Quaker Universalist Conversations

Islam Today: A Muslim Quaker’s view
by Christopher Bagley

QUG Pamphlet No. 34 (2015) – A Review

Christopher Bagley’s Islam Today: A Muslim Quaker’s View is very helpful addition to the Quaker meeting toolbox. The author speaks as both a Quaker and a Muslim, giving us his experience and understanding of reality from two viewpoints of tradition.

Can there be a shared core in Islam and Quakerism?

There are striking differences. They effect both the language of religion, its ideas, and its implementation in practice. Most of these differences loom large culturally, yet they are amenable to modification in the natural evolution of religions.

This confluence can occur faster with concerted effort and dialogue, though it may occur more slowly in the presence of hostility and exclusion. Bagley’s pamphlet contributes to this clarification and confluence process.

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The evolution of religions is evident as we reflect on our own traditions and the history of other religions. Protestants influence Catholic theology. Shia and Sufi language influence Sunni theology. Engaged Buddhism influences Buddhist meditation practice. Liberation Theology influences papal leadership.

All of these processes help us to see the impact of faithful practice in our lives and the possibility of addressing global problems such as violence, climate, sexuality, parenting, partnering, and gender in cooperative and concerted ways.

There is a core of weakness shared by all religious traditions in their fundamentalisms. Fundamentalism challenges us within our respective traditions and is made more complex by sectarian triumphalism, political power and cultural exclusion.

We need a shared recognition that spiritual awareness is accessible to every person, whatever their religion or lack of it. No person or religious group has the final revelation or monopoly on truth. We are all able to engage in the human task of betterment.

Annie Holleman, 27, and Kathy Stanton, 29, sit with other parishioners before a Quaker service in Austin. Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News
Bagley’s pamphlet addresses early Quaker views of Islam, comparative Quaker and Muslim views of spiritual reality, the shared Bible of three books (Old Testament, New Testament, and Koran), the priority of the Koran and Hadiths, jihad, the roles of prophets, the separate and equal role of women, education, minority integration in western countries, science, Judaism and Israel, and nonviolence. It reveals that our connected traditions are comparably mixed with virtue and vice, stupidity and insight, and shared challenges for to a safe and flourishing human future.

The title of this pamphlet does not quite reflect its contents. It is not fully a Muslim-Quaker’s view of Islam and it is not limited to today. It could be seen instead as a Muslim-Quaker’s view of the traditions, comparative views, and relationship of Quakers and Muslims through history. It is one person’s understanding, and a significant contribution. It invites response: What canst thou say to further the conversation?

The Bagley pamphlet is not the first word, or the last word, on the Islam/Quaker interface, but this pamphlet is a serious spiritual contribution to our shared search for shared understanding of reality and truth. It is worth reconsidering the publication in e-format to provide greater global access to this conversation. It is worth use as a basis and structure for Quaker discussion groups in monthly meetings.

If your Meeting seeks a resource for discussion, this pamphlet is a good one. It is short, clear, organized, kind, and thoughtful. Much more we cannot ask.

This pamphlet is currently available only in hard copy (see How to Order).


Notes

Here are several interesting web resources about Quakers and Muslims:

Image: Annie Holleman, 27, and Kathy Stanton, 29, sit with other parishioners before a Quaker service in Austin. Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News.

Comments

Quote from Chinese Text ProjectMengzi (372-289 BC), Gaozi 1 Chapter 8:

Mencius said, ‘The trees of the Niu mountain were once beautiful. Being situated, however, in the borders of a large State, they were hewn down with axes and bills – and could they retain their beauty? Still through the activity of the vegetative life day and night, and the nourishing influence of the rain and dew, they were not without buds and sprouts springing forth, but then came the cattle and goats and browsed upon them. To these things is owing the bare and stripped appearance of the mountain, and when people now see it, they think it was never finely wooded.

But is this the nature of the mountain?

And so also of what properly belongs to man; shall it be said that the mind of any man was without benevolence and righteousness? The way in which a man loses his proper goodness of mind is like the way in which the trees are denuded by axes and bills. Hewn down day after day, can it – the mind – retain its beauty?

But there is a development of its life day and night, and in the calm air of the morning, just between night and day, the mind feels in a degree those desires and aversions which are proper to humanity, but the feeling is not strong, and it is fettered and destroyed by what takes place during the day. This fettering taking place again and again, the restorative influence of the night is not sufficient to preserve the proper goodness of the mind; and when this proves insufficient for that purpose, the nature becomes not much different from that of the irrational animals, and when people now see it, they think that it never had those powers which I assert.

But does this condition represent the feelings proper to humanity?

Therefore, if it receive its proper nourishment, there is nothing which will not grow. If it lose its proper nourishment, there is nothing which will not decay away.

Confucius said, “Hold it fast, and it remains with you. Let it go, and you lose it. Its outgoing and incoming cannot be defined as to time or place.” It is the mind of which this is said!’

The fundamental issue is our conscience or our nature of knowing good.