“American Muslims”

The US State Department Bureau of International Information Programs published and uploaded a 100 page report on the American Muslim community. The photos look amazing and the stories are quite intriguing.

Enjoy browsing through this piece of intercultural and inter-religious understanding! (:

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You can view or download the file here: http://photos.state.gov/libraries/amgov/30145/publications-english/American_Muslims.pdf

Dream Unlocked

Hey there, my fellow sojourner!

I’ve been busy the past few weeks and I just came back home. I flew to the other side of the world, after being given an opportunity to do so. I grabbed the chance and got more than what I expected.

All I aspired for then was to seek funding and support for a socio-civic project that I had in mind. What I received though was far more than that. I had the chance to unlock one of my childhood dreams which is to visit the United Nations Headquarters in New York . I never thought that I would be able to do just that at this very moment–when I’m still fresh from college and as young as now. I never thought that I, along with a few other amazing youth, would be recognized in such a distinguished venue while in front of various leaders and humanitarians. I really never imagined that happening–not now, definitely not as early as now.

Yet, it did happen. It happened for real. 

At the United Nations HQ, New York, USA

At the United Nations HQ, New York, USA

Of course, there are many other notable events that happened right after but that–the visit to the U.N. and the Recognition Ceremony that happened–is perhaps the most vivid memory that I would keep dearly cherished in my heart. It would serve as constant reminder for me to consistently take on greater heights and conquer new obstacles in life–all in the style of honor and excellence.

As such, for all that has happened, my heart is now bursting with immense gratitude.

Gratitude

And

Desire

Desire to be better in life. To be stronger. To be more capable and qualified to both lead and serve.

I feel like I owe so much to God and the world that I have to work harder and more passionately in giving back hope, growth and opportunity to the people around me–especially those who are in need. A great leader is one who also paves the way for other people to achieve greatness themselves. As I once said, in a speech I gave out in front of leaders and humanitarians, I am but an INSTRUMENT of change. I am an agent who ought to share, deliver and maximize all opportunities, as well as successes seized, for the betterment of others. 

All these achievements are not for me. They are for my fellow people, my nation, the world and for God. I hope that I may continuously move forward–always seeking for honor and excellence in everything that I do. This is just the start of many more things to come.

From one dream to another, let us carry on.

Submission

Cairo, Egypt.
Al Azhar mosque. A muslim prays. 1987.
© Abbas

Worshiping The Creator comes in different forms. Some people sing, place their hands together, sit in silence, meditate or correspond with nature.

For Muslims, there is an intricate pattern on the conduct of prayers. The Salat or the 5 daily prayers are performed following an established set of movements. This thousand-old tradition of prayer is infused with discipline. There is a certain art to which the Salat is performed.

Perhaps, among all of the acts involved in the Salat, the most humbling one would be the sujood (as pictured above). Across different cultures, this specific human prostration is associated with obeisance and surrender to a greater being. People do it when they honor royalties, when they plead for mercy, or when they seek to please those who are essentially of a higher status than them.

In Islam, the sujood is an act of prostration that signifies obedience not to any greater being but to The Greatest Being. It is an act of complete submission to God–and to God alone. It is an act of submitting to  God who calls on people to live a righteous path, to be honest and honorable, to be compassionate, kind and just. It is a physical affirmation of the personal choice to submit to the Lord who is the best of all guardians and the most loving and merciful of all.

When I look at that photo above, I imagine that person feeling a deep sense of peace and connection with God.  As one bows down to God, one becomes elevated in his or her relationship with The Creator. In that specific moment, he becomes a true “Muslim” in the most literal sense of the word. The word Muslim means “one who submits to the will of God“. The sujood is a physical declaration–sort of like an oath–to which one affirms his or her decision to freely submit to The Creator.

When you think about it, almost every person of faith, who chooses to obey God’s will, can be considered as a “Muslim”. A Catholic, for instance, who chooses to submit to God’s will becomes a “Muslim”. A person who meditates and shows compassion and kindness in his way of prayer can be considered submitting to God’s will– thus, becoming a “Muslim” as well.

Although there are different religions and ways of praying to God, all of us still inherently share that fundamental desire to connect to The Most Supreme. We may have various ways of praying, but we all share that universal goal to reach out to God. I believe that in conducting our prayers, what matters more than form or tradition is our sincerity.

Our sincerity–our honesty and devotion–marks the weight of our prayers–whatever form they may be.