I often end up throwing myself into situations outside of my comfort zone because the growth of my soul is so important to me. Also I’m impulsive so I decide I’m going to do a thing and then I wonder why I ever signed myself up for such a thing! Visiting a mosque might be the boldest thing I’ve done yet.
I told some of my friends that I would like to find more Muslim friends, people I can know locally and not through the Internet. People who can help me connect with the human beings behind Islam. One of them told me that a local mosque is offering weekly coffee nights open to anyone. I decided that that was perfect and I called them up to verify it was happening.
It was awkward on the phone trying to explain my query. I probably gave the man who answered the very incorrect impression that I might be learning more in order to convert. Oh well. In person I think it will be easier to explain my motivations and why I want to learn more about Islam. (I did actually take a college class on Islamic history so I’m not entirely ignorant on Islam. It’s more the social side of it that I need to connect with).
I am extremely confident in my faith, so I don’t want anyone stressing out that I’m going to get sucked into a different religion. Hinduism is completely perfect for me and it always will be. Since I am not insecure about my own beliefs, I feel confident that I can listen and learn and engage with other people’s beliefs and hopefully bridge a bit of the gap that can come between Muslims and Hindus.
I need to get to know Muslims as human beings and I also need them to get to know us as human beings. Interfaith friendship, discussion, and dialog will benefit everyone, I think.
It is not “giving in” to anything, but rather it is practicing what I believe, which is that every person is God and should be respected and loved as such.
So Tuesday evening I arrived at the mosque. It took me a while to figure out where I was supposed to go, but I called the office and a nice man came out and held the door for me and the stroller. The gentleman leading the information session was lovely and kind. He reminded me so much of my friend Jay. Same accent, but also same mannerisms, same soft way of speaking. He brought out pie and ice cream for me and Garrick. There were three other ladies there a little bit older than me. Garrick and I were a bit late because we had trouble figuring out where we were supposed to be.
He was speaking and saying all the “right things” about how much Islam respects Jesus and things like that. Not surprising since I have no doubt the other three ladies were Christian (though they were also very open minded and knowledgeable people as well). Quickly we all realized that he was speaking about a splinter group of Islam. His religion is Ahmadiyya Muslim, which he was quick to tell us was persecuted by other Muslims!
There was definitely a “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy going on from both sides. Other Muslims dismiss his group as not real Islam and his group also dismisses them as turning away from God and not understanding the true message of Islam (which is peace, love, and service to humanity).
I could appreciate his message. At first I thought maybe this is a reform of Islam that I could support.
But then he began to speak about missionary work and I asked him if they were focusing on converting other Muslims to their version or people of all religions to their Islam. And he said both.
My heart sank as I realized that he has the same joyful glow of a Christian missionary who is sure that as soon as people hear about their prophet or their teaching, everyone will see the truth and join their movement.
This is a viewpoint I find is common in monotheistic people and people who see time as linear. They see the world moving towards a greater fulfillment of all prophecies, a time when we’ll all be united and all these properties will come to fruition. The second coming will be here.
And I don’t know how to break through that way of looking at the world to get them to understand that some people don’t think that way and that it is problematic to think that your prophet is going to fulfill all the religions of all the world and and bring them to full fruition.
Hinduism isn’t waiting for fruition, it isn’t waiting for end times, it isn’t waiting for anything. He has an impression that Hindus are waiting for the second coming of Krishna. I guess you could look at it that way in terms of Kalki, the last avatar Vishnu, coming but it’s not like oh that’s the time when we’re all going to go to heaven and join God. It’s just another point along the cycle and it’s not an endpoint it’s an end for this manifestation of the world and another will arise.
When I brought up that I was Hindu he said that he spoke to many Hindus and had some come visit their mosque before and it sounded like it was very productive wonderful conversations. He’s open about reaching out to other peoples…but he still thinks that his new prophet is a prophet for all peoples in all religions. He basically said that he thinks that this is the way that will unite all of us. So as much as he was a lovely person and his message is very peaceful, it still leads towards taking away a fundamental aspect of Hinduism.
This is lovely, they include the Gita as a revealed scripture and Krishna as a prophet. BUT I do not and will never believe in a last day of resurrection and judgment of humanity. Groups like this, I admire their desire for unity and bringing together of humanity, but they make assumptions about what other religions actually believe. They think because they believe in a last day of judgement, it must be true and therefore all other faiths must also believe this.
And I’m not sure that I have the words or if anyone has the words to get through to him why this is not going to work for us. I guess I can kind of see where he’s coming from. If you believe that there is one God who has one message for humanity, then you think that all the religions and scriptures are God revealing one message to a variety of different people, trying to get all of us to the same place.
But that’s not the only way to look at it. Thinking that we have to all course correct towards this one message doesn’t allow room for belief in different Gods, different goals, different reasons why we’re here. Maybe there is only one reason, but no one has the right to dictate that they know what it is and everyone else must agree.
The other ladies reiterated a tired trope that there is one God and we all call him by different names.
I don’t think I can agree with that any more. My conception of what a God even is is radically different from that of the religions of the book.
As much as the messages of most religions may focus on peace, kindness, and loving others as yourself, there are important and legitimate differences and we do need to be allowed to pursue our own vision of what the truth is even if that doesn’t fit someone else’s model. I’m never going to be okay with a religious group trying to bring everyone under one fold.
However, this vision of Islam is pretty close to what I would hope Islam can be. In the True Islam brochure he gave me it states that true Islam recognizes that no religion can monopolize salvation, rejects the concept of a blood-thirsty Messiah, and advocates separation of religion and state. All great things that I am relieved to hear! (It also says it champions the equality, education and empowerment of women, but of course there was still a separate women-only entrance to the mosque).
I have to admit that his descriptions of the behavior of other Muslim groups towards his group did not do anything to allay my fears about Islam. His group is quite persecuted and his own life was in danger in riots against them in Pakistan about 40 years ago.
These people want us to believe that they have the correct interpretation of Islam, but do they? Is this actually true Islam or wishful thinking of what it could be? If mainstream Islam rejects them, I’m sorry to say that leaves me still fearful that “true Islam” is the larger groups who would bring about the destruction of my religion.
I’ll keep trying to learn more and meet more Muslims and hopefully find a common ground that doesn’t involve the whole world becoming Muslim. Wish me luck! And any advice or insight is welcome.
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