Hear my words, remember them and repeat them to your children. I give them for free, with no profit to me, because that is how I got them, and they must be given without profit in order to have value. (That's the long definition of a Gift.)
I give thanks to Allah for introducing me to Islam before He introduced me to Muslims.
I have been a muslim for ten years now (al-hamdu-lillah), and as I approach my 46th birthday, I have come to realize just what that means.
One of the many things that distinguishes a muslim from the Great Unwashed Masses is that we practice Islam, which is not just a Religion, but a Way of Life.
One of the many things that distinguishes one muslim from another is the way in which they practice Islam.
For example, some will eat a burger from a national fast-food chain, some will shun the "incorrectly slaughtered" beef (it didn't get prayed over when it's throat got cut) but eat the fish or the chicken, and others will shun these chains except for a salad with no flesh of dead animal on it, or because they think there might be pig-fat in the sandwich buns.
The latter group of muslims also do not allow a television set in their homes because of the depravity of the feminine hygene and underwear commercials. I'll discuss that in more detail under the heading of Flat-Earth Muslims.
One of my first brothers in Islam, who witnessed my shahada, taught me the saying I quoted in my opening. After ten years of using that mantra whenever I met an anal retentive muslim, I have a true insight why there is a need for both the Ameican Muslim Council (AMC) and the Islamic Society of North America.
Brother Mustafa was from Sinapore. He was second generation native-born (Malaysian/Indonesian) British civil servant. A lot of the brothers in the community where I made shahada we from countries where the British Empire had expanded in the 19th Century and created the greatest civil service beaurocracy since the Roman Empire.
When the British built the railroad from Cairo to Cape Town, they imported Indians and Pakistanis in both military and civil service capacities, i.e., as the foremen and supervisors. There is a large third-generation Pakistani muslim population that grew up in their grand-parent's homes in Uganda, only to be forced to flee when Idi Amin expelled all "Asians" from the country a few decades ago. I know many Urdu speaking muslims who arrived in this country with South African and British Guyanan passports. Their grandparents were born in Lahore, and they still return to visit cousins who live there now, as their parents did.
So, here I am, this American-born muslim who was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, an Eagle Scout who was personally decorated by the Archbishop of Washington at the age of 13. How did I come to be a muslim and to practice islam? A Sout is Clean. A Scout is Reverent.
Some People will not allow the flesh of dead animals to violate the Sacred Temple of Their Body. Some people (alas, myself included) are willing to desecrate that same glorious Gift from Allah by inhaling the smoke of burning leaves. (Hey, if it's not forbidden, then it's either permitted or required.)
Some Muslims feel that abstaining from smoking tobacco as part of their Ramadan fast is a Good Thing. I have made an affirmation that (insha-Allah) I will stop smoking this Ramadan, and use the month to de-tox in the company of non-smoking muslims as we practice our islam. 'Nuff said.
I recently attended a testimonial banquet for His Emminence Cardinal Keeler, the Archbishop of Baltimore. He was being honored on behalf of his efforts on inter-faith dialogs. As a former Roman Catholic, I made it a point to introduce myself to him.
As an American, I have long had an interest in the diversity of American culture, and thank Allah five times a day that I live here rather than somewhere else in the world today. As a member of an American minority group that was imported to North America just as Pakistanis were exported around the world by the British, I have long had an interest in Native American culture, especially their spirituality.
When I was a teenager in the 1960s, I got to spend a summer crossing the country by bus and spent a few weeks in the Sangre de Christo (Blood of Christ) Mountains of New Mexico. There is a special magic to the deserts of the American Southwest. When you stand on a mesa on a moonless night, and can see the heavens from horizon to horizon, you finally realize what they mean by Big Sky Country ... the first words that came to my mind were "God's Country".
After you've been there, the second thing you notice about the City is that you can't see the sky. (The first thing is the Odor of Man.) You feel crowded and trapped even on an empty street ... if it isn't buildings, there's still trees in the way. You seek out roof tops, but there's still the hills and all of the light pollution that keeps you from seeing the Milky Way, or seeing constellations that you know are at least two hand-spans (twenty degrees) above the horizon.
The Berbers of Atlas Mountains of Northwest Africa have a saying ... The Sahara is a garden that Allah made for Himself so that He could be alone with His thoughts
Some Muslims feel that this is sacralige because it implies that Allah needs to "get away from it all". Others feel that if you take the Creation Story literally, and believe that He rested after creating the Universe As We Know It, then this answers the obvious question, "So just where did He rest?" In the Celestial Hammock, or the Great Barcolounger in the Sky perhaps? I don't think so! The Sahara is a "good enough" place for me. That's God's Country ... don't go there! But if you must, then trust in His Mercy to protect you while in His Prescence.
My Cimmeron Summer was the first time I assisted a Roman Caatholic Mass with a log for an alter. The road had been washed out by a flash-flood, so the priest was flown into the campsite by heilocopter instead of coming by jeep I guess the folding table wouldn't fit in the chopper. I still had my Faith in those days, but my curiosity for Navajo sandpaintings overcame my catholic admonission to "avoid the near occassion of sin" by participating in "pagan rituals" or even the worship services of other christian denominations. <sigh!>
I found that the Navajo world-view is not the polytheism that I had been taught in school and in Popular Culture. Native Americans did not worship the forces of nature and the spirits of animals. What they call the Holy People (Mother Earth and Father Sky, Big Thunder, etc.) are very much like angels or djinn in that they, like human beings, are subject to the Will of the Great Spirit, the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. They are creatures of spirit, not flesh, and we can beseach their intersecession with The Big Kahuna (Allah by another Name) on our behalf.
Sandpaintings are used in healing ceremonies. The faith-healer (shaman or medicine man) creates an image of one of the Holy People and sings a chant to summon them to view their own likeness in the colored sand. If they are pleased with the offerings of respect, they are obligated to reciprocate with kindness and generosity by restoring hozo (balance) to the afflicted one's energy, which is the root cause of their illness.
It cannot be explained by modern medical science, but if the research is to be believed, the recovery rate is remarkable in that it falls outside of normally expected sampling error, so that it cannot be denied that some supernatural agency is at work. This is, after all, the definition of a miraculous recovery.
The Native American spiritual experience is a rich tapestry that reflects the diversity of their cultures. The nomadic life of the Prairie Indians who followed the buffalo with horses, the sedentary cliff-dwelling life of the Southwst Indians with their homes of stone and brick, the Woodland Indiands, and the Pacific Northwest Indians ... all so different, but with so much in common ... their reverence for the Great Spirit, the things He created, and that we are but custodians, with a responsibility to honor His Gifts by not wasting or destroying them ... to "walk in beauty".
As an American-born muslim, I would like to see the "inter-faith dialogs" open to include non-Abrahamic beliefs, because even though we may only agree to disagree on some points, we each can learn much about ourselves by trying to learn about others, and as muslims living in America, we would be failing our responsibilities if we ignored the culture that was nearly annihilated by the European Invasion.
As a closing thought, there has been speculation among both European and Islamic scholars that muslims from West Africa may have reached Central America as early as the Vikings are supposed to have reached North America, i.e., in the 11th Century C.E. (4th Century A.H.). Some say that Aztecs wiped out the vestigal muslim community before the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, but retained many of their ideas and habits.
That is all I have to say. -=DAH=- 14-Dec-95
[ Sidebar (A short Tell): Many of the Spanish settlers in California and Mexico (New Spain) were clandestine Jews. Forced by the Holy Inquisition in 1492 to publicly renounce their Judaism, they enlisted in the military to gain passage to the New World, staked their claims, and sent for their families. Although we think of the Spanish colonization of the American Southwest (they introduced the horse to North America, forever changing the lives of the migratory Plains Indians) as a Catholic invasion because of the missionary zeal which which churches were built, there were families which kept the traditions of the sadar, the Friday night "sabbath" meal, and their Easter and Christmas had more of a Passover and Chanukah about them, like using a minnora as a Christmas decoration, or celebrating a Good Friday Supper rather than Easter Supper. ]
Last update: 17-Jan-96 by firstname.lastname@example.org <Who is this "Dennette" person?>