Beliefs, Identity and Deeds: What is a Healthy Balance?

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Kaaba in Mecca

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Today is the birthday of Einstein, March 14. He was born in 1879. Why is my first sentence about Einstein below a picture of Kaaba, towards which 1.8 billion Muslims face to say their five daily prayers? As I was trying to examine beliefs and identity of the world Muslims, belonging to different sects and nationalities today, I came across a tweet that serves me as an apt opening with a person from one of the other Abrahamic faiths, namely Albert Einstein and Judaism. It reminded me that the Quran spends a significant part of the first five chapters on Abrahamic faiths to make a case for Monotheism, revealing the interconnectedness of our faiths and our world.

I was perhaps one of the first Muslim writers to get to know Albert Einstein beyond his physics, some twenty years ago: Albert Einstein’s search for God, a detailed study from the Islamic perspective, and Let Man of the Century be Your Guide in Science, Metaphysics and Life.

The tweet I am mentioning, led me to the writing of Maria Papova, as she examines the importance of human rights and interconnectedness, she wrote:

“We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more,” Albert Camus wrote in reflecting on strength of character in turbulent times as WWII’s maelstrom of deadly injustice engulfed Europe. But that mending is patient, steadfast, often unglamorous work — it is the work of choosing kindness over fear, again and again, in the smallest of everyday ways, those tiny triumphs of the human spirit which converge in the current of courage that is the only force by which this world has ever changed.

That’s what Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879–April 18, 1955) examined in a beautiful autobiographical piece titled “The World as I See It,” originally published in a 1930 issue of the magazine Forum and Century, and later included in Ideas and Opinions (public library) — the invaluable compendium that gave us Einstein’s reflections on the secret to his thought processthe common language of science, and his increasingly timely message to posterity.

Whether the Muslims appreciate it or not, our world and life has been tremendously affected by the discoveries of Albert Einstein and the technology that followed from them.

I have written before myself about this interconnectedness and our universal brotherhood and sisterhood: Why Did Muhammad Fly to Jerusalem? and How can we build the Third Temple together?

The other new piece that I read today is that a Muslim has been appointed as a permanent Judge to Israel Supreme Court: Muslim judge takes permanent seat at Israel’s Supreme Court.

Based on my 60 year life experience, it seems self evident to me that almost each and every 1.8 billion Muslim will welcome this news.

But, would we welcome such a news if a non-Muslim or a minority sect person enjoyed such a privilege in a Muslim majority country?

I am talking to the 1.8 billion fellow Muslims. Do you know Bernie Sanders and Benjamin Netanyahu?

If not please Google and get to know them a little. Which one do you like better?

I love Bernie Sanders but Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much.

I have found Senator Bernie Sanders to be the most generous, fair and inclusive politician. In our age of heightened religious divisions and Islamophobia in the country, in the era of President Trump, despite his Jewish faith, he chose a Muslim to be campaign manager for his presidential bid. In 2019 we read: Bernie Sanders Hires First-Ever Muslim Presidential Campaign Manager. The same year we also had the privilege to read: Bernie Sanders can’t be bought – his campaign is making me strangely hopeful and Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris defend Ilhan Omar amid controversy over Israel comments. I like what I see.

What is wrong with Netanyahu? Could it be that his right wing politics and his undue love for his religious beliefs and his people, at the expense of others mars his character and biography?

But in our own lives are we more akin to Bernie Sanders or Benjamin Netanyahu? As we examine ourselves and try to mimic Bernie, we will become greater champions of Universal Brotherhood and Sisterhood.

Undue emphasis on beliefs alone, for example, ‘Jesus dying for our sins,’ is a Christian emphasis and not Islamic. In Islam the five beliefs are mentioned, but their details are intimately intertwined with our actions and deeds. A sheer belief without deeds is of no consequence in Islamic theology.

For those Muslims who are not familiar with the Christian emphasis, let me share: Justificatio sola fide (or simply sola fide), meaning justification by faith alone, is a Christian theological doctrine commonly held to distinguish the Lutheran and Reformed traditions of Protestantism,[1] among others, from the CatholicEastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches.[2] The doctrine asserts that it is on the basis of faith that believers are made right of their transgressions of the law of God rather than on the basis of good works which they have done. This forgiveness is known as “justification“. In classical Lutheran and Reformed theologies, good works are seen to be evidence of faith, but the good works themselves do not determine salvation.[3] In contrast, the Methodist doctrine affirms a belief in justification by faith that offers God’s forgiveness, but holds that holy living with the goal of Christian perfection (sanctification) is essential for salvation.[3][4][5]

In Israel, India, USA and Europe do we prefer right wing or left wing more inclusive and progressive politicians? So, when it comes to our own countries and sects, how can we be exclusive and leaning right?

Perhaps none of the Muslims likes laws about prohibition of beef burgers in India, yet when it comes to Sharia Law there is a very wide diversity.

According to the Pew Research Center, support for making sharia the official law of the land varies significantly across the six major regions included in the study. In countries across South Asia, Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East-North Africa region most favor making sharia their country’s official legal code. By contrast, only a minority of Muslims across Central Asia as well as Southern and Eastern Europe want sharia to be the official law of the land.

In South Asia, high percentages in all the countries surveyed support making sharia the official law, including nearly universal support among Muslims in Afghanistan (99%). More than eight-in-ten Muslims in Pakistan (84%) and Bangladesh (82%) also hold this view. The percentage of Muslims who say they favor making Islamic law the official law in their country is nearly as high across the Southeast Asian countries surveyed (86% in Malaysia, 77% in Thailand and 72% in Indonesia).15

In sub-Saharan Africa, at least half of Muslims in most countries surveyed say they favor making sharia the official law of the land, including more than seven-in-ten in Niger (86%), Djibouti (82%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (74%) and Nigeria (71%).

Support for sharia as the official law of the land also is widespread among Muslims in the Middle East-North Africa region – especially in Iraq (91%) and the Palestinian territories (89%). Only in Lebanon does opinion lean in the opposite direction: 29% of Lebanese Muslims favor making sharia the law of the land, while 66% oppose it.

Support for making sharia the official legal code of the country is relatively weak across Central Asia as well as Southern and Eastern Europe. Fewer than half of Muslims in all the countries surveyed in these regions favor making sharia their country’s official law. Support for sharia as the law of the land is greatest in Russia (42%); respondents in Russia were asked if sharia should be made the official law in the country’s ethnic-Muslim republics. Elsewhere in Central Asia and Southern and Eastern Europe, about one-in-three or fewer say sharia should be made the law of the land, including just 10% in Kazakhstan and 8% in Azerbaijan.

Just the diversity of opinion about the Sharia Law, the world over, should make a thinking person analyze the issue in greater depth.

Today, as we celebrate the man of the century, Albert Einstein, let me plead to the 1.8 billion Muslims and 15 million Jews that let us lead the world and show to the Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Agnostics and Atheists that let us all be more universal in our laws, regardless of the majority population of the country.

If you liked what you read then indulge me some more by reading: The only constitution the world needs is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Dr. Zia H Shah, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times and author of this article

Suggested reading for living in the image of the Loving and the Most Merciful God by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times:

Thirty Plus Quotes from the Poet of Love

Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran

We Will be Judged by Our Compassion and Deeds and Not Our Dogma

A Message of Compassion and Love from the Holy Bible

True Fasting: A Message of Compassion and Love from the Old Testament

Abou Ben Adhem, A Compassionate Man

‘Love Hormone,’ How it works in Hospitality?

‘Love Hormone’ Oxytocin May Enhance Feelings Of Spirituality

I am a Jew, a Catholic, a Christian and a Muslim; I am Zia H Shah

Jewish Perspective on the Rights of Neighbors

52% of U.S. Muslims: ‘Traditional understandings of Islam must be reinterpreted to address modern issues’

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