On Monday, February 7th, the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom at Virginia Wesleyan College hosted the third of four interfaith dialogues in the annual Nexus series. Monday’s three panelists identified as Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, and Bahá’i. Each discussed the role of worship in his or her faith.
For Amy Lefcoe, being Orthodox Jewish means that her relationship with God is central to her life. She strives to always remain God-conscious, to always remember God and act with his will in mind. Following halakhah, or God’s commandments, and integrating prayer into every occasion in life keeps God at the forefront of Lefcoe’s mind. She believes that God created everyone for a purpose, and she is thankful for the opportunity to have a relationship with God.
Being Orthodox Jewish requires discipline. Although following kosher dietary restrictions and obeying Shabbat, or Sabbath, rules sometimes requires Lefcoe to deny her desires, such as attending Friday night parties, she is glad to act in accordance with God’s will. She obeys the commandments that God handed down to Moses at Mt. Sinai and she prays throughout the day, confident that God is always listening.
Like Lefcoe, Zaki Shabazz aims to follow Allah’s (God’s) will with his every action. As a Muslim (literally “one who submits to the will of Allah”), Shabazz strives to serve as a tool for Allah to enact his will on earth. He believes that people are like children–there is much they do not know or understand, and so they must trust in Allah. The Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) provide examples of how Muslims should act in order to serve Allah’s will. Shabazz believes that it is the intent, rather than the outcome, of his actions that is of primary importance.
Through worship, Shabazz feels unified with other Muslims. Regardless of time or place, Muslims like Shabazz pray to the same God, Allah, in the same language, Arabic. Salat, or prayer, is one of the primary practices in Islam. Shabazz believes that it is important to be sincere in his religious practice and to remember Allah at every time, everywhere, and in every aspect of life.
For K.Lynne Loving, the Bahá’i Faith requires her to remember and worship God at all times. Monday’s panelists agreed that, for them, one of the questions provided to guide discussion–Why do I keep coming back?–should have instead been worded: Why do I stay? Through prayer and action according to God’s will, all three panelists worship at all times without ceasing, not just once per week.
The Bahá’i Faith prescribes daily prayer. A daily obligatory prayer comes from the writings of Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’is may choose which obligatory prayer to pray, allowing each individual to find the one with which he or she is most comfortable, as the Bahá’i Faith strives to unite all people and all religions. Bahá’i worship practices, including prayer and fasting, are typically individualized, as the focus is on each worshipper’s personal relationship with God. Much of the ritual found in earlier monotheistic dispensations has been abolished in the Bahá’i Faith. Loving strives to find a spiritual solution to every problem, to constantly express her gratitude to God, and to worship God through her prayers and actions at all times.
The fourth and final 2010-2011 Nexus Interfaith Dialogue will take place on March 7th. Visit the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom’s website for more details.