Thursday, August 28, 2014

A User's Manual for Everyday Life

"A Clear Path"
-Outside the Desert Retreat House-

In a fascinating NPR interview yesterday, Imam Sohaib Sultan, was asked about the horrendous atrocities being committed in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic fundamentalist group known as ISIS as they wreak havoc on that region  - waging war even against fellow Muslims, demanding that non-Muslims convert, executing Christians, beheading journalists.

In yesterday's interview, Imam Sultan, an Islamic scholar, a professor, and the Muslim Chaplain at Princeton University, argued that these "Islamic Fundamentalists" are essentially not Muslims, suggesting that "perhaps they should read the Koran."  

The Imam went on to describe the Koran as a Muslim "user's manual for everyday living" - a clear path that guides almost all aspects of life for faithful Muslim believers. He suggested that the path spelled out in the Koran is abhorrent to what these so called "Islamists" are now doing in the Middle East. 

Sohaib Sultan has written a paraphrased translation of this Muslim sacred scripture. He calls it, The Koran for Dummies. He explained that he wrote this to make the teaching of the Koran more accessible for non-Muslims but has since discovered that many Muslims have bought the book in order to have their own tradition more clearly explained to them.

Considering the fact that, as an American and a Christian, when it comes to the Koran I am pretty much a "Dummy," I went ahead and downloaded this book yesterday, and I found it to be very insightful and extremely helpful in understanding what Muslim scripture actually does teach. 

Some of the passages that I found exceptionally striking:

- At the time of birth the spirit of God blows into each and every soul. Each and every human being has a share.

- Mistreatment of the poor, orphans, widows and those who are oppressed in society is strictly forbidden.

- The diversity of the people of the world is a sign of God's beautiful design on earth. Humanity comes to know and learn from one another through the differences among nations and tribes. All human beings are equal before God.

-No one is to oppress others or spread fear and devastation on this earth

-God forgives those who forgive others.

-Non-Muslim citizens are to be afforded the same rights as Muslims, namely the sanctity of life, honor and property, and non-Muslims must never, under any circumstances be forced to convert to Islam. 

After reading the teaching of the Koran yesterday, I thought  to myself, "this is pretty much what Jesus taught" - respecting the dignity of every human being, the importance of diversity and the centrality of forgiveness, caring for those who are living at the margins of life. This Muslim manual for everyday living is also my path and it is essentially the path of all major religions in the world.

The thing is, you have to actually read the scriptures in order to understand the teachings.   

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