The October 15 Interfaith Chapel Service at UTS began with a vigorous call to prayer in the Islamic tradition, the “azaan.” The crier announces, in musical and powerful cadences, with several repetitions, that God is greater, that none is worthy of worship except Allah, that Muhammad is his messenger, and that the people should rush to prayer and rush to success.
As the students, faculty and staff connected to this daily occurrence dating back 1,400 years, and heard continually by the world's billion Muslims, we viewed a contemporary Canadian writer and singer Dawud Warnsbye, taken from the performance on an Islamic broadcast from a global unity and peace event, singing a song entitled, "Don't talk to me about Muhammad (PBUH)." Interfaith student Oznur Aycil explained, after the song, that the song was a story from the sahih (authentic) Hadith, of a pagan Arab woman whose burdens were being carried by a stranger. The most interesting part is that this stranger as the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) and the woman didn't know he was the Prophet, about whom she was talking so negatively. The story goes that the Prophet (pbuh) offered to help this woman and all she did throughout their encounter was to mock and malign the Prophet (pbuh). Yet, he said nothing. He continued to help the woman with her load. He did not lash back at her; he did not pray for God's destruction upon her; he did not drop her stuff and let her fend for herself. No. He helped the woman anyway, and when she found out who he was, all she could do was follow him into Islam. Yet, the fact that she became a Muslim is not the most important aspect of this story. It was the Prophet's character that is the most amazing point. It is this aspect of the Prophet's sunnah (actions and spirit) that many of us have completely neglected. This quiet service, even while being bad-mouthed by a person in ignorance, Oznur shared, reveals something of the spirit of Islam.
Chris Antal, UTS Director of Interfaith Relations, introduced the day’s Chapel Speaker, Imam Salahuddin M. Muhammad. He received his B.A. in the social sciences from SUNY New Paltz. He continued his education at New York Theological Seminary and earned a Masters of Professional Studies in theology and counseling. A native New Yorker and student of Islam since 1964, Imam Muhammad has successfully completed hundreds of hours of Islamic studies and is registered and certified as an Imam by the National Association of Muslim Chaplains. He is the Muslim Chaplain at Bard College, the spiritual leader of Masjid Al Jihad Al Akbar (the Islamic Learning Center of Orange County), located in Newburgh, New York, a chaplain in the New York State Department of Corrections and an adjunct professor at Mercy and Marist Colleges.
Imam Salahuddin shared an enlightening talk on the call to prayer, on the origin of the tradition of five prayer times daily, on the extensive teachings on Mary, Mother of Jesus, in the Qur’an, and the legacy of Mohammad (PBUH). He answered questions, and then joined a group of faculty and students for lunch, during which more questions and answers ensued.
This was the Imam’s second visit to UTS. The chapel service also was graced with the presence of a Turkish Muslim couple that moved recently to Red Hook.