Sunday, April 10, 2011

Where I've Been~Good Cause!

Well I have been absent for quite some time. I am in school full time now and of course my studies have made it difficult to find time for my blog. As soon as I am able, I will get back to it. I have learned so much through doing this and made some wonderful friends!

School is expensive and as a single mother money is TIGHT. There is a donate button on my page if anyone would like to add to my cause! You will be blessed many times over!

Look forward to when I have the time to get started on this again!


Thea L. Bryan

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Islam~Enlightening is an Understatement

To say my visit to the Islamic Center was enlightening is a vast understatement. In the short time I was there, my eyes were opened to what Islam and Muslims really are and what their beliefs mean.

When I arrived the first thing I had to do was remove my shoes. This is part of their custom and of my immediate thoughts were how badly I am in need of a pedicure. I was greeted by the Imam (an Imam is like a preacher or priest) of the center, a young man from Morocco who is here in Asheville teaching the practice of Islam. He had previously warned me that his English was not so good, but I found him to be very articulate and quite easy to understand. With him was a Dr. B, another local Muslim who was kind enough to join him in explaining Islam to me. I can not thank them enough for their time and all the information they so graciously provided me with.

They began by explaining to me that Islam means peace and submission, and that Allah is just another name for God. There are many names for God, this is just another. They went on to talk about the five pillars of Islam and the six articles of faith. The Pillars of Islam are the actions of the limbs and body, and the articles of faith are the actions of the heart

The first pillar is that there is one God and one God only. I was correct in my knowledge that contrary to what many believe and what I have actually heard some people claim, Muslims DO have the same God as Christians and Jews. Islam is very much a monotheistic religion. This is much like Judaism, I was in fact, surprised at the similarities between the two religions.

The second pillar of Islam is prayer. Muslims pray five times a day. There is dawn, morning, afternoon, sunset and evening prayers, each prayer lasts about 10 minutes and the total time for praying each day is roughly about an hour. They were kind enough to let me sit in for their evening prayer time. There is a lot of kneeling and bowing involved. I would like to visit a standard mosque so I could accurately compare Islam to other places of worship, but the Islamic Center was very plain. There were no statues, or other idol symbols present. Women generally pray in the back of the mosque, this is not because women are considered inferior to men, but for modesty reasons, something I will touch on later.

The third pillar of Islam is fasting on Ramadhan. I was incorrect in my assumption that they abstain from food altogether, they can actually eat before and after dawn on each day of the fasting ritual. Ramadhan is considered a time to cleanse the soul. Not only is food avoided, but also smoking, and basically anything else that is ill natured. It occurs the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which this year fell in Aug through Sept. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted.

The fourth pillar of Islam is to give to charity. They believe in giving 2.5% of their overall savings to charitable actions and the needy. Charity seems to be very important in Islamic faith.

The fifth pillar is is making a lifetime pilgrimage to mecca, if it is within your means. Mecca is a city in Saudi Arabia regarded as the holiest meeting place in Islam. It is the birthplace of the prophet Mohammad. Mohammad is an important figure in Islam. He is regarded as the last prophet and he received the word of God through the angel Gabriel and compiled that into what is regarded as the Koran. The holy scripture for Muslims. I found it interesting that Muslims also follow the Old as well as the New Testament. They disregard anything that doesn't follow the Koran, but they do regard the aforementioned as the word of God.

There are six articles of faith. The first is absolute belief in God. It is OK to question God, but to not believe means everything is "shattered". This struck a chord with me as my own wavering of faith sometimes does leave me feeling "shattered". The second article is to believe in Gods angels, there are many angels, including the ones we are all familiar with. Gabriel, Micheal and Raphael. As I mentioned before, Gabriel is considering the angel that is regarded as the angel that gave the Koran to Mohammad. The fourth article of faith is to believe in all the prophets of God. That includes, Jesus and Mohammad. The fifth article of faith is The Day of Judgement. That is when Jesus will arise and lead the world to peace. The sixth article of faith is belief in the supremacy of Gods will.

One thing I was surprised to learn was just how much Muslims follow the teachings of Jesus. He is believed to have been a prophet and a very important one at that. It is believed that he will come back as the messiah, will follow Islam, fight the anti-Christ and lead to the world to peace. Jesus was born of a virgin and was not the man on the cross the day of the crucifixion. He was "lifted up" by God before it took place.

We hear so much about how women are treated in the Islamic faith, this was a topic I couldn't wait to get into. Yes, women are expected to dress modestly. They are to cover their hair, arms, legs and chest. In some cultures they were a burka, this is not a requirement except in certain places. This is their culture, they are not forced to do these things, it is what they believe according to their faith and how they live. Women are allowed to work, to learn, etc. They are not required to stay home, although the culture does seem to have more traditional roles for men and women. Men are the breadwinners and expected to take care of their families, women are the nurturers and generally care for the home and the children.

Islamic dietary laws are very similar to Judaic dietary laws. They don't eat pork, or predatory animals, nor do they drink. Seafood is generally deemed to be OK.

I went on to ask them what their thoughts on 9/11 was. They both said that that was a grave sin. That to kill an innocent person is the WORST thing an Muslim can do. This is what I already thought to be true, from what I had already known about Muslims, they are a peace loving people. They are NOT the ones that attacked us, a radical extremist group did. We can not put blame on one set of people for what a small group is responsible for.

As I was leaving they provided me with a copy of the Koran. I have not read it yet, but would like to read through it at some point. I asked about that quote from the Koran that I keep hearing mentioned over and over. Something about "killing the infidels", this is spouted off over and over by people as their proof that Muslims are "out to get us". It is a reference taken out of context. The original quote just means that one is to defend oneself. Sound familiar? An eye for an eye maybe?

I learned so much in my meeting with the Islamic Center, while its different than what we are all used to, its just another form of worshiping God. Muslims are different from other religions, but very much the same in some respects. I wish everyone would take the time to do what I am doing and get out there ad realize, technically, we are all just the same.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm Back...and Starting with a Good One-Islam!

Well it seems as though I have fallen off the blog truck! Lots of things have happened over the past few months, some good, some bad. But sadly due to the economy I am unemployed yet again! So, in an effort to keep myself busy and off of the "unemployment couch" I have decided to get back into my research.

I have decided to do Islam. I am very excited about this, as there is so much about Islam and Muslims in the news these days. There are a lot of false claims out there and I am curious to know what the truths are.

What do I know about Islam? Well I know that it started around 500 ad with someone named Mohammad. I believe he is viewed as a prophet. From what I have been told, contrary to popular belief, they actually do worship the same God as Christians and Jews. I know they don't drink, they pray several times a day, they follow the teachings of Mohammed and they read the Koran. Ialso know that at least 22% of the worlds population is Muslim. But I feel like despite what I know, there is so much more that I don't. So today, I will be calling the Islamic Center here in Asheville and see if I can get ahold of someone there that can give me more information about Islam. Of all the religions I have done this far, this one is the most intimidating. I don't want to come across as being disrespectful or ignorant.

So, I am back, for now, looking forward to learning more! Stay tuned!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Jehovah's Witness Week! Yikes!

Well its finally Jehovah's Witness week. I have to say I know I would go into each religion with an open mind, but this one is going to be tough for me! My ex is a Jehovah's Witness and a self described nutcase. He blames all his problems ( and trust me there are MANY) on having been raised Jehovah's Witness. He didn't get birthday parties, didn't get to celebrate Christmas like his many classmates. Apparently his mother wouldn't let him have friends that weren't JW's. Blah, blah, blah. I do believe that many of his problems stemmed from being isolated as a child due to his parents religious beliefs. I feel if you are going to raise your children in such a individualized religion that its important to have others with the same beliefs as you around as much as possible (private schools, etc). Since he attended only public school he felt isolated much of the time.

That being said I have a dear friend who is also a JW. She is not [as much] of a mess (love you Reida!).

So, what do I know about JW besides the constant "harassment" at my front door?! I know they don't celebrate holidays, or birthdays. I still am not clear on why. I know Jesus was a Jew and Jews do celebrate many holidays including birthdays. I know they are adamant about going door to door to spread the word. I know they don't believe or refuse to fight in wars of any kind. I know they don't believe in hell, which makes it hard for me to understand why they don't partake in the fore mentioned activities to begin with!

"I can't celebrate my birthday, I'll go to hell!"
" No you won't! "
"Oh, OK then..!!!"

Well this is going to be interesting, maybe for the first time EVER, someone will be knocking on a Jehovah's Witnesses door!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

Hope everyone is having a Happy Easter no matter what their religious preference is. Here are some words from the Great Dalai Lama;

"Unless we know the value of other religious traditions, it is difficult to develop respect for them. Mutual respect is the foundation of genuine harmony. We should strive for a spirit of harmony, not for political or economic reasons, but rather simply because we realize the value of other traditions. I always make an effort to promote religious harmony."

Cheers and Happy Easter

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Too Quick to Judge; My Apologies

Well, I met with the paster at the Assembly of God church this week. Now I am feeling that I may have judged them too harshly. While its not my way or worshipping, its certainly not for me to decide how other people worship. Just because I didnt get anything out of it, doesnt mean that others don't. For some, this is how they are raised, to be "rejoiceful" to sing, wave your arms, praise God, etc. It was just very much outside my comfort zone. As most of you know, I went to Catholic School and had never attended this type of church service. Also, I want to make it clear that I didnt mean to allege that anyone there wasn't intelligent. I was just curious as to whether anyone has ever done studies on IQ and religion. Where I said it may have been misconstrued to say these people weren't intelligent. I certainly didn't mean to offend.

While they are another religion against homosexuality ( I don't believe that its wrong) the paster did give me some good information and explained things to me, I actually got a little bit out of it! We talked about good and evil and he clarified some of the struggles i have been having. Why some people seem to be blessed and do nothing, while others serve God endlessly and suffer with illness, finances, etc. He informed me that the Devil does reward some people. God rewards those that follow him, but not always with "materialism". This made sense and clarified for some some things I have been struggling with.

All and all not a bad lesson. I may go back on Wed and talk with him further. I think every religion I am studying seems to be offering me something!!! More to come.

I will be posting more about this shortly! Just got up and can't find my glasses!!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Assembly of God. Wow.

I haven't been able to get back to the Seventh Day Adventist church. For several reasons, weather, illness and to be honest I have been attending Shabbat services on a semi-regular basis. I will try to get to them next Saturday, but in the meantime I am anxious to start blogging again, lets hope the weather holds up.

Well, it just so happens that I live next door to a church. It is an Assembly of God church and since its a whopping 20 ft from my house I decided to go. This was unlike anything I have experience before!

First there were people standing and praying with arms extended to the "altar". There was really no altar, few if any crosses were present. But still they prayed. The church was a bit plain but modern. They had electric guitars, drums, keyboards, etc. The first hour was nothing but singing. The music is what I would consider to be Christian Rock. People were really getting into it, dancing in the aisles, arms raised up, singing loudly, waving, etc. This music and singing went on for an HOUR. The congregation was really getting into it, this music, which I couldn't really figure out why, but they seemed to be getting something out of it. I was confused as to what the importance of all this was, some of it seemed incredibly bizarre. There were people whispering out their own prayers, saying things like "yes Jesus, thank you Jesus".

Finally the pastor got up, I thought he was finally going to start preaching, but no, more singing. This time Amazing Grace (what else?)

Sometimes I wonder if there is a correlation to IQ and religious preferece. I am not saying people of certain religions aren't intelligent, but it would be interesting to see what the IQ's of certain religious followers are. Are some religions more intelligent than others? It would be interesting to see. I digress...

Finally he started preaching and of course the first words were about tithing to the church. How you should be giving 10% of your earnings to the church and with that the collection plates started passing around. Everyone started pulling out cash and to be honest I will a little appalled. To be honest I have always found the collection plate a bit appalling. I don't like the idea of God and money going hand in hand. Anyway then there was more singing.

The pastor read from Acts Chap 11 20th verse. I am not real clear what his point was, or if there even was one. He then mentioned the government, made a comment the government trying to take the position of God. He mentioned the government telling us what we should buy, what we should eat and something about the nation "slipping". Again, I was confused, the government doesn't tell me what to eat or what to buy. If the government were going to take a God like position, wouldn't this be a good thing? He mentioned health insurance and how we will soon have no free choice and will be TOLD what insurance to buy. This isn't how I am understanding health care reform. Those private insurance will continue to have whatever they choose. Nothing was mentioned about those who can't afford insurance or who can't get it in the first place because they are already sick. Furthermore, I thought preachers weren't supposed to be talking about politics, doesn't this cause them to lose their tax breaks?

He went on to preach out "Gods will" and again, I didn't really grasp the point of it all. I am going to contact the pastor (my landlord) and see if he can clarify some of the comments he made. This was by far the strangest church experience I have had thus far.

For those of you that don't already know, I am leaning towards Judaism, been studying it for several months now. I will write more about that later.

Next week, Jehovah's Witness!!! Yikes!!!