AN ODYSSEY IN FAITH
By Farzana Hassan
of the Muslim Canadian Congress and author of "Islam, Women and the
Challenges of today"
is the month when Jewish people and Christians celebrate Passover and
Easter. For me, a Muslim, April 2007 was a time of spiritual
odyssey, as a synagogue and a Christian church welcomed me into their
worship services and learning circles.
, a Reform synagogue, I was given the opportunity to share my views on
women and Islam. And I learned from Rabbi Debra Landsberg about the
Jewish traditions on the status of women. The audience was
exuberant, asking many questions: polygamy in our modern world, the
veiling of Muslim women, divorce, custody and alimony.
found myself among friends who were eager to see a better life for the
millions of Muslim women who are suffering from malnutrition, disease and
discrimination. There was an outpouring of sympathy from these
Jewish women for their Muslim sisters many miles away, women they had
never met. To me, this was heartwarming and overwhelming.
crowning moment of my month-long odyssey into interfaith discourse came
when I proudly recited the azaan, the call to prayer, to a Christian
congregation at St. Patrick’s Anglican church. Eagerly, the children,
ranging in age from 3 -12 years, lined up at the altar, not to sing a
hymn, but to simulate the Muslim prayer for their parents and loved ones.
Verses of the Koran were read at that service along with passages from the
Bible. The sermon was delivered by me, A Muslim, to an audience that
we were not attempting to meld our faith traditions into a single
syncretistic religion, one that would combine elements to make us
indistinguishable from each other. We had a different goal: to
understand each other, to reach out, to embrace our common humanity, to
come together in peace and goodwill, to be humble in acknowledging the
truth and beauty that lies in different ways of worshiping God.
one of the congregants, the well-known Rev. David Burns; “We were
teaching each other to be human, to be Canadian, for Canadians stand for
peace and justice.”
too, we’re becoming more divided, more fragmented over political and
religious issues, though we must continue to strive for peace and harmony.
my view, the key is in understanding the differences which define us as
members of various faiths and political affiliations. We speak often
about the commonalities that bring people of different religious
communities together. But we also need to understand our
differences—why they exist, and what purposes they may serve. After all,
it is differences rather than commonalities that cause friction.
Only by understanding them can we fully respect and value the ways
in which other faith groups approach and worship God.
experienced universalism at
and St. Patrick’s Anglican. It is not our goal to impose our
religious views on others. We’re not trying to convert the rest of
the world to our own ways of thinking, to any specific religious ideal.
We only admit that others have the right to hold their own understandings
of God, according to their individual temperaments and cultures.
my April odyssey I saw and felt a thirst for understanding and tolerance.
These ideals are sorely needed in our embattled world. But it is up
to us, the masses, where movements and ideologies must take root.
our many differences, we must carry the banner together.