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Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

An End of Ramadan Prayer

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

“We made it.”

Those were the first words of my Friday sermon yesterday. At long last – very, very long last – the month of Ramadan ends today. And although I did enjoy the prayers and the special time I had with the Book of God, the fasting did take its toll. And thus, I make this prayer as the hours slip away towards the end of the month:

Precious, Beautiful, Beloved Lord my God!
Precious, Beautiful Beloved One in Whose Hands rests my soul!
Precious, Beautiful Beloved One Without Whose Grace I would be dead and gone!
Lord, I have tried my best to be faithful to Your call to fast the days of Ramadan.

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I know that I should have been so full of glee for the opportunity to fast.
But, as only You would know best, I did have some dread out of my own weakness.
And so, Precious Beloved Lord, please forgive me for that weakness in my soul.

Precious Beloved! Forgive me for all the times that I grimaced in discomfort for having to fast.
Forgive me for all the times that I did not fast with a complete and total smile on my face.
Forgive me for all the times that I yearned for the month of fasting to finish and finish quickly.

Precious Beloved Lord! Please accept my fast, even though it is defiled by my human weakness.
Please accept my reading of your Holy Word so that I pass the time remembering You in Your Majestic Glory.
Please accept the times I prayed the night vigil for Your sake, trying to get closer to Your Alighted Face.
Please accept my acts of kindness, forgiveness, and forbearance during this month and for the rest of the year.

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Precious Beloved Lord! Please take me into Your Presence when my time has come.
Please accept me as I am: weak and pathetic, unworthy of all the bounty which You have bestowed upon me.
Lord, please, do not stop the blessings you have sent my way. Nay, Beloved, increase those blessings day by day.
Please extend the glorious blessings that this month of Ramadan has throughout the rest of my days
And, please, Lord save me from Your terrible punishment both here on earth and in the hereafter.

In Your Most Holy Name I do ask these things, Beloved Lord. Amen.

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A Ramadan Prayer for My Sikh Brothers and Sisters

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

In the wake of this horrible tragedy in Wisconsin (and also the burning of a mosque to the ground in Missouri), all I can do is offer my heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families and the entire Sikh community in Wisconsin. My heart ached in pain when I saw what this barbarian did to innocent people who peacefully gathered to do nothing more than glorify our Lord in worship.

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And I also offer this prayer:

Lord God, Beloved Lord of the Heavens and the Earth

Hear my prayer, Beloved King of Kings

Send down Your mercy and grace upon the Sikhs in Wisconsin 

Shower them with Your soothing comfort to ease their pain

Protect them and every community of faith from the attacks of the wicked 

Help bring all communities of faith together in brother- and sisterhood

Stand with us as we stand with them in this moment of pain and tragedy.

In Your Most Holy Name I ask this of You, Beloved. Amen.

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Gems of the Qur’an: True Piety

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

As the month of Ramadan progresses, I am trying to read the Qur’an as part of the spiritual regimen that this month brings. And as I re-engage with the Qur’an, I came across this gem:

True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west – but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance – however much he himself may cherish it – upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God.

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There is a little background on this: ever since the ministry of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) began, the Muslims had been praying in the direction of Jerusalem. Soon after the Prophet emigrated to Medina, however, there was an order from God (in the Qur’an) to change the direction of prayer to Mecca. This caused “scandal” among some non-Muslim factions in Medina at the time. This verse above was God’s response.

When I read this verse, it makes me think that we should avoid an excessive emphasis on ritual at the expense of larger moral and ethical conduct. In his explanation of this verse, Muhammad Asad wrote:

Thus, the Qur’an stresses the principle that mere compliance with outward forms does not fulfill the requirements of piety.

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In my mind, these “forms” include things to wear, the type of socks someone should wear, the length of a beard, etc. And so many people place so much emphasis on outward forms and neglect the importance of inward purity and moral conduct. Now, don’t get me wrong: ritual practice is very important. Just because the Qur’an says that “true piety does not consist with turning your faces towards the east or west,” it does not mean that ritual prayer is no longer important. On the contrary, the Qur’an stresses multiple times on the importance of establishing the ritual prayer and other outward forms of worship, such as fasting.

In addition, there is nothing wrong if someone, seeking to emulate the Prophet out of love, wears a long beard or wears garb like the Prophet used to wear. But, it makes no sense for someone to wear a long beard, like the Prophet did, and then lie and cheat his customers when he works in his shop. It makes no sense for someone to wear leather socks, like the Prophet did, and then abuse his wife and children in a horrific manner.

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What is outrageous to me is the pictures of the barbarian terrorists that are caught: they wear long beards because the Prophet did. But, does it ever occur to them that the Prophet forbade the killing and maiming of innocent people? Does it ever occur to them that the Prophet would abhor the murder they commit in his name? Does it ever occur to them that killing and murder is the antithesis of the true piety that they try to convey by their wearing a long beard? Truly outrageous.

The Qur’an is full of these gems: these short passages with tremendously profound meaning. This is one of the nice things about Ramadan (even if it is in the LONG, LONG, LONG days of summer). I get a change to re-acquaint myself with the Qur’an. And I am never disappointed.

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A Tale of Two “Sharia”s

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

There is an ongoing legislative hysteria in dozens of states about the threat of “Sharia law,” and how Muslims are somehow seeking to supplant the Constitution with “Sharia law.” I try not to laugh because the premise is so absurd. Still, it is a fear on the part of some people, and this fear is capitalized upon by some who want to marginalize the Muslim community from American civic and political life.

And, of course, these people will point to terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Nigerian Boko Haram as “proof” that this is what Sharia is all about: violence, murder, barbarity, and terror. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this doesn’t matter to (1) those terrorists who truly believe that Islam calls for murder and violence, and (2) those who want to smear Islam with the actions of criminals.

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Further, whenever terrorist groups like Boko Haram cause violence and mayhem, it is all over the news and the radar of the Islamophobes. Yet, what is not widely known is the interfaith effort to combat Muslim-Christian violence in Nigeria. In May, a high-level interreligious delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought (RABIIT) visited Nigeria to assess the violence there between Christians and Muslims. On July 12, they issued their report. The delegation highlighted several causes underlying the violence, and it seeks constructive ways both Christians and Muslims can work together to fight this violence.

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Here is two interpretations of Sharia side by side: one seeks destruction, and the other seeks peace and reconciliation. Some claim the former is the “true Sharia.” I strongly beg to differ. True Sharia seeks peace, preserves life, and seeks reconciliation. True Sharia works to bridge the interfaith gap and seek common ground.

Boko Haram is not Sharia. Bombs and suicide vests are not Sharia. These things are murder and evil, the very antithesis of Sharia. Part of the problem, however, is that no one likes to report when Christians and Muslims work together for peace. They only like to report when they fight one another.

In this holy month of Ramadan, I pray more people get to know the true Sharia: Christians and Muslims working together for peace.

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