Christian & Islamic Spirituality, Sharing a Journey
By John Graham
August 23rd, 2011
I was recently introduced to a book entitled, Christian & Islamic Spirituality: Sharing a Journey, by Maria Jaoudi (Paulist Press, New York, 1993). I found the book to be an important read in view of the daily conflict between Christianity and Islam taking place worldwide. It is nice to know both share much in their spirituality which is at the very core of both religions. Of course, Islam and Christianity are two of the three Abrahamic faiths, the other being Judaism. I am sorry Jaoudi’s book does not include Judaism as being part of the “shared Journey.” Since its very beginning Christianity did not reject the books of the Old Testament and included those great works in its canon of Holy Scripture. Every Sunday in churches passages are read from the Psalms or one of the stories of Jewish heros of the faith. And, of course, Christianity has Jesus, a Jew, as its founder. So, Christians can more easily see they share their Journey of faith with Judaism. But, most Christians have not been able to make a connection with Islam and most feel Christianity has nothing to share with Islam. Most who feel this way have never read the Qur’an or anything from the great Islamic literature. For that reason, I found Maria Jaoudi’s little book fascinating. Chapters are entitled: The Way of Love, The Need for Purification, Transformation, Union, and A God-Centered Ecology. In each chapter Jaoudi quotes passages from the Bible and the Qur’an. She quotes from Christian writers such as St. Augustine, Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and also from Islamic writers such as Muhammad, Rumi, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Rabi’a. Jaoudi’s book begins with these introductory words, “This book is an attempt to elaborate on the spiritual affinity between the traditions of Christianity and Islam. With Judaism, Christianity and Islam share the same monotheistic God and basic mythology of the Hebrew scriptures. Since Christianity and Islam also share in many of the beliefs of the New Testament, this book hopes to demonstrate the similarities of the two traditions.” She then says, “Perhaps it is obvious to point to the fact that Islam and Christianity share so much spirituality, but with all the historical misunderstandings, it is hoped that a renewed effort emphasizing points of convergence and overlap, will help bring about world peace.” (p. 1) In an Afterword at the end of her book, Jaoudi asks, “How can we who are the believers of either one of the two magnificent traditions be harbingers of peace? The answer tht this book has attempted to present is one that lies at the center of both Islamic and Christian contemplative experience: at the heart of Jesus’ and Muhammad’s message is a similar truth and transformative path. “ She continues, “We share basic ethical precepts and the stage of the mystical journey. If we are able to respect our different beliefs and cultures, rather than exaggerate the differences, we may be able to focus on the spiritual and moral similarities which we hold in common.” (p. 86-7) I agree that is possible and I highly encourage both Christians and Muslims to read Jaoudi’s book and to work together to build bridges between our three great Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.