Showing posts with label Quran. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quran. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Seeking Solace (part 3)

I was faithful even when I said, “I suffered terribly;”
I said in my panic, “All people are unreliable!”
 (Psalms 116:10-11)
Although the second part of the Psalmist’s statement sounds negative, I can read a more positive meaning; one that is deeper and parallel to my own belief.  He is saying that no “good” would come out of any human if it were not for the grace and mercy of God, and it is this trust in God that brought back his faith in others eventually. Personally, I take comfort in the words “for God is with those who patiently persevere,” which are repeated several times in the Quran. This notion is echoed in many of the sayings of the Prophet [Peace and Blessings be upon him], including “acknowledge God in ease and He will acknowledge you in distress.”  [Imam an-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith, Chapter 1, No. 19]

What do you think about these words of the Psalmist? 

This reflection was written in response to Tziporah's original post in September 2011. You may also want to read Grace's response.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Giver of Torah (continued)

Do Christians and Muslims believe that God gave the Torah to the Jewish people? If so, do Muslims include this appellation among the 99 names of God? [read Tziporah's full post]

Yes, the Quran mentions the Torah as a book of guidance and criterion given to Moses for the Children of Israel. This is consistent with one of the central tenets of Islam that many nations were honored and chosen, and some were given Scriptures through other illustrious and revered messengers of God.* I consider the long line of prophets from Adam to Muhammad [Peace and Blessings be upon them] and the gradually increasing complexity of their teachings as indicative of the evolution in societal complexity. I believe that the final guidance “in the form of a book” was given to Muhammad [Peace and Blessings be upon him]. The Quran upholds the importance of all Scriptures sent by God, but it also places itself as a book whose universal message and relevance evolves over time and extends to all places. Therefore, I see the progressiveness of religion not as new revelation, but as continued guidance from God.

The Guide, the One who bestows continuous and kind guidance to help all humans in their life journeys, is one of the names Muslims would call upon when seeking religious knowledge and readjustment to their lifestyles to please God.

* “Indeed, God chose Adam and Noah and the family of Abraham and the family of Imran [father of Mary] over the worlds.” (The Family of Imran, 3: 33)


Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seven times seven."  (The Gospel of Matthew 18:21-22)

Accustomed to the “three strikes and you’re out” rule, most of us imagine forgiveness in conditional terms.  How can an Amish community, grieving the savage killing of five innocent children, forgive the perpetrator and then offer support to the shooter’s family?[1] How can a Holocaust survivor live with memories of a Nazi officer leading his parents and siblings to death in a gas chamber?[2]  How does a doctor in Gaza forgive the soldiers in tanks who decimated his home and claimed the lives of three of his five children?[3]  How can any of us forgive those who intentionally inflict harm and justify evil deeds with talk of righteousness? I think forgiving “seven times seven” calls us not to deny evil, but repeatedly to face darkness with light. Doing so requires deep faith and real courage." Yet I believe that in going through the painful and anguished process of forgiving others, we ourselves are transformed.

Grace, I know this is not a mere coincidence. I attended a youth discussion this morning with my children at their first day of Sunday School and the topic happened to be forgiveness. I wish I could share in this forum the hour’s worth of sharp arguments and conversations. It was clear that forgiveness is complex, and part of the noble behavior that a Muslim strives to attain. The Quran and the Sunnah offer depictions of the virtues underlying it: determination, grace, patience, self-control and a strong desire to “do good.” Forgiveness is also described as having tangible, positive consequences; some are enjoyed in this world, such as turning adversaries into friends, and others are granted in the hereafter. Reflecting on the power of forgiveness is inspiring, and knowing that the All-Forgiving is willing to forgive us over and over again is deeply humbling. One of my favorite reminders of this is the verse, “…and let them pardon and overlook, would you not like that God should forgive you?” (al-Nur 24:22)

Grace, this is also a timely topic for me, since Jews are currently in the period of what we call the Yamim Noraim, Days of Awe, a time for repentance and forgiveness.  The text from Matthew and your reflection made me think of Maimonides, who cautions: “It is forbidden for a person to be cruel and refuse to be appeased. Rather, he should be easily pacified, but hard to anger. When the person who wronged him asks for forgiveness, he should forgive him with a complete heart and a willing spirit. Even if he aggravated and wronged him severely, he should not seek revenge or bear a grudge.”[4]  Maimonides’ code is sensitive to the realities of interpersonal relations: it can be quite difficult to forgive another who has hurt you deeply, and some actions seem entirely unforgiveable. At the same time, refusing to forgive another is inevitably more hurtful to the person who bears the grudge.  I am also reminded of Pharaoh’s hardened heart and the terrible pain he ultimately endures because of his own cruelty.

[2] See the memoir of Holocaust survivor Benjamin Hirsch and Elie Wiesel’s The Fifth Son.
[4] Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 2, 10. There is an excellent online resource of Maimonides’ works in English translation at Chabad’s website.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In the Name of…

Theologically speaking, is there any problem for a Christian not to pray in Jesus’ name? In other words, cannot a Christian—like a Jew or a Muslim—pray authentically in the name of God? 

The short answer to that question is “Yes, absolutely!” That is why I have no hesitation when praying in interfaith settings by saying, “In Your Most Holy Name we pray.” Christians, like Jews and Muslims, believe in One God and that God is One.  Trinitarian Christians believe that God is expressed in three “persons”—or in three ways—as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. We believe that the nature of God is most fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ—that is, in Jesus, human and divine are completely united.  Because we look to Jesus as “the Way” for humans to know the fullness of God, we often conclude our prayers in Jesus’ name.  The phrasing is not intended to be exclusionary, but how can it sound otherwise to a non-Christian? When I pray publicly in God’s name and omit Jesus’ name, I do so not because I fear offending others, but because I wish to express my belief that we are all children of God and that God’s great love extends to all—without limit, without condition and without exception.

Grace, I thank you for your heartfelt explanation. I appreciate sensitive people like you who are aware of the beliefs of their audience. The reason why Muslims would feel uncomfortable if prayers are concluded in Jesus’ name is not because they do not believe in him, but because they do not consider him as divine. That word is reserved for God alone. It might surprise some Christians to know that Jesus [Peace and Blessings be upon him] is an honored prophet in Islam. Both his birth and the birth of his mother Mary [Peace and Blessings be upon her] are beautifully captured in the Quran. Beloved to Muslims, both are considered examples of righteousness and uprightness.  Having said that, they are considered human, and praying to them is therefore not appropriate in Islam.

While I was eavesdropping on your conversation, my thoughts wandered to a volunteer luncheon I attended some years ago at an interfaith-based charity. We all bent our heads as the Pastor led us in the grace before the meal.  He quoted from psalms and blessed the work of the volunteers’ hands, and then he concluded by saying, “in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.” I felt unable to respond “Amen,” because the word “amen” comes from the Hebrew root “believe,” and Jews do not believe Jesus to be the Christ (messiah). I remember feeling frustrated, since I agreed with the sentiment of his prayer and wished to respond.  I don’t think that he intended to exclude anyone from his prayers—he must have been unaware of the presence of those who do not accept Jesus’ divinity.  I wish I had been in possession then of Grace’s lucid explanation of why Christians pray in this manner.  The Pastor’s words authentically expressed the prayer from his heart. Distracted by my own emotions, I may have missed the depth of emotion he was sharing with us.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In Song & In Silence

“Shout praise to God, all the earth. Serve God with joy; come before Him with singing….Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courtyards with praise.”
(Psalms 100:1-2, 4)

I have been reading this psalm regularly because one of my resolutions for the New Year was to express my gratitude daily.  I even set my phone’s alarm to alert me—with the soothing strains of the harp—to draw my mind away from the tasks before me and toward God.  Although I have been pretty successful at establishing prayerful moments, I still lack the motivation to attend synagogue services.  I love the idea of entering God’s gates with song, but find myself craving solitude and silence.  For Jews, the ideal is to worship God together with at least 9 other Jews. And Jews pray loudly—with plenty of communal singing—from a prayer book that contains many words.  Praying alone is permissible, but even then the ideal is to say the words aloud, if only in a whisper.  As a result, the opportunity for silence in synagogue is scarce. Recently, I reluctantly admitted to Yasmina that I suffer from spiritual envy: her mosque is such a peaceful environment and so conducive to prayer. At the same time, I long to hear the familiar melodies; to sing boldly and joyously in God’s courtyard. My soul yearns to shout praise to God but, for the moment, my mouth won’t cooperate. 

Tziporah, I love your New Year’s resolution, especially your "call to prayer" with the harp! During times of Christian celebration, as in the recent season of Christmas, I am eager to sing, and to do so boldly and joyously in communal worship.  In times of sorrow or penance, however, I may enter God’s courtyard with thanksgiving but without song. For example, during the penitential season of Lent we deliberately omit the singing of “Alleluias.” But I, too, feel the craving for deeper solitude and peace, apart from community.  In those times, I love taking private retreat, usually in total silence, for the renewal of my spirit.  Silence often opens my heart to the many ways I can serve God with joy and allows me to enter God’s gates—whether in a house of worship or elsewhere—with singing and praise from the soul, even as my voice is silent! 

I regularly listen to my favorite Quran reciter and love the opportunity to feel the resonance of the words; the meaning, the sounds, the rhythm and the melody. My appreciation of each recitation is a little different, depending on where I am physically, emotionally and spiritually. Like both of you, I enjoy solitary prayer time, as well as prayer in community. Some communal prayers are said aloud by the prayer leader, while others are offered in complete silence. For this reason, I get a taste of different prayerful moments every day, as the echo of the sounds of the Quranic recitations, the calls to prayer, and the silent praise of worshipers is preserved in time and space. As a Muslim, I believe that the sense of peace at the mosque that you alluded to, Tziporah, is a result of these daily occurrences, which have no ultimate goal other than to grant those taking part in them entry into the gates of the All Merciful.