Reflection by Imam Shane Atkinson
When Muslim scholars define our faith, they often start with the fact that the word Islam is from a root word meaning peace. While this is linguistically true, from a theological perspective, we can say Islam is a religion of mercy. All but one chapter of the Qur’an begins with, “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” The Qur’an informs us that, “It was only as a mercy that We sent you [Prophet] to all people." (21:107) and “The Messenger of God is an excellent model for those of you who put your hope in God and the Last Day and remember Him often.” (33:21) As we look to the teachings of this ‘Prophet of Mercy’, how are we advised to interact with others? The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “The most beloved people to God are those who are most beneficial to people.” In a time when we are called to shelter in place, how can we be of benefit to others? In the current situation, benefiting others may look like refraining from actions that may further the spread of the virus and not hoarding food or cleaning supplies. To move forward in this manner not only requires a great deal of generosity, but it also calls us to be courageous. The benefit we can extend to each other as we shelter in place is just as important as how we relate to the outside world. It is easy to feel aggravated and restless as we are confined to our homes. Now more than ever, we should dig deep and extend kind words, patience, and prayers to our friends and families. And last but not least, we can be gentle and forgiving towards ourselves as we seek to navigate this trying time with courage and compassion. May the blessings of God rest upon you, May God’s peace abide with you, May God’s presence illuminate your hearts, Now and forevermore.
Imam Shane Atkinson spent twenty years caring for patients as a Board Certified Orthotic and Prosthetic Practitioner. In 2011 he was awarded an Ijaza (Masters level traditional degree) to teach Islamic theology, law, and spirituality. He entered the Clinical Pastoral Education program at UNC Medical Center in 2015 as the first Muslim in their Chaplains Department. He completed a rigorous four units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), and now teaches in UNC’s CPE program as well as serving on their Professional Advisory Group. Since 2015, Shane has served as Associate Imam at As Salaam Islamic Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was named the recipient of the 2019 Muhammad Ali Spiritual Leadership Full-Tuition Scholarship to support his graduate studies in the Master of Divinity program at the Chicago Theological Seminary.