Friday, October 12, 2007

Tolerance as a religious imperative

As Ramadan winds down, I'd like to take a moment to wish my Muslim friends, associates, and readers "Eid Mubarak!" and to use this moment to refer all of my readers to some very elegant and wise words from His Highness the Aga Khan, the Imam of the Ismaili community.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Paul.

One of my favorite special celebrations is also held during the month of Ramadhan, called Lail-tul-Qadr, to celebrate the anniversary marking the night when Muhammad received his first revelation of the Quran and became a prophet. Lail tul Qadr literally means the Night of Power/Majesty. Muslims all over the world spend the night in community prayer and personal contemplation. While my particular community observes Lail tul Qadr on the 23rd night of Ramadhan, other Muslim groups might celebrate it any day between the 20th and 30th nights of Ramadhan. There is a sura (chapter) in the Quran that refers to this night, and one of my favorite ayats from that Sura translates to “This night is peace until the rising of the dawn.”

The word ayat itself means symbol, though it is commonly translated as verse. According to my particular tariqah’s interpretation of Islam, the Quran is an allegorical text that is full of symbolism, where divine concepts are translated into a limited human expression, and therefore needs to be read as such. Other interpretations of Islam take a more literal approach to interpreting the text. Correspondingly, there is a very broad range of interpretations of the Quran. If you were ever to look up translations of any particular sura, you will find that they can vary quite considerably according to the school of thought of the particular translator.

The Muslim world is incredibly rich and diverse, with lots of different interpretations and ways of practice. I think that not many people understand it, or the breadth of its practice. It is sad that what receives so much attention are the more extreme interpretations of the faith, an interpretation that the majority of practicing Muslims in the world would not agree with. Someone that I greatly respect once said that no one would assume that the actions of the Irish Republican Army are representative of the Catholic/Christian faith – yet this is precisely what people seem to do when they unquestioningly think or believe that the extreme interpretation of fundamentalist groups are representative of an extremely diverse faith.

Anonymous said...

I just saw this:

Empire State Building to turn green for Eid

New York, October 11: For the first time in its history, the world famous Empire State Building here will be lit in green from Friday to Sunday in celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr.

So far the landmark tower is lighted in traditional colours every year only on the occasion of Christmas and the Jewish festival Hannukah.

From this year on, lighting on Eid, a three-day celebration by Muslims to mark the end of Ramadan, will become an annual event.

In Islam, the colour green symbolizes a happy occasion.

Soaring 1,454 feet above Midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building was recently named America's most favourite building in the poll conducted by American Institute of Architects.

Anonymous said...

I wish some time in the near future the illumination is also done on 'Buddha's' birthday, Diwali day, Conficiuism day, Mr Nelson Mandelas freedom day and other significant global festivals.

It would be a heartwarming symbol of solidarity.