get bullied. So when the other kids used to pick on me and try to bully me I had two options:
Option #1 Fight
I exercised this option many many many times. While I didn’t always win every fight I did (for the most part) keep them from winning. Too many days I had to fight at least two at a time and yes on some occasions I came running home with leaves in my hair, grass stains in my pants, buttons missing from my shirt, and some angry school mates hot on my tail. Usually after crossing the main street they would give up the chase. Usually. However in my mind I saw all of that as a victory. Y’see whenever I was fighting more than one I had the mentality to ‘get at least one of ‘em!”. Since I went to school with these guys on a daily basis I figured I would be seeing the same faces the next rumble. So if I at least got in a few licks and kept them from doing major damage I figured it was a decent fight. And maybe one or two of them would think twice the next time things kicked off again.
Option #2 Talk my way out of it
Well this option was on the table too. When I got to high school and I was ridiculed because of my dress and style I adopted the “put down”. The “put down” was to make jokes about anyone who spoke badly to you or ridicule you. I got to be good at it. Sometimes my put downs were so good it attracted a lunch time crowd. “Yo Mama so fat” jokes were the absolute best! “Yo Mama so fat, she looks like she has a pack of hot dogs on the back of her neck”! Or “Yo Mama so fat, when she asked your father to rub her stomach he asked “Which one?”. Stuff like that was enough to scare off the school bully as even the school bully needs to keep his rep intact. (Hee hee, those days were fun). Most of my Arab friends don’t seem to appreciate a good “Yo Mama so fat” joke. Hmmm…they’re really missing out.
Oh yes, we were talking about justice. Anyway, I learned martial arts and the quick response with tongue as a defense mechanism. However I would frequently ask myself why they thought picking on me was the right thing to do? What made them go home at night and sleep soundly knowing they ridiculed me, or roughed me up for no other reason except that they saw that I was less than them? So I think my sense of justice comes from those days in that I hate to see oppression and I would always try to error on the side of caution rather than go after someone who was potentially innocent. Many don’t share that sentiment. On the battlefields of Syria and to a lesser extent in Libya, I saw too many brothers who pray tahajjud at night and fast on more days than I did who might have suspected someone of being an enemy and they treated them as one based upon that suspicion. You will have to guess what I mean by that cause I won’t tell you. Those brothers were acting out their sense of justice in an unjust manner. Meanwhile there were some brothers who were quick to accept an excuse from someone and in whose chests beat soft hearts. A prisoner was given the same quality of food and was dealt with in a gentle fashion until he was taken to a proper court. Even then, he still had rights even if he had Muslim blood on his hands.
Maybe one of the reasons I haven’t been afraid to go to some of the places I’ve gone to and done some of the things I’ve done is because I’m still just 10 years old fighting bullies and not caring about what story I’ll have to give my mother as to why yet another shirt is torn. The other is knowing that depending upon my intention, I will be rewarded in full.
Anyway, you can check out Zaid’s interview on my website on Monday insha Allaah. His book will be available on the 20th of this month insha Allaah.