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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Islam Can Speak to Us All

My life has been largely a religious quest. Religion has fascinated me, frustrated me and filled much of my intellectual life. Sadly, it has seldom satisfied me. It seem there is part of me that resists "submission" to the Mysterious. This may be a tale for another time: my journey from the child in school banished to the corridor for not publically reciting the Lord's Prayer to the clergyman I become as a vehicle for my personal seeking.

I have long been interested in World Religions. At one time, I could have been persuaded to become a reformed Jew as a result of a wonderful service in a Toronto Synagogue. Likewise, I was deeply impressed with Buddhism. And then, I was tempted to consider the life of a brother in a Trappist Monestary.(I fancied the robes and solituded. And I had read far to much of Thomas Merton) I found I came to hold a loyalty to the liberal religion of the Unitarian -Universalist denomination. It gave me a religious home when it seemed their was no place for a questioning religious person. If I were beginning again I might very have well become a Quaker.

Being a child of the '60's there was always the temptation of New Age religion through chemical mysticism but all that seemed so undisciplined. I find classical mysticism of all Faiths, requiring submission and discipline much more interesting. I am not very good at either. So I have limited my fascination with religion and mysticism to intellectual inquiry of the religious, Religion and particular Religions.

We all have much to learn from other Faiths than our own. In trying to understand them I believe one must consider them at their best to learn the great truths they have to teach. All Faiths have forms that are less than ideal and with element brought in from history, custom, ignorance and prejudice which detract from what they have to offer us. Also, I think one must try to understand what the meaning the religion has to the humble practitioner. "Theology is the price you pay for converting intellectuals to religion". I once read on the jacket of a book. This is not where religion is lived and felt as stimulating as the intellectual inquiry is.

Thanks to the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and their war against Islam, I have become interested in Islam and in particular, Shi'a Islam. Of all the world Faiths, it calls the loudest for submission; the very name, Islam, means to submit.

We are in the midst of the Islamic holiest time of the year. Ramadan. This is a wonderful religious and family and community time. It is a month long spiritual discipline of fasting during the daylight hours during which scripture and prayers are said, and eating with family and friends wonderful food after sunset and before sunrise. It is a time when Muslims seek to purify themselves and bring themselves once gain into the right relationship with God. Charity is also encourage at this time as are other ideal behaviours. (This is part of the website for Ismaili Muslims. It is one of the Shite branches of Islam whose Iman is the Agha Khan IV who is the 49 Imam, a direct descendent from Allah. The whole website is a fascinating read. I first met Ismaili Muslims when they were driven out of Uganda by Idi Amin and some came to Canada, and shared "church" space with the Unitarian Church in my home town.)

The other blog I enjoy reading is by an American Muslim woman who lives in Boston. Her father is an Imam in that city. She explains the meaning of Islam very well.

If you know little about Islam I invite you to read in a couple of blogs on my sidebar, particulary about the meaning of Ramadan. The first is the one by "Sunshine." She is a 13 year old Iraqi girl, living with her family in the midst of a war zone. She is articulate and a delightful person.


At 12:00 p.m., Blogger Gattina said...

Very nice post ! I agree with you to 100 %. I personally think that religion whatever it is should be respected. I have been many times in Egypt during Ramadam and have admired the hard working people remaining without food and drinks a whole day. But as in all religions some do it some not. As long as there are no fanatics all religions are OK for me. But churches and religion are two completely different things to me.

At 12:24 p.m., Blogger Gretchen said...

Like all things, religion should be taken with moderation.

There are fanatics in every single sect out there. Look what is ruling the USA at the moment. Wasn't too long ago if you claim God spoke to you, they'd lock you up in a nut house, now they elect you President.....

At 1:13 p.m., Blogger Navigator said...

Our so-called monotheistic religions (I don't consider some forms of Christianity to be monotheistic) start with the unquestioning belief in an "invisible sky-god" (my depiction of the deity) who is alleged to have created the heavens and the earth and who is all seeing and all-knowing, and despite being an obviously very busy deity, has enough time on its hands to take a personal interest in each and every one of our lives, for all of our lives.

When we are children we go through a period where we accept the truth of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. But we soon see through the fiction. Why oh why do we still cling to concept of the sky-god when we are fully grown adults?
Why would the wide-spread active suspension of disbelief in such a fantastic notion be considered a triumph in human society rather than a pathetic failing? Why have Isis, Zeus, Baal and Thor been relegated to the dustbin of history, while Jehovah, Allah or Yahweh (take your pick) still trudges on through the 21st century as if it could inform us of anything truly pertinent in our lives? Religion is nothing more than a social/political control mechanism invented by a priest class to keep itself employed in an occupation that doesn't require dirty fingernails and aching backs.

But, otherwise, where's the harm?

At 2:42 p.m., Blogger Paul said...

I appreciate the tone, tolerance, thought and example you show in this article.

At 10:26 a.m., Blogger Rosie said...

Wonderful post, Phillip. I really agree with's no secret that I have a huge fascination with faith and religion. It's a razor sharp double-edged sword. The biggest downfall I see is the tendency for religion to focus people on "otherness" rather than shared aspects of humanity.

In my personal search, I've come to believe that tolerance is the key. But it has to be practiced with an open hand and heart.

At 12:16 p.m., Blogger Hazar Nesimi said...

Thank you very much for wise words. May your soul be blessed during Ramadan!

At 9:57 p.m., Blogger faith said...

I have definately missed your blog,in the midst of my daily madness i find it gives me a peaceful moment to think & reflect..

I also share your passion for religion, i spend a considerable time when I was younger studying so many religions, Christianity, Judaism,Buddhim and Hinduism..i can say each religion has given me something in return,religion in general make us or break us,depending on how we take it. For me, Islam is the way of life that unites all the beautiful aspects of mainstream religion..beautiful post!

At 9:58 p.m., Blogger faith said...

btw, because blogger has been really weird and i have yet to figure out what the issue is, this is faith from


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