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.
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.
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).
Here are several interesting web resources about Quakers and Muslims:
- “In East Austin, A Shared Worship Space Brings Quakers and Muslims Together” by Joy Diaz, from KUT.org, Austin, TX, March 20, 2015
Image: Annie Holleman, 27, and Kathy Stanton, 29, sit with other parishioners before a Quaker service in Austin. Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News.
- “Quakers & Muslims: In the Manner of Morocco” by Emma Hohenstein, from Friends Journal, May 1, 2015.
- Early Quakers and Islam: Slavery, Apocalyptic and Christian-Muslim Encounters in the Seventeenth Century by Dr Justin Meggitt, Studies on Inter-Religious Relations 59. Uppsala: Swedish Science Press, 2013.
- “Becoming a Friend of God: the Path of Sufism and Quakerism” by Anthony Manousos, from LA Quaker, 2010.
- “The Journeyman – The Making of a Muslim Quaker” by Brett Miller-White, from Quaker Theology #10 — Spring-Summer 2004.