I interviewed a dear friend and elder in our community, Imam Makram El-Amin on last Wednesdays edition of Conversations with Al McFarlane. The interview is available on the Insight News Facebook Page. Imam El-Amin leads Masjid An-Nur, the gold-domed mosque at 1729 Lyndale Avenue in North Minneapolis. The city recently approved an ordinance allowing mosques to do daily calls to prayer over external loudspeakers. Imam El-Amin says soon that public call to prayer will be heard from Masjid An-Nur.
Masjid An-Nur means The Mosque of the Light in Arabic. In talking with the Imam, you get the sense that he is the Light as well, and that his work enables the Light in others, in neighbors and community. He says it’s all about relationships. He reveals a vision and raison d’etre that celebrates the sacred functionality of the family, and its role in sustaining humanity across generations.
The Wednesdays program included an interview with John Wilgers, CEO of Greater Twin Cities United Way, who was announcing that the United Way would be making $12.1 million in grants to partner organizations whose work disrupts racial inequity and fuels lasting change. A story on the grants announcement is on Page 4 of this edition.
Kudos to Lou Michaels for the breathtaking photo of Imam El-Amin on our cover. The excerpts of the Imam’s remarks, are infused with pull-quotes describing the rare occasions when Ramadan, Passover and Easter overlap on the calendar. Some say it is a special time to focus on the essential sameness of the human family.
Ramadan, Passover and Easter
Excerpted from TC Palm.com, April 12,2022 – By Victor Ghalib Begg
Lent, Passover and Ramadan converge in April. It’s a time for prayers and family gatherings for Jews, Christians and Muslims. In their own ways, the three Abrahamic faiths seek to remind us of our responsibility for each other and for the world.
What brought these religious observances together? And, what is the significance of it?
The answer to the first question is in the lunar cycle that plays an important role in aligning the calendars. The dates change due to the monthly phases of the moon. Therefore, the convergence of these holidays around the same time doesn’t happen every year.
Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic lunar calendar, which is roughly 11 days shorter than the solar year. The first of the month of Ramadan was April 2 — it lines up this close to the Jewish and Christian holidays every three decades.
At the time of Jesus and the Biblical prophets, people followed a lunar calendar, not a solar calendar. Lent, for the Christians, marks the 40 days leading up to Easter. Easter usually occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring, the paschal full moon. Passover is always on the 15th of the Jewish month of Nissan, which is also a full moon in the spring. These holidays often end up close on the calendar.
The answer to why this unusually holy month is significant would be to recognize that there’s more in common between the religious practices than we know. We live in religiously diverse communities — another sign of an inclusive America.
Victor Ghalib Begg is a Muslim community activist and interfaith leader who lives in Fort Pierce, FL.
Imam Makram El-Amin: It's really challenging to talk about the Islam in America, particularly among African Americans, without acknowledging, the freedom movements in this country. The guiding idea is that people really, want to be free, and be liberated, and they want to serve God in living their best lives, unencumbered.
You mentioned the transatlantic slave trade, but also in the days of Jim Crow, there were various movements in the fight for the civil rights. The emergence of Islam in the Black community has to be seen with within that context.
It was not in a vacuum. You know, I remember as a child sitting around the kitchen table with my parents, my mother, my father, really teaching us and orientating us. And they would always lead in, my father particularly, and say, Islam is about freedom, justice, and equality. This idea of those three principles was really ingrained in me and my siblings and our extended family. So it was really always about a justice movement. It was always about allowing people to be, be free again, to serve their best life, to show up in their best way and to serve God.
So I think that the different iterations that we’ve seen in Islam and other movements besides the Nation of Islam were, all were striving in this vein. All of them were really reaching towards allowing people to be free and to really, to live the ideals of what this country was built upon.
And it continues to challenge this country to be who we say we are on our label -- with the content consistent with the label and the label consistent with the content. So the idea of us really pushing that envelope and doing it in a way that in a way of integrity, a way of truthfulness, a way of showing up, always caring about the folks that we live amongst, and that we serve.
We don't, we don't serve food that we won't eat.
We won't house people in places we won't live.
We won't give clothing that we won't wear.
These are just value statements that we bring forth. And it comes out of that tradition that sees everybody as a human being valued by God. If you are created by God, which we all are, then you have inherent value and worth that Islam recognizes, and we all should recognize.
One of the things that my parents instilled in us is the idea of service; that if there is no service, there is no Islam
It's never been just one voice, one narrative. All the movements, from from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, Jr., are trying to reach the same ultimate goal of freedom, liberation, and self-awareness identity. The paths that were taken varied. The nation of Islam was a movement that came to African American people at a time when we were in a very broken state. The idea was to where repair the damage that has been done. And one of the things it did was give a level of confidence.
Those men and women dressed in a way dignified us, and ingrained in us the idea that we are to show up as dignified human beings, not what the world has said of us. That was as much about resistance as anything that we ever have done. That was much about how we showed up. We controlled our own our own body, our own vessel. It was a paradigm shift in the minds of African Americans at that time.
There were other efforts, like those led by Marcus Garvey, and others, that had very similar ideas. It wasn't unique in that way. It's part of the tapestry. I wanted to be very clear about that. We don't own the narrative. We, are part of the story.
We understand the psychological damage that takes place over generations attempting to indoctrinate to believe the saving force was from somewhere outside of us, not within us.
We are in a very incredible moment right now. From a visionary standpoint, I see how we are turning moments into movements through institution building and, and, creating infrastructure.
It's about mutual benefit. Ultimately as a man, I want my children and now my grandchildren to see me benefiting by my own work and my own sweat. My own, my own, my own. Work that I'm putting forth is to create the life that I'm calling them to have. Not only my life, but in my son's life and my grandson's life and, and so on and so forth. And that's when our communities get healthy. That's when our communities are growing and thriving and institutions like United way, other corporate partners and others can't have a hand in doing this. They can partner with us but in a way that builds our ability to be self-sustaining, protecting on our own rights, acknowledging own merit and creating our own narrative.
A hundred years from now, they can look back at the contributions, that collectively, we were able to make out of a very difficult moment. Out of a very tenuous moment we were able to create something that's beautiful. People that we won't even know… we won't know their names…we won't know who they are, their identity. Their ethnicity won't be known to us., But they will benefit from the work we're doing today.