Jul 3, 2010

The Faith Club, Chapter 2

Okay guys, I'm trying to take it slow here, I really am!  I think that I may just post my thoughts on the chapters and put the links up to them on the Facebook page, but leave it to you to read at your own pace.

So, Chapter 2 - Still not 100% sure that I like this book, but we'll see.  As a Muslim, I obviously identify more with Ranya,  -- in this chapter she tells about her family's departure from Palestine.   This is difficult for me, my husband is also a Palestinian, some his family fled to Jordan, some remained behind in Gaza.  They can't always go back to see each other, they are a family torn apart.  (Warning, I'm about to get political here) -- what bothers me most is seeing pictures of his family members in Gaza.  They live in squalor.  They make the best of it, but the fact is that they live in conditions that are, in my opinion, unsuitable for habitation.  Yet...look over the rise, and there are the Israeli settlers who live in fantastic villas with manicured lawns and beautifully paved streets.  I find that unjust.  I don't care about the religious aspect of this and I don't take sides in the debate.  The Palestinians feel as if their land and home was unjustly taken from them.  The Israeli settlers feel that they deserve the land (and have been living there for 2 generations now).  The land is home for both people. I just don't like the juxtaposition between the Israeli citizens and the Palestinian.  I feel as if it's a "na-na-na-na-boo-boo" thing.

Okay -- back to the book -- I have more to complain about with this chapter (but am into the 3rd chapter, and liking that)

It is a major pet peeve of mine when people confuse cultural practices with religious ones.  A great example would be the Burkas that Afghan women wear.  That is culture, it is not a part of Islam.  Ranya does this as well; on page 23 she says "I am reluctant to throw out leftover bread without kissing it and asking for God's forgiveness" -- Culture.  Shortly after that, she says "...making sure that no shoes remain with their soles facing up toward God in a sign of disrespect." -- Culture, not religion.

On the same page, she talks about carrying a Quran in her purse, or sometimes wearing a verse of the Quran around her neck.  Does this make one a Muslim?  Does it make them religious or faithful?  I don't think so.  She says "I pray, but not necessarily five times a day as more traditional Muslims do." ---  In all these years that I've been praying 5 times a day, I have never, ever considered myself a "traditional Muslim".  Never.

I am surprised that she didn't discuss some of the small things that we (Muslims) do that make every action that we take a method of worshiping God.  For example, before we eat something, we say Bismillah which literally means "in the name of God".  When we end our meal, we say alhamduillah which means "Thank God".  This way, our entire meal, from beginning to end has become an act of worship. There is the greeting of Salam alaykum meaning "peace be on you" that we greet all other Muslims with.  There is the act of smiling to others.  Smiling -- a form of worship!  How simple and beautiful!

I'm glad that I read a little further into this -- as so far, these first two chapters are...disheartening.  Chapter three, however, really gets into the similarities of the three faiths - something that I find beautiful.


Keahn said...

What really stood out in Chapter Two for me was that this "willy nilly" way of practicing their religions actually starts with their own parents. Maybe it was a post WWII thing, when everyone in the 50s began to break away with traditions (and Rock n' Roll was born...you know, that EVIL music? LOL). As Priscilla explains, first she was sent to Hebrew school and then one day, boom!, her Dad puts in a Quaker school -- talk about religious confusion. Overall the exposure is good, because we should all be expose to other religions and practices, but it shows how "unloyal" the parents of that generation were becoming to the religious conformities that they had grown up with. so, really, is it any wonder that many people today are religion challenged in the faiths that their ancestors practiced?

As for Ranya's story, I had moments that I thought, "where have I heard this before?" -- her story seemed just that -- a story. I was beginning to question the validity of what her own father told her. But it made me think that this was the real reason Ranya had a "respect" issue with the local Mosques. It really wasn't about respecting her aa a woman, it was about feeling like her family had never been respected for who they were.

As for Suzanne, much of what she shared in this chapter almost felt like self-mocking when she spoke of the things she practice in the Catholic church. I began to wonder if, perhaps, she was bit more glib about her religious faith due to the backlash the church as received, in the last 10 years or so, regarding priests and sexual abuse. Catholics have had their share of "Catholic bashing" over the centuries, too, and this was (is) an especially severe issue.

All Catholics have been under this strain and, I'm sorry to say, our current Pope has a bad case of "open mouth, insert foot disease." I miss John Paul II! Anyway, the less than stellar lives of some of the priests shouldn't make our faith less valid or valuable. Every family has its black sheep and unsavory issues, it doens't mean the whole family is corrupt. But I think this may in some way have colored Suzanne against her own faith, which would further explain her lack of loyal practice.

I've already started Chapter Three as well and I agree -- the tone is changing a wee bit now.

Meaghan said...

I am loving your commentary on the book - so much so that I may just pick it up! I didn't know that it was a religious study when you first mentioned it (or maybe I was reading your post on my iPhone and didn't pay attention lol...), and I wasn't in the mood for a novel. This, on the other hand, is something that always interests me, and you've piqued my curiosity! Off to Chapters I go...

NanLT said...

I am becoming more and more interested in reading this book and shall look for it here in the UK.

Your comments about saying prayer before and after a meal, making the entire meal an act of worship reminded me of the "Charge of the Goddess" from Wiccan writings.

Most Pagan practices do not have written scripture, but if we did much of it would have been written by Doreen Valiente who wrote The Charge.

Within the second section, you will find these words:

Rejoice, for all acts of love and pleasure are My Rituals.

For myself, it is good to remember that everything I do brings me closer to deity, if I approach it as an act of worship (the act of giving worth to something).

NanLT said...

My comment from the previous chapter springs to mind here.

Is it what you do that makes you Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Pagan? Or, is it something deeper.

Culture is a VERY big part of it. I was struck by this most especially once when talking about beliefs with a friend who is Hindu. One does not practice Hinduism, one is Hindu.

Erin said...

This chapter highlights for me some of my issues with Religion. Not the Faith itself, but when people claim a faith, but only practice that which they find convenient.
I am a couple of chapters further along, and am liking it a little more.

Hethr said...

@Keahn -- what a good point, the WWII post "antifaith practice movement". I would have never thought of that, but I recall my grandmother constantly stocking her cupboards with preserves and holding on to every scrap of material to make "something" - when I asked her why, her response was "you never know when something can happen, so be prepared" - almost as if there was this constant need to be physically prepared for the next catastrophe and it had taken focus away from the spiritual preparedness.

@ Meaghan - You have such deep and interesting points of view -- I could only wish you'd have the time to read the book along with me. When you do though (cause I know that you've put this down on your To Be Read list) be sure to stop by and give your thoughts.

@ Nan - sometimes that cultural/spiritual blur can be a double edged sword -- you can have people who don't see Caucasian Buddhists as "real" Buddhists, or the Asian Muslim as a "real" Muslim. It's hard for my children to understand that religion is beyond the culture of a people - and I think that's why Ranya constantly talks about not "looking" Muslim. I find it an ignorant point of view.

@ Erin -- I know a great many people who practice only the conveniences of their faiths...I also find this frustrating.

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