The second Wycombe Interfaith gathering at the Imam Ali Centre welcomed Mr Laurence Smy and Mr Musharraf Hussaini to explain their religious understanding of the concept of God.
The meeting was held in the Imam Ali Centre of High Wycombe on Tuesday 27 September 2016. Mr Shah the chair of the evening started with the Quranic Chapter, Al Fatiha, which is the chapter that makes up part of every Muslim Prayer.
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ1|1|In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.2الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ1|2|Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.3الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ1|3|The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.4مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ1|4|Master of the Day of Judgement.5إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ1|5|It is You we worship, and upon You we call for help.6اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ1|6|Guide us to the straight path.
7صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ1|7|The path of those You have blessed, not of those against whom there is anger, nor of those who are misguided.
This was followed by the Quranic Chapter regarding the nature of God, Surah Ikhlas.
1. قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ112|1|Say, “He is God, the One.
2. اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ112|2|God, the Absolute.3. لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ112|3|He begets not, nor was He begotten.
4. وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ112|4|And there is nothing comparable to Him.
Mr Shah then briefly explained the difference between different Muslim sects and what are the beliefs of the Shia Muslims.
Mr Laurence Smy is a lay-minister in All Saints Church in High Wycombe, he explained that his role for the Church was to be a support for the community. Mr Smy discussed the common beliefs in God between the different religions, and how sometimes language can be a barrier to understanding similarities between faiths. However once we understand that languages are only used to convey concepts, such as God, then it does not matter if we use the term God, or Allah, the meaning is the same.
Mr Smy pressed the point that discussions about God are not literal, so often stories or metaphors are used to give an indication of Gods nature and behaviour. The relationship between man and God is often best described by parables which humans can relate to, as the true nature of God is not one that can be described justly, nor understood by the human mind.
The Common Word – is a scholarly document which outlines similar beliefs held by Jews, Christians and Muslims. It was referenced several times and more can be found out by visiting the Official website here.
Mr Smy described the Christian belief of the three forms of God, which Christians refer to as the “Trinity”. The Trinity is a uniquely Christian concept and refers to the different activities of God. The three referred to are The Father, the Word (Jesus) of God, and the Holy Spirit. He explained that from the Christian perspective, there is no issue of polytheism in regards to the Trinity.
Mr Smy then explained the Trinity using John 1:1-18 as a Biblical reference. He showed the differences between the Christian view of Jesus and the Muslim view of Jesus. Namely that the trinity is just a way of showing the different forms of God.
Mr Musharraf Hussaini started his speech by pointing out that humanity is diverse in terms of races and geography, but united in the sense that we are all seeking answers to the big questions:
Is there a God and what is our purpose?
He described the immense universe both in terms of the cosmos and the biological intricacies that exist within us. He raised the point that there is only one God and briefly put forward the common arguments for them, essentially the Cosmological, Ontological and Teological argument.
Mr Musharraf Hussaini also gave a brief explanation to the Sunni/Shia split. He described how the Prophet of Islam SAW appointed Imam Ali AS as the successor and those who followed him were labelled as the Shia’s. There was also a group who decided amongst themselves to take power, and they put forward Abu Bakr, those who follow him are referred to as Sunnis. Mr Hussaini remarked that it was important to understand the differences so we can understand the events in the world today. He gave the example of a town in Syria, Ma’loula which has a large Christian population and is one of the few places on Earth that still speak the language Aramaic, the language that it is reported Jesus spoke. The town had been captured by Syrian rebels, the Churches were being demolished and the nuns were taken as hostages. Fortunately the Shia forces in the area liberated the town from Al Qaeda and returned it to its people.
The issue of unity was a central part of his talk, and highlighted that all Abrahamic faiths are trying to worship the same God, and we must do our best within our knowledge to achieve that. He then discussed the difference between Rahman (Mercy) and Raheem (Beneficent). Rahman is a mercy that extends to all creatures, regardless of their beliefs or behaviour. Raheem, is dependent on our actions and intentions, and is selective.
There was then a short question and answer session. It was pointed out that both faiths are awaiting the return of Jesus AS, and this is a major unifying factor.
The gathering ended with tea and snacks, which were well received as the guests chatted with each other.