Alhamdulillah! I was involved in an inter-faith dialogue session yesterday. Each of the speakers representing the various faiths gave a lecture each, culminating in a panel discussion. Unlike many other of such sessions which I have participated, yesterday's session was refreshingly lively - many people stood up to share their inspirational experiences and most importantly, they posed thoughtful (as opposed to the mundane repetitive ones) questions.
I wish to share the jist of the last question. It came from a man who has lived and prayed in various places of worship - being an orphan, he was brought up by people of different faiths and has since lived in a temple, a mosque, a seminary etc. Now when he is older, he spends most of his time in the community clubs assisting the community in which he serves. He asked whether he has been wrong in his service at those places of worship and that he should quit serving the people and go back to the temple in his old age.
The strange thing was that none of the panelist wanted to answer this question - but I supposed for obvious reasons. The microphone was given to me and I thought there is a simple Islamic response to this.
I began by saying that he is indeed a "man of the world" in which tremendous rounds of applause ensued. Then I ventured to say that such questions are commonly asked by thinking men, perhaps for validation, but equally and regrettably, (religious) man is equally eager to respond to such question definitively. When he does so, he assumes the role of God - by replying either way. That none of us, how godly he seems to others, is indeed God. Muslims leave that role to The Wise who Judges fairly.
Islam propounds the concept of responsiblity in two tiers: to God (which is a personal relationship he builds) and to man (which is his social/community relationship and responsibility). That without him serving his community, the rest of us would not be able to be there yesterday night. In Islam, these matters are not contradictory, it must go hand-in-hand together - and I did expressed how I wished to see more Muslims coming out and serving the community as he did.
But, what I was dying to share with the audience was an educational point: I stated that the Buddhist, Christians and the Catholics share the same viewpoint. In fact the following hadith which I quoted has a very similar verse in the Bible - which surprised the representative of the Catholic faith sitting beside me. Whatever their faiths, service to mankind is a path towards serving God. Serving mankind enables one to enliven their faith in God. Knowing oneself and knowing mankind, one begins to know God. I ended with the following revolutionary hadith:
"The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: "(God) will (question a person) on the Day of Resurrection (saying)): 'O son of Adam, I was sick but you did not visit Me.' The person will say: 'O my Lord, how could I visit Thee when Thou art the Lord of the worlds?' Thereupon (God) will say: 'Didn't you know that a servant of Mine was sick but you did not visit him, and were you not aware that if you had visited him, you would have found Me by him?'
(God will then say) 'O son of Adam, I asked you for food but you did not feed Me.' The person will say: 'My Lord, how could I feed Thee when Thou art the Lord of the worlds?' (God) will say: 'Didn't you know that a servant of Mine asked you for food but you did not feed him, and were you not aware that if you had fed him you would have found him by My side?' (Muslim)