The Islamic Post Blog

Second Annual Eid Milad an Nabi Parade and Festival Unites Muslims and Christians in Upstate New York by Khalida
May 19, 2009, 2:15 am
Filed under: Front Page News, Interfaith, May Volume I - 2009, National

By Nafisah Begum

Islamic Post Staff Writer

As people of the Binghamton, NY, area move forward out of unexpected and engulfing grief, the result of the April 3 massacre of 14 victims with numerous injured, the Islamic Post recalls how the wider community has been brought closer together, sharing triumph then tragedy.
BINGHAMTON —On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, days before tragic shooting at the American Civic Center brought the community together in mourning, Muslims and Christians came together at the West Presbyterian Church for the Second Annual Milad-un-Nabi Parade and Festival, celebrating the auspicious births of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad son of Abdullah and the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Pure (God’s peace be upon them). Hosting the event was the United Muslim Christian Forum (UMCF), an organization founded by His Eminence, El Sheikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani Hashmi, to remind the children of Abraham of their duties to each other and to all of mankind.
UMCF representatives returned to light candles with pastors from the Broome County Council of Churches, Muslims of the Americas, local government officials, University professors, and devotees of peace to support each other in grief, as only days before the community had celebrated, in joy, the auspicious births of two sons of Abraham.
The UMCF message was, and is, that the religions of the Holy Last Messenger Muhammad and the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, the Chaste (May God’s peace be upon them) are two faces of a single reality: worship of One God combined with the love of one’s neighbor. There was much to share on both occasions. (See, “Candlelight Vigil,” on A3)
The United Muslim Christian Forum, sponsored by the Muslims of the Americas, was a successful event, as evidenced by standing room only attendance. The church was packed with hundreds of the faithful hoping to bridge the gap between the children of Abraham by not focusing on what makes them different, but the commonality of each and the mutual love for the Almighty Creator, His Prophets, and the messages they brought, such as – ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ Historically, Muslims and Christians have been incited to violent clashes that have left each side reeling from the effects, eventually falling under the foot of persecution for exercising their beliefs. But even this has not stopped the children of Abraham from uniting in God’s Will as One.
The children of Abraham continue to celebrate their love and devotion for the Creator, trying their best to secure entrance into the Almighty’s Heaven. This quest of love makes them the enemy of him (Satan), whose final home will be everlasting darkness.
The event began with a program at the West Presbyterian Church, as approved by its board, in order to “foster inter- religious dialogue, understanding and tolerance,” said Pastor Andrew Stehlik, who stated later in his opening acknowledgements: “It is marvelous to see this sanctuary so full with the Children of God.” He then proceeded to read several verses from the Bible depicting the Oneness, Mercy and Forgiveness of the Almighty.
Even before the program began, one participant described the charge of excitement, “Though I couldn’t see them, I felt the eyes of the world on this moment,” said Aisha Muqit who drove over seven hundred miles to attend the event. An unidentified Christian attendee gasped with excitement stating, “To God be the Glory!” as he took in the pews packed with Muslims observing the utmost of etiquette in the church and exhibiting an overflowing love for The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary (peace be upon him).
The program commenced with benedictions by the Mistress of Ceremonies, Mrs. Laila Rashid, who recited Surah Al Fatihah (“The Opening”), from Holy Qu’ran, in which mankind implores the Almighty to ‘show us the straight way, the path of which Thou has favored, not the path of those who have been led astray.’
The National Anthem, passionately performed by the young Muslim lady’s group, Daughters of Peace, nearly brought tears to onlookers. UMCF Public Relations Representative, Muhammad Hasib A. Haqq, welcomed attendees, speakers and special guests..
Program speakers included the aforementioned Pastor Andrew Stehlik of West Presbyterian Church, to whom the UMCF remains grateful for the hosting of the event; Khalifah Muhammad Hussein Adams, Chairman Muslims of the Americas; Father Tim Taugher of St. Catherine of Siena; the Honorable Khadijah Smith, Deputy Chairperson of the Muslims of the Americas; Dr. Bashir Abdul-Wadud of the American Muslim Medical Relief Team; Dr. Diane O’Heron of Broome Community College, a second year attendee and speaker; Dr. Jawairiyya Abdallah-Shahid of the Abdul Qadir Gilani Institute of Sufic Sciences; and special guest, the Mayor of Binghamton, Matthew T. Ryan.

Matthew T. Ryan, Mayor of Binghamton
Special guest, Mayor Matthew T. Ryan of Binghamton, NY, stated how happy he was to attend such an august gathering where the focus was love of the Almighty Creator. He acknowledged that this time last year he received many “hate-filled emails” about the event, and that this year was no exception, recalling how he decided to personally speak to a gentleman calling all the way from Oklahoma, questioning his reasons for being involved in such an occasion. The Mayor explained to him the honor to live in a place where all its citizens can live in harmony and not be separated by the prejudices that exist around the world. Unfortunately, this harmony would be disrupted days later when a lone gunman killed thirteen people in Binghamton’s American Civic Association center, promptly returning many of the parade’s attendees to show support to families in grief and help to console a city of many faiths. Later in the program, Mayor Ryan would do the honor of unveiling the new sign to grace the future office of the United Muslim Christian Forum.
Other excerpts from the program’s speakers below attest to the theme of finding common ground and uniting under the banner of One Almighty God in peace.

The Honorable Khalifah Muhammad Hussein Adams, Chairman of Muslims of the Americas
The Honorable Khalifah Muhammad Hussein Adams, began with benedictions and a special thanks to Pastor Andrew and his congregation for allowing this gathering to be held at their church: “I bear witness that there is no God, but One God who created Adam with His own Hands and blew in him His spirit as He did Jesus son of Mary; and placed upon his head the crown of viceroy-hood and created man to serve Him.” He further stated, “We have no doubt that Almighty God is watching us, Jesus son of Mary (peace be upon him) is watching us, and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is watching us. We declare that we love Jesus Son of Mary (peace be upon him) and we follow his way. We must come to one common ground…we were one, and must become one again.”
Before the Honorable Khalifah concluded, he conveyed a declaration before those present in the church and to all Christians and Muslims at large: “I must convey to you a declaration and clarification, which must for all times remove prejudices and misunderstandings amongst both communities. Which is, we love and adore Jesus Son of Mary! Even those at the helm of affairs in Christianity may not realize that the fact of the Trinity is that Jesus is a manifestation of God’s attribute “Kun Faya Kun” (“Be and it is Done!”). The Holy Ghost is a manifestation of God’s glory –meaning, thereby, they are two beings who merge in One and only One God. Jesus is the Spirit of God and that is why he could revive the dead and Gabriel, the Holy Ghost, is a manifestation of God’s will. These both are manifestations of One God. We don’t wish to make controversy. We are your Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Father Tim Taugher, St. Catherine of Siena
Father Tim Taugher expounded on the theme of unity saying, “Common ground has been woven in the words already spoken by those who have come up before me; we must continue to establish dialogue.” He reiterated the commonality between Muslims, Christians, and Jews and stressed love, solidarity, and compassion for all of the children of Abraham. He continued, “There is a book that I recommend that when given the time you read, it is called The History of God, by K. Armstrong, which looks through different religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism; and creates a sense of compassion, that we are rooted together from the same foundation.”

Dr. Jawairriya Abdallah-Shahid, Abdul Qadir Gilani Institute of Sufic Sciences
Dr. Jawairriya Abdallah-Shahid, founding member of the Abdul Qadir Gilani Institute of Sufic Sciences, said, “In the realm of Sufis, Jesus stands as a role model of a great Sufi master. The Sufi doctrine demands that all those who wish to attain proximity to the Almighty Creator and annihilation and subsistence in Him must not pay any attention to the temptation of the world and worldly pursuits, nor be lured by the promise of bliss and gardens of paradise. Above all, the Sufi master teaches, as Jesus taught, that no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he is born again. This is what we are taught by our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), mentioned as the ‘Comforter’- and ‘Ahmad’ (one worthy to be praised) in the Torah. To separate Jesus from Islam is a gross misunderstanding due to lack of knowledge.” She further confirmed, “Testimony regarding the authenticity and truthfulness of his (Jesus’) mission was professed by Muhammad (peace be upon him). In conjunction with Holy Qur’an, he teaches that Jesus and his blessed mother Mary were free from all of the slanderous and false accusations brought against them.”
Dr. Jawairriya Abdallah-Shahid continued: “At this time, I would like to bring to your attention another of the worlds’ greatest Sufi masters, Sheikh Akbar, Ibn Arabi. It was Sheikh Ibn Arabi who introduced the philosophy that man is not all he appears to be and that the real man lies hidden within the human like a tree in the stage of a seed or the bird in the form of an egg. His emphasis was on the true potential of human beings and the path one should tread to become a perfect human being.
Fusus al-Hikam was Sheikh Ibn Arabi’s last major opus and is considered his most famous work. It was translated with commentary and many professors including some from Binghamton University commented on this book. This demonstrates that the quest for knowledge is present. The desire to identify the self with God is there. Sufis are leading the way. All those who love Muhammad (peace be upon him) also love Jesus Son of Mary.
“The Vice Chancellor was at our Sufic Research Institute in Pakistan when contacted the him about difficulties I was having. I was in the hospital preparing to give birth to my son. After medical inducement and several hours of labor, he had not been born. The Vice Chancellor recited over the phone into my ear. After recitation, my son was immediately born. The verse has been translated from Hebrew to Arabic and from Arabic to English: ‘Hannah gave birth to Mary, and Mary gave birth to Jesus! Oh baby, come out by the command of Allah, the Commanding God.’ I myself am a witness to the mercy of the Sufic Sciences and, in addition, there are many others in the audience who can testify to this being the case. Sufis are the saviors of mankind.”

Dr. Diane O’Heron, Professor, Broome Community College
As a repeat attendee, Dr. Diane O’Heron, professor at Broome Community College, expressed how last year’s event sparked her desire to know more about The Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad ibn Abdullah (peace and blessings be upon him). Dr. O’Heron began her speech with the greeting shared by over a billion Muslims worldwide: “Asalaamu Alaikum.”
She continued, “I hope, as a Christian, to denounce the fear, hate, and ignorance that would have me to deny who you are to me. My faith and love of God empowers me to call you family, people for whose well-being I am responsible, and to whose faith my faith is tied. As Muslims you have always known me as your sister. The Holy Qur’an makes that relationship clear. I, on the other hand, have just begun to understand the profound possibilities and responsibilities of sharing my spiritual destiny with you. Today, I ask all Christians to learn about these possibilities with me. To start by learning what beliefs and experiences bind Christians and Muslims together. In doing so, I believe that we will come to a deeper understanding of the love of God, The Almighty, the One who erases all differences by calling each of us His sons and daughters. Peace and blessings be upon the Prophet whose life has brought us together today. And thanks be to God for making it possible for me to see you for who you truly are in God’s eyes, my teachers, my family, my loved ones.”
Dr. O’Heron also told the story of how, in history, the Muslims suffered persecution at the hands of the Qur’aish polytheists and how refuge was taken in Abyssinia under the rule of the Christian King Negus, who was known for his fairness and respect to all people and who ultimately protected the Muslims against persecution. She concluded: “Our differences are real. No one here denies them. But what we are called to do as believers is to honor the example of the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus, and men like the Negus by recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in faith. God commands us to try and see one another with His eyes, to see that all of us share a connection to Him, the Almighty, the One who erases all differences by claiming each of us as His own.”
A roar of pleasure, then a hush, fell over the crowd as the magnitude of the event became evident.

Dr. Bashir Abdul-Wadud, American Muslim Medical Relief Team
Dr. Bashir Abdul-Wadud of the American Muslim Medical Relief Team confirmed that the United Muslim Christian Forum would coordinate commemoration of the birth of Jesus Son of Mary on the calendar date of his birth and expressed the need to open an office to cultivate further dialogue between Muslims and Christians.
Program Conclusion
Concluding the program portion of the event, the Honorable Khadijah Smith, Deputy Chairman of Muslims of the Americas, presented gifts to speakers and special guests, on behalf of the Vice Chancellor of the Muslims of the Americas, His Eminence, El Sheikh Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani. Daughters of Peace performed an awe-inspiring hymn, “Quest for Peace,” followed by the parade procession where participants walked from West Presbyterian Church to the Binghamton Courthouse, Muslims and Christians side by side.


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