I was invited to an Eid Banquet in Yale by the Yale Chaplin for the Muslim community few days ago. I went with my interculturalist friend with whom I share an interest in the global peace, harmony and love movement. We chose to sit at the front, to be a step away from the podium so that we get to be part of the action, and to network with Yale professors and deans in attendance. The keynote speaker is Ms. Rumana Ahmed, Former senior advisor to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes at the National Security Council under President Obama. The speech was moving and inspiring for me and partly motivated this blog entry. The event in itself represents a smaller version of my global vision of how we, the inhabitants of this planet and the most intelligent of its creatures should come together for a sustainable future. I may not represent the mainstream Muslim women who put on their head cover and I do not wear a head cover Hijab for many reasons, but my claims regarding Islam are based on evidence and research into the Quranic verses and the sunnah of the prophet Mohammad (peace and prayers be upon him).
Rumana spoke of the prophet Mohammad as an immigrant, certainly not the first but his was a distinctive one. He is the grandson of the most respected elders of the tribe of Quraysh, the governors of Makkah, a husband of the wealthiest and most beautiful woman in that tribe, Khadija, the one to whom people come to deposit their money in his position (their bank) for his trustworthiness, consult with him on major challenges and issues of their social and political affairs for his insight, and swear by his honesty when speaking of truthfulness. He has no reason to lie or play games with them, he is only a messenger to tell the truth about life, asking them to rethink their ways of living including idolizing stone statues, burying baby girls alive, prostitution and adultery, drinking and badmouthing, abolishing slavery, fighting murders and crimes, and being truthful and ethical in ones’ dealings. A universal list of morals. We all strive to live like this and dislike the ways of evil specially when it comes to brutality and injustice. Mercy was his message to mankind.
For that, as has always been the case with dissidents or those who disagree with authority, he was tortured with his companions, boycotted, and kicked out of their social and political affairs, accused of insanity and witchcraft and told to return to the stat quo or they will kill him. His wife, Khadija died in his defense after losing her wealth and status in the process and many of his companions were asked to immigrate to Abyssinia as there resides a Christian king who is just and fair. After he exhausted his means with his tribe and people of Makkah, he was ordered to immigrate himself secretly after a plot to kill him in his bed.
The new destination was a week’s travel on camels’ backs from Makkah, now four hours’ drive at 70mph. Tayba, or now called Al-Madina (the city) Almunawara (enlightened) was a land between two volcanos with a soil rich for agriculture. The palm trees extended miles around it and its wells were rich with clean water that brought goodness to the land. There were two tribes residing in Al-Madina and a treaty with the three Jewish tribes who live in fortresses at its edges. The five tribes lived in peace and harmony for a long time on the way of caravans as they traveled from Makkah for trade to Al-Shamm (Syria) and Al-Yaman (south),an ideal geographical location for a new era.
Reflecting on this immigration, it marked the beginning of Islam’s spread as worldly religion, up to the present day. The Eid banquet marks the Hajj (pilgrimage) and coincides with the first day of the Islamic calendar year. The Islamic Calendar year is marked not by wars or other incidents of conquering evil as many nations date their independence, it is marked by immigration to peace, harmony and love. That same reason why people around the world immigrate. The search for respectful living conditions and new lives for them to build. The coexistence with the two tribes of the Arabs and the three tribes of the Jews in Al-Madina teaches us all a lesson in tolerance for our differences and an acceptance of others who look differently and act differently from what we are used to. The prophet first paired between families and instilled brotherhood and sisterhood so that the immigrants can sleep in their paired homes and share food, money and all their resources. The Arab tribes welcomed the pairing as a social gesture of acceptance. The pairing involved training skills for work for the newcomers and gradually building financial independence by lending money and starting work in trade or agriculture. It also meant that the newcomer’s home will be built physically through the pairing process. This is coaching and mentoring in its finest forms. It was how social cohesion was established and how racial biases were abolished. From that society we learn how to encompass and contain, not how to separate and segregate.
Immigrants are the infrastructure of any Muslim society and the history of Islam continues to demonstrate immigration and the merging of social, racial and bloodlines in its finest forms. Pilgrims come to Makkah every year where marriages take place afterwards, settlements for trade, learning and teaching and tourism and exploration. In these human behaviors, lies the secret to healthy society where “there is no difference between black and white except in how they behave” socially, and how they practice ethics. A saying of the prophet Mohammad and a verse in the Quran states this meaning.