Dinner with a Prophet

Dinner with a ProphetDinner with a Prophet: A Unique Part of the Georgetown Experience

If you ever had the chance to experience a Dinner with a Prophet on a Tuesday night in Imam Hendi’s office, you know there is nothing much you can compare it to. Indeed, it is a truly unique experience. As you hurry to make yourself a plate of food to find a space to sit in his office, you happen to meet and greet several familiar and new faces. Meanwhile, Imam Hendi makes his rounds greeting everyone, gradually making his way to his desk. Once he reaches his desk and stares out to all the faces before him, whispers fade and munching continues; then Imam addresses the crowd before him in the name of God, the Most Merifical and Most Beneficent. “My dear sisters and brothers…tonight we will reflect on the life of…” typically sets the tone for that evening’s discussion of a prophet or important figure in Islam. This past year the Dinner with a Prophet series included discussions of Noah (Nuh), Moses (Musa), Jesus (Esa), Mary (Maryam), and Muhammad, a few of the important figures in the Islamic tradition.

The audience typically includes members from many different faith traditions and offices on campus, all captivated by Imam Hendi’s passion as he portrays the triumph of these figures despite the difficulties and obstacles they faced. He often rises from his chair and with different postures and flourishing arm movements, he depicts the extent of physical suffering felt by those who believed in the oneness of God and acted on His call that has been experienced repeatedly in the history of Islam. Still, Imam Hendi always finds way to make us all laugh at some point during Dinner with a Prophet. I can recall one specific instance when he used a prayer rug (sajada) as a headscarf (hijab). Moments like these are priceless and are difficult to express in words. Imam’s unconventional use of props creates an interactive learning experience that seeks to engage his audience with the struggles, challenges, and realities prophets in Islam faced; or sometimes, simply put, just to act silly. Regardless, Imam Hendi moves away from the traditional Muslim Sunday school method of teaching the stories of the prophets.

Another unique feature of Imam’s dinner series is its emphasis on how the prophets of Islam were all seen at one point or another as threats to existing religious, social, and economic institutions that systematically oppressed the weakest members within their respective societies–children, orphans, the needy, the elderly, and women. If the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.A.W) witnessed and experienced physical torment and degradation but continued to pray for the well-being of his enemies to His creator, how can we resort to violence and insanity when people make ignorant remarks on his life and legacy? Imam Hendi reminds us, ‘if we truly love our Prophet and seek to adhere to his example, we as Muslims must respond to hate with love for the pleasure of our Creator.’ If we value brotherhood and sisterhood we must look beyond words, images, and so-called threats to the integrity of our teachers, messengers, and prophets in Islam and act in accordance to their teachings of love, compassion, and mercy. Verily, if our Lord is the Most Merciful from whom we seek forgiveness, we must follow in His example and learn to forgive others.

There has never been a single Dinner with a Prophet that Imam Hendi failed to stress the importance of standing up for social and economic justice. At some point during every Dinner with a Prophet, Imam Hendi’s voice softens and weakens with sadness when addressing the current state of the ummah. Nevertheless, there are uplifting moments when Imam’s voice bursts with passion as he calls on each and every member of the audience to follow in the example of the best teachers in Islam. He reminds the members of his congregation that anyone can learn from the example of the Prophets in Islam the importance of acting on compassion by striving to achieve prosperity, opportunity, stability, and safety for those suffering on every part of the globe. At this precise moment, individuals who happened to have just entered Healy Hall nearly shake from the power of Imam Hendi’s voice. I’ve repeatedly been asked by complete strangers walking through the foyer, “What is going on in there? What event is this?”. I can’t help but smile each time I am asked these questions because I am reminded that I am sitting on the floor outside an Imam’s office (because there is no room inside) located at a Catholic University within the nation’s capital. Sometimes I ask myself afterwards if I am dreaming. Could I have ever pictured myself attending a Catholic University while also being apart of an amazing community of Muslims on campus? Never in a million years. Until I attended a Dinner with a Prophet event at Georgetown, I would have never thought it possible.

Dinner with a Prophet is a unique event only found at Georgetown in light of the university’s mission to make its campus a thriving abode for religious thought and instruction across all faith traditions. I distinctly remember one evening after a Dinner with a Prophet event where a stranger approached me commenting, “I never believed I would have the chance to attend an event in an Imam’s office discussing an prophet in my faith tradition and Islam next door to a Rabbi’s office. What a night!”. I remember bursting into laughter and the smile that couldn’t seem to leave my face the rest of that evening. That particular stranger helped me realize that Dinner with a Prophet is a distinct feature of my Georgetown experience born out a value of faith-inspired discussions within all religious traditions. It’s moments like these where “Hoya Saxa” seems to take on a new meaning for me as a proud Georgetown Hoya.

Khadija Mohamud, SFS’17