Only One God

“And dispute ye not with the People of the Book except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong and injury: But say: ‘We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which has come down to you; Our God and your God is one; and it is to Him We bow (in Islam).’”(Qur’an 29:46)

Last evening I had the pleasure of attending a program sponsored by the Muslim Christian Dialogue Center at the University of St. Thomas. It wasn’t my first nor will be it be my last! The Center does a splendid job of fostering mutual understanding and cooperation among Muslims and Christians through respectful dialogue grounded in the Qur’anic and Christian traditions. The dialogue flows from the belief that Muslims and Christians worship the same God (cf. Vatican II: Nostra Aetate, The Qur’an, 29:46; 42:15), who is at work in both faiths and share much in common.

All three presenters were warm and inviting representatives of their faith. I was especially intrigued by the woman who grew up Catholic on a farm in Central Minnesota who converted to Islam. Why would anyone do that? Weren’t there good Christian role models to mentor her in the richness of her faith of origin? Yes, I felt challenged, apologetic and defensive. However, her radiant demeanor, spiritual wisdom and obvious respect for both Judaism and Christianity assured me of her personal integrity and the beauty of Islam as a spiritual path.

I welcomed numerous points of resonance between the two faiths if we step beyond dogmatism and rote ritual. How do we come to know the Holy One? How do we awaken to the manifold presence and providence of God? How do we best honor and remain aware of the Holy? Of course, this finds expression in efficacious gratitude. I was returned to my own Ignatian (cf., St. Ignatius of Loyola; Jesuit) heritage: Ad Majoren Dei Glorium – not just “all for the glory of God” but “all for the greater glory of God’!

The panelists’ joyful insistence that literally everything is a creation of God sounded a great deal like the desirable habit of “Finding God in all things!” This lived appreciation that holiness resides in each of us and in all creation reminded me of Gerard Manly Hopkins’ poetry (e.g. Pied Beauty and Kingfishers). Islam’s resolute desire to live in conscious awareness of God and orienting one’s living according to God’s will found easy parallel in the Examen (find numerous versions of this practice [here]).

Rather than remaining within our Christian comfort zone, you may wish to prayerfully reflect upon a poem shared by 13th century Persian Sufi mystic, Rumi.  May it awaken us to God’s intimate presence throughout creation. Remaining aware of such providence, may we show gratitude for all we have been given:

who is this existence
who puts sadness
in your heart
 
who is this soul
who sweetens your grief
as soon as you crawl
 
the one who first frightens you
with deadly snakes
before opening the treasure vault
 
who changes a monster
to an angel
a sorrow to happiness
 
who gives the blind
wisdom and
inner sight
 
who changes darkness
to light
thistles to flowers
 
who sheds the sins
of the sinful like
autumn leaves
 
and puts guilt
in the heart of
its own enemies
 
who makes them
repent and in silence
says amen and
whose amen brings
inner happiness
and soulful delight
 
who changes bitter thoughts
to lightness and
joyous zeal
 
bestows fire
and makes you leap
with unknown joy
 
the fire that can
make a hero
from a desperate heart
 
who is this existence
who is this
tell me who

(ghazal number 528, translated by Nader Khalili)

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