‘Assalamu Alaykum– “Peace be upon you”: A conversation about faith
In our contemporary context where misrepresentation and exaggeration are fuelled by media outlets, interfaith dialogue is more important now than ever before. The Church speaks of the importance of learning from and understanding all faith traditions, particularly our Abrahamic brothers and sisters. On Monday we were blessed to have Dr Kamran Shafi from the Islamic Society of ACT join our Year 11 Religious Studies students for a conversation about faith and practice in the Islamic tradition.
Year 11 have been exploring the purpose of religion and how religion can inform the lens through which we see the world. Islam is our first depth study and the boys have been examining the key doctrines of faith as well as the pillars as expressions of the core tenets of Islam.
Dr Shafi explained the three main elements of faith in Islam. The first being that God is beyond human comprehension. One cannot describe God in simple terms but rather describe attributes. In Islam, God has 99 attributes or qualities such as ‘creator’ and ‘redeemer.’ Dr Shafi spoke about how in religious traditions, the intellect can only do so much and seeks physical observable evidence for reason, while divine knowledge seeks to explain what science cannot, questions such as ‘why am I here?’ and ‘what happens beyond this life?’. The second key element Dr Shafi outlined was life hereafter– what happens when one dies and is held accountable for their decision in life? He outlined that one can adhere to any faith but it is their actions and intentions that they will be judged for – regardless of what we say we believe. The final element described was the messenger– the person who comes to teach others about the first two elements outlined above. Dr Shafi described Islamic beliefs in the prophet Muhammad while also examining the role that Jesus played in Islam as well.
This was a wonderful opportunity for our boys to engage with someone who authentically lives their faith in our multicultural society. Some fantastic questions were asked by our boys such as ‘Why is there suffering in the world according to Islam?” and “What are the words you say during prayer?” as well as “What is Hajj like?” all of which Dr Shafi was more than happy to answer. We are very grateful to the Islamic Society of ACT for being so generous with their time and sharing so much with our boys.
This incursion was organised by Ms Donella Walker who is an advocate for taking learning outside of the classroom and bringing experiences to life for our boys. Many thanks must be expressed to Donella for organising this wonderful opportunity.
Carmela Wilson (Coordinator of Religious Education)