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Thursday, January 19, 2006

"Why are Muslims so special?"

"Why are Muslims so special?" a man once asked Sheikh Rashidi.
"There are so many ways to God, and surely God loves all men equally.
Yet the Muslims act as if no one but a Muslim can go to Heaven. Isn't
this against the teachings of Islam?"
"Let me tell you a story," said the Sheikh. "Once upon a time, a
king had seven sons. Each son was inclined to think that he was the
most beloved of all. And each son had his own way of convincing himself
that he was right.
"The first son said to himself, 'I am the oldest, and so have been
in the presence of my father longer than the others. I am sure,
therefore, he loves me the most.' And with this thought uppermost in
his mind, he went his way and did what he liked.
"The second son said to himself, 'My father once said to me, 'My
son'. I have never heard him say that to anyone else. I am sure,
therefore, he loves me the most.' And with this thought uppermost in
his mind, he went his way and did what he liked.
"The third son said to himself, 'My father wants his sons to think
for themselves. I'm very good at that. If I can devise the best plan
of conduct on my own, I am sure my father will be most pleased with
me.' So the third son went off, thinking and writing and giving
speeches about his father's plans and preferences.
"The fourth son said to himself, 'There is no such thing as a
father, or a son. All is empty and illusory. This truth will suffice
me.' So the fourth son left the palace, and was never seen again.
"The fifth son said to himself, 'My father is a great and august
being. I must not disturb him with my petty concerns. If he sees how I
am overcome with reverence for him, glancing at him by way of mirrors
or through distant windows, then surely he will have pity on me and
call me to him.' And so the fifth son went around furtively, not
daring so much as to darken his father's path with his shadow, and
suffered constantly from his self-imposed separation.
"The sixth son said to himself, 'Imitation is the sincerest form
of flattery. I will do whatever my father does, follow in his
footsteps, sit in his throne, and generally act like his shadow. I am
sure that this will please my father like nothing else.' And so the
sixth son did indeed dog his father constantly, irritating him by his
proximity. He found himself continuously being put out of doors and
hauled away for affronting the royal dignity.
"The seventh son said to himself, 'I do not really know what would
please my father; I had better ask him.' So he made it a habit to
attend to his father, asking questions, seeking guidance, and studying
his father's decrees, while maintaining the respectful demeanour a
son owes to a father. In this there was seen natural love and humility
and grace, all truly royal qualities, and in good time the king made
the seventh son heir to the throne.
"Now," said Sheikh Rashidi, "Muslims are not permitted to
consider themselves better than the rest of mankind. They should,
however, be practising the virtues of the seventh son, who did not
presume to know what was pleasing to the king, but made a point of
asking the king directly, 'O father, how can I serve you better?'
His answers can be found in our Royal Revelations, the Holy Qur'an,
in the pronouncements of His Messenger our Prophet Muhammad (may Al-Lah
bless him and give him peace), and in our constant communion with God
through formal worship and intimate discourse in prayer. This is the
living, personal way, the way that makes sense, and so anyone whose aim
is the same will likely want to begin with this.
"As for those who think they know better, including many Muslims, it
is best to let them be. We are all princes anyway, and we will all get
to meet our King in the fullness of time."

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