AMV Director for Northern California speaks on Islam
at the Sacramento Japanese United Methodist Church
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Mr. Khalid Saeed, American Muslim Voice Director for Northern California, was invited by the Sacramento Japanese United Methodist Church, on January 24, 2004 to lecture about Islam to their under training priests.
Mr. Khalid Saeed concentrated on four aspects of Islam: (1) the primary philosophical or theological precepts in Islam; (2) primary Islamic practices; (3) the major strengths of the Islamic belief system and (4) the major vulnerabilities of the Islamic belief system.
On the primary philosophical or theological precepts in Islam, Mr. Khalid Saeed explained that Islam means complete submission or surrender to God. “Muslims refer to God as Allah, who is not a unique Muslim God but He is the creator of this universe and all human beings.” He added that Muslim is a person who tries to live his life according to the Quran and exemplified in the life of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
Explaining the major strengths of the Islamic belief system, the AMV Director pointed out that Islam stands for peace and justice for all. The Quran says: “Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even against yourself, against your parents and against your children, against people who are rich or poor, because God is the best of all Protectors. Do not follow your inclinations or your desires, lest you should deviate from justice. Verily God is well acquainted with all that you do.” 4:135
Islam stands against oppression, racism and hatred for others regardless of their race or religion: God commands in Quran “Bear witness to truth in all equality and never let hatred of others lead you to deviate from justice. Be just for this is closest to righteousness. Remember God is well aware of all that you do.”5:8
Mr. Khalid Saeed said that there is no formal clergy in Islam and every Muslim has direct connection with God. Islam calls for equality of all human beings as stressed by prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in his last sermon: “You are all equal. Nobody has superiority over other except by piety and good action.”
On woman’s status in Islam, Mr. Khalid Saeed said: Islam give equal rights to women with Man. Roles are different but rights are same. 1400 years ago gave women right to own property, divorce a man. The concept of gender equality in Islam is stressed by the non-superiority of either sex over the other. It came at a time when it was necessary to elevate the demeaned status of women and grant them rights equal to those of men.
He said that Muslim women are actively taking part in politics and holding high political offices. To prove his argument, he pointed out: (a) Indonesia is the largest Muslim population country in the world. Its current head of the state is a woman, Megawati Suekarnoputri. (b) Bangladesh has twice elected a woman – Khalida Zia prime minister. (c) Pakistan has twice elected a woman PM - Benazir Bhutto (d) Turkey has twice elected a woman prime minister.
On the major vulnerabilities of the Islamic belief system, Mr. Khalid Saeed, pointed out:
1. No religious hierarchy in Islam: Post 9/11 there was criticism that no one (like the Pope is central figure in Catholic religion) condemned terrorism on behalf of Muslim, but Muslims do not have that central figure.
2. With 1.3 billion Muslims around the world in 58 countries and 25 million Muslims living in western societies, of which most of them are born in USA and western Europe, there are cultural, social and dogmatic differences. These differences have led to different interpretation of their own religion.
3. This great diversity in Muslim population creates lack of unity and dissension. So feudal and local traditional customs play a role some times more than the true teachings of Islam.
4. Jus as other religions have extremists, so does Islam.
The students were given an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the presentation. Many students asked questions not only about the religion of Islam but current situation of the world and the Muslim world in the religious context.
This class was part of Pacific School of Religion's Certificate of Ministry Studies (CMS). This unique lay theological education program combines the real-life practice of ministry with basic theological education. The program is offered in three locations: Berkeley, Sacramento, and in southern California.