29.6.10

Wearing my headscarf...



Today I learnt about ritual purification before prayer:

Your hands are the implements with which you will wash the rest of your body, start here.
Gargle with water three times.
Cup water and inhale to clear nasal passages.
Wash the face.
Wash right arm to elbow.
Left arm to elbow.
Run water down both arms and allow to drip from elbows.
Run wet hands through hair. Clean out ears.
Run back of hands around neck.
Wash right foot to ankle.
Wash left foot to ankle.
Wash hands again.

Today I learnt that Muslims profess that Allah is God, that Muhammad is the last and final prophet and that there is only one God and there is a call to prayer five times a day, a call to do good deeds and to profess that God is great.

Today I learnt that intentions are rewarded by Allah even if the good deed does not become accomplished, that the call to pray requires you to be punctual, that this was dictated by Muhammad.

Muslims believe that God has sent and continues to send many prophets, Buddha is probably one of these prophets. These prophets that God sends are perfect human beings, true representatives and role models. Many prophets manifested as the gods of other faiths are their prophets gone awry.

I learnt that Muslims understand something of Jesus and he is referred to as Messiah but this means that he touches and heals. They understand Jesus as the divine Word of God and as the Holy Spirit but there was no crucifixion or resurrection. God replaced Jesus with another man and took Jesus up to heaven from where he will return one day to indicate the end of time before dying a natural death.

Jesus' feeding of the 5000 is recounted in the Koran as the miracle of the great feast. Resurrection appearances are due to his ability to form miracles like that of the great feast.

A sect of Islam who emulate Jesus believe Jesus was cut off from the world and absorbed in the divine and so they live lives in imitation.

Muslims believe that before they are born there is a primordial conference of the souls and they are given an imprint of the divine but a human being only has a soul when it is a fetus of more than a hundred and twenty days old. This soul then needs perfecting over a life-time through religious acts and good deeds so that that soul can be freed from the body, although it still contains a memory of the body. This soul ascends into paradise. If the soul ends up in purgatory, recompense can be made. It is up to the individual to work out their own salvation.

The Koran is learnt by heart in Arabic and children are instructed in classes so that they might do this.

It is difficult for Muslims to engage with Christians about the trinity.

Muslims have no concept of the atonement but they intercede for people.

I have narrated this in a detached way. During the presentation, I sat for much of it with an openness to learning and only during talk of Jesus did my stomach churn and I feel a bit sick. This is okay. I am not surprised that this happens to me. I hoped I might continue smiling and listening and I did. Actually, my smile probably left my face but I continued to sit and listen. The Imam was very gracious and he is working very hard to love his Christian brothers and sisters. He was eager to listen to our questions and received us with love and was very hospitable.

As a consequence of today I am more in awe of God than before, more in love with Jesus and feel more blessed by the gift of his Holy Spirit. God did not leave us alone. We do not have to earn our salvation. He reaches out to us first in his Son, loves us completely and wholly and is not just interested in our souls, the incarnation proves this.

Thank you Jesus that you became involved in the messiness of humanity, died on a cross for us and gave us your Holy Spirit so that we can come into a personal relationship with you. You rose again and defeated sin and death and valuable to you are every hair upon every head of every one of your children.

There is much we have in common with our Muslim brothers and sisters but perhaps more differences than I had anticipated too. The important thing is to listen to one another, admit the emotional pain but move to a place where love reigns over the differences. This is what Jesus would have asked us to do. He is the way, the truth and the life and we witness to that by treating other people the way that he does. He invites and does not coerce, he listens and walks alongside, he serves without an agenda.

"...although He [Jesus] existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

NIFCON (Network for Interfaith Concerns) support Christians in dialogue with Muslims and describe Rowan William's 'Generous love' thus:

If we proclaim and serve a generous God can we be any less generous in our dealings with our neighbours of other faiths? How does our understanding of the Trinitarian nature of God, a core Christian belief, inform the content and method of our thinking about inter faith relations? How do we affirm the importance of dialogue without compromising our allegiance to the one Lord and Saviour? This document is offered for study and as a stimulus for discussion and further reflection.

You can read it here

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