Our Father, Who Art in Heaven

Celebrate the New Year with family, friends, and feast but then, be mindful.  For the next ten days, God will be watching what you do, and judging what benedictions to proscribe for you in the coming year.  And the tenth day… Oh the tenth day of the year, who can describe it’s holiness? Observe that day and respect it’s importance!  Fast on the tenth day of the year, attend services, and make sure you say your five prayers.  Pray for forgiveness, for enlightenment, recognize your sins and atone for them; for on that day shall God finalize his judgment of you, and as the sun sets on the tenth day your next opportunity for redemption will be a year away.

My Shia Muslim friends know well what I am referring to.  But so do my Jewish friends.  The above paragraph could just as well describe the first ten days of the (Shia) Muslim new year as the Jewish new year.  Starting tonight, my Jewish friends will observe the solemn holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  During this day, they will foresake all other activities and distractions and fast and pray for forgiveness, that G-d may finalize His judgment of them, and seal the Book of Life with positive benedictions for them for the coming year.

In November/December of this year, my Muslim friends will do… exactly the same thing.  We will celebrate the new year with a feast, then spend the next ten days reflecting on our actions and remembering Allah in an attempt to purify ourselves.  On the tenth day, Yom-e-Ashura, we will fast and pray, and spend the day in services.  We will foresake all other distractions, so that Allah may judge our actions on that day and deem us worthy of His benedictions.

In then end, children of the same father are brothers; and the Jews and the Muslims, as children of Abraham, are truly brothers.  Though we may have many outward differences, our core is the same. The unity of those core beliefs should transcend the different manifestations of our faith.  It is that core that we must keep in mind, and love our brothers despite (or perhaps because of) our differences.

So, in the spirit of our fraternal bond, I wish all of my Jewish brothers an easy fast and a spiritually fulfilling day.  I know from experience that come Yom-e-Ashura, they will do the same for me.

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10 Comments

  1. Shk. Husain Jamali

     /  October 7, 2011

    what an eye opener!!!
    Life is a beutiful tapestry with many colors and hues but the thread is the thread regardless that binds us all together. Your Mom

    Reply
  2. Shk. Husain Jamali

     /  October 8, 2011

    Does God really live in Heaven???

    How do we know that for sure? There are two fallacies in this statement, 1) God doesn’t have to live like us humans, he is just there forever and will be there forever. The word living implies that after the living is done He also faces death like us mortals, since there is no death for God, we can not say he is living. 2) why does a God has to live in Heaven only, when he has the power to live anywhere? God did create the Heaven, the Hell and the Earth, how can a Creator live in his own creation? To explain my line of thinking, think of God as a cook in the kitchen, a cook makes a terribly burnt toast which is not edible (a Hell) and he also makes a perfectly cooked Filet Mignon (a Heaven), Can you say with any certainty that the cook lives in a Filet Mignon? God is God and we can not attribute or associate any terminology that we use for humans.

    One other succinct point I like to make is about religions; God’s only command to His creatures is to worship Him and live a chaste life as guided and taught by the Prophet of their times. To ensure He kept sending divinely inspired Prophets at various times in the history of mankind for guidance. And all Prophet had the same teachings. Some people followed the Prophet of their times 80% and some 50% and some 30 % and each of these groups went their own ways designating themselves as the true followers assigning a name to themselves for distinguishing the one from the other. Prophets never claimed to have brought a new religion, but the faulty reception of the people created all the various religions
    in the world.

    I like your style of writing and your eloquence in expressing your thoughts, I didn’t know that Doctors can write on any subject matter other than a prescription pad and even that only a pharmacist can read, Kudos to you and keep those creative juices flowing.
    Love
    Your Dad

    Reply
  3. Aamer, I am enjoying these posts. We have never gone any further in our idea of a book about the similarities between the Jewish and Muslim religions, but this post touches on our many conversations about this very subject. There are doubtless many historical reasons for these similarities, but the concept of finding common ground and building from there is simple and powerful.

    I was thinking of you this season because you are interested in the concept of tolerance. You are also a tolerant person, but you correctly see the world in terms of tolerance (or lack thereof, in many cases).

    I was talking to the kids about the difference between forgiveness and tolerance. The rabbi talked about the importance of forgiveness this Yom Kippur season, as being an important ingredient of atonement for sin, and while I can’t disagree with that, I sometimes consider how hollow a concept forgiveness can really be.

    Take the example of poor Dr. Petit of Connecticut. We are starting to hear about the case more now because of the trial of the second defendant in that case. The other bad guy was already sentenced to prison. The case, you’ll recall, was a heinous crime where two guys followed a mother and her two daughters home, invaded the home, sexually assaulted the women, then burned the house down, killing the women. Dr. Petit escaped, bleeding, too late to prevent the tragedy. He’s lost his home, his family, and he cannot practice medicine any more because of the PTSD from the whole event. He was a successful endocrinologist, a member of our own community but for the geography.

    I ask you, what does forgiveness mean in this case? Is it possible or even meaningful, for Dr. Petit to forgive the perpetrators of this horrendous crime? I personally don’t think forgiveness has any meaning here. This doc lost everything that mattered–how is that forgiveable?

    But I think tolerance sets a lower bar, and may perhaps be more attainable. Perhaps people don’t have to forgive each other if there’s a lot of water under the bridge, so long as they can tolerate each other. Tolerance to me is more transactional–groups may need to have a vendor-client relationship for mutual benefit, for example, so we have to tolerate enough to do business. If we get into the larger question of forgiveness for past acts, though, we can get so emotional we can’t conduct business.

    I think of my past business associate who unceremoniously let me go after so many years together. I can now tolerate being in a room with him, but I don’t think what he did is so forgivable. I’ve moved on, though, which some would say is a form of forgiveness. I think if I said something like, “I forgive you,” it wouldn’t feel right.

    The other example is that movie “Warrior.” The dad was an alcoholic wife beater. One son forgives, the other does not. Childhood was hard, the family broke up. The world is different based on what happened. Is it possible to forgive? I don’t think so. But the one angry son tolerates the father enough to train with him for the upcoming fight. I think the movie makes more sense in terms of tolerance than forgiveness.

    I think Jews, by that standard, are pretty tolerant. We’ve been tossed out of a lot of places over the years, yet we don’t bear a lot of grudges. When you have to learn to adapt to new situations every few hundred years, you learn to roll with the punches and tolerate your neighbor. It’s probably in our DNA to tolerate–the alternative is not compatible with survival. So perhaps there’s a biological imperative to tolerate. You can’t get a benefit from someone you can’t tolerate.

    It’s like your joke about the Muslims joining the JCC–as long as they can pay, it’s all good. There is something to learn from that joke, some larger truth there.

    Anyway, thanks for this piece.

    Reply
    • You raise some great points. Forgiveness is very difficult, to the point that it is cliched as being divine. And I wonder sometimes how much good it really does. The real magic is, as you said, in moving on and forgetting.

      As for tolerance, I have always agreed with my friend Aziz Poonawala (a prominent Muslim blogger at City of Brass– check out his blog, I don’t know how to link to it) that we as a Muslim community have a lot to learn from the Jews in dealing with adversity. Muslims have joined the ranks as the subjects of discrimination only relatively recently, for the past ten to twenty years. It can be said that the Jews are perhaps the founding members of this club (an unfortunate distinction). And yet you have learned to deal with this role and even thrive in it (as a lighter side analogy I think of the way great athletes feel empowered by the boos of opposing fans). We as a community have much to learn from the Jews in how to deal with discrimination and how to tolerate those from other communities. I am reminded of an article I posted on facebook some months ago about how one of the biggest defenders of the freedom to build mosques is the ADL. If we could work past some of the basic distrust in the communities at large, I think a tremendous amount could be accomplished.

      Reply
  4. Salima Husain

     /  October 9, 2011

    Dr. Benjamin, I completely agree with you. Foregiving is extremely difficult, and I am speaking from my own personal experiences of life.How can you forgive someone who has destroyed a young family for their own personal kicks.What do you change? How far back in time can you go back to change anything? I as a human feel so helpless given limitations of life. I sometime wish I had a crystal ball so I could have stopped the tragedy or had made a better decision about important issues of life. You sound like you have a very strong character that you can be in the same room with people who hurt you. Sadly I have not come to that point yet.

    Atlantic magazine, sometime ago published the entire sad story of the doctor you mention in your reply. The doctor quit his practice and started working with youngesters. He probably will never find the words to express his sorrow but hoping against all hopes he probably sees his own two very precious girls growing and may be he is able to sleep atleast couple of hours at night. sometimes something has to die so others can live. His practice had to die so he could live by doing good for others. I certainly hope he finds someone to share his life with. The pain and intensity of questions (why me!) reduces when shared with right people.

    My prayers that all the tormented soul find solace in God’s mercy.

    Reply
    • I wonder whether people who urge us to “forgive, forgive,” have really had to face extreme adversity in their lives. To paraphrase Plato, everyone you meet is fighting some sort of hard battle. Sometimes even waking up and facing a new day is a hard task. Good luck to you, and thanks for reaching out.

      Reply
  5. Not Aziz Poonawalla

     /  October 10, 2011

    Somewhere in college I had a conversation about religion and basically came to this conclusion: all religions are interpretations of One Truth. They are different paths to the same “place.” Be it Buddhism or Judaism or Hinduism or Islam. I suppose the only belief system that is not compatible with others is atheism.

    Reply
    • Shk. Husain Jamali

       /  October 16, 2011

      Dear ” Not Aziz poonawala ”

      You have included Buddhism and Hinduism also as interpretation of One Truth, but there is no God in Buddhism (& Jainism) as it is an athiest religion, and Hinduism has many gods saying many different things and they can not be included into the Abrahamic religions. Adam & Nooh had the One Truth even though they were before Abraham.

      Reply
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