On February 26, 2009, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as part of a Capitol Hill hearing on “Engaging with Muslim Communities around the World.”  Albright offered her insight on strengthening U.S.-Muslim relations in an interview on NPR.

 

I agree with Albright that Americans need to understand Islam more.  It is not just the tenants of Islam that are not understood but also the spiritual view of human beings as well.  Islamic teachings do not define evil people as people who do evil, nor does Islam define good people as people who do good.  Hence, Islam is not obsessed with condemning or rooting out evil, but more so the triumph of the soul over the ego as we are all recipients of the divine breath.

 

A good person can do many acts of evil, and an evil person can do many acts of good.  Evil is defined as an act that is done in disobedience to God coupled with a refusal to repent or seek forgiveness.  And good is defined as repelling evil with that which is better to elevate one and the other.

 

God's grace is behind our good deeds, and not our own selves.  Hence, hate the sin and the not sinner, lest God strips you from grace.  And pray for the guidance of the sinner.  "Many an act of disobedience that produces brokenness is better than one act of obedience with pride."  So a good person who sins and repents is closer to God than someone who does a good deed, attributes the good deed to himself and looks down on others.

 

In the Qur'an there is a passage that describes a dialogue between God and the Angels, on the creation of Adam.

 

The passage reads...

 

"Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: 'I will create a vicegerent on earth.' They said: 'Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?' He said: 'I know what ye know not.'"

 

The passage illustrates - that good and bad are not images.  There are many underlying dimensions that we cannot see.  Shaykh Habib Ali Al Jifri discussed this verse at an interfaith conference at Yale Divinity school in July 2008. Habib Ali explained, "human beings are God's chosen vicegerents on earth.”  Despite the reality that we, as witnessed by the Angels, make mischief and shed blood, God still had a good opinion of humanity.  Habib Ali said, “God did not negate, that the human being might commit corruption but what he did affirm was the divine wisdom for the human being to be on earth."

 

Habib Ali discussed how religion that came from God, came to guide humankind as well as solve their problems.  However, it has become a part of the problem.  Habib Ali called on the congregants to reestablish religion as a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.  "We need to respect the differences between us."

 

You can view his full speech at session 3&4 at

http://www.yale.edu/divinity/video/commonword/video.shtml

 

As Habib Ali explains in his speech, God veils us when we commit many sins.  If He was to expose us, it would be difficult for us to sit with each other.  And God does not define us by our personal failings and flaws, but by our human potential.  That when we connect to God - we humans have the potential to rise at a higher station before God than even the Angels.

 

Imagine someone weak without a support group, with a lack of resources, coping skills, and looked down upon.  Add a cocktail of ignorance, social and economic injustice, lack of education, poverty and the like to that experience, and ask yourself - what is the possibility that some in such a situation will be swayed in the wrong direction?

 

Although God is aware of the human flaws and potential to do mischief and shed blood, He gives continual opportunities for an appointed time to nurture, cultivate and guide the human being to a higher station.  Likewise are good people.

 

We all slip and fall and act in violation of our values.  Good people repent and repair the harm, whereas others project and blame, and refuse to repent.  A person who does not repent often is considered someone who does not have a station with God.

 

In weakness Muslims remind each other of Islamic teachings:

 

Injustices are a result of not living with God, not because there are evil people that we need to blow up.  We have NO POWER, and that all power resides with God.

 

Witnessing injustice means that God is teaching us His clear signs that to live lives of injustice and without mercy is to live in opposition to God's love and mercy, which is enough to earn His wrath and punishment.  Some people don't learn and do unto others what was done unto them.

 

Utopia does not exist.  Trials and tribulations are expected.  The more you are loved by God, the more trials.  Accept reality and try to understand it, and then try to change it beginning with self first.

 

Surrender yourself to God’s love, mercy and wisdom.  Problems are solved at the roots, so seek knowledge, insight so that you can understand what is happening around you. The purpose of life is to know, worship and serve God.

 

To those who are strong and have power, we remind them, not to look down on those who are weak.  We further remind them not to define the weak by their flaws and personal failings - sending them a message that they are worthless and can never get things right.  In reality, the power and strength they possess is a test to see if they will give thanks to God.

 

We further remind each other of the humility and gratitude righteous people such as Prophet Solomon, upon him peace.  Prophet Solomon, upon him peace was given a gift of power and kingdom that no other human being had.  When he was passing - an ant ran in fear of being crushed by him.  He heard the speech of the ants and smiled. 

 

He responded with a prayer to God.  It is a prayer that shows his humility, his connection to God and his sincere gratitude for the good works he does and the gifts he has.  He seeks the source of gratitude, God, to sincerely give gratitude to God and to fulfill the requirements of the power and influence given to him by God.

 

"At length, when they came to a (lowly) valley of ants, one of the ants said: 'O ye ants get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you (under foot) without knowing it.'  So he smiled, amused at her speech; and he said: 'O my Lord! so order me that I may be grateful for Thy favors which Thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents and that I may work the righteousness that will please you: and admit me by your Grace, to the ranks of your righteous Servants.'"

 

As Albright said, we need to look at the causes of the problems between us and engage in a dialogue of mutual interests and mutual respect. 

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