Islam is in the headlines almost each and every day. Even with good press coverage, it’s still bad press for many Muslims.
When terrorism occurs, and a whole religion gets the blame, that bad press fans the flames of Islamophobia. It’s a bad situation—one that can easily get worse unless we help make it better by doing something in response.
Most of the attention in the press today has been on radical Islamism—an extreme, violent interpretation of Islam as a political ideology, where the means justify the ends. Whether it’s the Islamic State, the Taliban, Boko Haram, or other radical groups, it tarnishes the name of Islam and the public image of millions upon millions of peaceful and law-abiding Muslims. This has created a crisis of identity and self-definition within the contemporary Islamic world. Obviously, non-Muslims have a stake in the public debates as to what constitutes “true Islam” as well.
Baha’is are not Muslims. But the Baha’i Faith does have its origins in Islam, in much the same way that Christianity has its origins in Judaism. Therefore Baha’is are also concerned about the fortunes of Islam, and of all the world’s great Faiths. This concern, historically, goes back to Baha’u’llah himself, who revealed the following prayer for Islam:
He is God – Exalted be He, the Lord of Majesty and Power!
I plead my grief and sorrow unto God, the Lord of all humankind. The affairs of men have been shaken, the nations have become perturbed and Islam has been weakened thereby. The enemies have afflicted it from all sides and it remains encompassed by them. Thus it behooveth the people of God to invoke Him in the morning and the night-season, to beseech Him to graciously aid the Muslims, one and all, to do that which is pleasing and seemly, to exalt them by His Command and through the power of His Sovereign Might, to make them aware of that which will exalt their stations, to change their abasement into might, their poverty into wealth, their destruction into advancement, their distress into peace of mind and their fear into security and tranquility.
Verily, He is the All-Merciful. There is none other God but Him, the Compassionate, All-Bountiful. – Baha’u’llah. Provisional translation. The original Arabic of this prayer was published by the Baha’i International Community in a short compilation of Baha’i Writings on the station of the Prophet Muhammad, available online. The prayer is found on pp. 8–9. (Reference courtesy of Todd Lawson.)
Let’s take a close look at this remarkable prayer. First of all, it is highly unusual for the followers of one religion to pray for the welfare of the followers of another religion—especially considering the fact that Baha’is have been persecuted in certain Muslim countries.
This prayer begins with an outcry of “grief and sorrow” that the “affairs of men” have taken a turn for the worse, and have been sorely “shaken,” affecting and afflicting all “nations” which, as a consequence, have become “perturbed” and “Islam has been weakened thereby.” Baha’u’llah enjoins the Baha’is, the world over, to pray to God to “graciously aid the Muslims, one and all.”
So how can God “aid the Muslims, one and all”? One way is to fulfill our God-given human role as instruments of such assistance. So how can we be of assistance to our fellow citizens, who are good, law-abiding Muslims, as well as our friends, neighbors and coworkers? According to Baha’u’llah we should encourage and empower our Muslim friends and neighbors “to do that which is pleasing and seemly.”
The vast majority of Muslims will do this completely on their own, anyway. But it doesn’t hurt to show our recognition and appreciation for such a life well-lived, according to the dictates of decency and compassion, reflecting the core spiritual and humanitarian values Islam teaches.
The next part of Baha’u’llah’s prayer naturally follows, whereby God will then “exalt” such pious, faithful and outstanding Muslims by instilling and heightening awareness, in each and every Muslim, as well as in each and every one of us, of all those daily religious practices, pious deeds, and acts of goodwill “which will exalt their stations” and which will redound to the good reputation of “true Islam.”
Whatever can and will “exalt their stations” will, in turn, “change their abasement into might, their poverty into wealth, their destruction into advancement, their distress into peace of mind and their fear into security and tranquility.”
This is the promise. This is the outcome. This is the answer to Baha’u’llah’s prayer for Islam, if we simply follow the instructions within the prayer itself.
Every Baha’i prayer is a call to action. Therefore Baha’u’llah’s prayer for Islam is a call to action by way of reaching out to our Muslim friends and neighbors, by showing our support, and by exemplifying our compassion.
The watchword of the Baha’i Faith is unity. This includes unity among religions, races and nations, without exception. That’s what makes the Baha’i teachings on unity so exceptional, and so vitally important in this day and age. So try saying Baha’u’llah’s prayer for Islam aloud, in the privacy of your home, and then meditate. By so meditating, try to contemplate, ponder, wonder, imagine, envision, and make a wish for someone else—and then, through your actions, try your very best to make it all come true.
Let’s be true-blue friends to those Muslims who are our friends at home and at work. If we make them feel more at home today, we will feel more at home tomorrow. Know that we will be the first to benefit if each one of us reaches out in true friendship to our Muslim friends and neighbors.
Let’s make an effort, one and all, to combat Islamophobia. Together, let’s make this world a better place, partly by doing our part to respond to the crisis that the contemporary Muslim world is experiencing today. This is not paternalism. This is brotherly love. This is humanity. This is the love of God acting through each and every one of us. This is personal and social salvation. This is unity, which is the closest thing to paradise we can experience here on Earth.