Copyright © 2003-2011, Aishah Schwartz. Permission granted to circulate among private individuals, groups, or in not-for-profit publications in full text and subject title. All other rights reserved.

January 05, 2006

Heaven...The Rest of the Story!

An ABC News 20/20 Special Report with Barbara Walters on the subject of Heaven aired recently (Dec. 20, 2005), however, I didn't happen to see it until a few days ago when the program finally hit the satellite line-up here in Egypt. Night owl that I am, when the program came on at 2:00 in the morning, I tuned in to watch and listen. I have to admit the program was captivating, from the interview locations, Ms. Walters' fashionable wardrobe changes (seriously, at age 74 she never looked better!), and her amicable chat with the Dalai Lama in India, I watched every minute with great enthusiasm. However, I am compelled to express my deep disappointment with the way print media has, once again, chosen to allow misrepresentations of the teachings of Islam regarding heaven and terrorism (i.e., suicide bombing and martyrdom), in a continuation of the effort to depict Islam and Muslims in a less than favorable light. For example: Walters' team also traveled to Israel where Jihad Jarrar, of Islamic Jihad, who is incarcerated in an Israeli prison for a failed suicide bombing, tells Walters that only Muslims will go to heaven and that "...the Lord promised the martyr who lost his life and lost the world on earth, that he promised him these 72 women in paradise as honor, as respect for him." And: Jihad Jarrar...tells Walters that only Muslims will go to heaven and "the reason I chose a martyrdom operation" was to spend an eternity in paradise. What these two articles fail to include is that Ms. Walters also interviewed Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, an Islamic Scholar who rebutted Jarrar's misinterpretation of martyrdom; and asserted with emphasis that Jarrar was wrong in his attempt at suicide bombing. Since none of the articles I've reviewed have offered any of the Imam's clarifying statements I am unable to quote him here, but I do recall from watching the ABC report his mentioning a reference from the Quran: "If anyone slew an innocent person it would be as if he slew the whole mankind and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole mankind." [Al-Qur’an 5:32] The Imam was quoted in another article, but once again, his rebuttal of Jarrar's comments did not appear in print. Instead, the public is given just enough to suggest that the Imam agreed with Jarrar, when in fact, he did not!!! The article misquotes the Imam as saying: "...there's plenty of sex there -- and with virgins, no less." Please note the " -- " in the quote...yes, of course there was more to what he said!!! The full quote from the ABC News original report stated: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, tells Walters he believes heaven is indeed a physical place, but getting there depends on your behavior in this life. "The real life is the next life … and based upon how we live this life, it determines where we shall be in the next. We are told we will be in comfortable homes, reclining on silk couches … so we're given the delights of sex, the delights of wine, the delights of food with all of their positive things without their negative aspects." Still neglecting to print anything positive with regard to the correct teachings of Islam on the subject matter, as offered by the Imam in his 20/20 interview, print media once again gives Jarrar a voice from his prison cell in Israel, in an article where he is quoted as telling Ms. Walters that unless she became Muslim, "hell would be her final destination." And, for the purpose of this article, one last time in an story where Jarrar states that, "...only Muslims will go to heaven and the reason I chose a martyrdom operation was to spend an eternity in paradise." Producers of the ABC special did an admirable job putting together a program that offered representation from varying faiths, to include: Cardinal Theodore McCerrick of the Roman Catholic Church of Washington DC; Rabbi Neil Gilman from the New York Jewish Theological Seminary; Comedian Jackie Mason, who is a Rabbi; Reverend Calvin Butts, Pastor of New York's famed Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem; the reincarnated Buddah His Holiness the Dalai Lama; National Association of Evangelicals President, Pastor Ted Haggard; Ellen Johnson, President of the American Atheists Society; and the Islamic Scholar, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. I also appreciated, as the 20/20 report came to an end, the narrator's comment based on the Imam's clarification regarding the correct teachings of Islam on the subject of martyrdom, which revealed the apparent conclusion of the producers that, "Jarrar would be the one going to hell," - not Ms. Walters. Apparently neither ABC nor Ms. Walters appreciated being told by a man imprisoned for attempted suicide bombing that hell would be her final destination; the ABC News Original Report didn't even mention his interview. --------- Order the the CD of "Heaven - Where is it? How Do We Get There? 12/20/05 Video Clip from "Heaven - Where is it? How Do We Get There? 12/20/05 Islam's Stance Against Terrorism: Islamic Statements Against Terrorism and Muslims Condemn Terrorist Attacks Posted January 10, 2005: Saudi cleric says terrorism used to discredit Islam Image 'Stairway to Heaven' © Jim Warren from: (used with permission) Copyright © 2005 Aishah Schwartz Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on Internet sites and to publish in full text and subject title in not-for-profit publications. Contact author for all other rights, which are reserved.


  1. I and dh watched the show when it aired...both of us waiting to see how they would portray Islam. The Iman did a great job...but of course the emphasis was on the other guy. Also he offered up that none but Allah knows who will ultimately go to paradise...something in that respect. I have to admitt that the view of sex and wine and wordly desires in paradise still sits on me very strangely...probably from my background and I am sure that when other christians heard this it probably sat weird with them too.

  2. Wa'Alaikum Assalamu,

    In retrospect, imagine the good that probably fell to the cutting room floor of the Imam's comments...*sigh*...while unnecessary focus went to the comments of the man imprisoned for his attempt at suicide bombing...noticeably missing were the interviews of imprisoned Catholic priests paying for the crimes they've committed against innocent children; victims of molestation, a crime for which any ordinary citizen would pay for in spades. News reports about these will be far and few between as the offending priests aren't prosecuted...they're just shuffled around from one parish to another. In order to find justice, molestation cases are thus taken into the courts, where the Archdioceses then proceeds to enter into financial settlement agreements. The next twist, as in the case of an Archdiocese in Portland, Oregon, after entering into huge monetary settlement agreements, the Archdiocese turns right around and files for bankruptcy protection!

    FACT: 27 February 2004 - A report commissioned by the Church says more than 4,000 US Roman Catholic priests had faced sexual abuse allegations in the last 50 years, in cases involving more than 10,000 children - mostly boys.

    Eye-opening timeline of scandal can be read here:

    There is even a website (SNAP) - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests devoted to helping the abused (

    Sad, too sad!!

    I thought about all that when I wrote the article...but I didn't want its message to be diminished by turning it into a religion bashing piece, you know what I mean? But that doesn't change the fact that the whole scandal makes me feel angry and disappointed.

    With regard to the attributes of paradise...Allahu Alam.


  3. As salaamu alaikkum,

    I too saw this story and had a very similar reaction as you. It was definately very interesting, but I was so very disappointed that Barbara chose to entertain the bombing suspect's misguided views of Paradise, mash'Allah... At least she did interview the imam, but, the editing did not allow his point of view to make a substantial impact following the first young brother's comments.

    It just seems to me that after years of world travel and journalistic exposure to the world, one would have approached this topic with regard to Muslims differently. Oh well, the propaganda continues...

    Great article, Aishah. I truly enjoyed it, and agree with you!

    Ma salaam,

  4. As salaamu Alaikum,

    True to fact when Mrs.Walters does a show I allways hog the t.v.,but just with the previews of the show my smile turned to a frown.
    I'm sure the producers of 20/20 knew millions would be watching this show because so many at this time are unsure and totaly confused.
    My thing is that she(Mrs.Walters) could have easily talked to someone else,but I guess its easy to make it negative then it is for it to be positave.
    Maybe if enough muslims would make it known to her this was wrong,and have muslims on that can maybe shine a better light and get questions from non muslims who want to learn Islaam and not hate it;Then we could all turn this misrepresentaion of Islaam around.
    Am I dreaming when I say that I want people to love and live Islaam? Well if it were a dream then it would be true and no need to ask.

  5. I too was disappointed at the depiction of Muslims in this 20/20 special report - I thought once again, "here we go." I found it interesting that they picked a suicide bomber out of all the Muslims in the world they could have interviewed. Also, while the Imam did do a wonderful interview, I felt that in the end it seemed he agreed with the suicide bomber, although by that time I could tell it was the way they had perhaps edited things. It was very disappointing from that perspective.

  6. Salam Alaikum:

    How sad we are shown in a bad light again. When will the media print the "TRUTH OF ISLAM"???

    No wonder some times when I travel about the USA I am stared at, cussed at and things like this. And attacted twice just for the scare I wear on my head. Thank you media for this !!!!

    If only the media would start printing the similarities about the religion of Christians, Jews and Muslims. Instead of trying to show such a difference. We all want the right to worship our God as our religions request us to do. We all want a peaceful life. We all want to love and respect our parents. We all want the right to raise our children to love God. We all want a good quality of life by working hard. We all are taught to stay away from evil. IF WE PRACTICED OUR RELIGIONS FAITHFULLY (ISLAM, JUDISM, CHRISTIANITY, OTHER RELIGIONS) THERE WOULD BE NO WAR, NO SUICIDE BOMBINGS, THINGS OF THIS NATURE !!! THERE WOULD BE LESS PEOPLE STARVING IN THE WORLD AND HOMELESS. WE WOULD LIVE IN PEACE WITH OUR NEIGHBORS!!!

    Aishah this is truly a good article. And yes I agree bringing up the Priests would take away from the whole point of your article. Which is...Islam and the truth of Heaven of which the Imam was definately not allowed to bring out by the time editing was done.

    We need to pray for our media leaders...if only more positive stories were printed in this world, peoople would have the hope that our God allows us !!!

  7. Assalam alaikum

    I too had seen the TV broadcast of
    this and had hoped to see
    some 'good' points for Islam.
    Well, as many of you had said...
    it was a bit disapointing that
    editing has taken the place of
    truth and free speech. Isn't it
    amazing how careful editing has
    turned the story upon itself. The
    iman was an intelligent man, who
    seems to want to educate people -
    but the editors/producers of the
    show seemed to want to just
    further the misconception of
    Islam. Well so be it... all we
    can pray for is that a few people
    were enlightened to what true
    Islam is.