I, an American Muslim woman am devastated, heartbroken. This ban says to me that my country does not see all lives and human worth as equal. This ban says to me that our nation has developed a cold, wicked heart. This ban says to me that we blame Muslims, that they are the problem, that we do not want them here, and we have no concern for where they end up dead or alive.
It didn’t take long for the ban to evoke such feelings, nor to estrange family members from each other, nor to take away someone’s basic desire to live.
Amid these grave injustices and a disheartening reality, I anticipate that the Muslim ban will deprive us Americans of something beautiful. Here, I wish to speak about the beauty of Islam and its followers through my own eyes both here and abroad.
I was born here in Chicago, Illinois and I have my birth certificate readily available for those who wish to get their hands on it. During my life here in America, I have cherished the Islamic values my grandparents brought with them from India to Pakistan and then to the US.
My grandmother has lived her life believing she could cure and mend the world. She is always giving, always on her feet, always leaving her heart open to others. On any given holiday, Muslim or national-American, my grandparent’s home in Southern California becomes an open house for family and friends without holiday plans. Effortlessly, my grandmother’s residence becomes a place all can call home.
Visiting my grandparent’s home, a few themes consume me and enrich my life with each visit. My grandfather’s passion for Urdu and Persian poetry that explore the love of God reflects the heart of the Muslim faith. My grandmother’s attentiveness and tenderness towards her guava and orange trees or her garden that grows mint and curry leaves find their roots in Islamic values. To love God is to love all his creation. It is to perceive one’s own consciousness in equal relation to the nature and reflections of paradise that surround them.
My love for both Islam and the Middle East has sent me across borders and into places like Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. During my travels, I unearthed similar Islamic values but in a different setting.
While admiring an Arabic/Quranic calligraphy book, I imagined the artful strokes of the words raheem and rahman, mercy and compassion, coming alive within the Lebanese-Muslim home I enjoyed on an Eid morning. Muslims everywhere recite the words raheem and rahman, attributes among Allah’s 99 Divine Names, countless times a day. Like the other divine attributes, Muslims are guided to assume these traits on earth in their full human capacity. Mercy and compassion and forgiveness and generosity—these guiding principles profuse throughout the Muslim home.
In Palestine, the emphasis on the family and the way in which Palestinians live is nothing short of beautiful. During my time in Palestine, my host family extended to me the most gracious hospitality. I had never felt so taken care of. During my plane ride home I recall draping the airline blanket over my head, not to concoct some terrorist plot, but because I began shedding tears as my heart recollected all the care and compassion I received in Palestine.
For my trip in Jordan, I travelled with a bag full of Lego donations for Syrian refugees. As these refugee children played with Legos for the very first time, they seized the opportunity to the fullest. Their creative and innovative minds quickly took hold. The children assembled an array of creations on their own yet constantly appreciated the Legos now in their possession. Though deprived, these children still worked to present something beautiful and of their very own. I felt the warmness in their hearts, their eager minds, and their dreams waiting to become known.
In all of these encounters I sensed Islam’s essence and recalled Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s The Heart of Islam. Along with the words mercy and compassion, I perceived the Arabic word husn meaning both goodness and beauty. It is said that Allah loves beauty. In turn, beauty and love share in God’s relationship with creation. Of the most beautiful created things is the human soul. Islamically speaking, the human soul comprises of ihsan meaning virtue, goodness, and beauty. For human souls to fulfill beauty at its greatest height, is to please the One who loves beauty, to love his creation and to love Him, to open one’s heart to the compassion and mercy of the Divine, and to embody compassion and beauty in one’s own heart. And it is this beauty that contains the goodness and love necessary for peace and harmony on earth, in the cosmos, and in one’s center. It is precisely this beauty that I have felt and cherished within my experiences with the Muslim people both here and abroad and it is precisely this beauty that we will be deprived of.
Despite the challenges in our midst, I am honored and grateful for the beauty and love fellow Americans have extended to Muslims in recent months. Because human souls profess the upmost beauty, we must come together to protect them all.