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Theology: Relations Between Religions - Balance
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Relations Between Religions: Balance
by Yahya Monastra

When a believer of one religion relates to other religions, there is balance between two extremes that I think is best. I see very often people go to one or the other extreme.

On one hand, a believer who sincerely tries hard to be true to his religion, to be devout and to scrupulously observe all the commandments, can turn into a narrow-minded bigot condemning to Hell all the other religions just because they're different from his.

On the other hand, a tolerant open-minded liberal sincerely trying to see the good in all the religions, to promote universal peace, can wind up with a careless indifference to the basic requirements of any of them, and not properly follow any religion at all.

The former may achieve individual salvation while aggravating the problem of hatred and fundamentalist combat that the world is suffering from so much. The latter may be superficially a "nice guy," but lost and wandering astray with no definite spiritual path, or else cobbling diverse fragments from here and there into a syncretistic hodgepodge that does not honor the integral traditions.

The ideal balance is when you devoutly observe the requirements of your own faith while renouncing the temptation to get prejudiced against the others, keeping an open-minded liberality toward others while carefully tending your own garden. The perspective called the "Transcendent Unity of Religions" sees that, on this human plane, each revealed religion has a reason for its own distinct form that differentiates it from the others. The unity of them all is transcendent, meaning that it is on the highest formless plane. The mystics of each faith who have seen that transcendent unity are friends with one another, each still remaining within the bounds of his or her own tradition. They know that ultimately there is only one primordial Tradition, and the difference in forms is from Divine Providence, not something to fight over. Each form deserves to have its own integrity respected.

Respect is the key. Respect yourself, respect others.

Kabir expressed it well in his simple homely style:

sab se hiliye, sab se miliye
sab se ljiye nm
hn j hn j sab se kahiye
basiye apne gm

Make friends with everyone, meet everyone,
Call everyone by name,
Say "Yes sir, yes sir" to everyone,
But dwell in your own village.

The traditional Islamic adab inculcates respect appropriate for every being; ultimately all the adab, all the respect, ascends to the Divine Throne.

"Those who adore God in the sun, behold the sun; and those who adore Him in living things see a living thing; and those who adore Him in lifeless things see lifeless things; and those who adore Him as a Being unique and unparalleled see that which has no like. Do not attach yourself to a particular creed exclusively so that you disbelieve in all the rest; otherwise you will lose much good: nay, you will fail to recognize the real truth of the matter. God, the omnipresent and omnipotent, is not limited by any one creed. Wheresoever you turn, there is the face of Allah."

—Muhy al-Dn ibn al-‘Arab

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