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Letter 59 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 59

DAY 59

Syed Atif Rizwan

Assistant Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies; Director of the Catholic-Muslim Studies Program
Catholic Theological Union
March 19, 2021

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,

May God’s infinite peace, compassion, and blessings be upon all of you.

It would be unremarkable to state that we are living in a moment that demands more precise attention to the plight of Americans, especially those belonging to communities of color. Each citizen is deserving of and can rightfully demand institutions and policies grounded in justice.

“Each citizen is deserving of…institutions and policies grounded in justice.”

The most recurring concept in the Holy Qur’ān is the belief in the oneness of God. The second most recurring concept is justice. Importantly, both belief and justice appear together in verse after verse. For example, chapter 4 verse, 135 states: “You who believe, uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can take care of them best. Do not let your own desires swerve you away from justice. If you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do.” And chapter 5, verse 8, states: “You who believe…do not let hatred of others lead you away from justice. Adhere to justice, for it is closer to piety.”

The message from these verses is clear: To be a believer is to be just. And to be just is to be a believer. As you steward our nation, I hope that you will use your privilege to do what is necessary to lift up those who are less fortunate than some of us because of the systemic ways in which they have been denied justice. As the Prophet Muḥammad (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) says in a teaching that reflects the Golden Rule: “No one is a true believer until they want for their sisters and brothers what they want for themselves” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī).

May God Almighty bless you and guide you in your actions towards a more just and compassionate society.

With blessings of Lent and sincerest regards,

Syed Atif Rizwan

Syed Atif Rizwan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies
Director, The Catholic-Muslim Studies Program
Catholic Theological Union

the author

Syed Atif Rizwan, Assistant Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies and the Director of the Catholic-Muslim Studies Program at Catholic Theological Union, holds a doctorate in Islamic Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. His research interests include early Islamic intellectual history with a focus on the emergence and development of Islamic criminal law and jurisprudence. He is also attempting to bring into convergence medieval and post-modern theories of punishment, and the ethics of criminal justice reform. At Catholic Theological Union he is also focusing on interreligious dialogue and studies and, since 2018, has been holding public programming on criminal justice issues.