Mass shootings have an aura of déjà vu about them. There are countless victims, an insidious murderer, and a hunger to understand why they did what they did. Rather than realizing we may not ever understand, we try to categorize. We try to simplify. Either they are religious fanatics or mentally insane.
The most recent instance, Las Vegas, shows the frailty of this structure. Here we have a murderer who doesn’t immediately fill into any category. He’s a considerably wealthy 64-year-old man with no apparent propensity for violence who committed one of the most atrocious mass shootings in modern history. Every new detail we learn is a piece we attempt to puzzle in an amorphous mess. The more we learn, however, the more we realize we likely never will know why the killer did what he did. The fault is our own for having creating categories of terrorists leaving us searching for closure. The reality is there is only one label for the Timothy McVeighs, Omar Mateens, and Stephen Paddocks of the world: killers.
In Islam, murderers are all alike. The Holy Qur’an states, “whosoever killed a person … it shall be as if he had killed all mankind.” The Qur’an doesn’t differentiate between killers because each act is so heinous. We get so lost in the countless victims that their stories become blurred. We start to forget their own rich lives, the fact that they lived a life as we are now. The Qur’an recognizes this by showing that the ending of one’s person’s universe is like ending the universe for all people.
Indeed, our desire to understand killers isn’t entirely vain. Ultimately, the goal of understanding every detail is so that such a heinous deed can prevented in the future. However the means by which our society attempts to get there stifles this goal. It is inevitable that in such an endeavor, an “us versus them” mentality is created. A white-and-black world of us vs them is muddled when killers can be white, black, or brown.
The reason people kill may be masked by a political dogma or religion, but indeed that underlying reason transcends this. It’s a lack peace in oneself that allows for such evil to cultivate. Every religion brings its adherents to that peace. As the Bible also states, “but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew: 5:39). Rather than focusing on the details that idolize murder, we can avoid this déjà vu by focusing on ourselves, by focusing on the inner peace to dismantle the possibility of any evil.