What did Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (PBUT) have in common? They were all refugees, fleeing persecution & violence, or the threat of it. Prophet Moses was twice a refugee, baby Jesus was taken from Bethlehem to Egypt, and then to Nazareth, as a displaced person in a village far away from home; and Prophet Muhammad fled for his life and made the Hijra from Mecca to Medina. The Muslim community would not exist today if the people of Medina had not given him refuge – to him and his followers. In the shelter of a welcoming community, the faith flourished and a Muslim community was born. So meaningful was this episode, that the date of the Prophet’s migration marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar – it is even named after his exodus, and called the Hijra calendar.
What do our holy scriptures have in common? Time and time again, the Bible and the Qur’an tell us to treat strangers and refugees with kindness and tenderness.
"You shall not wrong nor oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 22:20).
“Was not the earth of God spacious enough for you to flee for refuge?” (Quran: 4:97) emphasizing that those who have authority should take care of refugees since it speaks of God as the owner of the land.
Today we face a calamity. 4.5 million Syrian refugees; 700,000 Rohinga refugees. Today, many are trying to swim ashore to safety, many to America, many are drowning as we put up walls, harkening to the time when we turned away ships. For those huddled masses, let us wade into the water and call out: “Take my hand”. Take my hand, and I will lead you to the shore. Take my hand, I offer you my heart and my love. Take my hand, and I will bring you into the welcoming arms of America. Take my hand.
I am not dreaming. This is not a fantasy. For I have faith. I have faith, that the God I believe in, the God I worship, the God I turn to 5 times a day in prayer, the God whose connection I seek as I fast day after day this month, my God, your God, our God, Allah, Eloheim, will part the sea once again, as He did once before. And we all will be standing with outstretched arms. InshAllah. Tikkun Olam.
Talk given at 4th Annual Interfaith Iftar at Temple Emanu-El on June 7, 2018, on Standing with Survivors of Violence.
Inspired by Omid Safi's piece 'How To Reach Out To Someone Who Is Struggling.'