On this ninth anniversary of 9/11, I have been reading from The Holy Qur'an. It remains an enigmatic and confusing book for me, a confessing Christian. (Then again, at some level so, too, does The Holy Bible remain, for me, enigmatic and confusing!) But the Bible tends (mostly) toward narrative, which the Qur'an does not. (For me it feels more like reading Leviticus or Proverbs than, say, Genesis or Mark's Gospel.) And even when the Bible leaves me bewildered, more than forty years of reading and teaching Scripture has left me with at least a skill-set that I simply don't have when it comes to the Qur'an.
Nevertheless, I am working on it because I believe that Jesus commands me to encounter "the other" with at least some basic understanding and respect, on the path toward neighborly love.
Two Surahs have caught my attention on this day:
"Say: O ye that reject faith! I worship not that which ye worship, nor will ye worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your way, and to me mine." (Surah 109 Al-Kafirun)
"Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects Evil and believes in Allah/God* hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah/God heareth and knoweth all things." (Surah 2 Al-Baqarah 256)
* It is worth remembering that "Allah" is not a proper name that Muslims give to God, but the standard Arabic word for God. Arabic speaking Jews and Eastern Orthodox Christians also use the word "Allah" to speak of YHWH and the Abba of Jesus.
Taken together, these two Surahs suggest, if not respect, at the very least tolerance for people of other faith traditions. I am sure that there are other parts of the Qur'an that could be quoted to argue differently, as there are also verses from the Bible that could also be quoted to make the case that there is only ONE way to God. But for my own part, I can say "amen" to these words, and even hope that they lead us toward deeper understanding and respect for one another. They are a modest proposal for a modest beginning to live and let live - and that's a start in the right direction.
With the (Christian) Process Theologians, I like the image of God as "divine lure." Even God, that language suggests, does not force faith. Instead, God invites. If God doesn't force God's own self on us, but leaves us free to say "yes" or "no" - then it seems to me that people of faith must, at the very least, show that same respect to one another. That's a place where we might begin - or begin again.
In exploring the sacred text of Islam, I am not forgetting to say my own prayers, especially this one from The Book of Common Prayer:
O God, you made us in your image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in the bonds of love, and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.