World’s Apart: An Intellectual Conversation between Religions (part I)

It was rather fitting that I sat in a Mediterranean restaurant discussing the doctrinal implications of Islam with a devout disciple of Allah.

Kia Jahed and I sat a few feet apart enjoying customary chick peas and reminiscing about the days when he and I worked together at the local Y.M.C.A. We had a friend who was Jewish, and the three of us usually worked the same shift. Daily, Kia would begin random jokes with… “Hey guys, you ever heard the one about the Muslim, the Christian, and Jew?!” It was a blessing that Kia was always so comfortable and confident with his faith; it made for a less awkward and burdensome fulfillment of a certain intercultural communication requirement. Kia is currently slaving day in and day out at the University of Louisville’s medical school. In response to my sincere appreciation for his presence, he assured me that without strategic distractions, such as the one I had provided, he would slip slowly into madness. The appreciation was mutual.

Leaving room for the blessed baklava, we pushed aside our last plate from the buffet to fulfill the purpose of our assembly. Even the tone of our voices slightly changed, reflecting the gravity of the issue at hand. I pressed the record button. My first question to Kia was simply meant to get the ball rolling, but I was given a response that I did not expect. Kia was, in fact, converted to Islam. I ignorantly assumed that anyone of Middle Eastern descent, like my friend’s skin so clearly manifested, had been born into the fastest growing religion in the world. “Following suit” had been the biography of Jonathan Smith, but I quickly learned that Kia’s parents, despite having migrated from Iran after the Revolution, were nothing more than humble agnostics who had never found their place in religious discussion. Although born in Iran, Kia spent the vast majority of his impressionable years being warped by American culture, as I had. Being toted to church on Sunday morning with friends was nothing new to my dark, bearded crony. After being invited to a Friday prayer by some friends from a local pizza shop as a teenager, Kia was mesmerized by the humility and reverence that saturated the words of the Imam. Soon after this initial encounter, Kia began to haphazardly skim through the Qur’an. His words to me in that Mediterranean restaurant expressed the impact that the divine revelation of Muhammad had had on his young spirit: “It was like swimming in a ocean of truth.” After hearing this testimony, I must admit that there was a bit of dissonancy in my spirit. Although I cannot confirm the existence of absolute objectivity (The Myth of Objectivity…coming soon), it seems that Kia’s decision to immerse himself in that particular “ocean” came to fruition through untainted, non-parental influenced musings. There is a small part of me that holds contempt for my Christian heritage. Would I have settled for reformed theology, inerrant and infallible scriptures, and the priesthood of the believers if it were not for the overwhelming influence of my parents, and their parents, and their parents, and so on? That question will remain unanswered. The Muslim that sat across from me that day was fortunate enough not to have to carry that weight. Unlike him, being spiritually jaded was the theme of my religious preference. Since I was an infant, the pages of Christianity’s divine book have been stamped on my mind, my heart, and my soul. Subsequently, at the ripe age of twenty-two, its dynamism has been tamed, resulting in occasional numbness. There are brief glimpses of its power and authority, but my history and the distractions of my world suppress it with great force. With beautiful rhetoric, Kia articulated his zeal for carrying the words of the Qur’an in his heart. He dismissed the notion of the Qur’an being used as a mere reference as lukewarm and disrespectful to the faith. This conviction left me speechless in the light of my fellow Christians utter lack of reverence and respect for the book we allegedly center our life around. I was devastated to see my people’s apathy and disillusionment exposed over humus.

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5 Responses

  1. it is interesting to me to see how devoutly people are attached to what i respectfully see as a lie. while that statement may be very PC, please note the word “respectfully.” i do not intend to pass judgement upon those who adhere to such notions, simply to comment on the notions themselves. so…it is interesting to me to see how devoutly people are attached to what i respectfully see as a lie, or what i believe to be a confused attempt to the real thing, which i am so certain i have found. and having found this very and only true truth i can be sometimes completely unmoved by it and irreverent towards it, while my (respectfully) misinformed counterparts embody the very morality and reverence my true truth commands.

    is it a problem of social pressure? that my community of faith doesn’t hold a candle to what they say they believe about we are supposed to live (myself included here), while my middle-eastern friend Mustafa (real name) from college lived out the very fabric of his faith along with others who believed as he did. the main difference i noticed back then (in college) between he and i was that his faith permeated his behavior, not just thinking, while my faith was something i fully believed but lived like i only half believed it at best. same old struggles, same dim enlightenment, same bright frustrations.

  2. Eagerly looking forward to Part II.

  3. well said, dc.

  4. The world is full of believers and deceivers. Many of the deceivers have deceived themselves into believing that they are believers. They are usually the ones who are quick to point out others’ lack of faith, yet are themselves faithless to the core.

    Belief makes the Bible an interesting read – nothing more.
    Faith makes the Bible worth living and dying for.

    What made the conversation intellectual?

  5. notice “part one”

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