In “Voices of Faith,” religious leaders answer readers’ questions.
Syed E. Hasan, Ph.D., Midland Islamic Center, Kansas City, Mo.: The religion of Islam is in complete harmony with human nature and is cognizant of its potential to attain remarkable moral and spiritual heights on one hand, and sinking to the lowest depths of vices and immorality on the other. The Qur’an says, “We have indeed created man in the best of molds; then we abase him to the lowest of the lows ...” (Chapter 95, verses 4, 5).
The faith of Islam offers a comprehensive set of rules and regulations to guide every aspect of our life — from personal and social to economic, political and global.
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Unlike other scriptures, the Qur’an has remained unaltered and has been preserved in its original form for more than 1,400 years. It is the main religious text for more than 1.6 billion hum an beings and, according to novelist James A. Michener: “The Qur’an is probably the most often read book in the world, surely the most often memorized, and possibly the most influential in the daily life of the people who believe in it.”
As a Muslim, I firmly believe that the Qur’an is immutable and transcends the bounds of time and space, but I wish it were not misinterpreted by the so-called Muslims who radicalize its message to serve their ulterior motives. Such hateful actions are largely instigated by the pseudo scholars who at best possess an incomplete and misguided knowledge of the Qur’an.
A.M. Bhattacharyya, an active member of the Kansas City Hindu community: Let me draw a distinction between the philosophy and the practices within a faith. Religious philosophy gives an in-depth value and ultimate spiritual wisdom of a religion. Religious practices are based on ritualistic traditions, societal position and correlation, etc. The Hindu philosophy, as revealed by the ancient Vedic seers and recorded in the sacred scriptures of Vedas and Upanishads is unchangeable. Hindu faith practices have evolved through the ages and can change as the society changes. The ancient practice of sending school-age children to a guru’s hermitage for the period of their student life for learning different branches of knowledge is obsolete in the modern system of education.
The caste system divided the society in four castes with discrete social duties assigned to each caste. The system served the society well for thousands of years. However, it is anachronous in modern times, as it imposes restrictions on the choice of one’s profession.
I am for the change of a practice that bars individuals’ freedom of choice and creates division and friction in the society. The great Vedantic philosopher, Swami Vivekananda, said: “Live in any caste you like, but that is no reason why you should hate another man or another caste. It is love and love alone that I preach, and I base my teaching on the great Vedantic truth of the sameness and omnipresence of the Soul of the Universe.”