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Monday, November 28, 2011

One God, Three Faiths, Eternal Love

Three of the world's major religions are Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Whilst each see themselves as very different to the others, Judaism and Christianity share a common suspicion of Islam.  Christians in general, tend to support Israel and the Jewish diaspora.

Amidst the arguing and criticism, all three share a common history and worship the same God.

Some people argue that Muslims do not worship the same God that Jews or Christians do.  However, Allah is a word that simply means "God", so an arabic bible has numerous references to "Allah".  Additionally, all three religions have a common ancestor, Abraham, the Father of Many Nations.

Certainly there are a number of crucial differences between the three religions, for instance Christians worship Jesus as the Son of God, whilst Muslims honour Jesus as one of their most respected prophets.  Interestingly, both Christians and Muslims believe Jesus was born of a Virgin and both religions are awaiting expectantly for the return of Jesus.   Jews on the other hand, see Jesus simply as a man, a false prophet and certainly not as the Messiah. The Qur'an has an entire Surah (Chapter) dedicated to the birth of Jesus.  Islam or Judaism consider themselves to be purely monotheistic and do not believe in the Trinity (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forming a 3-in-1 "Godhead") which Christians do.

Whilst Muslims are accused of violence, intolerance, racism & close-mindedness, the irony is that their accusers are behaving in exactly the manner which they criticise, but all in the name of Christ, Democracy or Zionism.  To justify their belief that Islam is a violent religion, some people will quote passages from the Qur'an which describe killing non-Muslims.  Yet, the same can be said of Christianity and Judaism.  There are a number of passages in the Old Testament  which call for the killing of every man, woman and child.  Of course, Jews, Muslims and Christians would and should argue that when quoting such scriptures the context needs to be explained.

Mainstream media has focussed on those extremist Muslims whose behaviour and words justify the fears that some people hold.  The media will broadcast messages from those Muslims who want to introduce the Sharia (with no explanation of what they are actually saying), or those who believe that women are second-class citizens or that Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims should be killed, or that we should all eat halal meat and not celebrate Christmas.  This inflammatory and sensationalist reporting makes great airtime and always provokes the wrath of right-wing talk-back hosts and their listeners.  Of course, those Muslims who give the others a bad name are in the minority, considering that there are a billion Muslims across the globe, from a variety of cultures who manage to live together well.  The media would do better to focus on the behaviour of the majority of Muslims, rather than the minority.  The media would do better to foster harmony rather than fear and hatred.

Attend a mosque and you will find Muslims from different countries and cultures celebrating their religion whilst appreciating the diversity in the various cultures, such as Egyptians sitting down with Indonesians, Pakistanis sharing with Syrians or Turks, Malaysians celebrating with Moroccans. Islam has brought many cultures together and is a religion of peace.  This of course is similar to churches and synagogues across the globe, where people from various nations come together to worship and celebrate their faith.

Many crimes have been committed in the name of Christianity, including of course the Crusades, right through to the recent reinvention of Jesus as a war-mongering capitalist.  Reinventing Jesus has conveniently enabled the "Religious Right" to justify the bombing and invasion of Muslim nations in retaliation for the extremist behaviour of Muslim terrorists whose actions most of the Ummah (Muslim community) do not support. Of course, this reinvented Jesus doesn't make mention of "love" or "turn the other cheek".

All three religions claim to be peaceful and tolerant of others.  So why the fighting?  Particularly, considering that both the Bible and the Qur'an have their roots in Jewish scripture. Jews view both the Qur'an and the Bible to be complete departures from the original scriptures.  Of course, the messages of both Islam and Christianity have changed from their Jewish roots and their adherents believe that the Jews have missed the final message from God; in the case of Islam, the message of the prophet Mohammed and in the case of Christianity, the message of Jesus Christ.   In acknowledgement of this common scriptural root, Islam considers Jews and Christians to be "people of the book" and honours their original scriptures. Whilst the Christian bible includes the Old Testament which is basically Jewish scripture.  Both Muslims and Christians see their holy books as the fulfillment of the original Jewish scriptures.

Whilst the three religions have different interpretations of the nature of God and His message, the fact remains that they worship the same God.  Their messages may differ, but God does not.

The Qur'an has a number of scriptures which describe God's love and His love for people who do good.  For instance Surah 3:134 "those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) men; for Allah loves those who do good".

The Bible is full of verses describing God's love and his commandments to love one another, such as John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him will not perish, but be saved") and Matthew 22:37 & 39 ("Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind and ....You shall love your neighbour as yourself").

And then Deuteronomy 7:9, which appears in both the Christian Bible and Jewish Torah (and honoured through the Qur'an), states "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands"

God, in the Bible, Qur'an and Torah, is a God of Love and commands us to love each other.

We should forget the petty bickering over religious differences and do what God has commanded us - to love one another and to love Him.

God loves each of us, and Christians, Jews and Muslims love Him - as expected.

But - here is the kicker - is it too much to expect all of us to love each of us as God does?

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