Bismillah Arrahman Arraheem. In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
I come to you today, O God, Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds, as Eid al-Adha ascends with the setting sun. Though not a Muslim with a capital “M,” I pray in the blessed name of Allah, knowing that you are the God of us all. I pray in solidarity with Muslims around the world whose hearts, if not bodies, are in Mecca right now. I pray with those who have gathered from all around the world to humble themselves before you shoulder to shoulder with sisters and brothers who hail from other lands and speak in different tongues. I pray to the All Compassionate One for unity in a world that is being ripped apart by cruelty and violence.
Today, millions will gather around the Kaaba, the house that, according to Islam, you commanded Abraham and Ishmael to build together. This is your humble abode, a simple black cube. What makes it beautiful, what makes it holy, I believe, is that it is a centering place for those who come to worship you from all different lands. It is the largest gathering point for those who bear your image – humans created in your likeness – to come and set aside differences and hostilities, to orient themselves in worship of you. The beauty of this day is the unity – the family of humanity – as people of all colors and wide and varied understandings of your will see only your peace, your grace, and your love reflected in the eyes of their neighbors, neighbors from within their own families and across the world. That sense of being drawn together, that sense of unity, must extend beyond this blessed holy day. It must guide all our lives. We cannot worship you shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors one day and turn guns on each other the next.
Today, Muslim pilgrims and Muslims all around the world remember Abraham, the prophet-pilgrim, called by you out of his home, away from his family and village, back to the true worship of you when humanity had gone astray. Abraham, ancestor to Christians and Jews as well as Muslims, was set apart for a blessing not to keep to himself, but to share with the whole world. The blessing you gave him was the guidance to know you for who you are. Set apart from the idols, gods of war and tribalism, gods of greed and vengeance, gods of limited love for their own and wrath for others, Abraham was called to worship the One God of all creation.
Abraham’s obedience, particularly in his willingness to sacrifice his son, will be celebrated. In knowing that you desire our whole lives, both Abraham and, according to Muslims, Ishmael, were willing to obey you unto death. But in sparing Ishmael, you revealed that your true desire is mercy, not sacrifice. You are the one who said that to kill one innocent person is to kill all of humanity. You are set apart from the false gods that have deluded humanity for countless generations by your mercy and love, especially for those who are most vulnerable, those trampled and exploited and oppressed. In sparing Abraham’s son, you revealed that blood shed to honor you is shed in ignorance and misunderstanding. Your blessing to the whole world through Abraham began with this revelation, and we today are still coming to understand it. We have a long way to go, for we continue to kill in your name long after you stayed Abraham’s hand. As millions orient themselves around the Kaaba, let us continue to orient our lives around your revelation.
Oh God, you alone know the extent of the unfathomable crises that shake our world today. While millions of pilgrims pour into Mecca, millions more are making an involuntary journey for their own survival. We are in the midst of the worst refugee crisis in 60 years, and all signs point to it getting worse as wars and global warming make increasingly large areas of this home that you have given us uninhabitable. Oh God, you know that while millions gather to absorb the peace that you have promised through obedience, the salaam of Islam, peace alludes millions more who flee for their lives or mourn the loss of their friends, family members, even their own identity as war robs them of everything that made life bearable. You see the broken bodies and the tear-stained faces, you hear the pounding hearts as people run or swim for their lives, you hold the suffering in your hands as their stamina and will to live runs out. On a day when millions gather to worship you, help them, help us all, to remember that we cannot worship you without remembering the suffering of all of your people.
May those who pass through the gates of Mecca today remember how their spiritual ancestors fled for their lives, remember that the story of Islam is the story of the refugee. And may Christians, Jews, and your children of all faiths remember that we are all pilgrims, all sojourners in a world that has yet to repent and reorient itself to your will, your will of nonviolent love, your will of peace, your will of abundance for us all. Until we make this world a place fit for all of your creation to live in the harmony that you intend, none of us are yet home.
Draw the hearts of all your people together on this sacred day. Heal us from our violence, and give us the strength and the will and the love to rebuild this broken world. In your name, O Love, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Ameen.