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Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

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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The Majesty of Islamic Art

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful 

There is so much that fellow Americans do not know about Islam. In fact, a recent poll stated that almost 60% of Americans say they do not even know a Muslim. Yet, there is so much more to Islam than its tenets and the Muslims who follow the faith to varying degrees, although getting to know that is quite important. There is a rich history of culture and art, despite the contention and perception that Islam is hostile to art and culture.

Enter the award-winning nonprofit Unity Productions Foundation. It is set to release a new film, Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible Worldthat will bring the immense legacy of art and architecture that Islam has left the world to glorious life. It will broadcast nationally on PBS on July 6th at 9:oo PM EST as part of the new PBS Arts Summer Festival, a multi-part weekly series that will take viewers across the country and around the world.

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The film is narrated by actor Susan Sarandon, and it will take viewers across fourteen centuries of history and nine countries to showcase Islamic art and architecture. From the Taj Mahal to Arabic calligraphy, Islamic Art will show in stunning beauty the rich and diverse nature of Islam and its cultures, and it will showcase the past and continued contribution of Islamic culture to society and world civilization.

I believe all viewers, Muslim and non-Muslims alike, will be pleasantly surprised with what our film uncovers,” states Alex Kronemer, Executive Producer of the film. “As a window into an often misunderstood culture, this film has the ability to be a real catalyst for understanding and perhaps offer a new perspective on Islam’s values, culture and lasting legacy,” says Kronemer. Michael Wolfe, the film’s other Executive Producer, says: “Never before have viewers had the opportunity to explore such richness of Islamic art and history with commentary from some of the world’s most renowned experts who have the ability to explain just why these works are so important.” 

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Both Wolfe and Kronemer are personal friends, and I am in awe at their amazing work in the field of television and film. This film is the ninth by UPF, which was founded in 1999 to create peace through media. UPF produces documentary films for both television and online broadcast as well as theatrical release, and it implements long-term educational campaigns aimed at increasing understanding between people of different faiths and cultures, especially between Muslims and other faiths. More information is at www.upf.tv.

Don’t miss this incredible film about Islamic art and culture. You will not be disappointed. For more information about the film, visit: www.islamicart.tv

 

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