Interview With:Students of Eight Grad Four Rivers Charter Public School, Greenfield MA
I was born in Lebanon, I liked to study religion, and I finished my Bachelor and Master degrees in Islamic law. Becoming an Imam was God’s choice. God put it in my heart to serve in thisposition. I have been Imam since 1987. It’s a matter of a contract between me and the community. I try to help the community; it’s a big responsibility. It is our responsibility to try to help a person to be righteous, to be beneficial, and to do some good in the world. This is the only power we have, the only real power. When we see somebody who is ignorant, we teach them. When we see someone who is a bad influence we try to show them a good example. I try to teach my community to be like the prophet Muhammad: merciful to all mankind. My ambition is to present the real image of the Muslim. Now, especially in this dark time for the Muslims, people need examples, not speeches.
Islam’s core message is this: to have good manners in all aspects: with God, with people, and in politics in all ways. The prophet Mohammad said, “I was sent to complete the highest degree of good manners.” He came after Jesus, Moses, Abraham and the other prophets – Peace be upon them all-, and he was completing the work they started. We believe in the only God, the God of Abraham, Jesus, Moses, and Mohammad, the only One who sent those prophets. They are His closest servants, beloved by God; they are the greatest prophets.
Islam means surrendering your will to the Will of Allah and consists of two parts: justice and mercy. There are six goals in Islam, as well.
The first is Allah (God). When you talk about God you talk about the One who made us, Allah. God is the most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, the One who we return to, and the One who helps the needy and fixes the broken hearts. There is no one more beloved than God. If you study His attributes- Justice, Mercy and Compassion – and you are sincere, then you will be able to see His way. When you hear the call to prayer, this is what it means: “Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest. I bear witness that no one other has the right to be worshiped beside Him, the Almighty Allah. I bear witness that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah.”
The second is the sacred nature of life in all aspects. In Islam, if anyone kills an innocent personit is as ifhe or she killed all humanity. If someone saves a life it is as ifthey saved all life since the creation of Adam to the Day of Judgment.
The third is intellect. Learning is sacred in Islam! God ordered us to read in his name. That is the problem today; people do not read in His name. Some people learn for material things; they do not read to know Him, to seek the truth. Allah forbade anything that affects the intellect (like liquorand drugs) whether material or psychological.
The fourth goal is family. In Islam, you cannot leave children without parents; children must know their parents. They must be loved and cared for and guided to become good people. God forbids anything that is harmful to families.
The fifth is related to property. Property is sacred; no one can take your property. In Islam, there is no concept of communal property. You can grow as much wealth as you want but you must pay 2.5 % to the poorannually.
The sixth is freedom. No one can force anyone else to believe. God gave us freedom to choose and will judge us not people. This is very important! When Islam used to rule, Christians, Muslims and Jews and others, people lived together, peacefully, under Islamic law (Sharia’h). There were no clashes between religions or sects, and why was this? This was because we know you cannot force people to have the same beliefs or opinions. God will judge.
The majority of Muslims in the world are the followers of the Sunni tradition. This means the tradition of the prophet himself. The Shiite are, originally, Sunni, but long ago they gave their political pledge to Imam Ali – may Allaah be please with him-, and from there the Shiite emerged. Shiites, generally, are our Muslims brothers and they pray with us in this center. The Sunni look at people as people; we do not judge people by the names they carry. Our center is open to everyone.
Muslims in America are paying for the political problems elsewhere. I myself was terrorized in the middle of the night; vandals threw things at my windows. Also people have vandalized the signs of the mosque, but I think they were children, teenagers. Teenagers see a woman wearing a veil like Mary and shout “go back home!”. The one they saw is fourth generation American. America is her home. Where should she go? These children are affected by the media. In the media, Muslims are made out to be like scarecrows,and villains to frighten people. The political point of view is beyond my capacity, but from a religious point of view, I don’t believe there is any problem. The political issues are the problem. Muslims have no religious problem with Christians, Jews or anyone else. It is the political games that cause the problems.
My ancestors migrated to the U.S. four generations ago. I have the right to feel at home here as anybody, but I find myself estranged because of my faith. I know that the Muslims are not the first “other” in the U.S.A.; the Irish came before us, and before them the Africans. The history of the “other” is well known in the U.S.A. and until the “others” learn to stand up, with law, for themselves and their rights, they will remain outcasts. Muslims are, generally, not interested in politics and their only concern is live in peace and bring up their children in a peaceful country. Muslim children who are born here – where should they go? This is their home. It is ignorance that inspires people to say such things.People must get their facts right and not simply be swayed by propaganda.