Dr. Mohammed Kaiseruddin, CIOGC Chair
Muhammad Salah Led An Exemplary Life
In his devotion to the Creator and in his caring for the fellow human beings, Muhammad Salah excelled and set standards that we all can aspire to achieve.
After leaving his homeland, Palestine, Salah settled in Chicago and started to make a peaceful life for himself and his family. His ordeal started when in late 1992 Israel expelled 415 Palestinian leaders from Gaza to Lebanon. The entire world was dismayed by the Israeli action. Palestinians and Muslims around the world became concerned about the families of those expelled and collected money to help them. Salah knew it was risky, but still took the money over to Gaza. He was arrested there as he was carrying a large amount of cash and was charged with “aiding those who were fighting with the Israeli government” – that was termed terrorism.
He took cash as one could understand that he could not trust Israeli banks to facilitate money transfer to the needy. After months of harsh interrogation in Israel, Muhammad is said to have “confessed” aiding terrorists. His ordeal in Israel was so severe that his wife, Maryam, reportedly told the Tribune that he went in as a young man and came out old.
After returning to the United States, his troubles multiplied. Classified by the U.S. government as a “Designated Special Terrorist”, he faced charges related to terrorist activities based on his “confession” in Israel. US Attorney General John Ashcroft heralded the charges as a vindication of the Patriot Act. His rights to work, bank and all economic activity, including his bank account and house were confiscated. Michael Deutsch of People’s Law Office saw the injustices and decided to defend him. At the end of his court battles, the jury acquitted Muhammad of all terrorist charges. The community rejoiced with Muhammad. Yet he was given a severe sentence of 21 months on a minor perjury conviction.
It is a fundamental belief of Islam that anything good or bad comes from Allah (swt). He alone knows the reasons, but has declared that every believer’s belief will be tested – “not beyond his/her capacity to bear”. It seemed the testing of Muhammad’s belief was not complete yet. He was diagnosed with cancer. He suffered with the illness for five years. He never complained and was always thankful.
Muhammad Salah’s positive attitude through decades of difficulties, that many people would consider impossible, was inspiring and educational to all. It must be because of his VERY HIGH LEVEL OF IMAN that Allah (swt) subjected him to this extraordinary level of testing – through loss of freedom, imposition of fear, separation from family, humiliation of being classified a terrorist, confiscation of property, prohibition from working and all economic activity and finally cancer.
Whereas Br. Muhammad faced all these difficulties and health challenges, he was truly blessed with one gift from Allah (swt) – his fabulous and caring family. The challenges on the family were not any easier. They not only faced those challenges with grace and courage, but also worked with a lot of wisdom and foresight in helping Br. Muhammad overcome his challenges and find comfort and love in the family. His wife, Maryam, is a true hero in her own right. She raised her children alone while Muhammad was jailed in Israel. She was also engaged energetically and with a true positive attitude in getting Muhammad back and then in clearing his name from the accusation of being a terrorist. The children she raised – highly successful in every way alhamdulillah – are a testimony to the values she and Muhammad inculcated in them.
Br. Muhammad and his family are the true pictures of “sabiroon” (those who accept with pleasure what Allah (swt) gives them). As Allah (swt) says, “It is they upon whom their Sustainer’s blessings and grace are bestowed, and it is they, they who are on the right path!” (2:157). It is our earnest prayer that Allah (swt)’s promises are awarded to them all. May Allah (swt) also bless all those who stood by the family, particularly the Muslim community of the Mosque Foundation and Bridgeview area.