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From CPWR’s Bookshelf, we recommend…

A World of Prayer book cover

From CPWR’s Bookshelf, we recommend:

A beautiful collection of prayers was recently published in the book A World of Prayer: Spiritual Leaders, Activists, and Humanitarians Share their Favorite Prayers, edited by Rosalind Bradley.

Introducing the book in terms reflecting the deeply-felt mission of the Council for a Parliament of the Worlds Religions, Bradley states, ““Our current global situation with its ongoing tensions, wars, and conflicts has convinced me of the importance of finding ways to transcend religious divides and foster greater understanding and mutual respect between the world’s religions” (xxiv).”

Engaging in Interfaith dialogue through activism and involvement across faiths and organizations in Australia is the calling in Bradley’s work invigorating to this collection.  Boasting a spectrum of faiths, Bradley is herself a mosaic (such is the title of her first publication, Mosaic) of personal faiths and spiritual journeys having experienced a richly eclectic involvement in several religious traditions.  This diversity of perspective is championed by a book of thoughtful, and sometimes very personal meditations.

From Rosalind Bradley’s website,

The contributors include Nobel Peace Prize winners Lech Walesa of Poland, Mairead Corrigan of Ireland, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu of South Africa, as well as the Dalai Lama, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Rabbi Jacqueline Tabick, theologian Hans Küng, and well-loved spiritual writers Richard Rohr and Joan Chittister. Artists and musicians such as Pete Seeger and Yusuf Islam are also included, along with many more who share prayers and reflections sure to resonate with readers of all faiths.
The prayers include classic and familiar texts from every religious tradition. But some of the selections are surprisingly personal, offering a glimpse into the heart of many great souls of our time.

A World of Prayer can be purchased through Amazon and through the editor’s website.

December 20th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Jains Start Fasts, Prayers as Paryushana Begins Today

Photography credit to Dinodia Photo Libary.

Digambra Jain Paryushana celebrations at a temple in Bulawadi, Mumbai.

from The Times of India
by Barkha Mathur

For the extremely religious Jain community, the next eight days are significant for fasting, praying and asking for forgiveness. Paryushana, which means self cleansing by removing all negativity like raag, dwesh, moh and maya, begins on the Bhadrapada Shuklapaksh Chaturthi. It is sacred as it marks the beginning of the eight days when the dashalakshana vrata is undertaken by devout Jains.

The two Jain sects, Shwetambar and Digambar, follow this period on different days. As the calendar this year has an adhik maas, there is a gap of nearly a month between the Paryushana of the two sects.

As these eight to ten days fall during Chaturmaas most saints settle in one place. This gives the community an opportunity to listen to their sermons. Describing it as a time for performing dharma, city businessman Nikhil Kusumgar says temple visits and attending sermons is an essential part of the prescribed rituals. “We follow the dincharya suggested by Lord Mahavir. This includes fasting and satsang.”

Click here to read full article

August 14th, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Embracing a Greener Ramadan

Photography Credit to Google Images.by Ryan Strom
from Common Ground News Service

The holiest month of the Islamic year, Ramadan, began last Friday, 20 July.  This Ramadan, many Muslims are looking at a new dimension of the month: our impact on the earth.  This is particularly important as we learn more about the effects of climate change, dwindling resources and, most importantly, decreasing access to fresh water around the world, which is a growing concern in many Muslim communities and countries.

Muslims believe that God has asked them to abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan.  In addition to fasting, Muslims around the world aspire to attain spiritual contentment and come closer to God through increased prayer, meditation, helping others and self-reflection.  While fasting is the most well known aspect of the month, it is also a time to be more aware of the universal principles of mercy, compassion and respect for the Earth that our faith teaches.

Click here to read full article

 

August 1st, 2012 at 10:55 am

Colorado Churches Remember, Reflect on Aurora Theater Shooting

Photo credit to Helen H. Richardson from the Denver Post.

Parishioners of the Potter House Church worshipping in a powerful service dedicated to the victims of the Aurora theater shooting.

by Elana Ashanti Jefferson, Kurtis Lee and Kristen Browning-Blas
from The Denver Post

Few things soothe like the familiar.

For parishioners in and around Aurora on Sunday, that meant coming together for worship and perspective in the aftermath of a far-reaching act of public violence.

Church leaders rose to the occasion.

“You can’t just not mention it,” Eleanor VanDeusen, religious education director for children and youth at Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, said of Friday’s movie-theater shooting that left 12 dead and dozens more injured. “When these horrific events happen, we really come back to that idea of community and connection.”

Sierra Graves, 20, Derrick Poage, 22, and Naya Thompson, 22, went together Friday to see “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century Aurora 16 theater. After an anxious, sleepless weekend and several national media interviews, the friends were together again Sunday, calm and composed, for an uplifting 11 a.m. service at Restoration Christian Fellowship, about 2 miles from the shooting site. The service began with 20 minutes of prayer and reflection around the massacre.

Click here to read full article

July 25th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Sacred Space: Amal Ali on Islam and the Mosque

 

Amal Ali discusses Islam, prayer, the mosque, and the practice of her religious tradition.

July 24th, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Nine FAQs About Ramadan

Photo Credit to Alamy

Peckham Mosque women praying Ramadan prayers.

from The Huffington Post

What is the history of Ramadan?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Arabian calendar. The term Ramadan literally means scorching in Arabic. It was established as a Holy Month for Muslims after the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 CE on the occasion known as Laylat al-Qadr, frequently translated as “the Night of Power.

What is the ‘goal’ of Ramadan?

In general, the practices of Ramadan are meant to purify oneself from thoughts and deeds which are counter to Islam. By removing material desires, one is able to focus fully on devotion and service to God. Many Muslims go beyond the physical ritual of fasting and attempt to purge themselves of impure thoughts and motivations such as anger, cursing, and greed.

Click here to read full article

Ramadan, a Sacred Time for Reflection, Sacrifice to Muslims and Appreciation as non-Muslims

Photo Credit to Mohammed Ballas- APby Christopher L. Heuertz
from The Washington Post

This week remember to wish all your Muslim friends “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem” (“Blessed/Happy Ramadan”) as the annual fast of Islam begins the evening of Thursday, July 19th and goes until the evening of Aug. 18 (holiday may start July 20 and end Aug. 19 depending on when Muslims spot the new moon in different parts of the world).

Ramadan commemorates the month when the sacred scriptures of Islam, the Koran, was given to the prophet Muhammad. In Islam, it is a period of purification, a time if fasting. The fast is observed throughout daylight, commencing at sunrise and concluding at sunset each day. Not only does the fast include food, but water and other beverages— not even a sip. In many instances, Muslims even fast from most forms of entertainment, creating time to recite their scripture and performing additional prayers throughout the night (tarawih or taraweeh).

It’s not simply a fast from food, but a time of cleansing both the body and the soul. Even small children are included in this sacrament.

Click here to read full article

Christians, Muslims Unite At Nigeria Protest

by Jon Gambrell
from The Huffington Post

Christians and Muslims protesting together in Nigeria. Photo by Getty Images.

LAGOS, Nigeria — A human wave of more than 20,000 surrounded the Muslim faithful as they prayed toward Mecca Friday, as anti-government demonstrations over spiraling fuel prices and corruption showed unity among protesters despite growing sectarian tensions in Africa’s most populous nation.

While violence sparked by religious and ethnic divisions left about 1,500 people dead last year alone in Nigeria, some hope the ongoing protests gripping the oil-rich nation will bring together a country that already suffered through a bloody civil war.

“It shows that Nigeria is now coming together as one family,” said Abdullahi Idowu, 27, as he prepared to wash himself before Friday prayers.

Click here to read full article

June 28th, 2012 at 10:55 am

Rise in UK Multifaith Prayer Rooms, a Liverpool Study Reveals

The multifaith space at the Museum of Liverpool

from BBC News

The number of shared spaces for prayer, reflection and meditation has risen over the last 10 years, a study has found.

Researchers from The University of Liverpool said there were more than 1,500 multifaith spaces in the UK.

Dr Andrew Crompton from the University of Liverpool said the increase came in spite of “a decline in the popularity of established religion”.

Click here to read the full article. 

Finding Common Ground Across Special Needs: Ritual, Autism, and My Faith

by Dilshad D. Ali

I’ve recently taken up saying prayers on my tasbih – much more so than I ever did in my life before. I sit in the rocking chair in the corner of my son’s room fingering my tasbih (something akin to a rosary), doing dhikr while he burrows under the covers on his bed, pulling the weighted blanket over his face as he retreats from the world and takes comfort in the dark, close, muffled space where nothing assaults his senses.

My goal is that he should finger the tasbih while I say the prayers, especially when he shows signs that a meltdown is coming, or is in the throes of a meltdown. He likes to play with beads, stim on them. So I’m hoping he’ll grow to play with the tasbih and learn to use the tasbih as a method of grounding routine and ritual – something recently pointed out to me by a very astute Catholic autistic adult who read a recent blog post I wrote about my son’s struggles.

We’re not there yet, but for now, me just doing dhikr while fingering the tasbih seems to help calm my autistic son. Maybe it’s the prayers, maybe it’s not. But it gives me comfort; it’s something to do, a way to throw my line back to God and put some previously lacking trust back in His will.

For the past nearly 12 years of raising my son (and other two children), ten of which have been dictated by his severe autism, my faith as a Muslim has waxed and waned. I have searched for the words, the examples, the feelings that would help me believe, help me have complete trust that Allah knows best, that He will answer my prayers. I’ve sought guidance through my family, through friends and halaqas (religious study groups), through YouTube videos of inspirational sermons and lectures, through the words of Qur’an and hadith.

But, when you’re in the throes of helping your severely autistic son live his life, when your prayers turn from hopes of recovery and independence to just wanting him to be happy and at peace, when you beseech God time after time and still see your son suffering, when you see your entire family affected by one child’s disability, faith and trust can grow tenuous. And so I found my daily prayers growing one dimensional. I found myself continuously frustrated.

Common Grounds across Special Needs

Last fall, purely with intentions of self-therapy and autism awareness, I turned to one of the things I do best: writing. I launched my own blog at Patheos, a multi-faith news and blog website where I’m a managing editor, and began writing about Islamic issues, autism and my son.

The response was overwhelming, and the connections that came from Muslims the world over as well as from people of other faith traditions lifted my spirits. I’ve always felt divided between my faith and autism communities of friends, that neither group understood what it was like to live our life. In sharing our story, Muslims with autistic children reached out to me from around the world, sympathizing, asking me questions, offering advice and prayers.

But another profound thing to emerge from this journey has been the bolstering of my Muslim faith from connections I’ve made with people of other religions. I shouldn’t be surprised, really. As a journalist and editor, I’ve sought to cover Islam in America in both horizontal (to reach out to other religious groups) and vertical (to deepen the conversations in the American Muslim community) ways.

Whereas I knew that the heartfelt thoughts shared by Muslims would help bolster my faith in Allah, what resonated even further at times was how people of other faiths ignited a kindred spirit in my struggles. Reading and speaking with them about their struggles and lessons learned gave me fuel to think of Islam, Allah’s will and innocent children in different ways. Soon after beginning my blog, I was blessed to become friends with Amy Julia Truesdell Becker, a writer who blogs at “Thin Places—Faith, Family and Disability” at Patheos and is the author of A Good and Perfect Gift.

Becker has three children, one of whom – Penny – has Down’s syndrome. She writes about accepting Penny and loving her as she is and growing stronger in her Christian faith, about finding strength and acceptance in God’s will and how He does or doesn’t answer her prayers – things I’ve struggled with for years with my children.

“So many people I know [with their own special needs children], whether or not they’re of my faith tradition, understand the traditions and value of my daughter in an intuitive way – it’s a special bond that goes beyond theology,” Becker said to me in one of our conversations.

“I think that most parents of children with special needs, regardless of their faith background or lack thereof, have some sort of innate understanding of humanity, of life in all its diverse form. I then understand that or make of that experience through a theological lens. There’s a point of difference between our faiths, but [this understanding of diverse humanity] is a powerful commonality,” Becker said.

It’s this common respect for all of God’s children, this idea that life is diverse, imperfect, difficult, beautiful, and a gift that helps me to accept that although I may not understand His purpose or plan, Allah indeed has one for my son.

Tradition, Routine and Self-Control

Now, I’m not a strong woman. I falter a lot in this thinking. I backtrack, and have to find that trust in Allah time and time again. Two weeks ago I wrote about the Jekyll and Hyde of autism, how Mr. Hyde’s awful persona has taken over my son for months now, how we are desperately trying to figure out what has changed, what may have triggered it.

An amazing thing came from this post of despair. A person, who self-identified as a Catholic autistic, told me that when I am despairing of how to rid my son of Mr. Hyde, I should teach him to pray:

Give him a prayer rug or a kneeler or whatever fits your family traditions. Maybe two so he won’t be scared the first few times if you can be with him. Then, when you hear the perservating, when you can tell a meltdown is about to happen- that’s the time to pray. The routine of the prayers is calming.”

“I may not be able to meet you on theology—but when it comes to tradition, routine, and self-control, Islam is equal to or better than Christianity on all three. And it’s those three things that the Autistic needs to survive in the modern world.”

This advice has been a turning point. As I wrote in a following post, “My son thrives on routine. And, when he is in the throes of a meltdown, his therapists and I often instruct him through short commands to help ground him and occupy his mind and hands (clap your hands, stomp your feet, touch your nose, do the puzzle, do this, do this, do this) until hopefully he comes out of it. Why not add the tasbih or rituals of salat (prayer) to his arsenal of meltdown-breaking weapons?”

You never know where religious strength will come from: divine inspiration, self-reflection on faith, immersion in sermons and scripture, or from a simple piece of advice given by a Catholic who understands how the rituals of Islam may help an autistic child.

Becker said to me, “Sometimes prayer’s purpose is to change us, not to change our circumstances.”  It is with this thought, and with the words of the Catholic commenter, that now, for the past week, I sit in my son’s room, perform my Maghreb salat and then take a tasbih and whisper so he can hear, Subhanallah, Alhamdulillah, Astaghfirullah, Allahu Akbar.*

 

*Glory be to God, All praise is due to God, I seek forgiveness from God, God is Greater

 

Dilshad D. Ali is the managing editor of the Muslim Portal at Patheos, editor-in-chief of Altmuslim at Patheos, and she blogs at www.patheos.com/blogs/muslimahnextdoor. She is the mother of three children, the eldest of whom is severely autistic.