Salaam alei kum!
Dialogue captures the imagination of many people today. We find an increased interest in dialogue among religious and laity in the Catholic Church. In May 2009, I had the privilege of guiding a group of young nuns belonging to the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross on ‘Dialogue and Mission’. Prior to the seminar, they were provided with reading materials on Inter-religious Dialogue. The reading materials helped them to prepare well for the seminar before we met at Igatpuri.
During the Seminar we had the opportunity of visiting a Gurudwara, a masjid and the International Vipassana Center. It was an unique experience, as most of the participants had never visited a place of worship which belong to a different religious traditions. We experienced cordial relationship and friendly atmosphere at the Gurudwara and at the Vipassana Center. The experience at the masjid was quite different for various reasons. When we approached the Imam sahib of the masjid, he was not ready to allow the sisters to come inside the masjid. He said that it was a rule in that particular masjid not to allow women to enter the place of worship (In fact, it is an exception). Finally due to my insistence and familiarity with the masjids, he allowed them to come as close as possible to have a look at the masjid.
After the official visit, I entered into a friendly conversation with the him. I introduced myself to him as a catholic priest and told him that I have doctoral degree in Islamic Studies from Jamia Millia University, New Delhi. I told him also that I many Muslim friends and have been engaged in teaching Islam to Christian students for several years now. He was much pleased by then and became quite friendly. Then he asked me what I thought of Islam. I told him that Islam is a practical religion and I like and love the religion. Then he told me something which I would like to quote: “We all love mangoes. Do you love mangoes? I am sure you do. But unless and until we eat mangoes, we cannot really understand their taste. You are an educated man; I trust you understand what I mean.” I said, ‘Oh, Yes’ and gave him a gentle smile.
At times we meet some good people; but who do not sufficiently think about the religious commitment of the other. One of the essential prerequisite elements to enter into dialogue is to be firm in ones own faith and at the same time open and respectful to the religious commitment of the other. That is the reason I personally approve the definition of dialogue as, “The activity and attitude of the committed and convinced people”. We need more of such committed people to engage in the ministry of dialogue. We the members of the Islamic Studies Association wish that the magazine Salaam infuse renewed interest in the minds of our readers to faithfully and sincerely engage in the ministry of dialogue.
Experience is the best teacher. Fr. Paul Jackson, the President of ISA is engaged in teaching Islam in a novel way. He sends out students to various towns to meet Muslims. He guides them to stay among the Muslims and learn about Islam from the people. Most of the students who have gone through this way of learning Islam have expressed that their knowledge about Islam has improved, that their past prejudices about Islam and Muslims have been removed. They find Muslims friendly and their interest in dialogue with the Muslims has increased. In this issue of Salaam we present the sharing of Sr. Shanty, Amal and Samuel Simick who have done this course with Fr Paul. These articles are the result of their positive experiences of living among the Muslims.
Following these experience based essays we presen three very interesting artlces. Firstly, Fr. Paul Jackson's article, “Do Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” in which discusses the theological content of this question and its implication on Christian - Muslim relationship. Secondly, Malcolm Jardine's essay: “Ijtihad: Is the Gate of Ijtihad closed?” in which Malcolm dicusses the importance of Itjihad in Islamic law. Malcolm is an MA student at the Center for Islam and Christian Muslim Relationship (Birmingham University., UK). Thirdly, Fr Herman Roborgh SJ who worked for several years in Pakistan writes about the importance of Christian - Muslim relationship in Pakistan. He argues that trust and friendship between these two communities is the only way to deepen the communication between the communities.
Have a Happy Reading!
Islam: a Way of God - As I have experienced it
Samuel Simick SJ
My Experiences of a Model Muslim Community
My Journey to the World of Islam
Do Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God?
Dr Paul Jackson SJ
Ijtihad: Is the Gate of ijtihad Closed?
Christian-Muslim Relations in Pakistan
Dr Herman Robourgh SJ