Anyway, I guess you want to hear about the khutbah, well, you won't be disappointed, because I wasn't.
The khutbah was actually pretty decent. Also, I should add that there were about seven non-Muslims that attended the khutbah, the CIMIC mosque is very welcoming to the campus and other religious communities, their outreach programs are stellar and they have qualified people leading tours and giving a basic overview of how the Jummah prayer is conducted. It's a good model to follow for many Chicago mosques that typically have decrepit old men with terrible accents conducting tours, if they do them at all. It's sad to see that most Chicago mosques are governed by the immigrant population who tend to be more reserved when dealing with non-Muslims, not sure why that is, but it's unfortunate. Not dispelling any stereotypes anytime soon.
Whenever non-Muslims attend the Jummah at the CIMIC mosque I am on edge, hoping and praying to God that the khateeb won't say something ridiculous, I recall one Jummah Khutbah with non-Muslims present where the khateeb went on a political tirade against Israel and condemned America for helping them... it was incredibly embarrassing and I remember one of the leaders of the community personally apologizing to each student that attended. That was good.
Imam Mahdi, however, was on his A game. Imam Mahdi + A = not the Mahdi. (He didn't claim to be either, phew!)
He began mentioning how one year ago he suffered a stroke, the doctors told him that it was likely he would no longer be able to speak, much less have any real mobility. Well, clearly they were wrong, he was moving around perfectly, speaking articulately, Masha'Allah.
He said that during his illness, he asked himself, "How can I become closer to Allah?" Clearly, illness and other tragedies in our lives give us the precious opportunity to reflect, if we reflect at all, it's in such turmoil. He reflected and he prayed. He said that the doctor was surprised with his remarkable recovery, he replied to the doctor saying that it was because his Lord is remarkable.
He said that it doesn't matter if you are Arab, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Caucasian, Black, it doesn't matter if you are poor or rich, God doesn't judge you by those things. He judges you by your Iman and good actions. Use your blessings for the sake of Allah.
While he was in recovery he understood better how he can get closer to God. He said first, you can get closer to Him by trusting in Him. He gave examples of Prophet Musa (A) and the parting of the Red Sea with Pharaoh cornering him and the Israelites. Prophet Ibrahim (A) was thrown into a fire, a Jahannam (Hell), but God delivered him from it and made the fire cool, a Jannah (Heaven). Prophet Yusuf (A) was betrayed by his own brothers, falsely accused, and incarcerated. Yet, God vindicated him and gave him a place of honor and authority in the duniya (world), obviously he had an exalted station as far as Haqiqat (Reality) is concerned. The Prophet Muhammad (S) and his best friend Abu Bakr (R) were running for their lives from the Meccans and hid in a cave, God sent a spider to build a web and a bird to build a nest to protect the entrance of the cave.
Another way to get close to God is to have Taqwa (awe or respectful fear of God). When the Sahabah were told that alcohol was forbidden, the streets of Madinah flowed with wine (that really tells you that the Sahabah were drinking quite a bit even after conversion if the streets were flowing with wine). When the female Sahabahs were told to cover, they didn't have proper cloth to cover their heads so they used their curtains, as narrated by the blessed Aisha (R). "Taqwa brings us closer to God and God is sufficient for us."
Service (khidmat or hizmet) also bring us closer to God, specifically serving others. He made an excellent point stating that the best form of dawah is simply being a good neighbor. He said that the Prophet (S) was "an orphan that adopted all of humanity." "He made the cause of the people his cause," regardless of the fact if they were Muslim or non-Muslim. He said that people who don't care for other people tend to not believe in the final judgement. "Woe to those that pray for show but don't do neighborly deeds." Serve others for the sake of God, not for a certificate or to show others how pious you are. He said that we have an excellent example of this in the noble Prophet (S).
His final message was for the young people gathered in the crowd. He said how some young kid told him that playing video games increases his physical and mental dexterity. Imam Mahdi said, that's good, but what about your spiritual dexterity? Fair question. "Young people, use your time wisely." He urged everyone to help around the campus, work in food pantries and homeless shelters. He said a great way to get close to God is through serving others sincerely. I liked this very much and agree with him wholeheartedly.
There really is no point in joining dawah campaigns if you neglect the rights of your neighbor, there is no point if you are not a good neighbor. The khateeb mentioned that no one ever said the Prophet (S) was a bad neighbor, even when they disapproved of his message to mankind.
This was an excellent khutbah. I am relieved and I believe the non-Muslims that attended left with wonderful impressions of the Chamapign, Illinois Muslim community, Insha'Allah. The mosque leadership even invited their guests for lunch after the prayer. I think that sealed the deal.