[Note: The following is an edited version of my Khutbah (sermon) delivered at the United Eid prayers held Friday, September 1st, 2017. An article on this year's prayer service can be found at https://www.toledoblade.com/Religion/2017/09/01/Area-Muslims-gather-in-unified-prayer-for-Eid-al-Adha]
Praise belongs to Allah, who has directed us towards repentance, which we could never have obtained, except by his bounty. O servants of Allah, I advise you as myself, to have reverence for God, indeed, it is those with reverence [Taqwaaa] who attain felicity. الحمد لله الذي دلنا على التوبة التي لم نفد ها الا من فضله
اصيكم و نفسي بتقوى الله فقد فاز المتقون
Why are we here?
We are here today, in recollection of an important series of events and teachings, teachings that have had a global impact. These teachings and events center around the person of Abraham [Ibrahim, 'alayhis salaam] . He is a man of God, and the Quranic narrative [Q 6:74-79] tells us of his search to understand the reality that is God. The narrative is given in stages. He sees a heavenly body [Kawkaab] and says "This is My Lord", but it disappears. He sees the moon and proclaims "This is My Lord" but it disappears. He sees the sun and says "This is My Lord, [in fact] This is the greatest", yet, once again, it disappears.
Abraham then says " Indeed, I turn my entire being to Him who is the origin of the heavens and the Earth, and I do not worship any others besides Allah"
Understanding that God is not captured within the physical, that He is beyond the physical and is actually the source of the physical, this understanding allows him to become connected to Allah.
That connection allows him to keep firm throughout the challenges that he would find in life.
The Qur'an tells us that he had a vision, and within this vision, he understands it as a command to Sacrifice his son. The Qur'an says [37:103] that both father and son submitted to that and that when the sacrifice was near happening, God calls out to Abraham "Indeed, you have fulfilled your vision" [Q 37:104]. The willingness to sacrifice for God's will, that is why we are here today. To learn from the patriarch, from that personality rightly called in the Judeo-Christian tradition as "father of many nations". As people who seek to follow the Divine ethos, as exemplified through Prophets, ending with the final Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam], we need to learn not only to sacrifice an animal for the benefit of the poor, we need to be willing to sacrifice our time, resources, for the right causes.
The Qur'an ( Q 22:37) reminds us that the blood of sacrifice does not reach God, nor the meat, rather, it is your collective reverence. Yanaaluhut Taqwaaa minkum. Thus, we return to the sentence in which we began this Khutbah, "I advise you and myself, to have Taqwaaa of Allah, Indeed, it is those with Taqwaaa who attain felicity". May we be closer to Him who is The Most High, may He accept our prayers, fasting and any good that we do.
This gathering also coincides with the Hajj, pilgrimage to the site associated with Abraham and his family. At Hajj, we find unity in a tapestry of diverse colors, languages, backrounds and religious orientations. They gather together in obedience to Allah. We pray for them and likewise always ask any pilgrims we know to offer prayers on our behalf. The key point is that despite their differences, they join together in expression of their love of Allah. The Qur'an says "And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger achieve a mighty achievement".
We pray that the pilgrims today find their Hajj to be acceptable and successful, and that any future pilgrimages we do are acceptable in God's sight as well. May we take the most valuable lessons from the Hajj and the Ka'bah, in what these things represent. The lesson of replacing wrong concepts for proper thinking, abandoning vice and embracing that which God wants us to embrace, dropping trends as our models, but rather taking for role models Prophets such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad the seal of the Prophets ['alayhimus salaam], taking them as models to do what they did, to become like them in their obedience and nearness to Allah.