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I think I’ll always remember a meeting of my local interfaith story circle, even though it happened ten years ago. I just love remembering what happened that night.
A member of my local interfaith story circle, Audrey Seidman, had organized that meeting.
After welcoming us, Audrey told us, “I recently read the book The Tent of Abraham.
Three religions are under the tent of Abraham - Muslims, Jews and Christians all honor Abraham as a patriarch.
As the book stated: “There is an Abrahamic family. Like all families, it shares a story.
But part of what it shares is that different members of the family tell different versions of the story.”
We’ll be hearing two versions of the story of Abraham tonight.”
As always, we sat in a circle, so everyone could see everyone else. A teacher at the local Islamic school told about Abraham as a child and how his faith in God carried him through many hardships. He was an example to all. A local rabbi told of the early marriage and partnership of Abraham and Sarah. Their tent was open in all four directions, so they could easily share their food and water with travelers, no matter who they were or where they were from.
But when the rabbi started telling about Hagar, Abraham’s second wife, Mussarat, a Muslim, spontaneously asked, “May I tell this part?”
The rabbi said, “Certainly.”
So Mussarat told the Muslim version of this part of Abraham’s life. I remember that her face and eyes were glowing with joy when she told how childless Sarah brought her Egyptian slave Hagar to Abraham, saying he should take Hagar as his second wife; perhaps he could have children with her. And thus Ismael was born. Sarah also gave birth to Issac. Jealous of Ismael, Sarah told Abraham to take Hagar and Ishmael into the desert and leave them there. As Abraham was abandoning them in the desert, Hagar asked, “Is this God’s will?” “Yes.” Hagar was satisfied.
When Hagar and Ishmael drank the last of the water they had brought with them, Hagar ran seven times between two hills, looking for help. When she returned to Ishmael, he was near death. Then the angel Gabriel appeared and created a well where Ishmael’s heel rested on the sand. Their lives were saved.
Mussarat concluded by saying, “During the Hajj, the pilgrims recreate Hagar’s searching for help by going back and forth between those same two hills seven times. Then they drink water from the same well. Hagar is honored as an especially important matriarch, as it was through her son Ishmael that Muhammad, peace be upon him, would come.”
Mussarat, her face and eyes still glowing with joy, sat back and looked around the room. Everyone was smiling and nodding at her, silently thanking her for sharing a story so obviously close to her heart. It is recreated, in part, every year during the Hajj by millions of pilgrims to Mecca.
Mussarat had brought this ancient Muslim story to life AND into the present day.
I love remembering that night. Through the stories told, I had learned that the family of Abraham is made up of members of three religions: Muslims, Jews and Christians. I had learned that the tent of Abraham was kept open on all four directions to welcome strangers, no matter who they were or where they were from.
I had seen a Muslim tell the Muslim version of part of Abraham’s story.
I had seen Christians and Jews accept that version as complimentary to their own versions.
No one had said, “That’s wrong. That’s not how we tell it.”
Audrey ended the meeting by saying, “As the book The Tent of Abraham stated:
All members of Abraham’s family are taught ‘to have compassion, seek justice, and pursue peace for all peoples.’"
That is exactly what I witnessed that night ten years ago, at a meeting of my local interfaith story circle.
Copyright 2016 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.
I will be very honored if you want to tell this story. That will help spread the truth about Muslims. But as with all copyrighted materials, there are rules. Please honor them.
(These are based on
Jane Yolen's rules.
- Always mention my name, as the author, before each telling.
- If it is appropriate and you have one, display a copy of my CD Learning About Muslims so your audience can learn where to find
the story for themselves. And if you have a program you hand out, please show:
Author: Kate Dudding www.KateDudding.com
- Don’t change my ending.
- If you want to record your telling of the story in any way (paper, video, audio,
Internet, TV, etc.) you must get permission from me and possibly pay a fee.