Worship is when we assume ourselves to be in the safest and most peaceful state of being. In those moments of contemplation and prayer, we try to free ourselves from all our concerns, take a step beyond the material realm of existence – and yes … we are in the house of God. Being in the presence of the Divine, we feel like we are detached from the world, and soar to the heavens…
Or should I be putting these sentences in the past tense? Are we not safe anymore in our beautiful temples,churches, and mosques? Should we not trust anymore members of our congregations, any one member of which can turn into a monster at any unexpected time?
Today, the first message of condolence came from my dear friend Rabbi Paul, followed by four other Jewish friends from two other congregations. All of them shared our grief, just as I and my fellow Muslim friends had done after the massacre in Pittsburgh. For, the pain does not differ, and the grief is not exclusive. I am sure, regardless of our faith traditions, we feel the same fear, shock, and pain when we hear the news from New Zealand, Toronto, Florida, Texas, or from Syria, Turkey, Rwanda, Israel.
With this solidarity that I have seen today and as this gathering testifies, I am not going to use the sentences above in the past tense. Our temples, churches, and mosques, places of worship where God’s Name is glorified, are still the most peaceful places of refuge for us. We will continue to come together shoulder to shoulder and stand in prayer under the same roof. Despite all the attacks in recent years, we will continue to welcome everyone, faithful or unfaithful, benevolent or sinner, victim or murderer into our midst. We will continue to treat everyone with justice and compassion, and do all we can to bring healing to everyone whoever is asking. Bediuzzaman Nursi says, “Retaliation in kind is a cruel principle” (Mukabele-I bil misil kaidei zalimanesi) Even if you harm us in our holy places, we will not retaliate. The Qur’an’s message is very clear:
(5:2) Never let your detestation for a people, because they barred you from the Sacred Mosque, move you tocommit violations. Rather, help one another in virtue and goodness, and righteousness and piety, and do not help one another in sinful, iniquitous acts and hostility.
(5:8) O you who believe! Be upholders and standard-bearers of right for God's sake, being witnesses forabsolute justice. And by no means let your detestation for a people (or their detestation for you) move you to deviating from justice. Be just: this is nearer and more suited to righteousness and piety. Seek righteousness and piety, and always act in reverence for God. Surely God is fully aware of all that you do.
The Qur’an is also urging us to move forward with dignity if we come across any vanity(25:72) and forgive: (64:14) If you pardon, overlook, and forgive, God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.
To the perpetrators of violence, the monsters who massacre the innocent: your brutality does not scare us – for we believe your victims have now reunited with the Beloved and freed from the burdens of this world. Today has become what Rumi calls the “wedding night” for them. Yet, we are saddened by the disgrace you are bringing upon the human race, the most honorable of God’s creation. I want you to know that the Mercy of God we believe in overwhelms the entire universe, including you.
It has been reported today that the old man who saw the terrorist at the entrance of the mosque said “welcome brother” before he was killed. The old man passed away; but his words resonate in the hearts of all believers in our temples, churches, and mosques. Do not fear! You are always welcome. Regardless of how many members of our human family agree with us or not – we will not discriminate on the basis of what you have done. God’s home is open to all.
Fethullah Gülen, my mentor and an important Muslim scholar said, “we have buried the swords and placed rocks upon rocks above them, so no one can hold them up again. Times of brutal engagement are over; it is the time when the diamond truths of faith speak.” Amin.