A young Jewish girl timidly walked up to the mosque and asked to speak with the imam.
I was dressed in gym clothes and a cap doing yard work around the Islamic center. I guess I did not look the part.
“I am the imam,” I said, laughing. She handed me an envelope with $80.
“I want you to give this to help a family in Gaza,” she said. “Please tell them this is from a young Jewish girl that worked all week babysitting. And that we love them and feel their pain.”
This generous act of humanity and humility made me think of stories my father told me before our family was forced to flee Palestine.
My grandfather had been a businessman and property owner. During World War II, many Jews fled to Palestine, our shared holy land, to escape bigotry, persecution and murder.
My grandfather allowed many Jewish families to live in his properties rent-free. He owned a butcher shop as well and every week would have both a rabbi and an imam come prepare and bless the meats making them “kosher” for Jewish and “halal” for Muslim customers.
It is a myth that Jews and Muslims have always been at odds. For hundreds of years Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in relative peace in the Middle East, even in the land of Palestine, under Ottoman rule.
There is much Islam and Judaism share.
We share a language from the same Semitic roots. Both Jewish Halachic law and Muslim Sharia law, which are guides to religious observance and ethical living, translate to mean a “path of water.”
We share a holy land and a common history. We have the same founding father, Abraham. The Jews descended from Abraham’s son, Isaac, whose mother was Sarah, and the Muslims from his son, Ishmael, whose mother was Hagar.
In all versions of this story, whether reading it in the Bible, the Torah or the Quran, the ever-present love and protection of God is present in the text and both children and their descendants are divinely treasured and cared for by their creator.
At the death of Abraham, Ishmael traveled from Paran (modern-day Mecca) to Jerusalem. And the once estranged brothers came together to bury their father.
The young girl who came to my mosque did not wish to be identified. I understand her desire to remain anonymous to avoid the politicization of herself and her gift.
Hers was a gift acknowledging the humanity of all and having compassion on those suffering, regardless of which side of a border they are born on.
The act of this person has touched many and will continue to live on and do its part in repairing the world.
We all have the power to bridge division. We too can follow the example of the young woman and have to courage to love and support one another regardless of faith, societal or political pressures.
A respected successor to the Prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying there are only two kinds of people in the world: Your brother in faith and your brother in humanity.
The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 does not define the relationship among Muslim and Jews. We have a far deeper and richer history together.
We are brothers from another mother.
Senior Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, and chair of Islamic Studies at Wimberly School of Religion at Oklahoma City University. He is the author of Cloud Miles: A Remarkable Journey of Mercy, Peace and Purpose, and appeared in the short documentary “Mercy” (2018) and the feature-length documentary, “Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims” (2010).