Commentary: Why the spirit of Thanksgiving resonates with Muslims

Thanksgiving — with all its festivities and scrumptious dishes — has always been my favorite holiday. As an immigrant to America, I adore this holiday not only for its origin of fostering peace but as well for focusing on divine remembrance and for offering gratitude — a common value shared by all religions.

As a Muslim, the idea of giving thanks resonates well, since it reminds me of a famous saying from Prophet Muhammad: “One who is not grateful to others is not grateful to God.” So, from an Islamic perspective, rendering thanks to God will not suffice unless I make a sincere attempt of appreciating my fellow mankind and the environment from which I draw many benefits.

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Sadly, the current image of Islam is grossly distorted by groups promoting hate, like the Islamic State. Groups like these are engrossed in their own hidden agendas continue to radicalize troubled and lost souls and steer them toward deranged actions like killing innocent civilians, just like the recent mass shooters. Individuals oblivious to religious teachings and morality commit these horrific acts, and in the process, malign religious conviction and torment peace-loving followers.

Regrettably, the phrase “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) is greatly maligned by these criminals. If they had really opened the religious scripture, then they would not amiss this simple decree that the phrase “Allahu Akbar” — along with other exhortations, such as “Subhan Allah” (glory to God) and “Alhamdulillah” (thank God) — are to praise God for the favors and blessings He bestows upon us. We must also be grateful of our surroundings — and we should acknowledge the favors bestowed upon us from our adopted nations as well. Then, we will be truly recipients of Gods’ grace, mercy and bounty.

As a Muslim celebrating Thanksgiving, I want to expound upon the true connotation of “Allahu Akbar,” a phrase recited by Muslims several times a day in expressing multitude of gratitude to God. As an American Muslim, I recite “Allahu Akbar” to glorify God when offering my five daily prayers — to acknowledge God of his benevolence in letting me breathe freely, to break my bread with my family, to cherish my friends, colleagues, neighbors and let me acclaim all my surroundings from which I draw my benefits on a regular basis.

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This is the context in which “Allahu Akbar” is used to venerate God. I hope and pray that one day the whole world will realize the true significance of saying “Allahu Akbar.” It is not so different from saying “Hallelujah” after all. It is also a reminder for Muslims to count their blessings and be grateful to God and his creation.

Thankfully, in the United States, due to religious freedom, we are encouraged to set the record straight on Islam — and many Americans keep an open mind and engage with their Muslim neighbors to evade any misunderstanding. For that, I truly am thankful for their efforts in bridging the gaps and learning about the true teachings of Islam.

Our American leaders should reject the notion that Islam is at war with the West and instead should engage in dialogues with their American Muslim neighbors to overcome any skepticism. This sociopolitical conflict can only be won by the dissemination of true Islamic teachings. American Muslims must continue to tread this path to show the true face of Islam.

The effort must be exhibited by both sides to elude any misperceptions. If our leaders hold on to the American values of decency, tolerance and gratefulness, it will reassure everyone that this is what makes America a great nation.

Ahmad is an engineer for a tech company and lives in Round Rock.

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