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Islamic Personalities (21 Nov 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi: Americans Would Do Well to Study Muhammad’s Life, He Preached and Attempted a Politics of Tolerance



By Haroon Moghul

Nov. 20, 2018

Tuesday is the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. It’s the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal, the day most Muslims believe he came into the world some 1,400 years ago.

I first met Muhammad in August 1998. I was fresh out of high school in Somers, Conn., and my brother and I made the road trip from Jidda, where he was working for the summer, to Medina to pay our respects at Muhammad’s tomb.

I must have looked ridiculous. I was drowning in elephantine JNCO jeans and carried a backpack with a Pearl Jam patch ironed on. I was probably wearing the boisterous baseball cap of some snowboard manufacturer; I hope I left the wallet chains at home.

I was on my way out of Islam when I made my way with the rush of tens of thousands of pilgrims shuffling from the prayer hall southward toward his tomb. I was headed to atheism. Or Catholicism. I was 18 years old and hadn’t decided which way of life would give me the warmth I felt my faith lacked, and the freedom I believed it denied me.

But I showed up in Medina that summer because I thought I’d give Islam one more chance. I hadn’t expected the moment to mean much to me, because Islam didn’t mean much to me. But there I was, facing the resting place of the prophet, overcome with emotion.

I’d memorized Muhammad’s life story in Sunday school, cramming facts, dates, lineages into my head as if I was preparing for an A.P. exam, a good Muslim like my parents wanted me to be. But it had thus far been so much data — cold, abstract and inhuman.

In Medina I realized I actually believed all the stories about him. That he buried the least loved of his fellow Arabs with his own hands. That he put two of his fingers together and promised that he and the orphan would be that close in the life to come. That he so loved the vulnerable that God loved him in turn.

Sitting facing his tomb, pilgrims pressing against me on every side, I honest to God missed him. I still feel that way today, as absurd as it might sound. He is a living presence in my life.

My connection to him was — and is — peculiarly American. It was initiated by my parents’ piety, inflected by my numerous ailments, was thrown into relief by extremism and today inspires me to help build a United States to which all of us belong.

It began with the troubled circumstances of my birth: I had a malformed intestinal tract. Had I been born a few decades earlier, I would have died very early on. As a sick child, I spent much of my time indoors, with books my parents encouraged, many of which were about Muhammad.

He was an outsider like me. Being an orphan from age 6 in a very patrilineal, very patriarchal and very tribal society must have been a social death sentence. Muhammad could have reacted by seething with resentment and lashing out at the world. He could have turned on himself. Instead he became a paragon of compassion.

When he first proclaimed prophecy, even his own uncle laughed at him, but he never laughed back. His followers were reviled, beaten and killed. He didn’t strike back. Rather he ran from one town to another, like Hagar at Paran, desperate to find his people refuge. Twelve years into his religious mission, in the year 622, he was forced to flee his native Mecca and arrived a refugee in Medina — but the people who chased him there didn’t leave him be. Not long after finding safe harbour, he was forced to take up arms, time and again, to defend his faith, his community, and himself.

But even as he did, he remained dedicated to building a society that would provide the inclusion he (and his followers) had been deprived of. The old Muslims from Mecca had just met the new Muslims from Medina, and Muhammad paired them off, each responsible for the other as they worked to make Medina flourish. This was hard work, and represents the most misunderstood part of Muhammad’s life: Taking Jesus as their template, many critics wonder how a leader who pursues politics can still be a religious model.

When terrorists struck New York and Washington in 2001 I was horrified, scared and bewildered. The Muhammad I revered bore no resemblance to the Muhammad they claimed. In their view, Muhammad was a conqueror first, a politician and a general second, and a man of faith last, and least.

This is a gross misunderstanding of his life, and an inversion of the message he actually preached. When he had nowhere else to turn, when he couldn’t find anyone to protect his community, then — and only then — did he take up arms to defend his faith.

But the politics he attempted are instructive. In one of his first pronouncements in Medina, he pledged that the Muslim community would defend the native Jewish community from any of its enemies, and declared Medina to be one nation of two faiths, a profound and unusual gesture of pluralism and tolerance.

This vision that Muhammad offered for Medina is the one that drives my life’s work, especially in the years since Sep. 11. I’ve dedicated my time, my energy and often my reputation to building bridges between Jewish and Muslim communities. We don’t have to agree about everything to respect each other. And we don’t have to see eye-to-eye to look out for each other. I believe such work to be a sacred calling, good for Jews and for Muslims, but good for America, too.

On the occasion of his birthday, we Americans would do well to study Muhammad’s life: He preached and attempted a politics of tolerance, which is not what people of faith are associated with today. Muslims could stand for re-examining his life, too. Muhammad is called a “Rahmah,” a mercy. He is often addressed as “Habib Allah,” the beloved of God. If these are not words our communities are associated with, we should take a long look in the mirror and wonder why.

Muhammad was Rahmah for me more than two decades ago in Medina. We could all use a little mercy these days.

Related Articles:

Celebration of Anmbia’s Birthday

Joint Christian-Muslim Christmas-Milad Celebration in USA

Prophet Muhammad Was Indeed Mercy for the World, says chief guest Father Victor Edwin SJ in the Eid Milad-un-Nabi Programme of the New Age Islam Foundation

جشن میلاد النبی کی شرعی حیثیت

جلوس محمدی ؐ کی آڑ میں مسلکی اور مذہبی منافرت کے فروغ کی 


Haroon Moghul is a fellow in Jewish-Muslim relations at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and the author of “How to Be a Muslim: An American Story."

Source: nytimes.com/2018/11/20/opinion/happy-birthday-muhammad.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/haroon-moghul/eid-e-milad-un-nabi--americans-would-do-well-to-study-muhammad’s-life,-he-preached-and-attempted-a-politics-of-tolerance/d/116937



  • I directly addressed the issues of your mendacity and hatefulness.

    By the way, when I said, "A stout defense of the Prophet when he is being attacked is not idolatry except for those who are out to spread lies and hate," I was obviously talking about Haroon Moghul's article. Any attempt to generalize the terms is sheer deception on your part. I have addressed the question of Prophet-worship myself several times in the past but I would not do so in the discussion of this article. Do not use dishonest techniques in order to create confusion.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/22/2018 10:27:38 PM

  • you are bypassing the issue. but that is the norm with you.

    a mjor part of islam is about "loving" the prophet. this is person worship.

    in the hejaz who was it that started the denigration of ancestral religion? the prophet or the pagans?

    when you have no arguments left you you let loose your adjectival torrent.

    By hats off! - 11/22/2018 6:07:32 PM

  • Are terms like "lies" and "hate" not clear? When you said I spoke disparagingly of non-Muslim religions and I harbored anti-Semitic sentiments, you lied shamelessly and never apologized. When you come to a progressive Muslim website with no other purpose than to insult their God and their Prophet and to speak hatefully of all Muslims, especially those who have settled in  America, you define yourself as a hateful person.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/22/2018 10:25:27 AM

  • the question is NOT about "out to spread lies and hate". the question is about the terms of the discourse.

    you should first define the terms. like the terms lies and hate and of course spreading. these terms (or the denotations and connotations thereof) can be found in most of religious texts.

    the logic about "reading" the "best" meaning has already been debunked.

    coming back to the prophet, the question is not of "stout defense", but who started it first.

    By hats off! - 11/22/2018 5:57:03 AM

  • A stout defense of the Prophet when he is being attacked is not idolatry except for those who are out to spread lies and hate.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/21/2018 11:26:12 PM

  • if this is not person worship, then idolatry is better.
    By hats off! - 11/21/2018 5:04:08 PM

  • Good article! Interesting to see it on the op-ed page of the New York Times. The author's title, "a fellow in Jewish-Muslim relations at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America," 

    is exhilarating.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/21/2018 12:05:12 PM

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