Abdullah Fas, The Circle

To start off with, I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia which has the two most holy places in Islamic faith; Makkah and Madina. Going to only these two worship places growing up made me interested to know more about other religions. I wondered where they would hold their worship events? what would they be doing? What are their believe about? How would they view other beliefs? And many other questions that I and still so eager to know about. I am curious to see some poignant points about the difference between tradition and actual practice within different religions. In writing this report I saw the role in establishing a communal place of worship is important to bring members of a community together, not to mention the immense good many religious institutions accomplish when the community acts as one. That being said, I believe there is an overemphasis on the importance of a place of worship rather than the actual worship.

Worship, by definition, can be done anywhere with the exception of atonement according to some traditions. While religious structures can bring about plenty of good, they can also be places where people with similar beliefs become even more demarcated. A place of worship should bring about peace, not division. On this report, I am going to write about my experience of the Mawlid al Nabi ceremony that took place on Saturday at the Martin Luther University College. As part of the Islamic spiritual tradition called Sufism is the Celebrating of Prophet Muhammad’s (s) Birthday. Regardless to the dispute between some denominations to disapprove its commemoration, considering it an unnecessary religious innovation. I have decided for the third time in a row to actually attend this year’s Mawlid especially because of what I learn from you, Dr. Engin, in this class about how important it is to take the first step to be more open mind, to have the willingness to learn about others, and to be critical thinker.

Dr. Idriss Sparkes invited me as he was in charge of the service. The event started with a beautiful recitation from the Qur’an, the room became calm and quiet. This calm ambience did not last long as Dr. Sparkes and his team started to sing Nasheed (songs) and poems in honor of the Prophet Muhammad. They were using only two drums but the way they were raising and lowering their voices in homogeneous manner using Moroccan-African style. The atmosphere and sounds made me find myself in an enthusiasm where I then began clapping and singing with everyone else. Since everybody joins in by either singing, druming or even just clapping like me, the circle become energized and spiritual. When we were about to perform the last Nasheed, the team recited the a-Salawat al-Ibrahimiya which is Sending Blessings upon the prophet Muhammad (s) and his family. They concluded by making supplication to Allah, asking for his help and guidance to better the world we live in, Amen. At the end, they served everyone with Moroccan tea and food that honestly made my experience fantastic.

I am glad that I attended this event as indeed it summarize my journey and all that I learned in this class about interfaith harmony. Connecting the history to the present in this class made me experience unity which should not be the final realization in my journey. I can confidently say if all people reach this stage of understanding the world will notice a significant   reduce in hate, violence, and conflicts within and between religions. I believe as mentioned in the class readings that a lot of the issues that arise today within and between religions groups stems from ignorance of their struggle. You often hear people blaming Muslim’s for their own problems but given the description of the conditions and oppression they suffered through, it is clear that problems in the Muslim community are symptoms of a much earlier disease that have been passed from past to present time. Sometimes the mistreatment never ended, but merely moved on from generation to generation, meaning officials and the public should work towards righting this terrible wrong. For example, the concept of salvation poses difficult ontological questions such as what actually happens to a person when they die. Many religions preach some manner of punishment or reward after death but there is no knowing who deserves what. I think that we should focuses on salvation in terms of the community rather than on an individual level. I like this message because I think the purpose of religion is to bring people together, regardless of what they believe. I think humanity is ultimately each other’s salvation and we should live as if we will experience peace or suffering together. Another example, having cancer or suffering from any kind of illness that is exceedingly difficult to treat in itself can be a difficult experience.  I have heard people repeatedly say, “None of us knows how to have cancer”. In addendum to these words, I would include that none of us truly know how to accept death. Some people do not accept it at all until they have no choice, and others accept it in an act of resignation. The point is about the role religion can play in coming to terms with one’s own mortality. What I find so interesting about this idea is when I see people starts off by believing that God gave them cancer for a reason. People seem to react poorly to the thought that bad things just happen. There is peace to be found in believe bad things happen for a reason, which makes bad occurrences good in the long term. What these people is talking about is really the beauty of religion, and being able to convert a bad moment into a moment of strength.

In concluding, humanity’s and religion’s biggest threat has always been us, and our actions to what happens around us in daily life highlights the major issues of our time. Political, social, environmental, and religious turmoil, just to name some, ravish this world that we call home. I believe we should focus on collective action rather than laying down an accusation on who is to blame about these problems. Accusations do not lead to change but actions do. To realize these aspirations, we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities. Regardless of one’s religious background, a common theme to most religions is interconnectedness, which is why I find this particular idea that this course focus on is fascinating. I believe people should recognized that every member of a society, both past, present, and future, had something to share, be it skills or a story, that others rely on and learn from. In a world where there appears to be more hierarchy than an acknowledgement of the role every individual play. which I believe is important since people often strongly identify with their religious group. While the cultural practices of religious people are also integral to their self-identity, it is their belief that provides their way of life and which ultimately guides them.  In one way or another, everyone contributes to the problems we face, but that does not mean we cannot also be the solution. Diverse communities can learn from one another to tackle society’s problems one by one. Society may never be perfect, but that does not mean it is not worth improving.