Lenten study of Islam

Lent is an important time for those who follow the traditional
Christian calendar. As part of the annual preparation for the Feast
of Easter, Morgan Hill’s St. Catherine Catholic Church (17400 Peak
Avenue) has been holding a Lenten Series of guest speakers each
Friday evening at 7pm.
Lent is an important time for those who follow the traditional Christian calendar. As part of the annual preparation for the Feast of Easter, Morgan Hill’s St. Catherine Catholic Church (17400 Peak Avenue) has been holding a Lenten Series of guest speakers each Friday evening at 7pm.

Feb. 18 featured an informative talk on the topic of Islam by the Rev. Jose Rubio, director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Diocese of San Jose.

Father Rubio made clear his information was given from a non-Muslim perspective since he is a Roman Catholic priest. But he is very knowledgeable about the Islam from his reading, travel in Muslim lands and participation in Catholic-Muslim dialogues.

He explained there are “official” and “personal” understandings of religion. For example, once in Egypt during the holy month of Ramadan, he saw some elderly men who were continually spitting. Someone told him these men were so devout that they refused to swallow their own saliva during the hours of the fast. Years later he recounted this story to a friend who was both Egyptian and Muslim. The friend’s response was, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Islam” is the Arabic word for “submission” or “surrender.” A Muslim is one who completely gives the self over to following God’s will, not just in religion, but in all of life.

“Allah” is the Arabic word for “God,” the same God as Christians worship, the God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Arab Catholics also pray to Allah (just as Mexican Catholics pray to “Dios.”).

Many think of Muslims as being Arab, but they comprise only 20 percent of the 1 billion Muslims, The most populous Muslim country is Indonesia, and Islam is the second largest religion in France – there are more French Muslims than French Protestants.

Islam is a monotheistic religion, and Muhammad is not considered a god. Muslims recognize the prophets of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament but consider Muhammad the “final prophet.” Muslims believe the Qur’an was written by God and revealed to Muhammad. It is considered completely accurate only in the original Arabic, not in translation.

One of the Five Pillars of Islam is prayer, which is done five times a day facing Mecca: predawn, noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset and at night. It consists of a series of prostrations (deep bows to the floor) with simple recitations, often “God is Great.”

When asked about Muslim extremists, Rubio suggested there are fundamentalist movements in all religions and that the number of Muslim extremists has grown since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The evening’s theme seemed to be that understanding others’ religions promotes tolerance for members of different faiths. He referred to St. Basil “who taught that Christianity is a sure way to God without denying there may be other ways.”

Rubio concluded with questions: “In this postmodern world, can there be different saving truths for different people? Perhaps I need Catholic Christianity to be saved, but are there people in other cultures who need to find another route to salvation?”

The remaining topics in this series are March 4, “Liturgy’s Work is Justice”; March 11, “Responsible Stewards of Our Natural Resources”; March 18, “Living the Faith that Calls for Justice.” Call (408) 779-3959 for more information.

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