And those are the days of life; we interchange them (like batons) among people….”. The Glorious Qur’an
All eyes, across the world, are on the 20th day of January 2017. That is the day that the new American President-elect, Donald Trump, will be formally ushered into the White House in Washington with a swearing in ceremony. Waiting for the event is a confirmation of America’s leadership of the contemporary world.
There is no doubt that this event will be historically electric positively or negatively. A similar wait had taken place in February 1933 when Adolf Hitler was sworn in as the chancellor of his country. The speech he delivered on that day eventually altered the destiny of Germany and reshaped the geography of the world. Will Trump be like Hitler? Time will tell.
History as a Teacher: History is a well known phenomenal teacher. It teaches the old and the young alike. Its students are always drawn from far and near. It examines those students from time to time and gives them examination results periodically. Its lessons are generational and cut across races and cultures. Yet, it has no peculiar language. But then, it faces a fundamental problem. That problem is not in repetition that has become the culture of history but in getting mankind to understand its repeated teachings and heeding its warning.
In virtually all celestial religions, history plays such a prominent role that gives it the permanent identity of a teacher. And from its beneficial teachings, human beings build ladders of experiences with which they mount the pyramid of life.
The Bible and the Qur’an: In both the Bible and the Qur’an, we are told of arch-enemies of God’s message who dramatically turned round to become voluntary Ambassadors of the same message to which they had been antagonistic. One of such enemies was Saul, an avowed anti-Christ who dramatically accepted the message of Jesus after the latter’s departure and adopted Paul for a name.
Another was Umar Bn Khattab who had plotted the murder of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) but dramatically accepted Islam on the day he was to carry out his plot. He eventually rose to become the second Caliph of Islam and spread the divine religion across nations and continents.
Jesus had wished that Saul, a well educated person, accepted his message but that wish did not materialize until after he had left the stage. If Saul had not accepted Christianity when he did, perhaps the situation of that religion would have been different today.
In the case of Umar Bn Khattab, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) had prayed to Allah to enable one of the two famous persons bearing Umar in Makkah at that time accept Islam. Although his mind was on the other Umar, it however turned out that Umar Bn Khattab was the one favoured by Allah. And Umar Bn Khattab’s acceptance of Islam became so remarkable that the Prophet was reported to have once said of him as follows: “Were there to be another Prophet after me, he would have been Umar”.
Irony of Life: Incidentally, another thorny bud seems to have grown, this time, under the armpit of an unexpected American bitter tree. That proverbial human tree is an avowed racist and morbid hater of Islam that has just emerged as president-elect. His physical appearance anywhere is a vivid reminder of the fact that one man called Adolf Hitler once lived in the continent called Europe. And for the first time ever, majority of Americans, through a conducted poll, have openly expressed fear and uncertainty in the leadership of their newly voted president even before his swearing into office. But it may be too early now to rule out the possibility of fruitful hope. After all, no one expected the turn of event with Paul after Jesus and with Umar in the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Whatever happens in that so-called ‘God’s own Country’ however, as from the 20th of this month, is like an incubated egg waiting to be hatched. What kind of chicken will come out of it is a matter of guess.
Future Shock: The narration above may be an indicator of a future shock for which the world must be prepared. Why was it that after the conversion of Saul, the Greek Empire and subsequently the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as an official religion? Why was it that after Umar Bn Khattab embraced Islam, the whole of Arabia formally accepted that Divine Faith as their state religion? And by analogy, shouldn’t America be getting ready for a similar eventuality?
In the same vein, far from prophesying, I foresee a day when America will become the home base of Islam to give the genuine Divine religion an impeccable reality of life. As it happened in Rome and Arabia of the past, the doubting ‘Thomases’ may commence their repugnant arguments from here. But the roots of tomorrow‘s gargantuan tree of peace are being firmly planted in today’s fertile soil.
Terry Holdbrooks Jr.’s Conversion: Terry Holbrooks is an American native of Huntsville in Alabama. He grew up a troubled kid with junkie parents that dumped him at age 7 on his ex-hippy grandparents to be raised. By 18, he’d completed both high school and trade school which is suggestive of brilliance on his part. But along the line, he indulged in drugs, illegal sex and tattoos which covered his arms from shoulder to wrist. His earlobes were stretched to a plug that a thumb could pass through.
Thus, when he walked into an Army recruiter’s office in Arizona a year after 9/11 saying he wanted to join the Army, to be able to kill people and get paid for it, the recruiter looked up briefly and turned back to his computer saying “No, thank you”.
Finally: It was only during his fourth visit to the recruitment office that he was allowed to take part in the military’s aptitude test when the recruiter realized the potential in him. Then, Holdbrooks signed up for the military police because it offered a bonus. And when his unit was transferred to Guantanamo, the sergeant detoured through New York to take them to Ground Zero where he told them to “remember what Muslims did to us and who you are supposed to protect”.
Thus, the 29-year-old Terry Holdbrooks Jr., enrolled in American Army in 2003/2004 and was posted to Guantanamo Bay as a Military Police officer in a detention camp earmarked for people pronounced as criminals. Part of his duties was not just to prevent those detainees from escaping but also to escort them to interrogation rooms and then return them to their cells. He knew the kind of stresses and tortures those detainees were undergoing in repeated questionings.
How Islam beckons: All along, his perception and understanding of Islam was not dissimilar from those of his military colleagues in Iraq, Afghanistan or even Guantanamo Bay. However, the thought of accepting Islam as a rightfully guiding religion crossed his mind after several months of conversation with the Muslim detainees in that camp.
Before he became a Muslim, Holdbrooks was wearing the beard of a bald Amish guy, the tattoos of a punk kid and the twitchy alertness of a military policeman. Take him to a restaurant, and he’ll choose the chair with its back against the wall. Take his photograph and he’ll prefer to look away from the camera. That was Holdbrooks before 2013 when he embraced Islam.
Horse’s Mouth: To hear from the horse’s mouth here is what he said about the book he wrote on his experience: “I tell this story and I wrote the book so idiot-simple that anyone could read and understand that the existence of Guantanamo is something to be ashamed of. I just want to share information with people in depth and then let them make up their minds.”
Constructive rumination: At Guantanamo, Holdbrooks mulled over the information which the Army instructors had taught him along with others about Islam after watching the so-called terrorists, days after days. He noticed that the detainees read their Qur‘an. They kept their daily schedule of prayers and remained undiscouraged under horrendous pressure.
In appreciating their endurance, patience and courage, Holdbrooks said: “Here, I had all the freedom in the world, and I was miserable while they had nothing, and they were happy. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that something’s going on.”
As a restless lackey that he is it took him just three nights to read the Glorious Book from cover to cover. For the first time, he found a religious text that met his logical criteria in the Qur’an. And after reading it satisfactorily, he said; “It made sense from the beginning to the end. It doesn’t contradict itself. There’s no magic in it. It’s just a simple instruction manual for living.”
He took Shahadah: And after three months of intensive study and conversation, Holdbrooks told the Muslim detainees one night that he wanted to become a Muslim. And in response, the detainees explained the implication of that to him. They said: “Converting to Islam means you would have to change your life style including your diet. You will quit drugs, drinking, profanity and tattoos. Then, be prepared for good relationship with everybody – wife, neighbours, the Army and the government”. Thus, little by little, Holdbrooks made the changes as he found a measure of health, discipline, family and peace of mind which he never had before.
“If Prophet Muhammad (SAW) were to come back to the Earth today, people would find the best examples of Islam in the United States. American Muslims have a responsibility to live their faith so that others can see a true example, not the perversions of the terrorists or the tyranny of corrupt governments. He concluded that: “For every little step I took toward Islam, Islam was taking more steps toward me”. Thus, the man who was employed to quench the glow of Islam became a propagator of Islam in America.
Allah’s way of doing things is full of wonders. Nothing is impossible with Him.