Amanda Jewett, Contributing Writer
If you had told me a couple of months ago that a crisp copy of the Quran would soon be sitting on my bookshelf, I would have accused you of lying. Yet here I am, a die-hard theology major and devout (at least I like to think I am) Roman Catholic, with a copy of the Quran in my possession.
A few weeks ago, I was struck by an advertisement in The University News for a weekly class on Islam. I don’t know why this advertisement piqued my interest; perhaps I was reminded of life outside the Bubble, or perhaps I was impressed with the striking initiative toward interfaith dialogue. As a theology major, I was intrigued, to say the least.
Consequently, Yasmin Fatemi (a close friend of mine and a Shia Muslim), a few other University of Dallas students and I have headed to the Islamic Center of Irving several times in the past few weeks for an illuminating look at a faith we don’t hear much about within the confines of the Bubble.
The colorful hijabs and long, floral skirts worn by Muslim women attract my attention every time I walk into the Center. The monochromatic jubbah of the men and the Moorish, intricate, geometric tiles on the floor leading to the mosque immerse me in a religious culture quite different from my own.
There are similarities between Christian and Islamic cultures, however; at the end of each class, a passage from the Quran is recited, and the steady, Arabic chanting is meditative and reminiscent of the Gregorian chant I hear at Cistercian.
Spiritual similarities between Catholicism and Islam are more prevalent than you may think. Muslims believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary – yes, you read that correctly. Muslims share this belief with Catholics, whereas many of our Protestant brothers and sisters vehemently disagree with it. Our Blessed Mother is the only woman the Quran mentions by name; in fact, an entire chapter is dedicated to her. Muslims honor Mary as a woman of perfect balance, a powerful role model and a symbol of purity.
Here’s another piece of information I didn’t know prior to visiting the Center: Muslims believe that Jesus was born without sin, while they believe that Muhammad, their revered prophet, was an imperfect human being. Muslims also believe in the prophecy of the second coming. The fact that Catholicism and Islam actually have more in common than I’d thought is refreshing.
“UD students should take some time to go to a class like this, or look into it further,” said Tim Nguyen, a UD student who visited the Center. “[The course will help them] to not only understand the Islamic faith, but also their own – to deepen it and expand their cultural mindset.”
“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling,” St. Paul asks in 1 Timothy 2:8. Indeed, every person walking into a church, a mosque or a synagogue is seeking what UDers love to study – the good, the true and the beautiful – through the worship of God. May we Catholics continue to be the light of Christ for all our brothers and sisters, especially as we interact with those of other faith traditions.