Questions of Dialogue

Peace, one and all…

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I went along to a meeting of the Valleys Faith Forum last night.  A Muslim woman from Cardiff came and gave a talk about the potentials and difficulties of inter-faith dialogue.  The paper itself was interesting and so too was the subsequent discussion.  One issue that seemed to emerge in a number of different ways during this discussion was the nature of inter-faith work: is it merely to reinforce pre-existing ideas and identities; or is it also to challenge them? 

These are important questions and for me at least, go right to the heart of what it means to dialogue within and beyond our own faiths.  More generally, these questions relate to the very nature of discussion itself: why do we talk with others?  What do we expect from these encounters?  How should these conversations be undertaken?  Where should they begin and where should they end?

I have no ready answers to these questions, but I realise their significance.  After all, unless we ask these questions of ourselves (and me of myself), how can we ever hope to be certain of our real intent?  And, as the Prophet himself said (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam):

‘Actions are (judged) by intentions, so each man will have what he intended…’

So, with God’s aid and permission, I intend to explore this topic more fully.  With this in mind, I’m currently reading the excellent Scriptures in Dialogue: Christians and Muslims Studying the Bible and the Quran Together (edited by Michael Ipgrave).

Wa akhiru da’wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen.

Ma’as salama,
Abdur Rahman

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8 thoughts on “Questions of Dialogue

  1. Salams Abdur Rahman,

    I think you are making a good point. I think too often inter-faith activities are done just because they seem like the right thing to do. Without a purpose they lose focus and are of little benefit.

    I think it should challenge current ideas, but with the understanding that often challenging an idea will lead people to be even more convinced of that idea. Novelty itself is no virtue. And the purpose is not that we should come to some uniform conclusion that necessarily agrees with modern relativism. The interaction should allow participants to grow in the direction and to the extent that they are able.

    On the topic of interfaith dialogue, if you have not read it, I think that Reza Shah-Kazemi’s “The Other in the Light of the One” is indispensable.

  2. Salams Devin,

    One of the other members of the group felt uncomfortable at the thought of challenge. For myself, I have always found talking to others challenging – but challenge is a good thing. As an adult, I can accept differences of opinion without difficulty. I don’t ask others to agree with me, just to listen to what I have to say – a right I strive to accord others myself.

    I’ve not read this book, though it has been on my hitlist for a while now. His ‘Justice and Remembrance: Introducing the Spirituality of Imam Ali’ was an excellent book. If you’ve not read that, I highly recommend it.

    I haven’t had an opportunity to send you anything yet: insha Allah I will try to do so soon.

  3. Interfaith dialogue is interesting and the more one studies the different scriptures, the more one realizes there is more in common than differences (like our races and simply pertaining to the human race ‘free of labels’). As in all religions, there are extremes, ignorant, arrogant, provocative, and we’re all at different places as to understanding the truth of ‘religion’ and where it is ultimately intended to take us. Respect is the bottom line in understanding and/or accepting. In the end one sticks to what one is more comfortable with. I have met remarkable people of all faiths–and their actions and words show they ‘live’ their faith and values.

    Greetings to the wife and little ones.

  4. Salams Barbara,

    The older I get (not that I’m very old) the less bothered I am by differences. In point of fact, I value and welcome them – as diversity helps me see things from different angles!

    Ya Allah!

    Al hamdu lillah, the family are well. Sakinah celebrated her 7th birthday recently! Ya Rabbi! Layla will be 2 in May! Insha Allah, of course.

  5. Oh my gosh! I can’t believe little Layla is already 2???? I remember when she was still being expected into the family! Please give little Sakinah a hug for me. (On St. Patty’s day I became a granny again to my 4th granddaughter–that one’s in Spain. Insha Allah, I shall meet that one in May)

  6. Salams Barbara,

    Ya Allah! How quickly time passes! I will certainly give Sakinah a hug for you. Ma sha Allah! Congratulations on becoming a granny again. Allah bless your family’s new arrival.

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