Saturday, April 29, 2017

Muslim/Christian dialogue encouraged

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Joyce Sasse, Spiritual Gleanings - In the first century, when many Christian churches became mosques, few changes had to be made in the sanctuaries. Through the centuries Christian communities have existed within Islamic countries. What, now, feeds distrust, fear and antagonism between some members of the two Faith groups?  While so much of our media covers the negatives, I’m glad to hear about Mustafa Akyol’s book “The Islamic Jesus”. What can Islam learn from Jesus, he asks through the subtitle “How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims”?

In an interview, Akyol talks about how resentments are fed by those who are blind literalists. “Those who want to dictate in the name of God”, he notes, make God an instrument of their arrogance and self-righteousness. They do not see religious pluralism to be a good thing.

But for those “who leave the ultimate judgements to God and live and let live”, different religious traditions can exist alongside each other. He quotes the Koran: “If God willed, He would have made you a single community.”

He suggests commonness with Jesus’ regard for sacred law, is an example - that law is not an end in itself, “but is a means to human happiness and flourishing”. It is the intention behind the law that is its essence. Sharia, for a Muslim, has to do with protecting the sanctity of marriage and the family. And the commitment to the Caliphate should be about “that which is within you”.

He reminds his own people that medieval times, the “golden age of Islam”, was a time “when the Muslim world was more advanced than Europe” in many fields. Their strength grew out of their interaction with the peoples around them. Cosmopolitanism was an asset. “When we become more open-minded”, his reminder is that a renaissance of Islam will again take place.

I look forward to reading more of Mustafa Akyol’s columns and books, for I believe he is respected for the way he tries to promote religious tolerance and understandings. He searches for shared common ground.

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