Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring 

Photo by Reem Abdelhafez

On July 2, my wife and were blessed to witness a truly extraordinary event: the wedding of our friends’ children. While the venue was beautiful, and the hall packed with numerous dear friends, that’s not what made it extraordinary.

The parents of the bride were Americans of Mexican and Indian descent. The parents of the groom were Americans of Syrian and European descent. As we walked into the beautifully laid out landscape for the ceremony, a Mexican Mariachi band serenaded us.

The attendees were immigrants and American-born. They were native Arabic, Urdu, and English speakers. Their ancestries hailed from all over the world. They were Muslim, and they were Christian. And they all came together to witness a Muslim wedding ceremony.

The ceremony itself was a thing of beauty. Two young people exchanging vows of love and making promises of commitment. The sermon, conducted by an African-American Imam, talked about the love and mercy, from the Heavens above, that God places between husband and wife. And the ceremony finished just in time before the pouring rain came down.

But that rain also brought a beautiful rainbow, a perfect finish to a perfect Islamic wedding ceremony and a sign of Divine pleasure. After dinner and prayer came the speeches by the father of the bride and the father of the groom. They were both heartfelt and heartwarming. The emotion was palpable, and it was an honor for my wife and I to be among the hundreds who got to listen to those beautiful words of peace, love, and friendship.

And no wedding is complete without music and dancing, and we were all pleasantly surprised by an Arab music group performing live “Dabke” music. I joined in with the group, jumping and stomping my feet, and shared in the joy of all who were there. The wedding was truly one of the best I have attended in a very long time.

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, it is natural to reflect over what our nation is, who our people are, and what kind of nation we want to be. There are some who are trying to define our nation narrowly, in terms of ethnic and religious make up.

Yet what I witnessed on July 2, in the far Southern suburbs of Chicago, is the truth about America: e pluribus unum, “out of many, one.” While we differed in skin tone and language, heritage and religion, we all came together as one – during a holiday weekend – to celebrate the marriage of two young American Muslims, who are embarking on a new journey of life together.

That is what makes America already great. That is what America always has been. That America is the one towards which we should always be striving.

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