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In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

With so much talk and banter about “Sharia law” and how Muslims in America are trying to supplant the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law, I came across this passage of the Qur’an that is relevant to this silly discussion. Let me say again that Muslims are not trying to supplant US law with Sharia. In fact, Sharia law dictates that we follow US law as US citizens.

But, underlying the claim that Muslims are somehow trying to “take over” America, is a false assertion that Islam must dominate all other faiths, that Islam sees no room for a multifaith society and world. Nothing could be further from the truth:

UNTO every community have We appointed [different] ways of worship, which they ought to observe. Hence, [O believer,] do not let those [who follow ways other than thine] draw thee into disputes on this score, but summon [them all] unto thy Sustainer: for, behold, thou art indeed on the right way.  And if they [try to] argue with thee, say [only]: “God knows best what you are doing.” [For, indeed,] God will judge between you [all] on Resurrection Day with regard to all on which you were wont to differ. (22:67-69)

This is very similar to this passage:

Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto, you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all must return; and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ.” (5:48)

In fact, the Qur’an itself tells us that most will not believe in it:

And so, be not in doubt about this [revelation]: behold, it is the truth from thy Sustainer, even though most people will not believe in it. (11:17)

In this, behold, there is a message [unto humanity], even though most of them will not believe [in it.] (26:8)

Yet – however strongly thou may desire it – most people will not believe [in this revelation] (12:103)

But, it does not say, “kill them all,” as some would have you believe. It says: “in the end, God will judge between all of you over what you were wont to differ.” Further, it says that we should compete with each other in doing good works on earth (5:48), and that we should not get into disputes with those who follow other faiths and ways of life (22:67). Islam teaches to live and let live.

Do some Muslims preach otherwise? Yes. Do some Muslims practice otherwise? Yes. Does it make it right? No. Does it mean that their actions reflect the truth? No.

In fact, those that seek to kill and destroy all those of other faiths – or even Muslims who don’t ascribe to their own wicked beliefs – are criminals and are defying all that Islam teaches and stands for. Their crimes cannot be projected upon the whole body of Muslims worldwide.

The heart of the matter is this: it is a reality that there will be different faiths and faith groups; it is, in fact, part of God’s plan. And the Muslim response to this should be: “vie with one another in doing good works”; work together to make God’s earth that much greener, that much safer, that much more peaceful. Those that seek otherwise twist God’s words and defame His way.

 

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful 

I first learned about the law – that passed the Kuwaiti parliament – on a ChicagoNow blog post entitled “Kuwait theocracy declares Islam is weak.” The law calls for the death penalty for insulting the Prophet Muhammad, his wives or relatives. Apparently, this was in response to the arrest of a Shi’ite Muslim who allegedly insulted the Prophet and his wife on Twitter (he denied doing so and claims his account was hacked). The law now goes before the Emir, who has to approve it for it to take effect.

This law is similar to other so-called “anti-blasphemy” laws that have passed in other Muslim countries. The irony of these laws is this: they are – in and of themselves – quite blasphemous.

If you pass a law that imposes the death penalty on those who insult God, or Islam, or the Prophet Muhammad, you imply that God is unable to defend Himself, that He needs us to defend His honor, or His dignity, or His majesty, or His magnificence.

How absurd.

Now, of course, I do not like it when God is cursed or mocked, or when the Prophet is maligned or attacked. Far from it. Having said that, however, I do not believe that anyone who does such a thing should be killed. God forbid!

The Quran talks about the mockery of God’s signs and messages, and nowhere does it say “kill those who engage in such behavior.” Nowhere:

And, indeed, He has enjoined upon you in this divine writ that whenever you hear people deny the truth of God’s messages and mock at them, you shall avoid their company until they begin to talk of other things – or else, verily, you will become like them. Behold, together with those who deny the truth, God will gather in hell the hypocrites (4:140)

Also read:

NOW, whenever thou meet such as indulge in [blasphemous] talk about Our messages, turn thy back upon them until they begin to talk of other things and if Satan should ever cause thee to forget [thyself], remain not, after recollection, in the company of such evildoing folk (6:68)

No death penalty; no killing; no taking of life. I mean, for God’s sake, Satan himself defied and rebelled against God, and the Lord gave him respite until Judgment Day. In fact, Satan’s discourse was quite disrespectful:

[Whereupon Satan] said: “Now that Thou hast thwarted me,” I shall most certainly lie in ambush for them all along Thy straight way (7:16).

What audacity to speak in this manner with the Lord Supreme. Still, He gave him respite. So, why – as awful as this is to me as a devout Muslim – are these Muslims so quick to condemn to death those that curse God, or the Prophet?

The Quran is full of verses that respond to the attacks and mockery leveled against the Prophet Muhammad, but none of these responses say, “Kill them”:

And yet, they [who deny the truth] say: “O thou unto whom this reminder has [allegedly] been bestowed from on high: verily, thou art mad! Why dost thou not bring before us angels, if thou art a man of truth? [Yet] We never send down angels otherwise than in accordance with the [demands of] truth; and [were the angels to appear now,] lo! they [who reject this divine writ] would have no further respite! (15:6-8)

Verily, thus shall We deal with all who were lost in sin: for, behold, whenever they were told, “There is no deity save God,” they would glory in their arrogance and would say, “Shall we, then, give up our deities at the bidding of a mad poet?” Nay, but he [whom you call a mad poet] has brought the truth; and he confirms the truth of [what the earlier of God’s] message-bearers [have taught] Behold, you will indeed taste grievous suffering [in the life to come] although you shall not be requited for aught but what you were wont to do. (37:34-39)

EXHORT, then, [O Prophet, all men:] for, by thy Sustainer’s grace, thou art neither a soothsayer nor a madman. Or do they say, “[He is but] a poet – let us wait what time will do unto him”? Say thou: “Wait, [then,] hopefully; behold, I, too, shall hopefully wait with you!” Is it their minds that bid them [to take] this [attitude] – or are they [simply] people filled with overweening arrogance? (52:29-32)

Thou art not, by thy Sustainer’s grace, a madman! (68:2)

For, this fellow-man of yours is not a madman: (81:22)

Yes, God may punish those who mock Him, or His messages, or His messengers on Judgment Day, but no where in these verses does it say “kill them now.” So, by what authority do these so-called “defenders of the faith” call for the murder of so-called “blasphemers.” They have none, and they distort the holy Word of God when they do thus.

In the beginning of the ChicagoNow blog post, it read: “Any belief that cannot withstand scrutiny isn’t worth having. Anyone who is secure in their beliefs does not run away from criticism, they welcome it.” The author, James Kirk Wall, could not have been more correct.

“Truth,” it has been said, “does not fear investigation.” God, Almighty and Powerful, is not threatened by the attacks and mockery of those who don’t believe in Him. God does not need us to defend Him. It is just as He said in a Sacred Prophetic Tradition of the Prophet Muhammad:

O My servants, you will not attain harming Me so as to harm Me, and will not attain benefitting Me so as to benefit Me. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, [both the human and spiritual beings of you] to be as pious as the most pious heart of any one man of you, that would not increase My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, [both the human and spiritual beings of you] to be as wicked as the most wicked heart of any one man of you, that would not decrease My kingdom in anything.

No, I don’t like it when someone mocks God, or belief in Him, or when someone attacks the Prophet or his family. But, I will never call for their murder. God can take care of Himself.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful 

This is the first of several Friday sermons that I have given that I will write up and post here. 

 

The Test of the Beautiful 

In the seventh verse of the eighteenth chapter of the Quran, it states:

Behold, We have willed that all beauty on earth be a means by which we put humanity to a test, [showing] which of them are best in conduct.

Thus, everything that is beautiful on this earth is test for us, to see how we respond to this thing of beauty. If that thing of beauty is another human being, that is a test for us: do we respond to that beautiful person – man or woman – in the proper way? Do we lower our gaze when he or she walks by? Or, do we gawk and objectify said person?

If we want to pursue a relationship with that person, do we go about that in the proper manner? Do we pursue the path of marriage? Or, do we simply satisfy our lust with that person in a manner that the Lord does not want?

If that thing of beauty is a natural resource: a river, an ocean, a tree, a mountain, a stream, or a rain forest; do we do our utmost to protect said natural beauty? Do we respect the earth and try to preserve her as much as we can for all of posterity? Or, do we exploit without end and care less for those who come after us?

Indeed, the Lord says:

[And remember that] it is God who has created the heavens and the earth, and who sends down water from the sky and thereby brings forth [all manner] of fruits for your sustenance; and who has made ships subservient to. you, so that they may sail through the sea at His behest; and has made the rivers subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you; and has made the sun and the moon, both of them constant upon their courses, subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you; and has made the night and the day subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you. (14:32-33)

Yet, we must learn how to benefit from the earth as much as we can, all the while protecting it from willful harm and neglect.

If that thing of beauty is a spouse, do we treat that spouse with love, mercy, and respect? Do we honor God by honoring that spouse? Or, do we abuse and neglect him or her? Do we cheat on that spouse, not caring about the damage such an action would cause? Do we see that spouse as a gift from God that should be cherished? Or, do we see that spouse as a slave to be worked for our benefit?

The Lord has answered such questions:

And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think! (30:21)

Our spouses are “wonders” from God, and in them we find tranquility and peace, love and mercy. Treat them with kindness we must.

If that thing of beauty is a child, do we honor that child with a good home? A good upbringing? Or, do we neglect that child and abuse him or her? Do we love that child with all our hearts? Care for the child? Protect that child from harm and evil? Or, do we look the other when evil strikes? Indeed, there are few things that are more beautiful than a child, and if we are blessed to have one, then we must do our best to show our gratitude to the Lord by raising our children to be upright citizens of the world, who are both good to God and good to His people.

If that thing of beauty is family, or friends, or neighbors, do we treat them with kindness and respect? Or do we mistreat and abuse them? Do we help them in their times of need? Do we support them when they need us, even if it is helping them put away their groceries? Do we treat them as we would treat ourselves? Indeed, we must.

Yet, as with everything on this earth, these things of beauty will not be here forever. The Lord says in the next verse:

And, verily, [in time] We shall reduce all that is on [the earth] to barren dust! (18:8)

What is the implication of this? Should our response be, “Why bother, if all will become ‘dust in the wind'”? No. Since our time is limited, we must do the best we can to make the best of all the things of beauty with which we are blessed. We should try to spend every day to the fullest in doing good on earth: doing good by our family, our friends, our neighbors, our spouses, our children, and our planet.

And you know what the best thing is? When we do these things, we are necessarily doing good by the Lord, Who is the Most Beautiful of all that is beautiful in the heavens and the earth. The only difference is: this Thing of Beauty will endure and never go away. And that can only be a beautiful thing.

In the Name of the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful Precious Beloved

On the one year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, news surfaced of the arrest of 5 men accused of plotting to blow up a bridge over the Cuyahoga river in Ohio. When I heard on the radio that there was “no link to international terrorism,” I immediately thought to myself: they must be non-Muslims. Sure enough, I was right: they were five white guys who were self-described “anarchists.”

Further, since these guys were not Muslim, I wondered whether anyone, either in law enforcement or the media, would call them what they really were: terrorists. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.

U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, who announced the indictments, said: “This indictment in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot.”

The head of the FBI in northern Ohio, Stephen D. Anthony, said that the work of law enforcement showed them “to be vigilant in its efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international.”

Several news reports had “terror” in their headlines:

Chicago Tribune: 5 arrested in alleged terrorist plot to blow up Cleveland-area bridge.

ONNtv: Informant revealed in alleged bridge terror plot.

NECN.com: 5 men charged in Cleveland terror plot.

Cleveland Plain-Dealer: A homegrown terror plot foiled.

This is quite heartening to see, because it signals – I hope – an increasing understanding that terrorism has no faith, no ethnicity, no language, no culture. All terrorists – no matter what their faith or motivation – are our enemies, not just the ones who claim to be Muslim.

As Marquette University (my alma mater) political science professor Risa Brooks wrote:

focusing our attention on domestic terrorism of all types and not just that generated by Muslim Americans can help heal the social rifts generated by 9/11. Singling out Muslim militants when we talk about terrorism in the U.S. adds to the mutual alienation of Muslims and Americans of other backgrounds. By unifying in opposition to extremism of all types, we demonstrate to ourselves and to our terrorist adversaries abroad that we remain true to American values and principles.

Amen to that.

In the Name of the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful Precious Beloved

There has been so much hysteria, of late, around the issue of Sharia law and its supposed “threat” to the United States. Now that the general election contest is more in focus, the talk of Sharia will only intensify. Yet, as I have written previously, the “threat” of Sharia law is really nonexistent. Muslims in America are not conspiring to replace the Constitution with Sharia law.

Yet, let me show you where true Sharia law is being practiced: the campaign of “Sisters Steppin’ Up” (SSU) to build a children’s library in Palestine. SSU is made up of young Muslim women who, as their website says,

empower young girls with confidence and leadership skills by using creative ways to strengthen mind, body, and faith.  We strive to form a stronger relationship with Allah, build bonds of sisterhood, and positively impact the community.

They are currently raising funds to build a children’s library in the Palestinian territories. They plan to have a fundraiser in the Chicago area April 20. 

Here is Sharia law: young Muslim women coming together to try to help children in war-torn areas live a better life by building a library for them. No amputations; no stonings; no horrific things that some Muslims have done or currently do in the name of Sharia. These things are horrific misinterpretation of Islamic law.

These children in SSU are practicing true Sharia law, seeking to help others in need. I pray their efforts are successful.

In the Name of the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful Precious Beloved

Cadburry Mini Eggs. On sale. YUM. YUM.

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In the Name of the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful Precious Beloved

As a Muslim, Easter Sunday is just like any other Sunday. Indeed, I am not working on this Easter, but that is due to happenstance rather than religious devotion. In fact, I hope to catch some of the Masters golf action on Sunday. Yet, I know that, at the very same time, millions of my fellow Americans who are Christians will be celebrating the most important holiday of the Christian calendar: the commemoration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. I wish them blessings on this day.

But, I will not be celebrating. Still, there is something great about Easter for me, despite my “non-celebratory” status: the candy. That is, the candy that will go on sale Monday morning.

Just like every year, there will be TONS of Easter candy that will go on sale the very next day, April 9, and that will be a great thing. I have watched, patiently, as the Easter displays went up soon after St. Patrick’s Day without so much as reaching for the heaps of luscious Easter candy that I love to eat. I pass by them every time I happen to go shopping for this and that…and not do a thing.

When I was 16, I worked as a cashier at a grocery store and would see the same thing: loads of candy, all wonderfully on display for the buyer to scoop up, that I would not touch. I waited until the day after Easter…when the candy would be 50% off, and then I would get my employee discount. Bonus!

And that is what is great about Easter for this Muslim. The candy all goes on sale after Easter is finished, and I get to enjoy it at a reduced price: all the chocolate bunnies, Cadberry eggs with the cream inside, and my absolute favorite: Cadberry Mini Eggs. I LOVE those things…and they are very cheap starting April 9. Bonus!

Back when I was a teenager, Ramadan was around the time of Easter, and when the candy all went on sale, I stocked up on bags of those Cadberry Mini Eggs. I still remember the joy of eating an entire bag after a Ramadan post-fasting feast. What fond memories. Now, of course, I can’t do that now…I am much older with a MUCH slower metabolism.  Still, I hope to be able to scoop up a few bags (at a deeply discounted price) and stash them away in my cupboard to slowly enjoy, 2-3 at a time, for the next several weeks to months. Yum. Yum.

Now, of course, Easter is much more important than the candy: it is a very important Christian holiday with themes of sin and redemption as well as victory over death and evil. But, although I respect it, I do not share in this theology as a Muslim. But, one thing I can share in is the great and various candy…and it all goes on sale the day after Easter!

In fact, I am on the only one who does this: a lot of my Christian friends and colleagues also take advantage of the post-Easter sales and stock up on candy. And many times, they bring them to the hospital to share…and I get to indulge – again, a few pieces at a time – at work as well. Yum. Yum.

So, no, I won’t be celebrating this Sunday: it will be like any other Sunday for me. But, one thing that will be great for me is the tons of Easter candy…that will be on sale on Monday. Yum. Yum. Yum.

 

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful 

There has been a continuous hysteria in several states about the threat of “Sharia law” to the United States. In fact, South Dakota just passed a law that says “No such court may apply international law, the law of any foreign nation, or any foreign religious or moral code with the force of law in the adjudication of any case under its jurisdiction.” Although it does not say it, it is clearly targeting “Sharia law.” A similar effort has been going on in a number of states.

This is a solution looking for a problem. Despite the contention of some, there is no book called “the Sharia,” like the Bible or the Quran. It is a comprehensive effort on the part of Muslims – since the advent of the Prophet Muhammad – to ascertain the will of God in their lives. The overwhelming majority of “Sharia” is concerned with private, personal religious practice.

Indeed, just like the Bible, there is a penal code, but that is a tiny fraction of Sharia. And I can tell you this: Muslims are not seeking to supplant the law of the land with “Sharia.” They are not looking to start amputating hands, beating their wives, and stoning adulterers to death. Indeed, some Muslims do just that, but this is a gross misapplication and distortion in both letter and spirit of Islamic law.

But, let me show you where Sharia law, true Sharia law, is in action: the outrage in Morocco over the suicide of a rape victim:

The case of a 16-year-old girl who killed herself after she was forced to marry her rapist has spurred outrage among Morocco’s internet activists and calls for changes to the country’s laws.

An online petition, a Facebook page and countless tweets expressed horror over the suicide of Amina Filali, who swallowed rat poison on Saturday to protest her marriage to the man who raped her a year earlier.

Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code allows for the “kidnapper” of a minor to marry his victim to escape prosecution, and it has been used to justify a traditional practice of making a rapist marry his victim to preserve the honor of the woman’s family.

“Amina, 16, was triply violated, by her rapist, by tradition and by Article 475 of the Moroccan law,” tweeted activist Abadila Maaelaynine.

Abdelaziz Nouaydi, who runs the Adala Assocation for legal reform, said a judge can recommend marriage only in the case of agreement by the victim and both families.

“It is not something that happens a great deal — it is very rare,” he said, but admitted that the family of the victim sometimes agrees out of fear that she won’t be able to find a husband if it is known she was raped.

The marriage is then pushed on the victim by the families to avoid scandal, said Fouzia Assouli, president of Democratic League for Women’s Rights.

“It is unfortunately a recurring phenomenon,” she said.”We have been asking for years for the cancellation of Article 475 of the penal code which allows the rapist to escape justice.”

The victim’s father said in an interview with an online Moroccan newspaper that it was the court officials who suggested from the beginning the marriage option when they reported the rape.

“The prosecutor advised my daughter to marry, he said ‘go and make the marriage contract,'” saidLahcen Filali in an interview that appeared on goud.ma Tuesday night.

In many societies, the loss of a woman’s virginity outside of wedlock is a huge stain of honor on the family.

In many parts of the Middle East, there is a tradition whereby a rapist can escape prosecution if he marries his victim, thereby restoring her honor. There is a similar injunction in the Old Testament’s Book of Deuteronomy

Morocco updated its family code in 2004 in a landmark improvement of the situation of women, but activists say there’s still room for improvement.

In cases of rape, the burden of proof is often on the victim and if she can’t prove she was attacked, a woman risks being prosecuted for debauchery.

“In Morocco, the law protects public morality but not the individual,” said Assouli, adding that legislation outlawing all forms of violence against women, including rape within marriage, has been stuck in the government since 2006.

According to the father’s interview, the girl was accosted on the street and raped when she was 15, but it was two months before she told her parents.

He said the court pushed the marriage, even though the perpetrator initially refused. He only consented when faced with prosecution. The penalty for rape is between five and 10 years in prison, but rises to 10 to 20 in the case of a minor.

Filali said Amina complained to her mother that her husband was beating her repeatedly during the five months of marriage but that her mother counseled patience.

A Facebook page called “We are all Amina Filali” has been formed and an online petition calling for Morocco to end the practice of marrying rapists and their victims has already gathered more than 1,000 signatures.

This outrage against the horrific and outrageous law that allows the rapist to marry his victim in order to avoid prosecution is following Sharia. Rape is a horrific crime that I would not wish upon my worst enemy. This inhuman law in Morocco has no basis in Islam or the Qur’an. And to shield the criminal by marrying his victim is even more inhuman: the Sharia is against it.

Thus, these Moroccans who are working to try to change the law are following the Sharia in both letter and spirit. May God give them the help and strength they need to eliminate this law once and for all.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

In our day and age, many are trying to “be different.” Whether in a singing competition, or anywhere else, many people value being different. Indeed, diversity is very important, and it is – in fact – a miracle of God according to the Qur’an:

And among His miracles is the creation of the Heavens and the earth and the diversity in your tongues and colors. Verily in this are signs for those who know (30:22)

Yet, that is not what  Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is about. He is all about unity.

Unity of the heart, that is.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D. is a Sufi teacher in the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Sufi Order. Born in London in 1953, he has followed the Naqshbandi Sufi path since he was nineteen. He succeeded Irina Tweedie, who brought this branch of Sufism to the West, and moved to Northern California where he founded the Golden Sufi Center. Dr. Vaughan-Lee will be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on “Super Soul Sunday” on March 4, to be aired at 11am ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

Dr. Vaughan-Lee is the author of several books, specializing in the area of dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with the insights of Jungian Psychology. For the past 12 years, the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and an awakening global consciousness of oneness, in other words, unity.

“The Sufi is a traveler on the path of love,” says Vaughan-Lee, “a wayfarer journeying back to God through the mysteries of the heart.” What he calls the “unity of the heart” is ” the greatest human secret,” and he says that Sufis are also known as “people of the secret.”  Within the heart, “we are united with God,” and “the mystical journey is a process of uncovering, or ‘unveiling’ our essential oneness with the divine.”

The Golden Sufi Center lists 31 Beliefs and Ethics of the Naqshabandi path, and many of them include dhikr or the “remembrance of God.” Naqshabandi dhikr is done silently, because “the silent dhikr produces in the heart an intense and imperishable impression (naqsh = ‘impression, print’; band = ‘to bind, to fasten’).” Travelers on this path are ordinary people, and among their followers are people of many faiths and traditions, believing that “all [their] activities, day by day, minute by minute, should be in surrender to the will of the Beloved.”

Sufis on this path also have Eleven principles, among them “solitude in the crowd” and “awareness of one’s state of mind/time.” Says Dr. Vaughan-Lee:

In our daily life we should aim to live with remembrance of God, with a relationship to the sacred that is within everything. We should aspire to bring our innermost relationship with God into all aspects of life, loving and caring for our family, community and environment. Through the difficulties and demands of everyday life we try to make the journey from our ordinary state of forgetfulness of God, to continual remembrance of God.

And once traveler reaches and achieves union with the Beloved, she then reaches the “station of servanthood,” where “the Sufi aspires to be God’s servant here in this world, in service to the Beloved and all of creation. Sufis are involved in humanity, ‘bearing the heat and burden of the day,’ bringing light and love where they are needed.”

I like that aspect very much, and it calls to mind this tradition of the Prophet Muhammad in which he said, “The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.”

“How does one get to know the Beloved?” I asked him. That is one of the main purposes of my life, in fact, is living to get to know my Lord, whom – interestingly – I also call “Beloved,” the “Precious Beloved.” His answer struck me deeply, his being completely correct notwithstanding:

It is said that “no one knows God but God” and “God is beyond even our idea of the beyond.” So from this perspective no one can come to know the Beloved.

Yet, that is not the end of it:

However through the journey of the heart and the power of love the mystic comes to experience the Beloved as He reveals Himself within our heart. Sufis use the power of love to dissolve the veils that separate us from God, stripping away the coverings of our ego-self to reveal the divine that is within us. We come to know the Beloved’s all-embracing love, the tenderness and power of divine love that infuses every cell of existence as well as within our own heart. We also come to know God’s divine oneness both within the heart and also experienced outwardly in creation. Other divine qualities may also be revealed within the heart, of the one who has given him or herself in love and surrender to God.

Yet, still, I asked Dr. Vaughan-Lee the ultimate question: why this whole thing about “oneness?’ “Oneness is a divine quality that is a central experience in Sufism,” he told me. “The Sufi experiences the unity of God in the inner and outer world,” and he then quoted the Quran: “Wheresoever you turn, there is the face of God.” And even though there is great merit in our “diversity,” in our being “different,” there is still a need for “oneness”:

We are living at a time of great changes and global turmoil, but also an awakening global unity. Ecologically, financially, and in so many other ways we are waking up to the awareness that we are all interconnected: nothing is separate, nothing is isolated. Humanity and the rest of the world are part of one living interconnected whole. And yet at the same time the world appears very divided, even polarized, along many different lines, politically, economically, religiously. The mystic has always known of the primal oneness that belongs to humanity, both in our relationship with God and in the outer world. Mystics have carried this secret of divine oneness for centuries, and now there is a pressing need for this understanding of oneness to be made known, to become part of our collective consciousness.

“Only from a perspective of oneness,” says Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee,” can humanity solve today’s global problems. I pray that his contributions will help enrich the quest for a better humanity and a more peaceful world.

 

 

In the Name of the God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

A gaffe by a Rick Santorum staffer says a lot. Speaking to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Monday, spokeswoman Alice Stewart said:

There is a type of theological secularism when it comes to the global warmists in this country. That’s what he was referring to. He was referring to the president’s policies in terms of the radical Islamic policies the president has.

She quickly called MSNBC after the segment and said she misspoke, actually meaning “radical environmental policies.”

Ohhhh, I see! She meant environmental rather than Islamic.

This makes me wonder about a couple of things: first, does the spokeswoman’s slip mean that – deep down – she thinks that President Obama really is a “secret Muslim”? And second, is the association between “radical” and “Islamic” so ingrained, so natural, that it can easily slip out of one’s tongue? In either case, it makes me very sad.

It makes me very sad that still, in 2012, associating President Obama with Islam is used as a smear. It recently happened at a Rick Santorum campaign event, in fact, and Senator Santorum did not correct the person making the assertion. This is wrong. It is wrong to try to smear someone by wrongly accusing them of being Muslim (or Jewish, or Christian, or any other religious faith). We should have better respect for religious faith and choice than that.

It is equally sad that the association between “radical” and “Islamic,” it seems, has indeed become so natural. Yes, the Muslim worldwide community has its radical elements: but so does every other religious community. Yes, extremists who called themselves Muslims attacked the country on 9/11: but so did extremists who were Christians in 1995 in Oklahoma City. Yes, there are Muslims who have been caught plotting terrorist attacks, but as a recent study shows, their numbers are dwindling and the threat from American Muslims has been exaggerated.

I wish religion and religious faith would be taken out of politics and the Presidential campaign. Whatever religion we choose to profess: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, or no “-ism” at all, it should not matter. That is a personal choice, and we must all have respect for each other’s personal religious beliefs. That is what makes our country so wonderful: that we can live and work with people of all faiths in peace, harmony, and brotherhood.

It is the way that the Lord wanted us to live on earth, and so let us work to make His desire a reality.