I am one of you. But I am also one of "them." What do I mean? When I am told that this is a world at war, a war between the great civilizations and religions of the earth, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. "What about me?" I ask. As a practicing Muslim and a registered voter in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, am I, through the combination of my faith and my citizenship, an inherent contradiction?
I think not. Both the Qu'ran and the Constitution teach ideals of peace, justice and compassion, ideals that command my love, and my belief. Each of these texts, one the heart of my religion, the other that of my country, demand a constant struggle to do what is right.
I choose the word "struggle" very deliberately, for its connotations of turmoil and tribulation, both internal and external. The word for struggle in Arabic, in the language of my faith, is jihad. It is a word that has been corrupted and misinterpreted, both by those who do and do not claim to be Muslims, and we saw last fall, to our great national and personal loss, the results of this corruption. Jihad, in its truest and purest form, the form to which all Muslims aspire, is the determination to do right, to do justice even against your own interests. It is an individual struggle for personal moral behavior. Especially today, it is a struggle that exists on many levels: self-purification and awareness, public service and social justice. On a global scale, it is a struggle involving people of all ages, colors, and creeds, for control of the Big Decisions: not only who controls what piece of land, but more importantly who gets medicine, who can eat.
So where is our jihad, where is our struggle as we move on from Harvard's sheltering wall? Worthy adversaries are innumerable. We can turn our struggle to the war against oppression, poverty, disease .. But before looking outward, we must first look inward. Before deciding what we are against, we must decide what we are for. The only way to define the inner moral force that drives our struggle is to learn through action - to get our hands dirty. To strive to see the world as it sees itself, testing the boundaries of what we think we know, and how we know it. To combine our academic search for truth with a sense of empathy for our fellow humanity - to seek Veritas in Humanitas.
On one level it's simple: everyone wants the same things that we do. The true American Dream is a universal dream, and it is more than a set of materialistic aspirations. It is the power and opportunity to shape one's own life: to house and feed a family with security and dignity, and to practice your faith in peace. This is our American Jihad.
As a Muslim, and as an American, I am commanded to stand up for the protection of life and liberty, to serve the poor and the weak, to celebrate the diversity of humankind. There is no contradiction. Not for me, and not for anyone, of any combination of faith, culture and nationality, who believes in a community of the human spirit.
Some of this is a mantra that has been spoken at myriad graduations. Worth repeating, perhaps, but nothing new. What is new was taught us by last fall's tragedy and carnage. The status quo is shattered, and we have now been forced to engage more closely the troubles of this world. We are in a privileged position to shape a more just, peaceful, and honorable global society.
So I ask again: where is our jihad? Whether on our way to an investment bank in New York, or to Sierra Leone to work with orphans, Harvard graduates have a responsibility to leave their mark on the world. So let us struggle, and let us make our mark. And I hope and pray that our children, our grandchildren, and those who take our seats in the years to come, will have cause to be proud.
Zayed Yasin delivered this speech at Harvard University's commencement ceremony on June 6, 2002. Its original title, "My American Jihad," sparked a protest from students angry that the speech did not condemn the terrorist attacks of September 11. The title was changed to "Of Faith and Citizenship: My American Jihad," but Mr. Yasin did not change the content of his speech.
Orphans in Kosovo, Muslim women enduring the 'women are intellectually deficient' and 'admonish your women' phrases in the Koran, know much more about Jihad than most Muslim men will ever know. What about the ordinary fakir in Pakistan or Bangladesh whose daughter is on the verge of becoming a prostitute? Does he not go through Jihad everyday?
The world doesn't need morality lessons from a kid who probably never has gone without brand name clothes for a day.
zayed explain to western communitty the real meaning of "JIHAD'
it makes us feel proud to have scholors like you
who represent Islam and jihad in their truest
May Allah bless you with more knowledge of Quran.
The world Muslim community needs more emminent persons such as Janab Yasin to analyse & present Islam in the contemporary sense to peoples of different nations & religions.
I appreciate his courage to speak the truth. I pray to Allah that he be blessed with a healthy & long life so that he could effectively work for the cause of the entire humanity(which happens to be the basic spirit of Islam). I will feel honoured if I get a personal reply from Janab Zayed Yasin.
Good job keep up the good work. May Allah produce more students like you in this country & world.
I'm really aproud of yasin's action.The moslem is the lover of peace and liberty.The brotherhood in islam is stronger than the citizenship relation.
Please speak about islam.. . and let them to know what islam is....
There are many of us that struggles between many
things and only Allah and our faith keep us standing strong. I decided to convert last year
being a mother of two,married to a christian,raised on a christian society and a member of the USA forces for many years. It is a real jihad to balance all these aspects thats why I say only with Allah's help.
Al Hamdulillah, I am glad he did not change his speech it was very good and very moving.
May Allah guide you in what you do and keep you holding fast to Allah and His Prophet (saws)
My bro. Zayed,
thank you for your courage and your strength, and for your concious effort to speak out for the many muslim americans in this country. may ALLAH'S
mercy and grace be with you always.
AS SALAAM ALAIKUM my brother in the deen.
As a Muslim who sat in the rain and listened to your inspiring speech, I would like to say on the behalf of many people both Muslim and non-Muslim...thank you. You dared to set the record straight about the true meaning of jihad. As we all struggle to do what is right we can ill afford to let detractors define us, what our religion is and means in its purest sense. True Muslims are not terrorists or pacifists. We wage a struggle for what is right every day with the greatest struggle being the one within.
Thank you for daring to express that despite the threats....you truly showed the courage and sense of peace that Allah grants true Believers who stand up for what is right.
Constance D. Shabazz
Harvard Univ. KSG Grad 2002
May Allah guide him and us all in every each step of our lives. Amin!
I am .... speechless. I can't find the right words to express the joy, sadness and understanding your speach has embodied. All I can say is simply: Well done on a superb job that not only has intelligence, simple understanding but comes from the heart with unusual wisdom. You have been able to not only express but understand the true concept of 'Jihad' and not misconstrue it the way the Bin Ladens or the Bush's of the world have. The very fact that these are influential people with so little understanding of such important concepts that use and abuse it to their gain saddens me, but to know young, emerging well educated students like you will be the 'builders' of the future gives me a new found hope and joy. I suppose true ignorance can be seen in the fact that just by hearing the original title to your speach without even knowing its contents, sparked so much of controversy. Therefore while it depresses and angers me that their are lots of people like Bin Laden out there to exploit the true religion of Islam, it consoles and makes me proud to know that their are educated people like you who with intelligence and honor, be propergating it peacefully in the path that was meant to be. Once again I would like to say 'thank you' and congratulations on a job well done. May the Almighty bless you on every step you take for the good of the world, its people and the peaceful religion of Islam.
Almighty Allah give all of us wisdom so that we all can discharge our universal responsibilities.
This speech was really extraordinary, Mashaa Allah. At troubling times like these, it conveyed a true and postive message not only about the term "jihad," but also about Islam in general. It is our duty, as Muslims, especially when living in a country such as the United States, where Islam is misunderstood by so many, to take advantage and give da'wah to our neighbors, our peers, and people we communicate with in our every day lives. This brother did this and his speech can be read and heard by people all over the world now. May he be rewarded by Allah, inshaa Allah ta'ala, for his struggle to do right, Ameen. May Allah also give us strength, in struggling to do what is right, for His sake, Ameen.
It was a very wise and impressive speech that you gave at the commencement. I am thrilled at the fact that such informed and educated young men like u are in the United States who will carry the torch of Islam through words and example. May Allah shower upon you his blessings and present u with even bigger and greater oppurtunities to spread the word of Islam.
My email add is [email protected]. If u will kindly reply to this email I would like to have a discussion with u in regards to certain topics on jihad and religion that might interest u. In Allah's care.
i read your comment it was wonderful you explanation of word jihad was ammazing and i want to encourage you and all other muslims nothing wrong to talk the truth .truth is the only way make understanding all mankind and all diferent faiths. the only god can save his creation
May you continue to be a shining example of a Muslim who truly understands and describes Jihad, as Muslims throughout the world understand the meaning of the word.
The Western media together with their Muslim apologists (for political expediency) have deliberately corrupted the meaning of the word to deflect from the fact that their struggle is not to improve themselves morally and ethically but it is only about how they can acquire more material wealth and power at the expense of others.
More fundamentally, they can never grasp the true meaning of Jihad for Muslims who know that their Jihad is not for a better life in this temporal world but it is striving only so that they can hold their heads up high with pride and dignity when they meet with Allah Subhantuala and stand in the shadow of our beloved Nabi Muhammud Mustapha (sallahu alaihiwassalam) on the day of Judgement and can answer Yes, Yes, Yes to the question put by Allah Subhantuala, "Did you engage in Jihad during your life time on Earth".
No one and nothing will stop Muslims from engaging in Jihad the true meaning that you brother Ziyad ascribe to it, not the demonized version trumpeted by the Bush/Blair/Putin cabal and by the Muslim mornachists and apologists that they protect. The cabal MAY be able to protect these mornachists and apologists in this world, which cabal will they call upon for protection in the Hereafter?
Brother Ziyad and all Muslims engaged in Jihad, may Allah Subhantuala always shower his blessings and mercy upon you.
Sister S. Mansour
I noticed that he wrote "as a Muslim, and as an American..." Islam comes first. And therein lies the struggle. Being in an American society and being muslim first and foremost in the face of the lower jihad being acted upon by our many of our brothers.
I feel also the struggle between these two worlds. But Islam is first. When Sept 11 happened, I had not been to the masjid for several months. The next Juma, I went. I needed to be with my people. I was not afraid of threats or being killed for my religion. It is our way. It is our beliefs.
Others may have hidden. But Zayid has expressed the sentiments of those of us who live in a difficult world but have Islam deep within our hearts.
Salaam wa rahmatuallah.
your sister in islam~~ Leila Ahmed~~
Muslims will need to excel everywhere, globally, for many years down the road, in order to live down 9/11 backlash against them. Therefore, as a Muslim, I wish to thank and applaud Zayed M. Yasin's effort and success.
Your mother and father should write a book on parenting.
It was a very good speech that spoke of the good of all humanity and it should that is what true islam is all about.
i really don't understand how anyone would protest such a speech!
Only the zionist protestted it because they do not want the american people to see the good side of muslims. I do beleive that is why all the protest was about, nothing to do with America.
I am indebeted to you ,Zayed, & to the Mother and Father that raised you to be a great spirit to the community of nations.
Thanks for your courage to do what was right. Thanks for not changing the words of your speech. It was wrong for them to make you change the title. I heard Daniel Pipes on Nightline and his anti-Muslim and pro-Israel bias showed. He is an ignorant person with no knowledge of Islam. Good luck in the future and may Allah bless you.