(Reprinted from the Muslim Journal (6-27-03 to 7-4-03)
"Building Bridges of Peace and Justice"
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(Imam W. Deen Mohammed gave this address at the Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., on April 29, 2003.)
We praise G-d, The Lord, Cherisher of the worlds. And we give the traditional salute to Muhammed who received the Holy Book of the Muslims, our Qur'an, the prayers and the peace be upon him.
Islam, the religion of peace, wants peace for the whole world of mankind, for the human family. We are to promote peace, not only for ourselves but peace for the world. The religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism are not unconnected; they are connected. If these religions are connected, then certainly the adherents to these religions and who believe in them are also connected.
We are connected by faith in the same G-d and faith in the Plan for mankind that our Creator gave us when He created us. Then He sent inspired men to guide us when we were deviating from that Plan. We have faith in the life of mankind that G-d chose for us when He created us.
When we look at Islam in its most important features, we see that Islam is very much like the Christian ideals and very much like the Jewish ideals. G-d says to us in our Holy Book: "You will find among those who call themselves Christians those who believe in G-d and promote justice and fair dealings." It says the same of the Jews.
G-d says to us Muslims in our Holy Book, "Be a people for justice and promoting fair dealings." So Islam wants peace, justice and fairness for all people. When we look at our religion in its most important features, we also see that Islam is a religion of unity for all people.
We believe this unity comes from G-d, that G-d, He, Himself, is a Unit. We say in Islam, "Say, G-d is Only One." We believe the expression in Islam called Tauheed or this Oneness that comes from G-d is reflected in the oneness of matter. This whole system of material things called the heavens or skies and earth is one unit also.
Being a lover of science myself, I know that science believes in the unity of matter. That all of these material things, including the skies, are beyond our ability to reach the ends of, but we know something about it. We know its nature and it is one system of matter. We receive from that base or premise to accept that life is one and also that human life is one.
G-d tells us in our religion, as He told the Christians and Jews who had the ideas before us, that we all came from one soul. G-d says He made one soul, male and female, and that He produced from the two all the men and women on the earth.
We look at the Sacred House that we turn to in prayer and also make pilgrimage to once a year, those who can afford to make the trip if their health and finances will permit them to do it. It is called the First House built for all people. It is the Most Ancient of the houses built for all people.
It didn't say "built for G-d." We know this House is built for us to know how to have our life down here on this earth under G-d and pleasing before G-d.
When we look at Muhammed, the Messenger of G-d, to whom the Qu'ran was revealed, G-d shows him to us. We firstly have to see him as G-d presents him, and G-d says, "He is a human person, just like you." It means that whatever is in Muhammed the Prophet, G-d put it in all human beings.
But Muhammed the Prophet was the one, as others before him whom we can name Christ Jesus was certainly one of them, upon them be peace, were able to keep their good human life and not let the environment that was in opposition or threatening that life take it out of the form that G-d created it to be in.
It is said of Muhammed the Prophet of G-d that "he has already lived a lifetime among you." That is to say that Muhammed had lived for 40 years before G-d called him, before he knew anything about revelation. He was not familiar with Christianity or Judaism or any other revealed religion.
Dr. Izzeiddin of Egypt and a few others have called them "Heavenly Religions." There are Christians and Jews who also refer to Judaism, Christianity and Islam as Heavenly Religions. I understand that to mean that they were revealed or descended down to man as communication from G-d.
Islam is the religion of peace. Islam is the religion of unity. Islam is the religion that presents us a man, Muhammed, a human being like ourselves and wants us to have faith in that man. G-d says, "Believe in G-d and believe in His Messenger."
And I think we miss what is most important, that is most Muslims, these simple concepts and simple points in our religion that are very important to the understanding of our religion. We miss the main message.
G-d is saying to us that human life is good enough, strong enough to support the responsibilities that G-d created us for. The responsibilities not only for ourselves as individuals and for our families and neighborhoods, but for the whole life of mankind on this planet and in the world.
G-d is saying that He created the human being good enough and strong enough to represent that life, to guide that life and to serve that life. In each of us is this power, this goodness. But in G-d's Plan, He selects just a few to establish them as examples for the rest.
I see Jesus Christ in the picture of the Nativity, Peace be upon Christ Jesus, as a baby among animals. And I see Muhammed, the Prophet, an orphan or a baby among people who worshipped idols and who had no system of government that they all respected and that would protect their lives and permit them to have civilized progress.
They were separate tribes in competition with one another, threatening one another at times, and G-d chose Muhammed the Prophet at the age of 40 to be His Servant and His Messenger.
When you read of the life of Muhammed the Prophet, he never worshipped idols. He was never seen in bad character. He was always in the most excellent character.
Muhammad the Prophet didn't just befriend those who thought or believed like him. He was kind to everybody. He was kind to children. He had patience with children. He loved children. He was a humble man. He was never proud, to think of himself above others. When there was a job to do, he was seen sweeping the floor of the house for his wife. He was seen in the market, even after he became the great leader, going to buy groceries for his family.
These are qualities of human excellence that G-d is telling us that He created all of us for. Then G-d gave Muhammed the Message for Qur'an. The Qur'an is a book of mercy, compassion. Every chapter, except one, opens with the words, "With G-d's Name, The Merciful, The Merciful" it is Merciful twice.
But when you look at Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim, both come from the root rahma, meaning mercy and compassion. We understand that it means that G-d is Merciful and so Generous in giving us all that we need to support our life and to benefit us in this wonderful creation.
The Chapter in Qur'an is called Ar-Rahman and in that Chapter, G-d reminds us of all of the wonderful resources that He made for human beings to benefit from. The oceans filled with so many useful and beautiful things. The land, how He has given us life abundant in so many wonderful and beautiful things.
Then He brings us also to revelation that is His Greatest Gift from where the most and greatest help comes to us. That is Divine Guidance. He then mentions the Qur'an, that He taught man the Qur'an and created the human person.
This is the second creation, that G-d has created us as we understand nature, evolving and supporting us. The world G-d made supports us, and it supported Muhammad the Prophet without any revelation or religion or guidance as we understand religion. His life was seen as excellent, and G-d chose him.
G-d chose him, not to make him a good person, not to purge him of sins or corruption, but to give him a Message that would agree with his excellent human nature. It was a message that his soul was crying for, a message that his heart wanted.
Islam compliments and supports our best human nature. Islam is help from G-d to our best human nature to help us to go where we have to go not individually only, but as the community of human beings on this earth.
As the learned thinker in Islam, Maulana Maududi, who passed away some 15 years ago, said, "Islam is an idea for the reform of the world."
As a student of the Bible and of Christian beliefs, I know that Christianity too is an idea for the reform of the world. And I understand the Guidance of the Torah revealed to Moses, peace be upon him, for the Jews and other prophets that they received, their messages were to guide them to more and more understanding of an idea that was for the reform of the whole world.
These great religions are kindred, and we have other religions too we have to acknowledge. These religions though are very closely related and follow each other. Christianity came behind Judaism and Islam came behind Christianity.
We have to accept that these religions are in competition with one another, also. And G-d recognizes that, as G-d says, "Go as in a race, in competition, to reach a point or a destination, after all that is good."
G-d is telling us, yes. He wants us to be in competition with one another. "Muslims, now that I have given My Covenant to you, I want you to be in competition with the good communities and excellent leadership that is in these communities."
Be in a healthy competition. That is what is meant by "go after all that is good." So this makes us friends in competition, not enemies. We are going after the same good ends and same good life, so we are friends in competition.
At this point, I would like to mention, again, the friend of my father who also became a friend or acquaintance of mine, the learned scholar of Egypt who has served governments and states, the scholar Ibrahim Ezzeddin.
Ibrahim Ezzeddin agreed to be interviewed by the magazine of the Focolare Movement, a very big movement headed by a very big blessed lady as their founder and leader, Chiara Lubich.
When he was interviewed and asked about the religious tolerance and problems we have for Christianity and Islam, he said: "Had it not been for political interest instigating division and hostilities between us, we would not today have these problems."
I do believe that. And we do have leaders with great minds from the Islamic world and Islamic countries, at least from the religious leadership, and pious men and good men working with Christian leadership and Jewish leadership and other leaders of the great faith communities on this planet, so we can get to know each other again.
And it is without politics and governments interfering, so that we can see that we are one family under G-d.
What G-d gave to one. He gave to the other. And that is help for the good life that He wants for all of us. Thank you. Peace. As-Salaam-Alaikum.