As it’s a truly beautiful fall day here in Minnesota (eerily similar to 9/11/2001), I sat outside for a while reading the first half of What Do Muslims Believe? : The roots and realities of modern Islam by Ziauddin Sardar. A brief (140 small pages) but helpful introduction to Muslims and Islam. Sardar starts with a fairly concise, straightforward answer to “What makes a Muslim?” and then explores the historical and modern complexities. I’ll be returning to this book after a bit of a break & nap. Should be helpful preparation for the early evening “Prayerful Action: Reading the Qur’an on September 11, 2010” I’ll be attending.
I began today the way I begin almost every day: made a cup of tea, gathered the cat on my lap, and celebrated Morning Prayer. Currently, the Old Testament readings are from Job and the Gospel readings have been about Jesus healing and performing “miracles” like raising Lazarus from the Dead. What I noticed this morning was how often the issue of “different interpretations” comes up. Job and his friends argue about the meaning of his suffering (God will soon arrive to point out they may not know what they are talking about 🙂 The witnesses to Jesus’s behavior are equally divided about what to make of it.
Hmmm, perhaps I’m onto the theme of the day . . .
After Morning Prayer I re-read the first chapter of Bruce Feiler’s excellent book Abraham. The first chapter paints a stark picture of the dysfunctional family of the Children of Abraham as evidenced by a day in Jerusalem. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that three faiths all tracing their heritage (if not their literal biological selves) back to one man can end up spending so much time fighting. After all, I come from a family of three sisters!
Next I read the Introduction and the chapter on Rosh Hashanah in Rabbi David Aaron’s Inviting God In: Celebrating the Soul Meaning of the Jewish Holy Days. What a lovely introduction to these Holidays/Holy Days! I really appreciated the discussion of the complexities and contradictions and mixed feelings involved in “celebrating” a “Day of Judgment”. I was particularly struck by the teaching about moving from a state of back-to-back with God to a face-to-face connection with God (which is reestablished through forgiveness). The discussion of justice and compassion was also extremely thought-provoking. I’ll be returning often to the distinction between justice (giving you what you deserve) and kindness/compassion (giving to you even if you do not deserve it).
Finally, I read the section on Rosh Hashanah in Robert Schoen’s What I Wish my Christian Friends Knew about Judaism. I thought it would deal more with the nuts and bolts of the rituals than the deeper meaning discussed in Rabbi Aaron’s book. Unfortunately, Schoen’s book seems too oversimplified even for someone as non-Jewish as I am. The tone is more humorous and less theoretical than Inviting God In, but I didn’t feel I learned very much.
Now that I’ve had a bit of breakfast and a break, I’ll be trying to learn a bit about Ramadan . . .
In response to recent events, this year September 11th has been declared:
International Read a Book Day
For an explanation, take a look at this excellent video:
For my part, I’m suggesting that everyone spend at least some time tomorrow “reading about a religion you do not practice”. A group of us over at LibraryThing.com will be reporting in on when/where/what we read. I’ll also be adding new posts here describing what I read and my thoughts and reactions.
I’ll be reading from one or more of the following books (gathered from my own bookshelf and the religion section of the local branch of my library):
Judaism: An anthology of the key spiritual writings of the Jewish tradition edited and interpreted by Arthur Hertzberg
Inviting God In by Rabbi David Aaron
What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew about Judaism by Robert Schoen
What Do Muslims Believe? by Ziauddin Sardar
Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong
No god but God by Reza Aslan
The Wisdom of the Prophet: Sayings of Muhammad translated by Thomas Cleary
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
I’ll also be attending a “Prayerful Action” gathering at a local Episcopal Church where a Professor of World Religion will teach us about the Qur’an and guide us in reading selections from it “as an expression of honor and respect.”
So please join International Read a Book Day and if you don’t have your own blog, add your reflections here at Lucidia!