Remembering Our Sacred Teachings and Living Accordingly

Khalil Adbur-Rashid
Iman Dr. Khalil Abdur-Rashid, Muslim Chaplain to Harvard University.




By Iman Dr. Khalil Abdur-Rashid
Muslim Chaplain to Harvard University

(The following is a transcript from the service audio)

In the name of our Lord, Lord of loving mercy, the giver of bountiful love. All praise and honor belongs solely to God. In this beautiful sacred space I'm reminded of my roots. I grew up in the south in Atlanta, Georgia in the black church actually. My late father used to study the sacred text. He used to study the Bible with Dr. King. He used to refer to the sacred scripture as the teaching, and indeed in the Islamic tradition, we have the same reference as well the sacred text, the scripture, divine revelation as our teachings. One day my father was late to class, to Bible study, he got into a street fight.

When he showed up to Dr King's class, it was obvious that he had gotten into a scuffle, a fight. So, Dr. King said, "What happened to my son?" My father, explained what happened. Somebody provoked him, somebody pushed him and Dr. King said, "Well, did you have to react like that?" My father said, "Well, yes, absolutely, had to be tough, had to respond in this manner." Dr. King, he said, "My son, so long as you follow other people's dictates, you will always be a slave. You forgot your teachings. You don't follow other people's dictates no matter how hard they push, no matter how hard they provoke, no matter how convinced you think your feelings might make you. How you feel about the matter is one thing. What your teachings tell you about the matter, what your scripture reminds you of about the matter might be another, you must be a student of your teachings."

Our sacred text tells us that people as was recited earlier, a teaching has come to you. It's not just a history lesson. It's a teaching. A teaching from your Lord. The Lord whom you worship. The one who's created you, who sustained you, who's bestowed infinite amounts of blessings and grace, who has not abandoned you though at times, we tend to abandon him, who has not forsaken you, and certainly not forgotten about you. A teaching has come and in this teaching, we are reminded in the Quranic scripture that it's not just a teaching, but it's a healing as well. It's a healing for what's in the hearts.

The hearts meaning the spirit, the soul, that's where the emotions reside. That's where the faculties of reason reside. That's where anger resides. That's where passion resides. Well, that's also where contemplation resides. That's where fear resides, stress, anxieties, traumas, difficulties, memories that cause a person to have turmoil. Sometimes to bring a person who's extremely arrogant to drop them down on their knees and to cause gushes of tears to flow when nobody's looking and sometimes when the public's looking. It's a healing for what's in the hearts. Not only is it a healing for what's in the hearts, but it's a guidance as well when you're searching for what to do. Sometimes not only searching for what to do is important, but searching for what not to do is also important. It's a guidance. You learn not only from the successes in stories and narratives and scripture, but you also learn from failures and mistakes as well.

Islamic tradition teaches us that somebody came to Jesus peace, be upon him and said, how did you become so righteous? How'd you become so good? How'd you become a paragon of good character and he says, “I saw the mistakes that many people made and I just didn't do that.” This is one narrative. One of the ways of following the teachings is not only following advice, but also looking at failure and learning from the mistakes of others and taking the lessons. Finally, not just a healing for what's in the hearts, not only a guidance that clearly delineates righteousness from wickedness, truth from falsehood, correct action from vice, but it's also a mercy for believers. A mercy and that mercy means that we are responsible to be stewards of that teaching.

We must convey that teaching in a way that produces healing for those around us. We are meant to receive this teaching and to pass it on. In doing so, in passing it on, to do it in a way that exhibits demonstrates, embodies compassionate, love, and mercy and concern for the wellbeing of those we know, and the wellbeing of those we don't know. For those that walk on two legs and those that walk on four. It's a teaching that allows us to rise. That's supposed to inspire us to rise, to be the best. When so many times we are conditioned to be mediocre if that. Muhammad Ali, the champ, used to say that service to others in this world is the rent that you pay for your room in heaven. Service to others. There's a tradition in Islam that says that this teaching, the way you pass it on to other is through three things.

First, adhere or stick to whatever is beneficial. If you adhere to what's beneficial, you're following your teachings. What does beneficial mean? We have another text that explains and it says that everything in the created realm, everything that exists, everything that lives, whether it's on two legs or four, or doesn't have any legs. Everything that lives is a dependent of God, meaning is dependent on God. Then the text says, and the best of God's dependence, the best of them are the ones that serve those dependents. And so, leadership, stewardship in reality is service to others and service to others in reality is the embodiment of scriptural teachings. That's what we're taught all of us service to others.

The best of you is the one that others. Service to others involve submitting your heart, your consciousness, your awareness, to the fact that you have a responsibility while you're here. To have a duty to do what you can to make this world a little bit better because you were in it in whatever way you're able to. It also tells us that this teaching is about us constantly reaching out and petitioning God to help us in serving those that are dependent on him because we can't do it alone. That's why we come together in congregation to derive strength from the collective. Through that collective strength, we are rejuvenated. We are inspired to go out to be merciful to the world. The Lord of mercy will have loving mercy on those who show loving mercy. Show loving mercy to all those on earth and the one in the heavens will show loving mercy to you.

That's a sacred scripture about service, about following your teachings. The text tells us that you who believe, be mindful of God. In other words, don't think you're out here alone so that you feel like there's no connection and you don't have anyone to turn to, but also don't think you're out here alone to think you can just run amok. Be mindful of God and let every soul consider carefully what it sins ahead for tomorrow. Our actions and also our inactions have consequences for tomorrow, either for us in the sense of judgment or for those around us, what we do, what we don't do, whether it's family, friends, community, our city, our country, think of patriotic duty and voting.

Everything we do and what we don't do. Think carefully about what we send forth for tomorrow. Every action we have has a consequence and in doing so, be mindful of God. Not only does it have a consequence in the worldly sense, but it should have a consequence in that. What emanates from us should be inspired by our teachings to spread loving mercy in the world and to serve others. God is aware of everything you do. Don't be like the one who forgot God, don't be like that person. Don't be like that guy who forgot the teachings and got into a fight in the street. Don't be like that person because God will cause you to forget your own soul. You'll be led by your passions. You'll be led by your own desires, which oftentimes put us in precarious situations that later on we tend to regret. It's enough that we teach our children not to follow their passions and desires and all things. We don't need to grow up to be adults like that.

Don't be someone who turns out to be rebellious, but be someone who understands that there is an order. There is a system. There are tremendous gifts and blessings in this world that we are here to honor not to exploit. To share, not to covet and to be stingy about, and to enhance, not to destroy. In the end, our teachings remind us to be, as the Quranic text tells us, to be like a honeybee in conclusion. The honeybee is a symbol, an embodiment of what we are supposed to be like. The honeybee pollinates from different flowers in the garden. Oftentimes from more than one locale and it digests. It digests from different sources, all from one source, the earth, but it digests. When it takes that material in, when it digests what it ingests, it doesn't just keep it in it, it expels it.

In the text the Quran tells us that what comes out is a product that is a source of healing for humanity, not believers only, for humanity. It's a source of healing and not only is it a source of healing for humanity, but it comes in diverse varieties of different colors and different shades. You have honey that's golden and honey, that's yellow, and honey that's black, honey that's a little bit red. The product is different because it's been ingested and digested, but the honeybee doesn't keep it, it shares it. What it shares is something that is palatable, digestible, and a source of healing for every single living human being on the planet, regardless of who encounters that product.

Our scripture tells us the honeybee is the example of what we are supposed to be in being all that we can be all that we should be as opposed to the parrot who just regurgitates without digesting and without giving any product that has any benefit, any positive production, other than getting a laugh. In closing, let us be mindful of our teachings. Let us be inspired by our teachings. Let us not be servants of our passions, slaves of other people's passions. Let us ingest what we have come to love and receive as a blessing. Let us digest, let us understand it, and let us practice it. Let us share it with others in ways that produce healing that's acceptable and that's practical for everybody. May God bless this building. May God bless everyone in here. May God bless our university, our family, our communities, and our country, Ameen.



See also: Sermon