SYED E. HASAN, chairman, Shawnee Mission Islamic Education Center: The most important aspect of Islam is belief in the existence and oneness of God. This unflinching conviction is the bedrock that anchors the entire foundation of Islam.
Muslims — the followers of Islam — believe in all prophets who came before Muhammad and conveyed divine messages to humanity. This includes prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus. Addressing the believers, God says in the Qur’an (2:136): “… We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no distinction between any of them, and we submit ourselves to God (in Islam).”
Prophet Muhammad received God’s revelations, intermittently for about 22 years (610-632 AD), that have been enshrined in the Qur’an. A unique fact about the Qur’an is that, unlike other scriptures, it has been preserved in its original form, and not a single word has been altered throughout the past 1,400 years.
The tradition of memorizing the Qur’an, comprising more than 6,000 verses and containing about 77,500 words, began during the time of Prophet Muhammad and has continued even today.
Islam is the youngest of all Abrahamic faiths and provides guidance for each and every aspect of life (worship, diet, personal hygiene, parenting, marriage, divorce, inheritance, business dealings, governance at local, regional, national and international levels, rules for engaging in war).
Islam is a religion of peace that promotes virtue and prohibits vice; emphasizes respect for all human beings, regardless of their faith; and teaches tolerance, forgiveness, mercy and charity. It stresses self-discipline, avoiding extremes, reverence for the Earth and environmental preservation.
A.M. BHATTACHARYYA, Hindu faith adviser of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council: The most important thing one can learn from my faith, Hinduism, is the identity of the inner self (atman), that is our soul and God (Brahman).
God is the Supreme Self (Param-atman) and the lord of all souls. The Hindu scripture, Upanishad, declared this identity in four short sentences. Though the sentences are short, the meaning is hugely profound. That is why these are called “great sayings.”
One of the great sayings is “Thou art That” (Chandogya Upanishad). “Thou” refers to innermost self, the inherent substratum of a living being. “Thou” is not the body, nor the mind; it is the luminous soul, the pure consciousness that keeps the body and mind working. Without soul the life does not exist.
“That” refers to God, the ultimate and absolute reality, eternal, the one without a second, the infinite ocean of consciousness, the creator and the sustainer of the universe.
God is transcendent and immanent. The divine spirit is everywhere. Without God, the universe does not exist.
The ultimate goal of life is to realize this identity between the inner self and the Supreme Self. A self-realized person becomes the fountainhead of all the noble qualities of life, unattached to any material gain.
The God-realized person knows the presence of divinity in all beings. At death the person’s soul merges with God in eternal bliss. That stage is salvation; that is the liberation from birth-death-rebirth cycle.
In Bhagavad Gita, God-incarnate, Lord Krishna, talked about different yogic paths one has to follow wholeheartedly to attain liberation.
Voices of Faith is edited by The Kansas City Star.