What Christianity and Islam have in common

islam-christianity

Profiles with Christian and Islamic symbols

There are many people today who argue Islam and Christianity are locked in a civilizational war, a view that has become a rationale for a number of the Trump administration’s policies.

This argument, however, is an inaccurate and simplistic assessment of the relationship between these two faiths. Quite distinct from the apocalyptic struggle many espouse, an examination of the foundations of the Islamic faith shows respect for Christianity.

Islam is part of the same Abrahamic tradition as Christianity. Key figures within the Bible — Abraham (Ibrahim), Moses (Musa), Mary (Maryam), and Jesus (Isa) among others — are all respected prophets and figures within Islam. There is a chapter in the Quran about Mary and, within the Quran, Jesus is the only person who can perform miracles.

Within Islam, Christians and Jewish people are therefore treated as “People of the Book” whose rights and religious traditions were to be fully protected as monotheistic faiths with revelations understood to be earlier versions of the same revelation to the Prophet of Islam.

The protection that Christian communities were meant to receive under Islam was enshrined in a letter of protection from Prophet Muhammad to the Christian monks at St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai in the early seventh century. This letter promised the monks that, under Islamic rule, the Christian community, as a “people of the book”, shall have the freedom to practice their religion and be protected from any unlawful interference or molestation, whether in their communities or while traveling. Distinct from a war with Christianity, Prophet Muhammad further stated, “No one shall bear arms against [Christians], but, on the contrary, the [Muslims] shall wage war for them.”

The respect that Muslims have for Jesus in particular is demonstrated by the verses of Hafez, the most famous and beloved of Muslim poets from the 14th century. In one stanza, he writes, “I am a hole in a flute that the breath of Christ moves through/Listen to this music.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TENNESSEAN 

A God by Any Other Name: Evangelicals and Allah (Part III)

In part two of this series we examined early Christian responses to Islam.  We move the story now to America starting with America’s first theological superstar, Jonathan Edwards.

Jonathan Edwards and His Missionary Disciples

 

islam-christianity

Profiles with Christian and Islamic symbols

            Luther’s paradoxical view of Islam as monotheistic and idolatrous; heretical and borderline Christian was echoed in the writings of other Protestant thinkers who followed in Luther’s wake, including America’s celebrated eighteenth century theologian, Jonathan Edwards.  Edwards’ primary focus and passion was revivalism with the belief that what was happening in America during what came to be known as the First Great Awakening would soon break forth in other parts of the world as a herald of the arrival of millennial glory.  This led Edwards to develop a deep interest in other religions in hopes of finding a way to extend revival fervor outside the boundaries of Christendom.

       Edwards read voraciously about other religions; he knew of, tried to get and perhaps         read, many of the travelogues, dictionaries, and encyclopedias of religion available at the        time.  The books included in his ‘catalogue’ include George Sale’s translation of the    Qur’an.[1]

Sale, whose eighteenth century English translation of the Qur’an was the best English rendition of the Arabic original, made no hesitation in promoting the idea that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.   He stated it clearly in his introduction.  “How much soever Muhammadans are to blame in other points,” he said, “they are far from being idolatrous, as some ignorant writers have pretended.”[2]  This sentiment is echoed in Sale’s extensive and relatively accurate (for the time) coverage of the origins and teachings of Islam in the preface to his translation. The assumption throughout is of a common Christian/Muslim deity.

The fact that this was one of Edward’s primary sources for information about Islam suggests that he had access to a far more accurate and thorough treatment of Islamic history and teaching than Luther did.  His interest in other religions also led him to develop his own formulation of the patristic concept of  prisca theologia which says that vestiges of true religion can be discerned in non-Christian religions.[3]  This would indicate that Edwards should have been more open to finding commonalities between Islam and Christianity than Luther had.  But Edwards, like Luther before him as well as many other orthodox Protestants of his era, read Islam primarily through an eschatological lens; the left arm to the Catholic right arm of the anti-Christ. “Edwards’ interest in Islam,” says historian Thomas S. Kidd, “had primarily to do with its place in eschatology, its inferiority to Christianity, and its role in the on-going debates with Deists.  He made Muslims prominent in his millennial theology, arguing that as the millennium approached they would be destroyed.”[4]

FULL ARTICLE FROM ECCLESIO.COM

Promoting Muslim/Christian Reconciliation

Safi-and-Eman-with-Pope-Francis-1-2016by Safi Kakas Co-author of “The Qur’an, A Contemporary Understanding, with References to the Bible”

Since 9/11, Western and Muslim scholarship have characterized the political relationship between the Muslim world and the West as one full of tension and conflict.

Today, fear-based stories about American Muslims have become a daily event, rooted in the notion that Muslims are recent arrivals in America and can’t assimilate; hence, they don’t belong. But for around two million Muslims, America is home.

Is the tension getting any better? Unfortunately, the answer is a firm, “no.” Any acts of terrorism within the United States continue to rekindle the tension and fear within both the Muslim and the non-Muslim American communities.

In this environment, people of faith are called upon to work for reconciliation and to find common ground to allow all of us to live together in peace. In fact, if we are to prevent a much larger disaster from happening, we have no other alternative than to work for better understanding and reconciliation. It is no longer possible to depend solely on America’s long-standing tradition of constitutional rights, tolerance and minority protection.

My Islamic faith has taught me that it is my duty, and I hope the duty of every American of goodwill, to try to work toward peace and true reconciliation. Obviously, there are no guarantees for success as the agenda is often dictated by fanatics. Perhaps, however, it is not that the fanatics are in control, but that we have failed to respond with the love that our Creator has commanded.

After years of trying to build bridges toward others through interfaith dialogue, I thought it would be useful for new bridge builders to have a few insights from my experience on what makes certain efforts work.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

A Muslim immigrant and a Christian pastor find common ground — and try to connect with their Latino neighbors too

Abdul-Dan-1020-1Abdul Taleb has run Mi Carnal market for 12 years. It’s a corner grocery store on busy Foothill Boulevard in East Oakland. People in this low-income neighborhood, known as the San Antonio district, stop in to buy fresh mangoes or cuts of meat.

In this neighborhood, where 42 percent of the residents are foreign-born according to the latest available Census estimates, customers might come from Mexico, Guatemala or Cambodia. East Oakland, the 94601 zip code, is nearly half Latino, 20 percent black and 20 percent Asian. One of Taleb’s customers is Dan Schmitz, who for nearly 30 years has lived in the Oak Park apartments, just a five-minute walk from Mi Carnal.

“I’ve known and shared meals with Abdul for a long time,” says Schmitz. “That’s just part of the nature of the neighborhood.”

The two men often engage in the kind of chitchat that usually takes place between a shopkeeper and a customer: the weather or the price of milk. And it might have stayed that way, had it not been for Donald Trump winning the presidential election last November. Only after the election did both Schmitz and Taleb realize how much immigration policy factored into their spiritual callings.

Taleb himself is an immigrant; he came to America at age five. His grandfather was the trailblazer of the family, leaving Yemen for the US in the 1970s. The older Taleb first worked as a farmhand in Fresno, and eventually moved to Oakland where he opened a pair of Mi Carnal grocery stores. These are the stores Abdul Taleb now runs.

“I grew up in the neighborhood,” Taleb explains. “I have managed to learn the Spanish language very well so I can communicate with a lot of my customers and friends.”

Schmitz watched Taleb grow up. He came to the neighborhood in 1989 to volunteer with a Christian charity. Now, Schmitz is the lead pastor of the New Hope Covenant Church, located just a few blocks away from Mi Carnal market.

After the election of President Trump, anxiety was high. The Public Policy Institute of California estimates 10 percent of people in the city of Oakland are undocumented.

By Christmas, Schmitz and his congregation — mostly college educated whites and Asians — felt they had to offer their neighbors more than holiday goodwill. So they set up a table in front of one of Taleb’s Mi Carnal markets, handing out gift bags and “know your rights” flyers in both English and Spanish about what to do if you are questioned by immigration agents.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PRI.ORG

‘Watu Wote’ film showcases Muslims’ love for Christians

31134-christian-muslim-facebook.800w.tnPeople from different faiths can extend kindness, show respect to one another, and forge friendships, and this is what the new film “Watu Wote,” which means “All of Us,” seeks to prove.

The film, which is set to premiere next month, will share the ordeals faced by a group of Muslims who went out of their way to protect Christians from the al-Shabaab militants, according to Christian Daily.

 The Christian bus passengers were ambushed in Mandera, Kenya in December 2015. Kenya’s northeastern region chief administrator Mohamud Saleh told Al Jazeera that the militants tried to flag the bus down. When the driver refused to stop, they fired shots at it, instantly killing two passengers and injuring several others.

When the militants got inside the bus, they asked the 62 Muslims on board to point out the Christian passengers. However, the Muslims refused to do so. Even though the militants threatened to kill or harm them should they refuse to cooperate, the Muslim passengers bravely protected the Christians and stood their ground.

“Watu Wote” director Katja Benrath, who studies at the Hamburg Media School in Germany, is simply astounded by the kindness and bravery shown by these Muslims to Christians on that fateful day. For her, their actions only prove that there is hope for humanity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY 

Attorney with interfaith background counters myths about Islam

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GREENFIELD — Springfield lawyer Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, her head covered in a pink scarf, told a gathering of nearly 60 students and community members last week that as someone whose Lutheran and Baptist parents converted to Islam when she was a toddler, she has Christian grandparents and “was always in an interfaith setting,” including Jews in her extended family.

“We have the whole Abrahamic thing going on in our family. It was such a non-thing for me,” Amatul-Wadud told attendees of the hour-long program Thursday on “debunking common myths about Islam.”

Amatul-Wadud, who moved to Springfield from New York when she was 10 and graduated from Elms College and Western New England University, said that while she’s not a religious scholar, she’s been comfortable with interfaith dialogue for her entire life. It wasn’t until about 18 months ago that she began speaking at colleges and universities, as “an uptick” in rhetoric, as well as violence, was occurring against Muslims in this country.

“We live in this bubble and we don’t know each other,” said Amatul-Wadud, who recently helped defend a Muslim community against a planned 2015 attack by a Tennessee man convicted in February by a federal jury for threatening to burn down a mosque. “That’s not how we should exist.”

Explaining that Islam is a religion that incorporates early Jewish and Christian history, she said, “Sixty percent of Americans say they don’t know a Muslim, yet Muslims are probably the most vilified group in the past political election and definitely have been subject of some really interesting policy making post-election. Yet we don’t know what each other believes.”

Amatul-Wadud said Muslim, Christian and Jewish religions have ancient covenants with one another, promising “to always have each other’s back, to always protect each other during exercise of their religion.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE RECORDER 

Want to build interfaith friendships? Here’s how music can help

1817616SALT LAKE CITY — The sounds of booming drums, clapping hands, a South Indian flute and an ancient horn filled the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Sunday evening, as performers of all ages shared the music of their faiths.

“Sacred Music Evening 2017” showcased the talents of 10 religious ensembles, including Buddhist dancers, gospel singers and Sufi whirling dervishes. The groups took turns entertaining a joyous crowd before artists and attendees alike joined their voices to sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

 “With God, our creator, family all are we. Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony,” they sang.

The annual event, which began 15 years ago as a way to celebrate the religions represented at the 2002 Winter Olympics, brings together music lovers from Utah’s faith communities, highlighting shared values through lively songs, dances and spoken words. This year’s performers included representatives from more than a dozen congregations in the Salt Lake Valley.

Music is a powerful tool in efforts to build interfaith bonds, noted Roberta King, author of “(un)Common Sounds: Songs of Peace and Reconciliation among Muslims and Christians.” People may come to a concert feeling awkward or anxious, but soon enough they’ll be swaying and singing along.

“Music engages us almost immediately at the emotional level,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DESERET NEWS