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.

 

Another Letter to You

To The Merciful and The Generous,

I pray that You enable me to become more patient. More patient in dealing with others who see the world in a completely different way. Others who see You differently than I do. Others who don’t even see You at all. Or others who do see You but refuse to embrace You.

I’m not perfect and I too have my flaws. I have no right to judge the other sheep within Your flock. All of us are equal after all, each bestowed with Your grace. For all I know, I too have my own imperfect view of the Perfect You. So who am I to judge when my own very eyes are flawed and  constrained?

So please, Oh Truth, grant me mercy. Mercy for the times I am stubborn and insistent. There is no compulsion in religion, I know this to be true. So please, once again, grant me the patience, understanding and endurance to treat ALL of your sheep with respect and tolerance–knowing that each sheep, whether one chooses to follow the path or walk astray, is blessed with grace. Grace and… Free will.

May you grant me the strength to balance both my duty to guide and my responsibility to respect such free will. Enlighten me to be more patient and wise, to be more respectful and kind, to all and everyone.

Lead me, my loved ones, and ALL of Your Beloved to You.

Gratitude

Sometimes, if not most of the time, we get so busy that we forget to give thanks. We become too focused on working hard and achieving our goals that we forget to express gratitude along the way.

I want to drown my heart with a strong sense of gratitude. My heart, which is so fragile and small, has been caressed by the soul of others, by the warmth of nature, and by the love of God.

Why then should I not give thanks?

“Muslims, Our Natural Allies”

The article below was directly taken from: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/02/muslims-our-natural-allies. I’ll post a direct copy here since the article’s such a good read.

Muslims, Our Natural Allies

by Robert P. George

I am a Catholic. My Church teaches me to esteem our Muslim friends and to work with them in the cause of promoting justice and moral values. I am happy to stand with them in defense of what is right and good. And so I stand with the young woman in the above video in defense of modesty, chastity, and piety, just as I stand with Muslims like my dear friends Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Dr. Suzy Ismail against the killing of unborn children and the evil of pornography, and with my equally dear friend Asma Uddin of the Becket Fund in defense of religious freedom. In the great document Nostra Aetate, we Catholics are taught the following by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council:

The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims link their own. Although not acknowledging Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet; his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the Day of Judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, almsgiving, and fasting.

Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.

Let us heed this teaching. Let us, Muslims and Christians alike, forget past quarrels and stand together for righteousness, justice, and the dignity of all. Let those of us who are Christians reject the untrue and unjust identification of all Muslims with those evildoers who commit acts of terror and murder in the name of Islam. Let us be mindful that it is not our Muslim fellow citizens who have undermined public morality, assaulted our religious liberty, and attempted to force us to comply with their ideology on pain of being reduced to the status of second-class citizens. Let all of us—Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths who “esteem an upright life” and seek truly to honor God and do His will—embrace each other, seeking “mutual understanding for the benefit of all men [and working] together to preserve and promote peace, liberty, justice, and moral values.”

Through the great work being done by my friend Jennifer Bryson—who is a devout Christian and a great American patriot who spent two years as an interrogator at Guantanamo—I have met hundreds of religiously observant Muslims over the past several years and many are now my close friends. They are among the finest people I know. Like faithful Christians and Jews, they seek to honor God and do His will. They work, as we do, to inculcate in their children the virtues of honesty, integrity, self-respect and respect for others, hard work, courage, modesty, chastity, and self-control. They do not want to send their sons off to wars. They do not want their children to be suicide bombers. They do not want to impose Islam on those who do not freely embrace it. They thank God for the freedom they enjoy in the United States and they are well aware of its absence in the homelands of many of those who are immigrants. It is not right for us to make them feel unwelcome or to suggest that their faith disables them from being loyal Americans. It is unjust to stir up fear that they seek to take away our rights or to make them afraid that we seek to take away theirs. And it is foolish to drive them into the arms of the political left when their piety and moral convictions make them natural allies of social conservatives. (A majority of American Muslims voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election. A majority of the general voting population did not.)

I admire Muslim women and all women who practice the virtue of modesty, whether they choose to cover their hair or not. There are many ways to honor modesty and practices vary culturally in perfectly legitimate ways. Men and women are called to serve each other in various ways, and women who refuse to pornify themselves, especially in the face of strong cultural pressures and incentives to do so, honor themselves and others of their sex while also honoring those of us of the opposite sex. They uphold their own dignity and the dignity of their fellow human beings, male and female alike.

I have no doubt that in certain cultures, including some Muslim cultures, the covering of women is taken to an extreme and reflects a very real subjugation, just as in sectors of western culture, the objectification of women (including the sexualization of children at younger and younger ages) by cultural pressures to pornify reflects a very real (though less direct and obvious) subjugation. But, of course, we are in the happy position of not having to choose between the ideology of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and that of Hugh Hefner.

Of course, defenders of pornification claim that they are “liberating women” and “celebrating female beauty.” The liberation claim is the very reverse of the truth. As for “celebrating female beauty,” let me ask you this: Is there an actress in all of Hollywood who when appearing at one of these absurd awards shows dressed in a see-through gown, bra-less and wearing a thong, can compare with the beautiful young Muslim woman in the video I posted? I submit that there is none. Oh, yes, to be sure, the actress will appeal to something in her male viewers. (I’m a man.Take it from me.) But it will not be their sense or appreciation of beauty. It will be something much lower and brutely appetitive. Their experience will be one in which who she actually is as a person is utterly submerged. The men viewing her will not be drawn in to wonder about her thoughts and feelings, her experiences of joy and sorrow, her strengths and vulnerabilities—the things that actually make her the unique person she is. Their experience will, quite literally, be an experience of de-personalized desire—the very definition of lust.