The bombing in Christchurch, New Zealand, is a shocking and sickening display of religious hatred and bigotry.
It should be condemned by everyone, regardless of religious allegiance. Yet, there are many, including the POTUS, who continually fear and deride Islam. What do we really know of the religion of Islam, a religion of millions of people around the world?
Islam is a monotheistic religion that celebrates the central figures of Judaism and Christianity, recognizing Abraham, Moses and Jesus as prophets. Muhammad is the “seal” of the prophets, the last one.
It is a religion that seeks direct experience of God, rather than belief in a God interpreted and explained by a confessor or priest.
There are Five Pillars that are the duties of a Muslim:
1. Make a confession of faith that there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger.
2. Pray five times a day.
3. Provide charity to the poor.
4. Fast during the season of Ramadan.
5. Make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city, once in a lifetime.
The creed is very simple, but it is also very demanding.
Americans could learn a lot from the Five Pillars of Islam. Perhaps that’s why we fear Islam. It is an affront to our consumerism and misplaced attention and priorities. It requires that the rich share with the poor, and that we remember God in our words and actions.
That is threatening to many in our consumption-obsessed society. It requires that we think of others and curb our appetites, which includes fasting (not dieting) during the season of Ramadan.
Ramadan commemorates the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Muhammad, and the beginning of the recitation of the Quran (the holy book of Islam), to him. (That’s why Muhammad is the messenger of God.)
A Ramadan fast during the daylight hours for a month without food or water is a major commitment. Those who are sick or pregnant or very old or very young are excused from fasting. As with many goals, we are not perfect and we may not rise to the test, but we can still make peace with ourselves and with God.
American prosperity has insulated us from the real dangers and truths of the world. We forget that the basis of our prosperity is built on the institution of slavery, indentured servants and imported cheap labor during our first waves of immigration. We compliment ourselves on our meritocracy but forget that the deck was stacked long ago. We forget our duty to others, our moral priorities and our insignificance.
Islam has other lessons to teach us. Again, maybe that is why so many fear its influence. The world is finite but God is infinite. Our time on Earth is short but God is eternal. That’s scary stuff. Muslims remember these truths at least five times a day.
In English, we talk about a future event or hope in terms of wants, or “would,” “should” or “could.” Muslims add, “God willing,” because only God can decide the future and the outcomes of our hopes and dreams.
I hope that America will shed its racist past and open the doors of opportunity to our immigrant brothers and sisters. I hope we will ask forgiveness for our sins of hatred, oppression and murder (as Jesus would have us do). God willing.