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Topic initiated on Wednesday, April 21, 2010  -  10:31 AM Reply with quote
Conference on Relationships in Faith's Perspective

Renaissance Readers Club UK organized a conference on the Topic:Relationships and how does our belief in God & Accountability effect them; in the Royal county of Berkshire Town Hall Slough~as a part of our 'Faith Anchor' series The discussion was based on Social issues in Islam and other religions. The conference was chaired by Dr,Henna Khan, Chair Renaissance Readers Club UK and Vice Chair- Slough Faith Partnership Berkshire. The speakers comprised of the members of Slough , Maidenhead and Reading Interfaith Groups.

The theme was based on our course 'Family & Marriage' that how clearly God has said in Qur'an that the humanity itself is a big family, Adam and Eve being their parents. The best amongst all is the one who is the best in deeds . How the relationship of spouses is placed high in all the divine Revelations as the survival of human generations based on this strong but delicate tie! Also that the family unit is a building block of a society which demands sacrifice and 'giving' at every step and broken families result in a wounded society. How to support young people to initiate serious relationships early in life rather than a 10 to 15 years period of 'testing and trying' following which most never feel they are able to start or continue a serious & responsible relationship in order to lay a foundation of a family where young and old could find security and shelter.~because they never got into the habit of tolerance and sacrifice for a long term relationship during their initial years of youth when they were more strong to learn and practice such. And because family is also like a plant that needs nurturing like anything else~ be it our professions, careers, bank balance and other skills in life. How can we expect to eat the fruits of a tree which we never bothered to look after in the first place? How the governments come under pressure to look after and save a society which is not helping them by nurturing their strong family and relationship ties in order to solve some of their basic problems at-least so then the govt can put it's hand on them as parents and support further. We can't expect the State to hold our finger for everything~ specially in the times of economical crunch. We will have to help them by playing our part as well by protecting & promotong the natural human values.

All speakers from various faiths came up with brilliant points. Some are quoted below and we shall add more as we recv.

A Muslim Perspective by Arshad Gamiet "Arshad Gamiet is a writer and illustrator. He and his wife own a private healthcare business. He is a contributing editor of khutbahbank, a website publishing articles and sermons for the Muslim community. He is a member of the Faiths Council at Royal Holloway University of London, Chairman of the Islamic Welfare Association of West Surrey, a Trustee of the Amana Educational Trust and a Director of the Trustworth Group"

The Importance of Relationships

Slough Town Hall, Sunday 18th April 2010

“Should we look up to the Government for everything or can strong family ties resolve our problems? How does faith in God, accountability and the life to come affect our relationships?”

A-oothu bilLaahi minash shaytaanir rajeem. Bismil-Laahir Rahmanir Rahim!

My dear friends, As-salaamu’alaykum, I greet you in the traditional Islamic way, which in Arabic means, Peace be with you!

Let me begin by saying that every major world faith promotes the Golden Rule, the ethic of reciprocity, of “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Islam is no exception, and Prophet Muhammad taught us that “a Believer is not a Believer until he desires for others what he desires for himself.” Good, healthy human relationships begin with our attitude. Where do we place ourselves in relation to others, and in the wider scheme of things?

In the modern world, we live in a ‘me’ centred universe, where the Ego is king. We seem to have lost the balance between our personal self-interest and our communal well-being. Powerful economic forces are at work here. Media moguls spend millions pandering to our lowest instincts in order to sell their tabloids and to promote their political agenda. Politicians are more concerned with the next election that with the next generation. The advertisers, those hidden persuaders, deploy every trick they know, to massage our fragile egos. From billboards and TV to radio and print media, our senses are under constant bombardment: “It’s your life. It’s your choice, go on, spoil yourself, indulge yourself, because you’re worth it….” The adverts urge us to “unlock the equity in your home…” as if the equity is trapped in there, struggling to get out and so we can spend, spend spend… Billion-dollar industries exploit our greed, our human insecurities and our vanity. We’re constantly urged to buy things we don’t need, at a price we can’t afford, with money we don’t even have. We treat Planet Earth, the only home we and our future generations will ever know, as if it’s just a giant shopping mall orbiting the sun.

Our credit card debts in the UK are now over £1 trillion. We spend, spend, spend but somehow real, lasting happiness is as elusive as ever. Family life as we used to know it in more frugal times has become an endangered species. Teenage pregnancies, single parent families, high divorce rates, loneliness, poor mental health, alcohol and drug abuse, knife crimes and gang warfare tell us a sad story. No wonder our human relationships are in disarray. How can we mend our society?

Islam teaches me, as a Muslim, to put things into perspective. I cannot live in a ‘me’ centred way. Nothing really belongs to me, not even my own body. I came into this world with nothing and I will leave it with nothing except the result of my actions, good and bad. My life, my health, my family and all my material possessions have been loaned to me as a Trust. I am a trustee, and I must take good care of everything under my control. My generous Creator will hold me to account. This life is not all that there is. Death is not the final curtain. It’s only a transitional stage to another state of being. When I die, my body will turn to dust, decomposing into its constituent elements, the gases and liquids, the calcium and magnesium and carbon, returning to the earth whence it came. But my soul will not die. My soul is the real ‘me,’ that indestructible ‘breath of God’ that was inspired into my body when I was born. That soul will endure, and it will bear witness to what I did in this life. My lifelong struggle is to rise above my ego in order to purify my soul and to return it to its rightful owner in a pristine, factory-perfect condition.

If I look around me and if I reflect deeply on my life, I will find that I have so much to be thankful for. And that’s really all that my Benefactor wants from me: To say thank you; to acknowledge Him and to show my gratitude through big and small acts of kindness to others. This is what ‘worship’ actually means in Islam. It’s not about growing a long beard and wearing holy robes, praying in the mosque all day. Worship is about translating God’s love into actions that benefit others. Muslims call their benefactor Allah, but you may call Him God, or Deus, or Yahweh, or whatever Holy Name you choose. Allah is not the god of Muslims only. It’s the Arabic name for God and it’s important to know that if you read the Arabic Bible, you’ll find that Christian Arabs also worship Allah.

Muslims are told that life is a gift, that everything we have is a gift, on loan, on trust. We have an awesome responsibility to discharge that trust faithfully. So, instead living in a ‘me’ centred universe, instead of banging on about our rights and demanding more and more, we should be taking responsibility: taking responsibility for ourselves, for our families, taking responsibility for our communities. We should be eagerly serving others and adding value to our society and to our natural environment.

To put it simply, Islam teaches me to look at the world in 3 dimensions. There’s a lot of hype about 3D films and 3D TV these days, but that’s something else. As a Muslim, I do not just see myself and the world out there in a 2-dimensional way, me and everything around me. That’s not all that there is. I must be constantly aware of a Reality that lies beyond the threshold of our five senses. I must be constantly aware of God, aware of Allah’s watchful, loving and merciful presence. It’s me and everything out there, AND Allah watching over all his creatures. It’s a kind of triangulation, a 3-dimensional relationship. Even though I cannot see Allah, I know Allah sees me. He observes my interaction with others. This is the essence of my faith. And this is the bedrock of all my relationships: with people, with animals and plants, with the earth that nourishes us, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Islam also teaches a strong environmental ethic.

A caring attitude will earn me my Lord’s good pleasure, and it will improve and add value to all my relationships.

At the human level Islam teaches me not to fear diversity but to accept it as a sign of God’s infinite creativity and artistry. We are all like flowers in God’s garden. We are beautiful each in our own way. We must learn to accept our differences and celebrate our common humanity.

To show kindness to other people and to respect other religions, is a way of showing courtesy to God. This is the essence of inter-personal relationships in Islam. The Holy Quran tells us in a very inspiring verse:

“O mankind, I have created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and I made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know and respect one another, not that you should despise one another. Surely, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah are those who are best in good conduct. And Allah is well aware of all things.” [sura Al Hujurat Ch49v13]

To sum up, remember the universal ethic of reciprocity, the bedrock of all true faith, of desiring for others what we desire for ourselves. Let us be the first to take responsibility, be the first to love and the fist to forgive. We owe it to our children and to future generations.

Thank you all for listening so patiently.

Jewish perspective: Speech by Nigel Cohen. Associated with Maidenhead Synagogue & Maidenhead Interfaith Group

Relationships and Religion

We find ourselves in a particularly unpleasant financial environment. The bad news is that, in my opinion, we are being shielded from around 50% of the weight of the burden. As soon as the election is over, we will feel the real pain of having to reign in our quite vast deficit. Luckily, the rest of the economy is probably over the worst of its funk. But recessions are not very equitable in how they hit. This recession has been particularly unkind to the elderly and to school and university leavers. Too many of the 1m or so people who were employed before the recession started and who find themselves unemployed now, face a soul-destroying search for work. It is very likely that the next two years will see dramatically increased stress for a horribly large number of people, particularly in jobs which serve the public sector other than the favoured “ring-fenced” few.

The fairly inevitable consequences are an increase in discontent and disillusionment. Society is wonderful in many respects, as are medicinal drugs to the sick. But as with invaluable drugs, our society has a number of unpleasant side effects. One of them is an unfortunate way we have of valuing people. In a raw commercial world, you and I are valued by almost nothing other than what businesses can get out of us. Mothers are amongst the most invaluable people in society. But we do not pay them to bring up our kids. If they do not work, they are not paid and they are able to spend the time children need to develop into the next generation of upstanding members of society. If mothers get it wrong, the costs to society last for at least a generation. Yet because earn nothing, mothers have a value of precisely nil in economic terms. They do not produce assets that are bought and sold. They do not generate earnings. The money they spend is earned by someone else – it is the earner who is attributed with the economic value.

Generally, people who are at the bottom of the ladder in terms of earnings are hardly valued. Economic migrants and asylum seekers are seen as contributing nothing to society. Well if they do not earn, how can they pay taxes? Perhaps it is not surprising that these people earn so little, where employers can be criminalised for employing the wrong type of person. Or put it another way, we ask people to work and the work contributes to employers earning even more, because they pay so little to their workers. The worth to the economy is there. But because they are not given their fair share, they are viewed as if they take everything and give nothing. Yet if you ever doubted immigrants contribute to society, you need look no further than the wealthiest country in the world. America was built on almost nothing other than immigrants and asylum seekers. So somehow, our materialistic wealth generating society of today bestows on us a very strange way of valuing its members.

Religion, of which Judaism is one, is different. People are valued in their own terms rather that in terms of the monetary amount that others can make from them. In Judaism, as in most other religions, no-one is worth more than anyone else. Everyone is part of the religious community. Everyone has unfettered rights. No-one is superior to anyone else. People are loved because God says we should love everyone, with no regard to their wealth or status or religion or politics or power.

There is a story in Judaism that dates back to the eighteen hundreds. A very revered Rabbi, a leader in prayer and religious understanding of Jews, was touring an impoverished village, when some young kid sneered something along the lines of “if you think you are so clever, tell me what Judiasm in one breath”. There was stunned silence as people glared at the kid, fearful of having upset such an important man. The Rabbi smiled at the boy and said “I can do one better. I will do so standing on one leg”. He lifted his leg, looked at the child and, addressing his comments to everyone standing in earshot said something along the lines of “The whole of the Bible is about just two things. One is that there is a God, just one God, a Just God who you should love with all your heart and with all your soul, and the other is that you should love your neighbour as yourself. The two commands take up all of thirty lines in the Bible. The whole of the rest is all about how you go about doing it.”

In Judaism, there are vast number of very details rules about how we should act and how we should relate to each other. There are rules on what we eat and when we work. There are rules on how we pray. But there are also a vast swathe of comments, suggestions and commands about how we need to treat each other in peaceful and harmonious coexistence. In Judaism, this is what makes a good Jew. There are rules that govern caring for people who are old or sick. We need to take care of them. There are rules on how we get on with our families. We are commanded to respect our mothers and our fathers – respect them irrespective of how they behave with us. Providing a solid and loving home for children is demanded. Teaching our children how to behave properly and respectfully towards others is demanded. How we relate with people we do business with is governed. We must never take advantage of anyone. If we ever enter into a contract, we must honour its terms fully, both to the letter and in spirit. If we farm, we need to leave around one tenth of the produce unharvested to provide food for the poor to take. Even better than giving food to the poor is allowing them to collect the food for themselves. We must help those in our society less fortunate than us, but we must do so in such a way as to ensure there can be no loss of dignity of the person who is in need. How we give to charity is very carefully calibrated. There is a lovely scale of what constitutes good charity. Giving money directly to someone in need is good, but is at the bottom of the scale. Giving money to a group that will give them money indirectly is better, because the recipient does not face the indignity of feeling he or she is begging. But even better is giving money to someone in a way that the recipient does not know who gave them the money. The motivation for this can not be to expect gratitude for the gift, which puts it on a higher lever. And so on, until the highest form of charity – giving someone the means to earn their own keep so they never need to rely on handouts again.

There are many, many rules. But the essence of Judaism is all about forming solid, ethical, caring and trusting relationships with others. When we can achieve this, society is strong. We work well together when we are rewarded properly and fairly for the work we do. Strong societies are much more efficient and productive societies, providing more for everyone, both materially and spiritually. Trust and respect and peace of mind is delivered only by strong societies. In fact, peaceful and harmonious existence is the product of a solid society. But it is all built on the quality of relationships we have with each other.

In this ultimately materialistic society we find ourselves in, Religion has a great part to play in helping us to recalibrate what we put into society, which directly determines what we get out.

Living in times where so many people are under such immense financial pressure, in an atmosphere where prejudice and hate are made to feel so at home by so many people, now is absolutely the time to hold meetings such as these. Now is the time for us to communicate the religious messages of loving, respectful and tolerant attitudes towards others, towards our families, friends, our close neighbours and our not so close neighbours. Now is the time to let people know they are loved and respected not for the things they do or do not have, but for who they are and for nothing else. And it is religion that has a leading part to play in this communication of the path to love and peace.

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