Posts Tagged ‘Qur’an’

Not Enough Peace?

Quakerism – Peace, Equality, Simplicity and Truth


Not Enough Peace?

This week is Quaker Peace Week, I went to the Quaker Meeting House in Leicester last night (6 October 2010) for a taste of peace with two Peaceworkers. One was my former colleague, Daniel Edge, who left the Forum last month having completed his 12 months with us. Despite this he is currently on a national tour of Meeting Houses sharing his experiences of being a Peaceworker and working for the Christian Muslim Forum.

The evening began with an introduction to the core values of Quakerism – Peace, Equality, Simplicity and Truth – hopefully values at the heart of both Christianity and Islam. And these moving words, ‘love is at the heart of existence, all are equal before God’, again with resonances in both faiths.

Daniel told us of his journey that has included both Quakerism and Islam, from his first encounter with an elderly Quaker relative who recited al-Fatihah (the opening chapter of the Qur’an) to him and his wife on hearing of their conversion to Islam to bursting the seams of the Hertford Friends Meeting House when the local Muslim community were offered a space for prayer. He also shared how he was inspired by the words of George Fox, ‘appreciate that doubt and questioning can lead to spiritual growth; take time to learn about the experiences of others.’ Through this comes ‘a greater awareness of the light that is in us all.’

He shared his experience of leading our Safe Spaces programme, some of the highlights were:

Chris Walker one of the new intake of Peaceworkers told us about his placement with the ‘Alternatives to Violence Project’ which helps people to deal with conflict without resorting to violence. He shared the truly disturbing statistics that the UK has twice as much interpersonal violence as the global average and that 27% of women have been victims of domestic violence.

Questions and Comments

Julian Bond
Christian Muslim Forum

Gathering of Scholars of the Abrahamic Faiths

Meeting of representatives of the Abrahamic faiths

The Islamic Centre of England convened an urgent meeting of representatives of the Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) in order to condemn any disrespect and desecration of the Quran, the Islamic holy book.

A group of leaders and experts, from the Abrahamic religions, met on the 21st September at the Islamic Centre of England in order to express disgust and outrage towards the insulting and desecration of the Holy Quran which took place in America on 11th of September. They also discussed ways for an extended cooperation in order to protect common interests shared by followers of monotheistic religions.

The meeting which was aimed to approve a 10-point to “Safeguard our Common Values and Communities”…resolution, started with the recitation from the Holy Qur’an. Hujjatul-Islam wal Muslemin Moezi director of the Islamic Centre of England and representative of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in the UK, gave a warm welcome to the participants. In his address, he described the despicable insult to the Holy Qur’an as: “a conspiracy planned by the agents of international Zionism intent to create tension between Christians and Muslims by insulting the sanctities of Muslims, trying to incite their emotions with an increase in Islamophobia”. The head of Islamic Centre of England described the incident of the burning of the Qur’an as one in a long list of orchestrated attempts via films, cartoons and other media to undermine the sacredness of the heavenly religions and to belittle them to the extent that ordinary people would lose their interest in them.

Hujjatul-Islam wal Muslemin Moezi mentioned that despite the conspiracies of the enemies of Islam and the occupation of various Muslim countries by global arrogance, Muslims have come closer together showing more and more resentment against occupations especially by the Zionist regime in Palestine. He underlined the fact that Muslims, not only in the West, but throughout the world have a very good relationship with the follower of Abrahamic religions. He also hoped that meeting such as this, would expand and increase the peaceful cooperation among the followers of Abrahamic faiths in an effort to neutralize conspirators’ intent to create division in society.

The other participants also expressed their views regarding the need to protect moral values, common interests and the sacred celestial religions against the hatred and possible repetition of action such as the burning of the Qur’an.

The following is the resolution signed by all participants who in terms committed themselves to increase the number of signatories by introducing it to like-minded individuals.

The full text of the 10 point resolution as follows: Urgent Gathering of Scholars of the Abrahamic Faiths
“A Resolution to Safeguard
Our Common Values and Communities”
Tuesday 21st September 2010

1) We, scholars of the Abrahamic faiths and independent thinkers believe in our own belief systems as individuals and will stand united to uphold our common values for the common good; and

2) Although each faith upholds its own creed, beliefs and rituals, nevertheless, interfaith co-operation is vital in the field of humanitarian and human relationships issues. Indeed, it is a basic tenet of divine religious teachings to treat ones fellow man with the utmost compassion and consideration; and

3) Inherent in the compassionate treatment of ones fellow man, is the essential requirement at all times to ensure that ones words and actions in no way harm, hurt, insult or embarrass other individuals or groups within society. This requirement in turn includes the need to show complete respect for any matter held in esteem by them; and

4) Whereas, disrespect shown to religion is on the rise which contributes to a greater degree of insecurity and sense of danger by members of religious groups that can be distinguished by their dress or place of association; and

5) In the light of the above, we wish to express our rejection at the statements made by certain individuals and groups implying intention to burn copies of the Qur’an. Such flagrant insults can only incite ill feeling and strife between the groups within society instead of enhancing goodwill and peace, which should be the aim of all justice loving people; and

6) Whereas, such behaviour is discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, colour, condition of life, or religion; and

7) Whereas, the desecration of the places of worship and graves of religious groups have already been illegal as hate crimes and that the desecration of the books held holy by a religion is considered more seriously than the previously mentioned acts; and

8) We, on our part, are responsible to work and be concerned for the common good, towards preventing the spread of such incendiary kind of behaviour in our communities, which is incompatible with the principles of mutual coexistence and cohesion; therefore, be it

9) Resolved, that the participants representing the various religious groups in this roundtable gathering of scholars of the Abrahamic Faiths encourage its members to condemn all activity that insults all things held holy by the followers of any religion, in particular, the recent act of burning the Qur’an.

10) May we merit the time when the glory of the Almighty will be revealed over the whole universe and all mankind will be at peace with each other.

Good News for Eid

Giving Thanks at the end of Ramadhan

Eid, the feast at the end of Ramadhan, the Muslim month of fasting is a day of good news, the fast has been completed, a month of repentance has come to its conclusion, the whole of the Qur’an has been recited and the feast begins. It is often said that Eid is the Muslim equivalent of Christmas.
This Eid, 10 September 2010, the day before the 9th anniversary of 9/11 is a day of good news for another reason. Like many people travelling to work this morning I picked up the Metro (free UK newspaper) and read ‘Pastor cancels Koran bonfire after protests’. An answer to prayer just as I was preparing to load our statement about this onto the Christian Muslim Forum website. BBC news report.
Eid Mubarak!
Extracts from recent statements:
‘We fully endorse the Archbishop of Canterbury’s insistence that there is no place in our traditions for violent response.  The work of building up good understanding between Christians and Muslims remains as vital as ever.’  The Rt Revd Dr Richard Cheetham, Imam Dr Musharraf Hussain, OBE, DL, Co-Chairs, Christian Muslim Forum
The Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘At the present time our religious communities face many challenges and many provocations. In this country there are those who speak maliciously about religion in general and often against Islam in particular; demonstrations in many of our cities are intended to provoke; and in other parts of the world the threat to desecrate scriptures is deeply deplorable and to be strongly condemned by all people. These are challenges that we must respond to with a consistent message: that we oppose collectively all such provocations and insist that there is no place in our traditions for violent response. In solidarity with each other we will resist all attempts to induce violence by a constant message of peacefulness and reconciliation.’
Revd. Canon John Hall, Director of the St Philip’s Centre Leicester said, ‘The plan to burn the Holy Qur’an is a violation of our interfaith principles. As a Christian who is deeply involved in interfaith, I condemn this deplorable act. Christians and Muslims have a very strong joint track record of living and working together. Our scriptures share much in common.
Suleman Nagdi MBE DL of the Leicester Federation of Muslim Organisations added, ‘The burning of any religious scripture is a degrading act which all of us must speak out against. I have worked with Christians for a very long time and I know that they are very angry with this stunt. As Muslims it is part of our faith that we revere and respect all holy scriptures particularly the Torah, Psalms of David and the Hebrew Bible. I urge Muslims to act in the spirit of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and to show their disapproval through peaceful means. We can do this by continuing to work alongside our Christian cousins so that collectively we can overcome bigotry and prejudice.’
On behalf of the Christian Muslim Forum I hope that those who have held a copy of the Qur’an recently will take the time to learn more about Islam and find out that it does not condone terrorism, suicide bombing and enmity with people of other faiths.
Other messages
Friendship letter from Christians and Muslims at Lambeth Palace
Christian Muslim Forum’s Ethical Witness guidelines
Christian Muslim Forum’s Christmas statement
Julian Bond
Christian Muslim Forum

Following in the Footsteps of Abraham

This was a very successful, enjoyable and spiritual event, living up to our expectations and the confidence of the Inlight Trust in providing the funding. Men from across the country, including Wales, converged on St Deiniol’s Library from Birmingham, Brighton, Burnley, Dorking, Leighton Buzzard, London, Manchester, Merthyr Tydfil, Nottingham.and Rochester.

Tony Aylward, a Baptist from Rochester wrote the following account.

Christians Reflections

I went on this retreat with great expectation as I believe God wanted me to be there.  It was entitled ‘In the Footsteps of Abraham’ and my hope was that it would inspire my thinking on male spirituality and also renew my contact with Muslims following my departure from Leicester. It was a small gathering of 13, 6 Christian and 7 Muslims and was led by Symon Hill and Abdullah Trevathan.  We looked at 3 areas:

  • The life of Abraham in the Qur’an and Bible
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Being Male

We shared worship in the form of meditation/reflection using Muslim chants from the Sufi tradition and Christian ones from Taize and Iona.

When we drew up a list of Abraham’s character from our scriptures, we discovered that many of them were the same.  Key ones from both texts which we identified were:

  • Spiritual wayfarer
  • Absolute faith
  • Friend of God

One major difference in respect to Abraham was that in the Muslim tradition all prophets are without sin whereas in the Christian tradition only Jesus is without sin and so the prophets are flawed people.

We spent some time thinking about Abraham the Absurd, defining ‘absurd’ as not normal or ordinary.  As people of faith we are called to be an extraordinary people.  By being together as Christians and Muslims for this retreat we were being absurd.  We were challenged as to whether we had become to cosy in our faith and not therefore taking risks.  Are we going through the motions of faith without it really affecting the way we live our lives?

The conflict resolution sessions were very helpful in enabling us to think about the root causes and not just the reasons people often give for their positions.  We looked at a diagram that required us to think about where we were in relation to personal goals as against relationships when dealing with an issue of conflict.  Although compromise in some cases is the only way we were encouraged to try problem solving the issue to see if there is a better way for the parties involved.  I was not alone in finding how ready as a group we were to accept the very different issues between our faiths.  Perhaps that said more about the participants who were more focused on areas of agreement.

The final session on male identity caused the most discussion as we completed a questionnaire expressing how important certain criteria were to our identity.  What was striking for me was the relative passion that people gave to particular headings.  We considered whether our responses would have been the same had there been a woman present, for which the majority view was that it would.

The question of what are male characteristics is a problem area when it comes to looking at male spirituality.  Draw up a list and there will be people who disagree with you.  I am a firm believer that at times this is because men may not like a particular trait or they believe they do not portray it.  The walk we had on the Saturday afternoon was a wonderful demonstration of a male trait in action.  We had identified of Abraham that he was focused and indicated that this was a male attribute.  On the walk we talked, mainly in pairs but on occasions in single file.  We maintained a brisk pace rarely stopping to take in the creation around us.  We even managed to be blissfully unaware of ‘Private’ notices.  Now that is what I call focused!

Overall it was a great experience of men sharing the journey of faith.  For me the translation of the Muslim chant ‘La ilaha ill’allah’ as ‘There is nothing but God; there is only God’ called me to refocus my life on the things of God.  To daily ask the question ‘what will God do with me today rather than what will I do today?’

Tony Aylward

Muslim Reflections

We were all deeply committed to dialogue since for us it’s a Divine imperative yet we felt that we must also be witnessing the special God-given gift of Islam.

  • There was a commitment to dialogue and a sense of being generous to the Christians and no inner tension in doing so.
  • In the Qur’an God affirms  human diversity and pluralism. All are presented as ‘the family of God’ therefore I as a Muslim must show love and respect to all.
  • Our experiential dialogue involved discussions, zikr, and Muslims praying in jamaat [congregation] helped to build understanding and trust of each other. It was an antidote to the inadequate, misleading or stereotyping images that lead to ignorance and demonising the other.
  • There was genuine sense of friendship, understanding and respect for each other’s beliefs despite it being challenging.
  • There was no attempt by anyone to compromise, dilute or be disingenuous to their faith. We agreed to disagree and accept the difference – yet all showed willingness to understand others’ points of view.
  • The feeling created in encounter was that we can work in partnership with Christians for the common good, peace and social cohesion. As John Wesley said, ‘that though we cannot think alike yet we may love alike, that we may be of one heart though we are not of one opinion’ [from his sermon ‘Catholic Spirit’].

Imam Musharraf Hussain

What Next?

Many thanks to all who took part, the retreat leaders, Tony and Musharraf for their reflections. We would like to hold another retreat and have an invitation to an Islamic retreat centre in Spain. If you are interested in being involved in exploring Christian-Muslim men’s spirituality please get in touch.

We are also organising a women’s retreat for London-based Christian and Muslim women on 31 July/1 August in Kent. Please contact us for more details.

An event for everyone – Friends and Neighbours, 30 June/1 July 2010.

Julian Bond

Good Friday and Easter Sunday

I write this at a key point in the Christian calendar, between ‘Good Friday’, when Christians remember the death of Jesus, who was crucified by the Roman authorities, and Easter Sunday, when Christians look forward again to celebrating his resurrection. It is the most Christian time of year, less secular than Christmas, despite the vast quantities of Easter eggs we sweet-toothed Brits consume.
It can also be seen as the time when Christians and Muslims part company, our ‘nativity’ stories have much in common but when it comes to the end of Jesus’ life, the Quran’s story of him has already finished, except to look forward to his return. The key Christian beliefs about Jesus – crucifixion, atonement, resurrection, ascension – are as distinctive, and divisive, as the second part of the shahadah (the Muslim statement of faith) – ‘and Muhammad is the Messenger of God’.

What happens when we differ and disagree?

The Christian Muslim Forum recently shared these differences together with a dialogue on Jesus and Muhammad, it felt good to share what was precious to us, deeply and controversially, but also genuinely and gently. Our relationships grew and deepened as we explored what distinguishes our religions and we were drawn together through better understanding. Our beliefs don’t make us enemies, ideology does that.

I was reminded this week by a non-religious friend that getting on with Muslims, or Christians, is no big deal. Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy, those who know each other do get on well; for others there can be all kinds of myths, stereotypes and prejudices. As the Christian Muslim Forum our ultimate aim is that relations between Christians and Muslims, and with wider society, are no longer troubled by the difficulties that exist today, some of which we read about regularly in the media, especially in hotspots like Nigeria.

On Good Friday in Nottingham, challenging various perceptions, the churches’ walk of witness, carrying a cross, again passed Dr Musharraf Hussain’s mosque where they were welcomed and Christians and Muslims prayed alongside each other. We hope to share more of this story soon. Also, in the run-up to Easter, Dr Ida Glaser of the Christian-Muslim Study Centre in Oxford dialogued with Mehdi Hassan on the Guardian’s Comment is Free.

The Christian Muslim Forum will be continuing to build Christian-Muslim friendships during Spring and Summer:

Being a Faith School, London, 28 April 2010
Social Attitudes Seminar, London, 11 May 2010
Men’s Retreat – Following in the Footsteps of Abraham, nr Chester, 4-6 June 2010
Friends and Neighbours in the West Midlands, Coventry, 30 June – 1 July 2010

Booking will go live for the retreat and West Midlands events soon, please click on the links to reserve a place or express an interest. We will be inviting people to attend our seminar on the British Social Attitudes Survey, please click on the link if you are interested in this.

Happy Easter and belated Passover greetings to Jewish friends.

Julian Bond

Anti-Terrorism Fatwa

The Presidents of the Christian Muslim Forum welcome the main message of Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri’s fatwa (Islamic ruling by a jurist) and wider explanation on ‘suicide bombings and terrorism’ which was presented in London on 2 March. His fatwa and accompanied exposition is an absolute condemnation of terrorism which he describes as forbidden by Islam and those who perpetrate such acts as ‘heroes of hellfire’ rather than ‘heroes of Islam’. We reiterate the long-standing viewpoint of the vast majority of Muslims that the Qur’an and Hadiths are replete with evidence that acts of terrorism cannot be justified Islamically.

We support his call for religious leaders to stand up against claims that violence and terrorism can be religiously justified and to highlight the fact that suicide bombings are an expression of a deviant ideology, and not true Islamic theology. We also appreciate his call for dialogue with those who attempt to justify violence and terrorism. We pray for the success of Dr Qadri’s initiative. His fatwa will become accessible to all in the next few months when it becomes available in English.

We also pray for the triumph of true Islamic teachings over the violent ideologies of groups such as al-Qaeda, who tarnish the reputation and image of Islam.

Happy Birthday

Monday’s event (18 January 2010) Healing Families – Healing Communities celebrated our work and our fourth birthday (24 January 2010), although as my colleague Musharraf Hussain reminds me we are the latest chapter of a fourteen-hundred year story. We were pleased to be back at the The London Interfaith Centre to explore how our scriptures and faith traditions offer constructive help or support to the troubles facing families in today’s world.

Maggie Hindley (a United Reformed Church Minister and our new Community and Public Affairs specialist) opened by saying, ‘I would have liked to read the whole of the book of Genesis, with its stories of sibling rivalry, murder, Noah’s dysfunctional family (drunkenness and tale-telling), competition between Abraham’s two wives, Sarah and Hagar, Jacob and Esau’s feud, Joseph’s victimisation.’ Themes all too familiar from today’s soaps!

Uta Blohm

Uta’s (a URC minister as well) first story was Jesus welcoming small children while his disciples tried to shoo them away and how as a preacher she struggled with her own children wanting to be with her in the pulpit and not letting them come to church with her. Until she realised, what is the point of gathering in the name of Jesus if we cannot include the children? She also described how difficult it is for women with small children to find space for any meaningful spiritual life and thought that religious communities had an obligation to support young families and young mothers in particular. Men have an obligation towards the family that reaches beyond just providing financial support. She found that ‘prayer puts our family struggles into perspective’. She also thought that the momentous task of caring for a very vulnerable human being is a spiritual experience in itself.

Difficult feelings in the family are part of life and religious texts such as the story of Cain and Able help us to deal with them, not avoid them. When our children annoy us and we are angry with them then they are ‘testing our grace’ (challenging us to be as patient and merciful with our children as God is with us). Equally, we have to have compassion for ourselves. We can learn to be better parents but we will never be perfect.

Other stories from the Bible that we read together: Cain and Abel (the first murder), the unforgiving servant, the Prodigal Son. So what do we learn from these stories?:

  • How to forgive our own parents
  • Cain and Abel – the importance of recognising not denying our feelings, especially when we are competitive or angry
  • In response to the prompt question – is it OK to be imperfect parents? – yes, we have to be imperfect to have the potential for growth
  • Isn’t it surprising that we, religious people and society, have so many expectations of perfection when the examples of scripture and everyday life are imperfect
  • ‘I was the perfect parent until I had children of my own!’
  • We learn a lot about ourselves through our children
  • Children should feel that they are loved
  • One parent expressed the personal view, ‘We would be very selfish and arrogant without children’
Julian Bond

Halima Krausen

After reflecting on the Bible stories, we were very fortunate to have Shaykha Halima Krausen, imam and scholar from Germany, introduce some texts from the Qur’an. Halima made us aware that the Qur’an assumes that we are familiar with the stories and people in the Bible, many of the ayahs (verses) in the Qur’an beginning with ‘Remember when …’ So it was interesting to find me and others in our group referring to the Bible, just to find out the genealogy of Mary and the relevant stories that the Quran referred to.

We were reminded that the Quran is not an instruction manual, it does not have a ‘Troubleshooting’ chapter! It requires reading time and time again. Halima pointed out to us that where the Qur’an refers to Jesus as ‘son of Mary’, the Bible refers to Mary as the mother of Jesus. Our discussions about Mary and Jesus often lead us to consider Mary as a sanctified being and her importance in both faiths.

As with the Bible stories, Shaykha Halima asked us to consider the Qur’anic text that she had selected and then share some of our reflections with the other groups. Our group chose the following: Remember when the wife of Imran said: O my Lord! I have vowed to you what is in my womb to be dedicated for your services, so accept this from me……. (Quran 3:35)

It was of no surprise that our reflections were often very similar to those found when considering the Bible stories. The implications of unexpected family structures are a challenge to us today as they might have been then. An unmarried mother and an elderly lady giving birth are certainly worth considering when talking about family issues. They share the same complexities found in family life today and underline the importance of family in our own spiritual journey, as well as highlighting some of the sacrifices people make.

Bearing in mind that both the Bible and the Qur’an seemed to share many common themes and understandings, one group questioned why do both faiths sometimes disagree with one another?
A question we have all had to ask as people of faith.

One member of our group noted that the roles we play in our family can be a form of worship. The Qur’an mentions that: ‘The believers, men and women are Auliya (helpers, supporters, friends or protectors) of one another’, which gives us a great understanding of the spiritual dimension that our family relationships play when resolving difficult issues. It was also interesting to see that far from diminishing the role of women in Islam, the Qur’an showed us women who were empowered and taking a lead, an issue important to all the women in our workshop.

All in all, taking part in the workshops provided amazing insight and help to how we, as people of faith, approach family life and our life in the wider community. It was a pleasure to learn and share with others what our scriptures say and how we understand them in our every day lives.

Daniel Edge

Other Ways to Get Involved

4 February 2010 (closing date), Faiths Act Campaign Leaders wanted.
23 February 2010, LIFE event, Brixton
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