The Best Friday Sermon I Have Ever Heard
It is a message that needs to be heard in every mosque in the world.
There has been — and currently is — a “Khutbah,” or sermon, crisis in many mosques in America and around the world. So many times, the Friday sermons — to which I am obligated to listen — given at mosques are irrelevant to my life today, and/or are delivered by people who are either not good speakers or even barely fluent in the English language. It is a major problem, and I have speaking out against it for quite some time.
And so, going to the mosque this past Friday, I didn’t have very high expectations, even though this particular mosque in the Chicago area, the MECCA Center, has been known to have excellent speakers give the Friday sermon. Little prepared me for what I heard during this sermon. It was, without any doubt, the best Friday sermon I have ever heard in my life.
The sermon began by recounting the story behind this passage of the Qur’an:
He frowned and turned away, because the blind man came to him. And what would apprise thee; perhaps he would purify himself or be reminded, such that the reminder might benefit him? As for him deems himself beyond need, to him dost thou attend, thou thou art not answerable should he not be purified. But as for him who came to thee striving earnestly — while fearful [of God] — from him thou art diverted. Nay! Truly it is a reminder — so let whosoever will, remember it. (80: 1–13).
These verses were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as a rebuke following an incident during which a blind man, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum, came to the Prophet seeking guidance. The issue was — at that very moment — the Prophet (pbuh) was engaged in dialogue with prominent leaders of his tribe, Quraysh, and he was hopeful they would listen and follow him. When Abdullah kept coming to him, the Prophet frowned and kept avoiding him.
It was a natural response, but God revealed these verses to remind the Prophet — and all of us — that he should have chosen a better way. In fact, after these verses were revealed, the Prophet used to say to him, “Welcome to him on whose account my Lord rebuked me!”
Now, to me and likely most Muslims, that story is what these verses are about. The Imam of the Sermon — Sh. Tariq Musleh — had another take on them. Sh. Musleh said that these verses also showed that God had intervened to help a person with special needs.
He also mentioned the story of Moses and his brother Aaron (may peace be upon them both). When commissioned by God, Moses asked that God also send Aaron with him to Pharoah, to help Moses in his mission since he had a speech impediment. God answered his request, and again, Sh. Musleh said that this was God helping someone with special needs.
I never thought about those verses from this perspective before, and it totally blew me away.
He then talked about how, in many Muslim communities and many mosques around the world, people with special needs are being neglected and shunned. He told his own story about how he was nearly prevented from bringing his cousin — who has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound — to the Holy Sanctuary in Mecca by the guards at the door.
He recounted his experience going on a Umra — or “mini-Pilgrimage” to Mecca — with Muhsen, a group dedicated to helping Muslims with special needs. He described himself being at a loss for words — and he is a gifted speaker — when trying to describe the mountain of Uhud, outside of the holy city of Medinah, to a brother and sister who were born blind and have never seen a mountain before. It made me think to myself, “I am a writer. Could I do that? Could I describe a mountain to someone who has never seen one?”
He also spoke about how he witnessed a deaf person — who has never heard the call to prayer — be in tears when he was given the call to prayer through sign language. Sh. Musleh said that these Muslims with special needs, rather than he teaching them, they taught him. It brought me to tears.
I know all too well the life of those with special needs — our eldest daughter suffered from a crippling genetic disorder that robbed her of the ability to walk by the age of ten. I know all too well the struggles of taking care of someone who is totally dependent on my wife and me. I know all too well the looks of sympathy that people would give me when I would bring my daughter — who died of cancer ten years ago — in a wheelchair to the mosque or someone’s home. While, thank God, I never felt shunned by the community or the mosques I attended, I am heartbroken to hear that so many other people have not had the same experience.
And so, I was so greatly moved by Sh. Musleh’s pledge that this mosque — the MECCA Center — will be a home for those with special needs and the families that take care of them. It brought me to tears. Further, he told the congregation, “You need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Muhsen is a truly wonderful organization. This is what they are about:
Muhsen will strive to lead in creating a better understanding of Disabilities in our communities and building a better future for these “Special” People of Jannah, In shaa Allah where they are welcomed and all their needs are addressed as they are accepted by all.
They have a mosque certification program, and I am so happy to report that many of the major mosques in the Chicago — including MECCA Center — have achieved Muhsen’s Silver Certification. This organization needs our support, and may God bless all of those who are working with Muhsen in its extremely important mission.
These Muslims with special needs — those with physical disabilities, mental impairments, those with autism or Down’s Syndrome — are our sisters and brothers; these Muslims are human beings who deserve to be and feel welcomed in God’s Houses; these Muslims are, in fact, “people of Jannah (Paradise) whom God chose to walk among us on earth,” as Sh. Musleh said in his sermon.
While my wife and I were so anguished to see our daughter suffer, to see her not be able to run and play like her other siblings, and friends, and cousins, we had such happiness when she was with us. I swear by God — even though people would feel sorry for me if I had to carry her — I was the happiest man on earth. She had such an Angelic presence, and there is not a day that goes by that my heart doesn’t ache for her absence.
This sermon’s call — to make our houses of worship, God’s Houses — a home and sanctuary for all Muslims, including and especially those with special needs, must be made in every mosque, in every city, in every country. It is our duty as Muslims to make it so, and as the beloved Sh. Musleh said, we need to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”