By the Grace of God, people are celebrating the ceasefire in the Holy Land. We thank the Lord. Indeed, peace on earth is always the Victory of God and to be celebrated as Grace from Him.
Many are asking at the same time: What happens after, though?
To be good witnesses to history, it is our duty to not let the memory of this lastest episode of human suffering and oppression fade. We need to make sure that something remains to keep the heart alive in remembrance of the situation of suffering of others in the world.
For weeks, the hearts of Muslims and other people of good faith and kindness were full of pain at what was happening in the Holy Land — the oppression and persecution of our Palestinian brothers and sisters and the wrongdoers’ stratagem to appropriate the sacred sanctuary.
Muslims around the world struggled to find a way to respond to this situation.
For those who seek traditional guidance, our scholars and spiritual guides have always advised us to meet calamity with supplication, with giving in charity with an intention to alleviate harm, and with waking in the night to demonstrate our neediness to the Lord (Tahajjud).
One form of charity is to establish a trust that will benefit others.
On May 9, 9 young boys from our Rhoda Masjid community gathered for an outdoor meeting at the Rhoda property. We talked about how we can make a difference in the world, even in the worst of times when we may feel helpless that terrible things are happening, beyond our control. We talked about the Hadith (Prophetic Teaching) in which the Prophet — may the light of God continue to nourish his essence and draw us towards him — advises us that even if the world were ending, if we held at that time a sapling in our hand, we must not throw it down and pay attention to the world falling apart at that moment. Rather, even in that moment of the ultimate and final calamity, we must take that sapling and plant it. In that spirit, we planted two cherry trees, as a means to ask God for His Grace upon the Ummah — as a form of charity and resistance to the loss of hope and the invasion of despair.
Yesterday, Thursday evening, we consecrated the area where we had planted those trees as a memoriam for children of war, including and especially the 9 children who were martyred the very day we planted the trees. SubhanAllah, this part of the Rhoda property is exactly at the corner of St Joseph Boulevard and Gabriel Street. Both of these names are of course tied to the Holy Land and bring to mind the celestial realm. As well, this is a highly-visible corner of the Rhoda property and is perfect as a place to plant not only trees but a message for the public to see.
Last night, our nine boys prayed for those nine martyred children and reflected deeply on the role they will have to fulfil in this life: to become men who honour justice and truth. Pray for them and for all the Ummah. Becoming women and men of truth and honour is the ultimate struggle that lies before us, and our striving towards that victory must remain at the top of our priorities.
I would like to call on every parent to implant in your child an awareness of who they are as a vicegerent of God on earth — an upholder of truth and justice — by planting a tree in your backyard. It’s a Prophetic practice to build a well for a person who has passed into the other realm — something we cannot do in many of the countries we live in. Planting a tree is a twin action to digging a well — one that can be dedicated to a person or people who have passed into the other world. It is a way of keeping part of their life here on earth with us, as a living legacy and reminder of their sacrifice. It is also a way to teach our children that those who are killed in the way of truth never die. Like that tree — and like the tree the Prophet tells us to plant when the earth itself is ending — those who die in God’s way live forever.
Trees symbolize life, and the trees of the Holy Land — olive trees, cypress trees, fig and almond trees — symbolize the life and resistance of the Palestinian people. They continue to plant and tend to their trees as a means to express their presence and commitment to staying alive and carrying on.
It’s essential for us as Muslims to keep the memory of this experience alive, to keep the memory of martyred children alive, and to teach our children how they can respond to calamity and injustice that we cannot personally intervene in, in creative and spiritual ways. This is essential so that we don’t fall into despair nor into consumption of media that drains our very will to approach God and keep doing good, for Him and for our Ummah. We must never inadvertently let the enemy cut off our good works and make us lose hope in planting for the future.
The memorial project at 2871 St Joseph Boulevard in Ottawa is open to your contribution, creativity and initiatives — this project of a memorial garden for children of war is only at its beginning — so come and be part of it. Help us make it a place where people can come and meditate and pray and grow in consciousness and care beyond themselves. Bring a bench for us to place there. Or just come sit next to the trees, pray beside them, water them and let their beauty re-inspire in you thoughts of the everlasting life, which is the life of every child and adult who has gone from this world as a martyr, and which is the true life that awaits all of us. May we keep planting in that holy land.