17 Ways to Create Your Own Spiritual Space

Spiritual

After several conversations with friends and family members regarding their frustrations with the masjids in their communities and the lack of a community-feeling in their masjids really got me thinking about what the solution to this problem could be. I’ve studied masjids and tried to identify best practices, but realized that while best practices are important one’s spirituality and imaan (faith) is far more important.

It’s easy to build a masjid, but to build a community is another task all together. Many communities succeed in whatever way they can to at least have a physical structure for their masjid, but many fail miserably to build a community. This lack of community can virtually kill people’s connection to the Muslim community, Islam, and eventually with Allah all together. This trend of being unmosqued and more and more Muslims feeling alienated from the masjid is something that can have significant consequences for the future of our community.

As we continue to pray for and work towards building more warm and welcoming masjids it’s important for one to build their own masjid. No, I don’t mean a physical structure, but create your own spiritual space. What do I mean by this? I have a couple of tips below of how to create your spiritual space:

1) Pray Your Salah on Time

Start off simply by praying your salah on time. Schedule your work schedule or school schedule around the 5 daily prayers. If you need reminders download IslamicFinder’s athaan on your computer or on your phone. If you’re lazy for fajr set two alarm clocks, one on your phone and another on your alarm clock.

2) Slow Down Your Salah

A lot of us, including myself, speed through our salah without even thinking about what we’re saying and what we’re doing. After we pray we feel empty and regretful which further exacerbates our feeling of unease and lack of connection to Allah. Also, make it a point to dress appropriately when you pray. Make it an event—dress nicely, smell nice, and spend your time slowly doing wudhu and concentrate on each action. Try to also learn what you’re reciting in salah to make it more meaningful. Check out the following lectures for tips on how to improve your salah:

  • The Prayer! The Prayer! The Prayer! -Mokhtar Maghraoui(Short Imaan Booster)
  • Understanding Salah-Mufti Ismail Menk (Short Imaan Booster)
  • Sweetness of Salah-Sh Omar Sulaiman(Short Imaan Booster)
  • Sweetness in Prayer (Salah) – Moutasem Al-Hameedi(1 hour)
  • Salah in Focus-Abdul Nasir Jangda(1 hour)
  • Khushoo-Shaykh Yaser Birjas(1 hour)
  • Meaning of Tashahud-Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda(50 mins)

3) Create a Prayer/Dhikr Place at Home

In your home or apartment keep a prayer mat, dhikr beads and a Quran in one area to designate as a prayer/dhikr place. This will help you keep focused in salah as well as create an environment in which you can feel at peace when you pray. Below is my prayer/dhikr area.

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4) Create a Fajr Routine

 

What do I mean by a Fajr Routine?

  • Tahajjud: Try to get up 10-15 minutes earlier than Fajr to pray 2-4 rakahs of Tahajjud and also pray the 2 rakahs of sunnah before Fajr.
  • Read Quran Post-Fajr: Read a couple of pages of the Quran post-fajr
  • Duas: Create a dua list, you can find duas from the Quran and sunnah, simply copy and paste them onto a Word document, print them out, or you can buy Accepted Whispers (I highly recommend it):
  1. Accepted Whispers: http://www.amazon.com/Accepted-Whispers-English-Translation-Munajaat/dp/B0021IZYEQ

2. My Dua List: http://www.scribd.com/doc/101667123/Dua-List-Final

3. Dua by Muhammad Jibreel: http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/worship/fasting-ramadan/a-gift-for-the-27th-night-ramadan-dua%E2%80%99-with-english-translation/

  •     Pray Salat-Ishraq: These are two rakahs of salah post-sunrise.

“Whoever prays fajr in congregation, then sits remembering Allah until sunrise, then prays two units of prayer, has a complete reward of Hajj and `Umrah [The Prophet, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, repeated ‘complete’ three times for emphasizing].” [at-Tirmidhi]

5) Pray Fajr and/or Isha at the Masjid

 

If you do have access to a masjid at least pray fajr and/or Isha at the masjid. It doesn’t matter how much you hate going to a particular masjid, but if you simply go to pray in congregation and make it a routine it’ll help you keep your imaan up and give you a imaan-boost. If you can’t make it for Fajr, at least make it for Isha.

6) Memorize Short Duas

 

Try to memorize short and simple duas. What I do is I post duas on my doors or in key areas where I’ll be sure to read them. Post daily duas for when you’re leaving home, after eating, etc.

DUAS

 7) Memorize and Understand Juz Amma (Short Surahs)

We all have memorized the short surahs in juz amma (maybe not all but some). Use this as a starting place to add meaning and purpose to your salah. If you want, try to get friends to review with or even make a weekly halaqa to go over the tafsir and meaning of the short surahs in Juz Amma. Make it a goal by the end of the year to memorize all of the surahs in Juz Amma. Here are a couple of resources to get you started:

-Juz Amma Tafsir by Nouman Ali Khan

http://podcast.bayyinah.com/category/juz_amma/

-Word for Word Translation:

http://www.islamicstudies.info/wordtranslation.php

  • Reconnect with the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)

Listening to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)s seerah can help you increase your love and appreciation for the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and truly understand who he was.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMu_654ASDk&list=PL7839C1DDE0524207

9) Make Dhikr or Send Salawat on the Prophet SAW in Your Downtime

Make it a habit to make dhikr throughout your day. If you’re sitting in traffic, or studying, or working either make dhikr or send salawat on the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

10) Create a Daily To-Do List and Spiritual Routine

Try to create a routine of self-improvement that includes not only spiritual self-improvement, but also personal improvement academically, professionally, or physically (Work out!). Creating a spiritual and workout routine are both good ways to keep your spiritual heart and physical heart healthy. Below is how I organize my to-do list. On the left hand side I have my tasks for the day. On the right side I have my regular daily tasks that I need to accomplish and below that I have a section (since I like blogging/writing) for article/blog or paper ideas.

IMG_2754

On how to create a daily spiritual routine I highly recommend getting Imam Ghazali’s The Beginning of Guidance and also purchasing Sh. Hamza Yusuf’s Purification of the Heart, both are great ways to start your journey of spiritual refinement.

BookPH

11) Listen to Lectures of Scholars You Enjoy

Yes, the masjid you may go to may have awful khutbahs, classes, and lectures (or you may not have a masjid close to you), but alhamdullilah for technology we have access to several scholars who we can benefit from. You can take classes on SeekersGuidance or you can simply or you can simply listen to lectures on HalalTube.com. Find lectures you’re interested in and can be imaan-boosters for you.

12) Start a Small Weekly Halaqa with Close Friends

If your masjid is failing to have quality lectures, classes and halaqas that cater to your spiritual needs create a small weekly halaqa with close friends who you can discuss Islamic topics with or make it focused upon a book or studying the Quran.

13) Reduce Unnecessary Socializing

This means reducing time spent with friends or acquaintances who bring no value into your life. You want to keep friends who bring value to your life and push you and encourage you to be a better person at every level (spiritual, emotional and personal). This’ll be a difficult task, but if you start categorizing people and start making quality friends.

Read: 10 Steps on How to Make Quality Friends

https://sabrshukr.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/10-steps-on-how-to-make-quality-friends/

14) Reduce Distractions

This means reduce your time on your smartphone, computer/laptop, and even music. I’m not saying any of these things are haram, but reducing our time on social media and technology can have an immense impact on reviving our imaan and spirituality. I remember taking a Facebook fast during Ramadan, it was the best feeling in the world and it’s amazing how much time you have once you cut down time on social media. Delete apps on your phone which are a distraction or time wasters (this includes social media apps, games and other time wasting apps).

15) Increase Your Dua

Start making dua more regularly and do so throughout the day. It can be a silent internal dua or a silent dua you say to yourself in any situation you’re in. This will help you keep spiritually fresh and help you feel closer to Allah.

16)Keep Clean and Organized

Having a clean and organized home and workplace will reduce stress and allow you to focus primarily on your dhikr, Quran-reading and will allow you to be more productive spiritually and work wise too.

17) Reflect on Events and Situations in Your Day

Use every moment, second, minute and hour of your day assessing, reflecting and pondering about events and situations. What lessons can you learn from them? What can you improve on? What can you do differently? How can you learn from these moments to become a better person? This isn’t to say you need to be obsessive about events or situations, but use every moment of your life to be a moment to learn from and improve yourself, your understanding of others, Allah and the world around you.

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15 Ways to Recharge Your Imaan This Ramadan

Ramadan Recharge

So a few of my friends have asked how to make the most of this Ramadan and that they were feeling spiritually low. I sat down and thought about it and here are my simple ways to recharge our imaan (faith) this Ramadan and inshallah for year to come.

1. Tune out Distractions/Drama + Decrease Socializing

-Spend as much time as you can by yourself by making dua, dhikr, etc.

-This isn’t to say to not be nice to people and turn down invites to iftar dinners, but don’t make food the focus of your Ramadan

2. Read more Quran + Review the Meaning

-Find a Quran Translation You Find Easy to Understand

-Find a Quiet and Peaceful Place to Read Quran (I like to read Quran after fajr up until sunrise and then pray Ishraq after)

-The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Whosoever offers his morning (fajr) prayer in congregation, then remains seated making the dhikr of Allah until the sun rises, and thereafter offers two rak’ats, they will receive the reward of performing a Hajj and Umrah.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, no: 586)

 

3. Make Dua Daily

-Create your own dua list

-OR buy: http://www.amazon.com/Accepted-Whispers-English-Translation-Munajaat/dp/B0021IZYEQ

-Dedicate a special time to make your dua with sincerity and focus)-After Fajr or Every Salah

-Here is my list of duas: http://www.scribd.com/doc/101667123/Dua-List-Final

 

4. Add one Small Sunnah to Your Routine

-Add the Sunnah Before Fajr

– 2 rakahs after Maghrib, Dhuhr, Isha

5. Slow Down Your Salah!

-We all rush through our salah, but try to slow down and understand what you’re saying and what position you’re in relation to Allah in your salah. Think to yourself: ok I’m in prostration to Allah, this means I am submitting myself to Him, I’m in Ruku, I am in a position of weakness and am proclaiming His strength.

-Great Lectures about how to gain tranquility in salah:

The Prayer! The Prayer! The Prayer! -Mokhtar Maghraoui(Short Imaan Booster)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0efbrGqO1Os

Understanding Salah-Mufti Ismail Menk (Short Imaan Booster)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGPCMJZ7zto

Sweetness of Salah-Sh Omar Sulaiman(Short Imaan Booster)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3k3ZkQUHYU

 

Sweetness in Prayer (Salah) – Moutasem Al-Hameedi(1 hour)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O724d95udWg

 

Salah in Focus-Abdul Nasir Jangda(1 hour)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhV4p0_QGxk

 

Khushoo-Shaykh Yaser Birjas(1 hour)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KRqNv22F6E

 

Meaning of Tashahud-Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda(50 mins)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IevbR3-SnSk

 

 6. Learn Daily Duas

-Post Duas Up On Your Fridge so whenever you open the fridge you read the dua

-Post Duas in Common Places like Your Front Door (Dua When Leaving the House and Dua when Entering on the Other Side of the Door)

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 6. Reconnect with the Seerah

-Seerah Series by Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda: http://www.qalaminstitute.org/category/podcast/seerah/

-Omar Ibn Khattab (RA) TV Series:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMu_654ASDk&list=PL7839C1DDE0524207

-Omar ibn Khattab (RA) TV Series Study Guide

http://www.scribd.com/doc/231024116/Omar-Ibn-Khattab-MBC-TV-Series-Study-Guide

 

 7. Learn Tafsir, Learn the Meaning and Memorize Short Surahs (Juz Amma)

-Juz Amma Tafsir by Nouman Ali Khan

http://podcast.bayyinah.com/category/juz_amma/

-Word for Word Translation:

http://www.islamicstudies.info/wordtranslation.php

 

8. Make a Dua List (of Things You Need in Dunya/Deen)

Make a dua list where you divide your needs for your dunya (immediate needs) and your deen (i.e. spiritual needs). Also, make a list of things you’re grateful for and thank Allah for them.

9. Ask Forgiveness for People You May Have Hurt

Write an email, text or call someone you may have hurt recently or in the past to ask for their forgiveness and also make a point to forgive others who have wronged you as well!

10.Make a Commitment to Repent for and Stop Any Sins You Are Engaged In

This is easier said than done, but if you look at the way your life is going you’ll begin to realize your sins have already caught up with you or will catch up with you one day or another. Key is to keep struggling against the sin(s) or temptation and never give up.

 11. Attend Tarawih Prayers

Here some tips to get the most out of your tarawih prayers:

http://www.atlantamuslim.com/2014/jul/05/5-ways-improve-tarawih/

12. Learn About the Stories of the Companions of the Prophet SAW

-Learning About the Companions can be a source of Inspiration for Us

-Here is a Great PDF: http://www.missionislam.com/knowledge/books/compprophet.pdf

-Youtube Sh. Zahir Mahmood lectures on Youtube, he has some great short clips about the Companions that are Imaan Boosters. There are other lectures too so find them on Youtube.

 13. Make a Commitment to Fast Mondays and Thursdays

-Plan now to fast the extra 10 days after Ramadan–you’ll get used to fasting so why not fast Mondays and

Thursdays?

14. Try to do Ithikhaaf if You Can in the Last 10 Days

If you can’t go to the masjid and stay in the masjid for the full 10 days at least dedicate a few hours on weekends or evenings and make the intention of it counting as an ithikhaaf and inshallah you’ll get the reward for it from Allah. Dedicate the last 10 days of Ramadan just for you and Allah time to ask Him for any of your needs, forgiveness, and use it as a time to realign your life according to the Quran and Sunnah

15. Make it a Habit to Go to the Masjid for Salah

If you’re attending the masjid for Isha and tarawih then after Ramadan stick to at least coming

 

 

Losing My Religion

Truth

Don’t worry, this isn’t a proclamation of apostasy. Alhamdullilah, I’m still Muslim and pray to be Muslim till the day I die and announce my shahadah (statement of belief) in Allah as the only diety worthy of worship and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) being His Messenger.

What is happening is I am losing my religion to so-called “progressive Muslims,” extremists, Islamophobes, confused Muslims, Imams with ridiculous interpretations of Islam that are not in tune with current times and culture, anti-Muslim and Islam media, extreme Sufis and extreme Salafis and every deviant sect of Islam. With all of this confusion I feel that there seems to be an identity crisis occurring within the Muslim community. We have individuals speaking from a super progressive viewpoints where it sounds like a hippy version of Islam and everything goes and then we have the other side of the spectrum where everything is haram (forbidden) and bidah (innovation). Combining the clash of extreme groups with Islamophobia societal pressure and trends Muslims have become utterly and thoroughly confused about their Islamic beliefs and identity. We’re all ultimately losing our religion (and our minds :P).

In recent times Muslims have been under attack by a constant wave of Islamophobia from not only a governmental level, but virtually at every level of society. From the media, to our neighbors, friends, colleagues, and fellow students at school and others Muslims are under attack about their beliefs. Everything from the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), his seerah (biographical life story), verses from the Quran, to every aspect of Islam and virtually every Islamic belief is criticized. Muslims have been under attack to such a degree that Muslims begin to question their own beliefs and identity. Thinking critically of one’s faith is not discouraged in Islam, but is encouraged. Introspection, reflection and critical thinking are encouraged in Islam. Islamophobia in a way is a blessing for the Muslim community as it requires Muslims of all level of religiosity to reflect upon Islamic beliefs and their own identity.

Some Muslims have come out stronger from the constant waves of Islamophobia and reawakening of sorts has arisen in the world where Muslims have become more conscious of their identity and Islamic beliefs and their purpose. We’ve seen the rise in Muslim activism at all levels of society and seen several Muslims become excellent role models for the world and made amazing contributions to their communities. However, unfortunately for other Muslims, they’ve become more confused about their faith and began doubting their faith and have unfortunately either watered down their beliefs and Muslim identity to a point where the only thing that remains is their Arabic name or their “Islamic” dress or clothing.

I hope to focus on the latter group of individuals who water down Islam and their Muslim identity. We have several imams, scholars, and self-proclaimed experts about Islam and Muslims speaking on behalf of millions of Muslims and on behalf of Islam watering down Islam and removing certain Islamic beliefs or shy away from mentioning Islamic beliefs to gain acceptance by the overall society we live in. We are willing to remove , water down and totally ignore clear Islamic beliefs in our religion to gain acceptance. The question becomes at what cost? What will the repercussions become of Muslims watering down Islam and Muslim identity? We must make sure that individuals who are speaking on behalf of Muslims on a local and a national level are individuals who are qualified and educated enough to speak on topics dealing with Islam, Muslims and society. We must have individuals qualified, educated enough and mature enough to talk about issues that challenge the Muslim community These include issues of homosexuality, gay marriage, pornography addiction, domestic violence, and other major challenges. Also, we must be careful about how we talk about these issues especially the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage. Some Muslims have gone to the extreme of totally accepting homosexuality as ok in Islam and valid. Others have taken the other extreme of totally calling for the killing of all homosexuals. We must as a community come up with a stance on this issue that is grounded in our Islamic beliefs, but also takes into account the society we live. We must ensure that we deal with these sensitive issues in a mature manner and educate our communities how to face these issues.

Here are some good resources  (Islam and Homosexuality) about to educate yourself about Islam and Homosexuality from a couple of scholars . We shouldn’t dismiss, harass and abuse homosexual individuals, rather we should conduct mature dialogues about the issue and ensure that our solutions and ideas to address the issue is grounded in our Islamic belief.

We must educate our communities in Islam, Islamic belief and cultivate their Muslim identity. This will ensure that we have a firm understanding of who we are, what we believe and why we believe what we believe. Currently, many Muslim youth (and Muslims in general) have become confused about how to deal with issues like homosexuality and gay marriage and other sensitive issues and have adopted stances that are totally against Islamic belief. We have Muslims advocating for things that are clearly un-Islamic with no knowledge of Islam. We either have become so scared of not being accepted or want to be accepted by our society that we totally turn a 180 on our beliefs or we’re so scared of Islamophobes. Either way, we’re not staying true to ourselves, our identity, and our covenant with Allah and his Messenger (peace be upon him). How can we be representatives of the Prophet SAW when we don’t do our utmost to ensure that our beliefs and actions align with his sunnah (way of life and conduct)? How can we claim to represent Islam and be caretakers of the world when we aren’t educated about the basics of Islamic belief? We must go back to the Quran and Sunnah and study it in detail before we formulate beliefs and ideas on issues and ensure our beliefs align with our Islamic beliefs.

We must remind ourselves that Islam does not bend or change to the whims of societal beliefs or trends. It doesn’t change. Yes, we may interpret ayahs differently in various time periods and we have valid school of thoughts that have different interpretations, but when it comes to the core beliefs of Islam we cannot change them to please others. Unfortunately, a lot of Muslim activists and individuals in the interfaith field speak with little to no knowledge of Islamic core beliefs or water down Islamic beliefs in an interfaith setting to be more acceptable to the other faith groups. This is not to say we shouldn’t engage in interfaith dialogue, but what’s important when we do conduct interfaith dialogue is that we stay true to ourselves and our Islamic beliefs.

In addition to this, we must not get influenced by the trends of other faith communities who have bent to the whims of societal trends. Many Jewish and Christian communities have wholeheartedly accepted homosexuality and conduct gay marriages in their synagogues and churches. I love and respect my brothers and sisters of other faiths, but this is problematic as these institutions have made conscious decisions to clearly disregard their own Biblical teachings (i.e. God’s clear commandments and core tenets). When we start to chip away from our religious beliefs (no matter if you’re a Muslim, Jew or Christian) you lose your identity and you lose your religion. You begin to become God in a way. You begin to interpret religious laws and edit laws and commandments as you see fit. We should as faith communities interpret our religious texts in a modern light, but should not change core beliefs as commanded by God. If God says in our religious texts not to kill, we shouldn’t say “oh that was for the people back then, it’s ok to kill now” nor should we say “God says not to cheat, but now it’s ok to cheat.” Clearly universal principles in all religious traditions shouldn’t change to please society. It seems as if religious institutions have become so scared of losing relevancy and losing their flock they’re willing to literally sell their souls, reinterpret their texts, and change their religious beliefs radically to hang on to their congregations. This is not to say we shouldn’t call people to God, indeed we should, but should do so in a manner that ensures we are keeping true to God’s commandments and laws.

When the Prophet Muhammad SAW delivered the message of Islam and the many prophets (may peace be upon them all) they didn’t waver or give people what they wanted to hear. That is what individuals who hold Truth do, they speak the truth no matter what cost, even if it’s unpopular with people.

“Say what is true, although it may be bitter and displeasing to people.” –The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)

(Baihaqi)

         If in anyway the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) wavered in his mission or watered down Islam to please the Quraish we would not have the perfect and clear religion we have today. We wouldn’t have this blessing of Islam in our lives to guide us to a life that benefits not only ourselves, but society as a whole. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was given an offer by the Quraish in which they offered to worship Allah for a few months and in return the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) would worship the idols. In addition to this the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was given an offer of money, status and women to stop his message, yet he refused all of these offers, because he had what they did not have. He had the Truth and stood to defend it with his life. If he wavered in anyway or changed any of it it would not be the Truth. You cannot take water and poison it and call it pure water. That is cheating the people and cheating yourself.

In a world so full of confusion and lunacy, we ask in our daily prayers for guidance at least 17 times day to the Right Path. To stray from Truth or to water down Allah’s words, commands, or teachings of the Prophet Muhammmad (SAW) is offensive to Allah and a HUGE disrespect to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) suffered, sacrificed along with his companions (may Allah be pleased with them) to deliver the message of Truth to us and to ensure we got it in the most pure form void of any blemishes, confusion or obscurity. The companions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) gave their lives for this beautiful way of life, yet today Muslims are so easily throwing it away or hiding it or feeling ashamed. We should start gaining our confidence in ourselves and our religion by learning more about the Quran and the Sunnah. Success only lies in these two ways of guidance anything less is doomed to fail us. The solutions to the problems in our own lives and in our communities lies in the Quran and Sunnah. We have the ANSWER book to our world’s problems and we simply use our own interpretations and flawed understandings with utterly no study or critical thinking of the Quran and the Sunnah and speak with no knowledge to non-Muslims and sing kumbaya to gain acceptance. We must be true to ourselves and our beliefs. Do your research prior to speaking on behalf of Islam and Muslims.  Your words may very well misguide and prevent someone from coming to God.

The world is yearning for Truth and searching for it. People are surrounded by all sorts of distractions and are wanting a way out. With our dilution of Truth we further confuse people and keep them from coming closer to God. We should be proud of who we are, proud of our Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and proud of our religion and its perfection and not be insecure about any beliefs or commandments. We should speak clearly, confidently, with knowledge and wisdom about our beliefs to others of other faiths and educate our communities (both Muslim and non-Muslim) about our beliefs instead of being bullied by societal trends and Islamophobes to bend to their will.

We must walk in the path of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and hold onto the Truth no matter what and become true representatives of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to the world. If we do this we will see our communities and the world change for the better.

         May Allah grant us knowledge, confidence, wisdom, and tie our hearts to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and may we always walk and be guided to the Straight Path. Ameen.

Religion Truth

 

 

Keepin’ it Real: Interfaith, Identity and Intentions

Interfaith

The importance of interfaith dialogue cannot be underestimated. Interfaith dialogue can help build bonds of love, compassion, respect and tolereance between faith communites. Also, interfaith dialogue when transitioned to interfaith cooperation can be a strong force for change.

The importance of interfaith dialogue and cooperation is important as faith communities are  are under attack and being either ignored, undermined, ridiculed and slowly eroded. Faith communities are the last bastions and champions of universal values in the world today. The values of justice, equality (both racial and economic), transparency, truth, loyalty, generosity, sympathy, empathy, and other values are becoming slowly more rare in both a community level, national level and personal level. Thus, it becomes important that faith communities stick together to remain strong against the war against moral values.

However, when it comes to the purpose of interfaith dialogue and cooperation it is important to understand why faith communities should come together, how they should conduct interfaith dialogue and the maintenance and strengthening of relationships between faith communities. In order for relationships to be built between faith communities, interfaith dialogue must occur, then cooperation can occur.

Pre-Community Interfaith Dialogue

Prior to community interfaith dialogue, religious leaders should meet to get a general understanding of each others’ faiths and have a genuine discussion regarding basic beliefs, misunderstandings, and other issues that may arise. However, doing this must be done in with the intention of understanding each others’ faith not necessarily proving the other wrong or right or working to disprove the other. This dialogue can occur, but obviously in a respective manner behind closed doors.

The initial meeting should be an educational meeting in which the religious leaders learn about each others’ faith. Differences should be discussed and recognized, but common beliefs should also be highlighted. This discussion should be true to each religious leaders’ faith teachings, texts and beliefs. Once common beliefs are established and the faiths understood by the religious leaders, then the religious leaders can discuss how to bring their communities together to conduct an interfaith dialogue and lay the groundwork in their communities to be open to the idea of interfaith dialogue.

Community Interfaith Dialogue

Once religious leaders do reach common ground and get a good understanding of each others’ faiths they should conduct an interfaith dialogue in which they establish the need for respect, love, mercy, and cooperation between the various faith communities. The word “tolerance” should be phased out of interfaith dialogue events due to the essence of the word not being helpful in creating a genuine bond between faith communities. There are better words to use than tolerance to promote strong bonds between faith communities.

One of the challenges of most interfaith dialogue events is that the parties involved don’t know how to conduct themselves or don’t know the basic ground rules of how to conduct an interfaith event. Some religious leaders come into interfaith dialogues with the intention of preaching, others come in with the intention of proving the other faith communities wrong, and some may just be there as a PR stunt.

Keep it Real

Often times when interfaith dialogue occurs it can feel often very fake or ingenuine, in order for faith communities to avoid this, differences must be recognized, but common beliefs must be recognized and emphasized while remaining genuine to each others’ beliefs. Often time interfaith dialogue events can make some faith communities shy away from controversial topics or issues, which is understandable, but religious leaders should avoid being deceptive or purposefully unclear in conveying certain religious beliefs. For example, the translation of certain Arabic words or verses from the Quran into English for interfaith dialogue events can be misleading or dishonest to the real meaning of the Arabic. Or another example can include the removal of certain words or verses from Biblical or Torah.

Keep True to Your Identity

It is important for each faith community to remain true to its teachings when it comes to interfaith dialogue. There should not be an effort to whitewash or water down one’s beliefs to become more politically correct. This not only counterproductive, but deceptive and dishonest to the other faith communities who want to genuinely learn about other faiths. Being honest and clear in interfaith dialogue is important. All questions no matter how uncomfortable must be answered by religious leaders in an honest manner. There should be a level of respect however when questions are asked about various aspects of religious beliefs.

Build REAL and Honest Relationships

Lastly, interfaith dialogues should not be merely “let’s get together, hold hands, and sing kumbaya.” Nor should interfaith dialogue events be PR events for the media. Faith communities must go beyond these modes of interfaith and have genuine discussions about their faiths, the role of faith in society, and the strategy of the faith communities’ cooperation on common challenges and issues facing their communities.  A lot of Muslim organizations and masjids fear using certain Islamic terminology or fear answering the tough questions posed by non-Muslims about Islam. While in interfaith dialogues it isn’t appropriate to be blunt, it is best to be honest and open about Islamic beliefs, especially with the misinformation about Islam and Muslims out there. At the end of the day there will be differences between the faith communities and deep theological differences, however, those differences can be addressed in a mature manner in another venue or event. Having these open and honest discussions is very important to creating trust between faith communities.

Muslims: Stop Fearing Islamophobes and Islamophobia 

Muslims should not be afraid of Islamophobia or Islamophobes and seek to whitewash or change their faith to make Islam more politically correct or misquote the Quran or hadith out of context to appeal to faith communities. If we engage in interfaith this way it’s not only dishonest to the faith communities you’re engaging with, but also dishonest to yourself, your community and a huge dishonorable act to represent Islam in a manner not befitting to the message of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Many of the verses of the Quran can be uncomfortable to discuss especially when it comes to the position of Jesus (peace be upon him) in Islam or the verses that mention Moses (peace be upon him), but Muslims must be honest and open about these differences and speak about them in an intelligent manner.

Interfaith Cooperation

Once the uncomfortable questions, clarification, and understanding of each others’ faith beliefs faith communities can begin to cooperate on common issues facing their communities be it poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, welfare, economic equality, pollution, etc.  Again, to reemphasize the last point mentioned above, any interfaith cooperation should not be a PR event for the media. There must be a joint strategy to cooperate on common issues and challenges. Faith communities should share resources, exchange ideas, brainstorm and develop strategies to effectively impact positive change in their communities.

Maintenance of Interfaith Relationships

Lastly, interfaith relationships between various faith communities must be maintained. Regular meetings, events, and programs should be held to cultivate a culture of cooperation, love, respect and mercy between faith communities’ congregations. This is probably the most important part of interfaith relationship building is the maintenance of the relationships. Islamophobes, international, and national tragedies and events should not break interfaith relationships. Strong interfaith relationships between faith communities should be able to withstand the severe backlashes and forces that seek to spread intolerance, hate, fear and violence between faith communities.

Conclusion

Genuine interfaith dialogue is an important foundational part in interfaith relationship building. After genuine interfaith dialogues occur, the next phase in relationship building is cooperation. Lastly, the maintenance of the relationship and the strengthening of the bonds over time must occur.

As bastions of universal moral values and ethics, faith communities must stand together against forces within our faith communities and outside our faith communities that seek to hijack our faiths or infect our communities with hatred, fear, and intolerance of each other. We must be vigilant, genuine to ourselves and our beliefs, and not compromise when it comes to interfaith relationship building and stand together to protect our communities and help positively impact our communities and the world.