My Turn: ‘Use your hearts for what your hearts are for’


Monday, November 06, 2017


A famous passage of the Qur’an describes the trial of a criminal before God. The following conversation ensues (paraphrased):

Criminal: “The Devil made me do it!”

The Devil: “This crime is your responsibility! I only made suggestions!”


Why would a man rent a truck, use it to run down families on a bike path, then start shooting people?

Our law enforcement is trying to answer that question now. As the investigation progresses, we’ll hear bits and pieces of the story through the media.

While it appears that this criminal is Muslim, he didn’t get this idea from traditional Islam.

Traditional Islam teaches Muslims to protect the innocent, to build relationships with neighbors, to act with love, compassion, and mercy toward the world.

As one of the greatest American Muslim teachers puts it:

“Use your hearts for what your hearts are for.”

Every person on Earth must strive for this, every day.

This is a private battle. As Saint Paul described it:

“For our struggle is not against human opponents, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.” (International Standard Version)

Only when we succeed in this private struggle can we truly stand for our civilization.

And our civilization needs us. We live in a great nation, but it has its problems. We pray and hope that our children, and our neighbors’ children, will find America greater than it has ever been.

We work hard for this, every day.

As I write this, a group of local churches are organizing a charity auction to help finish construction of our local mosque. Part of me is still amazed by this — but part of me is not surprised. I know people from all backgrounds and all walks of life who have good hearts, and a great number of them are here in Western Mass.

I know that everyone at Hampshire Mosque hopes to repay this favor 1,000 times over, and more.

Civilization isn’t built by chance — we build upon the foundations laid by our ancestors. The legacy of work is all around us, in the health of our forests, rivers, and farmland, in the buildings we live and work in, the roads we travel, the bridges that connect our towns.

We can’t allow this legacy to deteriorate or, God forbid, to be destroyed while in our care.

We work within the context of the present day. The First Nations, the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, Americans of every generation have faced unique challenges. We must learn from their successes and their struggles. Some of our challenges are different from theirs, but we also share far more than we may think.

Every nation also has its criminals. Random, wanton violence harms everyone it touches — even the murderer is harmed. This murderer in New York may wish to blame the Devil, but the crime is his. I pray that he will receive justice in this world, and I believe he is guaranteed to receive justice from God.

We must all strive to establish justice.

And we must aim much higher than that. Justice is necessary, but love and mercy are greater and more important than justice.

Our nation didn’t become great by chance. Everything that we have is a trust from our ancestors, which in turn will be delivered to our children. Let’s work with that knowledge in mind, as we use our hearts for what our hearts are for.



Patrick Bensen is a past president of Hampshire Mosque in Amherst and a resident of Greenfield. He writes at beyondhalal.org