Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Faith Works 9-11

Faith Works 9-11-10

Jeff Gill


People of the Book



Are you one of the "people of the book"?


In Islam, there are a number of verses in three different chapters of the Qur'an that spell out how Jews and Christians are also "People of the Book," and should be treated with respect and fellowship alongside of Islam.


That's not to say Islam doesn't still hold firmly to their central teaching that God's communication with humanity was not completed until Mohammed received the Qur'an and fulfilled what the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Testaments (Old & New Testaments of the Bible to most of you) also said.


Not too dissimilarly from what members of the Latter-Day Saints would share with you about their Book of  Mormon, that it completes and concludes what the Holy Bible teaches.


So for an Islamic worshiper, the Qur'an (from the Arabic for "The Teaching" or "The Recitation" as it was first spoken from God to Muhammad and is still most often shared verbally, in Friday worship in mosques) is the final revelation of God. As a Christian would say about the Old Testament, the New Testament does not invalidate the Old Testament books, but fulfills them through the person of Jesus Christ; so a Moslem would say that the Hebrew & Christian scriptures are not invalidated by the Qur'an, just completed by them.


Nine years ago today, a group of 19 men committed a vast and horrible crime, claiming that they did so in the service of Islam; their directors and minders, who made statements after the death of their students and the thousands they killed along with themselves, also have maintained that the "jihad" or "struggle" they carry on against the Christian west is a true expression of their faith.


Islam in Arabic means "submission," which is specifically "submission to God." The jihad all faithful Moslems are called to in the Qur'an is the struggle to overcome one's own desires and fleeting wishes and submit to God's will for your life, expressed in unity with fellow worshipers, charity to those in need, and a life lived out with care and consideration for decency and order in the larger community.


Are their disturbing verses that, read alone, undermine that general outlook? Yes, as does the Bible (see Psalm 137:8-9), and if you tried to define Christianity by such a passage, I'd be offended. Have their been teachers who preach angry and destructive doctrines in Islam? Sure, and please don't make me defend Fred Phelps, but I don't feel like I have to apologize for him anytime I'm talking about my faith.


I've heard plenty of Islamic religious teachers explain how suicide bombings and unprovoked attacks are themselves Islamic. The Arab world has political and economic issues which weave in and out of Islamic concerns; the Industrial West has consumerism and environmental problems that weave in and out of modern Christian teaching, but should not be taken to define each other, either.


Dozens of Moslems were among the nearly 3,000 killed when the Twin Towers were attacked and ultimately collapsed (estimates range from 19 to 28 as best as I can find). Those who were trapped and seeking safety no doubt prayed as they sought escape, as they faced death alongside of Jews and Christians and Jains and Zoroastrians and Buddhists and doubtless a few praying agnostics.


Yet the towers fell.


Those prayers, however you understand them, were real, and I believe aimed in the same direction. Each of us in our own faith tradition wrestles with the question of what an unanswered prayer (as we see it) means.  But it troubles me deeply when people feel the need to specify whose prayers are real, whose are heard; my faith is in one God.


What I would also want to say, respectfully, about my faith, is that I believe one's ability to focus and live by prayer, and to hear or discern what response comes from such prayer, is best found in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, definitively revealed to us in the Gospels of the Christian New Testament. I don't see how that belief is in any way undermined by also affirming that prayers of other faiths seek the same God that I find clearly shown to me in Christ.


All the Moslems I've ever known would agree that my prayers are to the same Allah (simply Arabic for God), but would, with a twinkle, ask me to hear and read what the Qur'an says about my Jesus. To which I'd say, I've read it, and let me tell you about how I read the 22nd chapter of Revelation . . .


And the discussion continues!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about your faith at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.