‘From the roots of Abraham’: A unifying moral vision from the Abrahamic faiths

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SHAFAQNA – All major civilisations have evolved  under the overarching direction of  one religion or another. Western  civilisation is largely a synthesis of the  Judeo-Christian tradition, albeit with a  noteworthy influence of Islam. In a way  that had never occurred before, today  the process of globalisation is quickly  transforming Western Civilisation into a  Global Civilisation. However, this Global  Civilisation is different from all previous  ones in the sense that it is not directed by  a single religion at its core, but rather by a  plurality of religions.  Today the Global Community is undergoing  the most profound, far-reaching, and  perplexing transformation in history. We  are at the crossroads and the very survival  of life on our planet is at stake. As we  grapple with ecological and environmental  destruction, overpopulation, famine  and the devastation of wars, we are at a  turning point. We can tread the path of  destruction or inspired transformation  through a unifying moral vision offered by  our faiths.  We have the choice to use religion to  divide ourselves or to use it to explore  our common humanity.

We can use our  ideology to perpetrate injustice or use  our common values of justice, which  is imbedded in all faiths, to eliminate  oppression and discrimination. The most  basic question is: should we use religion  to preach hate or love? Needless to say,  positive answers to these questions can  engender new consciousness – that the  plurality of religions has the power to draw  the human race into a global spiritual  community providing it with the moral  spirit and the roadmap for peace and  harmony we so desperately need.

It is with that motivation that the team at  Mulla Asgher Resource Center (MARC),  in fulfilment of its mandate to enhance  interfaith understanding, [last year] opened  the ‘From the Roots of Abraham Interfaith  Exhibition’ offers Jewish, Christian and  Muslim men and women a chance  to enhance their knowledge of one  another’s faiths. The exhibition is named  after Prophet Abraham(a) because he  championed the concept of monotheism  and uniquely enjoys the unanimous  acclaim of the three major faith traditions  of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. This  consensus amongst faiths makes Prophet  Abraham an interfaith icon and provides  us with an opportunity to celebrate our  commonalities.  By designing exhibits that teach us about  each other’s faith traditions and learning  about the practices of our respective faiths,  the organisers hope to increase respect  for all the Abrahamic religions. A unique  sculpture of intertwined roots was specially  commissioned to symbolise the theme of  the exhibition, signifying that whatever  the branches may be, the roots remain  intertwined and derive their spiritual  nourishment form the same source.  In addition to highlighting the common  concept of monotheism, the exhibits  describe the lofty values of justice and  compassion shared by the three faiths  through the holy scriptures of the Torah,  the Bible and the Qur’an. A further example  of shared belief in the Abrahamic religions  is reflected by the virtue of repentance:

In the Torah – Tehillim – Psalms 51, it is  said: ‘Wash me thoroughly of my iniquity,  and purify me of my sin. For I know my  transgressions and my sin is always before  me’.  According to the Gates of Repentance, a  standard work of Jewish ethics written by  Rabbenu Yonah of Gerona, if someone  commits a sin or a forbidden act, he can  be forgiven for that sin if he performs  teshuva. Teshuva literally means ‘return’  and it is the word used to describe the  concept of repentance in Judaism. Only by  atoning for our sins can we restore balance  to our relationship with God and with our  fellow human beings.    In Christianity ‘repentance’ is also turning away  from sin to God.

Repentance is an essential  part of salvation, requiring a turning away  from the sin-ruled life to a life characterised  by obedience to God. The Bible states that  people are saved by faith alone (Ephesians  2:8-9). However, there can be no faith in Christ  without repentance and no repentance without  faith. The two are inseparable.  In the Arabic language, tawbah (repentance)  again means ‘returning’. ‘Our Lord, make  us submissive to You, and [raise] from our  progeny a nation submissive to You, and  show us our rites [of worship], and turn to us  clemently. Indeed, You are the All-Clement, the  All-Merciful.’ (2:128)  As a preamble to the inauguration of the  exhibition, speakers from the three religions  reflected on their personal experiences of the  Gift of Giving form their respective religious  perspectives. ‘Giftivism’ is a universal concept  that promotes the practice of radically generous  acts that transform the world. The speakers  explored the path to ‘Giftivism’ and the  potential it holds for returning human beings  to the priceless gift of giving emphasising that  as a society once we shift from consumption  to contribution we will truly discover the joy of giving.

 

Dr. Hasnain Walji is the Founding Director of MARC (Mulla Asgher Resource Center) in Toronto, Canada. This article was made available courtesy of Islam Today via the Islamic Centre of England

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