SERMON – REVEL IN LOVE

Khutbah – June 21, 2013 – Revel in Love
First Shared: June 21, 2013 (MPV-Atlanta)

I welcome you with peace. You are safe here.

I take refuge from the outcast satan in the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the Worlds

Blessing and peace on Muhammad, his family, and his companions, and peace you all.

Our theme today is Revel in Love. In particular, we are reveling in the multiplicity of expressions of love and attraction captured in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex experiences of people in our ummah and in the world.

Let us begin with a story.

I used to live in Ohio, near Lake Erie. Because of the lake, every winter, we got deep thorough snow. Snow was everywhere and on everything 2 to 4 feet deep. That kind of winter living is a lifestyle unto itself.

One winter I invited my brother and his family up to visit me in February. I don’t know why they said yes, but they did. At the time, my brother’s son Adam was three years old. Now, my brother’s family lives in southern GA, so in all of his three years of life, Adam had never seen or experienced snow.

The first morning of their visit, we thought it would be a good idea to take Adam out to play in the snow. We bundled him up until he looked like a tiny, puffy Michelin man, and opened the front door. Adam’s response was stunned silence. We hadn’t had the chance to shovel yet, so the 2 feet we’d received the night before covered any trace of sidewalks or roads. So there was a literal blanket of snow. This bouncing, laughing, kicking, running, catch me if you can, 3 year old, stood in the doorway speechless, with wide eyes. He just stared and pointed. For a long time. We adults tried to goad him on saying, yes, it’s snow. Go play in it. It’s cute. We have cameras. But, Adam just stood and stared on in silence.

After a full minute of silence… which is a lot for a 3 year. old- Adam did something amazing to all of us. He leapt off the front stoop, past the bottom two steps, and face planted himself in the snow. Which left us in a stunned silence. Then he wriggled himself to a stand, with snow up to his chest, he turned and looked at us and said with a smile on his little reddened face: Snow

Adam reveled in the snow. He didn’t completely understand it but he instinctively knew that it was an opportunity to experience a moment of unmitigated fullness and joy. Now, I’ll admit that that commitment to just jumping in and reveling in something good is probably easier for a three year old than it is for most of us. There is no mortgage, insurance premiums, or grocery list. Nevertheless, this three year old did something that so many of us are afraid to do. Just jump in and enjoy the moment.

But some people will say to me: But we are Muslims. That kind of impulsiveness is antithetical to the image we have tried to cultivate. We’re disciplined, shrewd, and modest folks. Have you seen our wardrobes? We are pretty serious people. For god’s sake we fast for a whole month every year! We’re hardcore.

To them I say: that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be either /or. You can still be hardcore and know a good thing when you see it. And when you see that good thing, don’t suppress the urge to revel in it.

As Muslims, we tend to do hardcore well. We take the sunnah and get dogmatic. We take the Quran and get self-righteous. And we are selective about which hadith are meaningful. A growing edge for us is learning to be hardcore in reveling and rejoicing in good things. Yes, like love, sexuality, and gender expressions. Again, this is not an either/or situation. As Muslims, we know that observation of the natural world helps us better understand Allah’s will in the universe. Astrophysics teaches us that the universe itself is always seeking balance, in a fluid motion, expanding and contracting, like respiration, breathing. And so, we must seek to practice this type of fluidity, too, to establish more fluidity in our whole lives.

-2 al-Baqara (the Cow) 286:
God the Most High said,
God does not make a soul responsible beyond what it can bear.
The soul will gain what it has earned and it will bear what it has earned.
Our Lord, do not blame us if we have forgotten or erred
And do not lay a burden on us like the burden you laid on our forebears
Our Lord, do not lay a burden on us greater than we can bear.
You are our Guardian, so help us against those who ungratefully turn away from the truth.
-I ask the Forgiver, the Most Compassionate and Most Merciful ( Ir Rahman, Ir Rahim) for forgiveness for myself, the community, and the whole world. As the spirituals prayed, “bear us up and build us up on every leaning side.”

Now what does this have to do with celebrating LGBTQQI Pride month? Well, it has everything to do with celebrating love and fulfillment in community. Wherever we find it.

One of the core commitments of MPV is to be a welcoming community that celebrates the fluidity of the sexual and gender expressions in the ummah. But we are not just interested in celebrating sexual and gender fluidity in Islam; we are interested in constructing an ethical society that is fluid, living, breathing and alive. Living organisms move, consume, produce and evolve. And we want that for our religious and spiritual communities. In fact, we categorically reject the idea of rigidity and dogmatism as the only authentic expression of Islam. We embrace expressions of Islam that seek the fulfillment of the human spirit through practices that keep us god-conscious.

After all, Allah is the Creator of the human spirit.

While living with LGBTQQI identities do not equate living or revelling in love. They do remind us of the multiplicity of expressions, of the built in fluidity, of ways to seek fulfillment in the human community. This month reminds us that fluidity is a thing to be celebrated, even revelled in.

Another story…
We have 15 chickens on our farm, so you can imagine, around feeding time, things get a little crazy. When the chickens see the feed bucket they get excited and start clucking. They surround my feet, looking up at the bucket. They’re not looking where they are going, so I have to walk very slowly, as not to step on too many of them, further delaying their moment of fulfillment. In the process of feeding them, I actually put the bucket on top of the goat house, where the chickens can’t see it, while I pour their food into a long trough that I will walk over and place in the coop near their water. As you can imagine, when they can no longer see the container for the object of their desire, their excited clucking becomes elevated and their distracted roaming becomes like the frenetic bouncing around of big feathered ping-pong balls bumping into each other.

But there is one chicken that does something different. While I am filling their trough, our chicken Sally jumps above the fray. Literally. She jumps herself on top of the 4ft goat house and starts eating from the trough up there. You see, Sally knows where her fulfillment is and she jumps for it, while everybody else is still on the ground. Like little Adam in the snow, she goes for it. When others are distracted and without focus… when others say you’re crazy to dream that big or to step outside our traditions… When others say your love is invalid and because of your identity you’re are not valuable… you can do like Sally and jump above the fray to seek that thing that fulfills you. And like little Adam, you can revel in it.

Let us jump towards that which fulfills us. Seeking gives us focus. And Allah gives us the Opening, the Al-Fatiha, in our hearts and minds, in our diligence, in knowing what is worthy of our pursuit. And Allah is All-Knowing.
When you find something good, jump for it.

~LTP Jackson

SERMON – MOTHER’S DAY FOR ALL

Khutbah – May 10, 2013
First Shared: May 10, 2013 (MPV-Atlanta)

I welcome you with peace. You are safe here.

I take refuge from the outcast satan in the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the Worlds

Blessing and peace on Muhammad, his family, and his companions, and peace.

On Sunday we will celebrate Mother’s Day here in the US. With great commercial support, many of us will pour out expressions of love and admiration on our biological mothers, grandmothers, and others who have mothered us. Now, any good Muslim apologists would be quick to share dawah here and tell anyone who will listen how Islam is the best at honoring mothers. Given the common misconceptions about Muslim women, even among Muslims, this occasion is a great time to ring out own bell and rediscover the beautifully nuanced appreciation that Islam affords to those who mother us.

Let’s begin with a story. We will borrow from the Jewish tradition today and fill in some of the biographical gaps with some midrash.

There was a boy born in the Arabian desert about 1400 years ago. Let’s call him Mo. Even before Mo was born, his father Abdullah died; so, he never met his father. The only biological parent Mo knew was his mother, Aminah. Sadly, her husband’s sudden death threw Aminah into a severe depression. The only light left in her eyes was for her little Mo.[1]

Sadly, Mo would not have much time with his mother. You see, by the time he was six his mother died. The orphaned Mo bounced around between other relatives as his family fell on even harsher times, and eventually ended up living with his uncle Abu Talib. Here is where the story turns around. Mo, the sad little orphan, fatherless from the beginning and now motherless, comes in to the home of the most compassionate protector one can imagine in human form, his uncle Abu Talib.

Abu Talib took Mo in as his own son. He instructed him in the family business and taught him etiquette and integrity. That sense of integrity helped Mo realize that he was called to be a radical and revolutionary agent in his society. Being such an agent of change endangered his life. And his uncle Abu Talib protected Mo’s, like a mother bird. He encouraged him to be courageous when he was afraid and to stand up for the weak and vulnerable. Until the day he died, Mo was the light of his uncle Abu Talib’s eyes; a light that he would use all his strength and resources to keep lit.

Now, I know my feminist and anti-patriarchy friends are ready to bring me to task for talking about men on Mother’s day. But, let us remember that many of those who mother us are not our biological mothers, they don’t even have to be women. Especially as a mosque and community that works hard to be welcoming and inclusive to the myriad expressions of sexualities, gender identities, and biological differences represented in the larger human community; we know that many of our biological mother are not or can not presently be mothering toward us. So we have chosen families and Allah mercifully brings people into our lives and us into theirs to fill those capacities for us. Likewise, we must be mindful that not all women are mothers (some by choice and others with great grief and loss). And all mothers are not women.

By now you’ve figured out that little Mo in our story is the prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Surely his uncle Abu Talib was a mother to him. Abu Talib was his Comforter, his Protector, and his Friend. We often apply all these qualities to those who mother us. We know these are also three of the 99 attributes or names of Allah.

-I ask the Forgiver, the Most Compassionate and Most Merciful ( Ir Rahman, Ir Rahim) for forgiveness for myself, the community, and the whole world. As the spirituals prayed, “bear us up and build us up on every leaning side.”

 

Part II

In the story, Abu Talib takes in Mo when he is a little orphaned boy. He comforts him over the loss of his mother. No doubt Abu Talib was the one who held little Mo when he was overcome with grief from memories of the short time he had with young mother. Abu Talib also instructed young Mohammad how to respect all people in all situations. He taught him how to be a trader and sharpened his business acumen. Above all he taught him to always seek the truth and always tell the truth. Abu Talib is the reason that the prophet became known as Al-Amin, the Truthful, The Trustworthy One. Throughout his life Abu-Talib was the prophet’s comforter. In the same way, Allah is our Comforter. The scriptures say:

Allah is the comforter of the believers when they lose hope or when in danger. (59:23)

Because the Prophet sought Truth and then spoke that truth to power in the dizzying economic climate of Mecca, his life was in danger often. Because of his radical message that access to God should be free and unhindered by other people’s regulations and ideas about what worship should be, there were countless attempts to assassinate the prophet. Like a mother bear, Abu Talib would swoop in to be Mohammad’s Protector. He fought fiercely, defending the Prophet’s life, character and his call to be a prophetic voice. He often put his own life at stake and the life of others in his family in order to protect the Prophet, because he believed the Message and he believed in the Messenger.

This kind of protection is another attribute that we ascribe to ALLAH. ALLAH is our fierce protector. In the Quran, Al Baqarah says:

Allah is the Wali (Protector or Guardian) of those who believe. He brings them out from darkness into light. (2:257)

When we are in the dark and dangerous place of ignorance, injustice, and disbelief, ALLAH brings us into the light of hope, guidance, and understanding. ALLAH fights for us to live in light. Indeed, this is the inner jihad that we must all fight: to maintain and increase in our god-consciousness even in the perils of life.

That is why we need a good friend, a companion, a Ride or Die Mama, who reminds us that we are going to do this damn thing or die trying. We need someone who pushes us to pursue our purpose in life, who helps us be devoted and stay the course, even when we want to give up. Abu Talib did this for Mohammad. When his enemies, his haters, came down like rain- starving his family by placing an embargo on selling them food, besmirching his good reputation, publicly insulting his intelligence and literally throwing shit on him- Abu Talib swept in like an umbrella to cover his nephew and encourage him to keep on keeping on.

Isn’t this what we expect from those who mother us? They are the ones who have the authority in our live to give us swift kick in the pants and tell us to get up and go. They’ll say: Yes, I know it is hard. Yes, I know they don’t like you and are being mean without cause. Yes, I know it is not fair. I know you feel like you can’t go on, but you can, because I will help you.

There is a well known hadith chronicled by both Bukari and Muslim that says:

A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim).

This hadith illustrates the extreme worthiness of companionship for those who mother us and have been unrelenting companions to us. It is the least we can do to offer this kind of companionship back to them when we get a chance. But this only a reflection of the kind of loving protective friendship ALLAH offers us. The Quran says:

When two parties from among you were about to lose heart, but Allah was their Wali (Supporter and Protector). And in Allah should the believers put their trust. (3:122 al Imran)

It goes on to say:

-Allah has full knowledge of your enemies, and Allah is Sufficient as a Wali (Protector), and Allah is Sufficient as a Helper. ( An-Nisa 4:45)

It is clear that the path of those who mother us is not one for the faint-hearted or selfish. In order to offer comfort, protection and companionship like the mothering example of Abu Talib, one has to have some grounding, some self-knowledge, some strengthening faith to hold on to. You have to have enough faith to share. You can’t give what you don’t have. I’m not saying you have to be perfect to be a mother. You don’t have to have it all together. You just have to be willing to give; give room in your home and your heart and your life.

It is a tiring job to share, because we all have a natural instinct that always wants security. We are tempted to take our stuff back, our love, our support, our resources, when those we mother don’t do it like we would do it. But we learn to be secure in just giving. Make no mistake, it is a risky adventure to make a living out of giving. It is a risky adventure to be a mother.

But ALLAH knows best.

And surely as we open ourselves to ALLAH’s guidance in mothering and allowing ourselves to be mothered, getting and giving comfort, getting and giving protection, getting and giving friendship, the reward will be great.

In another familiar hadith, the prophet reminds us that, “Paradise lies at the feet of our mothers.” Mothering is tough work though, so those feet are no doubt weary from carrying us in comfort, taking a stand to protect us, and running along side us in companionship. Perhaps this Mother’s Day weekend we can honor those who mother us by giving them some time to rest those weary feet. A pedicure would be nice.

~LTP Jackson

 

[1] It was said that a light shone out of his forehead and that this light was the promise of a Prophet as offspring. Countless woman of Arabia approached ‘Abd Allah, which according to several traditions, was a handsome man; so that they might gain the honour of producing the offspring. However everyone believes that as decided by God, the light was destined to be transferred to Aminah through ‘Abd Allah after consummating the marriage.[3]

Honoring a Father

First shared – 17 June 2008 – MPV-Atlanta

My father is not particularly religious, but he has always been spiritual. A higher power has never been a question for him and he has never been apologetic to anyone about that one belief.

My dad is one of the reasons I was able to comfortably question everything around me, including my faith. It was always important to him that our family think about why we did things. Tradition was important, but it did not take the place of contemplation. Dad was one reason why I could comfortably move into Islam and be proud of the path I had chosen.

When I was a new convert and getting a lot of uncertainty from all sides, it was my father who helped hold onto my proverbial bike seat and steady me until I was more sure of myself. He showed his support of my decision and told me to be sure of the decisions I had made, especially since it was clear to him I had done so through my own self. Dad kept reminding me of keeping my mind on my higher power and inspirations I found inside and outside Islam.

My dad even went as far as to show his support by stating he could be my “backsliding, Muslim father” who definitely believed in God and had no problem accepting Mohammed as a prophet. The other things involved in making Islam a religion, he said, were more than he was willing to step into and constituted his “backsliding” persona. As strange as this exchange may seem to some, this support gave me the ability to move forward from being stuck on my spiritual path to moving, once again, along that path.

The quirkiness of my father may be hard for some to understand, but he has an unwavering faith that has helped solidify my own spiritual foundation. His faith is an inspiration and something I hope I can pass onto my own children.

~~~~

“God has decreed you shall worship no god but God, and your parents shall be honored.”
~Quran 17:23

~~~~

Kelly

Sermon - Virtue

Here is a sermon on Virtue from Sari Mira of MPV-Columbus (https://www.facebook.com/ColumbusMPV)