WASHINGTON — An Islamic imam led the U.S. House of Representatives in prayer ‘in the name of Allah’ this week, as those representing the people from states across America stood with their heads bowed and eyes closed.
Imam Hamad Ahmad Chebli of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey in Monmouth opened the day on Thursday, being introduced by Speaker John Boehner.
“In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful,” he began. “Praise be to Allah, the cherisher, the sustainer of the world, the most gracious, the most merciful master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship and thine do we seek.”
“Guide us to the safe path,” Chebli continued. “The god of the prophets and the messenger says in the Koran [that] he does not place a responsibility on you greater than you can bear. Everyone will receive the good they have earned and vice versa.”
He then asked asked that Allah bless and guide Congress.
“O god, bless us as we begin a new day. Bless this assembly. Bless the people and the nation it represents. O god, at this time in our history, the challenges for our nation and the world are many,” Chebli said. “O god, grant these men and women the wisdom, the guidance and the strength to pursue compassion, justice and sound judgment. O god, in your wisdom, the guidance and the strength to pursue responsibility and honor.”
O god, please help them with your guidance and your light. O god, improve the well being of all inhabitants of this great nation and beyond,” he continued. “O god, improve the well being of all inhabitants of this great nation and beyond. Amen.”
The prayer was then followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, as well as a brief speech by U.S. Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, who praised Chebli before those gathered.
“I ask my colleagues to join me in welcoming Imam Chebli,” he said. “He has been both a friend and an ambassador of Islam to me and many others in New Jersey, and we are all honored that his prayer has opened this session of Congress.”
Holt, a professing Quaker, then provided the background on the Islamic imam, who is heavily trained in the Muslim religion.
“He’s a native of Lebanon and attended one of the most prestigious Islamic institutions in the world, where he received his masters in Islamic cannonical law. He’s been the leader of ISCJ since 1986, where he makes Muslims and non-Muslims feel welcome,” the Democratic representative said. “The depth of his faith and scholarship, his commanding dignity and the warmth of his personality make him the most prominent and attractive figure of Islam in our region.”
“In a period where the public understanding of Islam has grown greatly, we are fortunate to have Imam Chebli in our community. He’s worked hard to build interfaith dialogue and public understanding,” Holt continued. “Most recently, New Jersey’s governor [Republican Chris Christie] appointed him to the governor’s leadership summit on diversity. He and I have a friendship that has lasted many years, especially since September 2001, and I greatly value that friendship.”
“Through is inspiring prayer this morning, we can all gain wisdom and guidance,” he claimed.