Imam Qari Asim
While geo-political and territorial conflicts in the Middle East continue to strain relations between some people of Muslim and Jewish faith, it is important that we remember the striking similarities between the two religions and how long-standing partnerships have fortified both communities in the UK and abroad.
In the Jewish calendar this week, Jews across the world will be observing Yom Kippur, where time is set aside for atonement for one’s sins, reflection on the preceding year and looking to the year ahead.
For Muslims, this week marks Ashura, the day the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson was martyred; making the day one for reflection, for within grief there can be a renewed sense of empowerment.
Many Jews fast for almost 26 hours for Yom Kippur. Muslims are also encouraged to fast the Day of Ashura so that they can achieve atonement. According to Muslim tradition, on migrating to Medina, the Prophet Muhammad encountered Jews fasting. He asked them why and was told: “It is an auspicious day; it is the day when God delivered the children of Israel from their enemy; and therefore, Moses fasted on that day.”
The Prophet Muhammad joined them in the fast and encouraged Muslims to fast not only on that one day, but an additional day as a sign of gratitude to God. Today, fasting is seen as a catalyst for spiritual work and community transformation by both religions.
If we recognise, like the Prophet Muhammad did, the benefits of faiths coming together and reinforce the importance of education and understanding we can continue to overcome some of the challenges our religions face today.
Through solidarity, co-ordination and education, we continue to bridge gaps in our increasingly polarised world tackling anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hatred, currently permeating not only our communities but also political circles.
There are several examples and instances of such co-operation that continue to take place; for example, earlier this year the Imams and Rabbi’s Council organised a series of talks called “Revelation: Muslim and Jewish Perspective”. I also spoke at the Alyth Synagogue on Yom Kippur alongside Rabbi Mark Goldsmith.
Initiatives like these are powerful and impactful examples of tradition and understanding that dates back centuries, which I hope to see continue to deepen in years to come.
The urge to live and let live peacefully must prevail over any other sentiments for communities to have sustainable futures.
On this Yom Kippur and Ashura I hope and pray that steadfast compassion and co-operation continues to overcome the mistrust and suspicion which sadly exists between faiths.