Today was yet another day which will go down in the history books for posterity. Barack Hussein Obama became the first African-American to be re-elected as the president of the United States. Although he was sworn in at a small private ceremony yesterday to comply with the January 20th swearing in as mandated by the Constitution, the public ceremony was observed today. Coincidentally today was also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. How proud Rev. King would have been if he were alive to witness his dream come true.
Fifty years ago, on August 28, 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the “greatest demonstration of freedom in the history of our nation.” Rev. King, recipient of the Nobel Peace prize, at the young age of thirty-five, was a civil rights activist and dedicated his life to end segregation until his tragic death in 1968. The speech which Rev. King delivered at the demonstration has become known as the “I have a dream” speech. He said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’” The year 2008 saw the manifestation of Rev. King’s dream when the United States of America put the first ever African-American president in the White House.
But while we remember the work of Martin Luther King who fought to bring social justice to this great country let’s look at another incident when a similar movement took place about fourteen hundred years ago in the parched desert of what was then known as Arabia. It was a period which was called “The Age of Ignorance” or Jahillya in Arabic. There was much enmity and hatred among the various tribes of the land and feuding to settle differences was the norm. Women had no rights and infant girls were regularly murdered as they were considered to be of no use and rather a burden to the family. The rich owned slaves who were treated worse than animals. The poor and the orphans were neglected and the rich became richer. In this age of darkness, a prophet was raised by God whose mission was to bring about a revolution in the land of Arabia. The man was Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) and in a span of twenty-three years, he was able to unite the warring tribes of Arabia, raise the status of women, restore the dignity of life, bring social justice to the nation, and above all purify the land of the false idols and re-establish the unity of God.
In the year 632, in the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah (the twelfth month), Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) at the occasion of Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage, stood at the Mountain of Arafat and delivered his last sermon, which is now referred to as the “Farewell Sermon”. He stood before thousands of men and women and spoke to them at length about their responsibilities. He gave a clear message about equality and social justice. He said, “All of you are equal. All men, whatever nation or tribe they belong to, and whatever station in life they may hold, are equal…an Arab possesses no superiority over the non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab.” His message resonated with what God had already revealed to him in the Quran. “O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Verily, the most honorable among you, in the sight of God, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, God is All-knowing, All-Aware.” (49:14)
“What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’
Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.”
These were the words spoken by our 44th President on the steps of the Capitol on January 21, 2013. How remarkably similar are his words to those of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) and to those spoken by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. But then again why shouldn’t it be so because all three of them owe their existence and their missions to the One Who created everything.