Tag Archives: God
A short documentary I shot and edited has recently been picked up by a prominent website in Alabama. The title of the article is “Manchester, Tenn., meeting displays hatred of Muslims, malleability of masses (By. Kay Campbell). AL.com writes:
Last week, within shouting distance of the peace-love-music temporary village that will be Bonnaroo June 13-16, people packed a meeting room to cheer when a photograph of the firebombed Columbia, Tenn., mosque was shown.
There was the soft-spoken Muslim woman who braved the cries of “Watch out! She might blow up!” as she attempted to tell people what it’s like to be a Muslim in Middle Tennessee. There were the federal officers trying to explain to the people that they are on their side – if that side is the one of law and order that protects all people, no matter where they worship.
“Love your neighbor” means weeping, not cheering at the sight of a firebombed prayer hall. “Love your neighbor” means radiating God’s love so that the neighbor wants to know about your faith, not forcing them to dodge your spittle.
Read more of the AL.com article here.
Tennessee is the battle ground for the integration of Muslims in the U.S. I visited there in 2009 with the “Journey into America” team. Jonathan Hayden, a friend of mine, wrote an extremely moving article on the local response to the original mosque burning in Columbia, Tennessee. Jonathan writes:
One of the things that struck me about in speaking with the community was the irony of it all. We’ve found a range of feelings towards Muslims in our travels. A lot of good words and thoughts, some negative. Some think all Muslims are terrorists. As Daoud said, they were now the ones attacked by terrorists. His child had been mocked in school, called a terrorist and teased mercilessly, as children often do to one another. It was a hard thing to hear—a child, the victim of terrorism, being called a terrorist.
Watch the short documentary:
I worked on this documentary on-and-off for about four months. It is inspired by some research I conducted for an article in the Huffington Post Religion.
Akbar the Great is an extraordinary figure in history. Who is he? What did he stand for and what can we learn from his legacy? These are some of the questions which are touched upon in this short documentary.
- Finding Tolerance in Akbar, the Philosopher-King (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
- Pluralist working towards making interfaith cooperation a norm in U.S. (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
Tags: Akbar the Great, Arts, Din-i-ilahi, Documentaries, Documentary, Documentary film, Film, Film-work, God, Ibidat Khana, Ibn Arabi, Islamic documentaries, Mughal Empire, Pluralism, Religion and Spirituality, Short documentary, Sufism, Tolerance
With so much misunderstanding surrounding Islam in countries like the United States, it is imperative to have calm and authoritative voices who can speak clearly to the American people in hope of educating them on this subject. Thankfully, Americans have my mentor Ambassador Akbar Ahmed of American University to speak to them in a very simple way.
Ambassador Ahmed just appeared on “This is America” with Dennis Wholey to discuss his new book The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam. Before discussing this sensational book, Wholey asked Ambassador Ahmed a question about the basic principles of Islam, to which he responded:
The basic principles derive from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Certain “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” Basically a life of piety, showing compassion, particularly towards the poor, neighbors, and family. Constantly remember that we are hear on this Earth for a short time and therefore walking in humility, with a soft tread as it were. And above all being good human beings. Avoiding violence, I want to emphasize this because to me as a Muslim scholar Islam is a religion of compassion and peace theologically. God’s two greatest names out of the 99 names he has in the Quran are Rahman and Rahim, which mean compassion and mercy. So God describes himself as merciful and compassionate.
Ambassador Ahmed’s description of the fundamentals of Islam might come as a shock to many people, especially Americans who are unfamiliar with the faith. After all, we never hear of words like compassion and mercy when we see stories about Islam in the media or blogosphere. Basically, we need to amplify the voices of thinkers like Ambassador Ahmed, who simply goes back to the basics to prove his point. Isn’t this what all great scholars do?
- Let me know if you’ve found knowledge (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
Tags: Abrahamic tradition, Akbar Ahmed, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Basic principles of Islam, Compassion, Dennis Wholey, God, Islam, Islamic values, Judeo-Christian, Judeo-Christian tradition, Mercy, Qur'an, Scholar, This is America
By Craig Considine for Huffington Post
Akbar the Great, ruler of most of South Asia in the 16th and early 17th century, rejected bigotry and made unprecedented moves to help non-Muslims feel at peace in his Mughal empire. In reflecting more closely upon his character and conduct, we can see how Akbar’s actions are antithetical to current discrimination and violence against vulnerable religious communities around the world today, especially in Pakistan, a land he once ruled.
Born in Umarkot, India in 1542, Akbar the Great took over as ruler of the Mughal empire when he was just 14 years old. Although Akbar was born into a Sunni Muslim family, he received an education by two Persian scholars on religious matters, which likely had an impact on his tolerant vision for Mughal society. After several triumphant military conquests, which expanded his empire as far north as modern-day Afghanistan and as far east as Bengal, Akbar began to implement an inclusive approach toward non-Muslims, ushering in an era of religious tolerance based on the Sufi concept of Sulh-e-kul, or “peace to all.”
Despite never learning how to read or write, Akbar the Great was a curious thinker who constantly yearned for knowledge. His son Salim, who would later take the name of Emperor Jahangir, stated that Akbar was “[a]lways associated with the learned of every creed and religion” and always in “intercourse with the learned and the wise.” Throughout his rule, Akbar invited theologians, poets, scholars and philosophers of Christian, Hindu, Jain and Zoroastrian faiths to his court to carry out a dialogue about religion. As his interest in other religions expanded, Akbar amassed a library that consisted of more than 24,000 volumes of Hindi, Persian, Greek, Latin, Arabic and Kashmiri texts.
Akbar was so convinced of the commonalities among religions that he even attempted to unite them in creating his very own religion, known as the Din-e-Ilahi, or “the religion of God.” In borrowing ideas from Sufism, most notably from the scholar Ibn Arabi, Akbar looked at how major religions could be synthesized in their shared belief in the almighty. In creating the Din-e-Ilahi and breaking away from the notion of Islam’s superiority over all other religions, Akbar achieved his single greatest feat: “liberating the [Mughal] state from its domination by the [clerics],” as suggested by leading historian R.S. Sharma.
Akbar the Great’s departure from orthodoxy also appears in a letter from 1582 to King Philip II of Spain. Rather than learning only from Muslim scholars in his court, Akbar stated that he mingled with “learned men of all religions, thus depriving profit from their exquisite discourses and exalted aspirations.” Akbar added that too many people do not investigate their religious arguments and instead blindly “follow the religion in which [they] were born and educated, thus excluding [themselves] from the possibility of ascertaining the truth, which is the noblest aim of the human intellect.” In challenging people to open their minds to knowledge outside of their own religious traditions, Akbar insinuated that no single religion has a monopoly on the truth.
Akbar also went to great lengths to integrate non-Muslims into the Mughal empire. After conquering the area of Rajput, he did not forcefully convert Hindus to Islam, but accommodated their religious demands by securing their freedom of public prayer, and allowing Hindus to build and repair their temples. Granting Hindus the ability to freely worship baffled many critics, including his own son Salim, who once asked his father why he had allowed Hindu ministers to spend money on building a temple. Akbar responded to Salim: “My son, I love my own religion… [but] the Hindu [m]inister also loves his religion. If he wants to spend money on his religion, what right do I have to prevent him… Does he not have the right to love the thing that is his very own?”
Ensuring equality for all his subjects was one of Akbar’s paramount concerns. In abolishing the jizya, or poll tax on non-Muslims, and allowing for conversions to and from Islam, Akbar set an example: one did not have to be Muslim to be treated fairly in the Mughal empire. Akbar was especially concerned with the state of Hindus, so he made sure to participate in Hindu religious festivals and order translations of Hindu literature into Persian, the official language of the Mughal state. Akbar’s respect for Hindus is also recorded in his visit to hear the songs of Mirabai, the wife of his rival Prince Bhoka Raj of Chittar. Fearing being identified by Prince Bhoka, Akbar and his court musician Tansen disguised themselves when they entered the temple in which Mirabai was singing. Deeply inspired by Mirabai’s soulful music about God, Akbar went to place a diamond necklace at the feet of Mirabai’s statue of Lord Krishna, a Hindu God, as a sign of respect. Akbar’s tribute to Mirabai is a symbol of his willingness to be open to cross-cultural interaction as a means of building bridges across religious barriers.
Akbar the Great’s tolerance of other religions is also noticeable in his marriages to women of various faiths, most noteably Jodha Bai, a Hindu daughter of the House of Jaipur. Akbar also took a Christian wife, Maria Zamani Begum, who had her own chapel in one of Akbar’s palaces. Akbar’s regard for Christianity is also visible in the Buland Darwaze, a large gate-structure at the city of Fatehpur Sikri, on which he had transcribed the Quranic inscription: “Isa [Jesus], son of Mary, said: This world is a bridge. Pass over it, but build no houses on it. He who hopes for an hour may hope for eternity. The world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen.” In addition, Akbar had his son Murad instructed in the New Testament. According to Akbar’s court companion Abdel Kadir, Murad started his New Testament lesson by stating “In the name of Christ” instead of the usual Islamic gesture “In the name of God.”
One of Akbar’s greatest legacies is the Ibidat Khana, or “House of Worship.” Built in 1575 in the city of Fatehpur Sikri, the Khana originally served as a forum for open debate among Sunni Muslims. Following several petty debates which turned Sunni men against each other, Akbar changed the Khana into an edifice where people of all religions could gather to participate in interfaith dialogue. In the Khana and elsewhere, Akbar “would recognize no difference between [religions], his object being to unite all men in a common bond of peace,” as noted by historian Muhammad Abdul Baki.
Despite his efforts in building an empire based in tolerance, Akbar’s pluralist vision for Mughal society was short-lived. His great-grandson, Aurangzeb, who also reigned as a Mughal emperor, would end religious tolerance altogether by taking measures to reimpose the jizya and demolish Hindu temples. Not long after Aurangzeb’s rule, the Mughals were invaded by the British, who swiftly conquered the divided Indian subcontinent and imposed their traditions and values upon the Mughal population. Ultimately, Akbar the Great’s life shows us that when tolerance reigns, societies flourish, and when tolerance ceases to exist, so do empires.
Tags: Akbar the Great, Akbar the Great and other religions, Christianity, Din-e-Ilahi, Fatehpur Sikri, God, Ibidat Khana, Interfaith Dialogue, Knowledge, Mughal Empire, Philosopher-King, Poets, Religion, Religious freedom, Scholars, South Asian history, Spirituality, Sufism, Sulh-e-kul, Tolerance, Tolerance in Islamic history
About a year ago Melony and I visited a beautiful place called Glencolumbkille, Ireland. We found the beautiful Maghera Beach on a memorable day trip.
By Craig Considine
Although they are typically seen to represent overwhelming opposites, the Prophet Muhammad and America’s founding fathers shared many common characteristics and beliefs, which can be seen in historical documents. By comparing the speeches and texts that they left behind, we can learn of the similar viewpoints that Muhammad and the founding fathers held on issues pertaining to equal rights and religious liberty.
Prophet Muhammad and the American founding fathers shared an interest in protecting people regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or sexuality. Muhammad, for example, received revelations from God, who directed him to celebrate diversity and cherish it as a staple of Muslim society. Muhammad’s encounter with God would later be recorded in the Quran, which states, “O mankind, We created you from male and a female and made you into tribes and nations that you may get to know each other.”
Furthermore, in his final sermon at Mount Arafat in 632 AD, Muhammad left a code of equality for Muslims to follow. “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab,” he stated, “nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab… a white person has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” The Quran and Muhammad’s final sermon show his apathy for judging people based on their beliefs or skin color and his indifference to a homogenous society based on exclusive requisites for belonging.
America’s founding fathers had a similar apathy for determining a person’s societal worth based on ethnicity and heritage. In 1776 several of America’s founding fathers gathered in Philadelphia to write the Declaration of Independence, which held a strong and clear position on promoting equality similar to that of the Quran and Muhammad’s final sermon. The second paragraph of the Declaration states that Americans are “to hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” which mirrors the progressive spirit of Muhammad written down over 1,000 years prior to the founding of the United States.
When the American Constitution was ratified in 1787, the founding fathers also put into practice that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therefore,” which suggests that by law no particular group is to be treated as superior to another group in the United States. Similarly, the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution “prohibits the denial of suffrage based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” which again cements a culture based on civic principles instead of more absolute and ethnocentric requirements.
The founding fathers’ interest in safeguarding equality in diverse circumstances is similar to Muhammad’s concern for tolerance in his multifarious Muslim community. Muslims worldwide and Americans would be wise to remember this balanced approach in finding parity in their own communities today.
Historical documents also show that Muhammad and America’s founding fathers were compassionate men. The depth of Muhammad’s humanity can be found in the Constitution of Medina, a document he created to ensure that the more vulnerable members of society felt safe and protected under the majority Muslim rule. Also referred to as the Medina Charter, Muhammad’s Constitution gave equal rights to non-Muslims living under an Islamic government. “Strangers” in Muhammad’s Muslim society were to be treated with special consideration and “on the same ground as their protectors.” Acting as a social charter for all Muslims to live by, the Medina Constitution helped to actualize the idea of a single community made up of a diverse people living under one government and under one creator.
Ten centuries after Muhammad’s charter, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would adopt a similar societal structure as the basis for their new nation. In 1783, Washington wrote that “the bosom of America is open to receive… the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom [Americans] shall welcome to a participation of all [their] rights and privileges… They may be [Muslims], Jews, or Christians of any sect.”
Likewise Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence, wrote in a document for the Virginian colonial legislature that “the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian, and the [Muslim], the [Hindu], and infidel of every decimation” are accepted as equal citizens in the United States. The Constitution of Medina and documents of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson show that welcoming vulnerable groups who are perceived as outsiders is a central component of what it means to be Muslim and American. Muslims worldwide and American citizens should defend the creeds of their founding fathers and fight against prejudice and discrimination in their respective societies.
Muhammad and the American founding fathers were keen to respect Judaism. Muhammad’s Medina Charter singled out Jews, who “shall maintain their own religion and the Muslim theirs… The close friends of Jews are as themselves.” Muhammad added in the Constitution that “those who followed [Jews] and joined them and struggled with them… form one and the same community.” Muhammad’s tolerance of Judaism is strikingly similar to that of Washington, who in 1783 wrote in a letter to the Jewish Community of Rhode Island that “the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, [will] continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of their inhabitants.” This tribute to Jews by Muhammad and Washington is an important reminder for Muslims worldwide and Americans in their own struggles against anti-Semitism.
Both Muhammad and the American founding fathers also worked to assure women’s rights. In a time when women had few – if any – rights in Arabia, Muhammad helped liberate women with divinely sanctioned social, property, and marital rights. The Quran states that men and women were created “of a single soul, male and female.” Under sharia, or Islamic law, women were able to own property, freely spend their earnings, and agree or disagree to marriage arrangements – all unprecedented rights prior to God’s revelation to Muhammad. He also requested that men treat their daughters and wives with dignity and respect. “Do treat your women well and be kind to them,” he is reported to have said in a hadith, or saying of the Prophet Muhammad.
In the same disposition, the language of the Declaration of Independence, although written at a time when women were not considered to be equal to men, later inspired American women to fight for their “inalienable rights,” such as the right to own property and vote in elections. Although it did not explicitly verify the human rights of women, the Constitution was later reformed in the Nineteenth Amendment that prohibited voting discrimination on the basis of sex. The on-going struggle of equal rights for women in the United States and around the world is also an effort to reaffirm the democratic outlook of Muhammad and the founding fathers. Muslims worldwide and Americans should commemorate their standpoint by treating women with the utmost courtesy and respect.
The impartial temperament of Muhammad and the American founding fathers is being challenged today by people who proclaim that Islamic principles and American values are incompatible. The example of Muhammad and founding fathers like Washington and Jefferson should remind us of our duty to uphold universal ideals even when intolerant people and dogmatic organizations seek to destroy bridges for mutual cooperation.
Tags: Civic principles, Color blind, Congress, Declaration of Independence, Democracy, Equal rights, Equality, George Washington, George Washington and Jews, God, Humanity, Islam news, Jews, Medina Constitution, Mount Arafat, Muhammad, Muhammad and Jews, Muhammad's final sermon, Muhammad's Medina charter, Muslim society, Pluralism, Prophet Muhammad and American founding fathers, Qur'an, Quran and the U.S. Constitution, Race, Religion, Religion News, Religious freedom, Scripture news, Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Constitution, United States, Women's rights
“I have been struck [...] by the human and moral values which Americans as a people share with Islam. We share, first and foremost, a deep faith in the one Supreme Being. We are all commanded by Him to faith, compassion, and justice. We have a common respect and reverence for law. Despite the strains of the modern age, we continue to place special importance on the family and the home. And we share a belief that hospitality is a virtue and that the host, whether a nation or an individual, should behave with generosity and honor toward guests. On the basis of both values and interests, the natural relationship between Islam and the United States is one of friendship. I affirm that friendship, both as a reality and as a goal [...] [and] am determined to strengthen, not weaken, the longstanding and valued bonds of friendship and cooperation between the United States and many Muslim nations.” - President Jimmy Cater (February 7th, 1980)
“I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind… I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the second volume (of the Prophet’s biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of that great life.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“The Islamic teachings have left great traditions for equitable and gentle dealings and behavior, and inspire people with nobility and tolerance. These are human teachings of the highest order and at the same time practicable. These teachings brought into existence a society in which hard-heartedness and collective oppression and injustice were the least as compared with all other societies preceding it….Islam is replete with gentleness, courtesy, and fraternity.” – H.G. Wells
“Islam is a religion of success. Unlike Christianity, which has as its main image, in the west at least, a man dying in a devastating, disgraceful, helpless death… Mohammed was not an apparent failure. He was a dazzling success, politically as well as spiritually, and Islam went from strength to strength to strength.” – Karen Armstrong
“… since September 11th event, in many occasion I always come forth, with a defense of Islam. Islam like any other major tradition. I think the very praising Allah means love, infinite love, compassion, like that. I understand Islam, they usually carry rosary, all 99 beads, different name of Allah, all refer compassion, or these positive things.” – Dalai Lama
“Islam brings hope and comfort to millions of people in my country, and to more than a billion people worldwide. Ramadan is also an occasion to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefited mankind.” – George W. Bush
“Love Sufism …’the divinity of the human soul… Within Our spiritual heart there is a direct connection to God… I have respect for all faiths. All faiths. But what I’m talking about is not faith or religion. I’m talking about spirituality.” – Oprah Winfrey
“… the religiosity of Muslims deserves respect. It is impossible not to admire, for example, their fidelity to prayer. The image of believers in Allah who, without caring about time or place, fall to their knees and immerse themselves in prayer remains a model for all those who invoke the true God, in particular for those Christians who, having deserted their magnificent cathedrals, pray only a little or not at all.” – Pope John Paul II
“It was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for, in the mosque, when the call for prayer is sounded and worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and king kneel side by side and proclaim: ‘God Alone is Great’… “ - Sarojini Naidu
“I have been struck [...] by the human and moral values which Americans as a people share with Islam. We share, first and foremost, a deep faith in the one Supreme Being. We are all commanded by Him to faith, compassion, and justice. We have a common respect and reverence for law. Despite the strains of the modern age, we continue to place special importance on the family and the home. And we share a belief that hospitality is a virtue and that the host, whether a nation or an individual, should behave with generosity and honor toward guests. On the basis of both values and interests, the natural relationship between Islam and the United States is one of friendship. I affirm that friendship, both as a reality and as a goal [...] [and] am determined to strengthen, not weaken, the longstanding and valued bonds of friendship and cooperation between the United States and many Muslim nations.” – Jimmy Carter
“After I have read the Quran, I realized that all what humanity needs is this heavenly law.”
“The legislation of Quran will spread all over the world, because it agrees with the mind, logic and wisdom.” – Leo Tolstoy
Tags: Allah, Compassion, Dalai Lama on Islam, George W. Bush on Islam, God, H.G. Wells on Islam, Interfaith Dialogue, Jimmy Carter on Islam, Karen Armstrong on Islam, Leo Tolstoy on Islam, Love, Mahatma Gandhi on Islam, Muslims, Non Muslim quotes on Islam, Oprah Winfrey on Islam, Oprah Winfrey on Sufism, Peace, Peaceful religion, Pope John Paul II on Islam, Prophet Muhammad, Quotes on Islam, Qur'an, Religion, Religion and Spirituality, Sarojini Naidu on Islam
Go on a journey into the heart of Islam’s mystical side – Sufism. Explore the roots of Sufi music, art, poetry, etc. Sufi music is particularly thrilling and attracted me to study more about Islam. I highly recommend this short piece from Channel 4. The presenter takes the audience to Sufi shrines of the Virgin Mary and examines in more detail the Sufi links to Christianity. Enjoy!
Tags: Challenging stereotypes, Channel 4, Christianity, God, Interfaith, Islam, Muslim, Muslims, Peaceful Islam, Pluralism, Religion and Spirituality, Sufi, Sufi music, Sufis, Sufism, Sufism and Christianity
Here’s another interesting response to yesterday’s post. I’m interested in hearing how people would answer the question in the title.
I don’t believe extremism, like ignorance, can be reasoned with. It comes from such a deep place inside someone, a place of fear. I think even Jesus recognized some people were not able to be reasonable… that is if this quote was written accurately in the bible: Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” -Attempts at holding conversations with extremists (religious or political) are a waste of time and energy because they’re not capable of mentally processing another point of view. The strength of their emotion doesn’t allow it. I’m not saying that to be condescending or judgmental, I simply think it is a fact, no more, no less. It is what it is. Humans are for the most part, emotional creatures. – I believe we each walk our own path and that we must all be allowed to do so. – Some choose to walk in darkness and fear.
Tags: Bible, Christian, Emotions and religion, God, Jesus and religious extremists, Matthew 7:6, Reason and religion, Religion and fear, Religion and Spirituality, Religious commentary, Religious extremism
That was a simple poem with a lovely sentiment. Thanks for that.
As a Muslim, I would’ve been outraged before. But I’m beginning to see that I call his God ‘Allah’ and he calls my Allah, ‘God’. Its a British-football-American-soccer thing. I feel a majority of people grasp this now.
What emanates from the comment is a ‘cult’ approach to religion – where there are teams instead of principles. Its a battle of cultures/nations as opposed to one of ideologies. And this has led to us all believing that when talking about ‘believers’ – the Bible means (mostly white) Christians and the Qur’an, (most Arab) Muslims. That’s simply not true.
All of this has to do with geography and boundaries of religions (Muslims / Christian / Hindu countries). As nations integrate more and more people from other religions – when I hear of Christianity from a brown man – I will understand it better. And vice-versa.
Peace out, brother.
About three weeks ago I wrote a poem for the Huffington Post Religion called “Allah or God, It Doesn’t Matter to Me.” While the poem did not receive a ton of attention, a few Huffington Post users left their thoughts, of which one stood out more than the others. Alongside posting several biblical passages which had no context or description, the user said:
“Allah is a fake God that does not exist and is the heart of deception. No real Christian that believes in God/Christ of the scriptures can have anything to do with cults and doctrines of demons.
You will, with your own eyes, see the resurrection/rapture and all of the cults, interfaith movements, emergent churches and nonbelievers left behind to face Gods wrath.”
The user also posted a video (below) on his own preparations for the rapture.
How do you feel about the rapture? What does the response and video tell us about religious extremism in general?
Tags: Allah, Bible, Christian, Christian fundamentalists, Christianity, Christianity and Islam, God, Huffington Post, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Religious deception, Religious extremism, The rapture
One of the best phrases in the human language: “Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם or תקון עולם), meaning “to heal a fractured world.”
Note: My fellow Needhamite Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal Ph.D. wrote a powerful response in Wicked Local Needham to the Boston marathon bombings. Dr. Asmal previously served as president of the Islamic Center of Boston and the Islamic Council of New England. He is a retired physician and is also a current member of Needham Clergy Association and Needham Human Rights Committee. Dr. Asmal is clearly writing in the pluralist spirit of the American Revolution.
By Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal
It is sad that it takes a tragedy to remind us of our common humanity and the fragility of our existence. From it we should all learn to work together to promote peace harmony and goodwill in our great country, and throughout our fractured world. As a miniscule but significant start in the direction of recognizing our universal commitment to these ideals we can start by immortalizing the youngest, and the one Islam views as completely free of sin because of his age of innocence, Martin Richard, already guaranteed a place at God’s side, by signing his guest book at http://www.legacy.com/guestbooks/guestbook.aspx?n=martin-richard&pid=164273823 May his memory forever be etched in our collective psyche as a reminder of this day of infamy.
Read the full article
Tags: American Revolution, Boston, Boston Marathon, Boston Marathon bombings, Boston marathon bombings reaction, Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal, Facebook, Fractured world, Freedom, God, Humanity, Islam, Islam in Boston, Islamic Center of Boston, Islamic Council of New England, Martin Richard, Muslims in Needham, Needham, Needham Clergy Association, Needham Human Rights Committee, Needham Massachusetts, Religion and Spirituality, Twitter, United States, Wicked Local Needham, WickedLocal
“I searched for God among the Christians and on the Cross and therein I found Him not.
I went into the ancient temples of idolatry; no trace of Him was there.
I entered the mountain cave of Hira and then went as far as Qandhar but God I found not.
With set purpose I fared to the summit of Mount Caucasus and found there only ‘anqa’s habitation.
Then I directed my search to the Kaaba, the resort of old and young; God was not there even.
Turning to philosophy I inquired about him from ibn Sina but found Him not within his range.
I fared then to the scene of the Prophet’s experience of a great divine manifestation only a “two bow-lengths’ distance from him” but God was not there even in that exalted court.
Finally, I looked into my own heart and there I saw Him; He was nowhere else.”
Tags: Christianity, Constantinople, God, God location, Heart, Hira, Islam, Istanbul, Kaabar, Mysticism, Photography, Picture, Poems, Poetry, Qandhar, Religion, Rumi, Süleymaniye Mosque, Searching, Spirituality
*Published on Huffington Post Religion*
I’m a Catholic
but I think Islam is beautiful
Some think I’m interested in converting
No, I’m not
it just makes me think of the one above
Whether it’s called Allah
it doesn’t matter
I think of him
I think of heaven
A place of no worries
A place of peace
A place with no pain
A beautiful place
for all kinds of people
Isn’t this what matters?
Here’s an article by Alayna Ahmad, which was recently published on the Huffington Post Religion page. Below the article, I’ve also posted an ITV documentary on “The Muslim Jesus.”
Islam is a deeply monotheistic religion and thus forbids any partners or associations with God. Although all prophets including Jesus were mortal and gifted in their own way, they could not be part of the divine. The life of Jesus has always been an inspiration although many of its aspects remain obscure factually; yet we cannot doubt the significance of this remarkable man even 2000 years after his death. Whilst recognising the validity of Professor Lawson’s argument, I sincerely believe the shared love Muslims and Christians feel for Jesus can be the basis for mutual understanding and inter-faith dialogue. The three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are undoubtedly linked. However, even though the Judaic tradition rejects Jesus, Islam has always accepted him. Given that belief in Jesus is central to the Muslim faith, why does the West persist in remaining so hostile to Islam?
- How the new pope could bring Muslims and Christians together (onefilm911.wordpress.com)
Tags: Abrahamic tradition, Christian, Christianity, God, Interfaith Dialogue, Islam, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus in Quran, Life of Jesus, Muslim, Muslim Jesus, Prophets, Qur'an, Religion, Similarities Islam Christianity
Akbar the Great, ruler of the Mughal Empire during the late 16th and early 17th century, was a true pioneer of interfaith dialogue. Akbar’s desire to build interfaith bridges and dedication to seeking knowledge about all religions is clear in a letter he wrote in 1582 to King Philip II of Spain.
“As most men are fettered by bonds of tradition, and by imitating ways followed by their fathers… everyone continues, without investigating their arguments and reasons, to follow the religion in which he was born and educated, thus excluding himself from the possibility of ascertaining the truth, which is the noblest aim of the human intellect. Therefore we associate at convenient seasons with learned men of all religions, thus deriving profit from their exquisite discourses and exalted aspirations.”
- Pope Francis I, Akbar the Great, and the Jesuits (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
One of the three penitential principles of Lent is almsgiving, or making voluntary contributions to those in need. In my celebration of this solemn observance, I recently walked around Dublin and carefully gave away money to those who need it more than I do.
First, the church has to address the abuse scandal that has been devouring the institution from the inside. Step one is to release every document, no matter how embarrassing or costly, relating to child abuse and the protection of criminal priests. The Vatican has to throw open its doors and establish an independent, secular organization charged with rooting out victimizers and reconciling, as best as possible, with victims. In addition, the church should end the absurd ban on marriage within the clergy and welcome women to the priesthood. Of course, this is asking a lot of an institution that recently concluded the sexed-up culture of the 1960s was to blame for priests raping children.
Second, the new pope should declare that the Vatican is refocusing on God’s command to do good works. This has always been the most attractive feature of Catholicism and this is a world that desperately needs generous souls to work on behalf of the poor, the sick and the hungry. The pope should sell his scepter and pay for some young, out-of-work idealists to wash, feed and clothe the poor, just as Jesus is said to have commanded, “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Third, the pope should use his pulpit not to preserve the ancient superstitions of a repressive religion, but to preach about the concerns of the modern world. What a blessing it would be if Ratzinger’s successor would look past condoms and pornography for the root causes of our suffering. By my estimation, murder and usury do more harm than the alleged sin of homosexuality. What is the church’s position on drone strikes? What does the Vatican have to say to the people who run Visa and JPMorgan Chase? Sex slaves and factory workers in Vietnam need a champion. It’s not going to be General Electric, and it’s not going to be the United States.
The ancient sages at Delphi always stated to their visitors: ‘know thyself’. No doubt these are wise words, but should we take it further, we could also ‘love thyself’ explicitly so that we can love others. If you don’t love yourself, you won’t have that deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. However, if you become friends with yourself, which is certainly no easy feat, then you can find that there is no obstacle to opening your heart and your mind to others. To have compassion and to practice it outwardly is the key to your happiness as well as to the happiness of those around you.
What are your feelings when watching this? Are you happy or sad? Motivated or depressed? Something totally different?
I’d appreciate your feedback in the comments section. Thank you.
- Film-work: “Nothingness” (short film based in Ireland) (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
Via Chris Hedges ‘McGovern: He Never Sold His Soul’ (Truth Dig)
From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America.
From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.
From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick—come home, America.
Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.
Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for “this is your land, this land is my land—from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters—this land was made for you and me.”
So let us close on this note: May God grant each one of us the wisdom to cherish this good land and to meet the great challenge that beckons us home.
And now is the time to meet that challenge.
Good night, and Godspeed to you all.
RIP George McGovern
Published in ‘Young India’ (1924):
‘I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind… I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the second volume (of the Prophet’s biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of that great life’.
The light: that spark, that thought in your head,
the wisdom from without and in turn within.
Give thanks for without it we’d be empty and stricken by blaze.
I dream before I even dream and I think before I even think,
I’m ahead even when I’m behind and I have little idea of how it happens.
But it does, and when it does,
it’s an uncontrollable,
After Reynold A. Nicholson
Jesus passed by three men.
Their bodies were lean and their faces pale.
He asked them,
‘What has brought you to this plight?’
‘Fear of the Fire’.
‘You fear a thing created,
and it behoves God
that he should save those who fear’.
Jesus left them and passed by three others,
whose faces were paler and their bodies leaner,
he asked them, saying,
‘What has brought you to this plight?’
‘Longing for Paradise’.
‘You desire a thing created,
and it behoves God
that He should give you that which you hope for’.
Jesus went on
and passed by three others of exceeding paleness and leanness,
so that their faces were as mirrors of light,
‘What has brought you to this?’
‘Our love of God’.
‘You are the nearest to Him,
You are the nearest to Him’.
What is the hardest task in the world?
I would put myself in the attitude to look in the eye an abstract truth,
and I cannot.
I blench and withdraw on this side and on that.
I seem to know what he meant who said,
No man can see God face to face and live.
a man explores the basis of civil government.
Let him intend his mind without respite,
in one direction.
His best heed long time avails him nothing.
Yet thoughts are flitting before him.
We all but apprehend,
we dimly forebode the truth.
I will walk abroad,
but cannot find it.
It seems as if we needed only the stillness and composed attitude of the library to seize the thought.
But we come in,
and are as far from it as at first.
in a moment,
the truth appears.
wandering light appears,
and is the distinction,
But the oracle comes,
because we had previously laid siege to the shrine.
It seems as if the law of the intellect resembled that law of nature by which we now inspire,
now expire the breath;
by which the heart now draws in,
then hurls out the blood -
the law of undulation.
So now you must labor with your brains,
and now you must forbear your activity and see what the great Soul showeth.
Every soul is a celestial Venus to every other soul.
The heart has its sabbaths and jubilees in which the world appears as a hymeneal feast,
and all natural sounds and the circles of the seasons are erotic odes and dances.
Love is omnipresent in nature as motive and reward.
Love is our highest word and the synonym of God.
We can gain a sense of young Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts on religion in A Witch Trial at Mount Holly, which raised the concern of his Puritan parents that he held ‘erroneous’ religious opinions. Franklin was not himself an emphatically religious man; while he believed in God, he did not subscribe to one particular creed. What we do know about Franklin’s personal beliefs is that he frowned upon religious orthodoxy, writing to his mother, in citing Matthew 26, that ‘I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue’. To escape the clutch of his parents and Puritanism, the young Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, a city more diverse in its religious makeup (with Quakers, Jews and Christian sects). It was here in Philadelphia where Franklin famously raised money to build a new ‘religious hall’ that would be ‘expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say something’. And while colonial Philadelphia had few Muslims, Franklin also suggested that ‘Even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service’. Franklin’s virtue was on display when in 1788, he donated money to each religious group in Philadelphia, including a sum for a new synagogue of the Mikveh Israel Jewish community. Later in 1790, Franklin was carried to his resting place by clergymen from every single religious group in Philadelphia. How is that for respect? We as Americans would be wise to heed his message.
Tags: American culture, Arts, Benjamin Franklin, Craig Considine, Franklin, God, History, Interfaith, Islam, Jews, Judaism, Matthew 26, Mikveh Israel, Muslims, Opinion, Personal, Philadelphia, Pluralism, Quakers, Religion, Spirituality, Tolerance, United States
As part of Journey into America – September 2008 at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I was lucky enough to film right up there.
Tags: Adhan, Art, Beauty, Call to prayer, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Rapids Iowa, God, Iowa, Islam, Journey into America, Jummah, Mosque, Music, Muslim, Muslims, Qur'an, Religion, Religion and Spirituality, Singing, United States
… [T]here is so much misunderstanding of Islam. The debate on Islam that is in full cry in the West since September 11 is too often little more than a parading of deep-rooted prejudices. For example, the critics of Islam ask: ‘If there is such an emphasis on compassion and tolerance in Islam, why is it associated with violence and intolerance toward non-Muslims and the poor treatment of women.
The answer is that both Muslims and non-Muslims use the Quran selectively. The Quranic verses revealed earlier, for example, Surah 2: Verses 190-4, emphasize peace and reconciliation in comparison to the latter ones like Surrah 9: Verse 5. Some activists have argued that this means an abrogation of the earlier verses and therefore advocate aggressive militancy. In fact, the verses have to be understood in the social and political context in which they were formed. They must be read both for the particular situation in which they were revealed and the general principle they embody.
Take the first criticism of Islam: that it encourages violence. The actions of the nineteen hijackers had little to do with Islamic theology. Killing a single innocent person is like killing all of humanity, warns the Quran (Surah 5: Verse 32). The Quran clearly preaches tolerance and understanding. Indeed, there is an anthropologically illuminating verse which points to the diversity of races: ‘O Human Beings! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and female and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another… The noblest of you, in the sight of God, is the best in conduct’ (Surrah 49: Verse 13).
The idea of a common humanity is central to the Muslim perception of self. By knowing God as Rahman and Rahim, Beneficient and Merciful – the two most frequently repeated of God’s 99 names, those that God Himself has chosen in the Quran by using them to introduce the chapters – Muslims know they must embrace even those who may not belong to their community, religion, or nation. God tells us in the Quran to appreciate the variety He has created in human society: ‘And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. Lo! Herein indeed are portents for men of knowledge’ (Surrah 30: Verse 22).
Verses about fighting Jews and Christians – or Muslims who are considered ‘hypocrites’ – must be understood relative to a specific situation and time frame. What is important for Muslims is to stand up for their rights whoever the aggressor: ‘Fight against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities’, the Quran tells Muslims (Surah 2: Verse 190). Men like bin Laden cite this verse and the next to justify their violence against Jews and Christians in general and in particular the United States, which represents the two religions for them. They give the impression that God wants Muslims to be in perpetual conflict with Jews and Christians. They are wrong. Not only are these verses taken out of context, as they relate to a specific situation at a certain time in the history of early Islam, but the verses that follow immediately after clearly convey God’s overarching command: ‘Make peace with them if they want peace; God is Forgiving, Merciful’ (Surrah 2: Verses 192-3)
Misguided Muslims and non-Muslims, especially the instant experts in the media, are both guilty of this kind of selective use of the holy text to support their arguments. In this case the Muslims would argue that violence against Jews and Christians is allowed; the non-Muslims would point to this line and say it confirms the hatred of Muslims against others. They imply that the idea of fighting against Islam is therefore justified.
The discussion around the number of women a Muslim many may marry suffers from a similar fate (see below chapter 4, section ii, ‘Veiled Truth: Women in Islam’). Misguided Muslims cite Surah 4: Verse 3 ; ‘Marry as many women as you wish, two or three or four’ – to justify having four wives; misguided non-Muslims, to point to Islam’s licentious nature. Both ignore the next line in the same verse, which insists that each wife be treated equally and with ‘justice’ and, as this is not possible, then one wife is the best arrangement.
Source: Ahmed, Akbar. Islam Under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-Honor World. Polity: UK, 2003.
Tags: 9/11, Al-Baqara, Christian, Christians, God, Intolerance, Islam, Jews, Militancy, Muslim, Muslims, Non-Muslims, Peace, Prejudice, Qur'an, Religion, Surah 2, Surah 4, Surah 5, Surrah 30, United States, Violence, West
Ibn ʿArabī (Arabic: ابن عربي) (Murcia July 28, 1165 – Damascus November 10, 1240) was an Arab Andalusian Sufi mystic and philosopher. He is sometimes referred to as “the Son of Plato” (Ibn Aflatun) for his devotion to Plato.
My heart has grown capable of taking on all forms
It is a pasture for gazelles
A table for the Torah
A convent for Christians
Ka’bah for the Pilgrim
Whichever the way love’s caravan shall lead
That shall be the way of my faith.
Tags: Allah, Arab people, Christianity, Christians, Dialogue, God, Heart, Ibn Arabi, Interfaith, Islam, Jews, Judaism, Ka'bah, Kaaba, Love, Muslims, People, Philosophy, Plato, Poem, Poetry, Poets, Religion, Religion and Spirituality, Spirituality, Sufism, Torah
I just picked up Eboo Patel‘s Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation at New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton, Massachusetts. To be honest, I wasn’t searching for it; I pretty much stumbled across it randomly in the extremely small ‘Islam’ section (it’s small in comparison to the ‘Judaism’ section, which, I think, symbolizes a lot about the Book Fair, the city of Newton, and the country we live in). Anyways, before the Table of Contents, Eboo includes these three quotes to give the reader a feel for his story:
I am large, I contain multitudes
The road of Creation
Resolves into music.
Start a huge, foolish project,
The first quote from Whitman reminds us that as people we’re complicated, have many layers and no core identity.
The second quote from Tagore reminds us… actually… I’m not entirely sure… Any theories?
And the third quote from the Prophet Noah reminds us to be ambitious and to never lose faith in ourselves or God along the journey of life.
Eboo Patel actually appeared in the documentary Journey into America (2009) which I directed with Akbar Ahmed. I’m looking forward to reading his book and applying it somehow to my research on the experiences of young Pakistani men.
Have you heard about the ‘European problem’? To your likely surprise, the problem has nothing to do with debt, sovereignty, Brussels, or the devaluing euro.
As George Weigel posits in The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America and Politics Without God, the ‘European problem’ is atheistic humanism or, as he often calls it in more academic terms, secularism. The solution to the ‘European problem’ for Weigel is to return to what made ‘European civilization’ so great in the first place. This is Christianity.
Weigel suggests that atheistic humanists are involved in a ‘deliberate act of historical amnesia, in which a millennium and a half of Christianity’s contributions to European understanding of human rights and democracy are deliberately ignored by contemporary Europeans’. Rather than adhering to another transcendent allegiance, contemporary Europeans, as Weigel argues, now belong ‘nowhere’. In citing Christopher Dawson, Weigel writes that this ‘spiritual no-man’s-land’ is ‘inherently unstable and ultimately self-destructive’. Secularism is nothing more than ‘a monstrosity – a cancerous growth which will ultimately destroy itself’ (Dawson). To further support his argument here, Weigel turns to Solzhenitsy:
The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century. The first of these was World War I, and much of our present predicament can be traced back to it. That war… took place when Europe, bursting with health and abundance, fell into a rage of self-mutilation that could not but sap its strength for a century or more, and perhaps forever. The only possible explanation for this is a mental eclipse among the leaders of Europe due to their lost awareness of a Supreme Power above them…. Only the loss of that higher intuition which comes from God could have allowed the West to accept calmly, after World War I, the protracted agony of Russia as she was being torn apart by a band of cannibals… The West did not perceive that this was in fact the beginning of a lengthy process that spells disaster for the whole world.
Perhaps unknowingly, Weigel and Solzhenitsyn touch upon a Weberian analysis in the idea of ‘worldly disenfranchisement’, in which human beings become increasingly rationale, like mindless robots, and less inclined or curious with the supernatural and spiritual dimensions of the human experience.
Another valuable piece of Weigler’s book is his introducing of the international legal scholar J.H.H. Weiler’s notion of ‘Christophobia’; a very real concept and not just a theory. Weiler’s ‘Christophobia’ has eight key features, as outlined by Weigler, which include (in no particular order):
1. The notion that the Holocaust and other 20th-century European genocides are the logical outcome of Christianity’s inherent racism.
2. The ’1968 mind-set’ – the youthful rebellion against traditional authority and Europe’s traditional Christian identity and consciousness.
3. The psychological and ideological denial of the non-violent revolution of 1989, which, according to Weiler, was deeply and decisively influenced by Christians in central and eastern Europe, preeminently by Pope John Paul II.
4. The continuing resentment of the dominant role once played by Christian Democratic parties in post-World War II Europe.
5. The habit of associating Christianity with right-wing political parties, which are the parties of xenophobia, racism, intolerance, etc.
6. The resentment towards Pope John Paul II among secularists and anti-Catholics.
7. The distorted teaching about European history which stresses the Enlightenment roots of the democratic project to the virtual exclusion of democracy’s historical cultural roots in the Christian soil of pre-Enlightenment Europe.
8. The resentment of the ’1968 mind-set’ generation that their children have become Christian believers.
Weigel’s analysis of Pope John Paul II is also intellectually and spiritually invigorating. Using John Paul II’s exhortation Ecclesia in Europa (The Church in Europe), Weigel contends that Europe can witness a new burst of hope and confidence to end its current state of ambiguity, which has led to a ‘loss of faith in the future’. Europe’s most urgent need, for John Paul Il, is ‘not a common currency, a transnational parliament, a unified set of fiscal and budgetary norms, or a Continent-wide regulatory regime’, but rather ‘the growing need for hope, a hope which will enable us to give meaning to life and history and to continue in our way together’. John Paul II’s insinuation, however, in Ecclesia in Europa - that returning to Christianity can cure Europe of all her ills – is a bit of a stretch on the imagination. In my opinion, Europeans could, however, use a bit more from Christian teachings to overcome the following dilemmas:
1. ‘A kind of practical agnosticism and religious indifference whereby many Europeans give the impression of living without spiritual roots and somewhat like heirs who have squandered a patrimony entrusted to them by history’.
2. ‘Fear of the future’.
3. ‘Inner emptiness that grips many people’.
4. ‘Widespread existential fragmentation’ in which ‘a feeling of loneliness is prevalent’.
5. ‘Weakening of the very concept of the family’.
6. Selfishness that close individuals and groups in upon themselves’.
7. A growing lack of concern for ethics and an obsessive concern for personal interests and privileges’ leading to ‘the diminished number of births’.
While he offers useful insight into the life of John Paul II, and how we can benefit from his philosophy, some of Weigel’s points are misleading and, to be honest, downright inaccurate, especially those which pertain to Muslims and Islam in Europe. These problems include:
1. Not including Islam in the Abrahamic tradition; ‘God’, for Weigel, is the God of the Prophet’s Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. The Prophet Muhammad is not mentioned in this context.
2. Warning Europeans that Europe will be increasingly influenced, and perhaps even dominated by, ‘militant Islamic populations’, even though the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Europe denounce violence and acts of terrorism as antithetical to Islam.
3. Contending that Europeans are becoming ‘Islamicized… in the sense of being drawn into the civilizational orbit of the Arab Islamic world’.
And yet in a bizarre twist from his comments towards Muslims and Islam, Weigel concludes his book by hoping Europeans reconvert and find in Christianity ‘the spiritual, intellectual, and moral resources to sustain and defend its commitments to toleration, civility, democracy, and human rights’.
In following sociologist Andrew Greeley, Weigel is guilty of ‘using secularization as an all-purpose brush with which to paint a portrait of contemporary Europe’. Many Muslims in Europe, for instance, have an interpretation of Islam that calls for belief in God, tolerance, respect, humility and integrity, all principles which Weigel seems so desperate for Europeans to recapture. Sadly, however, Weigel appears to think that only a return to Christianity can recapture these principles.
Weigel’s The Cube and the Cathedral is basically an exercise with a massive contradiction. He argues for Europeans to return to Christianity to defend ‘European principles’ like toleration, civility, democracy, and human rights, and yet demonstrates intolerance and ethnocentrism when speaking about Muslims in Europe and Islam. More attention should have been paid to the many Muslims in Europe who have successfully balanced their religious and national/regional identities and a peaceful and progressive ‘European manner’. Weigel’s ’European civilization’ term, moreover, is problematic when it is used in the singular form. Is there really such a thing as a ‘European civilization’? Was Europe ever a homogenous entity? Could we not argue that there have been different ‘European civilizations‘ throughout history? These are theoretical propositions which are never adequately addressed by Weigel.
Weigel does offer some interesting insight into the philosophy of Pope John Paul II and the very real and increasingly important concept of ‘Christophobia’. This easily readable book is worth flipping through if you can stomach blatant Westerncentrism and Eurocentrism, an unapologetic ‘Christian supremacy’ perspective, as well as a tint of anti-Islam rhetoric.
Weigel, George. The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God. Basic Book: New York, 2005.
Tags: Atheism, Atheistic humanism, Catholic, Christian, Christianity, Christopher Dawson, Christophobia, Culture, Democracy, Enlightenment, Europe, European problem, Europeans, George Weigel, God, Identity, Intolerance, Islam, Morality, Muslims, Pope John Paul II, Racism, Religion, Secularism, Weigel, Xenophobia
After Sheikh Muzaffer
A companion once asked the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH)):
Who is the most important person for the soul in Islam?’
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) replied:
The companion pressed the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) for more information.
‘Who is the next most important person?’
Once more, the Prophet Muhammad replied:
The companion repeated the question a third time.
He received the same answer:
Finally, on the fourth repetition of this question, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) responded:
Who says Islam doesn’t respect women?
Adapted from (source): Ozak, Sheikh Muzaffer. Blessed Virgin Mary. Westport: Pir, 1991.
Abraham makes the leap and thus secures his reputation for all time. The text is so matter-of-fact it almost masks the significance: ‘Abram went forth as the Lord had commanded him’. He does so silently, joining the covenant with his feet, not his words. The wandering man does what he does best, he walks. Only now he walks with God. And by doing so, Abraham leaves an indelible set of footprints. He doesn’t believe in God; he believes God. He doesn’t ask for proof; he provides the proof.
According to folklore, Rabia was an orphan and ultimately sold into slavery; she almost had nothing except, of course, her thoughts.
Legend has it that Rabia was once seen praying with a halo over her head by her owner. Upon seeing this unbelievable spectacle, the owner freed her. Once free, Rabia lived an ascetic lifestyle, making it obvious to all who crossed her way that the only thing that concerned her was God.
The reason why I’m sharing Rabia is because of my interest in this famous story…
Rabia was once seen walking alone, quietly, with fire in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. When one person went up to her and asked her ‘what are you doing?’, she answered with:
‘I want to throw fire into Heaven and water into Hell so that both will disappear, and we can contemplate God alone’.
Ah, there’s something calming about that idea.
Sufis are very inclusive and open-minded. They believe that God is everywhere. They quote Qur’anic passages like, ‘Wherever you turn, there is the face of God’ (2: 115). If God is everywhere, then God can be seen in all religions too. A Sufi would not only be comfortable praying at a church or synagogue or Hindu temple even but would also be comfortable ministering to a non-Muslim. Furthermore, because God can manifest in different ways according to the Qur’an, Sufis are particularly open to new experiences or feelings: ‘Every day He manifests Himself in yet another wondrous way’ (55: 29). Everyday, God is different, and the Sufi is on a constant quest to find him. Sufis love everyone and everything, regardless of who or what they are. Religion, wealth, color, nothing matters. Sufis feel that Muhammad lived without any prejudice and was able to achieve religious enlightenment because he was so open. So they themselves want to be open too. A Sufi feels that if he gives love, then he will be able to accept easily the love that exists created by God. Everyone can be redeemed because good/God exists in everything. God is bigger than any one religion, and although Sufis feel that Islam gives them the proper framework to access God, a different framework may work for someone else. As Hafiz writes:
So much from God
That I can no longer
A Christian, a Hindu, A Muslim,
A Buddhist, A Jew.
Source: Why I Am a Muslim: An American Odyssey by Asma Gull Hassan (pgs. 42-43)
The Arabic word nafs is variously translated as ‘soul’, ‘self’, or ‘ego’. The nafs has seven levels or stages of development that correspond more or less to the seven stages of the Sufi Path. The Path, which leads to a transformation of consciousness, can therefore be described as the refinement and purification of the soul. The seven nafs are generally defined as:
- nafs al-ammara – the commanding or compulsive-obsessive self, also known as the carnal or animal self, is entirely governed by its desires, passions and instincts.
- nafs al-lawwama – the accusing or blaming self, corresponds to the awakening of conscience and a realization of the extent to which one’s actions are controlled by the nafs al-ammara.
- nafs al-mulhama – the inspired or balanced self marks the beginning of genuine spiritual integration and a release of the self from the tyranny of physical instincts and the desires of the ego.
- nafs al-mutma’inna – the tranquil self or self at peace, as its name implies, has attained a degree of detachment from worldly concerns and an increasing awareness of the Presence of God in all things.
- nafs al-radiyya – the fulfilled or satisfied self is the initial merging or union of the individual with God.
- nafs al-mardiyya – the fulfilling or satisfying self, also described as the self of total submission, is the merging of God with the individual.
- nafs al-kamila – the perfected and complete self is the state of total union with God and the attainment of universal consciousness.
Source: Baldock, John. The Essence of Rumi. Arcturus: London, 2005.
Have you ever met or had a conversation with someone and thought to yourself: ‘this person is a genius’?
One evening, while the largely South Asian community broke the fast, I found myself talking with an academic from Boston University, who earlier that week had kindly welcomed me into her office for a chat about my research. This academic treated me as her own son, introducing me to people left and right, and indeed to her husband and family. One member of her family, however, stuck out to me more than the others.
That person was her daughter.
My first impression was the striking similarity between mother and daughter. The daughter was exceptionally bright. And I mean exceptionally bright. Indeed, it was almost intimidating for me to be in her presence (and I was 26 years old and a Ph.D. student)!
They say ‘like father, like son’.
Nay, ‘like mother, like daughter’.
The daughter was so mature and grounded that I thought she had to be at least 21 years old, in college, and going on to pursue a postgraduate degree in physics at Harvard or MIT. She asked me questions about my research, questions I had never really thought about, questions that stimulated my thinking. Her awareness and overall composure amazed me.
And she was only 15 years old!
I felt like I was in the company of something truly special.
This passage from a local newspaper is telling:
She spent a few weeks working with the very littlest children and a few weeks working with the older children. Everyone one loved (her), teachers, children counselors. She was a talented and amazing artist. She was quiet, compassionate and very, very kind. At the end of the summer, I asked the teaching staff to provide feedback on the counselors. (She) received glowing reports across the chart. All adored her.
It’s with sadness to write that the world is now one genius, one beautiful young lady, one great sister, and one future leader, short.
Her passing is all too familiar for me and strikes a chord of a distant heartache.
When I was 16 years old, growing up in the Boston suburb of Needham, Massachusetts, my best girl friend, Stephanie Kenney, passed away after being struck by a train. She was my first crush, but more than that, as we grew older, a close friend who I could run to when I had to talk about things that 16 years old deal with. She was always more mature than me.
For me, as I wrote this now, I can’t help but think of the similarity between the young daughter and Stephanie.
As they say, ‘only the good die young’.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
- Irish blessing
Last week I was invited by Imran Ahmed, member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, Ireland and Dublin City Interfaith Forum, to the 6th Interfaith Peace Conference on April 28th in Lucan, County Dublin.
The conference, titled ‘Purpose of Religion, will be attended by people and speakers from major religions to strive towards peace in Ireland. Mayor of South Dublin, Cllr. Caitriona Jones, is also attending and speaking at the conference.
The conference is a great chance for me to reach out and network with communities of all backgrounds, especially considering my research focuses on the Pakistani community here in Dublin. The Ahmadiyya movement is something I hope to explore in more detail in the coming months and years.
Here is a (not so) random poem that I found in a recently purchased book. It is one of the most powerful books that I’ve ever purchased. It means more to me now than any other book in the world. It cost me $25 but the book actually has only sentimental value.
The poem is as follows:
I sat in the school of sorrow,
The Master was teaching there,
But my eyes were dim with weeping,
And my heart was full of care.
Instead of looking upward,
And seeing his face divine,
So full of the tenderest pity,
For weary hearts like mine.
I only thought of the burden,
The cross that before me lay:
So hard, and weary to carry,
That if darkened the light of day;
So I could not learn my lesson,
And say, ‘Thy will be done’,
And the Master came not near me,
As the weary hours went on.
At last, in my heavy sorrow,
I looked from the cross above,
And I saw the Master watching,
With a glance of tender love.
He turned in the cross before me,
And I thought I heard him say -
‘My child’ though must bear thy burden
And learn thy task to-day.
‘I may not tell the reason;
‘Tis enough for thee to know
That I, the Master am teaching,
And give this cup of woe’
So I stooped to that weary sorrow;
One look at the face divine
Had given me power to trust him,
And say, ‘Thy will, not mine’
And thus I learnt my lesson,
Taught by the Master alone;
He only knows the tears I shed
For he hast wept His own.
But from them came a brightness,
Straight from the Home above,
Where the school life will be ended,
And the cross will show the love.