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.        

Islam, Judaism and Christianity

Islam, Judaism and Christianity all trace their lineage to a common ancestor  — Abraham.  Abraham had two sons:  Isaac (by Sarah) and Ishmael (by Hagar).  Isaac begat the Line of David from which Jewish and Christian traditions derive and Ishmael was an ancestor of Muhammad — the Messenger of Islam.  

The Quran is interesting in that it adopts and references all of the prophets of the Old Testament.  Jesus is mentioned nearly a hundred times.  And Mary is the only woman mentioned in the Quran.  Islam accepts the Old Testament (especially the Torah and Psalms) as “The Word of God.”  Yet try and reconcile the Quran and the Bible theologically?  In most cases, it is a major chore.      

A common heritage, yet irreconcilable division.  Islam has 72 insular sects.  Christianity has its own islands of belief and Judaism has various divisions.  Despite common origin, there is distrust, misunderstanding and even violence — all in the name of religion.    While most Christian and Jewish traditions accept (or at least are tolerant of) other religions and denominations, the violence tends to be confined to Islam and is curiously sectarian in nature though much too is directed outwardly — toward Christians and Jews.

In my post of January 30th, I commented on the ecumenical role the Archangel Gabriel has played in various religious traditions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Bahai, etc.).   I wonder what Gabriel is thinking with all that’s going on in the world. . . . .