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Center for Action and Contemplation

Islam: Weekly Summary

Saturday, September 29, 2018


Summary: Sunday, September 23-Friday, September 28, 2018

The Muslim . . . “bears witness” in his life and in every single one of his actions that his chief priority is Allah and that no other “gods”—which include political, material, economic, and personal ambitions—can take precedence over his commitment to God alone. —Karen Armstrong (Sunday)

Mature religions and individuals have great tolerance and even appreciation for differences. When we are secure and confident in our oneness—knowing that all are created in God’s image and are equally beloved—differences no longer threaten us. (Monday)

An important and oft-quoted tradition (hadith) has Muhammad say on his way home after a battle: “We are returning from the Lesser Jihad and going to the Greater Jihad,” the far more important and difficult struggle to reform one’s own society and one’s own heart. —Karen Armstrong (Tuesday)

In the Islamic tradition, we are considered to be an amazing weave of heaven and earth [spirit and matter]. Islam does not see us as sinful beings to be redeemed, but as neglectful and forgetful beings endowed with the primordial light. —Avideh Shashaani (Wednesday)

Everything in the realm of nature and human existence is a sign—a manifestation of God’s divine names and attributes. . . . As it is said in the Qur’an, “Wherever you turn, there is the Face of God” (2:115). —Avideh Shashaani (Thursday)

Ironic, but one of the most intimate acts of our body is death. . . . “Die before you die,” said the Prophet Muhammad. . . . I was born when all I once feared—I could love. —Rabia (Friday)


Practice: Awakening to Love
Mirabai Starr writes in her book God of Love:

The unifying theme in [Judaism, Christianity, and Islam] is that God loves us unconditionally. . . . A hadith [saying] of the Prophet Muhammad expresses the unconditional love of God: Allah says, “Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you” (Hadith Qudsi).

The great Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan [1882–1927] placed special emphasis on the sacred phrase Ishq Allah Ma’bud Allah, which he translated as “God is Love, Lover, and Beloved.” [1] In Love, Human and Divine, Inayat Khan writes, “The Sufis say that the reason of the whole creation is that the perfect Being wished to know Himself, and did so by awakening the love of His nature and creating out of it His object of love, which is beauty.”. . .

This love dance is not some rarified state reserved for long-dead saints and the occasional living master. We do not have to go insane with longing. Few of us will relinquish the last traces of ego and walk away from our life in the world. [But] we can feed the fire of divine love by cultivating simple practices that expand our hearts and raise our consciousness, such as meditation and chanting, reciting ancient prayers or conversing with the Beloved, in silence or in lifting up our voices, in solitude or in community. “There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground,” says Rumi. [2]

Avideh Shashaani describes prayer within Islam as “a state of presence where the soul is in communion with God.” Ablutions—ceremonial washing—are ways to open heart, mind, and body to God’s love:

By washing the face with water we put aside the five senses that are engaged with the world; the washing of the hands signifies giving to the world what belongs to the world; wetting the head means putting all thoughts aside; and wetting the feet means redirecting our steps from the world to God. It is after we have cleansed ourselves of our interactions with the world that we are able to stand before God and declare our intention to enter the heart and walk on the straight path that leads to the Divine presence. [3]


[1] Inayat Khan, A Sufi Message of Spiritual Liberty (London: The Theosophical Publishing Society, 1914), 29.

[2] Mirabai Starr, God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Monkfish Book Publishing: 2012), 60-61, 136-137.

[3] Avideh Shashaani, “An Islamic Perspective on Transgression: Oneness,“Transgression,” Oneing, vol. 2, no. 1 (CAC Publications: 2014), 25.


For Further Study:
Karen Armstrong, The Case for God (Alfred A. Knopf: 2009)

Jordan Denari Duffner, Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic (Liturgical Press: 2017)

Daniel Ladinsky, Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West (Penguin Compass: 2002)

“Linking the Qur’an and the Bible,” Interfaith Voices, podcast

Avideh Shashaani, “An Islamic Perspective on Transgression: Oneness,“Transgression,” Oneing, vol. 2, no. 1 (CAC Publications: 2014)

Mirabai Starr, God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Monkfish Book Publishing: 2012)

Image Credit: Muslims Praying toward Mecca (detail). Engraving.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: In the Qur’an, faith (iman) is something that people do: they share their wealth, perform the “works of justice” (salihat), and prostrate their bodies to the ground in the kenotic, ego-deflating act of prayer (salat). —Karen Armstrong
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