By Wasif Khan
It was a hot summer’s day inside the university’s common room, but the temperature outside was well below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Vague memories of the time I spent 10 years ago still linger in my mind. Why did I call this cold day a hot summer’s day? Because I was on a clashing path with some of my very good friends I had known for years regarding Islamic political reality as a minority living in an un-Islamic society. My friends passed a comment, “Voting is Haraam!” Frustrated and angry, because of our old relationship I couldn’t care less for the way I talked to them – I yelled back, “has God given you the contract to label things Halaal and Haraam? If not, then talk with proper knowledge and logic, and explain what you are trying to say without getting emotional.”
After failing to calm down, we settled on a piece of pie and tried to prove it to one another who should pay the food bill, left the room sat in the same car and drove off. Those around us remained in utter awe and shock. What just happened…two lions (in my eyes, in others sheep), just challenged each other, shared their food and left in the same car! Did we miss something? This question remained in our audience’s mind until next Tuesday when we all met again at DePaul University for a Study Circle and again the old romantic sparks from previous Friday ignited and somehow from the “History for four Madhahib” the conversation changed to “Voting is Haraam! No it is not!” debate.
A poor passer-bye, who had no clue what was going on asked my friend, “please explain why voting is Haraam?” Upon hearing this question my friend started answering and leaving me in confused state as if for past month or so I was asking him this question in French or gibberish! Ignoring my ego, which was not easy, I sat quietly and listened to his logic. We are Muslims, we support Muslims all over the world, we make no alliance with anyone who oppresses Muslims, and we will never abandon our brothers and sisters in any part of the world. Before anyone else could say anything, I yelled out loud Alhamdulillah, with a different tone that even I couldn’t recognize, you know, the tone of agreement and happiness. My friend continued, why then is it allowed for Muslims when America is persecuting Palestinians every moment of their miserable lives in refugee camps-turned-permanent dwellings-turned-target shooting field for young clueless Israeli soldiers?
Never would I admit to my friend that he got me that night and I agreed with him for a moment, a very brief moment, but then I asked, “Is it Israel that is persecuting Muslims or America?” He answered me with a question, “Who is supporting Israel blindly and financially?” Upon which I explained, “Who is it in actuality that is waging war? We can’t go and blame our enemy’s friend and their friends and so forth, plus American government is not the one in direct conflict with Palestinians. Only the people who are in direct conflict with us are the ones we protest against! And even then we participate in the legal framework to win our rights! We don’t abandon our rights, look at Native-Indians, they live in sleazy deplorable conditions and secluded reservations now, and they lost the whole continent because of their isolated thinking!”
Dialogue that night went for a very long time, and I couldn’t convince my friend but was able to win the hearts of the others in the room because now I preferred the Qur’an and Sunnah over my own limited logic. Then days, weeks, months and even 10 years passed. Many tragedies hit Muslims all over the world and still we are struggling. Seems like the prophecy of the Prophet (asws) that Islam came in as Ghareeb and it will leave as Ghareeb, or amongst the signs of the Final Hour is that the Liar will be listened to and the honest will be ridiculed. I had forgotten everything about this conversation until last Friday, when I was flying back from Washington DC to Chicago after a weeklong project at US Army facility. On my flight I sat next to a wonderful person who works for a Non-Profit organization that is working towards ending world hunger. As Providence would have it, I never talk to people sitting next to me when I fly because last time I opened up my big mouth to help a physically-challenged person by giving her my seat near the door to move somewhere in the back, the pilot accused me of being a terrorist and kicked me off the plane and I saw my flight leaving like a kid who sees an elder taking and leaving with his candy!
But this day my flight was delayed by an hour after we were all seated in the plane. Once announced about the delay in our flight, I was like oh great, there goes me trying to surprise my family by getting home early! As soon as I said that Susan smiled and said I know, there goes my dinner plan. Very nervously I smiled, and Lord knows what happened next but five minutes later Susan and I were talking like we were old friends. I was telling her about my four year old son and she was telling me about her four year old grandson then we both smiled and giggled. Now this is very strange…I don’t know how, from being total stranger, we moved to become good friends and then started talking about very personal and delicate issues. The only thing I remember is that after 15 minutes had passed by, I was talking to her about the situation in Middle East, how and why I support Palestinian side as opposed to Israeli side.
Strangely enough I could see a vein popping in her forehead when I was talking about the atrocities Israel was committing against Palestinians. After good ¾ of an hour had passed by when very casually she mentioned in a sentence, “and as a born and raised Jewish girl…,” I don’t remember how she finished that sentence because boy did I panic. I honestly thought that this time I was going to be thrown off the plane from 31000 feet in the air without parachute or I will be escorted to my final destination (Gitmo) from O’Hare under the heavy guard of our best friends, “Homeland Security” officers.
Instead, when another few minutes passed by and I had stopped cursing at myself for opening up my big mouth yet again, and not thinking about what I had said, and finally my heart normalized again, did I start hearing Susan say, “…I used to work for American Israeli Public Affairs Committee” (AIPAC). Boy was she angry with them and Americans. She started saying to my utmost surprise how disgusted she was with the whole system where AIPAC controlled all the political leaders in US. After the “State of the Union Address” the single most busiest time in DC is when AIPEC holds its annual conference and each and every senator, congressman and any one of any political ambition tries to show AIPAC how dependable these officials are that AIPAC could always depend on them for their support, in return they get campaign funding and unlimited powers in the Congress.
I sat there for about an hour and heard her say things that shocked me off of my reservations of sanity. She explained how Israel was wrong about bombing Lebanon last year, how they know who are the better people for the Palestinians and not support them, how they are committing atrocities, and the list went on. Then she explained how AIPAC was raising funds for the candidates, brings them under their control, and pushed Pro-Israeli agenda in front of the officials but portrays the agenda as, “This is a very good policy for USA and this is how it will support and strengthen USA…” Later, she explained that when AIPAC was confronted by many vigilant US Citizens, they shifted their methodology instantaneously. Instead of running in the forefronts of the political campaign, they thought to create a group which was a “Christian” group for Israeli support. So they started investing heavily in a group of Christian leaders, whom we now know as “Evangelical Christians”. Today AIPAC’s agenda for State of Israel in Capitol Hill as Christian Americans is pushed by these religious figures under the disguise of Pro US policies. She also said that if you want to fix this problem then fix the Election Campaign loop-holes, for as long as candidates receive this funding, AIPAC will remain very strong and control the whole DC.
By the time we landed, she had told me that all these findings were the reason why she couldn’t work for AIPAC anymore, she had to quit them and join a Non-Profit organization that would help the world’s problems not worsen them. When I left airport and sat in the taxi, on my ride back home I started thinking about my ages old friend who said so naively, “Voting is Haraam”! Now more than ever I am more convinced and sure that not only should Muslims participate in elections but we should get involved in the process, fix it and do it by thinking of it as our collective religious duty to help America, world, Palestine, and ourselves. I could quote many verses from Qur’an and Ahadith from the traditions of the Prophet (asws). But what’s the point? Those who have not understood my point thus far will find some weird and strange interpretation to my references and not agree. But for those who did understand the purpose of this article, you know what our duty is. It is definitely different than the one we are so accustomed to, i.e., sitting home and not doing anything! May Allah help us realize our collective duty and proper understanding of the complete and final Deen. Ameen.
* Wasif Khan is a freelance baller located in the USA. The views represented in this article are strictly that of the author and not those of Suhaib Webb, nor those who run this site.