A Christian dedicating his time to the Qu’ran? Find out why!

We’ve not long finished the month of Ramadan – a holy month for Muslims across the globe which marks the start of the the period in which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) received the Holy Qur’an from God Himself. This period is obviously one of reflection and unity for the billions of Muslims across the globe. Yet this month was not just a time of great community for Muslims both in the UK, but in fact the many diverse faith communities in multifaith Britain. Despite some terrible tragedies here in the UK which have recently taken place during Ramadan itself, I was delighted to attend a number of interfaith/community gatherings and witness the heartwarming sense of love, unity, community and friendship amongst Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

What’s more, in the run up to Ramadan itself, I was honoured to meet a brother who was making a particularly curious stance of unity. You see, whilst many Muslims will spend the month of Ramadan reading the Qur’an, this gentleman was on an exploratory mission of the Qur’an teaching others about its values and content. OK. You might say. Seems normal… But wait for this: he’s a Christian. Although far from a stranger to this book, Julian Bond launched his blog “How to Read the Qur’an” to get to grips with Islamophobic rhetoric out there and spread a message of peace and unity.

“A Christian!?” many may say, perplexed. Well yes, the Qur’an is not off limits! Anyone can read it! But why? Well, here’s what Julian says about why he’s been reading and teaching others about how to read the Qur’an:

I will be writing and posting a series of blogs during Ramadan 2017… to encourage people to read it and, particularly, to help them not misread it. I have been treated as an ‘honorary Muslim’ for years and welcomed into all kinds of Muslim-only/majority spaces where I have sometimes been the only Christian present.

I have read the Qur’an many times since 2000, in a number of different translations. I have been a habitual reader of it… I know that I have read it more and am more familiar with it than a lot of Muslims… I have even had people attempting to ‘convert’ me when they have read less of the Qur’an in an accessible tongue than I have…

What really fires me up is Islamophobes and extremists who choose the most extreme, and wrong, readings of the Qur’an, when a proper reading of the Qur’an highlights that they are completely off the ‘straight path’…

Julian’s message is one we should all take head of: it is only by learning about other faiths and cultures that we can built unity, dispel myths, counteract hate speech and broaden our own minds. You see, “How to Read the Qur’an” isn’t a proselytising mission -it’s an educational mission which reveals a lot about not just Islam but interfaith relations themselves.

For Muslims, Jews, Christians, those of all faiths and none: take a look, read, comment like and share your thoughts! And for Muslims: learn about another faith. Pick up a copy of the Torah or New Testament. Learn about your colleagues and neighbours and you’ll find out you’ve got more in common than you realise. As Jo Cox said – as was remembered during the Great Get Together in the month of Ramadan itself:

“…we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Peace, salam shalom! ♡

Credits, acknowledgments and further information:

Thank you to brother Julian Bond for taking the time to meet with me and for being such a great Muslim ally! It was lovely to meet you and hear about your inspiring work. I wish you all the best in your current and future initiatives.

Find out more about Julian Bond – follow him on Twitter!

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Julian Bond currently leads the Methodist Church’s grant team and is involved in a range of interfaith activities both online and offline, working with a local dialogue group in Leighton Buzzard (London) and occasionally organising dialogue events at Abrar House. Also volunteering at St Ethelburga’s (the Centre for Reconciliation and Peace), Julian was previous Director of the Christian Muslim Forum for nine years, where he edited the Ethical Witness Guidelines and led its leadership programme. Julian also spent two years on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christian-Muslim Initiative.

Image credits: Heidi Lalci (CC) (featured image), Julian Bond (C)

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Ten faiths, one message…

Today – 27th January – is Holocaust Memorial Day. On this day we remember the barbaric massacre of millions of Jews (alongside other people classed as “undesirables” by Hitler), barely one century ago. As we are called to remember the genocide and we repeat: “Never again“, we must truly reflect. For the utterance of these two words have not stopped the violence, the prejudice, the bloodshed. War, torture, genocide…is carrying on as we speak.

In light of this, I’d like us on reflect on the following – especially as we remember the past and we envisage an unknown bleak future in the current socio-political climate and the fear rising from Trump’s new role as POTUS: we are the people. Humanity is one and we are responsible for the way we treat others and the way we respond to hate rhetoric. Regardless of our differences we must unite, remembering our similarities and enjoining in good. Are we all really that different?! No! Embrace your differences – it’s what makes you unique. The world would be so dull if we all came from one mono culture! However, at the same time: unite in solidarity.

With this in mind, I’d also like us to remember one thing in particular: The Golden Rule. The teaching of: treat others the way you wish to be treated! Whatever your faith, it’s there! And wouldn’t the world be a safer, happier, more tolerant place to be if we all remembered this “rule”? I’m convinced so! So here’s The Golden Rule according to the world’s 10 largest faith groups (listed in ascending order of population size). Enjoy!

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Shintoism

  • ~4 million followers worldwide (0.01% of the world’s population)

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Jainism

  • 4.5 million followers worldwide (0.06% of the world’s population)

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Confucianism

  • 7 million followers worldwide (0.1% of the world’s population)

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Bahá’í Faith

  • ~8 million followers worldwide (0.15% of the world’s population)

-And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself.-NEW.jpg

Judaism

  • 20 million followers worldwide (0.3% of the world’s population)

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Sikhism

  • 30 million followers worldwide (0.4% of the world’s population)

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Buddhism

  • 400 million followers worldwide (7% of the world’s population)

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Hinduism

  • 1 billion followers worldwide (15% of the world’s population)

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Islam

  • 1.6 billion followers worldwide (23% of the world’s population)

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Christianity

  • 2.3 billion followers worldwide (32% of the world’s population)

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So, there we have it: 10 faiths, one rule, one humanity. If we really want “never again” to mean something in terms of action, then we need to respect our differences yet remind ourselves that we all have the same obligations towards ourselves and our global brothers and sisters. Ask yourself this when you’re in a situation: Would I want this? How would I feel in such situation…?

Salam! Shalom! Peace! ♥

Sources and credits:

Statistics from: Waterlow, R. (2017) ‘Top 10 Largest Religions in the World‘, World’s Top Most

Original photographs:

Feature image: Leo Reynolds

All images are edited versions of photographs first published under a Creative Commons licence, unless otherwise stated (see credits). For terms of usage visit Flickr.

Photo editing and design: Elizabeth Arif-Fear

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Spain: Why is one acceptable and not the other?

Easter week in Malaga (Spain) saw the traditional religious-cultural processions and with that the traditional robes and face veils. Please note: these facial coverings and robes are nothing to do with the KKK.

However, what struck me – living in Spain and seeing the different garments – was this:

Why is this acceptable:

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Elizabeth Arif-Fear (c)

And not this?

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Image credit: Rana Ossama (Flickr), Fixers (Flickr), Lain (Flickr)

Why is this acceptable, when I, like many Muslims in Spain, faced prejudice, intolerance and shock whilst living in Spain?

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Elizabeth Arif-Fear (c)

The answer is that to the State:

Islam is not acceptable 

Nuns covering their heads and bodies shows piety yet Muslim women in similar garments represent oppression

Please let’s squish the misconceptions, ignore the lies and get to the facts.

Veiling is a free practice in Islam (as is belief itself) and anyone who forces others to cover is acting against Islam. Veiling is for religious perseverance and modesty. Freedom of religion is a universal right, and we should all have the right to live in a free, tolerant and accepting society. This works for Christian, secular, Muslim, all current States around the world – even through the reality is shockingly different. In fact, the reality is that Christianity and Islam are actually from the same Abrahamic family.

The battle for freedom of religion, peace, tolerance of others and merging of new intercultural and inter-religious identities is ongoing. Spain: hypocrisy and double standards are not a step forward…

Salam!

 

Image credit/copyright:

Feature image: Elizabeth Arif-Fear, Rana Ossama (Flickr)

 

Interfaith solidarity is not about stripping Muslim women of their identity

#Muslim, #British, #hijabi and proud. Straight to the point on what interfaith is and isn’t.

*Feature image: shared under a Creative Commons licence

exiledheroine

Today, more than ever, anti-Islamic rhetoric has been widely accepted in the media and the result of this rhetoric has been violence and hatred against Muslims, primarily Muslim women who wear the hijab. The hijab, first and foremost, is a representation of Muslim identity. Many Muslim women in America have reported physical assaults and verbal abuse as a result of the popular Islamic bigotry expressed in the media. It is challenging for us Muslim women to come up on top and show our strength against these powerful figures who continue to belittle us, and it is articles like As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the hijab in the name of interfaith solidarity that was recently published in The Washington Post that is backpedaling the progress Muslim women have been trying to make over the course of these troubling times.

There are many problematic assertions Asra Q…

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Christians and Muslims – brothers of Abraham

A major segment of the world’s population has just celebrated Christmas – the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus on 25th December. Meanwhile, Muslims have just celebrated Mawlid – the birth of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) – which this year fell on December 24th (Christmas Eve). These two figures are pinnacles of the two faiths but how many people know that Muslims also recognise Jesus (Issa) as part of their faithIslam is the only other religion to officially recognise Jesus’ coming and to include recognition of him as a requisite of faith. Muslims love Jesus!

Very little stands between these two faiths. Both Christianity and Islam teach about belief in God – following Him and doing good deeds but what else do the two faiths share? Let’s have a look using scripture from both faiths. Putting differences within faiths aside and using an overview of “standardised beliefs” and scriptural references, here’s a brief guide (in no particular order) to some of the major similarities and differences between the two faithstwo brothers within the same Abrahamic family.

Similarities

  1. God is the sole Creator of the Universe

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isiah, 40: 28)

“Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.” (Qur’an, 112: 1-4)

2. The importance of charity

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs, 19: 17)

“Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.” (Qur’an, 2: 277)

3. Prostration during prayer

“And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.” (Numbers, 20: 6)

“O ye who believe! Bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that ye may prosper.” (Qur’an, 22: 77)

4. Washing before prayer (ablution)

“So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped.” (Samuel II, 12: 20)

“O ye who believe! When ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles.” (Qur’an, 5: 6)

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5. Modesty in behaviour and clothing

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewellery, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (Peter I, 3: 3-4)

“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them […]. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms […] and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments.” (Qur’an, 24: 30-31)

“Every religion has its characteristic, and the characteristic of Islam is modesty.” (al-Muwatta)

6. Head coverings for women

“For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.” (Corinthians I, 11: 16)

“And tell the believing women to […] draw their veils over their bosoms.” (Qur’an, 24: 31)

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7.  The Torah/Bible and their teachings and prophets

Note: Muslims believe in Jesus’ teachings but not the book of the New Testament as such is known today. Muslims believe in the Torah (Old Testament) as a book from God but not as a primary text.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua, 1: 8-9)

“We have sent thee inspiration as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him; We sent inspiration to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David, We gave the Psalms. Of some messengers We have already told thee the story; of others We have not; ― and to Moses Allah spoke direct.” (Qur’an, 4: 163-4)

“[…] his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary. […] Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel.” (Qur’an, 3: 45-8)

8. The importance of marriage and sex within marriage

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, […] orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5: 19-21)

“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (Corinthians I, 7:2 )

“[…] (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time― when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues. If anyone rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good).” (Qur’an, 5: 5)

9. Fasting/sacrifice

“That your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew, 6: 18)

“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint. (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; […] it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” (Qur’an, 2: 183-4)

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As you can see there’s lots of references in the Qur’an to past Christian teachings and prophets. So, what are the main differences and what exactly do they entail?

Differences

  1. Jesus

Christians believe Jesus is divine/the Son of God whereas according to Islam, God is One and has never appeared in human form. In Islam, Jesus is a prophet just like Moses, Abraham and Mohammed (pbut).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John, 3: 16)

“[…] Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, […]: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One Allah: glory be to him: (for Exalted is He) above having a son. […] Christ disdaineth not to serve and worship Allah […].” (Qur’an, 4: 171-2)

2. The Holy Spirit – completing the concept of the Trinity

As outlined – Christians believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew, 28: 19)

Muslims however believe that  there is no Trinity. It is believed that according to the Bible: “spirit” refers to Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) – the last prophet of Islam who brought the Qur’an (last scripture):

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you unto all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me.” (John, 16: 12-14)

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3. The Passion of the Christ

Christians believe in Christ’s death and  resurrection:

“And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.” (Luke, 23: 33)

“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus […].” (Acts, 4: 33)

According to Islam, Jesus was not crucified on the cross and was not resurrected (however Jesus will return):

“And (then unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah. Behold! Allah said: “O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject Faith, to the Day of Resurrection; then shall ye all return unto Me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.” (Qur’an, 3: 54-5)

4. Original sin

The concept of original sin in Christianity does not exist in Islam. In Christianity, Eve is the one who was tempted by the Devil and all human beings are all born sinful:

“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” (Genesis, 3: 17)

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm, 51: 5)

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans, 5: 12)

In Islam, Adam and Eve were both equally guilty of sinning but each human is born sinless and pure. You then become responsible for your own deeds – good and bad.

 “But as soon as the two had tasted [the fruit] of the tree, they became conscious of their nakedness […].” (Qur’an, 7: 22)

“Who receives guidance, receives it for his own benefit: who goes astray does so to his own loss: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another…” (Qur’an, 17: 15)

5. The Devil

In Christianity the Devil (Satan) is a fallen angel whereas in Islam, the Devil (Shaytan) is not a fallen angel but a jinn (made of fire) who refused to bow down to Adam with the Angels according to God’s command. In Islam, angels have no free will so cannot disobey God.

“He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’” (Luke, 10: 18)

“(Iblis) said: “I am better than he: Thou createdst me from fire, and him Thou createdst from clay.” (Qur’an, 38: 76)

So, as you can see, there are a few major differences but these stem on differences on the same topic/issue – not completely different concepts. There are far more similarities. Early Muslims  sought refuge from an Ethiopian Christian king and when asked about Jesus and Mary, the king was astonished. Check out the video clip from the film “The Message” (Akkad, 1976) detailing such event:

Today, there are many Muslim-Christian interfaith families through marriage between Muslim men and Christian women. The relation between the two faiths is a vast topic but I wanted to give a brief outline and highlight the important relation between the two faiths. When building bridges, you focus on similarities rather than differences. When “otherising” you focus on the “strange” and “different“. Christians and Muslims are all part of the same Abrahamic family and in times of hardship and discrimination we should stick together not divide amongst ourselves.

Salam!

For further information:

Qur’an online and further information

Bible online

Image credits:

Free Images.com (Creative Commons)