KHUTBA (SERMON) FOR JUMUAH (FRIDAY) PRAYERS

All praise, thanks and glory be to God,
The Lord of all the worlds.
Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise, thanks and glory be to God
And salutations and peace on all the Prophets sent by God.
And we call to mind the noble Prophet Muhammad,
For peace and blessings.

All praise, thanks and glory be to God,
Who had guided us to this place and to this time
And had it not been for the guidance of God,
We would surely not have been guided.

We thank God, from whom we seek help and seek forgiveness.
And we seek refuge with God from the wrongs from within us.
Whom God guides will never be misled,
And whoever succumbs to misguidance will not find a guide.

I bear witness that there is no god, but God,
And that Muhammad is only the slave and messenger of God.

God declares in the Quran:
“Oh you who believe!
When the call is proclaimed for prayers
on the Day of Assembly,
hasten earnestly to the remembrance of God
and leave off the business of your life.
That is best for you, if only you knew.”

[62:9]

Today, on this day of the assembly, we have all responded to the call to prayer, and we have temporarily put on hold the business of our life. We gather on this day of assembly as Muslims in the company of friends from other faiths and other walks of life. As Muslims we are here as men and women, Shia and Sunni, Islamist and secularist, Sufi and Wahabi, followers of different traditions, originating from ancestries. In all our diversity as Muslims we proclaim one objective: the remembrance of God, and are united by a national identity conferred by the United States of America.

We gather for the remembrance of God in response to a call (the Adhan) that was sounded in a Christian Cathedral. We respond to the kindness of the Episcopalian Church and to the energy and vision of the Reverend Canon Gina Campbell, who is grounded in her own faith, committed to her own religion, but filled with sensitivity for people of all faiths.

These are Christians of whom the Quran says:

“And nearest to the believers in love
you will find those who say:
we are Christians!
Amongst them are those devoted to learning
and have renounced the world
and they are not arrogant.”

[5:85]

But we also gather under the courageous leadership of pioneering American Muslims, some of whose ancestors came as slaves to these shores 400 years ago, and some of whose ancestors have come over the last 50 years, in search of a better life. They have been called upon now to give leadership in stressful and dangerous times: often under siege from extremists within the house of Islam, who appropriate our religion, our language and symbols; and often under suspicion from without—from fellow Americans who have come to fear our religion, misunderstand who we are and tempted to treat us as caricatures.

All of us gathered here, as Muslims, have had to navigate a path that balances our global identity as Muslims with a national identity as Americans. We have been challenged to find a consistency between condemning the excesses done in the name of Islam and protesting mistakes of our countries and governments. We have had to manage our dismay that while we seek in this country the freedom to worship, we could not promise the same right to Christians where our fellow religionists are in majority. And we have had to teach the 8 million American Muslims the art of resilience, perseverance, and patience as fellow Americans often turned on us as tensions grew in our heartlands and terror was sown in our name.

But today we have left the business that ordinarily occupies us. We have come to this Cathedral to remember God, to magnify God, and to petition God. We do so in the Washington National Cathedral from where this country buries its presidents, honours its heroes, and gathers its resolve. And we have no reservations finding God here, for God says to us:

“To God belongs the East and the West,
Wheresoever ever you turn,
There is the face of God.
For God is omnipresent and all knowing.”

[2:115]

Today we have accepted the offer of fellow believers in God, who share the heritage of Abraham and who, as Christians, have invited us to explore in their Cathedral the omnipresent face of God. They remind us of a time during the life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad—on whom be peace—when he received a delegation of 60 Christians of Najran. Not only did he meet with them in his mosque in Medina, but when it was time for their prayers he invited them to pray in the mosque, allowing them to turn their faces to the east as they supplicated to God.

And even as we accept this invitation, we do so with the humility of the Caliph Umar—may God be pleased with him—who accepted the offer to pray in a Christian church but was careful not to do so in the main church, lest subsequent generations of Muslims interpreted that as a licence to appropriate the church for Islam.

So we come to this cathedral with sensitivity and humility, but keenly aware that this is not the time for platitudes, because mischief is threatening the world. The mischief-makers call themselves by various names, every name seeking to appropriate a part of our identity and heritage. They invade lands, behead journalists, execute civilians and declare war on anyone different to them: whether Muslims who are Shia, Sunni or democratic; or whether non-Muslims like Christians, Yazidis or Jews; or anyone else by virtue of being a woman, a westerner or a secularist. And they do all of this with the seal of the Prophet—on whom be peace—held aloft as if it is for them a seal of approval.

They appeal to our love for the Prophet Muhammad, our commitment to Allah, our allegiance to Islam and our desire to right the many historical wrongs we have suffered particularly over the last 100 years: the unresolved tension in the Indo-Pak region; the Politics of Order in our Heartlands; the deep under-development suffered by most Muslims; the push to assimilate in the West; and more particularly, they pour acid on the open wound of Palestine. They seduce some among us with the siren song that a glorious death is preferable to the whimpering life that so many of us lead under occupation, constant war, poverty and Islamophobia.

Yet they move only the most alienated, insecure and angry among us. But they mobilise enough to strike fear in the citizens of the world. And they succeed only in mobilising fellow extremists who have mainstreamed themselves in the citadels of power, who are eager to respond to the call to arms of their mirror images and alter egos. Extremism is not the antidote to extremism.

Extremism labels because it cannot debate. Extremism excludes because it cannot embrace. Extremism is angry because it cannot love. Extremism destroys because it cannot build. Extremism has perfected the art of dying for its cause because it has forgotten how to live for its cause.

The challenge to us today is to reconstitute a middle ground of good people, distinct from all extremisms, but whose very existence threatens extremism. In explaining the reasoning behind the victory of David—on whom be peace—over Goliath, the Koran says:

“And had not God checked one set of people by means of another,
the Earth would indeed be full of mischief.”

[2:251]

God’s methodology to defeat mischief is to inspire good people to make common cause and to be courageous. This is our purpose today. The purpose is even more compelling when God, on the same theme, gives us a chilling warning in the Koran:

“Had not God checked one set of people by means of another,
there would surely have been the destruction
of monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques,
places in which the name of God is remembered profusely.
God will certainly aid those who aid the cause of God.”

[22:40]

We are a here to say that the danger and insecurity faced by Christians and other minority religions in the Middle East cannot be tolerated. They cannot be tolerated at the level of principle nor can they be tolerated just because they are not yet destroying mosques. Wherever the name of God is remembered profusely there is the place worthy of protection, and whoever remembers the name of God profusely, there are the people worthy of protection.

As we sit in this cathedral today we must commit that that which we desire for ourselves by way of freedom of belief, freedom of worship, and freedom of conscience, we must desire for Christians and those of other faiths in the heartland of Islam.

This is the time for good people to make common cause. Who would forget the episode from the life of the Prophet Muhammad—on whom be peace—when he recalled his participation in a response by the tribes of Mecca to an injustice done unto a Yemeni merchant. The Meccan Tribes gathered at the house of Abdullah ibn Judan and resolved to return the merchant’s money and took an oath that whenever anyone suffered injustice they would offer their support until justice was done. This pact was called the Alliance of the Virtuous or the Hilf-ul Fudhul. While this happened prior to prophethood, our beloved Prophet—on whom be peace—recounted this episode many years later and said: “I attended the conclusion of so excellent an agreement at the house of Abdullah ibn Judan, and if today, in Islam, I was called upon again, I would gladly respond.”

Today our hearts are gathered in virtue. Let the news of our resolve reverberate. Let it be known that while the middle ground from all our faiths and all our walks of life are not always capable of the acts which constitute breaking news, because we are not outrageous, despite being outraged. But every day it is our very ordinariness that gives hope to the world, it is our simple acts of co-existence, our embrace of difference, our beautiful addition to the American mosaic that guarantees the defeat of extremism with all its bigotry, discrimination, profiling and devastation.

This event could not have been more appropriately inspired than by the life, legacy and values of Nelson Mandela, when we planned with Canon Gina Campbell the Memorial Service for South Africa’s greatest gift to the world almost one year ago. From Mandela’s life we learn that soft power is powerful beyond measure as the softest water smooths the hardest rock into the most beautiful pebble. There is enormous strength in the gentlest acts of reconciliation and forgiveness. And in resilient struggle, there is the guarantee of the defeat of the forces of extremism, as apartheid was to learn 20 years ago.

Our Lord!
You are the Owner and Source of all Sovereignty,
And You are the Guarantor of all change and transformation,
And, therefore, we petition You:

Our Lord, You are the Source of all Sovereignty.
You share power with whom you want,
And You deny power to whom You want.

You honour whom You want,
And You disgrace whom You want.

In Your hand is all good
And You have power over all things.

You Cause the night to become day,
And You cause the day to become night.

You bring life from that which is dead,
And You bring death to that which lives.

And You give sustenance to whom You please,
Without keeping account!

Our Lord!
Bless our efforts today and bind us together.
Guide us on the path we are resolved to commence,
A path that lives up to the name of our faith—Islam—
At whose core is the invocation to peace;
A path that follows the tradition of our Prophet,
Whose mission is to be a mercy to all creation;
And a path to become the community You wish for us—
A community that occupies the middle ground and resists the extremes.

Our Lord!
Bless our hosts today,
Who too have had to withstand their own extremes,
Who would not have wanted today to happen.
Protect them and show them the good that comes from their persistence.
But let their love and hospitality reverberate among all Muslims,
So that all Muslims reciprocate the love and acceptance
that we have found in this Cathedral today.

 

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