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Even before my crisis of faith came to a head, I have been fascinated with religions and spirituality. I love learning about other people’s perspectives on God and how to relate to Him. By not living in a bubble of my own beloved traditions, I can learn about God without limits. Many people think that if they learn about God beyond their own religion, they will jeopardize their faith. The way I balance being open-minded with being faithful to Islam is by studying every faith I can think of with enthusiasm, but also filtering what I take away from other religions with the filter of my own religion.
I recently went on a tour of a Hindu temple near my home and listened to lectures and read pamphlets on Hinduism. I have been watching a lady named Rivka Malka Perlman on Youtube to learn about Orthodox Judaism. Also, lately I have been talking to a number of LDS friends about their Mormon faith. I’ve been watching a channel called 3 Mormons on Youtube to learn about various LDS church teachings. What I have discovered is that Mormons and Muslims, while admittedly having lots of theological differences, also have a lot in common. The same goes for Hindus, Catholics, Jews, and so many other faiths. I have also enriched my understanding of God and salvation.
Something that I have come to see over the past couple of years is that people can be faithful believers in God and genuinely good people without believing what orthodox Islam would call sound theology. And because our shared humanity and sincerity are so clear, I cannot believe that God would condemn someone to eternal torture (commonly known as hell) just because they made some theological mistakes. I also have come to the realization that although I am a firm believer in Islam, other people believe just as strongly in their faiths and so it is always a possibility that I’m wrong and they’re right. We true believers, whatever our faith, must be willing to entertain the possibility that we’re wrong, whether on some things or everything.
I believe that I have the correct understanding of faith in general – but I could be wrong. My understanding of Islamic teachings could be way off. As soon as tomorrow or as late as in the next ten years, a sheikh could tell me something so profound that my entire understanding of God could be upended. Any human being’s understanding of an infinite God will naturally be limited by our finite mental capacities. If we aren’t willing to acknowledge this, our pride will limit our understanding of God even more!
Many very devoutly religious people are unwilling to expand their spiritual understanding because they’re afraid of weakening their faith. Frankly, if your faith is so fragile that a little ecumenical research will destroy it, the real problem isn’t the research – it’s your weak faith. I have worried about this myself, and the solution has been to engage in daily faith – building activities. I pray the five daily prayers, read the Quran daily, read frequently about my faith, listen to Islamic lectures, and so forth. That is my priority. But as long as I am fulfilling my duties, I don’t hesitate to study other faiths.
I’ll be honest, as spiritually enriching as interfaith research can be, my main goal in researching religions other than my own is not a spiritual one. It is human. I want to better understand the people who belong to other faiths. I want to be able to be a better friend, daughter, sister, aunt, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, and so forth to my many non-Muslim loved ones. If, by my research, I discover new spiritual truths, that’s great! But first and foremost I want to discover human truths.
All my readers are invited to educate me on their faiths, or tell me what their faith is so I can research it myself. You can always drop me a line about your faith on my Facebook page. Thank you for reading!