By Carissa D. Lamkahouan
US OnIslam.net Correspondent
DALLAS – Building bridges between people, promoting understanding with those of other faiths, and living the virtues of a good neighbor are just some of the Islamic fundamentals Imam Daniel Adbullah Hernandez emphasizes when encouraging his Southeastern Texas congregation to look beyond the masjid walls and to connect with those who they otherwise might avoid.
To show his fellow Muslims the way, he leads by example and emphasizes mercy.
“We have beautiful statements of the Prophet (pbuh) about mercy. He said, ‘The merciful will be shown mercy by the most merciful (Allah),’” Hernandez, a revert since 1999 who now serves at the Pearland Islamic Center in Pearland, north Texas, told OnIslam.net.
The imam added if Muslims are going to move past the challenges they face from some in Western society, then it is they who must take the initiative to improve their situation.
Most importantly, he said they need not look any further than their own religion.
“Understanding the Islamic concept of interfaith and knowing each other and building on our commonalities is important,” said Hernandez.
“Understanding that we are one humanity and have a responsibility on this earth and even outside of the masjid is also important. And it’s not just a responsibility to build buildings or to pave roads but to spread the divine attributes, which includes mercy and to understand that mercy is for all.”
To live what he preaches, Hernandez regularly reaches out not only to his fellow faith leaders in Texas but to civic leaders, as well.
In fact, he most recently engaged the non-Islamic community to join with his congregants in planting an interfaith garden during Earth Day events earlier this year.
“One goal (of mine) is to introduce the general community to our community and develop a relationship which ends up giving us other opportunities for collaborative programs to take place such as the garden,” the imam said.
“We had (city leaders) and different clergy come to plant trees. Now that we know each other we have a responsibility to continue watering our plants, so to speak.”
Planting gardens events have turned into interfaith event offering the wider community a chance to engage with their Muslim neighbors.
“I think, symbolically, it’s a gesture that indicates to the rest of the world that we need to change how we treat each other and how we view each other,” Pearland Mayor Tom Reid, who attended the planting of the garden, told OnIslam.net.
Ried said interfaith events like the ones sponsored by the Pearland Islamic Center are critically important to establishing and keeping harmony in a town like Pearland, which is home to people of all colors and creeds.
“(Our city) has been identified as one of the most diverse in the state; we have 62 different languages spoken in our school system,” Reid said.
“We have to come together as individuals and get to know each other because, when you do that, you find out that people are basically good.”
As for how the mayor views the Muslim community and the Islamic faith, he is pragmatic about it.
“We all worship the same god we just call him differently,” Reid said.
He said he’s proud of how his town, with its rich cultural diversity and vibrant faith community, has not only learned to live together in peace but even to enjoy each other’s company and welcome each new member as an important member of society.
“When people move to Pearland, even from outside of the United States, they end up liking and trusting their neighbors, their children play together and they attend community events together,” Reid said.
“We really are a model for the rest of the world to look at and to start following, to encourage people to reach out to each other and get along with each other.”
In addition to holding symbolic events to promote mercy and generosity of spirit between people, Imam Hernandez said a bit of shared fun goes a long way, as well.
To that end, a spring carnival was held in conjunction with the planting of the interfaith garden. He said the event presented an ideal and natural opportunity for da`wah.
“When you’re playing your guard is down, and we made it clear that we had no hidden agenda for inviting (people of other faiths) to our event, and they were impressed,” he said.
“We are doing this because it’s an obligation upon us to do it. We only fear that we will stand in front of God one day, so we need no reward and no thanks.”