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Real Interfaith Started with Prophet Muhammad (s)

Mawlana Shaykh Hisham Kabbani

21 January 2013 Ilford, UK

Interfaith Dialogue at Ilford Islamic Center (2)

It’s an honor to be here. Bismillahi 'r-Rahmani 'r-Raheem. Alhamdulillah rabbi ‘l-`alameen wa ‘s-salaatu wa ‘s-salaam `ala asharafa ‘l-mursaleen sayyidina nabiyyina Muhammad wa `ala aalihi wa sahbihi ajma`een. Alhamdilillahi ‘Lladhee sharafanaa wa `atana mimmaa laa `aynun ra'at wa laa udhunun sami`at wa laa khatar `ala qalbi bashar, `atanaa min muhabati ‘l-habeebi ‘l-mustafa, `alayhi afdalu ‘s-salaatu wa ‘s-salaam, ma amkana an yatashafa` lanaa an nadkhuli ’l-jannah. Narjullah `azza wa jal an yajma`ana da`iman `alaa muhabati ‘l-habeebi ‘l-mustafa, `alayhi afdalu ‘s-salaatu wa ‘s-salaam dunya wa akhirah.

Sometimes I come to an event not prepared and so I am not prepared. So before I begin, they asked me to introduce to you this CD, “Eternity” from Pearls of Islam, with a collection of songs from around the world and the revenue goes to support a masjid, so don’t go without buying one in order to help their cause. And this one is from az-Zahra Ensemble, seven girls fifteen to sixteen years of age put qasaa’id praising the Prophet (s) with drumming, not belly dancing, but real qasida drumming! So make sure you get one before you leave.

A`oodhu billahi min ash-Shaytaani 'r-rajeem. Bismillahi 'r-Rahmaani 'r-Raheem.

Nawaytu 'l-arba`een, nawaytu 'l-`itikaaf, nawaytu 'l-khalwah, nawaytu 'l-`uzlah,

nawaytu 'r-riyaadah, nawaytu 's-sulook, lillahi ta`alaa fee haadha 'l-masjid.

أَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ

Atee`oollaha wa atee`oo 'r-Rasoola wa ooli 'l-amri minkum.

Obey Allah, obey the Prophet, and obey those in authority among you. (Surat an-Nisa, 4:59)

Islam is something that we don't understand and people are not understanding it as it should be. Islam is--we can hear a lot about love, peace and this and that--but Islam and when we say salaam, “As salaamu `alaykum,” it means, “May Heavens bless you.” So when we say, “May Heaven bless you,” and it is a word ordered by the Prophet (s) and the Companions (r), and when someone says, “Heaven bless you,” or “Peace be upon you,” for sure in Islamic tradition, you will be dressed with a heavenly dress at that moment because when Prophet (s) was sitting, the Companions (r) were always moving; they used to come and greet him with “Salaam `alaykum,” and then return back to face him and say again, “Salaam `alaykum,” to get that peace repeatedly. They did not get tired from saying, “Salaam `alaykum,” and Prophet (s) was not tired from sending back salaam to them. When Prophet sent back salaam to them, that is a heavenly salutation that no one knows or can imagine what kind of heavenly rewards it is carrying with it. And so let us say, “Salaam `alaykum,” as we cannot understand what kind of rewards come on us with it. [Audience says, “Salaam.”] And similarly, every human being must show respect. When I say, “Salaam `alaykum,” I show respect to you and when you say salaam back, you show respect to me. That is why the Prophet (s) said, afshoo as-salaam, it means, “Make that heavenly peaceful reward,” which is coming from Heavens. In that word “afsha,” which is afsha as-silm, or afsha as-sirr, there is a secret. “Afsha” in Arabic means to expose something that is not known. So afshoo as-salaam means, “Expose what is in it of rewards that Allah will bless you with on Judgment Day.” So the meaning is so deep that we are stunned and astonished when we say, “Salaam `alaykum.”

Like in the Jewish religion they say, “Shalom aleichem,” and the Sha becomes Seen (in Arabic), so only one letter is different. So afshoo as-salaam is the Prophet's saying, a call to humanity, to everyone. He didn't say, “Only to Muslims,” so it is to anyone with whom you want to build bridges you say salaam to them and you have to expose yourself in a good manner of what you have in your heart towards him when you shake hands. What do you have when you shake hands with someone? You cannot shake hands with your heart filled with hatred, which is why they call it, “Interfaith Dialogue,” which means “to keep fellowship.”

The Prophet (s) said in a famous hadith of Abu Hurayrah (r), an tasila man qata`ak, “Reconnect with the one who cut you off,” make connections with each other. So it is our duty as Muslims to make connections with other faiths. Who was the first to make interfaith in the world? I will tell you a story and you can think about it. I believe the first to make interfaith was Prophet Muhammad (s). When he was young, he passed by monasteries and synagogues when he was trading on behalf of his wife, Sayyida Khadija (r). People say ladies are not honored in Islam. Who says? This is a speculation when you say Islam doesn't give respect to women and if the Muslims today don't do that, then it's not Islam. So he was on a trade mission for his wife and he used to pass by monks and priests and build bridges with them and learn about their beliefs and discuss religion even before he was a prophet. Before he reached the age of forty, he was doing interfaith.

What is interfaith? Interfaith is a duty on every person. Now we do interfaith because we see a lot of danger around the world, but in reality, for a Jew, a Muslim or a Christian, or any other faith, it is a duty for them to build bridges; it is a heavenly message. Just now he read the verse:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا

Yaa ayyuha ’n-naasu innaa khalaqnaakum min dhakarin wa unthaa wa ja`lnaakum shu`ooban wa qabaaila li-ta`aarafoo.

O Mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. (Surat al-Hujuraat, 49:13)

He said, “O Human Beings,” He didn’t say, “O Muslims.” “We made you into nations and tribes,” to do what? To know each other, to build bridges!

وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً

Wa law shaa Allahu lajaa`lakum ummatan wahidatan,

If Allah wished He would have made you one nation. (Surat al-Maa’ida, 5:48)

But He made us into different nations. Rabbi, for example, you are a doctor of internal medicine, he is a radiologist, he is a neurologist, and they all speak with each other to diagnose the patient. We are patients, all of us, and if we don’t have dialogue between doctors of spiritual realms or of really understanding the meanings of the verses of the Holy Qur'an, the meaning of the Torah and the meaning of the Bible, how are we going to diagnose (build) a bridge? The Prophet (s) made dialogue, as it is very well known according to the Islamic faith that Prophet (s), on the Night of Ascension, Laylatu ‘l-Mi`raaj, when the Prophet (s) ascended to his Lord, the Lord ordered his nation to do fifty prayers a day. On his way down, when he was returning back to Earth from Heaven, he passed by Sayyidina Musa (a), Moses, and this is documented.

Moses (a) asked him, “O my brother Muhammad! What command did your Lord give to your nation? I tried my nation a lot with the Ten Commandments and they failed to observe them.”

So the Prophet (s) said, “My Lord gave me fifty prayers.”

And you see the dialogue between Moses, the prophet of the Jewish nation, and Sayyidina Muhammad, the Seal of Messengers, the prophet of the Muslim nation and all of humanity and every prophet sent to humanity!

So Moses said to Prophet Muhammad (s), “Oh my brother! They will not pray fifty! You should ask your Lord to reduce it.”

Prophet Muhammad (s) said, “No, I cannot go back, I feel shy.”

He said, “No, from here where I am you can ask and Allah will accept, I know that from before.”

And Prophet (s) was happy, he said, “Yaa Rabbee! Reduce it for the sake of my brother, Musa (a).”

And so the Prophet (s) asked and Allah said, “I am reducing the prayers by five,” and Prophet told Moses that it was reduced.

Moses said, “No, bargain to reduce it more because they are still not going to pray those.”

And so the Prophet (s) asked again, saying, “On the advice of my brother Moses, I am asking to reduce it again,” and Allah reduced it again!

This dialogue continued until it was reduced to five daily prayers, so is that interfaith dialogue or not? That is from 1400 years ago. The Prophet (s) was under orders to build bridges, the Jewish community was ordered to build bridges, and the Christians are ordered to build bridges. And in Islam, how many sects are there? We need to fix our internal house first. How many sects are there in Christianity and in Judaism? So it is not an easy job, it is very difficult to bring people together.

Today in social meida, Facebook, Twitter and Google are using the Internet because in these social websites they build relationships with each other. How many non-Muslims accept Muslims on social websites and they are fans to each other? And how many Christians have Muslim fans and how many Jewish websites have Christian and Muslim fans? They are interchanging information through Twitter and support each other. In Arabic, that is “taghreeeda,” which means “a bird singing a song.” So we need a taghreeda! When the bird is making taghreed, singing, everyone smiles because it is nice.

Look at human beings, what differentiates them from each other? I am looking at each one here. I am not looking at the head, but from the neck and below all are equal, all are the same. So what is the problem here? The head makes the problem, so take the head out and there will be no problem because the body is okay. Put the head and the body is not functioning. So what do we need to do? Find a wise man, take his head and put it in place of your head and give him yours! So how to do that? It is through interfaith: you go to a wise person and have dialogue with him and learn from him and he changes your head (mind) to be his head.

In Sufism, and I think many people will notice that the student of the leader shaykh, when they are very advanced and stayed many years with the shaykh, you begin to see that the student looks like the shaykh, there is not much difference. If you look from the side it is the shaykh, not the student any more, as he takes on the characteristics of the teacher. That is why the Prophet (s) said:

المؤمن مرآة أخيه

Al-mu’min mi'rraat akheehi.

The believer is the mirror of his brother (or sister).

So by looking in the face of your brother, you see yourself. The shaykh is a mu’min and he reflects his features on you, then the picture becomes like the original.

Once there was a Persian king who had two artists who were very qualified painters. He said, “I want to make competition between you both and see who makes the best painting,” and he put them in a big hall like this and put a curtain between them, one on each side, left and right. The one on the left side was painting and the one on the right side had a sponge and was scrubbing and polishing the wall; one was painting and the other was polishing day and night. So the day of results came and the sultan came and they opened the curtain to the left side painting. It was the Persian miniature done in gold leaf, a very nice painting.

Then he asked the other one, “What do you have?”

He said, “O my king, I did not finish.”

The king said, “No, the competition is over.”

So the artist said, “Open the curtain.”

He opened it and the second artist’s work was shining like a mirror; the whole wall was shining (and reflected perfectly the Persian painting on the opposite wall). The meaning is, if you polish your heart it will copy the origin, it becomes like a mirror. And if you did not polish your heart, you are like someone whose characters are blended with all bad behaviors. So that Persian put all his power to paint, while the other polished himself and his wall until it reflected the original. We are not saying to be original, but at least be a picture of the original. When we observe and follow what they are doing and we win, or else it's a losing situation. Tomorrow we will go and forget about the meeting and what we said.

Allah said, “Don't argue with the People of the Book except in the right way, what is of benefit to both of you.” Don’t argue and say, “You did this and you are extremist,” or, “You are a Jewish extremist, “You are Christian extremist.” No, it is not our duty. To us as Muslims, Allah said, “Don’t argue.”

The Prophet (s) also said, “Don’t argue as argument extinguishes the light of the heart.”

There is no argument in Islam! The student must listen to the teacher and after listening become a teacher. You cannot argue with your brother or sister, but today, because our heads are different everyone wants his own benefit.

The Prophet said:

None of you believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.

How can I say, “The rabbi is wrong,” and not wish from my rabbi what I wish for myself? Don't say, “This one is a Muslim and this one is not.” When people are walking on the street, you don’t know if this one is a Muslim or not so you have to treat everyone equally.

What did the Prophet (s) say?

االناس سواسيه كااسنان المشط

An-naasu sawaasiyatan ka-asnaani' l-masht.

People are equal like the teeth of a comb.

لافرق بين عربي ولا اعجمي الا بالتقوى

Laa farqa bayna `arabiyywa laa `ajamiyy illa bi’t-taqwa.

There is no difference between Arabs and non-Arabs (one race and another) except in piety.

He said, “Human beings are equal and there is no difference between an Arab and non-Arab except through righteousness.” If you are right, you benefit and if you are not right you lose. Mashaa-Allah big men are here and I cannot speak in front of them as I feel shy. So the Prophet (s) said, “Human beings are equal there is no difference between Muslim and non-Muslim, everyone must respect the other.” So what is interfaith? You must first do interfaith with yourself. You might ask, how we do it with ourself? Are we one or two? (One.) We are not one, we are two. No, we are three: mind, body and spirit. The mind conducts everything according to what it wants and its every desire; the body accepts what the mind says and the spirit struggles. So there is continuous struggle between the mind, which dictates the order when it comes as a khaatira, thought. The mind begins to study it and give orders to the body to function. So when the body functions it is either functioning well or badly, and in such meetings the body is functioning well as everyone steps on his bad desires and comes to this meeting. You might ask what is benefit of this meeting; you come and what is it going to change? Will they change anything in this world by this meeting? No they can’t, nothing will change, but interfaith is to change yourself with what you are thinking, then you can build bridges with everyone else. So the problem is that a person does not count what rewards he is going to get if he does this or that, but he has to count every day: account for himself, to ponder for an hour as it is better than worship of seventy years.

Why are you afraid when the tax collector calls and says, “We want to audit you?” There is heavenly income tax and what have you done for it? Are you bankrupt or do you have something for the Heavenly Life? So the problem is that we have bad manners.

The Prophet (s) said:

انما بعثت لاتمم مكارم الاخلاق

Innamaa bu`ithtu li utammimu makaarim al-akhlaaq.

I have been sent to perfect the best of conduct (your behavior and character). (Bazzaar)

To have good manners is to smile in the face of your brother; to laugh is showing good manners, not to be very serious and show hatred towards other people, no! The Prophet (s) didn't say, “I came for shooting each other.” There is a hadith of the Prophet (s) narrated by Abu Hurayrah and related in Sahih Muslim, and Rabbi, this is a very important hadith. On Judgment Day, Allah will first judge three. First, He will judge the shaheed, martyr, and in Islam we say the martyr is higher and goes to Paradise; this is what we believe, but this is not perfect understanding, this is a mistake. Go back and read the hadith. The Prophet (s) said, “The first one to be asked is a martyr.” Everyone of us says that martyrs go to Paradise and that is why people are killing themselves, but the Prophet (s) said that Allah will call that person, saying, “O My servant, what did you do for Me?” Is anyone shaheed here? We are checking, we have to open the news. “What did you do for Me?”

And he says, “I killed in Your way until I became shaheed.”

Allah answers him, “These are the favors I give to My shaheed. What did you do to deserve them?”

He says, “I struggled and fought in Your way.”

Allah answers the shaheed, “You are a liar! You didn't do that for Me, you did that for people to say you are courageous! Take this one to Hellfire!”

And today they are doing that in order to fill their banners in newspapers and TV, saying, “This one did suicide bombing and killed these people.” So how are you shaheed and you are killing in the Way of Allah and killing the innocent people? What does it have to do with the French or English or the German people who are looking after the oil and gas companies in Algeria? Is that Islam? These are liars as described in the hadith. But our scholars, I don’t understand why they don’t bring examples of such hadith, why don’t they explain this? That is why it is important in such interfaith meetings to find such hidden hadith that people don’t use too much and bring them out.

Prophet (s) did not come with a sword; Prophet (s) came with a flower! For seventeen months he prayed facing Jerusalem although the Ka`bah was facing east, not towards Jerusalem, and he did that in order to build bridges. Imam Suyuti said in his explanation, the Prophet (s) did that in order to build bridges between the Christians and the Jews, and he was never tired of sending messages to the Christians and Jews. He made many treaties with them and lived together in Madinah and with the Hindus, the worshipers of statues who were living in Mecca. And what happened when Prophet (s) built bridges? Too many were accepted by them.

O Muslims! It is a duty and Allah is going to ask you, don’t think you are going to be safe. Allah is going to ask, what you have done to build bridges? It is not the duty of the imaam, it is not the duty of the wise men, it is not the duty of the mufti, it is your duty as a citizen of this country! If you are not happy with this country, go back home! If you are happy with this country, you live according to the value of Islam in this country, raising the knowledge, and especially from the young ones, to build bridges in schools and universities. They need to speak to their friends, it is not us, we are finished and the young ones need to do that. Like today Ms. Blears said to Maqsood, “You are going to continue the work with me for fifty years!”

I asked, “He is already sixty and fifty will make him 110 years of age.” (Laughter) Look he is sitting behind, he is humble and did not want to sit in the front.

O Muslims, all people are equal, there is no difference! Look at this gentleman: he has a white turban. I just saw him sitting at the end, he never came to sit at the front, but stayed in the back and he is a royal prince from Malaysia. He is the grandson of the Sultan of Perak of Malaysia, Sultan Azlan Shah. He is humble and looking as if he is at the same level as everyone else. If he goes to his country, the whole country from top to bottom will open the way for him! So when someone wants to begin to make a change, it has to be in that age.

May Allah (swt) guide us inshaa-Allah to have seats in Paradise that have ‘Reserved’ written on them for all of us, for all humanity. If we all pray, “Yaa Rabbee! Let everyone go to Paradise,” at least we may save ourselves as we will go with them, and it might be they are better than us, who knows? But what is the problem? It is the head. Take the head and we are all equal, there is no difference. The head is always open; you cannot close the face. If you go to Ka`bah, can you close your face, man or woman? So when you are sitting and discussing:

يسروا ولا تعسروا ، وبشروا ولا تنفروا

yassiroo wa laa tu`assirroo, wa bashirroo wa laa tanafarroo

Make things simple and don’t make it difficult, give good tidings and don’t drive people away.


if someone wants to come and open her face or close it, it is up to them!

One person came to me yesterday and wanted to become a Muslim, and I was sitting and she was sitting. I said to her, “Say (the Muslim Creed of Faith), Ash-hadu an laa ilaaha illa-Llah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadu ‘r-Rasoolullah.” And she had a scarf and it was very small; you could see her hair, but she had yet to say the Shahaadah and one lady from behind covered her head completely, not only her head but her eyes also! I looked at her. The first lady was embarrassed and did not know what to say, she felt shy and I also didn’t know what to say, I felt shy, and also did not want to make a scene. So why are you trying to give them what they cannot carry and Allah does not burden anyone except with what he can carry!

اَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ

Laa yukallifullahu nafsan illa wus`ahaa lahaa maa kasabat wa `alayhaa ma ’ktasabat.

On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Surat al-Baqarah, 2:286)

I will not be long, but will say one more thing. Allah gave every prophet constituents or else they will be upset and say, “Where are my constituents? What did You send me to be prophet for? I need my constituents!” So Moses has his constituents, Jesus has his own and Prophet Muhammad (s) has his. You have a hat (yarmalke) on your head and it fits you, and he has a qubba. You don’t wear this because it doesn't fit you and he doesn't wear this because it does not fit him. So every prophet has a message that fits his people and what he needs (to complete his mission), so leave people free to follow their prophets and build bridges regardless of what they are!

In Judgment Day we will say, “We believe in Jesus, we believe in Moses and we believe in Muhammad.” They will say, “We believe in Jesus and Moses,” and so on. So their judgment is not for us as judgment and evaluation is for Allah as He created them and honored them. As He said in Holy Qur'an:

وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ

Wa laqad karamnaa Bani Adam.

We have honored the Children of Adam. (Surat al-Israa, 17:70)

So I have to respect you as a believer following Moses, and you are a Christian following Jesus and you are a Muslim following Muhammad or else Moses will be upset with Muhammad (s). So yes, that is true. Look at the brothers of Yusuf, Joseph; according to Islamic belief they are all prophets and yet they did an act that was wrong (they put him in the well and he was later sold to a passing caravan), and we cannot say anything against that because as prophets they are ma`soom, infallible. There was a wisdom for Allah to make Yusuf go to Egypt (with that caravan); if they didn’t do that, Joseph would not become the head of Egypt. Allah’s Will is working in a way that people don’t understand, that is why we should leave things to Allah! Your duty is to enlighten people about yourself and for them to enlighten about themselves, and I am not trying to teach you, but I am trying to learn with you and to see how we can build bridges in different countries.

Rabbi, I blame not the religion, as sometimes you have to speak politics. Religion has no choice, no power, the power is with politicians who make legislation that everyone has to follow, so the problem is with politicians. So if Muslims, Jews and Christians come together and say we want to make this legislation, that the governments of every country will have to follow, but today everyone only wants to sit on the chair and they don't resign even when the majority of people say, “We are fed up with you!” Even then they say, “No, I am not leaving,” to last moment.

That is why royalty, with respect to presidents, in Islam royalty is considered the best. We like royalty because they have a certain level of noble blood. May Allah (swt) forgive us. May Allah bless us. This country has nobility and has a queen, long life for her, and there will be a king coming. People know royalty comes from one generation to the next generation, while a president will sit forty years; in Egypt thirty-two years and in Tunisia the same, in Syria fifty years and in Libya the same. People love royalty however they are. When the prince goes somewhere, everyone is watching him.

I gave a speech in Temenos University and two or three days later I received a call that the Prince of Wales wanted to meet. He is very supportive of spirituality and he loves religion and all faiths. I was surprised, not only one time, but meeting him three or four times. So this is how they keep people happy. May Allah (swt) keep us all happy and give us more and more to do and give us fifty years, like Maqsood! (Laughter)

Wa min Allahi 't-tawfeeq, bi hurmati 'l-habeeb, bi hurmati 'l-Fatihah.


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