Published Nov 19, 2018
This year will be my first real Thanksgiving. Not because I had not been present at all the gatherings in years past but because this year I have something invaluable to be thankful for. I read the words of a prophet, one who was sent in our very age. They were not the words of a fabricator, a madman or of one who desired any gain for himself. Their insights were of a very different nature.
Through them the God that seemed so hidden away, or that was as a vapor that dissipates in the air and one cannot confirm that it was ever there with any certainty, was now not simply the one who spoke to great patriarchs such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus in traditions of the past. Rather he was the one who continues to speak as he ever has throughout time. Being the God of all to no exception, he sent in every age and to every people prophets when the need arose.
Some we know about and some we do not. One such prophet was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be upon him) who was sent just over a hundred years ago and about whom prophecies from many religious traditions foretold in their own ways. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) himself relayed that a prophet would come and revive the true teachings of Islam when Muslims had strayed far from them, so much so that barely a semblance would remain.
Now how can one possibly give thanks for such a momentous existential gift — to be informed that there is a living God who still speaks to us and guides us today as he ever did through revelation to his prophets? How democratic a concept that all the major religions of the world were founded in truth because they were sent from the one God. This was the universal truth, and it gives a deep sense that our fates have been and are inextricably linked. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) captured the subtlety of our relations best when he described how humanity is as one body.
He said, “When any part of the body aches, the whole body reacts with restlessness and fever.” Thus the Islamic concept of thankfulness (shukr) takes root in our hearts and yet must manifest itself at the grassroots level through sincere concern for all people. True cultivation of gratitude works through sacrifice for one another. It is through this that we start to awaken our spiritual faculties and begin to be capable of true gratitude towards God. Shukr becomes a part of us and manifests when we use everything for the purpose for which it was created.
The ultimate purpose for which we were created was to recognize the one true God. The multitude of modern day idols, which we unknowingly and thoughtlessly let occupy the place of God, are no longer made of stone but hidden deep within our hearts and bar us from gaining knowledge of the one worthy of worship. Since we cannot see God with our eyes, we must perceive him with our spiritual sight. We must perceive his signs. Just as we are awed by the sweeping landscapes in nature, we are drawn to the breathtaking variations in color and languages we find among ourselves. These signs are not meant to assert one’s pride over another but as means of seeing in the delight of scintillations, the source of all light.
So this Thanksgiving, as Ahmadi Muslims come together to share a meal with their neighbors, volunteer with their local community food banks, shelters and highway cleanups or serve in humanitarian efforts to build schools, hospitals and clean drinking water facilities in many parts of Africa and Central America, they do so as a way of expressing shukr. They stand ready as they have before to offer sacrifices in order that others may not suffer. They do it in order to attest to the unity of God in everything. For after all, we are at an inalienable and sacred level one, as is inscribed magnificently on the Great Seal of the United States: E pluribus unum.
Sofia Qureshi is an Appleton resident and a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s Qamar Mosque in Oshkosh.