(Reprinted from the Muslim Journal 5-28-04 to 6-4-04)
"Bridging Diversity, Communities of Health, Hope and the Human Spirit"
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(This address at the Association for Professional Chaplains Annual Conference held at the Fairmont Hotel, in Dallas, Texas, April 27, 2004, was given by Imam W. Deen Mohammed.)
With Allah's Name we begin, the praise and the thanks is for G-d. We thank Him for the gift and blessing of the model human person, Muhammed (PBUH), the honorable and noble servant and Messenger of G-d, and what follows of that salute or that traditional salutation to the last Prophet, the Seal of the Prophets mentioned in the Bible as it is given in the Qur'an.
We praise G-d, and we greet you with peace as Muslims say, As-Salaam Alaikum. It is really a pleasure and a great honor to address you here at this luncheon and to be invited by your Association of Professional Chaplains.
And it is also a great pleasure for me to see upon entering so many members of our association of Muslims you make me feel very happy and proud of you. Your presence here today is wonderful.
This is good experience for you and for us to set at the table with these fine servants of G-d and mankind, to share food with them and to hear their voices and their minds. And I hope that you have done the same thing; I hope you have shared your voices and your minds at the tables with those who have invited and welcomed us here.
We begin with G-d's Name, the Merciful Benefactor, the Merciful Redeemer, or in the Name of G-d, the Beneficent, the Merciful, as it is translated in some translations of our Holy Book, the Qur'an.
I recall as a little boy younger than 11 years old, maybe 6 or 7 years old, my mother would dress me up real nice, and she would tell me, "I'm sending you to the Temple." I would go there, and I would hear the preacher preaching.
My father finally was able to come home from prison; I was about 14 years old. And he would open his lecture or his speech with, "Islam is Freedom, Justice and Equality." That was his habit over a period of 15 years or more, where he would open his speech like that first with a prayer and then "Islam is Freedom, Justice and Equality."
That stuck with me and I think it helped form my sensitivities and also my interest. And today, I see the world of Islam and I think the whole world of Muslims need to understand Islam is Freedom, Justice and Equality.
Al Islam wants excellence for human beings, the same as Christianity, Judaism all of our great religions want behavioral excellence for human beings, excellence of the human nature that we have, if there were conditions, circumstances to feed it and help us realize our excellence or experience growth of excellence for our human life, for our soul as human beings.
Al Islam Proclaims Man's Common Excellence
Proclaiming the excellence of man's common life, that is what Islam is, proclaiming the excellence of man's common life under G-d. That he should serve the community of mankind as a servant of G-d. What we perhaps need more than anything else in this world today is the innocence that G-d created us with and that all of us are born with.
Some of the organizations that I am a member of, when we meet the leaders often mention the need to achieve transparency.
We have in our Holy Book the saying, "Enter the door" on hands and knees with the nose and forehead touching the floor. All of that is expressed in a little short phrase in Arabic: "Enter the door or enter the gate in submission."
But that is not enough just to say in submission. I think when we describe it clearly and literally, it gives us the meaning as I have just given it to this honorable audience.
There is a growing awareness among these leaders, like the leaders of this organization that you mentioned me being a part of or a representative of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. And I have heard our leader, Dr. Bill Vinley, mention the need to achieve transparency.
There is hope for us and the world, as long as we have leaders in these organizations organized for peace, not only at home but peace everywhere on this planet earth and for justice everywhere on this planet earth.
We know we have many such servants serving mankind under G-d, as servants of G-d working alone or working with their friends in their neighborhoods or working with their associates, their colleagues. The world always has hope, as long as we have such persons who have achieved or are trying to achieve transparency.
The picture of world leaders today is shameful, and that is saying the least. Whether the picture we're looking at is the picture of the Asian world or European world or African world or the American people, we are looking at a very shameful picture.
I recall in my childhood, older women while they were observing the behavior of a child, they would say, "That boy is rotten to the core." Now we should never become rotten to the core.
We have in our Holy Book, the Qur'an, the saying, "Your death and your resurrection is liken to that of a single soul." The more our world works to mute human innocence, the more it gives itself to moral corruption of the human thought processes. Soon the loss of transparency brings on death of the whole society.
Business Life Will Be Void of Human Life
We know there are the living still walking the earth, but when we look at the general picture or the big picture, the picture of our publics and our leaders among them, it appears that we have allowed the whole society of man to lose human innocence, to lose transparency, openness, where you are not afraid to face your own secret thoughts and you are not ashamed if others see your own secret thoughts.
In time, if you lose this core that G-d created us with, business life will be void of human life. The approach to troubling issues won't have the support of this life that G-d gave us to save us in every area of life.
African American neighborhoods remain in their business life in infancy, because the leadership, I mean our leadership itself, is dead to man's original life that G-d gave us, when He put us in the Garden or put our Father in the Garden.
I got this saying from Christianity, from the Bible. "Unless the children be reconciled...," now I understand it means the life. "Unless the children's life be reconciled with the life of the Father...." And I know Christianity perhaps and many Christians see this as reconciled with G-d. Yes, but it also is reconciled with Adam in his purity, before he lost it to the seducer.
Unless the children be reconciled in their life with the life of the father, the whole earth will be cursed. And when I look at our world today on television and what leaders are talking about, the violence and the trouble in our world, it seems as though the whole world is under a curse.
Selfish Promotion Invites Moral and Rational Death
Selfish promotion of one's own interest invites not only moral death but also the death of rational life as well. To work against moral life is stupid, not wisdom. Wisdom is not to see moral life separate from rational life.
We all know in these great heavenly religions, as we sometimes call them — Judaism, Christianity and Al Islam, we understand the fall of man, the fall of our Father Adam. It came only when he ate of a certain forbidden food and caused the generations to separate moral life from rational life or to see them separately.
Moral life will soon disappoint us, if it separates from rational life. And rational life will soon disappoint us, if it separates from moral thought or moral life. I believe that Al Islam and Christianity are the same, in that we want to keep this life consistent, healthy and whole or complete.
In my conclusion, Muhammed the Prophet said, there will come a time when Jesus Christ and himself will be seen together. We believe in the birth of Jesus Christ without the help of man or without the involvement of a male, a man. Maybe I cannot use the same language, the Immaculate Conception.
Al Islam and Christianity is separated not by knowledgeable people in these two religions, they are separated by people who have political interests. We have a scholar in Islam, Dr. Ibrahim Izzideen. He was giving an interview to the Focalore international movement of Catholics started by Chiara Lubich, who was experiencing as a child, as a young lady, a teenager about 17, the horrors of World War II, with bombs falling all around.
She decided to give her mind to Jesus Christ, peace be on him, as a servant, as a Catholic, as the person working hard to bring people to love one another, to call people back to Christ's Love. I became acquainted with her, meeting her through her book on her life, and I fell in love with her soul and her mind.
We formed a friendship, and that friendship now is a friendship for myself to those who are associated with me in the following and herself with those associated with her in her following.
The point I want to make here is that when we study these two religions with innocent hearts, as it says in our Book, "None can touch it." None can grasp the beauty and substance of the Qur'an, except the purified ones.
When we are innocent in our hearts and minds and in our souls, we do not have any intentions that will shame us before G-d or the public, if we were to disclose those intentions. We have transparency, and G-d guides us to the substance and purity of our Scriptures.
I have read the Bible very carefully and very diligently. First I said to myself, "I want to be fair, I do not want to read the Bible and be picking it apart and questioning everything. I want to be able to go through the book like I want to. I vow that I will not stop to take anything apart or to question anything. I will read the Bible from cover to cover."
I did that, and G-d helped me do that. At the same time, when I was making the pledge to myself to do it that way, I also said, "And when I finish reading it that way, I'm going to pick it apart." And I did, but the first reading converted me to the purity of the Bible. I see a continuous line of purity from Genesis to Revelation.
So G-d put me in a situation where I could study it and look at it critically, and I did. So I have come to the conclusion that our religions want a world order that respects G-d and has man working in the service of mankind under G-d. G-d says He does not want anything from us; He needs nothing from us. He only wants from us our obedience.
Nations Allow Loss of Morals Will Hurt Masses and Leaders
In Al Islam, emphasis on behavior is very strong. Muslims are not to behave any kind of way. We can't follow the world of cultural trends that take us from life to death, back to life and then death. To me, nations that permit that kind of cultural life to control the lives of the masses of people and the leaders also will fall victim to it.
Because the common denominator for all of us is our moral life, our sensitive soul that G-d gave us, our emotions, etc. And no one is safe, no matter how educated we become, no matter how powerful we become. No one is safe from that danger of losing his soul, if we allow the influences that are against the health of the soul to take over the life of the public or the life of society.
In my opinion, we are no better than those ancient nations that regulated their societies by that kind of logic or that kind of insight into the nature of human behavior.
I believe that it is time for this great world that has advanced us in science and technology and also in human nature we have become more socially mature because of the great advances we have made in the sciences and with our particular experience that we have with our democracy in the United States of America.
So my prayer is that we study the society, study what governs our society and get the devil out of our society.
Peace to you, As-Salaam-Alaikum.