In many religious traditions, there are two relational axes along which our lives are understood. The first is the vertical, between the created and the Creator; the second is the horizontal, among the created and with the rest of creation. Islam has those two aspects as well, with the latter relationship always being viewed through the lens of the former. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a marked effect on the latter relationship, changing the nature of ritual worship in many ways. And at the same time, Muslim sages and scholars have reminded their flocks that the former relationship, between the Divine and those who beseech Him, remains constant and consistent — even if takes different forms in this difficult time.
Over the past week, Muslims around the world have pleaded with Islamic scholars to weigh in on the pandemic to give advice and guidance. The coronavirus directly affects congregational worship in several significant ways due to the “social distancing” advice — not least the ability to attend lessons and classes (because Islam is fundamentally a religion of learning), and funeral arrangements (because of the concern of spreading infection from people who pass away from complications arising from the virus).
It might seem simple to some that congregational worship should be done away with in situations of emergency. But it isn’t quite that easy. There are prayers to be held in mosques that are considered religiously compulsory for many in the community; there are other prayers that are strongly recommended to be performed in a congregation; and many of the pious will go to great efforts to ensure they meet those obligations and recommendations.
As an academic and scholar in Islamic studies, I’ve participated in many of the debates concerning the obligations attendant on Muslims in times of crisis — within my native Britain, in Europe and the United States, in South Africa and South East Asia. The discussions of which I’ve been a part were not, and could not simply be, a matter of identifying the legal prescriptions in the Islamic tradition. Instead, the vast majority of scholars with whom I’ve interacted or whom I’ve observed — from the Higher Council of Azhar Scholars in Egypt, to the British Board of Scholars and Imams in the UK, to the Azzawia Trust in South Africa — were unequivocal that the obligations or recommendations of congregational prayers, including the Friday prayer, ought to be suspended in the face of public health concerns.
Religious authorities across the Middle East have moved to cancel or limit weekly prayer gatherings to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
In Kuwait on Friday, religious authorities asked Muslims to pray at home as the Gulf states stepped up measures to fight the spread the novel virus.
In Jerusalem, Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders said services would continue to be held in the Holy Land but moved to limit indoor gatherings after the Israeli Health Ministry said they should not exceed 100 people.
The Islamic endowment that oversees the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, said Friday prayers would be held as normal but encouraged people to pray in the outer courtyards and refrain from crowding inside the mosques.
When visiting Luxor, the average traveler is spoiled for choice. However, one attractive and evident site to visit is none other than Luxor temple.
The icon of the Upper Egyptian city, arguably one of Egypt’s oldest towns on which the modern-day Luxor is built on, is the temple.
An ancient structure
In truth, the ‘temple’ is the wrong title for the impressive archaeological giant as it comprises of several temples and archeological features built by different pharaohs in the New Kingdom (1550 – 1069 BC).
Two kings essentially build the temple, Ramses II and Amenhotep III (the grand-father of Tutankhamun) with the boy king himself having commissioned features of the Luxor site, including the fourteen colossal columns. There is also a small worshiping space – a chapel dedicated to the goddess Mut – inside the enclosure.
The art style of the temple can be difficult to date for the average tourist, but the New Kingdom influences of the human figures are clear: smooth, slender figures, fluid movement and flowing clothing are some of this period’s typical characteristics, distinguishing itself from the older, more ‘rigid’ form of Egypt’s Old Kingdom. Finally, deep in the shrine and in the back of the temple are the clear markings of the Ptolemaic period, as they are ‘fuller figures with softer facial features and alternative fashion.
(RNS) — For more than a decade, Rizwan Mawani has been living, working and praying with Muslims in 50 different communities across 17 countries. As you’d expect, he has visited plenty of masjids, as mosques are called in Arabic, meaning “a place of prostration.”
But Mawani, a 45-year-old Canadian scholar and research consultant, whose new book is called “Beyond the Mosque: Diverse Spaces of Muslim Worship,” also spent time in Sufi khanaqas, Shia husayniyyas, Druze khalwas, Ismaili jamatkhanas as well as religious schools known as madrasas and other spaces of Islamic devotion from Canada to China.
Mawani uses these varied sacred spaces as lenses through which to offer readers a primer on the expansive histories, varied architectures and evolving ritual practices of Muslims around the world.
“While the mosque has come to predominate over our architectural assumptions and is often considered as the place of worship for Muslims, a survey of where ritual takes place … demonstrates that there are alternative venues in which Muslims pray,” Mawani wrote in the new book.
The announcement of the three houses of worship, collectively known as the “Abrahamic Family House,” follows Pope Francis’ February visit to the UAE, the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula. During the visit, Pope Francis and the grand imam of al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, signed a declaration to form an interfaith council called The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity.
The Abrahamic Family House, set to be completed on 2022, is the first initiative by the new committee, according to media reports.
The Abrahamic Family House to be built in Abu Dhabi, UAE. (PRNewsfoto/The Higher Committee for Human Fraternity)
“The formation of the Committee has come at an important time and has required all peace lovers to unite and join the efforts to spread coexistence, brotherhood, and tolerance throughout the world,” Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, committee member and former advisor to el-Tayeb, said in a statement.
I’ve been asking myself lately what it means to be a good neighbor.
I was raised in a Christian home, went to a Christian church and a Christian school, then eventually enrolled in a Christian university. I learned very well how to love and edify my Christian community. What I didn’t understand was how I was supposed to interact with those who didn’t share my theology and belief system; those who dressed, looked, and spoke differently.
What did it look like for me to love that person and edify and build them up?
I was fortunate to find that Jesus, the “founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2), had much to say on the topic. When a lawyer asked Jesus how to get to heaven, Jesus responded to love God with everything and love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Seeing some gray area in his response, the lawyer asked Jesus to define some terms. “Who is my neighbor?” the cunning lawyer asked. Jesus responded with a story about a man left for dead, who was passed along the road several times before he was saved by…a Samaritan?
Many Jews looked down on Samaritans (John 4:9). They were thought to be in a “perpetual state of uncleanness” (ESV Study Bible). I imagine the shock and horror on the crowd’s face as Jesus asked, “Who do you think the good neighbor was?”
The lawyer could barely muster the words. “The one who showed mercy,” he muttered. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus replied. In other words…go and emulate that guy.