Islamic House of Wisdom: Dinner, Discussion and Celebration!
Imam Hussain's (as) universal message was honored and celebrated with the presence of hundreds of Interfaith partners, community leaders, organizations and activists on the 3rd of Shabaan, April 30th at the Islamic House of Wisdom!
Imam Elahi focused on the characteristics of this beautiful and blessed baby of the prophet's household (pbut) and said Imam Hussain was more than a person, he was a path, a mission, a university and his birth was a birth of light, love and beauty! Imam Hussein called for peace but martyred by the army of ignorance, greed, and warmongering! Imam Hussein was an embodiment of faith, courage, commitment, love and sacrifice!
Imam Elahi spoke against current Islamophobia as a political project whose target is not extremism and terrorism but the peaceful Islam. The warmongers like to make business in the name of Isis and this is why any time that Isis loses in Syria, the Israeli fighters bomb the positions of Isis enemies right away! Imam Elahi continued that the true teachings of Islam are represented by prophet Mohammad, his family and righteous companions not those poppets payed by the Saudi princes to bring bloodshed and fitna in the region and bring embarrassment to Islam.
Imam Elahi stated that the true peaceful nature of Islam is expressed in this statement of Imam Ali (as) who said: I swear by God, if I was given the entire earth and all under sky to hurt an ant to the extent of depriving it from a Barley, I won't do it! Imam compared this position with bombing and burning of millions of men, women and children in this war zone world in the name of God or democracy while the real motivation is money, power and domination! Imam Elahi concluded with calling for friendship, reconciliation, peace and speaking up against war, terrorism and extremism!
At the end, a delicious dinner was delivered by Byblos Banquet Hall in Dearborn in an atmosphere of friendship among the Shia, Sunni, Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters and all ended while everyone left the mosque with joy and happiness of finding new friends and learning something new!
In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Asalaamu alaikum! Let me say first of all that it is a great honor to be with you today. I have been an admirer of Imam Hussein (AS) for many years now. I want to thank Imam Elahi first of all for the opportunity to be here. I bring you greetings from Dr Sayyid Syeed of the Interfaith
Office of ISNA. I bring greetings to you from Muslim friends in the Islamic Republic of the
Gambia as well as Muslim friends from Cuba. Before I begin, I want to read something to you from a book I take with me wherever I go.
The book, which you know well, mis al Kulayni's "AL KAFI." It is from the "Book of Knowledge." I have read this piece every day for the past 25 years.
"......the acquisition of Knowledge is incumbent on all Muslims. The acquisition of Knowledge is even more important than the acquisition of wealth...."
I read this everyday in order to learn something "new" each day that Allah has given to me.
As is true of all presentations such as these, I have had many revisions based on important Experiences. The most coming from Imam Elahi who made the very important observation that most things in life cone from "memories." I wish to share personal memories that have happened to me which have brought me to this point today.
As Ahmed correctly pointed out, I am a retired Presbyterian minister who took early retirement after 30 years of service. I did so because I believed that Allah was preparing me and calling me to undertake opportunities such as this. In my opinion, Interfaith Dialogue and cooperation are the way if the future. Such events are "my religion."
When I introduce myself, I say to people that I am a "Son of Ibrahim," a Hanif. For 30 years, I have been reading daily the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, and the Holy Qur'an. They are all for me "the Word of Allah." Further, I believe that the Holy Qur'an provides the mechanism to address all of the "Religious Questions" of humanity. The Qur'an is God's Word to all people.
I want to say to you, as a fellow American, how glad and proud I am to call the Muslim Community on Michigan my fellow Americans. You make us a better nation than we would be without you. A great deal of the rhetoric which comes from the White House in "tweets" suggests
that our "wealth, prosperity, and success" is what makes America great. I disagree. What makes us great is each generation of new American Immigrants! You remind the rest of us what we have forgotten. Your idealism, dreams, commitment, and spirit breathe fresh air into our nation thereby making us great! I, for one, thank you! The Muslim Ummah in Dearborn has been here for over 100 years! I am proud to say that I am in in the most "Muslim Cities" in the world.
Were we EVER to "close our doors" to immigrants, we would cease to be "America." There is no such thing as an American race, creed, religion, or way to do things. What makes us
Americans is our commitment to ideals of beliefs and diversity all held together by our Constitution. As far as Religions go, Islam is an early American Religion. You have been here since 1619, Colonial,days. You came in the people of enslaved African Muslims who uttered the "SHAHADAH" long before the Christian creeds were which oftentimes cause division.
As I was flying away from Norfolk, Virginia, I was able to see from the air certain areas which brought back memories which have made me who I am. As is typical for air travel from Norfolk, we went out over the Atlantic Ocean to steer clear of Navy Fighter jets from Oceana Naval Air Station. From the air, I was able to see the Navy Base -- the largest in the world. But, sadly enough, before it was a Navy Base, it was once known as "Chesapeake" and for enslaved African Muslims, it was the place that marked the end of the long voyage known as the "Middle Passage." About 20 million enslaved African Muslims, stripped from their homeland, became "chattel commodities" where they were sold to Southern planters. From the air, I saw Norfolk State University, an historic African American University where I am proud to be an Adjunct Professor. I was reminded of my own Liberal Arts education that I received from Hampden-Sydney College. I was reminded that liberal arts education was preserved not by European monasteries; rather by Shi'a Hawzas in Najaf and Karbala. More to come.
From the air, I was able to see King's Grant Presbyterian Church, the church where I served as Pastor for 18 of my 30 years of service. I remembered when our church welcomed and resettled a Shi'a Muslim refugee family from Baghdad, Iraq. We welcomed this devout Muslim family into our church. It proved to beca great exercise in Interfaith Cooperation. The family are now proud United States citizens. And, like you, the faithful in Dearborn, they are also making us better Americans than we were without you.
From the air, I also saw Yorktown, Virginia -- they place where yours and my "War of Independence" ended. As i saw Yorktown from the air, I imagined the following taking place. I imagine the "founding fathers" standing on the banks of the York River watching the British warships leaving as they headed home across the Atlantic Ocean. There standing were Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, and Madison. They all thought, "well, we won the War. What next??
Imam Hussein (AS) walks onto the scene -- and addresses them. He says the following. "CONGRATULATIONS! You won. You threw off British Imperialism. You rid yourselves of oppression, lack of freedom, and mercantilism. That was the easy part. Now comes the hard part. What are you going to do to keep yourselves from acting like the British? Let me offer three (3) suggestions of what you may want to consider doing.
1. Never, ever close your borders to new citizens. Remember, immigration is what has made you who you are. If you "close your borders," you will never reach your potential.
2. Always provide for "freedom of religion for everyone." Remember that Thomas Jefferson, when Governor of Virginia, authored the "Virginia Bill for Religious Freedom." Mr Jefferson thought it unfair that a prerequisite for owning land meant that one had to be in communion with the Church of England.
3. And finally, and most importantly, remember that you as a nation will always be better – with diversity informed by immigration, Believe it or not, young nation, you will one day have an
African American President. His name will be Barack HUSSEIN Obama. He will quote something that a great teacher in his life (his mother) used tom tell him. 'Barry, you can always be better tomorrow than you are today. Work on it.' President Obama will tell you that you too as a nation can be better. It comes about with each new generation of American immigrants.
As an American "Son of Ibrahim," I am committed to these "words of advice" given to the American Founding Fathers by Imam Hussein (AS). Allow me briefly to share my memories that have lead me there.
-in 1979, I was a student at Hampden-Sydney College. I was taking a class by Dr Taylo
Reveley called "ISLAM AS A LIVING RELIGION." The Revolution in Iran broke out. It was obvious that many Americans, including me, really did not know what was going on. Dr Reveley wisely stated, "it is a shame that we have no exchange students from Iran on campus this semester. If we did,we may know what is going on."
-In 1986, my wife, our 18 month old son, snd I left fir Scotland where I would begin Graduate
School at the University of St Andrews. My research would be in Islamic /Christian Relations
While there, I remembered Dr Reveley's wise words. I was invited to become part of an Interfaith Group which was composed of Presbyterians and Iranian students. My Iranian friends introduced me to the works of Dr Ali Shariati, the inspiration of the Iranian Revolution. Ibwas hooked. I also learned that Dr. Shariati received his PhD from The University of Paris under
Jean-Paul Sartre. In that study group was Franz Fanon, leader of the Algerian War of
Independence as well as occasionally, Che Guevara, Jose Miguez Bonino, and Gustavo Guttierez. What a group.
I also learned that Liberal Arts Efucation was preserved, nurtured, snd developed in the Shi'a Hawzas of Najaf, Karbala, Qom, and Mashad. In 529 AD, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great closed Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum because they taught pagan philosophy.
The Professors went over the border into Sasanian Iran where they were welcomed. They taught in Iranian Nestorian Christian schools where they taught until becoming absorbed into the Shi'a ' Hawzas when Islam came to Iraq and Iran. We may thank Shi'a Islam for preserving education and giving it to the West.
-I mentioned the Shi'a family that Church welcomed in 2009. After the first year, the mother of the family shared with me "why" she now called America home. She said, "I love the way that you Americans are so much like Iraqis!" When I heard this, I knew that we were already"better."
-Trips to both the Islamic Republic of The Gambia and Cuba also have given me memories that have contributed to who I am.
In September 2016, I was a guest if the government of the Islamic Republic of the Gambia. I had several meetings with the President, his Cabinet, and many other people. I saw rice fields which in 2 years time will feed rice to the entire continent of Africa. I saw happy and productive people. I visited the village of Juffereh, home of Kunte Kinte. I saw the horrible effects of the slave trade on Gambia, the smallest nation in Africa. Yet I also saw what Allah can do through devout Muslim people who want yo do what Allah asks them to do. I saw why the Gambia is rightly called "the Smiling Coast of Africa."
My wife and I took two trips to Cuba - in 1997 and 2016. I was serving Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas and we had initiated a Presbyterian Partnership with the Luyano Presbyterian Church in Havana. In 2016, when we returned, we found a Cuba that had about 20,000 Muslim converts. I also learned that there was a vibrant Iranian Community there.
I was told that West African Muslims had been coming to Cuba since the early 1500s. Im also found that many Cubans knew of Dr Ali Shariati and his connection to Che Guevara. Again, for me, new Knowledge.
In closing, allow me to say this. Both anthropology and genetics teach us that we are all "ONE PEOPLE" just as the Qur'an teaches. We are all "TAWHID." In fact, native Americans worshiped the "ONE SPIRIT." They were Muslims (followers of Tawhid) and did not know it. We know that the human race, as we know it, descended from about 200 Africans who left eastern Kenya about 200,000 years ago. Yes, we are all, AFRICANS! In 1492, we "bumped" into each other and we had forgotten who we were -- one family -- TAWHID.
We need to undo this. Islamophobia, racism, and ethnic hatred are NOT natural. Allah created the human race.
Human beings created the bad stuff. We, the human community can undo this. The Qur'an can show us how. Malcolm X wrote us the following from the Hajj.
"America needs to understand Islam." May we all be committed to this task!!