As a father, I have found my perspectives on life shift, linger and move on to newer planes. One thing has remained constant: looking at my little girl, my deepest prayers are that she remains a Muslim as pure as she was the day she joined us. It is perhaps for this reason that I have recently found myself inclined towards listening to Maulana Tariq Jamil’s addresses on TV rather than flipping through movie and sports channels.

The effect, in an unexplainable manner, has been profound. On many occasions I sit down with the intent to just hear ten minutes of Islamic teachings on a particular topic, and it usually ends an hour later with more knowledge of my religion. Maulana sahib has a charismatic personality, his addresses sprinkled with ayats from the Quran, with ahadith from credible sources, and with anecdotes which leave a smile and a memory to remember his lecture by. I have heard him categorically say that he is not a ‘Mufti’ and cannot therefore issue ‘fatwas’. Yet, my common eyes and ears tell me that he possesses a true gift of knowledge which can, at the very least, provide a pathway to a better life as a Muslim.

So when the ISIS-planned attacks in Paris happened a few days ago, I was left searching for answers. Searching for answers as a thoughtful Muslim is always left in the wake of terror-inducing attacks carried out on the shoulders of Islam. ISIS has become an internationally recognized threat, an entity which has gained as much momentum, if not more, as the infamous Al-Qaeda. Their ranks are spread across countries and continents, apparently gaining stronger footholds with time. They number in the hundreds of thousands, maybe even more.

Maybe they are right? Maybe that is the ‘true’ essence of Islam? To bomb and kill one and all, while killing yourself to reach higher plateaus? What if I have been taught wrong? What if I am not a true Muslim? I have tried to be more regular in my prayers, I listen to Maulana sahib and I turn on FM 93.5 to listen to the Quran during my travels. Then why have I not become a terrorist yet?

Surely, if this is the true essence of Islam, Maulana sahib would at least once say that suicide is the shortcut to heaven? So I tuned in to the TV channel again and stayed glued to it. I waited for Maulana sahib to tell me to leave my wife, to leave my only child, to leave my parents and my siblings, and to join hands with him as we kill and decimate men, women and children of other faiths. I waited for him to tell me that as part of my training, I should first practice on Shias in Pakistan because, after all, they aren’t Muslims, right? I waited for him to provide a step-by-step guide on how to put a suicide vest to its best and most explosive use, and the best way to send me to my countless bounties in heaven.

It never came. Why am I not a terrorist yet? Maybe he is not that good at his job. He talked on and on about peace, about forgiveness. He recalled an anecdote about using a ‘Tom Tom’ to reach his destination, only to find that the office had shifted. The point was that we follow a Tom Tom’s directions so blindly and with such conviction, yet we hardly pay any heed to the directions laid down in the Quran which is to guide us to our final destination. Surely the Quran’s directions told Muslims to kill and plunder, without mercy and without thought to consequence and victims? Apparently not. The Quran talked about compassion apparently. The life and times of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) evidenced forgiveness and patience apparently. To my surprise, the Quran did not mention suicide vests, suicide bombers, or attacking innocents anywhere.

How could this be? I waited for Maulana sahib to tell me how to become a better Muslim. As a suicide bomber, would I not be among the first of people entering the pearly gates? No, apparently. The highest of Muslims would be those who were good to other people, apparently. A person could pray and fast his entire life without missing a single day, yet he would be crossed by a person who had good ‘ikhlaaqiaat’.

I was confused.  Why was he telling me that I could give ‘sadqa’ for the benefit of non-Muslims? Did they deserve any help? Maybe it was a ploy. Lure them in with money, then kill them when they least expect it! Apparently not. We were supposed to help people, not Muslims or non-Muslims. Maybe Maulana sahib is not as learned as he is made out to be.

So I briefly continued my journey to hear what was said during the ‘khutba’ at Hajj, the highest religious journey one can take as a Muslim. Surely, the gathering of millions would be told to return and kill non-Muslims? Surely the seeds of the Paris attack were sown at Makkah. Apparently not. There was denouncement of terrorism, and a constant plea to be pious in the ways of life.

And then, to the extent that I could, I knew. Why was I not a terrorist? Because Islam does not preach it. Because it has no place before Allah. Because violence is not a virtue.

So ISIS and like-minded entities will continue to bring shame to my ‘Muslim’ tag. I will endure taunts and abuses. But I will never become a terrorist. Because my religion demands of me to provide for my wife, to provide for my daughter and to raise her as a peaceful, bigotry-free human. The world will never understand what a ‘Muslim’ is, but I will hold my head high if I have been good to people and followed the path that is clearly provided in the Quran and Islamic jurisprudence. Because only then would I have been a good Muslim.