Friday, May 20, 2011
Tea with Muslims
When I go to see them Mrs H who always wears a headscarf sits down at table with us us pours the tea and bosses her husband and children about. She believe in education, she seems mildly disappointed that her youngest daughter is a speech therapist rather than a doctor or a lawyer. They love England, have a picture of the Queen on the living room wall. They are pro-Palestinian. When there is some Islamic bombing Mr H will describe them as "ignorant idiots". They are not fundamentalists, they believe the Koran is the literal word of Allah but would say that it therefore needs to be interpreted, "we cannot look at Allah directly", they might in Muslim terms be heretics but Mr H is a leading member of the local mosque which has a weekly congregation of several hundred. "First, we know God is merciful and compassionate", he will say when interpreting a particularly bloody verse of the Koran. Mr H is gently kind and compassionate.
Mr H grew up playing with Christians and is fascinated by Christianity but he is a convinced Muslim, his interpretation of Islam is very much one of Allah the merciful, Allah the bringer of peace.
When I speak of Islam and the sword, he recognises the difficulties of forced conversions, of killings and the sackings of cities but he will always stress that he interprets this as a misapplication of a spiritual struggle, a difference between words and actions, the same with the more extravagant acts of the prophet. In Catholic terms he would be a demythologising liberal, but he would say, "We just have to wonder at Allah, we cannot understanding everything, Allah is merciful but he is Allah and we are not", he would site Abraham and his inability to comprehend the ways of God.
If I talk about the Pope, who he much admires, he will smile and say, "Pope Benedict is such a good Muslim, he is a good man, obedient to God" but for Mr H I am a good Muslim because I am obedient to God, certainly much better than bin Laden who for him and his family he is a very bad Muslim. Being a good Muslim is about being good, goodness brings salvation
I have gently suggested that in Christian terms he is a Pelagian, that Christians, Catholics at least, would say Jesus Christ alone is the Way to salvation, he would smile and say, "What, we will not have tea, baklava and a cigarette in Paradise?"
I do believe that the Koran is anti-Christ, I do believe that the forced conversion of so many Christian down the centuries is diabolic but the faith of Mr and Mrs H is actually refreshing, it is gentle and has made them gentle, the preaching at their mosque seems to be about gentleness, respect for authority and avoiding television.
The Koran is unreasonable and yet thirteen centuries of human reason have been a work on it, in the case of the Hs the power of God has purified it. In Catholic terms they are invincibly ignorant and although we are willing to tease one another heavy preaching would be counter productive. The idea of "good faith" is much over used but in the case of the Hs they are in "good faith", I pray for their conversion as the pray for mine, I am right and they are wrong, of course but they are people of goodwill.
Would we pray together? No. He and she pray before they eat and so do I.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake