Assalamu Alaikum, May Peace be with you all.
I hope you have all enjoyed the good breakfast provided by our kind hosts. My task today is to invoke a prayer for all people of faith. Whenever I speak in public, I remind myself that the spoken word is like an arrow, easy to launch and impossible to recall. I am also reminded of one of the Caliphs in Damascus, Abdul Malik who got grey hair at an early age. A friend asked him why and he replied that it was the fear of making even a mistake in Arabic grammar when preaching the Friday sermon. At 75 I still have not gone completely grey so I fear I might not be as careful of my grammar as he was.
When speaking to people of faith, other than my own I also try to remember that it says in the Quran, "Invite all to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious; for your Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance" [Quran 5:32]. There is also the better known verse which says, "There is no compulsion in religion". [Quran 2:256]
Just recently I took part with our Islamic Society of Simi Valley in the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints and Salvation Army Food Drive to help feed the over 750 families in Simi Valley who are unable to provide for themselves. You may be asking yourself why Muslims would do this. When asked about the most important commandments, "Jesus, Peace be upon him, replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22: 37-39.
Charity is one of the 5 pillars of Islam and our Prophet (PBUH) said, "None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." The Quran often refers to humankind as the tribe of Adam and also says that God created us as different tribes that we might get to know each other, not to kill each other.
In fact we all know that these sentiments are to be found in all major religions and are known as the Golden Rule.
I don't know about all of you here but I have to admit that I like a good meal, but like all of us people of faith, I have to remind myself that I should not enjoy a good meal while my neighbor does not have enough to eat. And, as you have seen, neighbor does not mean someone of my color or my faith, but anyone, anywhere in the world. This is what it means to be people of faith. We all have our own beliefs and we have to accept that we will never all agree on every detail of those beliefs. However the important point I am trying to make is that people of faith can and must find commonalities such as a Muslim standing outside a Dollar Store asking customers to donate food for needy neighbors, and standing in front of you today quoting the Bible to prove that enough commonalities exist for all of us to improve the lives of our neighbors and through that act, ourselves as well, regardless of our different beliefs.
We can start with small steps. In Islam charity is not merely giving money to the poor. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have money to give and if we did, the problem would be solved after all. We Muslims are taught that even a smile and a kind word is considered charity and will be rewarded. And if you think about it, I am sure you will find the same sentiments in all your faiths. Practicing these small charities will lead us to find ways to tackle the more important ones like making sure our neighbors are safe and have enough to eat.
To illustrate this principle, there is a story of our Prophet who used to walk down a particular street where a lady that hated him used to throw trash in his path. He never took any action until one day there was no trash thrown. He then went to the door of the house to enquire if all was well with the lady. A better response than suing her I would suggest! If we behaved towards our neighbors in this spirit, we could honestly claim to be people of faith.
I remember a Hindu family in Kenya when I lived there. I cannot remember how I met them but it was quite casually. Knowing that we did not share the same beliefs, nevertheless every time I passed through the small town they lived in, I would call in and they would insist that I share a meal with them. To this day after nearly 40 years I remember them with affection.
I challenge anyone here today or anywhere in the world who claim to be people of faith to make any valid objection as to why they cannot make such friendships with people of other faiths, colors or cultures and treat them as true neighbors, I would challenge them to go back and take a fresh and hard look at their own faith and find what they are missing in it.
And so today I do pray for all people of faith in the global village we now live in, and for them to take a hard and fresh look at their faiths and search for the truth. I am convinced that they will find the truth there somewhere.
I ask you all now for a moment of silence and meditation to search our hearts and souls and make a vow to simply treat our neighbors as we would hope to be treated, as a first small step for humankind towards the peaceful and compassionate world that I believe is the intention of the Creator of the Universe.
If anything I have said today pleases you, it came from GOD and if anything I have said today displeases you, it came from me and I humbly apologize.