Today I’ll be the first Muslim to address the General Synod of the Church of England. It is a blessing and an honour, and I am humbled by this historic opportunity. But the journey from Noor mosque in my native Mombasa, Kenya, to Church House has been a long and meandering one – full of trials and adventure, but ultimately worth it.
A couple of days ago, Humera, my wife of more than 25 years, asked what would make me consider my life a success. Recovering from a long bout of debilitating illness, I was trying to figure out what would be the best way to pursue the new lease of life that had been granted to me.
“If I can, somehow be involved in reconciling hearts and people. That would make me happy,” I replied.
Many moons spent in NHS wards, surrounded by diversity, suffering and death, not escaping to a zawiyah (monastery) retreat, made me spiritually mature and responsive. With plenty of time on my hands I embarked on a journey of rediscovering my faith and what it meant for our times.
Among the jewels I came across was a hadith (narration) of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, peace and blessings be upon him, which simply said: “Shall I not inform you of a better act than fasting, alms and prayers? Making peace between one another: enmity and malice tear up heavenly rewards by the roots.”
It is a message that all members of the synod would be familiar with, for it echoes Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”