Christian-Muslim-Jew ish friendship thread

(208 Posts)
niminypiminy Mon 10-Jun-13 11:17:08

I've had a talk with Crescentmoon about starting a thread where Christians and Muslims can hold out our hands in friendship to one another. I feel like we have so much to offer one another, and I certainly would love to learn more about Islam, and to understand the ways in which my Muslim sisters live out their faith. Would anybody else like to join?

I'm niminypiminy, and I'm a member of the Church of England, and work, and have two children. I realise that I'd don't even know if there is an equivalent in Islam for the different denominations (aside from Sunni and Shia, which I'm not at all confident I correctly understand the difference between). I'm going to be offline for a couple of days, so can't get back to reply, but if anybody would like to use this thread to come together as Christians trying to live out our faith, and to prayerfully and open-heartedly welcome and understand each other... smile

minniemagoo Wed 17-Jul-13 21:00:24

Can I just say what an amazing thread, I can't wait to read it more indepth and hopefully add to the discussion when I have more time. Just introducing myself, born and raised Irish Catholic, now go to a Presbyterian church.

crescentmoon Thu 18-Jul-13 11:55:19

id also like to learn more about judaism the religion through this thread messandmayhem.

and id like to learn more about Jesus. In the Quran he is set apart from other prophets in that whilst they were able to perform miracles, Jesus himself was a miracle born only of a mother lady Mary. the 19th chapter of the Quran is named after Lady mary - the only woman named in the Quran. the fifth chapter of the Quran is named after the miracle of the table laden with food from heaven... what is known in the Christian tradition as the Last supper:

“When the disciples said: O Jesus, son of Mary! Is your Lord able to send down for us a table spread with food from heaven? He said: Observe your duty to God, if ye are true believers. They said: We desire to eat of it and our hearts be at rest, and that We may know that you have spoken truth to us, and that We may be witnesses thereof. Jesus, son of Mary, said: 'O God, our Lord, send down for us a Table laden with food out of heaven, that shall be for us a recurring festival, the first and last of us, and a miracle from You. And provide us our sustenance, for You are the best of providers!”

(Quran 5:112-114)

we don't believe in the resurrection but we believe from the Quran that:

Jesus spoke from the cradle as a baby,
that he was made blessed wherever he may be,
was able to breathe life into clay to become a bird,
that he healed the blind and the leper,
was able to bring life to the dead,
was able to know what people had eaten and what they had stored in their homes,
all by the permission of God.

i believe all of that whilst happily knowing that Muhammad (pbuh) wasnt a prophet who performed miracles! the Quran talks about Jesus the miracle worker but what id like to know is about Jesus the social reformer. as thats always been the parts of christianity that interested me!

twistyfeet Thu 18-Jul-13 12:02:23

Messandmayhem. Just call your local reform synagogue. They generally welcome guests or have open days.

stressedHEmum Fri 19-Jul-13 08:56:04

Jesus was a great social reformer, crescent. That's one of the most important bits of Christianity, I think. He challenged attitudes to the poor, the disabled, the marginalised, women and children and realised that those at the bottom of the heap were as important, if not more so, than those at the top.

It runs all through the Gospels. The healing of the blind, deaf, dumb and paralysed. The healing of lepers and those with mental illness, of the woman with menstrual problems (unthinkable, really, because she would have been permanently ritually unclean).

Then you have the time that he spent in Samaria, the healing of the Roman officer's child, eating with tax collectors and the like and the very fact that he travelled with WOMEN!

Top it all off with his emphasis on the compassionate aspects of the Law rather than the ritual and the way that he valued the contributions of the poor so highly (widow's mite etc.) and, I think, that He was revolutionary.

I think that we can all learn a lot from Jesus even if we aren't Christian. The example of compassion and of open-mindedness that He set is enormous. It certainly inspires me to do what I can for those who are suffering and challenges me to have a more caring, less judgemental or dismissive attitude to those on the margins of our society. I think that His example has always informed my political thought, as well, making me strife towards fairness and a more equal society because, as a Christian, you have to realise that Jesus came for everyone, not just the better off, the important, the bright, the "deserving", but those at the bottom or on the edges, those who are different, those we don't like and those we don't want to welcome.

it's a big challenge, but imagine what the world would be like if everyone tried to do that.

crescentmoon Mon 22-Jul-13 17:48:02

thanks for that dear stressed, i looked up the story of the widow's mite, might look up a few others. if im honest Jesus was always a 2D character for me in a way. like Moses with his staff at the Red Sea. the nearest prophet who became like a real flesh and blood character to me in the way Muhammad (pbuh) was was prophet Abraham. i probably speak most about him with my children also in terms of his lessons and teachings not just the biography of his life.

"I think that we can all learn a lot from Jesus even if we aren't Christian. The example of compassion and of open-mindedness that He set is enormous." i think so thats very true. in Islam especially in the Sufi Muslim tradition Jesus is written and spoken about very highly for his ascetism and setting away the world from himself.

"I think that His example has always informed my political thought, as well, making me strife towards fairness and a more equal society because, as a Christian, you have to realise that Jesus came for everyone, not just the better off, the important, the bright, the "deserving", but those at the bottom or on the edges, those who are different, those we don't like and those we don't want to welcome."

that is so interesting, i think that should get just as much attention and articulation as Jesus's general teachings on love thy neighbour. you say he led by example and his teachings inform your political thought, and its these words 'by example' and 'being informed' that interest me, because i wonder is it implicit or explicit? is there the force of command behind it or is it something optional? those who are motivated by love will act regardless but what about people who are not motivated by such? and we have that debate in islam as well!

stressedHEmum Tue 23-Jul-13 09:57:48

I think, crescent, that it's both explicit and implicit. As you say, Jesus taught that the 2 greatest commandments are

to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart mind strength and soul
and
to love your neighbour AS YOURSELF

He says that these two commands are the summation of the whole of the Law and the Prophets.

that's a really, really tall order. When you put it together with the new commandment that Jesus gave us - to love one another as I have loved you - and all his teachings on service (the greatest shall be least and the least greatest, the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, etc.) it has a great deal of force behind it. Service and justice should never be optional for a Christian, they are central to the faith. For me, it's all kind of summed up in the Golden Rule -do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I would like to hope that if was hungry, someone would feed me, if I was sick, someone would help me, if I was lonely, someone would befriend me, so this is what I try to do. but it's so much more than that.

It all means that we should guard our tongues and not speak nastily to people, that we should always try to be king and welcoming, that we should try to be considerate, empathetic and non judgemental -

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

It's also incumbent on us to be law abiding, tax-paying citizens. when asked about paying taxes to the occupying Romans, Jesus told us to "render unto Caesar, Caesar's due."

I think that these things are also implicit in Jesus' actions - he healed people from all sorts of backgrounds, spent time with those whom others avoided, even his disciples were ordinary people who had no real importance in their society or who were actively disliked (Matthew was a tax collector). DO you know the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector? I think the lessons to be taken from that make it obvious that we should be fair, honest and try to make things better for those around us (amongst other things.)

To be honest, we all fall far short of this ideal, but it shouldn't stop us trying to live up to it or working towards it.

One of the things that makes Jesus seem more real to me is that the Gospels often talk about His emotions. He feels sorry for the crowds that follow him, he is moved to tears by the grief of his friends, he is tormented by fear and doubt in Gethsemane and loads more. it shows me that Jesus understood and really felt what it is to be human.

crescentmoon Tue 23-Jul-13 10:20:17

great post stressed, il have a good ponder over it and digest. iv always felt in my heart my sister you are really the best example i know of the tradition of Jesus.

Tuo Tue 23-Jul-13 22:12:27

Lovely post, Stressed. I really agree about the focus on Jesus' emotions. I would add, in illustration of your point about loving your neighbour, [[ http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A25-37&version=NIV the parable of the Good Samaritan]].

There are many things that are wonderful and illustrative about this story. It reminds us that our neighbours are not only those people who are like us, but also those whom we have perhaps been accustomed to look down on or to disregard or to see as a problem. It really illustrates the point that Stressed made about how 'neigbourliness' in this sense is a two-way business (we give as we are able and receive as we have need). In this sense Jesus' agenda can be seen as having a 'political' side to it, in that he's really concerned with how we live in community with others in the here-and-now (not just looking towards the hereafter), and not just in communities of like-minded souls either, but in mixed communities where there are immigrants, and refugees, and people who wield power over others, and people with disabilities, people who find it hard to fit in, but who are, nonetheless, part of the community, within which we need to work to live well, not just for ourselves but for others.

But this story also illustrates really nicely, I think, and in keeping with the ethos of this thread, how Jesus doesn't just come and overturn the old law and say that it's all a load of rubbish and no-one needs to follow it any more because he has come along with something new. Rather, the story is rooted in Christianity's Jewish roots. When Jesus says 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’, he is quoting the Shema, the most fundamental prayer of Judaism. He does say in various other places that rigorous adherence to some of the more specific and detailed laws is not necessary in order to achieve salvation... I suppose he simplifies the Law and takes it right back to this fundamental root. But at the centre of what he recommends here is something that his Jewish questioner would absolutely have taken for granted. So although the 'hero' of this story is the Samaritan, Jesus is not in any way 'rubbishing' priests and Levites in general; he is simply saying that it doesn't matter what your status is in society or within your own religion - what matters is how you behave towards others. But what will ultimately determine how you behave towards others is your understanding (whether you understand it through having studied it, as the priest and Levite in the story would have done and as would Jesus' questioner, or instinctively, like the Samaritan) of that law that Jesus quotes first: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.

Tuo Tue 23-Jul-13 22:13:46

Bother... My keyboard is on its last legs and keeps putting in spaces where they are not wanted.

Trying again with the link: The Good Samaritan

niminypiminy Fri 26-Jul-13 07:40:10

Great posts from Stressed and Tuo. I'd just add that although Jesus does say he comes to fulfil the law not to destroy it (I've just been re-reading the Gospel of Matthew and it is very striking how much this is the theme of that gospel), and although it is clear that Jesus was a devout Jew, in other respects he makes a huge challenge to the Judaism of his day.

One of the themes of the Old Testament is the dawning realisation on the part of the Israelites that they have to be a holy people. Pleasing God isn't simply a matter of offering sacrifices in the temple, but of dedicating their whole lives to God, and of living in a holy (meaning set apart for God) way. Holiness was about an entire way of life, and its rules were set down in the Mosaic code.

When Jesus does is to challenge first century ideas about the holy life being about strict adherence to the code, and particularly to its provisions about purity and impurity. It would have been impossible for many people to have kept these (all agricultural workers, for instance), so many Jews would have been unclean, and so unholy -- and would have been unable to ritually clean themselves.

If you look at Jesus's actions and his parables, time and time again he challenges the holiness practices of his time. He touches lepers and haemorrhaging women -- people so disgustingly unclean that they would have contaminated anybody that touched them. He seeks out the physically maimed and touches them (not only that, he cures them with his own spit!). He seeks out people shouting out obscenities and blasphemies, and talks to them. He seeks out not-us people like Samarians, and he seeks out people working for the occupying enemy, like tax collectors, and he will even heal Romans (that is, the hated occupying forces). And what is more, he does all this on the holy day. And then he goes on to say that the whole basis of holiness, of keeping oneself clean for God is completely wrong: it is not what goes into us that makes us unclean, it is what comes out of us.

The depth of this challenge cannot be underestimated. Jesus is taking 1st century Judaism and turning it round -- stripping it back to the basics and saying 'don't live like that -- live like this'. And the way of life he lives out is crazily revolutionary: seek out the outcasts, seek out the people no one else wants, touch them, treat them as your family; give away everything; forgive and forgive and forgive; become a servant of the lowest; model yourself on the powerless; love as if it was the only thing of any importance. It's so radical that it's no wonder it got up the nose of the Jewish establishment of his day (all those Pharisees), and it's no wonder that none us who follow him can manage to keep with the programme!

stressedHEmum Fri 26-Jul-13 09:00:37

Tuo and niminy, what brilliant posts. They mirror what I think exactly. Jesus was a devout Jew but his understanding of what that meant was so different from what the religious leaders of the time thought that it's hard to get a handle on. I actually love the bit where He says that it's what comes out of us that makes us unclean, not what goes in. You can be as "holy" and "pious" as you like, but if you don't speak and act in a holy and loving way, it's all a sham, really and vice-versa.

it's the opposite way around that I think many Christians struggle with. Lots of people are quick to judge people by the way they dress, the food they eat, their haircut, tattoos or whatever, and they forget to look at the way that person lives. It's a good job that God sees what's in our hearts and looks beyond our physical circumstances.

Tuo Fri 26-Jul-13 13:31:23

Thanks niminy, that's really helpful. Your last two paragraphs really chime with some of what I was feeling when I was in Jerusalem... such a troubled place, but that kind of inclusiveness and crossing of boundaries gives some cause for hope, maybe.

Stressed couldn't agree more.

I wanted to ask crescentmoon about the way in which ideas about our role in society (or our commitment towards others in our community) is expressed in Islam. I think that the general image we often get (though the media and so on) is one that's all about individual rules (you must pray in this way, you must cover your head, or whatever...), whereas I know from a few conversations with colleagues that there is definitely a social impulse as well (e.g. a colleague told me that one of her parents has a medical condition which means that it's not safe for them to fast in Ramadan, so instead they make food for poor people in their town and do other acts of charity). Can you tell us more about this aspect?

stressedHEmum Fri 26-Jul-13 14:53:17

I think that there is a great social imperative for Muslims as well, Tuo. Alms -giving is one of the pillars of Islam, I think. When I was in Egypt on holiday (I know, but my experience if Islam is very limited), our tour guide was very keen to talk about his religion and the links with Christianity and Judaism. He, and everyone that he knew, gave a percentage directly from their wages in some way to allow the church to help the disadvantaged.

The picture of Islam painted in our media is so skewed and unbalanced, it's really hard for people who live in a place where there aren't any Muslims (like me) to really get a proper idea and that then causes fear, resentment and mistrust. People are afraid of what they don't understand (this is at the root of the terrible, terrible sectarianism you get around here, too, as far as I can see.) It's very sad.

crescentmoon Sat 27-Jul-13 10:13:54

you dont know how much i appreciate that tuo and stressed that you are able and willing to look beyond the caricature. im off for the weekend so wont be able to answer questions until monday but just wanted to write that in quickly!

crescentmoon Sat 27-Jul-13 10:14:59

meanwhile hopefully some other people will come along and answer those questions too! have a great weekend everyone

niminypiminy Sat 27-Jul-13 11:58:52

One of the most amazing acts of love and charity I have ever witnessed was a couple of years ago when the English Defence League held a march in Cambridge to protest against the mosque being built here. The members of the mosque responded by cooking food and offering to feast the marchers. It still brings tears to my eyes to think of it. And personally, one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me was when I was pregnant and hungry, and had my lunch on the tray of a canteen I used to go to near work, and opened my purse and found I hadn't any money at all. I burst into tears and a Muslim woman came over, gave me a tissue and five pounds to pay for the meal. I bless her to this day.

Tuo Sat 27-Jul-13 16:12:24

Need a 'like' button for your post, niminy... smile

Have a lovely weekend crescentmoon.

madhairday Sat 27-Jul-13 20:46:23

Some lovely, lovely posts here.

Sorry I've not joined in as much, but reading eagerly.

Lovely post about Jesus turning round 1st c Judaism, niminy. smile

niminypiminy Mon 29-Jul-13 09:39:18

Reflecting on my own story about the woman who bought me lunch, it strikes me that of course I knew she was a Muslim because she was wearing the hijab. It seems to me that Muslim women, in particular, take upon themselves the responsibility of being publicly religious, of saying 'I am a person of faith', in a way that we who are Christian don't have to do. We can hide; we can pass for secular. It seems to me that we have something to admire and to learn here about what it means to walk openly with your faith through your daily life.

crescentmoon Mon 29-Jul-13 23:53:56

back again! i wish i could have 'liked' your post too niminy. two things i read that were really encouraging last week from our christian fellows were the archbishop of canterbury speaking out against mosque attacks (read here and the archbishop's words later on in the week setting the church against firms like Wonga. the latter had me saying 'bravo' in my heart actually! i thought then it was a great thing for religion in the UK and showed another side of the message of Jesus that many non christians including myself dont see often.

"I wanted to ask crescentmoon about the way in which ideas about our role in society (or our commitment towards others in our community) is expressed in Islam"

alot of islam is about the rights that society and the community has on the individual. the rights of one's parents, children, rights of one's spouse, one's relatives, your next door neighbours, the poor in your community, the oppressed, each of these categories has teachings in the Quran and also in the traditions of Muhammad (pbuh). the rights of guests and the rights of travellers and the rights of friends and even the rights of enemies. islam sets out the rights of individuals but also has a group orientation.

with charity there are many encouragements about it in the Quran and narrations of Muhammad (pbuh). the highest ideal is to give charity - sadaqah- without seeking anything except the face of God. not the pleasure of God, but to feed the poor and needy just for the chance of seeing the face of God. the highest ideal in islam is that, without thinking of paradise or hell. the great muslim ascetic Rabia Al Adawiyya used to expound alot on this:

"Everyone prays to You from fear of the Fire;
And if You do not put them in the Fire,
This is their reward.
Or they pray to You for the Garden,
Full of fruits and flowers.
And that is their prize.
But I do not pray to You like this,
For I am not afraid of the Fire,
And I do not ask You for the Garden.
But all I want is the Essence of Your Love,
And to return to be One with You,""

that is about people who are motivated purely by the love of God.

then for people who are not as high minded as that is the reward of paradise. in the Quran its stated several times that giving charity - sadaqah- is something that never diminishes wealth and that it will be repaid with interest - though interest is forbidden in the temporary world - in the hereafter. 'who will lend to God a goodly loan?'. feeding the poor and hungry is a way to earn the love of God -even when you do not have enough food yourself - that is 'the steep path' (to heaven). and something that is returned 'with interest' multiple times. but you have to believe that you will see it in the hereafter!

for people who are not motivated by that then there are the statements by Muhammad (pbuh) that charity extinguishes the anger of God (thats where I am spiritually tbh!).
so when one feels far away from God than giving charity or alms can purify you and bring you closer. that is the point of the annual 'zakat' tax - which is the 3rd pillar of islam and its compulsory compared to sadaqah which is not.
its purpose is purification of one's wealth and is paid on gold, savings, property etc in order to 'clear' any of that wealth of any sin.
(zakah calculator can be found on lots of websites including this one www.islamic-relief.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/zakat/) its due on every individual but people can choose how to discharge it, some send the money abroad and increasingly some give it in the UK. but the Quran specifies who it is to be paid for (the categories are mentioned in the link) and so whichever of those groups can be found can be given the zakat.

in the old days zakah used to be collected by the muslim authorities and then redistributed as an early form of the welfare state - paid by the ones who have money to the poor who have no money. but now long gone away from the days of centralised collection the distribution of the zakah system is far more diffuse and there are a myriad of muslim charities, just as christian or jewish charities, that deal with zakah and sadqah.

as we are in ramadan there is a compulsory alms given also at the end of ramadan for every household - its called the zakat-ul-fitr and is paid based on how many people in your family. its purpose is to feed the poor on the day of Eid and is usually collected by mosques who set the zakat-ul-fitr amount - this year £4 per person. not a huge amount but muhammad (pbuh) said its purpose was to 'purify' ones ramadan of any incorrect actions.
www.islamic-relief.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/zakat/zakat-ul-fitr/

there are some 'sins' that though God can forgive the process of seeking forgiveness involves performing some type of charity as expiation - the old concept of sacrifice. in the Quran breaking a promise with God's name requires the freeing of a slave, feeding 10 poor people or if one cannot afford that then fasting 3 days.
during ramadan for each day that is not fasted with no proper reason one must pay 'kaffarah' (expiation). it is to either free a slave (not really relevant anymore in the 21st century), feed 60 poor people or fast 60 consecutive days. in the UK as the amount to feed a poor person has been set at £4 then it is £240 per day of missed fasts - no one oversees the payment it is between you and God and it is still obligatory to make up each day of the ramadan one missed!

as your friend said with respect to her elderly parents/sick parents tuo, people who are too ill to fast ramadan and would be too weak to fast later on in the year can instead feed a poor person for each day of ramadan they miss. this is established in the Quran not as a punishment - like 'kaffarah' above - but as a ransom/substitution called fidya. it can be either done by money - where in the UK it is set at £4 each day to feed a poor person - or by cooking the food yourself and feeding the poor/homeless. this year i am paying fidya for the ramadan fasts i am missing due to pregnancy but the precise rules are based on which school of orthodox sunni law one is following (another topic for another day).

there is no concept of tithing to a mosque in sunni islam as in shia islam. in the UK with sunni mosques we more often than not rely upon the generosity of wealthy muslim philanthropists rather than the congregation to raise money for the mosque. i think that has its drawbacks as those mosques are often run like benevolent gulf dictatorships - iv always admired the titheing system in churches as iv always related it to being more democratic? mosques often raise money for particular causes but membership of a mosque is far more fluid than membership of a synagogue or a church so it would be difficult to rely on titheing, whereas shia mosques have the titheing concept built in ontop of the zakah system.

crescentmoon Tue 30-Jul-13 00:15:28

what i find so interesting on this thread is the history and the time that you all talk of in the story of Jesus. the roman occupiers, the greek language, the jewish priests etc this is so new and different to me as im so much more acquainted with the story of how islam came up and what was going on in the arabian peninsula around it.

i said earlier that how we perceive God in Islam is abit different to how God is perceived in Christianity. one of the names of God is 'Al Wadud' - The Loving. but it is not the only attribute of God as in Christianity. and i have always thought the differences are because of the different audiences that Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon both of them) were speaking to.

the 6th century arabs were very completely different to the 1st century Jews. Jesus' people were already monotheistic, and they were firm on that, and they followed the holy laws strictly and Jesus came to relieve them and guide them to a middle position.

but the 6th century arabs of the time of Muhammad (pbuh) were not like their semitic cousins. they were paganistic, they believed in a creator god but this was a minor character in their pantheon of gods - they believed the world came from something but once it was made that god faded away and other gods came to the fore. even with their plethora of gods, they still believed they were laws unto themselves.

there was no central authority and ones tribe and its standing was paramount, the only social security in the desert was the blood feud, if you didnt have a tribe that had enough clout to avenge your death then people would kill you and yours with impunity.

the large wealthy tribes or, more important than even them, the tribes with many warriors had the power to force their will on smaller weaker tribes and in the desert it was survival of the fittest, and the strong ate the weak. because there was no standard law then vendetta could involve various tribes and the arabian tribes were involved in constant warfare with each other. large segments of society: people from 'weak' tribes, orphans, women, the poor, slaves, were just easy fodder, oppressed, taken advantage of or ignored simply because they didnt have the 'back up' to fight their corner. so when Muhammad (pbuh) began preaching to the Arabs it was to a hedonistic and paganistic people, and so in his message, contrasting with the one of Jesus of 'God is Love', he told the arabs to achknowlege and also, be wary of the One who created them, and that belief in the Creator wasnt just a statement but a moral imperative. like the jewish prophets preached.

he taught that God was the guarantor of everyone's rights so weak people (those with no connections) shouldnt need the support of a strong tribe or supporter in order to have dignity or access their rights or help. just that alone was a huge challenge to the status quo in arabian society, let alone preaching monotheism to a city that had profited very well from the business of idol worship with all the visitors from other parts of arabia. the passion for Muhammad (pbuh) from muslims was because he took on so many vulnerable group's causes and plights, made the message of God about justice as well and that everyone in society had rights, not just the cream of Makkan or Arabian society. the least part of the religion is not to harm others, all of your good deeds can be nullified if you harm people. even owing money can bar you from heaven - which paradoxically, creates far more extensive financial trust networks amongst muslims! even during the time of the prophet (pbuh) there was the phenomenon of the street angel, house devil, so the message was about being righteous and 'sound' with everyone - you cannot do loads of worship adn good deeds and then ignore your poor cousin or hungry parents. its something thats talked alot about in friday sermons actually!

Tuo Tue 30-Jul-13 23:22:25

Fantastic posts, crescentmoon, and a lot to take in. It has been really interesting and enlightening for me not only to see a series of rules and regulations, as it were, but to see where they come from and what the purpose of them is. So, for instance, it makes a really big difference to understand that being able to replace fasting with a payment is not just paying to be 'let off the hook' as it were, but has a practical, charitable purpose, which is totally in line with the spiritual reasons behind the fast itself.

It was also interesting that you said that 'membership of a mosque is far more fluid than membership of a synagogue or a church'. Does that mean there isn't a strong sense of 'belonging' to a particular mosque or to the group of people who meet and worship there? It seems to me that this is quite important to Christians - perhaps because Jesus said 'where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them' (Matthew 18:20), giving importance to this idea of community...

I loved that quote from Rabia Al Adawiyya. I have real difficulty imagining Hell and Heaven in the traditional way as 'places' of pain or reward. So for me Heaven is precisely about seeing/experiencing the 'essence of God's love' and about being one with God, and Hell is about the absence of that vision of and oneness with Love...

crescentmoon Thu 01-Aug-13 12:49:52

if only it were letting off the hook! then the rich would pay for the poor to eat and lose the point of the fast and it would be something only people who couldnt afford to pay the kaffara could do! but fasting in ramadan is obligatory, for the pleasure of God, the rewards of faith and also the 'keeping the consequences of sin away from oneself'.

actually alot of non practising muslims who do not do the other pillars e.g. the 5 daily prayers or zakat do join in with ramadan and fast the whole month. it is different to Lent which is quite solemn. Ramadan is very joyous both in the spiritual - the rewards for actions are multipled upto a thousand times more, gates of the garden are flung open - and the physical way (eat, drink at night etc).

the sense of community in islam is more to do with the people who make up the 'ummah' rather than the places they congregate at specifically. its reinforced several times through the 5 pillars and also other parts of islam. the prayers in islam are ritual and so, with a few minor physical differences its pretty much the same in any mosque all over the world. whatever your political/social/religious opinions you can pray together as the prayer itself is formulaic - and by that its unifying set out by muhammad (pbuh). only the quran is recited during the prayer there are no sermons so its easy to join a group for prayer. is it the same ease to join in a church service or a synagogue?

the friday sermon is abit more complicated and where you want to go for that depends on what type of person you are. and, more importantly, on what type of people the mosque committee are made up of. every individual mosque has its own committee that run it and sort out the finances and employ the imam - there isnt the larger organisational hierarchial structure found in the running of CofE/catholic churches. there are still donations to mosques - its a praiseworthy action - but its usually seen as more of a duty upon the wealthier members of the community to provide it for the poorer members.this is what i think led to this saying...

'when the rich give up the zakah (the third pillar) the poor give up the salah (the second pillar)'.

as for rabia al adawiyya she is amazing with an amazing life story. born into a poor family she was captured by robbers and sold into slavery, which after she reached adulthood her master freed her because of her piety and she lived out her days teaching that God should be loved for God's own sake not out of fear or reward. she was so well known that prominent scholars and even the ruler of Basra proposed marriage to her but she said her heart was already satisfied with just God as her companion. she has a mosque that runs a soup kitchen and hospital for the poor named after her in Cairo, Egypt, and she's closest to the concept of saint in islam.

as for hell, i found this article very interesting:

www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/11/15/the_curious_economic_effects_of_religion/

i know that in islam, it probably helps with financial transactions and money movement in regions of the muslim world far away from legal/judicial enforceability of claims. even here in the UK, i often suspect it is the exacting God of 'for every atom's weight of good you shall see it, and for every atom's weight of evil you shall see it' that keeps people scrupulous in money savings schemes run in different muslim communities across the UK where there are no contracts - and also because of the general prohibition against interest.

heres a question.

does it matter in christianity whether something is done for love or awe or fear as long as it is performed? what about in judaism? we believe the more 'harder' an action is to undertake, or refrain from, the more reward it earns for the person. 'no effort is ever lost'. with certain parts of my life, i do not need words of the quran or narrations of the prophet (pbuh) to act the 'right' way, its easy, but in other parts of my life, or sometimes with the same people at other times, .eg dealing with ageing parents, sometimes its a combination of hope in God's reward/mercy or fear God will turn away from me if i turn away from my family that keeps me going when sometimes its just too complicated and fraught!

stressedHEmum Fri 02-Aug-13 09:44:32

Fascinating posts, crescent, and a lot to think about. It's really good to be able to see how Islam works and how it is so much more than just a list of "rules". Giving charity should be a joyful thing because it helps both the giver and the receiver. I don't know much about the history of Islam, either. it must have been a daunting task for Muhammed to try to unify the tribes in mono-theism and to try to change attitudes to other people. God was surely working through him and upholding him as well as opening the hearts and minds of those who heard his message.

I thought that it was quite interesting, as well, about people not being attached to any particular mosque. It can be a bit like that with church, although people here tend to be members of their local church. We can still attend church anywhere we like, so if we go on holiday, or whatever, we can go along to the church where we are. CoS services tend to be much the same where ever you go - although some are more modern than others. They are mostly a kind of hymn sandwich - hymn, prayer, hymn reading, hymn, sermon, hymn, offering, hymn. (Is there singing in a mosque?) So, it's quite easy just to slot into an unfamiliar church. You will always be made welcome, too, which helps.

In answer to your question, the ideal in Christianity is that we do things purely out of love, for God and for our fellow man. We do them to draw closer to God and out of love for love's sake.

it wasn't always like that, though. In my flavour of Christianity, historically there was a lot of emphasis on fear of God and on his wrath and punishment. Scottish presbyterianism has its roots firmly in Calvinism with all its fire and brimstone. People were taught to fear God rather than love Him and to act out of that fear to avoid His punishment and an eternity in the fiery pit of doom. There was an obsession with sin and with "missing the mark". Nowadays, thankfully, we focus on God's love and forgiveness and we no longer believe in the evil that is predestination.

we believe (in my brand) that we cannot earn salvation. There is nothing that we can do, works wise, that will gain us the grace of God. We do works solely (ideally) from love for God and through the power of His spirit working within us. Salvation comes from believing in Jesus and accepting him as our Saviour - which should motivate us to other things.

it's my belief that "good works" help us become more the person that God would like us to be, that they spring from His grace and that they allow us to draw nearer to Him. I also think that these "works" allow others to see the face of Christ through us, whether they are believers or not, and that others can be touched by God's love through our actions. we should act out of love because that's what Jesus did - His whole life was an act of love. it's an impossible goal to attain, but that shouldn't stop us trying.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.… 1st John 4:18-20

crescentmoon Sun 04-Aug-13 10:16:03

i really love the posts here by you and others as they really have me thinking about different perspectives and ways of looking at things.

those verses from 1st John were very beautiful. i think its so good to read and hear things like that as we remember what our main aims are - striving to get to God. iv said this to you before stressed but when younger i was always reading or learning about what the differences were between the Bible and the Quran. but since being a regular on the spirituality threads i often get surprised by how similar certain teachings are by the verses people post - if not parallelled between the two books then some strike a chord from narrations i know of muhammad (pbuh).

i definitely get the points made about why the belief in salvation by grace. there is also a saying in islam that nobody gets salvation except by God's mercy which is used the way Christians say grace. (that took me a while to understand by the way but i kept reading posts with the word grace in, and realised christians use it in the same contexts we use mercy!)

A’isha (rah) narrates that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Perform your deeds properly and in moderation, and know that one’s deeds will not cause anyone of you to enter Heaven, and that the most beloved of actions to God are the most consistent ones even if little in amount.” [Bukhari]

Abu Hurayra (rah) narrates that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “There is no one whose deeds will cause him to enter Heaven. It was said, ‘Not even you, Messenger of God?’ He (pbuh) said, ‘Not even me unless my Lord envelops me with His mercy.’” [Muslim]

the reason why we always follow the name of muhammad with (peace be upon him) is that its a prayer for him, as he said of himself that even his works wouldnt save him, it would only be by the mercy of God. so its a prayer for him - the full prayer is 'may the peace and blessings of God be upon him'.
when we try and follow the teachings of the religion it is done with humility, because in a famous narration of his not even all the acts of the most pious man could even measure up to the gift of eyes that see that God gives. (when the pious man asked that his deeds be weighed against his two eyes, the scale tipped so heavily to the latter because the gift of sight was so heavy by itself). but still, we are told to try. and hope that God accepts those deeds.

www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+2%3A14-26&version=NKJV

these 12 verses from the Bible James 2:14-26, are alot of what the Quran and Islam is about. the minimum a muslim should keep to is the 10 commandments of Moses. but they are mainly about 'refraining' from things, whereas there are also alot of positive acts and deeds we are also encouraged 'to do', the least of which is the 5 pillars.

in the sufi tradition Jesus is always held up as the most ascetic of all the prophets, and as sufism is really the spiritual heart of Islam alot of teachings mention Jesus as well as Muhammad (pbuh). i read a poem recently by the sufi ascetic Rumi, about the beauty and reward of fasting. and i thought it would be nice to share with our sisters here on this thread as it mentions the table spread from heaven that came for Jesus and his disciples....

"There's a hidden sweetness in the stomach's emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and the belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you
run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, read secrets with the reed pen.
When you're full of food and drink, an ugly metal
statue sits where your spirit should. When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon's ring. Don't give it
to some illusion and lose your power,
but even if you have, if you've lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.
A table descends to your tents,
Jesus' table,
spread with other food, better than the broth of cabbages."

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