Oleh : Imam Shamsi Ali
Today I am truly relieved. After over a year in which we have been scattered by the Pandemic Covid 19, almost no public gathering, today by Allah’s grace, our community at Jamaica Muslim Center was able to come together for another big Eid as they have done in the past many years.
Held at the Thomas Edison HS field, the Eid was considered the largest organized Eid in the City this year. The field was packed with many thousands to humble themselves, to please their Lord, Allah the Almighty.
As usual, every year during our Eid many dignitaries, politicians, community leaders activists, even law enforcement personnel joined and delivered their short congratulatory remarks to the community. Some even could not be accommodated due to the time constraints, but their presence and support to the community were acknowledged.
I was honored once again to deliver the Eid khutbah (sermon) on this very precious occasion. This was a valuable and honorable opportunity for me personally to look into the many circumstances of our current moment.
Many issues came to mind as I prepared my speech. From the Covid 19 pandemic, Muslims and public engagements as we are entering into another political seasons in NYC, economic and job issues, to mental issues particularly among our youth.
But what struck me the most is still the importance of reminding our community of the true understanding of Ramadan and its relevance to our social and practical life. And of course the on going issues in the Middle East, particularly what is being witnessed in Jerusalem and Palestine.
Certainly I am not going to write every detail of my speech. But below is a summary of it.
First, reminding the people to see things in life, not only using their physical eyes, but with their spiritual sight. With our spiritual sight we could see things behind their physical appearances which sometime are so ugly.
Using our spiritual sight would enable us to see the wisdom of everything that happens in life. And with that we will be able to appreciate every “will of Allah” in our life. And that everything happens for a reason, known or not known to us. But with Allah every thing must be for a good reason or purpose.
Second, I used the opportunity to remind the community of the importance of learning to love the Prophet (peace be upon him). He (the Prophet) loves his Ummah unconditionally. That reminds us when he was on the brink of death and said: ummati, ummati, ummati (my people, my people, my people).
The love for the Prophet for Muslims is a sign of the faith itself. And it will be a key to receive the prophet’s intercession (shafaat) and his company in the Day of Judgment.
Third, I am reminded then also of the importance of humbleness towards Allah. As we completed the month, we must turn up to the Heaven and ask for acceptance. This is in following the example of the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), when he completed the building of the Ka’bah (The Ancient House of Allah) he turned to Allah humbly: “Rabbana taqabbal minna innaka Antas Samii’ al-Aliim” (O Lord, accept from us, verily you are All-Hearing, All-Knowing).
Similarly when we completed the days of Ramadan it is extremely important to turn up to Allah humbling ourselves and asking for acceptance. In fact we must glorify Allah and thank Him for being able to complete our fast. Allah says: “and complete the number (of the fasting days) and that you should glorify Allah for he had guided you, and so you may be thankful (Al-Baqarah: 185).
The more we feel we do, the more humble we should be to our Lord and to our fellow human beings. Be careful of religious arrogance. And that is the feeling of being “better in worship” than others. This is a very dangerous tendency in our attempt to pursue our path to Allah.
Fourth, then I reminded them that Ramadan is not only a month of rituals. In fact Ramadan is month of learning, a month when Muslims learn to do fundamental self change or what I used to call “a month of transformation.”
There are five areas where Muslims must transform during the month of Ramadan.
1. Spiritual Transformation. Ramadan must transform us spiritually and so we have become more conscious about Allah. This is in fact the essence of “taqwa” which is the highest goal of Ramadan. By having “God consciousness” we will have strength and courage in facing the many challenges of our life. 2. Life vision transformation.
This is where we transform our vision of this life from being focused on worldly material and the worldly temporary life to instead a focus on our “akhirah” (Hereafter). The Quran mentions that some people have nothing in their life vision but this temporary one. However, Islam teaches us that this life is a means to prepare for our next life of eternity. Muslims therefore pray constantly: “Rabbana atina fid dunia hasanah wa fil akhirati hasanah wa qinaa adzaban naar”.
3. Transformation of Character
All must know that the essence of our religiosity is about human character. This is well known in Islam as “al-akhlaq al-karimah” (noble conduct). Ramadan must transform us into better character or behavior. In fact every ibadah in Islam brings us into human character development. Otherwise our rituals may lead us into a state of bankruptcy.
4. Communal transformation. Islam is guidance for both for human individual and collective life. It deals with our private matters. But also it deals greatly with our public matters. Therefore Ramadan must have transformed us in our communal life. It improve our sense of social and communal responsibility, by among others, strengthening our unity as a community. Only by strong unity can we develop our community and contribute better and effectively into our wider American society. 5. Global transformation.
Without any doubt we are living in a deeply critical world. Hate and violent attacks, poverty and wars are still going on in many parts of the world. But what has struck me in recent days is the violent attacks on the Palestinians in their homes and even in their houses of worship while they are praying during the month of Ramadan. But what saddened me more is the fact that world is once again collectively silent. Those who often claim to be the champions of human rights, shut their mouths. Politicians, who during the campaign came to our houses of worship selling their promises turned their backs to us. But more sad and painful is the silence of the Muslim leaders themselves.
I took the opportunity to address both Muslims and non Muslims on the conflict in the Muddle East. It has nothing to do with being Muslims or non Muslims. And you don’t have to be Muslims to support people’s rights to freedom and dignity. You just need to be human beings to be conscious that freedom and human dignity are divinely and godly given rights to every human being equally.
Unfortunately our global world is apparently missing or pretending to miss the reality. “Justice for all” has become an empty slogan and/or turns to “justice for some” instead.
And so I reminded all, Muslims and non Muslims that an injustice to any, is in injustice to all. And it is enough for evil to thrive when the good people say/do nothing. And silence in front of the evil is complicity.
Finally, all should remember that my fight today can and will be yours tomorrow. And who knows when you call me tomorrow to fight for your rights. For certain, our world is in constant rotation. No body knows what will happen tomorrow!
New York, 14 May 2021
Director, Jamaica Muslim Center NYC
President, Nusantara Foundation