Most Noble and Beloved Emissary of God,
I am writing this to you because I did not have time to say everything I wanted to say when we met in Medina in Winter of 2003. Meeting you at your mosque was one of the happiest days of my life. I read so much about your life and biography. I have been there with you as you battled the Pagans of Mecca and the Hypocrites of Medina. I shared your anguish when the people of Taif first expelled you with stones. My heart ached for you when you were nearly killed at Uhud. I never tire from learning about the events of your life, and they never cease to teach me new lessons. When I stood before you, I could not hold back the tears. "Long have I waited to be with you," is what I told you. I pray it is not long before I come back and visit you again.
I do not know where to begin, O Messenger of God. Our ummah is in dire straits. I know you said that there will come a time when holding on to one's faith will be as holding on to hot coals, but never did I think it would get this bad. Every day, the faith we love so dearly--the faith that you gave your whole life to bring to me--is maligned and attacked. We Muslims have had to constantly defend against reckless accusations of Islam's detractors. We have had to constantly remind the people that Islam does not sanction violence. We have had to constantly defend you--and I will not repeat what has been said--against vicious and malicious attacks on your impeccable morality and integrity. We have to keep saying the same things over and over, as if the people are hearing it for the first time. And in many instances, the people, unfortunately, are hearing it for the first time.
I know you told us that the various nations will pick at the Muslims as people gathered around a dinner platter pick at the food. Yet that still does not make it hurt any less. It pains me to the deepest part of my soul to see my brothers and sisters suffering all across the world and be powerless to help them. The majority of the world's refugees, O Noble Emissary, are Muslims. Here in the United States, we Muslims are looked at with suspicion and sometimes outright hostility for no reason other than we are Muslim. The bad news about Islam--and unfortunately there is a lot of bad news to report--is stressed at the expense of the great deal of good news about Islam and Muslims. With each terrorist attack against American interests, we Muslims worry about what will happen to our lives and livelihood in the country we call home.
I can't begin to explain to you how scared I was on the morning of September 11. I froze in panic and horror as I watched smoke billow from the North Tower. I watched both towers collapse and could not move. I was hoping that everything my eyes beheld was a bad dream. Unfortunately, it was no dream. That morning was the darkest day I have ever lived. Even though I share this with you, O Noble Emissary of God, I am a bit embarrassed. The fear we American Muslims felt on September 11 was nothing compared to the danger and fear you and the Companions faced in Mecca. Although there were attacks against Muslims after September 11, it was not, thanks be to God, widespread. There was no plan for systematic torture of American Muslims, as was the case in Mecca. They did not boycott us and force us into camps, like the Meccans did with you and Bani Hashim. No, it was not nearly as bad for us as it was for you. Nevertheless, it was a fearful time, and I wanted to share my feelings with you.
We miss you so much. We need your gentle hands, your heartwarming smile, your profound wisdom, your stalwart strength, your kind demeanor. We need you now as much as the Companions needed you then. We miss you so much. The legacy of our faith threatens to be one of violence and hatred, not one of peace and justice as you had intended. We once were beacons of light and hope for the world. Those days, unfortunately, are gone. Almost every day, there is news of another attack on innocent people by terrorists who claim to act in your name. Almost every day, there is an attack on our faith by the most ignorant of people. By the day, it becomes more difficult to stay true to the Path you fought so hard to preserve and bring to us. We miss you so much, O Beloved Prophet of God.
Most Beloved Messenger! Thank you. I thank God for you. Thank you for all the suffering and pain you endured for me. Thank you for all the insults you took; thank you for all the blows you sustained; thank you for all the battles you waged; thank you for all the tireless hours you spent bringing this beautiful faith to me. I am so blessed to be a Muslim, and I thank God for that immense gift. I ask God to forgive me whenever I fall short of the demands of the faith I love and adore. And I also ask you to forgive me, too. For, whenever I sin against God, I betray the pain and struggle you endured so that I can be a Muslim. So, forgive me. I never mean it purposely; I love you way too much to belittle your struggle for the faith. I love you so much, O Messenger of God. I love you so much.
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. He is author of "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale Press), winner of the prestigious Wilbur Award for 2003 Best Religion Book of the Year by the Religion Communicators Council.
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