Originally published in Santa Barbara Independent
He wore a red bandana. Despite seeing the blood of those dying around him, he decided to go back into the smoky building. Despite the noise of the stricken building, his soothing voice calmed the injured. Despite being just a young 24-year-old among fleeing civilians, he was found buried among firefighters, emergency personnel, and other heroes. Despite the combustion and fumes, his body was found without burns, untouched by fire.
Welles Crowther wore that red bandana on September 11, 2001, and single-handedly saved over a dozen lives. On Thursday, May 15, the 9/11 Memorial Museum opened at ground zero. Rather than being a reflection on the lives lost that fateful day, the museum serves as a tribute to heroes, like Crowther, who were born that day. This museum “tells the story of how, in the aftermath of the attacks, our city, our nation and peoples from across the world came together, supporting each other through difficult times and emerging stronger than ever,” said Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor.
As President Obama aptly said, “Those we lost live on in us.” In the eyes of God, those who fall for justice do not die. As the Holy Qur’an proclaims, “Think not of those, who have been slain in the cause of Allah, as dead. Nay, they are living, in the presence of their Lord, and are granted gifts from Him” (3:170).
But are those who strive in “the cause of Allah” only Muslims? A reading of the Holy Qur’an would prove otherwise. This is a book that is not focused on labels, but rather on a person’s actions. As the Holy Qur’an elucidates, “Do you think that you would be left alone, while Allah has not yet known those of you who strive in the cause of Allah.”
Striving in the “cause of Allah” isn’t just for Muslims. As the Holy Qur’an states, “be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness.” (5:9) The “cause of Allah” is to bear witness in equity, to act with nothing but justice even when others act with enmity and injustice. Despite the gross violence of others, Crowther and other heroes responded with justice. They still live with us.
Those who unjustly kill others die in history. In the eyes of God, “Surely, those who … seek to kill such men as enjoin equity — announce to them a painful punishment.” (3:22). Indeed, “whosoever killed a person — unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land — it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind” (Holy Qur’an 5:33). A terrorist only kills himself. The blood of terrorists mars their own sinews while a scarlet bandana gives life to all of mankind.