Remember SYMS? Back in the day, SYMS was a huge store a few blocks from the World Trade Center, where NYU law students and thousands of others would search the racks for discounted suits and coats. Eventually, it was replaced by the Burlington Coat Factory — until September 11, 2001, when a piece of a Flight 11 or 175 went through its roof. After years of being on the market, Sharif El-Gamal — a young realtor from Brooklyn whose late mother was Polish Catholic and whose father is an Egyptian Muslim — finally came up with a perfect idea for it: a house of prayer.
If nothing else, there is room for prayer near Ground Zero. So Kukiko Mitani finally sold the building for $4.85 million in cash to Mr. El Gamal, opening yet another door to the healing balm of peace that the world so desperately needs. Technically, it’s not a mosque at ground-zero but potentially an Islamic Cultural Center (a 15-story building, open to all, with a 500-seat theater, educational programs, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and a 9/11 memorial) with a room for prayer near the former World Trade Center. Hopefully, there will be many such rooms — not just near Ground Zero — but everywhere — especially in our hearts.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a mosque, but I feel the same Holy Spirit there that I feel everywhere else. Finding a space for prayer in a heart that needs healing is a no-brainer — particularly in a place that prides itself on religious freedom. I am free to talk about Tapping the 12 Powers Within at SPIRITMUV because most of the “Founding Fathers” were not Christian but Freemasons who believed that people should worship according to their own conscience. For example, Thomas Paine confessed that he did not “believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church . . .” He said “My own mind is my church.”
Nowhere in the Constitution is there a single mention of Christianity, God, Jesus, or any Supreme Being. Instead, it protected Muslims and Jews, Buddhists and Christians, Hindus and worshippers of every denomination. The God in the Declaration of Independence does not describe Christianity’s God but a God that is greater than man-made differences and a future government upheld by its citizens instead of a religious monarchy.
If nothing else, 9/11 taught me to reach beyond the appearances of separation — and embrace the wholeness of a heart that knows only love. As 17th-century poet-saint Rahman Baba wrote “Sow flowers, so your surroundings become a garden. Don’t sow thorns; for they will prick your feet. We are all one body. Whoever tortures another, wounds himself.”
A few blocks away from the future site of the Islamic Cultural Center is the Masjid al-Farah mosque, where devotees of the Sufi tradition of Islamic mysticism gather, led by a woman, Sheikha Fariha al-Jerrahi, who works at a nearby post office. When Sheikha Fariha chants the zikr, the Sufi ritual of chanting and prayer, she asks her congregants to enter “into the vastness of the heart that has no boundaries.” They chant again and again in unison, “La illaha illa Allah.” There is no god but God. There is no god but God. There is no god but God.
There is no god but God means many things, but in the Spirit of Truth, I hear, there is no god that separates us. There is only the God that loves us all the same. We love a garden because of its many different flowers and fragrances, shapes and colors. Our differences exist to create more beauty, power and strength. Our differences teach us that we are love for all things, all beings, all expressions of faith. Our differences show us that we are one — finding freedom in the creative consciousness of our individuality.
May we bless the land of those who came before us. Make we find the light that our ancestors hold for us. May we bless the past and know that we build this country on infinite possibilities and endless opportunities. May we plant new seeds of strength and a lasting consciousness of change. May we refuse to be afraid to walk the water. May we believe that we can each be sacred in our own way. May we heal our wounds with the light of acceptance, realizing that there is no god but God — and we are all made in God’s image and likeness. There is nothing short of the everlasting love that God breathes as each and every one of us. And in God’s breath, there is always space to build a new room for prayer.
About SPIRITMUV: Spiritmuv® is a trans-denominational church, which means that it transcends the confines of religion and teaches unconditional love for one another regardless of race, creed, culture, or religion. At the heart of its teachings is what Jesus taught — that we love one another, as well as the community that Mahatma Ghandi inspired when he said, “I am a Christian and a Muslim and a Hindu and a Jew.” Reverend Cecilia Loving is the founder and creator of Spiritmuv, which was formed in 2007. Services are held for an hour every Sunday, from 2:30 P.M. to 3:30 P.M. at the Unity Center of NYC, located at 213 West 58th Street.
Rev. Loving, author of Prayers for Those Standing in the Edge of Greatness, is the sole owner, creator and administrator of God is a Brown Girl Too®, which holds annual retreats and workshops. The next God is a Brown Girl Too Retreat will be held April 1-3, 2011, at the Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center.
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