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Connecting with the Beloved

6Nov 2015
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Connecting with the Beloved

Sharing is a big part of our religion, Islam, be it a material good such as wealth, or abstract such as knowledge, love or even a smile.

This Ramadan, at the Islamic Unity Society we shared an iftar event with our Christian friends from the Focolare [1], an “international organization that promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood”. Nino Puglisi was invited to give a speech alongside a Muslim speaker on the theme of “connecting with the Beloved”, he also decided to keep a day’s fast in solidarity with his Muslim friends.

Imam Sadiq (as) said, “One of the Prophet’s advice to Imam Ali was, “O, Ali, the best of all actions are three: 1) being just to people; 2) sharing with your brother for the sake of Allah; 3) and the remembrance of Allah at all times.” [2]

Christians and Muslims came together that evening in Ramadan, to remember God and share together from His bounties.

Below is the speech given by Nino at the interfaith iftar.

Dear brothers and sisters, Assalamu Alaikum!

I am deeply humbled and honoured to be here tonight together with so many friends from IUS and the Focolare to share in brotherhood during this special time of Ramadan. I must confess I have a great admiration of Muslims who devoutly keep this holy month of prayer, charity and fasting which is a powerful reminder to Christians also of our relationship with God.

A few days ago I decided I’d spend a day of fasting and prayer in solidarity with my Muslim friends and to pray to God for peace, especially after the tragedies of recent days around the world. So, I set out to follow the Muslim timetable, waking up in the middle of the night to pray, and for a meal of porridge and Nutella (as suggested by my Muslim work colleague). Then I went about my daily life without touching food or drink until sunset. It was difficult but I managed to survive.

What made the biggest impression on me during this experience was the tangible effect of the lack of nourishment on my strengths and focus. This appeared to me a powerful physical metaphor of our relationship with God. We depend on Him at least as much as we depend on food and water. He constantly creates us, sustaining us in existence with His love and can be found when I open my heart to Him in prayer.

Gandhi used to say that ‘prayer is necessary to the soul more than food to the body’.

Prayer is the gateway to the soul where I can meet the Beloved. It is that sacred space where He gives us His full attention, or, in other words, we open ourselves to His loving attention.

Yes, prayer can become the most beautiful time during the day, because it is the time when we talk with whom we love the most.

As the Qur’an says: “‘Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer)…’ He is the Living (One).  There is no god but He.  Call upon Him, giving Him sincere devotion.  Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds!” [3] (Qur’an, 40:60-65) it also says in Psalm 17 verse 6 “I call on you, My God, for you will answer me: turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.”

I have been asked to say something about my relationship with the Beloved. I am a Christian so I will speak primarily from a Christian viewpoint but I am sure that you can find similarities with your experience too.

In the Gospel Jesus invites his disciples to ‘Stay awake, praying at all times’ [4].

Personally I spend 30 minutes every day for meditation and go daily to church for mass and a few other prayers. These are all very special moments but I suspect that Jesus’ invitation is much deeper than just giving to God some of my time.

During his life Jesus offered a great example of his special relationship with God by doing His will. He said: ‘My food is doing the will of God’ [5]. I think that doing His will is the key to continuous prayer.

If I try to do God’s will in every moment then all of my day becomes prayer. I know how much Muslims value the will of God! So in this we are already united as children of the same God.

Therefore, praying for me is not just about reciting some formulas or passages from the Holy Scripture but rather re-orienting my soul and the all of my being to God: to study for Him, to work for Him, to rest, to suffer even to die when that moment will come for Him. Doing each thing well, like that is the only thing I have to do. I experience, and this is the experience of many, that when I live in this way my action is transformed and at the end of the day when I examine my life I find that we (God and I) have been working together and that my day has become a sacred time.

To do God’s will, to connect with Him, for me also means to live my life around three focus points: God, me and the my neighbour. Unity with God and unity with my brothers and sisters are deeply intertwined. In Christianity we believe that through loving our neighbours we can reach union with God.

I have found that this is something very precious to Muslims too: “None of you [truly] believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [6]

Unity with God is like a plant, the deeper it sends its roots into the ground, the higher it grows towards the sun. The more we love our neighbour, the more God’s love grows in us.

God does become more alive in our hearts when we love our neighbour!

Talking to friends of all religions and with many young people I find fascinating how each one of us could tell a similar and yet very personal story of his or her relationship with God.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am sure that because of our mutual love tonight we have a special presence of God among us. What if we asked God together in a pact of unity to bless our friendship and to send us forth as a sign of unity in a world that is in such great need of it.

May God the Almighty, the Most Merciful bless our efforts to bring this love out in the world.

[1]  http://www.focolare.org/gb/

[2] Al-Khisal, Chapter 1, Page 125

[3] Qur’an 40:60 and 65

[4] Luke 21:36

[5] John 4:34

[6] Commentary on An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadeeth: No. 13

Prayer Time Table Tuesday 23 Apr 2024

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