Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf,Founder, Cordoba Initiative. UN Photo Paulo Filgueiras.Paulo Filgueiras

The Great Commandment

It is customary for Muslims to begin by invoking the name of God, Allah. In the Name of God, the One God, the All Merciful, the All Compassionate, the God not only of Muslims but the God of all, the God of all of creation. The God of Adam and Noah, the God of Abraham, the God of Ishmael and Isaac, the God of Moses and Aaron, the God of John the Baptist, the God of Jesus Christ and his dear mother Mary, the most righteous of all women, and the God of Muhammad, may God’s peace and blessings be upon all of these noble prophets and messengers.

My dear brothers and sisters, in talking of the common good, it is God, our creator, who is the absolutely good. It is God who is our common ground as the absolute good, and it is in God’s commandments that we can define the common good and the common imperative to all.

As has been previously mentioned, in the Jewish, the Christian, and the Muslim traditions – and in all traditions, in fact – all the commandments of God are enfolded into two major commandments: to love our God, our creator, with all the aspects of our human being, with all our hearts, all our minds, all of our souls, and all of our strength, and to love our neighbors – that is, our fellow human beings – as we love ourselves. Upon these two commandments, Jesus Christ said, hang all of the law and all of the prophets.

Now I don’t have time to go into the Islamic fundamentals of law, but in fact the doctors of law of Islam have divided all of law into laws pertaining to acts of worship or the love of God, and laws pertaining to how we deal with each other and with the rest of nature. Love is in fact the basis of all law, according to Jesus Christ.

In fact, in the hadith of the Prophet, the commandment to be good not only to human beings but to even all of creation is indicated in a couple of hadiths or stories.

here is a hadith in one version of which a prostitute who was very thirsty went, found a well, and quenched herself from the well. When she came up she saw a thirsty dog; out of compassion for the dog she took her shoe and let the dog drink, and because of this act God forgave her all her sins. Such is the importance of being good to all of creation.

In our tradition we have a great tradition of love. Al-Harith b. Asad al-Muhasibi, a ninth-century mystic born in Basra, said,

Best let the sinner grieve and fear,
When he would turn to God in prayer;
The heart obedient and pure
Alone in love may dwell secure;
But they that know are wise
Look unto God with yearning eyes.

He describes God in this way:
He hath His chosen few,
Inspired to love him true;
Elect, expressly so
In ages long ago;
Elect, or ever He
Fashioned them forth to be
The vessels of His Love,
His benefits to prove.

And all of you here, my brothers and sisters, I strongly believe are among the elect who believe in the power of love.

But in spite of such a rich heritage of love in my faith, it is indeed a tragedy that in recent times my faith has become associated and branded with terrorism and extremism. The real battle front is not between Muslims and the West, or Muslims and Jews, or Muslims and Hindus. The real battle front is between all of the moderates of all faith traditions on one hand, against all of the extremists of all of the faith traditions on the other.

I wish to take a moment to salute the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, for championing an initiative called the Global Movement of Moderates that seeks to bring together all moderates of all faith traditions who believe in this message of moderation to combat the extremists within all our faith traditions.

With an equal sense of gratitude, that I also salute the leadership of Qatar in the Arab Peace Initiative seeking to bring about an end to conflict in various parts of the Arab world, including in Darfur, Libya, and Syria.

May God bless you and bless you for your efforts of bringing about love, peace and harmony.

I wish to conclude my remarks with a prayer from the opening chapter of the Qur’an, both in English and in Arabic. I shall recite a translation of it by the 19th century traveler, Sir Richard Burton:

In the name of God, the compassionating, the compassionate, praise be to God, who all the worlds made. The compassionating, the compassionate. King of the day of fate. You we worship and from you we seek aid. Guide us on the path that is straight, the path of those upon whom thy blessings are great, not the path of those upon whom is hate nor those who deviate.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is the Founder of the Cordoba Initiative, an independent, multi-faith, and multi-national project that works with state and non-state actors to improve Muslim-West relations. Programs include the Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow and the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality, which empowers Muslim women globally. In 1997, he founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement. Imam Feisal is a Trustee of the Islamic Center of New York and a Vice Chair on the board of the Interfaith Center of New York. Imam Feisal has received many interfaith awards, and in April 2011 Time Magazine named him among the 100 most influential people of the world. Born of Egyptian parentage and educated in England, Egypt, and Malaysia, Imam Feisal holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Columbia University in New York and a Master of Science in Plasma Physics from Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

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