I am ي، ن، ر

It is obvious that most Muslims across the world find the actions of the so-called “Islamic State” abhorrent; from condemnation in the US and UK, to satire in the Middle East, there is no point in elaborating my own personal opposition to them. However, while they may denigrate the name of the religion, and spitting on the declaration of faith they sewed into their flag, I will not give them the power to define my faith in relation to them. So, I am not ISIS, let me tell you who I am.

I am ي. I am Yazidi. The Qur’an tells us that Iblis, the angel who would fall, disobeyed God when he would not bow before the form of Adam. Iblis pleaded for forgiveness and for God to give him a task. I cannot help but believe that if God can forgive Iblis and make him part of God’s eternal plan for humanity, then God’s mercy (rehma) and love also applies to the rest of creation. If you follow the thinking of the great 10th century philosopher-poet, Mansur al-Hallaj, he says that in fact Iblis is the greatest lover of God, because Iblis followed the first command: bow to nothing but God. Iblis so loved God, he could not bow to anyone else. Iblis is a reminder of God’s mercy and love.

I am ن. I am Nasrani. Jesus is a prophet in Muslim tradition, and we are told we cannot accept Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) until we have accepted all the other prophets. To love Muhammad is to love Jesus. Just as important is to love Mary, mother of Jesus, who is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an, the only woman to have a chapter in the Qur’an named after her, and the second most mentioned person in the Qur’an after Moses. For Muslims, Jesus is the prophet of love, and according to Ithna’ashari theologian Hasan Askari the cross is a symbol to remind us of our own inhumanity to one another and the resulting broken relationship with God. Without accepting Jesus and Mary and their beloved community, we cannot accept Muhammad and make his beloved community.

I am ر. I am Rafida. I am a lover of Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an says to love his family (42:23). It is in loving the ones that God loves that we open ourselves to loving God and open ourselves to God’s mercy. To act in this way we can manifest mercy in the world and hopefully create a more just society.

There is a hadith qudsi, a snippet of a conversation between God and the Prophet Muhammad, that says “I am as my servant thinks I am.” In all these examples, God’s love and mercy are apparent. This love does not mean that there are no consequences; mercy would have no meaning if that were true. Rather, it shows that the God we speak to is loving and merciful (ar-rahman ar-rahim). God being one dimensional, simply loving, limits God to a caricature. ISIS, by denying God’s love and mercy, worships their caricature, perhaps better called Mars than Allah.

I am Yazidi. I am Nasrani. I am Rafida. These names are a reminder that I see a God of love and mercy where others do not. Antagonism to this vision serves as an impetus to not only manifest that love and mercy, but to create a world where love and mercy is the norm.

Image courtesy of Flickr commons.

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