“Only he will prosper who brings to God a sound heart”
The Holy Qur’an, 26:89
It might be too soon to begin talking about reconciliation between US and other countries of the coalition forces and Arabs and Muslims of the Muslim world. As the military campaign comes to an end, more and more attention is being focused upon daily life in Iraq, and that means that only now are Americans being exposed to the realities of the war from the humanitarian perspective, since previously most Western reporters chose to focus almost exclusively on the military aspects of the encounter. Whereas the Arab media focused mostly upon the human features of the war, giving the people of the Muslim world a special view, only now are most in the United States being brought up to date in respect to the numbers of civilian casualties, and the types of injuries suffered by those who have been killed and maimed. And as we might expect, our different views of the war have created larger differences, which might cause us to ask that if our differences can have such powerful effects on our relationship East and West, what about our commonalities?
Last night I heard the story for the first time of a young Iraqi boy who lost his entire family, including his mother who was five months pregnant. The young boy lay in a hospital bed, much of his young body burned. He has no arms now. The stumps extend from his shoulder to midway above his elbow, and the stumps are bandaged. The young boy looked into the camera as doctors described his injuries to reporters. Then he talked. He spoke in Arabic and explained how a bomb burst into his home while everyone was in bed sleeping, killed his entire family, and changed his life forever. Then he smiled, and moved what is left of his arm back and forth, waving to the camera. I think that anyone in the United States, or elsewhere who saw the little boy waving, cried. And those who cried, did so perhaps for many different reasons.
There are those who conceivably cried because Iraq survived what some evil and black hearted people had hoped would be a wholesale massacre of Arabs and Muslims that would rival the many other massacres that beset the Muslim world in the previous century after the destruction of the caliphate. These would be a minority. Others might have cried simply because they felt that somehow they had failed to stop the war from happening, and so had failed this little boy and others who were killed and wounded in the war, including the soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Then there are others who might have cried simply because the little boy waved. I was one of those. Why would a child whose entire family has been killed, and whose body is so badly burned, and who has no arms wave at the camera? Why didn’t he spit in our faces, and curse us, or cry and scream and turn his head away? Or why didn’t he turn those huge brown eyes down toward the ground and spare us the most beautiful sight….of a young boy smiling and waving at a camera, even though he has no apparent reason to smile, and he has no arms.
There is a teaching in Islam, that says the Muslim must remember God at all times. We remember Him in good times, and in bad times, and our thoughts of Him keep us steady and make us strong. We remember Him in war and peace, and we remember Him in smiles and tears. Last night we might have remembered God when we looked into the eyes of a small and hurt little boy, who smiled at the camera as if to say, “there truly is no power or might except God.” We looked into his eyes and saw his heart and realized that Iraq lives, and that there is hope, and perhaps also freedom, a freedom that did not exist before.
In another part of the world a young girl, 19 years old, was returning home from the same war. A photographer caught a picture of her face as she was being moved on a stretcher. She had been rescued from a hospital where she was being held captive. She suffered broken limbs, and a serious back injury. Several bodies of other US soldiers had been found dead near that hospital. They were all shot to death. As she was being lifted onto the plane, she looked up and smiled, and her smile also brought tears. She is not a Muslim, or even an Arab, but her smile was no doubt also a view of a heart wherein hides a truth about God. That “God is One,” and that His Mercy and Grace is vast, and unfettered by the hatred and evil that circulates within the common blood of mankind.
There is no moral to this story except to say that there is hope. Praise God that our children still smile, and there is hope. Maybe God is showing us in these smiles that we can mend our broken hearts and broken bones, and burns, and that there is always hope. The human being is such a beautiful and powerful work of God, that God commanded the angels, saying “bow down to Adam.” And so wicked are we at times that God punishes and destroys us, yet, between these two things, bows and beatings…there is still hope!
“If you would attempt to add up the Favors and Mercy of God, never would you be able to number them for God is Oft Forgiving and Most Merciful” (The Holy Qur’an, 16:18)
The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women and host a weekly internet radio program at IBN.Net, named “A Civilizational Dialogue.” (1-2 PM each Wednesday). The author is also head of the International Assoc. for Muslim Women and Children, an accredited NGO with the UN Division on the Rights of the Palestinians.