|God's power revealed through an open mind|
|Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Religion Editor|
|Monday, 17 September 2012 10:04|
(Editor’s note: Previously, we deliberately challenged ideas regarding other faith traditions. A purpose of this series is to lead people to expand concepts involving all the energy, all the capacity of God.)
There is an old expression, “The mind is like a parachute, it works best when it is open.”
The concept also applies in our personal relationships with God and all God’s people.
The ground-breaking documentary, “Three Faiths, One God: Judaism, Christianity, Islam” compares similarities and differences in religious beliefs and practices that Islam has with Christianity and Judaism.
Christianity and Islam are the two largest religions in the world and share many points of contact. Both inherited from Judaism a belief in one God who created the world and cares about the behavior and beliefs of human beings.
The prophet Muhammad knew Christians in his lifetime and respected them along with Jews as “People of the Book.” Because of their monotheism and roots in the Torah, the prophet and his successors extended to conquered Christians and Jews more freedoms than conquered pagans.
In recent centuries, mutual distrust between Christians and Muslims has grown and differences have widened. With the actions of the 9/11 terrorists, remembered this week, those divisions were magnified. That one day 11 years ago escalated the chasm between the faith traditions. Those differences often focus more on political and social grounds than religion. Other attacks this week demonstrate the ongoing problems.
Imam Farooq S. Aboelzahab, who leads The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, in Perrysburg, spoke prior to this week’s activities.
“Religion should not divide us, religion is there to unite us — no matter one’s beliefs,” he said.
“God has a covenant with all good people. Be good and you are included in it. God is not racist,” he said.
He makes a huge distinction between his faith and those involved in 9/11 and other atrocities.
“Terrorists are not human and they have no covenant with God,” Aboelzahab said.
The power of God transcends human actions. As God’s children, many people of faith see it as our role to assist the Creator as examples as we struggle in our daily lives.
“The challenge is how to take the beauty, love, consideration and respect of God to real life — to take it to all mankind, that is the real challenge,” the imam said.
He echoes the comments of many Christian philosophers and theologians noting the knowledge of one’s faith and religion is not of much value if it cannot be applied daily.
Aboelzahab explained how book knowledge, including the Bible, does not always translate to practical knowledge in life.
“We have to reach outside the walls of the institution and feed the hungry, give justice for the oppressed, find jobs for the unemployed,” among several goals for people of faith.
“God wants me to get outside the mosque to work for the goodness and welfare of the people. Otherwise, my religion is a dead religion,” he said.
It truly all boils down to respect and how we need “to be civilized” as part of our civilization.
He listed good qualities of being more open-minded, humane and sensitive. He contrasted those with negative qualities including greed and selfishness.
“Your deeds make you good or bad — that’s what makes you godly. It’s how you live your faith that makes you a good Christian, a good Muslim, a good Jewish person,” he said.
By your actions you show yourself to be a good parent, spouse, friend and neighbor. Most Christian traditions teach, however, that salvation is not achieved through works.
“Islam teaches me to be open-minded and treat all people with respect,” Aboelzahab said. “If a person’s heart is clean, I will treat them with respect. They are my brother and sister in humanity.”
He concludes it is simply, in the end, between each individual and God, whether one achieves salvation.
The imam explained if any faith tradition claims they are the only one, they have a “narrow vision” and are ignoring their roots as children of the one God.
“To say we are the only one will take us nowhere,” he said.
Many Christians affirm, “With God ALL things are possible.” (Matthew 19: 26, emphasis added) If one believes that, one could also believe God can be revealed to others in a faith tradition outside their religion.
One’s faith is not diminished nor compromised or challenged by accepting, at least the possibility, God may be at work alternatively in other children of God.
A human father can be called by many names: dad, papa, pa, pops or even the old man. An open mind to God asks, is it possible our heavenly Father, referenced by various monikers within the Bible, could be called by other names outside Christianity and still be our one God?
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