Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More fundamental than Christian fundamentalism

I had some affection for Islam when I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X as a teenager. Anything that converted that angry man to seeing brotherhood beyond his race must have some substance. It is a brotherhood of submission, though, not of love, and the submission is to Islam, not to whoever and whatever God is. I forget if there was any one moment when I decided Islam was not for me. I had an Iranian roommate the summer before college. I didn’t see meaning in his prayers, just repetition. I suppose I had similar observations here and there on encountering something from Islam.

I was willing to be any sort of fundamentalist, if that had been God’s way, but something always turned out to be false in that whenever I looked. Now God tells me that He is very different from what either Christian or Islamic fundamentalists say He is. God is love, through His dependency, through His change, in many ways that fundamentalists reject. Islam may be even more dogmatic about their God than fundamentalist Christians. See this list of attributes from http://www.islamfortoday.com/shia.htm

1) Qadím: Alláh is eternal. He has neither a beginning nor an end.
2) Qadir: Alláh is omnipotent. He has power over all things.
3) 'Alim: Alláh is omniscient. He is all-knowing.
4) Hai: Alláh is living. He is alive and will remain alive forever.
5) Muríd: Alláh has his own discretion is all affairs. He does not do anything out of compulsion.
6) Mudrik: Alláh is all-perceiving. He is all-hearing, all-seeing, and is omnipresent. Alláh sees and hears everything though he has neither eyes nor ears.
7) Mutakalim: Alláh is the Lord of the Worlds. He can create speech in anything: the burning bush for Musa and the curtain of light for Muhammad.
8) Sadiq: Alláh is truthful. His words and promises are true.

1) Sharík: Alláh has no partners.
2) Murakab: Alláh is neither made, nor composed, of any material.
3) Makán: Alláh is not confined to any place and has no body.
4) Hulúl: Alláh does not incarnate into anything or anybody.
5) Mahale hawadith: Alláh is not subject to changes. Alláh cannot change.
6) Marí: Alláh is not visible. He has not been seen, is not seen, and will never be seen, because he has no form or body.
7) Ihtiyaj: Alláh is not dependant. Alláh is not deficient, so he does not have any needs.
8) Sifate zayed: Alláh does not have added qualifications. The attributes of Alláh are not separate from His being.

It is everything that Christianity fantasizes about God and more. How can people look at the imperfect world around them and believe in such a God? It's not just people in one part of the world who do. It's not just religion for the victors who claim God authored their victory, but for the vanquished who say God is punishing them, testing them or strengthening them. Human beings have quite a capacity this way. We can make up a story for anything. Testing those stories is something we have had to learn.

Many people have sought God. Some have had powerful experiences and written at length to both describe and amplify their experiences. I can’t imagine where lists like the above came from except such experiences. God tells me He didn’t dictate such ideas, even when He inspired them. These are not His words. He doesn’t use words. We use words, each in our own language, and often we look away from God thereby to our wordy idols. God is whoever and whatever God is. Those who are too fundamentalist to accept that there is more to God than they understand have only idols.

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