The convergence taking place in these early days of September, 2010, is making my head spin! 1.5 billion Muslims around the world are ending their month of fasting, Ramadan, with a three-day feast, Eid al-Fiter. Americans are remembering our dead in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, and pondering our own vulnerability. A group of American Muslims are planning an Islamic center for the people of New York near the site of the attacks. A Christian pastor in Gainesville, Florida, has captured the attention of the American media and our government officials with his plan to burn a Qu’ran tomorrow, on the anniversary of the attacks. Not to mention the thousands of people evacuated from their homes in the foothills a few miles from where I am sitting, and the young man I met last night who lost all his possessions when the house he was renting in Four-Mile Canyon was burned to the ground.
No wonder our hearts are a jumble of emotions—this is a lot to take in for one week. Unbelievable. Too much for our poor, tired brains to make sense of.
Tragedy, natural and human; loss and grief; terror and rising above it; faithfulness and catastrophic foolishness. The best and the worst of “religion,” snuggling together.
One of my new-found favorite places in the Holy Land is the Educational Bookshop on Salah Eddin Street in East Jerusalem, next to the chocolate shop. In June I bought a gift there for my husband Gale for our anniversary, which we were celebrating on opposite sides of the globe. It’s a book of Arab poetry, The Wisdom of the Arabs, complied by Suheil Bushrui. Here are two gems from the book for us to ponder in today’s confusion, to ground us in the cacophany:
For Ramadan, Eid, and to help heal my ignorance of Islam—
Fasting is an armour with which one protects oneself; so let not him (who fasts) utter immodest (or foul) speech, nor let him act in an ignorant manner; and if a man quarrels with him or abuses him, he should say twice, I am fasting.
—from the Hadith (a collection of writings on the life and words of the prophet Muhammad, assembled in the 8th and 9th centuries)
Those who believe (in the Qur’an),
Those who follow the Jewish (scriptures),
And the Sabians and the Christians, —
Any who believe in God
And the Last Day,
And work righteousness, —
On them shall be no fear,
Nor shall they grieve.
Falsehood hath so corrupted all the world
That wrangling sects each other’s gospel chide;
But were not hate Man’s natural element,
Churches and mosques had risen side by side.
—a poem by Al-Ma’arri
Photo: drummers at the weekly demonstration against evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem