Ramadan’s pluralism message for Muslims
Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Mike Ghouse is from the World Muslim Congress, a think tank committed to nurturing the pluralistic values of Islam. This group is about Muslims and their civic responsibilities; it is not about religious practices but simply about learning and creating a religious, social and civic space for Muslims in the community of faiths.
For this Ramadan, Mike would like to get the following message out: “By the end of 2020, there will not be a major city in America, and perhaps in the world, where you will not find people of different faiths, cultures, ethnicities, races, nationalities and social backgrounds working, eating, praying, playing, marrying, and doing things together. This is bound to create conflicts, and thus we need to prepare ourselves to deal with such eventualities.
“The guidance can be found in every religious tradition; all of them were committed to creating cohesive societies where no one had to live in apprehension or fear of the other.
“I am pleased to reiterate the Islamic tradition in this essay. The Holy Qur’an 49:13 says that God has created us into different tribes, communities and nations. It was indeed His choice to create each one of us to be unique with our own thumbprint, eye print, DNA, color and taste buds. Yet, the whole creation was put together in perfect balance and harmony (55:7).
“That brings us to pluralism which is defined as, ‘respecting the otherness of the others and accepting the (God-given) uniqueness of each one of us.’ ‘You are who you are, and I am who I am.’ Q109:6 (Yousef Ali). ‘To you be your way, and to me mine.’ Your faith is dear to you as mine is to me, together, we have to live and work on maintaining that harmony for our good and for the Creator’s joy. God’s religion is peace.
“Such diversity is bound to create conflict and mess up the delicate balance, so the Holy Qur’an encourages that the best among you are the ones who know each other. Indeed, knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of the God-given uniqueness of each one of us, and with that conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
“Pluralism is your choice to have good manners, and a good attitude toward fellow beings as guided by the Holy Qur’an, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and common sense. My focus of this essay is application of God’s recommendation ‘to know each other’ within the fold of Islam and with members of the diverse family of faiths.
“A majority of us are saddened with the day-to-day events in the Muslim world, calling each other infidels and killing each other in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and elsewhere. The Holy Qur’an says killing one person is like killing the whole of humanity. You are not to kill a single soul unless it is in self-defense. We talk about unity, and spew so much hate for the other in the same breath; it needs to stop as God wants peace.
“I am appealing to those Muslims who have the integrity to match their words with their actions, and pray for the integrity of others who lack it.
“During this Ramadan, please make an effort to do your Iftar (breaking fast) in every mosque of varying denominations, or at least seek God’s guidance to remove hate and bias from our hearts for each other. Invite each other, not to discuss differences but to know each other to learn to respect the otherness of others, and accept each other, so that conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
“Take some fruits and dates and just go there and let the imam or the volunteers know that you are from a different tradition and are making a sincere effort to be part of the larger community in every which way you can.
“Over the last four years, I have been to almost every mosque of every denomination in the United States. I have chronicled the uniqueness of each tradition with full respect at RamadanDaily.com.
“When you visit your friend’s house, you don’t criticize how they have arranged their furniture; in fact you may reluctantly praise it, but never put it down. You don’t dare criticize how their kids keep their rooms, eat or talk. For God’s sake go to other mosques with the same attitude, the attitude of pluralism.
“This year, we have four Fridays in Ramadan; make an effort to attend at least four major denominations on each Friday.
“Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was called Amin, the trustworthy, truthful and just and the person around whom people felt secure. We need to follow similar principles within our society. We need to have comfortable working relationships with everyone from all faiths including fellow Muslims of different denominations.
“The life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a bold example of living civility, with openness and confidence. The greater value he taught was to respect the otherness of others. Let’s follow him and build friendships with people of faiths and no faiths and become Amins of society.
“Together as Muslims, let’s make the world a safe and secure place for every one of God’s seven billion to live cohesively. Let’s not blame others, but do our share of good in our own mosques, neighborhoods, communities and towns on a smaller level. This is our home. M. Ghouse”
Just think what the world would be like if we did just a little bit of that?
— The author can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena