I am continuing to read and enjoy Hudda Ibrahim’s book, From Somalia to Snow: How Central Minnesota Became Home to Somalis. This morning I am reading Hudda describing the beliefs and practices of the Muslim faith as practiced by Somalis. I am attracted to a number of thing that I would like to share. Some practices remind me of my own Christian traditions. Here are a few:
The Arabic word Islam means submission to the will of God and derives from the word islama which means to surrender. I love this. It reminds me that Jesus once spoke these words to the Father: “Not my will but thine be done” and he admonished his followers to always do what God wants of them. In this sense, anyone who chooses to do the will of God is a Muslim at heart.
Salah is the practice of praying five times a day. When I was staying in the Palestinian district in Israel, Muslim prayers were sung five times each day over a loud speaker for all to hear. A Christian woman I was with said, “Isn’t that wonderful, to be reminded five times each day to turn our thoughts and hearts to God in prayer.” She was not deterred by the fact that the prayers were not Christian nor were they spoken in her language. She just jumped in and prayed her own prayers. There is a history of regular daily prayers in the early church. Some Christians may remember the angelus bells that still ring from churches around the world. I recall that there were specific prayers associated with these moments of reminder to pray. Farmers in their fields would stop and pray in gratitude to God for His abundance. The Brevary is still read by priests and other Christians throughout the world: psalm readings and prayers read at specific times throughout the days of the year. Hudda said that in this country, Muslims sometimes use their I-phones to remind them to pray. What a great idea!
Zakat is the tradition of paying alms. She writes: “Only those who have been bestowed by wealth should pay alms to the poor. According to eminent Muslim scholars in St. Cloud, the payment of Zakat multiplies one’s wealth. In Islam, wealth hoarding is prohibited.” This last statement really struck me. It speaks of a special responsibility to be generous with the gifts God has provided.
Sawm is fasting and Muslims around the world fast during the whole month of Ramadan. I admire my Muslim friends and family who fast during Ramadan.They go far beyond what I have experienced as a Catholic. Nevertheless, the purposes for fasting as a religious practice are similar: total devotion to God, an appreciation of the gifts He has given and to develop a sense of compassion for those that have less than we do.
Wudu is ritual cleansing done before prayers. Similar Christian practices would include blessing oneself with holy water when entering a church and ritual washing during the celebration of the Eucharist in some churches. Hudda mentioned that Muslims have had to adapt to their particular situations in schools or work places. My feeling is that we can at least try to accommodate them wherever practical.
Muslim women sometimes wear a Hijab, the traditional head covering. They do so for modesty and for religious reasons. Christians often like to wear crosses and Jewish men may wear a yarmulka. We are used to seeing priests and ministers, monks and nuns wearing garb that signifies their devotion. I think it is a beautiful thing when people are not afraid to show their devotion to God in this non-intrusive manner.
Some people might say that for Muslims to wear their special garb or to stop and pray during their work days is pushing religion on others. When I see Christians wear crosses or bow their heads to say grace before a meal in a public restaurant, I don’t in any way feel they are pushing religion on anyone. I enjoy watching people express their faith in different ways. I especially like it when devotion is followed by love and compassion for others. It is this common outcome that makes us one in Spirit.