We are pleased to share this article by Linda ‘Ilham’ Barto. The ultimate goal of all religions and forms of governments is to create an environment for all the inhabitants to functions cohesively. One nation and one people.
Linda “iLham” Barto
The word ‘integrate’ means (1) to take in information, ideas, or culture and to understand them fully; (2) absorb and integrate people, ideas, or culture into a wider society or culture; (3) to cause something to resemble something else.
What should that mean for Muslims? I think it should mean that we accept and understand ideas and people that differ from us, integrate with people whose ideas and cultures are different from ours, and become an integral part of our society –all while staying true to our own beliefs and ideals that set us aside from others. That is a tall order, and we should not expect ourselves to accomplish it all at once.
American Muslims are pioneers for Islam in America, and we must be courageous, wise, and persevering, but never dogmatic or judgmental. Prophet Muhammed (peace upon him) said, “The hour will not come until the sun rises from the west….” (Bukhari).
Although there is a logical argument for a literal meaning, there is also the symbolic meaning that the Islamic Renaissance will begin in the West. We must take this as, not only what is inevitable, but also as a calling. We can have a positive influence on others in society only if we Muslims integrate with them, walk with them, and accommodate them in respect to their religious and cultural ideals while remaining steadfast to the sunnah of our Prophet (peace upon him).
When Prophet Muhammed (peace upon him) and the first ummah migrated to Madinah, the Muslims felt that the people had not been welcoming and accepting of them. They asked the Prophet what to do to integrate with the community of Madinah. He did not tell them not to integrate. Instead, he said, “Give people food and spread greetings upon all –those you know and those you don’t know” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi).
At that time and place, everyone knew the greeting, “Asalam alaykum”. In America however, only Muslims and some Jews are familiar with this greeting. We must greet people in the terms they understand and appreciate. Whenever I am in public and people see my hijab, many of them give me hateful looks and sometimes even hateful words. I always smile and greet them with kind words. Usually it changes their whole demeanor.
We should not be afraid to greet others with a smile and, “Hello”, “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Hanukkah”, “Happy Kwanzaa”, or any other words that promulgate feelings of acceptance, approval, and unity. Saying, “Merry Christmas” will not turn you into a Christian or be a declaration that you worship Jesus (peace upon him) or approve of others’ worshiping him. It just means that you recognize the importance of others’ holidays to them and that you wish them happiness on a day that is special to them.
The Christmas message of peace, joy, and goodwill is for everyone. We Muslims should be the first to declare that message and join other believers in trying to establish that ideal throughout the world.
# # #
You may like this video by the Center for Pluralism – All religions from Atheism to Zoroastrianism are represented here in 12 minutes