Illumination by Katherine Fernie HowardInscribed on the hilt of the Prophet Muhammad’s sword: ‘Forgive him who wrongs you; join him who cuts you off; do good to him who does evil to you, and speak the truth although it be against yourself.’

Perhaps no single event in the history of humanity has focused our attention as has the events of September 11th. It is not that this event represents a greater suffering than many events happening year after year on this planet. After all, millions can die and it may hardly be news. The events of September 11th are nothing less than a SIGN, a meaning to be grasped, a moment of Truth that we have yet to understand. A pointless, yet hauntingly significant horror.

I will set myself in front of this horror, breathe, and remember God.

America and the world were rudely awakened from a dream of invulnerability and security. Despite our spending thirty million dollars an hour to protect ourselves, a score of insanely committed angels of death, offered their lives to attack a symbol of affluence and power, and wound the heart of the world.

I will wait at the threshold with a wounded heart, breathe, and remember God.

It will be a great tragedy if we fail to understand why, and a greater tragedy if the injured nation resorts to a similar evil in response. Affluence, privilege, and power numb the heart and soul. Much of humanity was in anguish before that fateful day. Now all of humanity feels that anguish.

This event itself is already the effect of a long chain of injustices. Perhaps the old religious imagery is not so far from the truth: the devil is searching for a crack to enter our hearts, and there are cracks of fear, self-righteousness, vengeance, and hatred.

I will take refuge from the evil within myself, breathe, and remember God.

If we acknowledge incarnate evil in the world, it is not to feel superior or self-righteous, not to apportion blame, but to accept responsibility for what we have all created. Humanity is one soul, one family, whether we admit it yet or not. Pitiless self-righteousness is perhaps the greatest evil of all, for it is the soil that breeds terror. Certainly we need to bring criminals to justice, but we do not need to fantasize war.

Evil manifested itself clearly in New York and Washington that day, but the unmanifested evil has been with us for a long time, wearing the cloak of respectability. If we as individuals were to enact what we allow our governments to enact for us, we would all be sentenced as perjurers, thieves, conspirators, and mass-murderers. The disastrous inequalities of wealth, the extreme poverty of 70% of the world’s population, the perceived injustice of policies that we fail to question, all contribute to a humanity in anguish.

As a remedy for numbness, despair, and hatred, I will breathe, and remember God.

And yet who can deny the beauty, generosity, and love that human beings are capable of. Who can deny the heart warming contacts that we can meet on the streets, in the fields, and in the homes of any people of this earth? Yet something has gone wrong. On the collective level we lead lives of fear and denial. We ignore our spiritual unity and we blame “the other.” We attempt to control everything with our weapons and our wealth, making a violent reaction inevitable.

As it is said in Deuteronomy from the very mouth of God. “I have set before you life and I have set before you death, and I have begged you to choose life for the sake of your children.” Or as it is said in the Quran: “Whoever kills one person without just cause, it is as if he has killed all of humanity.”

As Americans we must change our own state of being from a state of fear to a state of courage and compassionate sensitivity. The only excuse for Great Power is Great Servanthood. We must convince our leaders that we the people want them to lead the way toward healing the human family. Love is the only solution to any problem. We must solve our problems not with violence, but with a generous, courageous, and faithful love.

I will vow to apply love as the solution to any problem, breathe, and remember God.

Muslims must remember that they are not a victimized minority, they are a people, an ummah with transnational and transcendent concerns. They have a comprehensive and inclusive perspective, a vision that embraces all other sacred traditions and can find common cause with them all.

People have been gathering everywhere for prayer, but maybe prayer is not all that “God” wants. God is not waiting for us to beseech Him to heal the world. God, who is “nearer than our jugular vein,” is within the anguish of the human race, pleading with us to do the good that only our hands and hearts can do. Spirituality is not about easing fear, not about mere consolation; it is about facing truth.

I will begin the struggle for a unified and healed humanity, breathe, and remember God.

Shaikh Kabir Helminski al-Mevlevi 9-18-01


Painting by Katherine Fernie Howard