01/13/2012 03:26 pm ET Updated Mar 14, 2012

A Muslim Looks at King

One of the great teachings in Islam is to learn from and respect the traditions of others while remaining committed to your own. The Quranic line that God made us different nations and tribes that we may come to know one another sums this up for me.

And one of the people who I see embodying the teaching of learning from others while staying true to your own is not a Muslim.

I speak of Martin Luther King Jr., who learned from the Hindu leader Gandhi, was inspired in his marches with the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and nominated a Buddhist, the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

King's ability to deepen his roots while broadening his wings is exemplified for me in one of his statements toward the end of his sermon "A Time to Break Silence." King identifies the deepest value across all traditions, and then uses language from his own to express it:

"I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: 'Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.'"

Reading King makes me constantly ask the question: How do I more fully submit to the will of God? What does it mean for me to be a better Muslim?