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.
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.