Islam and Shalom

I posted a bit of a conversation that I had this weekend with one of our employees as I discussed his observation of Eid. I know the basics of the holiday but I was asking about some of the particulars, like if there are specific foods or traditions. He was telling me that some people fast the day before, some several days, and some a week. There’s not really a particular food that’s eaten, but it’s just a big party. You go to the mosque to pray in the morning and then you just follow the crowd and have a good time. Here’s the basics of what he said: “I fast because I need help. Everybody needs help. God is very big & religion is about prayer & worship. You don’t need to worry about all the other stuff. Just worship God.”

This weekend was a confluence of holidays or events in the 3 Abrahamic faiths: Eid for Islam, Yom Kippur for Judaism, World Communion Sunday for Christians. I read a beautiful piece on the similarities between Eid and Yom Kippur over at the Velveteen Rabbi, and got a lot of this from her. If you don’t read her, I highly recommend that you do.

Eid al-Adha is a celebration that commemorates the near-sacrifice of Abraham’s son. Islamic scholars are mixed on whether or not it’s Ishmael or Isaac, as the Qur’an doesn’t actually say. Either way, it’s seen as an example of the gracious submission to God’s will. In fact, the Arabic word for this peaceful submission is islam, which is where the faith got its name. The word connotes peace and wholeness, which is very similar in meaning to the Hebrew word shalom. In other words, peace and wholeness are found when we submit to God.

World Communion Sunday is always the first Sunday of October, but this year I almost forgot about it. I loved WCS at Mission Bay because, while we rarely had any dearly held traditions, the one we did have was Hawaiian bread for communion. On this Sunday when we had breads from various cultures we always got several, “Ummm..this is cool and everything, but where’s the Hawaiian bread?” People are funny.

The observance of communion varies between communities and denominations, but the root meaning is the same: Jesus’ model of submission to God is a model for how we ought to live – graciously submitting to God’s will, even though it seems to really suck in the moment. Submitting to God is the only way to peace and wholeness.

God is very big, and religion is about prayer and worship. You don’t need to worry about all the other stuff. Just worship God.

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