By Jamal Rahman, New Age Islam
12 May 2021
Differences In All Religions Are More With Regard to Their Forms
1. Religions are different in form but they share much in common.
2. When people get stuck on the form of religion and forget the essence, they fall prey to ‘illusion’ and ‘vanity’.
3. Behind the diversity of forms is a common essence.
Religions are different in form—there is no doubt about that. But in essence, they share much in common. There is this wonderful poem by Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, where he says that what is praised is One and so the praise is one also. Many jugs being poured into one huge basin. All these religions, all this singing—it’s really just one song. The differences are just illusion and vanity.
Those are very critical words—‘illusion’ and ‘vanity’. When people get stuck on the form of religion and forget the essence, they fall prey to ‘illusion’ and ‘vanity’.
A lovely Rumi story again illustrates the oneness in the essence of religions behind the differences of form. A kind mother makes cookies for a children’s party. She uses the same ingredients—flour, sugar and all—but makes the cookies into different shapes—camels, lions, turtles and so on. The children begin to excitedly fight among themselves over the different forms or shapes of the cookies. One says that their cookie is the chosen one, another insists that theirs is the best, a third says that theirs is the most superior, and so on. While this is happening, the mother just smiles and looks on with a compassionate heart, knowing that when the children put the differently-shaped cookies into their mouths, they will eventually turn into the same sweetness.
The same is true for religions. Behind the diversity of forms is a common essence.
So, yes, religions are different—and thank God for diversity. But, really, they are all paths to a shared universal.
Based in the USA, Jamal Rahman is a popular speaker and author on Islam, Sufi spirituality, and interfaith relations. Along with his Interfaith Amigos, he has been featured in The New York Times, CBS News, BBC, and various NPR programs. Jamal is co-founder and Muslim Sufi Imam at Interfaith Community Sanctuary and adjunct faculty at Seattle University. He travels nationally and internationally, presenting at retreats and workshops. Jamal’s passion lies in interfaith community building and activism.
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