Archive for the ‘Questing the Qur’an’ Category


As some may be aware, the spiritual book group that we host in our home with Universal Church of the Master Alberta, chose as the follow up to the Aquarian Gospel, the Qur’an. The Ahmaddiyya mosque was graceful enough to provide a missionary in the early days to answer some questions, and free copies in English for us.

I have read the Qur’an myself, but this quest is better because these texts were meant for discussion, as all the texts in the Abrahamic Traditions are. By Abrahamic I do subscribe to the spectrum of Christianities; the rainbow of Judaisms, the branches of Islam. As well those anthropologically that have roots in these traditions but now can be viewed as their own religion– Jehovah Witnesses; Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints; New Thought; some veins of New Age; Spiritualist; some veins of Metaphysics; Sufism and I am sure there are some I have missed. Yes the texts are written down, but they truly come alive when we understand genre, intended audience, historical background, and then let the current life context breathe spiritual life into these ancient words for us today.

To remember this, sometimes one must step off their usual path of spirituality. Or in the images of Rev. Matthew Fox, take a sip from another’s well.

That is what this quest has done. Refreshing water. Nothing astoundingly new. The language of the text into the first four Suryas is written in contrast, contractual and devoutly covenant between Allah and all those testaments of the people of the book that came before. While discussing, reading and discovering on this quest we see parallels between the Hebrew Bible, Christian Testament, and Eastern spirituality.

I encourage each of you to seek the story that resonates, but never be afraid to sip from another’s well. Within that new water may be the taste to replenish your well…

anew.

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It was a blessed time of discussion. Much like what can happen around a coffee or meal at my home. And yes, the crazy neurology kept at bay, the data banks were tested, and the memory was strong.

It was great to be on Light News Radio today, and for the Holy Week reflection series (yes even unannounced I am sure you noticed there was one happening). I thought I would share the discussion for all to hear.

Please feel free to share freely this post, so the talk can hopefully percolate other conversations as we strive to break down barriers, draw the circle wide, and allow for authentic belonging fully knowing and embracing the risks that takes:

https://www.spreaker.com/user/boldradiostation/the-distinction-between-inclusion-and-be?autoplay=true

(Also know, this was my first “public” speaking/teaching time on spirituality since my last sermon at Centennial Presbyterian 8 months after performing my Mum’s funeral…so that is since Stampede 2014. Another blessing my time away due to medical challenges has accomplished.).


…Jesus son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those granted nearness to God.

-Sura 3:46

                The Crusades were a horrific time within the Empire phase of Christianity. It was about anti-Semitism (travelling to and from the Holy Land was a great excuse for the warriors to cull the Jewish in the lands) and to let blood run high in the Holy Land battling the “infidel”.

During one such crusade time a disgraced Crusader received a call to something different. Francis was a party animal, one of those wealthy ne’er do wells many towns and communities know of. He thought to increase his lot by bravery in the Crusades…suffice to say he was not a good Knight, and wound up injured in a burnt out church where Jesus spoke to him through the San Damiano cross calling him to rebuild his church. After stealing supplies from his father, and rebuilding 3 fine parishes he was once again revisited and redirected to actual community based around hope and loved. Even beaten and imprisoned by his own parents, just emboldened this man to cast of (literally) the clothes of wealth and walk naked into the world.

The Franciscan movement is what began. Part of the life lived that receives little mention outside of the international circles (as most just know Francis for his love of animals, not activism) so he has been reduced to the garden statue or fountain. Yet it was in the midst of crusade times this rabble rouser and friends upset the apple cart, and not just in the challenge for equity and justice for the poor. Nope, he also crossed treasonous lines by going back onto the Crusader path to meet with Sultan.

Why?

To pray together.

To talk.

To share bread.

To be community.

Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was ever inclined to God and obedient to Him, and he was not of those who associate gods with God.

-Sura 3:68

Francis and his community understood an eternal truth. God is the source of all that is, all that exists within and through and lived out of the Holy Mystery. The source-Love- was not to be confused with the manifestations. That is…the wells are not the river.

We want the labels to divide. Those in power hope that we allow the labels to divide. Yet, there is another way. A way where we acknowledge the One River, and sample one another’s well water in a safe place of community, sharing prayers, sharing discourse, sharing bread. Being like Francis and the Sultan. That piece of light in the darkness.

And he will teach them the Book, and The Wisdom, and The Torah and the Gospel.

-Sura 3: 49

This is why my family hosts an inter-faith Questing through the Qur’an; and a Brunch & Bible (where we travel the roads of the Gospel of Luke & Acts of the Apostles) on alternating weeks. To share the foundation stories. To see where we connect. To hear where we differ.

To know  we are still united in our diversity.

                Much like Francis’ call to bring the gifts of peace, hope, faith, joy and love to Sultan. But also to receive these same gifts from Sultan.

For, what are we in humanity,

if not neighbours….

francis

The Gospel story, the faith story has not ended. It is not sealed. Each of us in our journeys, our lives continue to write in the book of life about how we live within, through and out of the love that is the Holy Mystery. So what is the new chapter you are starting in this moment?


The later 1990’s early 2000’s through the United Church Observer is when I became aware of a Matriarchal Wisdom movement, that sadly has fallen off the radar. Women from some U.C. congregations, local mosque and synagogues in Ontario were meeting on a project to bring the three major Abrahamic faith texts together (Hebrew Bible, Christian Testament and the Qur’an). The idea being to provide the cross-reference texts through all three to show how the faiths are more similar and connected than adversarial.

Part of why I am enjoying being the host family for UCM Alberta’s questing through the Qur’an is the real-life reproduction of this project. The past gets together we had a local mosque’s missionary via skype for roughly half the time being able to answer questions, share in readings and discussions. It was also good as I have written about before as common ground allows good things to grow, and that can change our world better than anything.

This post points to an horribly overlooked point in western religious world, and that is the idea of equality and equity for all God’s children and creation. Our continued readings through Sura 2 highlighted the equality and protection of men and women afforded equally through contrasting divorce laws instead of discussing marriage vows. Yet it also shone a light on the ending of scape goatism, and standing firm in yourself accepting the consequences one’s own actions creates regardless of their socio-economic status.

O ye who believe! Equitable retaliation in the matter of the slain is prescribed for you: the free man for the free man, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But if one is granted any remission by one’s brother then pursuing the matter for realization of the blood money shall be done with fairness and the murderer shall pay him the blood money in a handsome manner. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. And whoso transgresses thereafter, for him there shall be a grievous punishment.

-Sura 2:179

At first reading, this appears to be a retelling of the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth teaching from Exodus 21:24. This short treatise was a counter-culture teaching that stopped the children of Israel from restraining ancient justice and wiping out whole townships due to a small infraction, the response was now commanded to be measured response. This can appear as an expansion, as it points out that you could not buy your way out of offense, or use a wife, or a slave or a societal lesser to pay for your crime as was a normative practice as well. You were responsible for your actions, no one else.

Yet it was more. For it truly echoes back to the nativity story. Think of it, a movement of one of the holiest prophets/messiahs/spiritual teachers, Brother Jesus, came from a working-poverty class village, where life expectancy was on average forty years old. Chances are carpenter was a political choice of translation, when in fact he was part of the unskilled labouring classes. Joseph arranged and purchased Mary, she had no voice (regardless of what you believe about the conception of Jesus, she was a teen girl who was sold by her family as was the practice of the time) in whom she would wed.

Yet this is what the Christian testament tells us of the voice in the decision to birth Jesus:

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was engaged[a] to marry Joseph, but before they married, she learned she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man, he did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly.

20 While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus,[b] because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,”[c] which means “God is with us.”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do. Joseph took Mary as his wife, 25 but he did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to the son. And Joseph named him Jesus.

-Matthew 1:18-25 (New Century Version)

Part two was Joseph choosing to be apart of this. He had many options before him, as Matthew’s text was written for the Jewish members of the Jesus movement. Culturally they knew that Joseph could have Mary killed for adultery, or simply cast her and the baby outside the village to work in the sex trade and begging until her and the child died, these were the quietly put away moments. What this contrasting showed, was the Joseph heard the same choice to be made by the angel, and had to make a choice. In this small of a centre he knew the whispers, the scandal, the gossip, the possible loss of income and what the world his son would be entering into in this microcosm, and even the scorn that could come to Mary. Yet he needed to choose. One of 2 that had to choose.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’sname was Mary. 28 The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled by his words and began to wonder about the meaning of this greeting. 30 So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! 31 Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will neverend.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. There fore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God. 36 “And look, your relative Elizabeth has also become pregnant with a son in her old age – although she was called barren, she is now in her sixth month! 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 So Mary said, “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

 -Gospel of Luke 1:26-38 (bible.org)

Before coming to Joseph, the one with no voice, was spoken to and asked directly. One can say the question was asked of one so young due to naivety, yet be honest in such a small village she knew what the consequences would be. How could one find the strength to say yes to such a weird event for the time?

Simple, Mary got what the old men’s club did not of her era (and sadly many eras since), everyone’s voice matters, and everyone is created in equality, equity and justice. The gifts of peace, faith, joy and hope reign in our beings, but the cosmic dust at our core is shaped in L-)’V-E. That is right, Mary had the same choice as Joseph tradition tells us, unencumbered by society, simply one question asked, yes or no. She mattered.

How did she know?

Simple beginnings in the Hebrew Bible:

27 God created humankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them,

male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them 

Genesis 1:27-28 (bible.org)

A simple ancient poem of the creation of everything. An ancient poem stating the why to the people. Humanity was created in the Creator’s image. Both genders (and all sexualities, all races, all cultures, all religions, etc)…one river many wells to drink from.

Each person in autonomous, but their decisions have consequences, good, neutral or bad within their communities. Like the pebble hitting the pond and the ripples going outwards. The first step is understanding though that we are autonomous in an interdependent community. This is why it matters to discover what and how our neighbours believe. So we can see where the common ground is for moving forward, and creating a world that was dreamed of in that first moment when -BANG- it all appeared.


We began questing, and have set up a regular rhythm. So expect a few reflective posts to come out of thoughts around and out of the Qur’an. Just like when the Rainbow Chapel was meeting, I continue to encourage folks to read spiritual works in groups together aloud. It is not only because most were crafted for this, but also allows for different life journeys to be brought to the text, and wisdom bases. Also, to have the generations involved is a whole other blessing, for how can the young learn to discuss what they believe if it is not modeled by their elders, and community happens when play happens and food is shared. As well, I encourage exploring other spiritual texts than those you are familiar with or from your tradition for it opens a new world of insight. As always I encourage use of the spiritual discovery tools discussed in other writings of mine to dive deeper into what the Holy Mystery is speaking to your soul.

Sura 1: The Opening:

  1. In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.

  2. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.

  3. The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

  4. Master of the Day of Judgment.

  5. It is You we worship, and upon You we call for help.

  6. Guide us to the straight path.

  7. The path of those You have blessed, not of those against whom there is anger, nor of those who are misguided.

Remember as you journey through the words, it is not a literal understanding (as with Conservative Christian scholarship of the last 120ish years or allegory but rather the rhythm of contrast) it is the rhythm of contrast that reveals the unity that binds all through, with and within the Holy Mystery that is love.

The journey after opening brought us to the longest Sura 2, The Cow. It is actually quite a recitation that a student of the Hebrew Bible would recognize. Each time the Nation of Israel got a mulligan, they spent time—whether it was a leader, prophet, judge or king, reciting the story of the people and the law up to that moment in time. A device to remind the people of what the Holy had brought them through, and who they were as a tribe. As we began to explore the second Sura, this familiar journey was reminded. In the historic moment, Islam being officially the third religious sect sprung from the Abrahamic and Sarai Covenant with the Holy (first two: Judaism and Christianity, anthropologically this can be broken down to multitude more, but I will not digress). Reaching half-way through it showed a great discussion around monotheists, and polytheists as the contrast presented for those who have found the path and those that haven’t. Yet within the contrast what can be seen is not the challenge of how many spiritual beings exist, for all are within the one. What is seen to be judged is found in 2:14:

  1. And when they come across those who believe, they say, “We believe”; but when they are alone with their devils, they say, “We are with you; we were only ridiculing.”

That is, is what we say what we do…or do we only profess kindness while plotting only for our own glory?

How many recognize this challenge from other wells that they use to drink from the Holy River?

  1. Their likeness is that of a person who kindled a fire; when it illuminated all around him, God took away their light, and left them in darkness, unable to see.

-Sura 2:17

A reminder as the teaching the Holy light would shine into the darkness and confuse it had been around since the ancient myths of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods for humanity. What this verse does, is starkly remind us when we choose to live only for ourselves, to forget love of neighbour and self that flows out of the Holy River, the light never existed and all that is left is darkness.

Are you living the light or lying in the darkness?