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Archive for the ‘spiritual practice’ tag

The Sharia that Muslim Americans Live

by Abdul Malik Mujahid
from Sharia101.org

You might have seen a government-required sign at a McDonald’s restroom telling employees to wash their hands. Muslims do this as a part of living their faith, which is called Sharia in Arabic. The Prophet Muhammad also encouraged Muslims to wash their hands before and after eating. Muslim parents raise their children on many such manners. The first chapter in almost all books on Sharia is about morals and manners of cleanliness, which Prophet Muhammad said is half of the faith. God’s peace and blessings be upon him.

When Muslims begin anything they say, “In the name of God”. That is Sharia. When they greet each other, they smile and say, “Assalamu Alaikum” (peace be with you). That is Sharia.

Similarly, when Muslims take short breaks five times a day to pray, this is another example of practicing Sharia. Prayer is normally the second chapter in almost all books about Sharia.

Sharia does not present a comprehensive list of pure foods and drinks, although it prohibits ten or twelve things and declares everything else to be Halal or lawful to consume. If Muslims cannot find Halal food, they often eat vegetarian or kosher food. This is all Sharia.

Sharia Is Neither One Nor Static

Sharia is not one monolithic body or a codified book of comprehensive law.

Sharia is based on the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, but not all of Sharia is God’s word. A good part of Sharia is made up of human contributions. There are literally hundreds and thousands of books written in the last 1,400 years, in multiple languages in places as diverse as Timbuktu in Africa to Bukhara in Central Asia, with millions of opinions, judicial reviews, etc. on various issues. Together, they form the body of Sharia.

Sharia Continues To Evolve

A recent development, for example, is a Sharia discipline called Islamic Economics and Finance. It now commands a trillion dollar market, thousands of scholarly works, graduate programs, and the establishment of Sharia boards at hundreds of Muslim and non-Muslim owned banks. This exercise in Sharia is essentially a human contribution of the last fifty years, aiming to offer Muslims guidance on how to invest and conduct their financial transactions in a modern economy in line with their principles as believers. Throughout history, Islam has cherished debates. An important early Islamic debate that continues today was between traditionalists and rationalists over whether the universal principles of God’s law were to be known by revelation or reason or both. These debates have resulted in dozens of schools of thought in Islam.

Is Sharia A Threat To America?

When some American pundits call Sharia, “a growing threat to the United States,” Muslim Americans wonder what in the world they are talking about. Sharia is overwhelmingly concerned with personal religious observance, not with constitutions and laws. All observant Muslims practice Sharia. Defining Sharia as a threat, therefore, is the same thing as saying that all observant Muslims are a threat.

When you see a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf and a loose dress, or a Muslim man with a head covering or beard, they are likely following Sharia manners of dress.

When in a marriage sermon you hear the Quran recited about piety, loyalty to each other, and God’s advice for clear communication between spouses, that is a Sharia wedding.

Muslims often avoid taking out mortgages due to the Sharia prohibition on Riba (usury/interest). This has led to the establishment of a worldwide Islamic financial industry and Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes. The latter select companies that don’t deal in weapons, pornography, gambling, tobacco, or alcohol, etc. These investments are similar to 30 other “faith-based” investment options, like the Catholic Values Index. These are examples of the practice of Sharia in the realm of business.

All of the above are real-life examples of the totality of Sharia as practiced by the observant among the close to six million Muslims in America and the 3,000 formal Muslim congregations in America. Muslim Americans include doctors, entrepreneurs, professors, cab drivers, and the guy fixing your computer. Their service to their communities is also an example of practicing Sharia.

The Sharia That Muslim Americans Don’t Practice

There are parts of Sharia that Muslim Americans don’t implement in their daily lives.

Since Muslims ran a civilization for over a thousand years, they naturally developed a body of laws to deal with governing society. These laws deal with issues ranging from fighting neighborhood crime to international laws of war and peace.

Muslim Americans don’t practice these laws since they deal with the realm of government and state. Sharia emphasizes that the rule of law in a society must be implemented by the state. It considers vigilantism a major crime and a sin. Therefore, Sharia prohibits Muslims from practicing this part of Islam on an individual basis.

The Quran, like the Old Testament, is not limited to only the Ten Commandments, all of which except for the commandment to keep the Sabbath are to be found in parallel statements in the Quran. Like the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy), it ordains punishments for serious crimes. Unfortunately, it is this penal law that many people wrongly think is exclusively Sharia. This is incorrect.

It is true that Islamic criminal law has been at times implemented harshly, and even wrongly, by some Muslims. Such an application of Islamic criminal law is void of God’s mercy, which is considered His primary attribute in Islam. However, those nations or groups that do this do not speak for all Muslims, nor do they speak for the prophet of mercy, Prophet Muhammad, who would turn his face away when a person confessed his or her crimes. This was to give them room for repentance and forgiveness.

About five countries among the 56 Muslim nations worldwide implement Islamic criminal laws. Virtually none of them implement Sharia in its totality in all spheres of life. Their laws are a combination of local custom and precedent in that particular country, as well as remnants of laws brought by European colonial powers that ruled those countries.

The primary purpose of Sharia is to preserve life and order in society, not to incarcerate and punish. However, many in the Muslim world who are sick and tired of corruption and injustice demand that the criminal laws of Islam be implemented in their countries. Nevertheless, this is not what Muslims in America are demanding. Their practice of Sharia is limited to the personal sphere.

Unfortunately, three U.S. states have passed anti-Sharia laws, and 22 others are actively considering bills against Sharia. Some politicians are now looking to pass a federal law against Sharia. Anti-Sharia bills are a part of a well-funded campaign of fear mongering and intolerance, not unlike previous campaigns in America against Catholics and Jews.

To understand Sharia is to understand Islam. Criminalizing Sharia will criminalize the practice of Islam in America. Sharia mandates that Muslims respect the law of the land. It is also against Sharia to impose Sharia on anyone. Muslim Americans are subject to the same laws and constitution as any other American.

Sharia is in some ways similar to the Jewish Halacha law or Catholic Canon Law, with similar historic roots but far less complex. Unlike Jewish Halacha law which is practiced in Jewish American courts called Beth Din, there is no Muslim court system in the United States, nor is the Muslim community demanding this.

This article and many other resources concerning Sharia are available on Sharia101.org

March 22nd, 2012 at 7:55 am

Ramadan: A Month-Long Spiritual Gym

by Imam Abdullah Antepli

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This is the month in which the Holy Qur’an started to be revealed to prophet Muhammad. So Ramadan marks the historical birth of Islam as the youngest sibling of the Abrahamic family. Ramadan has been primarily a joyful celebration of this birth in prayerful and devotional ways for the last fourteen hundred years by Muslims of all different backgrounds.

All religions carve out specific periods of time to be more intentional and deliberate about their core teachings and ideals. Ramadan is that special time for believing and practicing Muslims when they try their very best to be more intentional and focused about their relationship with the Divine by taking on various physical and spiritual disciplines and by devoting significant amount of quality time to ponder about the state of that relationship.

Every day during this holy month, practicing adult Muslims of good health around the world spend the daylight hours fasting completely. They abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours. It is a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-sacrifice.

But Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking. Muslims are called upon to use this month to re-evaluate their lives in light of Islamic guidance. We are to make peace with those who have wronged us, strengthen ties with family and friends, do away with bad habits — essentially clean up our lives, our thoughts, and our feelings. The Arabic word for “fasting” (sawm) literally means “to refrain” – and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but also from evil actions, thoughts, and words. So Ramadan is a month of self-auditing. Muslims are expected to slow down and deeply reflect on their lives. They are called to note all the plusses and minuses, weak and strong areas. They are invited to give intense gratitude and thanks to the Divine and their loved ones for those plusses and ask forgiveness and guidance for the minuses from the same sources.

During Ramadan, every part of the body must be restrained. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip. The eyes must restrain themselves from peering at unlawful possibilities. The hand must not touch or take anything wrong. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to improper places. In such a way, every part of the body observes the fast.

Therefore, fasting is not merely physical, but is rather the total commitment of the person’s body and soul to the spirit of the fast. Ramadan is a month long spiritual gym where Muslims work hard on their spiritual muscles. Muslims are called to do this year-round, but Ramadan gives them an opportunity to push these ethical and moral ideals into their bones and instill them in the very tissue of their brains. Ramadan helps Muslims develop these internal and spiritual strengths by forcing them to be more intentional every 11 months.

Ramadan is also a month of charity and empathy. Through these physical disciplines that we take on, Muslims try to improve their empathy with those who are less privileged than them and with those for whom hunger and starvation is a way of life. This deeper empathy and understanding is expected to increase our motivation and determination to attend the needs of our fellow human beings.

Eid al-Fitr marks the successful completion of month long struggle and internal purification at the end of Ramadan. Muslims often invite their non-Muslim friends to join them and celebrate their spiritual achievements.

And also, following are the special Islamic Dates during Fall-2011:

Ramadan Starts -First day of fasting August 1st, 2011
Ramadan Ends August 29th, 2011
Eid al-Fitr (Celebration of the end of Ramadan) August 30th, 2011
Hajj (Muslim Pilgrimage) days November 4-9th 2011
Eid al-Adha ( Celebration of the Pilgrimage) November 6th, 2011

 

Dilatato Corde, An Expanded Heart: A New Online Journal of Interreligious Spirituality

Trustee CornerBy Leo Lefebure
CPWR Trustee

Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique/Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (DIM/MID) recently launched a new online journal dedicated to exploring interreligious dialogue concerning spirituality and religious experience. The multi-language journal provides a forum for interreligious exchanges concerning prayer and contemplation, spiritual experience, and the spirituality of interreligious dialogue, including contemporary personal testimonies as well as academic and historical studies. The new journal takes its name from a phrase in the prologue of the Rule of Saint Benedict, which invites readers to follow the path of God’s commandments “with an expanded heart.”

Dilatato Corde, as the journal is known, appears twice a year free of charge at www.dimmid.org. In the Foreword of the second issue, dated July 1, 2011, editor-in-chief Pierre-Francois de Bethune, OSB, considers the significance of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace, convoked by Pope John Paul II at Assisi in 1986 and also of the upcoming gathering in Assisi next October. De Bethune recalls a comment made to him in 1986 by a Zoroastrian participant, Homi Dhalla: “From now on I will not be able to pray as before; I will always be in communion with all those who pray.”

A number of essays share personal experiences of transformation in dialogue. For example, a moving testimony from Lucy Brydon, OSB, describes the “enlarging of the heart” through her interreligious experiences of many decades, ranging from living with Muslims in Africa to a transformative encounter with Theravada Buddhists, to her current work in Buddhist-Christian retreats focusing on mindfulness. In another personal testimony, Mary John Marshall, OSB, shares the intersections of her Christian monastic journey with the path of her late natural sister, Maylie Scott, who was a Zen Buddhist priest; the essay includes a reflection that Maylie Scott wrote in 1998.

Some authors consider the meaning of another religion’s perspectives for their own practice. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Delegate to the League of Arab States, reflects on the significance for Christians of Muslim veneration of the Ninety-nine Most Beautiful Names of God. Fitzgerald notes texts from the Qur’an and the Bible that may be conducive to prayer, exploring both the Qur’anic context of the Beautiful Names of God and analogies in the Hebrew Bible, and then offering a Christian reflection in light of the New Testament. Richard Zeikowitz ponders the significance of the teachings of the Rule of Saint Benedict in light of his personal experiences of Tibetan Buddhist and Christian monasticism.

DIM/MID is an international organization of Catholic monastics involved in dialogue with the spiritual and monastic traditions of the world’s religions. For more than half a century, Catholic monastics have been pioneering and developing new forms of spiritual encounter and interreligious dialogue with monastics and practitioners of other religious traditions. In North America, Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (MID) coordinates the work of these monastic communities in relation to other traditions; Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique carries on this work in Europe and beyond. Since 1994, these and other comparable monastic initiatives around the world are united under the leadership of the General Secretariat, which was established by the Abbot Primate of the Benedictines in consultation and cooperation with the Abbot General of the Cistercians. William Skudlarek, O.S.B., a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, serves as the General Secretary of DIM/MID and is associate editor of Dilatato Corde.

The Future of Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrian ceremony.  Credit: NYTimesfrom the New York Times

Laurie Goodstein reports on Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion on the verge of extinction.  In this video article, Goodstein reports on her interviews with practicing Zoroastrians and the future of the faith.

Click here to watch the video

The Center of Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions was proud to send representatives to the launch of the Center of Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose, United States on November 12th. Board Chair Rev. Dr. William Lesher and Partner Cities Director Ms. Zabrina Santiago attended and spoke at the inaugural event, along with Mayor Chuck Reed of San Jose.

The Center offers worship services, adult education classes in spiritual philosophy and practice, healthy living, Hatha Yoga, retreats, leadership training, spiritual direction and counseling, children’s education and a thriving spiritual community. For more information on the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, click here.