The 72 . . . or is it 73?

I find religion a fascinating topic.  I find it easier to talk about religion with Pakistani cab drivers than to talk about politics with those of other stripe.  Over the last couple years, I’ve posted on the Taliban (12/30/12); Islam, Judaism and Christianity (3/26/12); Ahl al-Kitab (8/23/12); and the archangel Gabriel — the amazing messenger of God ( 1/30/12).  Bottom line — Christians, Jews and Muslims all come from Abraham.  We believe in the same God.  We all read the Old Testament.  And the Archangel Gabriel – the uber messenger – plays a pivotal role in all three religions (as he does in the Mormon Church, the Bahai faith and others). 

But in the Judeo-Christian world, you don’t see Lutherans burning Presbyterian churches.  You don’ts see Jews killing Baptists or Catholics throwing rocks at Mormon temples.  There is no sectarian strife among Christians and Jews.  But just walk to the Muslim side of the world and see how Islam behaves.  Many of the 72 (I believe it’s now 73) different sects hate each other.  With fury.  With passion.  The Sunnis hate the Shiia;  Wahabis hate the Ahmadiyya.  And Salafis and Sufis hate pretty much everybody.  In Nigeria, the Hausa Muslims (Boko Haram) seek out and kill Yoruba Muslims – women and children – wherever and whenever.   

I continue to be bewildered and troubled by this much-vaunted “religion of peace” which has 1.6 billion followers.  All recite the same article of faith “La illah ila Allah Muhammed Rasul Alah” (“There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger“).  Yet the violence among them — for ostensibly religious (and often political) reason — is mind-numbing.  It is caused mainly by Islamic fundamentalists .(who frankly have no clue about the teachings of Allah).  What is needed are voices of reason and a true ecumenism among Muslims — and all faiths.        

Gabriel

There are three archangels in religious tradition:  Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.  Of the three, Gabriel is the one who curiously keeps popping up — not just in Christianity but in other faiths as well.   Gabriel is a messenger from God.  An uber messenger. . . . .

In the Jewish tradition, Gabriel was a holy messenger who in the Old Testament book of Daniel offers an explanation of Daniel’s visions.  In Christianity, it is Gabriel who foretells the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus.   It was Gabriel who visits Mary to deliver the good news of her new role. 

In the Mormon faith, Gabriel in his earthly life was Noah.  Some say, Gabriel continues to be a divine messenger having visited earth as recently as 1954.

In Islam, it was Gabriel (Jibril) who revealed the Qur’an to Muhammed.   And in the Bahai faith, Gabriel is referenced in their holy texts (“Baha’u’llah’s mystical work Seven Valleys).  

With Gabriel’s positive and influential involvement in so many religious traditions, one has to wonder why religious strife focuses so much on differences.  Perhaps Gabriel, the Messenger, is trying to tell us something. . . . .