My Moore College course this semester is Understanding Buddhism and Islam but we are just focusing on Islam for the first half of the course. It’s been a great course so far. Our lecturer has been wonderful and he has collected great textbooks and resources for us. The last few weeks of class have been especially amazing. We had a field trip to the Auburn Gallipoli mosque. We also had a guest lecturer, a young Muslim man who came in and answered a million questions from us about theology and his experience of being Muslim in Australia. This week we are cancelling class to attend a debate at Sydney Uni between a Muslim and a Christian which has been organised by the Muslim student society there. I love that we are getting so many opprtunities to get out of the classroom and actually hear from Muslim people!
The trip to the mosque was facinating. I had never been into a mosque before and it was nice to have a guide for my first visit. It was uncomfortable for most of the girls because it was one of the hottest days in March and none of us seemed to own any summery clothes that cover our arms and legs to the ankle. We were all wrapped up in trousers, cardigans and ill-fitting headscarves. Once we were inside though, no one seemed to mind. It was cool indoors, the air smelled nice and the carpet was amazingly soft under our bare feet. And the artwork! Everywhere I looked there was something beautiful to stare at! I think I spent most of the stime staring at the ceiling instead of watching the guide.
There is so much to mentally process for this subject. Even just remembering facts about what Muslims believe is hard – it seems like there isn’t always a consistent opinion! Between our textbooks, our tour guide and our guest lecturer I have heard quite surprising and contradictory things. I think so far this has been the the strangest thing about Islam: for such a huge global religion with a strict list of central beliefs and strict ways of expressing those beliefs there is still a lot variation in theology. And there are no central figureheads or denominational bodies to appeal to for orthodox thoughts and opinions. It feels like there is unity regarding the actions of a Muslim but disunity regarding theological ideas. I mean, all Muslims will affirm six core beliefs: one God, existence of Angels, the scriptures (i.e. the Quran), Muhammed’s prophethood, God’s foreknoweldge of everything and the final judgement. But there are different theological nuances underneath all these blanket statements of faith. Maybe this disunity isn’t as much of a problem for Muslims as it is for me as a Christian – after all Muslims aren’t trying to relate to God as one of his children, they are just trying to submit to his will. I guess then it makes sense that they would be more concerned with the actions and thoughts that express submission rather than working trying to understand God’s character, and his relationship with his people and his world, and our own relationship with his people and his world.
Anyway, I’m still a noob, diving into understanding this completely foreign worldview. I think I need to talk to a lot more Muslims to really understand!