Monday, August 8, 2011

Honoring our Soldiers in Aghanistan


In memory of our soldiers and Navy Seals who died on Saturday, please observe a minute of silence honoring them. May God bless them and give patience to their families. May God give us the wisdom to end Wars and find solutions through mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. Amen


Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 5 of Ramadan 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011 | Ramadan 5, 1432
PURPOSE: To share and appreciate the diversity within Islam.

THE PLAN: Iftaar at a mosque from every denomination including: Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Shia, Sufi, Sunni, Warith Deen Muhammad, Wahabbi and others. You are welcome to join me or experience it yourselves, we have to learn to respect the differences and appreciate the uniqueness of each tradition. God says the best among you is the one who knows each other for peaceful co-existence.

......................................... ...

God willing, I will highlight the uniqueness of each tradition on a daily basis and I hope we as Muslims can cherish it. I encourage each one of you to experience it and write about it.


Terms: Listed below

Sahri (Pre-dawn meal): Oat meal in Soya Milk
Iftaar (refreshments): Dates, Chana Masala (spiced Chickpeas) and Milk
Iftaar (Dinner): Fresh Salad, Pita Bread, Rice and Chicken Korma (curry)
Mosque: Shia Masjid, Momin Center, Irving
Culture: Urdu Speaking Muslims from India and Pakistan and others

Praise the lord, they have expanded the Shia Mosque in Irving, it’s almost double the size from last year and they have added a room, a beautiful sanctuary with hardwood floors. Several picture frames were set on the wooden cabinets with the names of twelve Imams in the Shia tradition with the name of Abbas son of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (first Shi'a Imam and fourth Rashidun Caliph) placed prominently in the middle and a brass plate with hand symbols hung in the middle. I believe they call the sanctuary the Imam Bara. I just could not resist noting my Dad’s election symbol which was the hand when he ran for the Mayor of Yelahanka Town Municipality in the early fifties.

Of all the Mosques I have been to, this Mosque has the best carpet with inlaid design for the prayer rows demarcations, and I loved the color of the carpet – it’s kind of greenish Khaki. Mujahid, one of the leaders of the community said that it was imported from Turkey and they had placed heavy padding under the carpet. Indeed, it was a luxury to sit on that carpet.


The breaking of fast occurs nearly 20 minutes after the sunset; the dusk is interpreted as the disappearance of light after the sunset an uniquely Shia Tradition. The fast ends with Azan (Adhan) the prayer call and everyone breaks the fast with dates and other refreshments, water or the Milk followed by the prayers. The Iftaar dinner is after the prayers and they had the delicious Chicken Korma (curry) that reminded me of my Taiba Uncle's curry, which will never fade out of my memory. Apparently it was cooked by the Aunt of Abbas a friend I have known for nearly 16 years. Compliments to her for the wonderful Chicken Korma.
The 2nd Prayer call is to gather the worshippers for the ritual prayer called Namaz or Salat. During this call, when the name of the Prophet Muhammad is recited, the Muezzin (the reciter) and the congregation both recite the full Darood (Peace prayer to the Prophet and his progeny). This practice is unique to the Shia branch of Islam.

As the people gather up, the prayer begins, unlike the Sunni Mosques where the Imam invariably asks the congregation to stand in straight lines and shoulder to shoulder, this Mosque assumed that they do and did not make the call.

Another unique item is the biscuit size round clay tablets placed on the floor to rest the forehead during the prostration posture.

As the prayer begins, the worshippers drop their hands to their sides while the Sunnis bring their folded hands together on the abdomen. At the end of the recitation of first chapter of Quraan, the word “Amen” is uttered silently.

During the Ruku (kneeling) the Imam (prayer leader) recites out in audible voice the name of God three times along with sending peace and blessings (darood) to the Prophet, a Shia Tradition. The process is repeated during the prostration as well.

On the 2nd Unit of the prayers, in the standing position, after reciting the first chapter of Quraan and an additional chapter, the Shias lift their hands and do the supplication prayers, the only other place I have seen that practice is at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Finally at the end of the 3rd Unit of prayer – they do not turn their head to the right or the left while saying As-salaamu aliakum o Rahmatullah as the Sunnis do.

During the month of Ramadan, most mosques bring guest Imams and here at the Momin Center, Imam Nabi Raza was visiting from San Jose, California. He is from Richmond Town, Bangalore, and a fellow Bangalorean and has been in the states for nearly 20 years. He was excited about my visit to every mosque during Ramadan so we can learn to respect the uniqueness of each tradition. He talked about the extensive programs they have in the bay area Mosques where all the Sunnis and Shias gather up on occasions. He mentioned that they gather up 15-20,000 Audience in Bangalore to celebrate Prophet’s birthday (Maulood, Milaad). Insha Allah, God willing we may coordinate visiting Bangalore as I give a talk “Prophet the peace maker” every act of the prophet had one thing in common – conflict mitigations and goodwill nurturance.

Nabi Raza’s talk topic was Sura Baqara, verse 2:183

Al-Baqara (The Cow) 2:183

2:183 (Asad) O YOU who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God: -

He talked about what constitutes Muttaqeen, the pious one and he honed on Hazrat Ali’s speech, the number one item (of the 101) is to “speak precisely and to the point” He referenced Prophet Muhammad’s saying where he had said, the most important gift to human beings is intelligence and the tongue (ability to speak) and must be used discreetly, as it is the tongue that can hurt others, can bring troubles in the communities and families.
One of the final attainments in the stage of piety is the ability to receive guidance from God – he used the word Wahi, the revelations. When you have achieved the purity of your being, all that comes to you is God’s wisdom. Indeed, I believe in that as the Sufis do and most Christians subscribe to that whereas it is not a part the Sunni tradition.

The most appealing item of his talk was – God does not need your prayers or fasting, it’s for your benefit that you do. He said if all the humanity abandons God, it does not make any difference to him, or if the whole humanity worships him every minute of the day, it does not make any difference to him, we are a speck (Carl Sagan?) in his unlimited Universe. Indeed the Bhagvad Gita says, even serving others, helping other is for selfish reason; it is an act of self preservation and self balancing. Just the other day, I was sharing with a few friends that I am a Muslim for me and not for anyone else. Several of my Sunni friends attempted to correct me – You are a Muslim for the sake of God. I reiterate that I am a Muslim to be in tune with the universe to seek my own balance in the whole.

Islam is not a monolithic religion and it will take another generation of constant exposure for Muslims to learn to accept and respect the otherness of other. The same goes with the Christian denominations, they are in the same boat of not accepting the other denominations as legitimate and you will find that in every religious tradition. That is not religion; religion is indeed about humility and not arrogance. Together we all have to grow up to enjoy the beauty of humility and valuing the God given uniqueness of each one of us.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, writer and a thinker nurturing the pluralistic values of Islam. More at:

Sahri - Pre-Dawn meal before early Morning Prayer (fajr).
Iftaar - Sunset Meal as a conclusion of the fast.

Sawm - fasting from sunrise to sunset - No food, no water, no nothing and no intake of any food or water. More critically it is a practice to abstain from ill-will, malice, anger, temptations and human desires. Don't hear, see, speak or act less than goodness.

Rituals - There are several variations in rituals and they vary from place to place. In Bangalore where I am from, the whole family gets up early around 4:00 AM and together cook extensive meals for Sahri /Suhoor, while others choose to cook earlier night and just warm it up and eat in the morning. The Iftaar is done elaborately at mosques, homes or other gatherings where friends from different faiths are invited to break bread and nurture goodwill.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

British Actress Inspired by Prophet Muhammad’s Life

Thanks to Hasni Essa for sharing this article with a great introduction, I read it and I really liked it. I can relate with Myriam Francois-Cerrah. The following note is written with the intention of a long term sustainable cohesive societies and I hope some of my Muslim and Christian friends get it and I know most of them do.

My story is similar in the sense I came to Islam for similar reasons that she did. As a Pluralist who respects all of God's creation and honors every which way one adores the creator, I found Quraan (Beware, there are two bad translations that the right wingers go by, rather than 23 good ones – details at ) to be a book of guidance in living with justice and fairness to every human being, where no one is afraid of the other, it was about creating peaceful societies and that is really what Islam is all about. Myriam has summed it up very well in her story and I am deeply inspired by Prophet Muhammad’s guidance and I urge individuals to find it on their own.

Religions indeed came into being to fix the dysfunctional societies, a majority of the people gets it and a few don't. Those who don't get it wear the same religious label but act entirely opposite of what their religion guides them. Neither Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews nor others act their religion out, they act their greed out.

Rarely do I read conversion stories as I do not see the need for it, each religion is beautiful and serves the purpose of bringing tranquility and balance to the individual. The missionizing operations in Islam and Christianity are more interested in religionizing and branding the individuals rather than bringing tranquility and peace to them. Quraan was clear when it said, whether you are a Jew, Christian or other, you need not worry about God's grace, he will shower you with this blessings if you are good to his creation; people and the environment. Indeed, Prophet Muhammad fortified it by saying that if you marry a Jewish or a Christian woman, you don't need to convert. Those are powerful statements from a Pluralism point of view. Prophet Muhammad and Jesus (and all the messengers) offered models of living that will serve the individuals and the humanity, their models were so good that people would want to emulate them and that was the right approach, it was about free will.

However, if one is not satisfied with the given set of beliefs be it Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu or the other, she or he must explore and find what works and go for it. It is a shame that a few states in my India place restrictions on one's choices. No one should dictate what one eats, drinks, breathes, wears or believes.

I get a lot of calls from people asking me about Islam, and I always tell them to take time to learn their own beautiful faith and not jump, despite that about nine have converted in the last year. At least 3 are Mormon girls and one an Atheist, Hindu and others. I want to share an interesting sentence I heard a few weeks ago in my sermon on Pluralism – he asked if there is a way for him to follow Islam without being associated with Muslims? Most likely the few Muslims he met may have invited him to become a Muslim brand based on belief rather than what the belief will do to him; bring tranquility and peace. Miryam has alluded to it, “I did not immediately identify with the Muslim community. I found many things odd and many attitudes perplexing. The attention given to the outward over the inward continues to trouble me deeply.” Indeed, a few visible Muslims have subdued the significance of the inward attainment and reduced the religion to external manifestations.

Let religion be a solution to your peaceful existence and not a brand.

Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and is available to speak on the topic of Pluralism, Islam, India and Just societies. Details at

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British Actress Inspired by Prophet's (peace be upon him) Life
Myriam Francois-Cerrah Embraces Islam


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Politics of Ramadan on moon sighting

Muslims around the world will begin fasting from Monday, August 1, 2011 and for a whole month thereafter, however, for some it will begin only if the moon is sighted. The story is same with the Jewish and other traditions that follow lunar calendar. Rosh Hashanah like Ramadan comes 11 or 12 days earlier each year.

Since the beginning of Islam, there have been debates as to what constitutes moon sighting. Some interpret that there has got to be a minion to declare that they have seen it themselves with their own eyes and some do not accept it unless they have seen it themselves. It is also acceptable if the moon is sighted elsewhere, but now, each group has to have their own moon sighting. In the United States there is an organization that monitors moon sighting and announces it in advance. The Islamic Society of North America has announced that Ramadan begins on Monday, August one. Over the millennium we learned to accept and respect the otherness of other.

Politics plays a crucial role in our Temples, Synagogues or Churches, Mosques are no different. A few scientifically-inclined-Muslims have adopted NASA’s calculations believed to be precise. However, four different traditions are operating concurrently; i) Strictly Calendar, ii) NASA and iii) Sighting with bare eyes and iv) sighting by others in the community.

The NASA-oriented and the Calendar-group misses out the fun, joy and exhilaration of waiting and watching the needle thin moon on the horizon. The whole family gets out on the roof tops, or higher grounds, some even climb electric poles, and a few will drive out where they can see the sky without obstacles, kids would climb on parent’s shoulders, and a few run from place to place shouting in excitement, did you see it? It is like the belief in Santa Claus, Angels and other myths, each tradition fulfills one’s emotional needs and every one becomes sentimental. After all, if celebration does not have the excitement, it is not a celebration.

America’s spirit of freedom touches every soul, no matter what religion or tradition they follow. American Muslims are no different, they prefer to have a pre-set date to start fasting and the celebration called “Eid” pronounced as Eeed as in Eeel. The idea is for them to take a day off from work or get an optional day off for their children from the schools. Always, the joy multiplies when the family and friends celebrate it together. They prefer to start on a pre-set date and trust the calculations.

The conflicts are the same everywhere on the earth. Each group subscribes to one of the four systems mentioned above. America is no different; you will find celebrations on one or three different days in any given city, the Sunnis, being the largest group has the greater division within, while the Sufis, Shias, Ismailis, WD Mohammad, Bohra and Ahmadiyya follow the pre-determined dates.

The consensus may be attributable to having central spiritual leadership in all groups except the Sunni. However like the American Public wishes to see the Republicans and Democrats drop the party lines and focus on what is good for America, the Muslims also wish they could celebrate the Eid on one single day. It ain’t going to happen, it is human to differ. It is against the spirit of Ramadan to denigrate, diminish and devalue other practices.

The essence of Ramadan is to become humble, simple and free from ill-will, anger, meanness and hate. Let’s fill our hearts with goodwill and honor Ramadan by saying “Eid Mubarak” or Happy Eid to everyone who celebrates on a different day in the same town. The essence of Ramadan is joy and let’s not prick any one’s bubble; God has not signed a pact with any one behind others back, let’s rejoice the differences of interpretations. If you want to celebrate every day, go to every celebration.

In the spirit of Ramadan, I pray that Ramadan gets into our hearts and minds and make us embrace all factions of Muslims without undermining their tradition and further pray that we treat every human on the earth with dignity, respect and care.

That is indeed the wisdom expressed in Qur'an, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of God, is the best in conduct. God Knows and is Aware of everything you do."

The Next article is “The Rituals of Ramadan” followed by the “Spirit of Ramadan”.
Ramadan Mubarak!

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer and a frequent guest on Hannity show and nationally syndicated Radio shows and Dallas TV, Radio and Print Media. He runs America Together Foundation and is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Over 1000 articles have been published on Pluralism, Interfaith, Islam, India and cohesive societies. Two of his books are poised to be released this fall on Pluralism and Islam. He is available to speak at your place of worship, work, school, college, seminars or conferences. His work is encapsulated in 27 blogs, four websites and several forums indexed at

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 2 of Ramadan 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 | Ramadan 2, 1432

PURPOSE: To share diverse cultural experience of Ramadan.

THE PLAN :: Iftaar at a mosque from every denomination including: Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Shia, Sufi, Sunni, Warith Deen Muhammad, Wahabbi and others. You are welcome to join me or experience it yourselves. Cherish the differences.
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Terms: Below the note

Sahri (Pre-dawn meal): Rotisserie Chicken and Bananas
Iftaar (refreshments): Dates, Haleem (Ground meat and lentil) & watermelon
Dinner (on my own): Taco bell’s beef baja chalupa and crunchy taco supreme
Mosque : Makkah Masjid in Garland
Dominant Culture: Gujarati and Sindhi Memons.
During the work week, very few can make it to the Mosque for Iftaar (breaking the fast with refreshments and at times combined with meals). I went in early to the Mosque in Garland, which is predominantly frequented by Memons, a group of Muslims from Gujarat and Sindh areas of India and Pakistan.

A group of about 18 people gathered in the eating area of the mosque and sat down on the floor in a circle. After the grace prayers, every one breaks the fast in unison. Dates are the most common item the world over, indeed, if all the 1.5 billion Muslims were to fast, that’s at least 5 billion dates consumed in one evening. The other items are usually Milk or Yogurt products and a fruit or two with varied items, here in this mosque Haleem (ground lentil and meat) was on the plate. Refreshments are shared to prepare the stomach to receive full meals after the prayers.

Ritual prayers: The same three units of prayers are prayed in congregation throughout the world, however, the rituals vary, and Muslims are as diverse as they can be.

In the standing position, one stands with his or her hands folded over chest, tummy or navel while the Imam (prayer leader) recites the first chapter of the Qur'an in Arabic. At the end of this recitation, in most mosques the entire congregation says “Ameen” out loud in melodious unison. However, in this Mosque, the Ameen was said silently. It reminded me of the Mosque in my town where we followed the same practice, however it has changed there now. In last November I was in Bangalore, the practice was to say Ameen out loud. I felt like Rip Van Winkle.

At the end of the prayers, God’s name is recited in three versions on the fingers or the worry beads for a total of 100 times followed by the common prayers, where the Imam says short verses followed by Ameen by the congregation on each verse. This is not common in all the Mosques where everyone gets up at the end of the prayers. I will chronicle the uniqueness of each group and sub-group as I visit a mosque a day for the Iftaar, Insha Allah.

On a slow day, I will share the pictorial diagrams of various prayer postures.....................

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, writer and a thinker nurturing the pluralistic values of Islam. More at:



Sahri - Pre-Dawn meal before early morning prayer (fajr).
Iftaar - Sunset Meal as a conclusion of the fast.

Sawm - fasting from sunrise to sunset - No food, no water, no nothing and no intake of any food or water. More critically it is a practice to abstain from ill-will, malice, anger, temptations and human desires. Don't hear, see, speak or act less than goodness.

Rituals - There are several variations in rituals and they vary from place to place. In Bangalore where I am from, the whole family gets up early around 4:00 AM and together cook extensive meals for Sahri /Suhoor, while others choose to cook earlier night and just warm it up and eat in the morning. The Iftaar is done elaborately at mosques, homes or other gatherings where friends from different faiths are invited to break bread and nurture goodwill.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 1 of Ramadan

Ramadan MubarakMonday, August 1, 2011 | Ramadan 1, 1432
Sahri - Pre-Dawn meal before early morning prayer (fajr).
Iftaar - Sunset Meal as a conclusion of the fast.
Sawm - fasting from surise to sunset - No food, no water, no nothing and no intake of any food or water. More critically it is a practice to abstain from ill-will, malice, anger, temptations and human desires. Don't hear, see, speak or act less than goodness.

Rituals - There are several variations of the terms, and rituals vary from place to place. Whole family gets up early around 4:00 AM and together cook extensive meals for Sahri /Suhoor and some just pre-cook earlier night and choose to eat on time. The Iftaar is done elaborately at mosques, homes or other gatherins places where friends from different faiths are invited to break bread and nurture goodwill.

Purpose of this site: To share diverse experience of Ramadan with our friends and families Muslims and others. ......................................... ...
Sahri - Bagel Sandwich
Iftaar - Grilled Fish

Alhamdu Lillah, (Praise the Lord) today is the first day of fasting in the month of Ramadan 2011. It's Monday, Yasmeen my wife, dropped me off early in the morning at Louisville Airport, and on the way we grabbed a Bagel sandwich from McDonald's for Sahri aka suhoor (early morning meal). I reached Dallas at 8:00 AM

Theoretically Ramadan should commence on the same day for all Muslims, but it seldom happens. It is the same moon that every one follows, but sighting technicalities makes it different for different groups, usually a day or two apart. Most Muslims wish it were on the same day. I suggest that we learn to appreciate that wish, but ask people to resist the temptation to think anything less of others who begin a day earlier or later. The article “Politics of Ramadan” is about to be published, God willing I will share that on this blog. Ramadan is about humility.

For Iftaar (meal to break the fast) I went to Richardson Mosque, the oldest Mosque in Dallas built in the mid eighties. I was early and went straight to see Imam Dr. Yusuf Zia Kavakci (links below) in his chambers. He is such a delight to talk with and he has more than once said that he finds that he could talk with me about anything comfortably. Imam Dr. Yusuf Zia Kavakci has been recognized as one of the 500 influential Muslim leaders in the world. He is a lawyer, a scholar of Islam and an Imam. He has now established an institution with his name to impart education to the youth born and raised here in the D/FW Metroplex. The future American religious scholars will be influenced by his wisdom and he has both male and females students learning to be the future leaders. One of them is Rashad Hassan, US Ambassador to OIC, Organization of Islamic countries.

We talked about the Sharia conference briefly and the need for Muslims to have a plan, rather than react to situations. The situation in Murphree, Terry Jones and other topics and ended up talking the Chapter I am writing on Muslim Agenda which puts together a blue print for Muslims to define where we need to be twenty years from now and how we are going to get there. The need to become participants and contributors towards the safety, security and prosperity of America is crux of the Agenda. He was enthused about the plan and mentioned about the Late Dr. Dilnawaz Siddiqui who was planning on writing one. The phrase Insha Allah jumped quickly and repeatedly out of my mouth. I panicked.

Well, he and I shared his fruit plate and yogurt for breaking the fast. I enjoyed it very much. He is a great host!

Being the work day, there were about 150 people at the congregational evening (Maghrib) prayers which he led.

After the prayers I ate my meal in the car which I had picked up from Silver Spoon Restaurant I used to frequent some 15 years ago. Waqar and Ursula have run that operation for over 20 years and I enjoy their home cooked meals, listened to NPR while I enjoyed the curried grilled fish.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, writer and a thinker nurturing the pluralistic values of Islam. More at:

** * I did not realize that I have written at least 7 articles about him.

Article dedicated to Imam Dr. Yusuf Zia Kavakci

Can Muslim pray in Cordoba Masjid?

THE PLAN :: Iftaar at a mosque from every denomination including: Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Shia, Sufi, Sunni, Warith Deen Muhammad, Wahabbi and others.


Ramadan Message

Let's start cleaning our hearts from prejudice and judgment against our own and everyone else. Let there be no politics in religion. Let us fulfill a major task God assigns to the humanity, the best among you is the one who knows each other and cares for the other.

Insha Allah, I will write three articles this month covering every aspect of Ramadan; the politics, the rituals and spiritual contentment. The first one deals with the issue of Moon sighting and hope you’d like the message of respecting all the four traditions; Calendar, sighting yourselves, accepting others sighting and NASA, each systems is valid and dear to the followers. Let’s not denigrate the other or brag our tradition is superior. Ramadan is about humility in our attitudes and behavior. Insha Allah the articles will be published in Huffington post.

This is truly a test of our humility and our Taqwa. Should our Ramadan make us find deficiencies with other traditions? Should our Ramadan find faults with others? Should it free us? Should our Ramadan impel us to be a tyrant and push others to observe (Saudi and a few other nations)? Should our Ramadan strengthen us in our discipline and encourage others to enjoy their food, accompany them to restaurants and live a normal life? Are we strong enough in our faith to let others do what they want, without affecting an ounce of our faith? Alhamdu Lillah, last year I was with my clients and friends for lunch, I encouraged them not to give up anything for me and urged them to eat great foods and live their life. Fasting is for me and those who follow it and not for others. Thank God, my determination remained un-shaken.

Ramadan is about reflection about ourselves and who we are and who we want to be. I urge each one of us to reflect on what Ramadan should mean to us? Let's not reduce Ramadan to be a mere ritual or an obligation, let it do what it was intended to; to build a kind and gentler being out of us.

  1. Let’s pray that Ramadan becomes our Jihad and strips our ill-will, malice, hatred towards others.
  2. Let’s pray that Ramadan brings goodwill, peace and great attitude towards entire humanity.
  3. Let’s pray that Ramadan generates goodwill towards fellow Muslims.
  4. Let’s pray that Ramadan truly guides us to believe that God alone is the judge of one’s faith
  5. Let’s pray that Ramadan dumps our prejudices, after all we are not responsible for others
  6. Let’s pray that Ramadan makes us respect every Muslim tradition from Ahmadiyya to Wahhabi.
  7. Let’s pray that Ramadan makes us an all embracing Muhkookhul Aalameen


Alhamdu Lillah, I will be at Richardson Mosque on Monday Iftaar and will make the schedule to visit ever possible mosque where Ramadan is observed without any prejudice. I will create a schedule of mosques, if you wish to join. I will be in Louisville, Kentucky Mosques as well. If I drive, I will set up the meeting at the Murfree Mosque by Nashville, TN.

We always talk about unity and now let’s match it with action. I am in Dallas and ask at least two individuals (men and women) from each denomination to go as a group in visiting a Mosque a day. Since most of you cannot make it every day, I would urge us to gather together a total of eight times on the weekends and we will visit the following Mosques; Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Shia, Sufi, Sunni, Warith Deen Muhammad and others if we know any. If you are not in Dallas, please make an effort to visit every possible denomination. Please make an effort to bring people of other faiths to join, just to be a part of the Ramadan friendship circle.

We will learn about our experiences and share with each other and others. We will also learn about respecting the otherness of other and accepting the God given uniqueness that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has prophesized. I will be happy to be the scribe and get them published. Alhamdu Lillah, I was blessed to have done that last year and add to that the Suhoor at Imam Bukharis house in Jerusalem and the prayers at Al-Aqsa. Except the Ismaili congregation I have visited most diversity humanly possible. Insha Allah we will complete the circle this year.

Islam is large enough to absorb all the strands. Indeed, we can see the wisdom in the Prophet's predictions that we will divide ourselves into 73 tribes. He understood the human fitra (nature) and prepared us to accept it instead of making arrogant claim to be the best, the best among us is the one who is pious and who serves humanity.

Each one of the strands is serving the humanity. As a Sunni, I can value the respect former Prime Minister Blair's sister in law has generated for the Shiite branch of Islam. As a Sunni, I can appreciate the work Ahmadiyya Muslims are doing in serving the humanity, feeding the hungry and being neighborly. As a Sunni, I admire the selfless work done by the Ismaili Muslim Community to uplift humanity. As a Sunni, I love the bridge building work being done by the Warith Deen Muhammad Muslims. And as a Muslim, I salute the major funding of education in India by Bohra Muslim Azim Premji. The list is endless.

There is indeed a net gain for Islam collectively, and we must appreciate them all. Islam is universal; it absorbs all of us in its embrace.

If Muslims can stand up for everyone on a principled basis, then our voices will carry the moral weight necessary to bring a positive change for the entire humanity including us. Prophet Muhammad has given us a model to emulate: The Amin, the just, the truthful and the trustworthy to build just societies for humanity.

Please note; it is easy for me to stick with the Sunni tradition and not hear rogue criticism, I am willing to put up with a few bigoted ones among us for a greater goal of at least talking about unity. We should not speak about Muslim Unity anymore, if we don't mean and act on it. Let's begin the process and learn to tolerate the intolerants among us.

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