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NPR: A Ramadan Story Of Two Faiths Bound In Friendship

22 August 2011 General 24 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
Members of the Memphis Islamic Center pray at Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tenn., last year.

Members of the Memphis Islamic Center pray at Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tenn., last year.

It’s Ramadan, the month-long holiday when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk as a way to cleanse the soul and reflect on their relationship with God. The faithful usually flock to their local mosques for prayer during the holiday, but last year, the Muslims of Cordova, Tenn., just outside Memphis, didn’t have a place to go.

That’s when Pastor Steve Stone put an unusual sign outside his church.

“It said, ‘Welcome to the neighborhood, Memphis Islamic Center,'” he laughs. “It’s been seen all over the world, now.”

Stone invited the Muslim community to celebrate their holiday inside his church while their own cultural center was under construction nearby. It was the beginning of an unusual alliance that’s still strong a year later.

“Obviously we were taken aback, but in a very positive way,” says Danish Siddiqui, a board member of the Memphis Islamic Center. “Muslims, we tend to think of ourselves as good neighbors,” he tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Laura Sullivan, “but Steve beat us to the punch and put up that sign — and all we had to do was knock on the door and introduce ourselves.”

The welcome sign that stood in front of Heartsong Church.

The welcome sign that stood in front of Heartsong Church.

The Muslim community was building a new mosque, but it was a delicate time. Proposed Islamic centers were kicking up controversy from New York to Murfreesboro — another Tennessee town just 200 miles away from Cordova.

“We were looking at some close-by halls and rental spaces and none of them were available,” Siddiqui says. They asked Stone if they could borrow a small space inside his Heartsong Church. “He said, ‘No. You’re going to pray in our main worship space.'”

“We were so honored to be asked, because we knew that if they ever had any thought that we would say no, they would not have asked us,” Stone says.

Not everyone was as thrilled as Stone however. He received criticism from colleagues — and even members of his own church — who felt that he was blending Christianity and Islam. Ultimately, 20 members left his church, out of a congregation of 550.

“We had tried to work with them and think their way through it,” Stone says, “but at the end of the day, if they really believed what they said they believed, we’re kind of glad they left, because we didn’t want them going out into the community and saying, ‘We have these hateful feelings and we go to Heartsong Church.'”

Although the Memphis Islamic Center is now complete, the Muslim community keeps a strong relationship with Stone and Heartsong’s members. Once a month, they get together to help the homeless in their neighborhood, and there are also plans to build a new park that would sit on both congregations’ property.

“We have different faith traditions,” Siddiqui says. “But at the same time, we know that we can get along, we know that we can work together. And we have respect for one another, because we are people of faith.”

Original post: NPR: A Ramadan Story Of Two Faiths Bound In Friendship


  1. Reading this gives me some confidence in the goodness of most Americans. The problem is those impacted by this terrible economy who are taking it out on minority groups, the disadvantaged and poor. This kind of divisiveness stems from the breakdown of the economy and the changeover into a society of haves and have nots, like so many third world nations. It’s sad to see our country devolving into this sad state of affairs, but by pulling together we can overcome the meanness and selfishness that is the pervasive sentiment in the US today.

  2. Salam Alaikom and thank you for this story. What a beautiful thing to see in Ramadan this year..some friendship and tolerance between Christian’s and Muslim’s. There should always be this! Christian’s mostly, in my opinion, don’t understand Islam at this time and country and world and that causes so much hate and divisiveness between us. We must read one another’s Books, so we then know what the other believes..for real~ And not what it seen on the nightly newscasts..Allah Bless this minister very much! He did such a good deed in this Ramadan which Insha’Allah..God Willing..will reach around the globe for peace. Ani

  3. DISCLAIMER: (next 7 verses) i’m a weak reader and so as i’ve begun reading the koran 7 verses at a time, it hepls me to cut and paste them after i’ve read them because i then re-read them on this post. they may have absolutely nothing to do with this article. i welcome any input as to historical context or to whom some of the pronouns are refering.

    3.15] Say:Shall I tell you what is better than these? For those who guard (against evil) are gardens with their Lord, beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them, and pure mates and Allah’s pleasure; and Allah sees the servants.
    [3.16] Those who say: Our Lord! surely we believe, therefore forgive us our faults and save us from the chastisement of the fire.
    [3.17] The patient, and the truthful, and the obedient, and those who spend (benevolently) and those who ask forgiveness in the morning times.
    [3.18] Allah bears witness that there is no god but He, and (so do) the angels and those possessed of knowledge, maintaining His creation with justice; there is no god but He, the Mighty, the Wise.
    [3.19] Surely the (true) religion with Allah is Islam, and those to whom the Book had been given did not show opposition but after knowledge had come to them, out of envy among themselves; and whoever disbelieves in the communications of Allah then surely Allah is quick in reckoning.
    [3.20] But if they dispute with you, say: I have submitted myself entirely to Allah and (so) every one who follows me; and say to those who have been given the Book and the unlearned people: Do you submit yourselves? So if they submit then indeed they follow the right way; and if they turn back, then upon you is only the delivery of the message and Allah sees the servants.
    [3.21] Surely (as for) those who disbelieve in the communications of Allah and slay the prophets unjustly and slay those among men who enjoin justice, announce to them a painful chastisement

  4. I’ve been a silent reader for many of the articles that have popped up on my facebook, simply because most of them put me in a very bad mood, and I don’t want to spread angry words…against anyone.

    I’m christian- Catholic. And honestly, I had lost hope in acceptance of Islam when concerning mass Christian communities. Especially in the south, where I used to live, and was used to having to defend my own status as a Christian.

    But this story gives me hope. Only 20 members left his church of 550 members? When dividing that up into familes…that’s an average of five families, so really, just ten (the parents) were definately prejudiced.

    I just wanted to share how happy this made me.

  5. It is nice to read that people of different faith and belief come together to help one another. Hopefully in the spirit of unity, the same will be offered to have a service at the Islamic center.

  6. Yay 🙂 This is what Islam really is about, peace, love, and prosperity between two religions. I love this! Alhamdulilah!

  7. Mike

    Let me guess, are you posting ayaht about how only islam is the right religion in the sight of God.That’s true, but only if your good Muslim, like, REALY good observant muslim. God works in mysterious ways, maybe Pastor Stevens will enter Heaven because of his kindness to the Muslims, you never know. God rewards those weho are righteous and fair, and that includes non muslims too

  8. wth? Where did steven’s come from lol stupid iPhone, I meant stone 🙂

  9. elle,

    “God rewards those weho are righteous and fair, and that includes non muslims too”…like i said before, from your lips to god’s ears. so can an atheist be rewarded for being just and right? how about a polytheist? how about an animist?

    actually “Mike

    Let me guess, are you posting ayaht about how only islam is the right religion in the sight of God.”

    actually i was going to post something like this: ( but i thought there was so much a mutual lovefest and i didn’t want to bring everyone down, that i woud stay out of it) anyways: i think this is a great idea. all the abrahamic religions should share buildings. the muslims pray on friday, the jews on saturday and the christians on sunday? either that, or begin taxing them. they are eating up a lot of prime real estate and eroding the tax base. or the best solution is start taxing all religions.

    but if you insist: [9.30] And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!

    sounds to me like the jews and christians are wrong? according to muhammad (allah’s prophet)

    destroy them: doesn’t sound like the epitome of peace to me.

    Doubt is part of all religion. All the religious thinkers were doubters.
    Isaac Bashevis Singer

  10. ALLAHU AKBAR !, ALLAHU AKBAR!!, ALLAHU AKBAR!!!, this is indeed a unique event which needs to be announced to the entire world because this occurance has a greater tendency of bringing a special peace which the inhabitants of our world needed and there by turning around the world for the good of mankind. ALHAMD LILLAHI RABIL AALA MEEN.

  11. Actually, yea, an atheist can be sent to heaven, dpeending on if they do a good deed in Gods eyes, like i said, completely up to God, we aren’t here to judge.
    “Two men approached the Prophet (S) one day and asked him if a certain village man would go to heaven. They told him “that this man didn;t believe in God, pray, fast, give charity, etc. But one day while coming back from a journey, he noticed an old dog laying on the side of the road, panting andthristy. The man saw the poor dog was tired ans sick so he gave him some water.” The prophet answered ‘He will go to heaven”. Why? it’s not because of his religion, or what he beleives, it was his actions. God made it mandatory on people to respect and care for animals, but no one listens to that either. So therefore, religion isn’t always the case, because some people are only Muslim or Christain or Jewsih by name, they don’t follow their religion at all. They just go to the mosque on Eid but don’t pray the obligatory Eid prayer, some people fornicate outside of marriage when their religion says explicitly not to…you have to look around you

  12. Sure, in Allah’s eyes, Islam is the right path, but in christianity and Judaism it’s the same thing to them, right? their religion is the right one to them. But Allah never said to disrespect, shun, or bother other people of other religions, because we all share a common faith, a common history, and God has his own plans for each of us.

    The reason why God said that Jews and Christains will go to Hell isn’t becasue he hates them, on the contrary, he created them and their prophets and their religions and at one point, all of them were in perfect “condition”. Over time, the Bible (the original one that Jesus himself followed) change, old testament to New Testament to whatever it’s going to be tomarrow, and the same thing happened to the Torah. At one point, all those books contained what was in the Quran, but they were changed. Allah said that the Quran would stay as it was, no one would ever be able to change it, no matter how hard they tried. Why? Because God new we would need one TRUE religion that hasn’t ben changed since day one, one everyone could follow without being led astray by false verses. Sure we have nutjobs like the Taliban, Gaddafi, Bin Lden who think they can change Allah’s words, but look in the Quran and it’s all truth, every page ever letter, every haraka (punctuation-type thing, a little hard to explain)I believe is the absolute truth, and God made it that way so everyone could see it and believe it.

  13. I agree with that statement about sharing a common praying space, why not? It shows unity, very important in all religions.

  14. Mike

    said desroy them, I won’t deny it, its there in the Quran, but Allah told him that there were those who would never change, only bring harm on the Muslims, and curse upon the name of God,that’s what he meant.

    To be fair, you do have somewhat of a point, but I have a little story for you. When the prophet was still spreading Islam on foot, Allah sent down the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) to tell him to go to this town to spread Islam. God knew what would happen, but Muhammad was hopeful. When he got there, the town’s inhabitants heard all about the “crazy sorcerer” that was spreading the idea of monotheism in a polytheistic region frm the quraish, (mekka’s non-muslim inhabitants)and were ready to meet him at the towns entrance. When he got there and started preaching, (I apologize, I forgot the name of the village, started with ‘Th’, sorry, I’m hman, i forget easily) they started throwing things at him, yelling at him, pushing him around, and they even got their children to run him out of town and toss stones at him until he bled through his clothes. God was talking of people like that. Christain, muslim, Jewish, atheist, doesnt matter who you believe in, its how you act.

  15. Sorry, still not done.

    Later that day, Jibrel asked Muhammad if he would let him crush the town between 2 mountains and kill them all. the prophet said, “No, perhaps their children or their children’s children will come to Islam. DOn’t kill them”

  16. elle,

    “yea, an atheist can be sent to heaven,” i hope you’re right. so what about the hindus? i thought not worshiping the “one true god” was the worst sin?

    “Sure, in Allah’s eyes, Islam is the right path, but in christianity and Judaism it’s the same thing to them, right?” absolutely, we all hold our beliefs because we believe them to be right? or maybe we where just raised with them? either way don’t you find the god of abraham to be quite violent?

    “Because God new we would need one TRUE religion that hasn’t ben changed since day one,” so does that mean that islam is meant to dominate the world?

    “God was talking of people like that. Christain, muslim, Jewish, atheist, doesnt matter who you believe in, its how you act.”

    anyways if there is to be a caliphate i hope it is you…keep studying and rise to a position of prominence and influence in your community. i find your interpertation of islam the most palatable.

    just remeber: just because someone says it (despite their title) or it is written doesn’tmean it is so!


  17. Well Islam isn’t meant to dictate the world, rule it,yes at one point the Quran says that the whole world will be at peace for 40 yrs under Al-Mahdi, a descendant of the prophet, with characteristi\cs and views meant for a porphet. and the wolrd will be completely free of sin and all will be as it should. After the 40 years, chaos will reign and the day of Resurrection will be knocking on our doors.

    Ok Mike, lol if you haven’t gotten it thrugh your head, I’m not God, i can’t judge. Yes believeing in more than one God is a HUGE sin, but you never know what God has planned, what his next move is, so work on your deeds and following your religion, they go hand in hand but Allah is the final judge on the matter.

  18. Thanks lol but I wouldn’t want to be a caliphate, it’s a job some have succeeded in but most absolutely sucked. js

  19. Only Almighty Allah chooses who he guides and he helps those who seek his help. Allah used the chritian minister to help the Islamic community in Memphis. May Allah guide him with the goodness of his act.

  20. Elle….ATHEISM, in the sight of Allah! is lower than animals and the dirt itself, Allah regard who so NOT believes in HIM and what HE has created and those who can not read it as such, lower than whatever IQ he gave animals, and so ever lower..

  21. Atheism is lower of the lowest a human being can GET….We call it empty heads and heart, an empty Shell..May they wake up, to what ever surrender them..AMIN

  22. And please!! if you’re an atheist dont get up-set about my analyst, just saying..thanks

  23. Sahra I’m Muslim, and I know God doesn’t like the whole “atheism” thing, but you do know the story of the atheist man who gave water to a thirsty dog and was sent to heaven? Sometimes God’s will and understanding is far greater than ours…

  24. [2.17] Their parable is like the parable of one who kindled a fire but when it had illumined all around him, Allah took away their light, and left them in utter darkness– they do not see.
    [2.18] Deaf, dumb (and) blind, so they will not turn back.
    [2.19] Or like abundant rain from the cloud in which is utter darkness and thunder and lightning; they put their fingers into their ears because of the thunder peal, for fear of death, and Allah encompasses the unbelievers.
    [2.20] The lightning almost takes away their sight; whenever it shines on them they walk in it, and when it becomes dark to them they stand still; and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have taken away their hearing and their sight; surely Allah has power over all things.
    [2.21] O men! serve your Lord Who created you and those before you so that you may guard (against evil).
    [2.22] Who made the earth a resting place for you and the heaven a canopy and (Who) sends down rain from the cloud then brings forth with it subsistence for you of the fruits; therefore do not set up rivals to Allah while you know.
    [2.23] And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful.
    [2.24] But if you do (it) not and never shall you do (it), then be on your guard against the fire of which men and stones are the fuel; it is prepared for the unbelievers

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