I came back home for a short visit with my family to Sri Lanka and I loved everything about it. The people, the food, the climate, the beaches – you name it. But one thing I don’t miss is the sermon at the mosque during Friday Jummah prayers. That’s one thing I don’t miss about my home. In America I look forward to the Friday sermon because I learn something from it. There is a message I take back home every day. Once I heard a Black Imam talking about how his uncle who was a boxer was inspired by Mohamed Ali and accepted Islam. I hear stories of prisoners who had a life of crime reverting to Islam. Personal stories of Jews and Christians helping Muslims. These are the sermons I hear, and I realize how much behind we are in terms of ours.
As someone who has a background in public speaking there are two important things in a sermon which our Moulavis fall short in:
Our Moulavis are constantly shouting over the microphone and sometimes I need to close my ears to hear what he’s saying. There must be control over your voice – vary it, make it beautiful. There’s no flow to the sermon. He starts from one topic and introduces several other topics and drags on and on. Limit yourself to one. Most of our sermons are in the Aravi dialect of Tamil – which is natural since this is the mother tongue for most Muslims. However, we have a shortage of Sinhala speaking Moulavis. How can we expect for someone outside of our religion to come and listen to a sermon in a mosque? Language can be a big barrier and we must try to overcome it so that we may spread the peaceful message of Islam.
My Tamil isn’t that strong, but when I try to understand the message all I hear is incidents happening in the Middle East, warnings of the day of judgement, stories from the messengers of God and their associates. I understand those are important things, but is that all we are going to talk about?
There are plenty of things to talk about which are happening in Sri Lanka. Issues concerning deforestation vs resettlement, Muslims not following the law of the country, laws that permit children to get married, injustices caused by Muslims to other ethnicities – the list goes on. Let us create a dialog and try to solve issues within the borders of this country since these are things which we have control over.
Why not invite a Monk from the temple, a Father from the church or a Priest from the kovil? Why not give them the opportunity to speak? We may not believe in everything, but we can learn so much from the essence of their faiths. Let’s try to get a different perspective. It doesn’t have to be a reverend – why not invite someone who has done immense service to our community regardless of faith?
We have a thousand year history in this country and wouldn’t it be nice to share the good relationships we had between the Sinhala kings of this land and how Muslims are more related to the Sinhalese and Tamils compared to the Arabs in the Middle East?
We have had Artists, Lawyers, Architects, Doctors, Educationists, Soldiers who contributed immensely to the growth of our nation. Why not talk about them? Let us try to encourage our youth that they too can contribute in many ways to its success.
The Golden Age of Islam was at a time when the city of Baghdad contributed immensely to Science, Math and Medicine. The Quran revealed many things about nature before modern science discovered it. Let us talk about those and teach our children that it is possible for us to engage in the pursuit of knowledge while keeping our faith.
It is always captivating to hear personal stories – stories from entrepreneurs, athletes, teachers, volunteers, everyday people of how faith helped them in their struggles. It is good to talk about what happened back then, but it’s also important to tell people how it is still relevant. These are a few ideas that come to my mind. My message may not reach the relevant authorities, but as a society for us to bring in change we need to know what is possible. We need to imagine that this too can happen. My purpose was to make you ask the question, “Why aren’t we doing this?”
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
The Dwellings – 49:13
May Peace and Blessings be upon you!