Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Islamic Studies

The twenty week study of Islam was far too short. The information and material presented by Paul Culp was informative and led to the study of other authors and texts. It was a great experience leaning from a person who had first hand knowledge of the culture of Islam and was able to share from an outsider’s perspective. The course brought a human aspect to the history of Islam and the day-to-day practices of the faith.

I was most intrigued by the similarities of the beliefs of the Muslim and those of Judaism and Christianity. I did know that each had a common background but did not know of all of the similar practices and beliefs until the course. The history and the culture of the areas, explained in the course, helped me to understand why beliefs are held and the reason for many of the conflicts and misunderstandings.

I did focus on the masculine/feminine as that is something I am most interested in because of my ministry. I used N. J. Darwood’s translation of the Qur’an during the course and it states in several places the honoring of women and that Allah made his children with both male and female attributes. Not that God took from Adam to make Eve but that humans were made to have both softness and nurturing and protective and strong abilities. Total equality is given the sexes. It was brought out many times in the course that there were holdovers of ideas that had been practiced before Mohammad gave the teachings to the people; therefore, this strengthened my conclusion that the separation and the blaming of the frailty of resolve and spirit is from cultural aspects rather than religious teaching.

I of course, because of recent events in the United States, looked for the Muslim perception of heaven. I can not be sure of how the ideas were presented to the people who died for their religion but I found that indeed it stated there would be maidens to serve in heaven for those found worthy by following the teaching of Allah. While it is true that these ideas were taken from the Qur’an they possibly were used out of context and reported in that manner by the media. This was not a surprise to me but I wanted to know where the ideas came from. All religious writings are interpreted and each can be manipulated to serve the current message being given.

The infighting and the wars against those who do not agree with specific teaching and practices is manmade. The writings about taking up arms against unbelievers rings true in all religions started in Middle East region of the world. It is the idea that if your neighbor does not believe as you do then you must conquer them and bring them to belief with any means available. You must bring the world to the “true belief” to be considered worthy. Conquering and forced conversion to a religious belief was done to the Indigenous of the Americas when Christianity was brought to the Americas during global expansion of European countries as well as other areas of the world. It is still being done throughout the world no matter what the religion.

To say that Islam speaks of peace but is violent and warlike is to forget the Old Testament and the fact that for instance Christians have fought against Christians for many centuries. Some of this attitude is a product of frustration in trying to convert the unbeliever to the faith or other ideals held by those conquering. Other times it is used by rulers and leaders to increase their nations. Therefore it is important to fully understand all religions and cultures and to come to an understanding of the sameness to foster tolerance. The belief and creed of the Universal Life Church says it all “Do only what is right” I would add we are all One and harm to any part of the One is harm to all.

So many times I hear from Christians that “Muslims do not believe in God they believe in Mohammad.” The split was many centuries ago but the fact that both came from the same source and the promise of Abraham should make for a better understanding and fellowship rather than division, total rift, and war. Muslims do not believe in Mohammad anymore than Baptists believe in Billy Graham. The message both brought to the people was of how to live properly with the teachings of God. Neither cared to be worshiped nor should they be.

Christians should understand and be thankful that Islam held to the ideas of the advancement of learning and science while the Christian world was in the dark ages and would not accept the knowledge of medicine, science, math, etc. because it did not foster the teachings the church wanted to convey to the people. When the western world was ready to give up the controlling teachings of the church they then were grateful for the fact that many things had been preserved by the Muslims and could be shared with the world. It is said in the history of the Roman Empire that the roads built to expand the empire allowed the Muslims to travel to the far areas of the world and give their knowledge to many. They were willing to share this knowledge in contrast to the Christian Church and the rulers that used the church for expansion who wanted to suppress knowledge to keep the peoples in bondage to them.

Especially in this day and age when the weapons produced in varied countries can bring total annihilation we need to practice tolerance, forgiveness, and foster understanding of all religions and cultures to bring love to the world instead of war. Knowledge of each culture and religion is the key to peace. The lessons for Master of Islamic Studies provide a good start in this direction.

Rev. Sharon J. Mayer


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