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Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Why This Muslim Appreciates Ash Wednesday

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

The most important period of the Christian calendar has now begun: Lent, which began with the Imposition of the Ashes on Ash Wednesday. All throughout the world, Christians had the mark of the cross placed on their forehead with this passage of scripture read:

Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return (Genesis 3:19)

While not partaking in this religious ceremony and season, I can – as a devout Muslim – nonetheless appreciate the message. The Qur’an has the very same passage, in fact. It is in the 20th chapter, in the midst of a dialogue between Moses and Pharaoh (emphasis added):

Said [Pharaoh]: “And what of all the past generations?”[Moses] answered: “Knowledge thereof rests with my Lord [alone, and is laid down] in His decree; my Lord does not err, and neither does He forget.” He it is who has made the earth a cradle for you, and has traced out for you ways [of livelihood] thereon, and [who] sends down waters from the sky: and by this means We bring forth various kinds of plants. Eat, [then, of this produce of the soil,] and pasture your cattle [thereon]. In all this, behold, there are messages indeed for those who are endowed with reason: out of this [earth] have We created you, and into it shall We return you, and out of it shall We bring you forth once again. (20:51-55)

To me, this shows even further that our traditions are so very similar; much more similar, in fact, than they are different. Of course, our differences over the nature of Jesus Christ are huge, but that does not mean that we cannot see past our differences and focus on what we believe in common.

Both of our traditions worship the God of Abraham; both of our traditions love and honor Jesus Christ; both of our traditions teach that we shall be resurrected from dust to face judgment for our actions.  Both of our traditions include periods of fasting and reflection: the Christians have Lent, and we Muslims have Ramadan (which will start June 27 this year). Both Lent and Ramadan include rituals of sacrifice on the part of the believer in order to attain a greater spiritual strength and closeness to God.

That’s why this Muslim can appreciate Ash Wednesday while not partaking in its rituals. Would that more Muslims and Christians around the world learn to appreciate each other’s traditions and see them for their commonalities. Our world would be a much better place.

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