By Sohaib Saeed
Wrestling with the Golden Rule
The following resolutions were framed by Sohaib Saeed as the conclusion to his paper titled, “The Golden Rule: an Islamic-Dialogic Perspective”. The longer paper demonstrates how deeply and constructively Saeed reaches into both the Golden Rule idea and Islam to come to resolutions from which every one of us can benefit.
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1. I will try to understand people’s faiths as they understand them, paying special attention to writings from within the tradition. I might read outsider critiques, but will avoid treating them as though they were primary sources or the final word. I will treat any commentary on religion appearing in the media, especially the most commercial parts of it, with a very healthy measure of skepticism
2. I will try to engage personally with people of other faiths, to appreciate how their principles are lived in the world. While good character will impress me, I will take care not to judge the religion by the actions of any individual, least of all those who violate its teachings or perpetrate crimes in its name.
3. If studying scriptures and key texts of other faiths, I will do so humbly, remembering that translation is a human effort, and that literacy is more than just deciphering words. I will not rip words from their context in order to prove a point. I will not turn a blind eye to the commentary and explanation that believers have offered to their texts over the centuries.
4. I will not rush to develop theories about a religion based on a few aspects I know about in a superficial way. I will try and keep my prejudices and assumptions in check. I will try to interpret things in the best light, and seek clarification on things that I find troubling.
5. I will not present myself as an expert on someone else’s faith, when there are people who have spent their lives immersed in all things related to it. Yes, I may gain a qualification to speak on various aspects, perhaps more authoritatively than many lay-believers, but I should defer to those who deserve it and consult them when needed. When speaking on another faith, I will represent its positions in a way that I believe its followers would agree to be accurate.
6. I will take care not to impose my own favored terminology on another faith group, especially where that will breed misunderstanding. I will also strive to understand their terminology and conventions. Above all, I will not judge by names and labels, but look beyond them to concepts and realities.
7. I will not take it upon myself to divide up the followers of another religion into “goodies and baddies,” conflating, in the process, matters of religion with politics, culture, geography and so on. I will not demand of people to renounce any aspect of their religion in order to join the club of acceptability. I will not play the childish game of smearing by association.
8. I will not use sensationalist language to stir controversy. I will not use my “right to offend” – if I have one – to stamp on what others call sacred. I will neither denigrate respected figures of a faith community, nor describe the expression of their religion’s teachings as being “hate speech,” especially when it comes straight from scripture.
9. I will try to take benefit from criticisms of my beliefs, and not jump to accuse those who offer them of bigotry and malign intent. I will not misrepresent political stances that disagree with mine as being attacks on my faith and community.
Finally, I pray to Almighty God for the guidance of others, hoping that His angels will carry my supplication, saying all the while: “And for you too.”