Apr 3, 2008 1:44 pm


While it was sad to see the devastation caused by Tsunami and now by hurricane Katrina, I am heartened to see now in both natural disasters people discarded their religious garbs and came together in helping fellow humans irrespective of faith. Last weekend I was in Chicago attending the 38th annual convention of Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) and 42nd annual convention of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

This is how Dr. Shahid Athar starts his story.

. . There were over 40,000 Muslims present. They all felt that what ever affects America, whether pollution, gas prices, terrorism or natural disaster such as Katrina is also their own concerns. IMANA immediately donated $ 10, 000 from its relief fund and advised Muslim physicians in south to offer medical relief. ISNA donated initially $ 20,000 and Islamic Relief $2 million. Then several other Muslim relief organizations joined in and formed a national task force and pledged $ 10, million. Muslims in South have opened their mosques and houses for the affected and displaced victims of the disaster.

Muslims are inspired by Quran to do so. "Let a party of believers rise which enjoins what is good and forbids what is wrong". We are also told to cooperate with others in goodness, but not in wrong doing".

In one of my lectures at IMANA, I talked about Spirituality which is nothing but the awareness of the presence of God within our spirit. When we recognize this and then express it in our positive actions through our prayer or social work, we become instruments of God. We then see through His eyes, hear through His ears, work with His hands and speak in His tongue. When we take one step toward Him, He takes giant leaps toward us. When we walk toward Him, He runs toward us to the extent that the children of God in His image merge in His cause.

We go to the house of worship be it a mosque, church, or temple not just to get the attention of its Owner, but also to pray to Him that He will have mercy on us and guide us through our journey on this planet. In return, He expects us to carry His message to the whole of mankind.

Thus taking care of fellow human beings and all other creations of God becomes our collective responsibility whether we like it or not. The suffering of human beings whether homelessness or poverty is nothing but a test from Him of how we patiently persevere and how we do our best to relieve those who are suffering. The social obligation of believers includes taking care of those are suffering, irrespective of their faith. There are 50 million Americans below the poverty level.

The responsibility of the people of faith includes establishment of shelters, halfway houses for runaway teenagers, rehabilitation for drug addicts, combating violence on the streets, and fighting discrimination and racism. We cannot leave this only to the city, state, or Federal Government officials.

The responsibility of those who leave houses of worship after their prayer is to go on the street and introduce love within families, within neighborhoods, within the community, and among the religions. We must forget and forgive our differences and give gifts of love to our fellow human beings out of our love for our common God. . God bless America and God bless the world. Amen.

Dr. Shahid Athar is the past Chair of Interfaith alliance of Indianapolis and author of several books including “Healing the Wounds of Sept.11, 2001” and “Reflections of an American Muslim”. He can be reached at , webpage

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