Just a few days before Thanksgiving, approximately 100 members of the Islamic Center of Southern California joined 200 or so congregants of First united Methodist Church (Pasadena) for a day of worship, learning and joyous celebration.
Hearts were opened and the tone was set as Sheikh Asim Buyuksoy began the morning with a recitation and explanation of Surat al-Fatiha and Surat al-Baqara (2:172).
“O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship.” (2:172)
Members of FUMC were warmed by the gesture, welcoming new experiences and setting the tone for a day of interfaith discussion and celebration surrounding Thanksgiving. Dr. Rizwan Bhatti spoke about what Thanksgiving means to him as an American and as a Muslim before reflecting on when the early Muslims went to Abyssinia and closing with the verses in Surah Maryam (19:16-21) wherein the Immaculate Conception of our dear Prophet Jesus (Isa) was revealed, keeping our interfaith spirit at the forefront of our day together.
She said, “How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?” He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.'” (19:20-21)
The conversation continued with an interfaith panel discussion titled, “Americans Together,” where Hassan Zeenni and Edina Lekovic shared their perspectives about what Thanksgiving means to a person of faith. First United Methodist Church also had two contributing members of the dynamic panel discussion. Edina Lekovic shared, “Gratitude is for our own benefit. God doesn’t need us to be grateful. Gratitude connects us to each other and to the Divine that is bigger than all of us.” The theme was common as panelists gave us valuable insights on their approach to Thanksgiving, which in the end, showed us that the values that connect us all as people of faith are at the core of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Gratitude is for our own benefit. God doesn’t need us to be grateful. Gratitude connects us to each other and to the Divine that is bigger than all of us.”
At the conclusion of the program in the sanctuary, guests moved to the dinner hall to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal together. In the days leading up to the event, volunteers from the ICSC and FUMC worked diligently to help prepare food and desserts for the lunch. Together, they were able to cook and carve 14 halal turkeys that served nearly 300 people. The crowd blended together in the room – sharing tables and a meal while expressing gratitude for new friendships and traditions. It was truly a beautiful experience for all. Happy Thanksgiving from the Islamic Center and First United Methodist Church in Pasadena!