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Beautiful snowflakes descended gently from the heavens, as the first major snowstorm of 2011 made its way across most of the United States and Canada. Yet, this did nothing to deter hundreds of guests who made their way into the Liberty Ballroom at Days Inn Motel in Binghamton, New York; faithful who gathered in anticipation of the commemoration and celebration of the auspicious and noble birth of ‘The Anointed One’, Jesus son of the Chaste Mary (perpetual peace be upon them both), his life, his doctrine of peace and his miracles.
The spirit of the expression ‘Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards Mankind’ reverberated around the exquisitely decorated ballroom as Christians and their Muslim brethren took their seats. In their smiles and greetings, the warmth, tranquility, and love that filled the room was undeniably felt by all.

 

This interfaith event was the second of its kind under the banner of the United Muslim Christian Forum (UMCF), the organization established by his Eminence Sultan Mubarik A. Gilani in order to join Muslims and Christians in working towards unity in faith, fellowship, peace and promulgating the message that all people of faith must unite in order to save humanity from destruction..
The guest list of speakers were impressive – a mixture of clergy, government officials, humanitarians, several renowned academic speakers, as well as several musical performances. Listed are just tidbits of each speaker’s fountain of wisdom; admittedly, to have missed this program was to miss a pivotal point in world history.
The afternoon began with a warm welcome by Mistress of Ceremonies Professor Dr. Diane O’Heron of Broome Community College, member of St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church and the UMCF, who reiterated our purpose for coming from far and wide – that Mankind is the Family of God and this family is built upon love. Dr O’Heron mentioned that despite the violence being perpetrated against Christians in Iraq, Egypt, and other nations by unidentified instigators, the exisistance, growth and work of organizations such as the UMCF guarantees that “ they will not win”, and their hatred will not triumph.
Professor O’Heron proceeded to introduce Mr. Muhammad Shafa’i Caba, student of International Qur’anic Open University, who recited verses from a chapter of the Holy Quran titled Al-Maidah (The Table-spread) in its original language (Arabic), also reading its English translation. Mr. Caba’s soulful, heartfelt words echoed across the room: “And in their footsteps, We sent Jesus son of Mary confirming the Torah that had come before him, and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirmation of the Torah that had come before it, a guidance and an admonition for the pious” (Holy Quran: Al Maidah, Ayah 46).
The melodious, nightingale-like voice of Mrs. Fatimah Sakina Abdur-Razzaq led us in the National Anthem, and as Mrs. Abdur-Razzaq sang, the meaning and hope of those timeless words set the precedent for what was to be a momentous occasion.
Mr. Andrew Block, representative of the Office of the Mayor of Binghamton NY, Executive Assistant to Mayor Matthew T. Ryan, looking out upon the attendees, expressed his delight in participating in this event in the absence of Mayor Ryan and stated, “Out of many we are one!” The Mayor’s office has a long history of service to the community that has included enthusiastic support for interfaith organizations such as the United Muslim Christian Forum, and has supported UMCF events for over four years.
The first of seven notable guest speakers was Dr. Jawairriya Abdullah-Shahid, author of “Veiled Voices: Muhajabat in Secular Schools”. Currently, Dr. Abdullah-Shahid is working under the direct instruction of His Eminence Sultan Mubarik A. Gilani, in the establishment of the first-of- its-kind Abdul-Qadir Gilani Institute of Sufic Sciences in South Carolina. “Al-Messiah’s status as a great Sufi Master is noble and elite. The height of his spiritual knowledge and abilities are known to few,” stated Dr. Abdullah-Shahid, then quoting Sufi Master Sultan Mubarik A. Gilani: “No Sufi work is complete without quoting Jesus son of Mary. He is on one of the highest levels or stages of human evolution and perfection. He inspires with words of wisdom. He has total disregard for this world (worldly life) and loves One Almighty God.”
Pastor of First Congregational Church and UMCF Board Member, Rev. Arthur Suggs shared his childhood longing for the unity of the human family after being taught in Sunday school that only people who looked like him would be saved. He quoted Han Kung, “There can be no peace between nations until there is peace between religions, and there can be no peace between religions without dialogue. I would then add, two more concepts to that logic: humility, and the Divine.”
The next speaker, Senior Pastor Henry Wallace of the Gates of Goodness and Mercy Church of Watertown, NY, chaplain for NY State Dept. of Corrections, and graduate of Embry Riddle University and Piedmont Aerospace Institute, was so emotionally and spiritually moved by what he witnessed in the gathering, that he pushed aside his pre-written speech, and instead spoke from his heart, expressing to the youth in attendance his pride in seeing so many dedicated to their beliefs and living accordingly.
The commitment to social justice and interfaith community efforts of Reverend Doug Taylor of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton, made him a natural choice to be a guest speaker at the first UMCF celebration of the Milad un Nabi, the birth of the Holy Last Messenger, in 2008, and whose warm smile radiated his intense happiness to join us once again. He reminded us all of our need to follow the guidance of the Ten Commandments and adhere to the Golden Rule: “To love God and love thy neighbor as thyself,” he said, “…in light of our pluralistic times, our best move is to do all that we do with love.”
The next distinguished speaker was Professor Dr. Ali Mazrui, Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies and Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities Binghamton University, Senior Scholar in Africana Studies Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, Senior Fellow, Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University in Washington, DC, with a doctorate of Philosophy from Oxford University. He is also the recipient of multiple honorary doctorates in diverse academic fields, and holds national decorations awarded by the Heads of State of South Africa and Kenya.
Professor Mazrui began by stating that Muslims clearly believe in the virgin birth of Jesus and the many miracles attributed to him such as curing lepers and his walking upon water. He said miracles are of two types those that require faith in order to believe, and those which are factually verifiable, he then went on to present examples of each. He said, “Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross, and then came back to life. Muslims believe Muhammad went to heaven without dying, and returned to Mecca via Jerusalem the next day. In the city where Jesus was killed, and then came back to life, Muhammad ascended to heaven live from the city, and then returned on the morrow. Muhammad’s heavenly experience occurred on the night of ‘Miraj’. It was that night which turned Jerusalem into a sacred city for Muslims, as well as for Jews and Christians. According to Christians, Jesus departed from life and then returned to life. According to Muslims, Muhammad departed from this world live — and then returned to earth without dying in-between. Both miracles are faith-intensive, he continued, “On the other hand, there are two miracles which are factually verifiable but did not qualify as miracles until centuries later. The Prophet Muhammad dictated the verses of the Qur’an orally, and his disciples wrote them down. The miracle is that today the Qur’an already qualifies as the most widely read book in its original language in human history. T his numerical statement is a miracle which is factually verifiable. The Bible is the most widely read book in translation. No book in history has been translated into more languages than has the Christian Bible. And yet the majority of Christians on earth have no idea what language Jesus spoke. Neither Jesus nor Muhammad picked up a pen to write down their own scriptures. Yet the books with which they are associated have become the most influential literary achievements in the history of the written word. It is miracles such as these which are factually verifiable.” Professor Mazrui’s words captured his audience as he encouraged listeners to take notes, continuing to deliver many more precious historical gems.
The Honorable Khadijah Smith, Vice Chairperson of the UMCF, conveyed salutations upon the auspicious Holy Last Messenger Muhammad and the Righteous Messenger Jesus son of Mary the Chaste (peace upon them) and all those in attendance. She then imparted to us what the noble Jesus son of Mary said is the ‘greatest commandment’ for mankind, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” she continued, “ lest we be like the people of Antioch who rejected the Oneness of God, who persisted in their disbelief and evil ways even after clear evidence was sent to them.” Mrs. Smith implored us, “Think about recent years leading up to now, where cities of people, hundreds of thousands, are wiped away in minutes as 2010 goes on record as the second worst year for ‘Natural Disasters’ in history, we must reflect.”
Last but not least among the noted speakers was Honorable Khalifa Hussein Adams, Chairman of UMCF, Chief Executive Director of Muslims of Americas, and winner of Universal Peace Foundations’ Ambassador of Peace Award. Mr. Adams has led national and international relief efforts to aid victims of natural disasters by effectively coordinating members of the community to bring assistance, healing, and support to devastated lives in the U.S. and around the globe. Mr. Adams, stated, in no uncertain terms, that one cannot be a Muslim except by following the practices and the way of Jesus son of Mary. He said, “Jesus son of Mary taught his disciples to love humanity and all of creation. He exhibited, through his teachings, compassion for all that had no limits and denounced any hatred if it wasn’t for the sake of thy Lord. Our Blessed Jesus, son of Mary even prayed for the cursed devil and asked The Almighty Creator to pardon him! But the devil refused saying, ‘I am better than thee and God must seek my forgiveness first’. He gave and withheld, loved and hated, only for the sake of God.”
Sprinkled between these powerful speeches were musical performances by returning guest vocalists Banaatus Salaam (Ladies of Peace) who performed two songs specifically written for the program “Glory to the Lord” and “Seekers of Truth”. Also performing original piece was Mr. Taajudeen Abdul-Haqq, singing a song co-written by Muhammad Masoom Bey entitled The Miracle of Jesus. Mr. Abdul Haqq hails from Canada, and sings inspirational songs in English, Arabic, Turkish and Urdu. The truth of his words coupled with the richness of Mr. Abdul-Haqqs’ voice moved all to tears, truly what was felt cannot be conveyed in words.
This year’s program ended with the traditional conferral of gifts presented to the distinguished speakers by Mrs. Maryam Rahim, Executive Secretary of UMCF and Mistress of Ceremonies, Professor O’Heron, who herself was among the guest speakers at 1st UMCF celebration of the Milad un Nabi, the birth of the Holy Last Messenger (perpetual peace be upon him), in 2008.
One cannot deny the presence and pleasure of Jesus, son of Chaste Mary, his Honored Mother, and his Noble Disciples (peace be upon them all) at this moving and loving program in their honor.
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