Showing posts with label the way. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the way. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


On the authority of Abu Hurayra, who said that the Messenger of God, [Peace and Blessings be upon Him] said: God [Glorified and Exalted be He] said: “I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having an associate. Thus he who does an action for someone else’s sake as well as Mine, will have that action renounced by Me to him whom he associated with Me.”
(Muslim, from: Forty Hadith Qudsi)
This Hadith reminds me that the foundation for actions in Islam lies in pure and sincere intentions to please God. It applies to everything a Muslim says, does, hides or reveals.  When actions are performed for the sake of pleasing God they become acts of worship.  Daily chores such as cooking and cleaning, which are sometimes perceived as burdens, are now turned into honorable acts, because they are done with a higher goal in mind. Of course, performing an action without reaching the highest level of sincerity is still considered beneficial and good.  On the other hand, when Muslims give charity and volunteer their time for the sake of impressing others with their generosity and gaining higher status, these actions—which appear on the surface to be honorable—may not be accepted by God. This Hadith illustrates the praiseworthiness of renouncing worldly reward and gratification while maintaining pure intentions and acting with the utmost sincerity.

Yasmina, I know I will want to continue this conversation beyond the scope of our online post! I believe our faiths reach a similar conclusion through different ways of seeing. Christian faith teaches that Almighty God does not need an associate, but that through God’s great love for all humanity, God has chosen not to set himself apart but to come among us, to claim each of us as beloved children, and to show us The Way.  Thus, we are taught to glorify God by remaining in intimate association with God; we seek to recognize, affirm, and humbly serve “God incarnate” in all persons.  Like the Hadith you cite, Christian scriptures emphasize the need to do and give generously, not for the world’s approval, but with sincere intent to serve God, in humble gratitude to God for the gift of God’s very self to us.

I am intrigued by your choice of this Hadith, Yasmina, and struck by the way this teaching balances philosophy and practice.  Jews similarly believe that God is completely self-sufficient and needs no associate. Many regard this to be the founding principle of Judaism, and refer to the essence of the Jewish religion as “ethical monotheism.”  However, since the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., the rabbis emphasized action over faith and established the mitzvot (commandments) as the primary vehicle for religious observance.  Recognizing that only behavior or actions can be legislated, they refined the system of Halakhah (Jewish law) to make the practice of Judaism accessible, and seldom focused on belief as the reason underlying one’s actions. The rabbis went so far as to suggest that it was better to do a mitzvah for the “wrong” reason than to forgo its observance, because they believed that through the performance of the deed itself the proper intention or belief would eventually follow.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who's In, Who's Out?

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The Gospel of John 14:6

These words of Jesus, so sacred to Christians, are often used as words of comfort at Christian funerals. Yet heard outside Christian tradition or misunderstood within it, they can be bitterly divisive, especially if they are interpreted to mean that non-Christians have no access to God or that only Christians who declare their faith in a certain way—using specific words or performing a specific ritual—are “saved.” In an earlier statement within this same biblical passage, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.”[1] Later Jesus emphasizes once again that the Father dwells with those who “obey my teaching.”[2] Thus, as a Christian, I believe that I come to the Father through striving to live a Christ-like life, a life rooted in the sacrificial way of love—love without conditions and without exceptions.

Muslims understand the way to God as a path, referred to in the Quran as the “straight way,” and defined as “the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose portion is not wrath and who go not astray.”[3] God has shown this path to all of His prophets and messengers, including Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Jesus and finally Muhammad [Peace and Blessings be upon them all].  One reference to these honored prophets reads: “Those were some of the prophets on whom God did bestow His Grace, of the posterity of Adam, and of those who We carried [in the Ark] with Noah, and of the posterity of Abraham and Israel of those whom We guided and chose. Whenever the Signs of God Most Gracious were rehearsed to them, they would fall down in prostrate adoration and in tears.”[4] As a Muslim, I revere Jesus [Peace and Blessings be upon him] as the Messiah who was born of an immaculate birth. I follow the teachings of God in the Quran and I humbly strive to emulate the character of Muhammad [Peace and Blessings be upon him], who gave the perfect example for loving and serving God and His creation, and embodied the true meaning of Islam.

I admire Grace for choosing a challenging text, which she described as having been “used too often in terribly disparaging, exclusionary ways.”  It immediately brings to my mind the many times I learned that Judaism allows all people of faith entry to olam ha-ba, the world to come, provided that they uphold 7 basic laws.[5] This teaching was often invoked by Jewish Studies professors to demonstrate Judaism’s superiority as a universal and welcoming religion.  This assertion—that all religious paths are acceptable but only mine is the “truth”—has proven personally dissatisfying and, at times, destructive to relationships between people of different faiths. I can certainly appreciate how this idea originated with the early rabbis, perhaps in response to emerging Christian teachings that acceptance of Jesus was the only path to redemption.  I can also see why later rabbis perpetuated it through centuries of persecution and forced conversion of Jews to Christianity.  Nevertheless, I am uncomfortable with our apparent compulsion to declare ourselves and our beliefs as most right and exclusively true.  I pray that in the world to come, humanity will have evolved to accept the Baha’i teaching that all religions express a single Divine purpose[6] and serve as multiple paths leading to God’s presence in paradise.

[1] The Gospel of John 14:2
[2] The Gospel of John 14:23
[3] al-Fatihah, 1:7
[4] Maryam, 19:58
[5] Jeffrey Spitzer's excellent explanation of Noahide Laws is at
[6] This is reflected in the Baha’i teaching of The Oneness of Religion.