Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim brothers and sisters. Upon the request of our beloved family friend Talay Mamu (uncle), I had the blessed honor of delivering the Eid sermon at the Stamford Islamic Center in Connecticut. Like many other Islamic Centers across the U.S., the Muslim community here is largely comprised of individuals who migrated from the South Asian subcontinent primarily to attain a stable means of livelihood for themselves and their families.
To lead men and women, some of whom are now well into their 70s and 80s was extremely humbling as it was these very people who came to this country 20 or more years ago and began building from the ground up many of our faith-based institutions of today. Although organizational improvements for any community center are always needed, the fact is my portion of the prayer rug where God allowed me to place my forehead on the ground in submission to Him on this day is a reality I owe to these elders. It is a reality that only exists because these people, people of other immigrant communities and my Black brothers and sisters who have been here for generations prioritized a submission to a Creator that gave them purpose to act and build for a purpose that exceeded the transitory demands of this world.
I have much to learn in deepening my knowledge of my faith tradition, but if there is one thing that stuck with me today, it was the sheer joy brought to the hearts of these esteemed elders who saw someone young that they believed was striving to continue the work they began. It made me think about my role and the role of my peers in contributing to Muslim communities in America and our potential impact on our future generations.
To all my fellow brothers and sisters in faith, regardless if you are a convert, your family immigrated to this country, your family has been in the U.S. for centuries or you have your own unique circumstance, your Muslim community needs you in ways you may not know. It is dangerous to think that one needs to possess a certain level of ‘religiosity’ or come from a certain racial background to be able to contribute because our stability can only exist through a diverse network of congregants working and addressing issues together. Our faith communities need to be informed by your personal narrative, your strengths, your weaknesses and your struggles as these factors all combine to produce a collective, holistic view of how our people function not only as Muslims but as human beings with various identities in this country.
I know our Muslim communities are not devoid of issues like racism, classism and sexism but I am optimistic only because I have witnessed firsthand men and women across this country push through these and larger institutional barriers and utilize their unique passions for acting, teaching or working with formerly incarcerated individuals to strengthen their respective Muslim communities. I have seen how their inspiring work has shifted the culture of their places of worship along with their local populations and ultimately led to more people, including those of other belief systems feeling comfortable, welcomed and supported in these spaces.
To give a sermon is a privilege, but the meaningful work of improving and refining our institutions requires a continuous commitment and sincere effort that will often go unnoticed by the masses. As we often hear amid our current political climate, it is not solely our current generation that we are working for but the generations to follow. The smallest steps will undoubtedly add to a collective progress that those whom we know and those whom we shall never know will benefit from and build upon. It is the faith of knowing that God will not allow to be lost the reward of those who do any good.
It is truly up to us to be relentless in discovering new ways our Muslim communities can be more inclusive, more socially and civically active and ultimately a home in which we can further cultivate a deeper and more sincere relationship with God, with humanity and with ourselves.