Soniah Kamal

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'Islam is not Pakistan's religion; Marriage is'

Monday, April 7, 2008

God Revisited

David Plotz knew religion in ‘bits and pieces’ –he knew a bit of this, he remembered a piece of that, the rest he picked up along the way. Then one day in adulthood he attends a Bar Mitzvah and picks up the Good Book and opens it and reads it and what he reads startles him enough to read more and record what he comes away reading. This record makes for a hysterical series called Blogging the Bible. Here’s an example:
“Moses leads the Israelites into the wilderness—Day 1 of their 40-year trek. They immediately complain that they’re thirsty and the only available water is bitter. We’re a grumbling people, aren’t we? Freedom after 430 years of captivity, and nothing to do but grouse. The Israelites had crabbed to Moses when Pharaoh made them gather their own straw. When the Egyptian army pursued them to the Sea of Reeds, they had griped to Moses that they would rather have stayed in Egypt as slaves than die by the sea. Now they’re fussing that they’re thirsty. God gives Moses a piece of wood that cleans up the water—the world’s first Brita filter. “
read rest of post on PTH

Aasem Bakshi brings to my attention Ziauddin Sardar Blogging the Quran for The Guardian. And Robert Spencer is also Blogging the Quran for HotAir. Reading these interpretations side by side should be fun (even if they're not written in Plotz's satirical fashion which made BTB such a delightful read). For instance the first verse in the Quran is The Opening (Al-Fatiha) and Spencer is preoccupied with whom the verse's last two lines refer to and illustrate his exploration of the Quran is in order to understand it within a '9/11 how-could-they' context:

'The final two verses of the Fatiha asks Allah: “Show us the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast favoured; not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.” The traditional Islamic understanding of this is that the “straight path” is Islam — cf. Islamic apologist John Esposito’s book Islam: The Straight Path. The path of those who have earned Allah’s anger are the Jews, and those who have gone astray are the Christians.'

Sardar's exploration is more nuanced and detailed and, interesting enough, he neither spends much time on the final two lines nor is there any mention of Jews or Christians. Rather Sardar concentrates on what is referred to, in The Opening, as the straight path, 'sirat-ul-mustakeen', and Medaliane Bunting-- her role is to ask Sardar questions a non-Muslim might have about the text--brings up interesting contrasts and comparisons with the Bible.

'Common to both Christianity and Islam is the image of the path, and the spiritual life as a journey. These are very important ideas in Christianity and I wondered whether you can explain more on how this image is used in Islam...The implication is that it's hard to follow the Christian path and the gate is narrow, but the Qur'an seems to be using the image differently; can you explain? Finally, can you expand on what stops human beings following the path? In Christianity, the explanation is that fallen human nature makes it hard for us to find and follow the narrow path. Does Islam have a belief about the Fall and original sin? What explanation is there in Islam for why all human beings aren't jogging happily along the Straight Path?'

I have always believed the straight path means means being the best human being you can possibly be regardless of whether you pray five times a day or not. The one saying of Prophet Muhammed which has always been of great comfort to me is that 'actions will be judged by intentions' i.e. God can see the hypocrite beneath the pious on the prayer mat.


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