There are some deep and revolutionary messages to all of us that emerged and continue to emerge from the Chapel Hill Shooting. The three beautiful souls of Deah (23), his bride Yusor (21), and Razan (19) have been taken violently and hatefully in what is undoubtedly a senseless inhumane crime.
Details of the incident and the main stream media’s unsurprisingly inadequate coverage are being discussed widely on social media and beyond. I, however, want to take this opportunity and reflect on something else that’s so striking about this incident.
While sharing the pictures of the three blessed deceased, many people have been expressing sorrow and asking everyone to pray for their souls. While looking at their beautiful photos and the exemplary reaction their parents took after the incident, however, I really was overwhelmed with a feeling greater than sorrow!
I was impressed!
I was really, truly impressed by them: the honorable life of service the three have led, and the honorable handling of their deaths that their families have displayed.
Yes, I prayed for them,very briefly at first (I confess). But I reflected on all the lessons one can learn from them. Then, I prayed for them even more, this time not because they need my prayers, but because I felt thankful for the fact that they have taught me and many others some enormously beautiful lessons.
Almost all of us have, at one time or another, wondered: “why do bad things happen to good people?”
We do know from the blessed prophetic hadith that the strongest believers are the ones who’re given the biggest trials [Sunan Ibn Majah]. But, why?
Allah doesn’t burden a soul with more than it can handle, and He knows they can get through this situation even better and come out to be more beautiful human beings with reflections, understanding, wisdom and knowledge that not only illuminate their hearts, but the hearts and minds of many who’ve found them to learn about life and beyond…
We have no doubt that our blessed three winners will be getting their most esteemed reward from their Creator in sha Allah because it is His promise that is ever true! And we have no doubt that, through their beautiful patience, their families will also rise to the most esteemed ranks in Paradise, in sha Allah.
But, now, what do we learn from this incident?
What I learned from Our Three Winners
- Leave a beautiful memory of selfless service to your community and those around you.The fact that our three winners were involved in so much humanitarian work really teaches us a lot about the time we waste. What are many youth involved in nowadays? How many of us are using our youth and good health in change-making selfless acts of service?
- Beautify yourself with honesty, kindness and simplicity. Just looking at the beautiful photos of the three winners was enough to put a smile on people’s faces. Many have mentioned “they have so much light in their faces”. It’s true. I couldn’t help but notice that as well, and I immediately remembered those beautiful verses from the Qur’an:
“[Some] faces, that Day, will be radiant. Looking at their Lord.” [Qur’an: Chapter 75, Verses 22-23]
“[Some] faces, that Day, will be bright -Laughing, rejoicing at good news.” [Qur’an: Chapter 80, Verses 38-39]
Be good, kind and down to earth so you may radiate light to those around you!
- No matter how short or long your life is, make it count. Many youth refrain from engaging in major community work, major pursuits of learning or service, just because they think they’re too young. We really need to stop this and revolutionize the way we look at age. If you died ‘young’, then that’s all you got. There is no young or old, then. We can’t guarantee ‘getting old’, we can’t guarantee tomorrow, so make today count… for yourself, those around you and for your community. We’re all born with different unique gifts, you know best what your gift is. Don’t wait for anyone to validate it. Get up and find ways to start using your gift from today to make a positive impact, because that’s the reason Allah gave it to you!
- Be genuinely good to your own family. Deah’s last message to his mother was “I love you mama”. When was the last time we expressed our love genuinely and sincerely to our family and loved ones? When will you tell them? How many of us are not giving our families our best today? More importantly, how many of us would have family members who speak so highly of their immensely good qualities as Sr. Suzanne – Deah’s older sister- spoke of her beloved brother?
What I learned from the family of Our Three Winners
I can’t speak highly enough of their beautiful families or what I learned from them, but here are a few thoughts:
- Calling their loss a victory over hate by naming them The Three Winners! They have so graciously risen above the victim mentality and created an online and offline celebration of the lives of their deceased winners. How many of us would think so productively, positively and proactively like that as opposed to drowning in sorrow and despair when hit by a calamity?
- Turning hate into peace and mercy. The family have repeatedly asked everyone to take this opportunity to “promote peace and mercy” – as mentioned on their Facebook page.
This is a beautiful demonstration and implementation of the Qur’anic verse in probably the most trying time of their life:
“Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better” [Qur’an: Chapter 41, Verse 34]
- Maintaining an astonishing level of optimism during calamity. The siblings wrote about the three winners on their Facebook page: “Keep the prayers coming please as we bid Our Three Winners farewell today. They shook Planet Earth and our Creator wants them with Him.”
They also wrote: “Dear family and friends from all over the world, live in dignity and serenity. Deah, Yusor, and Razan are elated and in a state of immense happiness. This is the glad tidings given to the believers.”
Look at the beauty that came out of their pain.
Look at the inspiration that came out of their deaths.
Look at the light they started emanating through the darkness.
Look at the wisdom they started teaching through an act of someone’s ignorance.
So, Muslims, shine! Shine, please!
Embrace the core of the teachings of our beautiful religion and shine. Things don’t have to be good and easy for you to do so.
Real excellence is truly manifest when the circumstances are more challenging. We don’t expect the circumstances to completely change for us to be who we want to be. We should seek justice and fairness and truth and mercy. But this doesn’t mean we should wait for all of this to be accomplished, or for us to be who we are and who we want to be.
It’s only through experiencing and coming out of the challenge that we learn so many lessons that help us grow spiritually, emotionally and intellectually.
The Prophet said:
“Do not let yourselves be ‘yes-men’, saying: ‘If the people are good then we will be good, and if they are wrong then we will be wrong.’ Rather, make up your own minds, if the people are good then you are good, and if they are evil, then do not behave unjustly.” [at-Tirmidhi]
As per the hadith, a family member of the beloved three wrote on Facebook, “Don’t fight fire with fire.”
Yes we’re in deep loss over the #chapelhillshooting. But there is an even greater and mightier gain for us and that’s to be reminded of our true values, and to take lessons from the blessed family of our three loved ones.
My message to the family of Our Three Winners: this is not to sanctify or over-praise you. I respect your privacy, your humanity, your weakness, your vulnerability and the time you’ll need to grieve and heal from this wound. But, I also want to remind myself and others that you are worthy of celebration, admiration and thanks. You and your beloved three are truly an inspiration. And I have no doubt that the All-Merciful Creator will raise your mention and your status and grant you the honorable reward you deserve through your service and patience. You are worthy, with the will of Allah , of the highest most esteemed levels of Paradise, and that’s the true gain. You are indeed the true winners.
Thank you so much for being means through which we are being taught so many valuable lessons. May Allah reward you, envelope you in His mercy and grant you beautiful patience.
Practical Tip: If you have been inspired by the selfless humanitarian work of Br. Deah and want to continue his legacy, please support his project here. This will be a sadaqah jariya (continuous reward) for him since he is the one who showed you the way to help those in need.
Please use the comments section below to pay tribute to Our Three Winners, and share with us what you learned from them and their families!