Things to be thankful for (By Imam Shamsi Ali)

Summary of Friday Khutbah delivered at Jamaica Muslim Center on December 3rd 2021

Last week America celebrated a day known as Thanksgiving Day. The day is mostly perceived to be a day of family gathering to offer thanks and appreciation for God’s bounties in life. Traditionally it’s celebrated over a meal with turkey on the main menu.

Judging from an Islamic stand point, some Muslims are usually taking extreme views/stands on both sides. Some view Thanksgiving as a practice contradicts which Islamic teachings. Others view it as a part of Islam without any reservation.

For me, both views are extreme and counterproductive to our very reality and existence in America. This will be counterproductive to our existence as American Muslims, particularly to our young generation and also will be counterproductive to the very meaningful value of Islam as universal teaching.

Islam is a religion for all times and places. And it doesn’t come to any place to abolish or even to replace local cultural practices as long as they do not contradict the core principles of the religion. In fact Islam came to affirm those practices which are in line with the teaching or to perfect or complete those of in need of some change.

The Prophet affirms this in his statement: “I am only sent to perfect human character”. And the most important expression of human character is in the form of cultural practices of the people.

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Here we can connect Thanksgiving to a very inherent teaching of Islam, namely “shukr” or thankfulness. Islam considers shukr (being thankful) as a fundamental goal of our obedience. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) for instance, when he was asked by his wife about his dedication to prayers and worship, he answered: “Am I not be a thankful person”?

And so rather than accepting it blindly or otherwise rejecting it blindly Islam must take a middle path approach based on its characteristic as a middle path religion (wasatiyah).

Things to be thankful for

As American Muslims there are many things to be thankful for but I would like to particularly mention three main important reasons why we American Muslims must be thankful.

First, we are thankful for the guidance. Guidance is precious. With guidance we live our life decently and with clear direction. Only with guidance we will be able to answer some fundamental questions of life. Where we came from, why we are here, and where we will go from here. More importantly, we get guidance on how to get into our final destiny safely.

In a nutshell I used to describe guidance as “GPS for living.” Living our life is just like walking in the middle of the desert without knowing which direction to pursue. With the guidance as our GPS in life we will be able to identify not only our final destination, but also what direction to follow and even how to pursue our journey to the final destination.

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Second, we are thankful for America. With all its shortcomings, America is still one of the greatest places to live. America is still the land of opportunity, whether it be economic, educational, and even political opportunities. Just in the recent local election in NYC for example 2 young Muslim ladies were elected to public positions. One was elected NYC council member. And another one was elected as a civil judge for the borough of Queens.

What surprised many was the election of city council members in a small city in Michigan known as Hamstramck. All the city council members elected were Muslims. At the same time, the City elected the first Muslim mayor in its history.

But what is more important for Muslims in America is that this country is indeed a land of da’wah opportunity. Here in this land we have the opportunity to represent and present the true face of Islam. What makes the opportunity open wide is that the Constitution guarantees and protects it as a part of our basic religious rights.

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Third, we are thankful for being American Muslims. Not only that America is such a great country and gives us the opportunity to practice and also spread the true teachings of Islam, but also America with its great constitution provides a sense of freedom and self confidence for our community to thrive and develop.

But what is more important to be thankful for is the reality that American Muslims are deeply diverse in nature. Beside in Makkah during the hajj season, only in this country can we find Muslims of almost all backgrounds representing all Muslims from around the globe.

This diversity of the Muslim community is truly a blessing and can be a source of beauty and strength for Muslims worldwide. It is beautiful because it represents the global nature of Islam. It is a strength because American Muslims can be a seed of our global Muslim unity and brotherhood.

These are three important things that Muslims in American must be thankful for. And with that in mind and spirit we join our fellow Americans in celebrating the Day of Thanksgiving by saying “alhamdulillah”!. (AK/RE1)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)