Justice, Kindness and Kinship: An Islamic and American Imperative
By Dr. John Andrew Morrow (Shaykh Ilyas Islam)
Bismillah wa alhamdulillah wa salawat ‘ala Rasulillah.
I, Dr. John Andrew Morrow, known as Ilyas ‘Abd al-‘Alim Islam, am honored to address the 69th Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
I am one of the few Muslim leaders who leads Friday prayers for Sunnis, who performs majlis for Shiis, who participates in dhikr with Sufis, and who speaks on the same platform as Ahmadis.
I am one of the few Muslim leaders who addresses Christian audiences, Jewish audiences, and secular audiences.
I am a person who values diversity but who seeks unity within diversity.
I believe in building bridges and common ground. I believe in focusing on similarity instead of difference. I believe in addressing agreement as opposed to disagreement.
I am not a minimalist. I refuse to be a minority of a minority of a minority.
I am Métis. Our ethnogenesis was the product of a genetic and cultural mixture between French Canadian fur-trappers and First Nation women. I am Quebecois. I am French Canadian. I am Canadian. I am American. I am a citizen of planet earth.
I am universalist.
Let us not reduce ourselves to nothing. We may be Shii. We may be Sunni. We may be Sufi. We may be Ahmadi. But we are not only that.
We may be Malikis, Shafis, Hanbalis, Hanafis, Ja‘faris, Zaydis or Isma‘ilis. But we are not only that. We may belong to dozens of different theological, legal or spiritual paths. But we are not only that.
We may be Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Muslims but most importantly we are monotheists. We are believers in the One and Only God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.
You can take a cow and chop it into thousands of different cuts: but it is still beef. That’s an allegory for anyone who might be hungry right now.
We have differences. That is a given. That is a blessing. That is what enriches us as human beings. But we are not the sum of our differences.
Let us set aside our differences and focus on fundamentals, the belief in One God, the belief in the Prophets of God, and the belief in Life after Death.
Let us unite on the basis of primordial ethical and moral principles.
God is One and God is Just so let us stand for social justice. As Almighty Allah says in the Glorious Qur’an:
O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (4:135)
Let us be kind and considerate for as the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, preached: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.”
Let us build bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood for as Almighty Allah commands the Prophet in al-Qur’an al-Karim: “Say: ‘No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin.’” (42:23)
Finally, as the Messenger of Allah said: “He who does not thank people does not thank Allah” (Tirmidhi and Ahmad)
So let me thank the Ahmadi Community for inviting me here today and let me give credit where credit is due.
The Ahmadi Community was the first to systematically spread Islam in the Western world in general and here in the United States in particular. For this, I thank you.
The Ahmadi Community has always rejected violent jihad and terrorism. For this, I thank you.
The Covenants of the Prophet may be new to some Sunnis, Shiites, and Sufis; however, they are time-honored traditions to the Ahmadi Community. For this, I thank you.
The Covenants of the Prophet were recognized as authentic by the Islamic Review, an Ahmadi academic journal, in 1940.
The Covenants of the Prophet were recognized as authentic by Abdullah Alladin, the Ahmadi scholar, in 1971.
The Covenants of the Prophet were recognized as authentic by Qasim Rashid, my friend and colleague, in 2014.
Finally, in 2016, His Holiness, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current Khalifa of the Ahmadi Muslim Community, quoted a study on the Covenants of the Prophet that was completed by my friend and colleague, Dr. Craig Considine.
Shukran lakum wa shukralillah. Thank you and thank Allah.
Al-salaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.
(This speech was delivered to the 69th annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. It can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znOMN2sY8cI.)
About the Author
Dr. John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas Islam) is a proud member of the Métis Nation, one of the three aboriginal peoples recognized by the Canadian government. He embraced Islam at the age of 16 after several years of serious study. He has been a student of the Islamic Sciences for over thirty years and has acquired knowledge around the world. His teachers have included traditional scholars of Islam from various schools of jurisprudence and spiritual paths as well as Western academics. He received his PhD from the University of Toronto at the age of 29 and reached the rank of Full Professor by the age of 43. He retired from academia in 2016 to devote his time entirely to research, scholarship, and service. Dr. Morrow has authored hundreds of academic articles and over thirty scholarly books, the most influential of which is The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World (2013). He is also the Editor-in-Chief of Islam and the People of the Book, a three-volume encyclopedia on the Muhammadan Covenants which features critical studies by over twenty leading Muslim scholars along with translations of the treaties of the Prophet in over a dozen languages.