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Coexistence is Strength – An Imam, A Pastor & A Dream

The night of the election I, like many others, didn’t get a minute of sleep. My phone and email inbox were immediately flooded with messages of anxiety particularly from young Muslim sisters.

In the midst of all that, the first message of support I received was from Reverend Andy Stoker, First United Methodist Church, one of the oldest churches in Dallas.

I’ve worked with Andy and other faith leaders for the last few years on various social issues through faith forward Dallas. And I had just spoken at his church the Sunday before the election.

The email read:

“Omar I’m here for you. I believe in your work and I believe in you. We are better together than apart. If there’s anything I can do to be a conversation partner for you or your community I am here.

Praying for you and your community.

Andy.”

In a follow-up message he wrote:

“If the overwhelming vote this election was for change, then let’s change our isolation by philosophy and practice within neighborhoods, houses of worship, and each other.

Thank you for representing the best of humanity through your faithfulness.”

I sent Andy many messages of genuine appreciation and wanted to respond to his call. So, I invited him and his family over to our mosque to meet our community. It was an incredible experience for his family and for our community.

The morning after that night he sent a message saying:

“Thank you so much for last night. I am transformed by my experience with your congregation.”

Andy had no idea how much his message and friendship meant to me and my community.

Sharing Faith, Hope, and Love

Pastor Andy Stocker said:

There are so many things that we can say about who we are and how we live out our faith. What I’ve seen in Imam Omar, his life in mind and his ministry in our city is profound.

There are ways that we are growing as a city, and as a people in compassion, unity, and hope. It is what I’ve seen in Omar that makes me a better Christian and makes me a better faith leader.

Stepping out in faith, hope, and love knowing that all people in all places and all times need to hear that one message.

That one message that they are loved, that they’re believed in, that they’re wanted, and that there’s so much more. I give God thanks on a daily basis for my ministry partnership with Omar, for his life, his family’s life, and ours together. As we are building a faith community, where all people might truly know the sense and power of who it is and how we all must live as one.

A Lesson From Imam Ahmad

When the great Imam Ahmad was dying, his Christian doctor asked his permission to allow his pastor to visit. Imam Ahmad invited him in. The pastor said to Imam Ahmad:

“I’ve been waiting for so many years to meet you in person. Your life was not just a blessing to the people of the south, it was a blessing to all of God’s creation; and there is not a single one of us that wasn’t pleased with you.”

The story changed my life because Imam Ahmad was helping not only Muslims, but all people.

God describes the tree of faith in the Quran with a firm foundation with branches high in the sky always providing shade and fruit. The branches showed that your shade should provide shade to everyone and everything around you, and that the fruits of your faith should not be seasonal. Everyone and everything around you should benefit from your faith as Ali said:

“Lead such a life that when you die, the people may mourn you, and while you are alive they long for your company.”

When Abu Bakr was on his way out of Makkah to escape persecution to Abyssinia a non-Muslim chief stopped him and said:

“O Abu Bakr, a man like you should not be allowed to leave his homeland nor should he be driven out. I am your protector, go back and worship your Lord in your country.”

The chief wasn’t Muslim but he recognized that Abu Bakr was indispensable because of his impact on society at large.

Serving others doesn’t mean you accept their beliefs; it means that your belief guides you to serve them. Serving them says nothing about their faith, but everything about yours.

As believers, we seek to reflect God’s attributes of mercy and generosity, and in turn we hope that those people will bear witness to our mercy in the presence of the most merciful.


About Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman is the President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and a professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University. He’s also the resident scholar of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center and Co-Chair of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square, a multi-faith alliance for peace and justice.

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