By Martin Bentz / Islamic Society of Southeastern Massachusetts
Each and every life is precious. Because we, as a nation, believed that each life is a precious gift we, together, made every effort, at great personal and national sacrifice, to minimize the harm we could inflict on others. For more than two months many of us reduced our contacts with others to the point of closing down sports venues, schools, businesses, and, most poignantly, houses of worship. We did so because we did not want to be agents of suffering and death, because life is precious.
We feel life is precious because it is our one chance to blossom and to express ourselves. With each birth, we are delighted with hope and love. We imagine how each child’s God-given abilities and talents will be nurtured, developed and given expression.
We rush to save lives, even of people we do not know, if they are drowning or in danger of harming themselves in any way. We believe life is precious. Because we believe life is precious our first responders put their own lives at risk and we sacrifice our livelihoods.
So it is no small wonder we all feel horrified when another person’s life is snuffed out in front of us so cavalierly, so blatantly, despite pleas to show some humanity. The Quran (5:32) states “whoever takes a life unjustly will be as if they killed all humanity.” In the unjust murders of black Americans: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Steven Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others, all humanity feels like it has been killed.
Our humanity has been killed before our eyes. Our belief that life is precious has been assailed. We have strayed far from what God wants from us when God puts us on Earth. We forget we are all created in God’s image, but in myriad shapes and colors.
The Prophet Mohammed told his followers in his last sermon, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white — except by piety and good action.”
We can only measure who might be better than another person in who has been more devoted to God and has done more good actions. Our belief in God and our devotion to piety calls on us to rededicate ourselves to doing what is right in this world, to reinstate our humanity, to do what God expects of us.
To be silent is to be complicit. To say “we have preached and prayed. We have done our part,” is no longer enough. We have to find ways to make sure our communities take action in supporting proper funding for reforms, equal opportunity, personal care and education for everyone.
The Quran, Chapter 4, “the Women,” verse 135, states, ” O believers, stand firm for justice as witnesses for God even if it is against yourselves, your parents or close relatives. Be they rich or poor, God is best to insure their interests. So do not allow your desires cause you to deviate from justice. If you distort the testimony or refuse to give it, then know that God is certainly all aware of what you do.”
We, believers all, cannot withhold our testimony. We have to see that every community is treated fairly and with justice, even if it challenges our own communities.
The Quran repeatedly tells us to take care of the marginalized, to not exploit the vulnerable, to not steal, to give full measure. We are commanded to give charity to the weak, to the indigent, to orphans, and to wayfarers without a home.
The Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad at a time when societies still had slaves. The words of the Quran and the Prophet both declared that the highest act of piety was to free a slave and to give that individual the full rights of personhood.
We have still to give the full rights of personhood to all our citizens. We must recognize that we have not given full measure as enjoined in the Quran. In cheating others of their rights and personhood we have only cheated ourselves in the eyes of God.
“You who believe be steadfast in your devotion to God and bear witness impartially; do not let hatred of others lead you away from justice, but adhere to justice, for that is closer to awareness of God” (Quran 5:8)
We have to insure that each and every person who is in the service of protecting the community sees that each and every life, especially those who heretofore have been marginalized, must be treated with respect. Each person black, brown or yellow is worthy of protection before the law, because life is precious.
We have a duty to express our deep commitment to see that safety and justice are extended to every community, and especially the communities of color. We are committed to doing what is right by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and persuasions.
May God give us strength and courage to do what is expected of us no matter how challenging. May God keep us safe and guide us in the days ahead.
Martin Bentz is the outreach coordinator for the Islamic Society of Southeastern Massachusetts. Visit issmass.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.