A recent Good Weekend cover featured a saintly piece of toast. Well, actually it was a picture of the image of Mary MacKillop on a piece of freshly toasted slice of white bread. The headline was
Hail, Mary! The making of an Australian saint
For some reason, the image reminded me of something I heard last night at the Majlis at-Tariqat al-Afroziyya. Dr Salih Yucel, Monash University lecturer in Islamic studies, a follower of Turkish religious scholar Fethullah Gulen and former Imam of Redfern Mosque, spoke about his knowledge of African-American Islam based on his doctoral studies at Boston and meetings with various experts in the field.
Dr Yucel spoke of an African American of Muslim heritage who studied in a seminary and was sent by an American denomination to preach to Muslims in Africa and the Middle East. The missionary reports that he arrived in Damascus and saw Arabs performing devotions at a tomb. He was curious as to who was buried there.
The crowd told him about an Ethiopian slave named Bilal who was blessed with being the Muezzin of theProphet Muhammad's mosque in Madina. The missionary was impressed by the sight of fair-skinned Arabs showing reverence to an Ethiopian honoured by their Prophet.
The missionary returned to his teachers in the United States. He asked them why it was that in 1,900 years, the Catholic Church had not appointed a black man to be a saint.
I'm not sure if there ever has been a Catholic saint of colour. I do know that there have been Sufi saints of just about every colour and ethnicity. Saints like Uthman dan Fodio.
UPDATE I: One reader IE has corrected me and/or Dr Yucel. In fact there have been numerous African saints. Actually, numerous is an understatement.
UPDATE II: Another reader, SJW, points out:
One of our most famous and beloved saints, is Martin de Porres. And there are many other examples across all ethnicities including Chinese, and Native Americans. The word "Catholic" means "universal", the universality of the human race thro...ugh the love of God. There are some things that I am uncomfortable about at times in my faith but one thing I am truly proud of is that all through my Catholic education was a very strong message of social justice and anti-racism. So I don't quite understand the point you are trying to make.
Given the degree of interfaith activity that the Fethullahists do with the Australian Catholic University and other Catholic institutions, I wonder what point Dr Yucel was trying to make.
Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf
Bookmark this on Delicious