By Sahil Khan, New Age Islam
11 September, 2014
I clearly remember the day—13 years ago…September 11, 2001. I was with my colleague Sam in the office where we worked and were winding up the files.
It was our last working day in office. Our little company was being wound up because of poor management. As I was I shoving the rubbish that law strewn across the floor into a sack, I received a call and learnt about how self-styled defenders of Islam had attacked and destroyed the World Trade Centre in New York City.
For a while, Sam and I were simply too shocked to speak. Who knows what might happen to the world now, we both wondered. After we had gathered our wits, we went to a nearby cafeteria to see the horrific incident being telecast on TV.
After this, Sam and I bid goodbye to each other and went our ways, pursuing our own lives and careers.
It was especially after 9/11 that Islam and Muslims were dragged onto the world map with discussions, debates, opinions and analysis in every country and maybe in the drawing room of every household.
Working in an organization that was multi-ethnic and multi-religious in composition and in which I was almost the only Muslim, I was often drawn, quite against my will, into debates about Islam and the people who claimed to follow it. Sometimes, the need I felt to “defend” Islam and Muslims seemed overwhelmingly compelling. I found myself attending I can’t remember how many programmes and forums in my city organized by Muslims to “present the true face of Islam” and to counter the impression that “Muslims are terrorists”.
I often spoke at such forums. Sometimes, it was with great difficulty that I prevented myself from breaking down in tears when I simply could not handle the brickbats of questions I was assaulted with about terrorism and Islam—or, to be more precise, what many Muslims claimed to be ‘Islam’. I joined peace organizations set up by Muslims to promote harmony, assuming that this was a means by which I was contributing by presenting a correct image of Islam to people from other communities.
I soon realized, however, that all this effort was leading me into a terrible depression. The burden of “defending Islam” or “protecting Muslims” that I had taken upon myself was taking its toll on me mentally and emotionally. I was simply too exhausted with defending Islam and Muslims 24 x 7 to do almost anything else! Conversing with people about religion, I had really stopped conversing with God.
The burden of these inner conflicts also triggered moments of anger against Muslims in my heart. I began to feel that they were responsible for much of the terrible torment the world is today facing. I vented my aversion to them in my own way of boycott… avoiding their taxis, their shops, their restaurants. I did not think twice before bundling up Muslim-run papers that landed in my post-box and flinging them into the junk bin.
Gradually, it dawned on me that all my efforts to publicly “represent” Islam would not change anybody. In any case, who was I to defend anybody or change anybody? Let God do this work, if He wills!
I disconnected myself from the whole burden of “changing people’s mindsets”. I realized God’s purpose to bring us all into the universe is primarily to cleanse our souls and purify ourselves, glorify His name within ourselves and to be positive human beings first. That itself is a life-long task!
The victims of 9/11 who were killed 13 years ago by self-styled defenders of Islam were innocent fellow creatures of God. The least I can do is to pray for their souls, to beseech God to grant them peace and to send prayers of peace and patience for their families.
I believe in the power of prayer. No human being can bring peace to another—leave alone to the whole world—by his or her efforts. It’s only God who can do so. And so, I turn to Him alone and ask Him for peace, including for the souls of the victims of the 9/11 tragedy.