Blogging Ellul: A Muslim reflection on repentance
As we prepare to engage in teshuvah - return through repentance, our yearly cycle reminhds us that there is always more to learn. I have always dicovered much about myself by learning with and from another, perhaps someone with a different approach, so throughout this month I hope to bring you some voices other than mine with their reflections too. Todays reflection is from Muhammad Houghton who I met on a trip with St Ethelburgas Centre for reconciliation and peace last November when we engaged in a trip to the Holy Land and experienced together some of it's holiness, and it's unholiness. Muhammad kindly agreed to help us reflect on repentance from an Islamic point of view:
There are many events recorded in the Qur’an and Hadith (events in the life of the Messenger of Allah) that truly place the origins of Islam in a particular time and place. It is narrated that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said "Allah is happier about the repentance of one of His servants than one of you would be about finding your camel which had strayed away from you in the middle of the desert." Whilst we can imagine the relief and joy of an Arab tradesman at finding his camel, it is not always easy to offer true repentance when we may have to overcome our own ego and pride. For Muslims the best example has been set by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. It is narrated that he said: 'By Allah, I ask Allah's forgiveness and turn towards Him in repentance more than seventy times a day." Five times a day Muslims try to focus our whole attention on worship of our creator and seek his forgiveness of our sins. In reality I, for one, seem able to overlook many of my own shortcomings and can’t even recall the specifics when performing the obligatory salah (prayer). Many Muslims have spent the Holy month of Ramadhan in Makkah spending the whole night in prayer and the pursuit of forgiveness. Muslims know that it is the prayers, pleas and supplications that we make close to the time of breaking our fast that Allah has promised to answer. It is the big events, the fasts, the feasts and the Holy days that help to focus our thoughts on repentance. Pilgrimage is important too. The Hajj pilgrimage is now just two months away, during which pilgrims will stand for a whole day in the plains of Arafat with their hands aloft in the hope of forgiveness. But in Islam it is not enough to seek forgiveness from Allah if our sins have impacted on our fellow human beings. Restitution must be made as a precondition of forgiveness. This is often the really hard part.Muhammad Houghton is a convert from Christianity to Islam. He works in the City as a Chartered Accountant and spends his spare time engaged in voluntary activities in Milton Keynes and looking after his twin girls and his baby daughter.