When I wrote my last blog, Religious Co-existence and Challenges of 21st Century, I was recovering from a bad flu and preparing for a trip to Washington DC, so I made it as simple as possible. I was quite surprised by the comments to the blog. I had to read some of them a few times and reread my blog a few times wondering, what did I say that instigated such comments.
To those who went on a fault finding mission to catalog Muslim social ills and argue against religious co-existence, I have discussed this mindset in a blog on Engage Minnesota which can be read here.
We say in Islam, what you see and find is at times a reflection of what you are seeking, and not a reflection of reality. To see and hear reality requires us to put aside our experiences and attachments and embrace principles that God sent down to help guide us to walk in the right path. One of God's names is As Sami, or the one that listens to all. God doesn't just hear what the lips say, but beyond that. He hears our thoughts, our feelings in our hearts, and even our emotions which at times we struggle to put in words. Furthermore, the beauty of God is that He listens to us before He asks us to listen to Him.
"I listen to the prayer of every supplicant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way" (Qur'an 2:186).
At times because we feel heard by God, we assume our feelings and views are then correct and God is on our side. Yet, God listens to all of us, even if we are wrong and misguided. We fail to go beyond being heard by God, to listening to God with humility. Many religious people from all faiths, myself included, are very good at speaking to God and speaking for God without His permission. We end up seeing, hearing and experiencing the false image of faith. But real faith requires us to go beyond our blabber and challenges us to embrace humility and listen to God. Listening to God, means finding the courage to ask God - am I wrong? It is when we learn to with a will listen to His call and trust in God, that we are guided to see, hear and experience the reality of faith, hence walk in the right way and learn to co-exist in peace with one another. The road ahead is a challenging one given our experiences, but we have the potential to rise to the challenge.
I could not attend the event on February 2nd at the Islamic Center of Minnesota but I heard from those who attended that it was a beautiful event that was well attended by people of many faiths.
One of the attendees shared with me that Dr. Ingrid Mattson stated that religion has a unique responsibility to preserve the dignity of children of Adam and promote compassion among each other. She emphasized three concepts that religion provides: transcendence, ethics, and community. While keeping their own unique particulars and traditions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism can produce a common language. A language that gives meaning to life through connection to God and enrich our communities by promoting care for the neighbor. She alluded to the Common Word initiative undertaken by a majority of mainstream Muslim scholars worldwide to find common ground with Judaism and Christianity.