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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Peace Conference Lecture

The following is a lecture delivered by Imam Ben Bilal from Jamaica, NY on June 7th, 2009.  It was at an inter-faith conference. 

With Allah’s Name, The Merciful Benefactor, The Merciful Redeemer
Sunday, June 7th, 2009
Hosted by: The Ahmadiyyah Community of Bait-uz-Zafar
Guest Speaker: Imam Benjamin Bilal
of the Human Restoration Center
142-64 Rockaway Boulevard, Jamaica, N.Y.
            Greetings to our gracious hosts here at Baituz Zafar and greetings to all of the inter-faith participants on the dais as well as in the audience of listeners. I greet all of you in the universal greetings of peace; As Salaamu ‘Alaykum! Peace be upon you all!
“Salaam” in Arabic means the same as the word “shalom” in Hebrew, and in fact, as most of you know, they are sister languages within the Semitic group of languages. This word, which is commonly translated as “peace,” also alludes to the concept of “wholeness” or “completeness”. So, As Salaamu ‘Alaykum and Shalom Alaychem not only mean “May Peace be upon you,” but also, “May wholeness or completeness be upon you.”
The human being is a composite being. None of us are simply one thing. The human life is multi-faceted and stratified, and for that reason, all of the major concerns involving how human life is to be lived are addressed by G-d in our respective Scriptures and historical sacred writings. Our Scriptures speak specifically to, not only our physical or material concerns, but more importantly, our collective mental, moral, social and spiritual concerns.
Muslim is not an ethnic group, nor a geographical location; nor is its identity the prized possession of Arabs or Arabic-speaking people alone. The Qur’an was revealed to Muhammed the Prophet over 14 centuries ago in order to provide guidance for the completion of man’s life as a social/spiritual entity on earth. It is a Book for any who believes in a Creator and who also believes in ultimate accountability to that Creator. You do not have to be a Muslim proper in order to quote from and benefit from the guidance in the Qur’an. If you don’t believe me, ask President Barack Obama.
Paraphrasing the words of Muhammed the Prophet, may prayers and peace be upon him; Every human child is born upon the fitrah which is the natural pattern inherent in created matter, but it is man’s fabricated environment that subsequently causes him or her to veer away from that original pattern. All religions, including Islam, have been victimized by those who assumed to know better than G-d how human life is to be motivated and directed. Some have even chosen to pervert G-d’s words for those ends. But in the process of perverting G-d’s Word, the image of what a true human being is got corrupted also. As a consequence, many of the people who claim religion do so believing that they are G-d’s favorite because of race, geographical location, special instruction, or some other perceived favor.
According to Muhammed the Prophet’s teachings, there is no superiority of a white over a black, or a black over a white, or of an Arab over a non-Arab or a non-Arab over an Arab. The only superiority is in moral regardfulness called “taqwa” in the Qur’an. This sense of regardfulness educates the soul by promoting good-will and selfless service to humanity, and will not allow, race, ethnicity, language, geography, gender, age, or any other false division to hinder one’s self from promoting freedom, justice and equality among fellow human beings.
Like many so-called “black” people in this country, I use to believe that “Islam” was the private possession of blacks and that we were in fact, the only legitimate race on earth with the only approved “religion”. These were teachings that were taught to a black man in Detroit, Michigan named Elijah Poole, later re-named Elijah Muhammad, and these teachings were given to us, through him, beginning in the early 1930s. The originator of these teachings, however, was a man called W.D. Fard who immigrated to this country from what would later come to be known as Pakistan.
Mr. Fard’s teachings represented a uniquely strange blend of Black Nationalism, mysticism, geology, mathematics and eastern mythology wrapped up in Islamic terminology. However, he left hints and clues in his peculiar brand of what he called “Islam” that we believe were designed to eventually bring us into the universal fold of Islam as it is presented within the pages of the Qur’an and the life example of Muhammed the Prophet.
I cannot possibly chronicle for you how this evolution from Elijah Muhammad’s teachings to where we are today happened in the small amount of time we have for this presentation. You can learn about that history alongside countless other subjects by attending our class called: “The Sacred & Secret Language of Religion and Culture,” held every Sunday at 1:00PM at the Human Restoration Center, 142-64 Rockaway, Boulevard in Jamaica, NY. Suffice it to say that, the progression from race-based ideology to our present universal perception of mankind was fulfilled for us in the mission of our late and honorable leading imam, Imam Wallace. D. Mohammed, the son of the late and honorable Elijah Muhammad. Imam W. D. Mohammed passed from this life on September 9th, 2008.
During his tenure as leader, Imam Mohammed continued to systematically dismantle those notions in his father’s teachings that were inconsistent with Qur’anic logic while continuing to promote the good moral behavior and industrious thinking that his father had worked so hard to institute in his followers. Beginning in 1975, Imam Mohammed worked to establish inter-faith dialogue and cooperation among all groups of ethnic and religious people.
That is just a brief peak into the miracle that G-d performed on us in the last 30 years right before your eyes, in America! Upon accepting the mantle of leadership, Imam Mohammed’s first major lecture was entitled: “Remake the World”. Coincidently, that happens to be a favorite phrase of our current president.
My concluding message is to Muslims all over the world: Let us do our best to remain true to our label. Our Muslim identity is our human identity. Let us as Muslims regain the true human spirit we had that contributed towards the advancement of peoples in Africa and Asia and whose sciences helped bring Europe out of the so-called Dark Ages. Let us remember the ethical, cultural and scientific leadership Muslims exhibited as the leading influence in Spain for close to 700 years.
 In the Qur’an, Allah says to protect the houses of worship of any people wherein the name of the Creator is pronounced. Let us not continue to fall victim to the age-old trick of Shaytan to bury us under fancy terminology and rhetoric while our original and essential human form suffers dissipation due to neglect.
If we do not utilize the fine precepts given to us in our Sacred Book and in the excellent human model of Muhammed the Prophet, we as Muslims will begin to exude that which is putrid, stale and unworthy of the label, “Muslim” although the kufi, the khimar, the jalabiyyah, the Arabic names, etc. still carry the label, “Muslim”. And this is what happens to people of various faith groups, whenever they choose to pay more attention to labels than to substance.
Let us all rally around one label: “Human”! And let us bring our sensitivities and sensibilities back to that which is pleasing to the Creator and which serves the best interest of all creatures; a sacred regard for all, and the promotion of human excellence.
This Peace Conference is a great example contributing towards that effort. Bait-uz- Zafar, keep up the good work. Thank you. As Salaamu ‘Alaykum!


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