Why I Am a Quaker and a Muslim

Is it possible to be both a Quaker and a Muslim? For Naveed, the two faiths enhance each other.

Jon Watts

Jon Watts

Jon Watts launched and directed the QuakerSpeak project for its first 6 seasons. Keep up to date with Jon’s work at his website.

12 thoughts on “Why I Am a Quaker and a Muslim

  1. This seems to be a total contradiction?

    #1 Islam claims that God wills everything to happen, including natural disasters, war, illness, etc. One of the central tenets of Islam is qadar–fate, determinism:-)

    But Quakerism rejects such a concept of God being the cause of evil. George Fox and others rejected Puritanism’s determinism.

    #2 Islamic law and the Quran support war, capital punishment, the inequality of women, polygamy, etc.

    But Quakerism, from the beginning emphasized the equality of men and women. Quakerism opposes war, capital punishment.

    #3 Islam–except for extremely liberal Muslims such as my co-worker–believes in Sharia Law and the punishment of ex-Muslims.

    But Quakerism very strongly supports changing your religion and is strongly supportive of human rights.

    #4 Islam believes that the Quran is perfect and eternal.

    But Quakerism emphasizes that inspired books are faulty, have errors, that no book is perfect.

    And there are many more contradictions.

  2. I appreciate Naveed sharing his story. I was a religious seeker since elementary school. I tried my grandparents’ church (my parents were basically atheists). I looked in to Buddhism in high school, Zoroastrianism and Taoism courses in college, but none of these were anything but intellectually appealing. While in Nepal–among the first truly faithful people I had the opportunity to interact with closely, I learned so much just about faith and a personal journey in one’s belief. I’m just lucky to also have found some type of introduction in a book while there that brought me to Quakerism. It was enveloping. I was convinced. Through the years, I have found deep faith and communion with my Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu South Asian friends. It is completely true that these very old religions have a lot of contradictory texts, practices, and cultural identities. Religions and faiths need to be looked at differently. I can definitely say I am an American while having huge differences from many people in this country and disagreeing with laws, practices, and various cultural aspects. I personally never learned much about Christianity–beyond what living in the US brought to me. As Naveed pointed out, there are different religious texts that speak to me from different religions. I have also been significantly impacted by a few sci-fi fantasy novels as the world building with a new faith allows dispensing of rigid assumptions to explore possible alternative ways. For me, that is a big part of my Quaker faith. I do not try to just practice what is “always” done. I want to examine, consider letting it go, and feeling free to be completely different.

  3. There are differences, yes. But there are also similarities. The true Muslim faith believes in Peace, which is a primary tenet of the Quaker faith. I was a part of a Quaker meeting for a number of years. I am not a Muslim and have not done an in-depth study of the teachings, but can respect those who are. We had a dear Muslim family of friends where we lived prior to moving away. I wouldn’t ask for a kinder, more giving family anywhere.

  4. Two very different forms of religion: literal/legalistic and mystical/symbolic. Mystics get to be whatever the want (they know labels aren’t that important). Literalists have to choose one belief or another. More fun to be a mystic.

  5. Daniel Wilcox, if you are confused as to how a self-professed Muslim could also be a Quaker, because of the contradictions between the Quran and the Quaker teachings, look into Deuteronomy, Judges, or really any of the OT, and see if you can’t find contradictions there. If the OT isn’t enough, read Epistles, or Revelations. Quakers have long been persecuted for their iconoclastic vision of their own Christian root religion. For many of us, the Quaker tenets offer us a ladder out of the more repressive and unjust legacies of our historical inheritance. Pursuing the Quaker faith represents a living and often painful dialogue with God. How can this man call himself a Quaker and a Muslim? The same way I can call myself a Quaker and a Christian.

    1. I agree that a Muslim could begin seeking God, even become a Quaker.

      Where I disagree is that anyone could think that Muhammad is a prophet of God.

      Jesus killed no one; Muhammad had at least 500 Jewish men beheaded.
      Jesus enslaved no one. Muhammad had all the women and children enslaved.

      Jesus didn’t marry a 6-year-old girl; Muhammad did.

      Jesus didn’t get his sister-in-law to divorce his adopted son so that he could marry her 4 months later: Muhammad did.

      And read the many other horrific, immoral actions of Muhammad in the hadith. Read any good scholarly biography about him.

  6. This is like a Catholic calling themselves a Christian.. Quakerism is a form of Christianity. It was only in the last hundred years that this has been challenged. Love the life of PI, but these are separate.

  7. You can call yourself whatever you want – Christian and Jew, Muslim and Hindu, but belonging to two different religions ISN’T like holding a dual passport. As most religions see it, it just doesn’t work that way, but I guess you get to do whatever you want and call it whatever you want. Lead a moral life, treat people as you would like them to treat you and you’re ok with me.

  8. Quakerism contradicts “Christian” doctrines too. I think the reason that the West has so much trouble with Muslims is because it fails to distinguish between tradition and religious ideology. This is the same problem Catholics had when they tried to forbid Chinese converts from conducting ancestor worship. It is totally possible to retain traditions while changing one’s ideology. Traditions cannot contradict ideology because they belong to different categories. Muslims have their own traditions influenced by Islam. Basically, people will cling to their traditions to the bitter end. There is no argument that has the power to compel us to change our habits. But whenever Muslims try to switch ideologies, their traditions come under attack. For example, there is a movement called Messianic Judaism, but when Muslims tried to create a Messianic Islam, Christian leaders were strongly critical and it was shut down. Muslims have trouble switching ideologies, since most humans simply will not give up their traditions regardless of the consequences. Eternal hellfire is like a paper cut compared to the depth of emotional pain and confusion that comes from wrenching yourself away after you spontaneously begin the movements leading up to a familiar habit. This is why you will only find Muslims involved with ideologies that don’t attack Islamic traditions. There are so few converts to Christianity despite all the problems with the specifics of Islamic ideology because a lot of Muslims are psychologically incapable of relinquishing Islamic traditions. I think Quakerism can do a better job here than mainstream Christianity by letting people keep their traditions. Doesn’t ancestor worship also contradict Quaker principles? If you wouldn’t stand in the way of traditional Chinese ceremonies, then why have a different set of standards for Islamic ceremonies? Practically any ceremony can be superficially interpreted as contradicting any ideology. The Christian mass arguably celebrates an act of cannibalism. The deists focused on the good sides of Islam rather than its problems. For example, Islam is the most logically sound system of theism that, unlike Judaism, is ethnically universal. Islam is also much more egalitarian than the practice of ancestor worship.

  9. The central problem with Islam is it’s claim that everything that happens in the natural world and human society is the WILL of Allah.
    There are many cases of the justification of immoral and unjust actions, especially it’s treatment of women, it’s denial of freedom for anyone to change his/her religion, it’s intolerance, and so forth. I’ve lived in the Middle East, Palestine-Israel. And I recently visited the local mosque here for lectures. After the meeting, I talked to the Muslim leader who who denies religious freedom and even defends the Quran’s verse about a husband hitting his wife:-(.
    I do agree that the small organization of extremely liberal Islam, the Muslim Reform Movement is similar in some ways to Quakerism.
    May I ask you what traditions of Islam that you think are compatible with Quakerism?

  10. Salam to all,

    Daniel Wilcox, a lot of form of sufism can be compatible with quakerism. Even my form of islam, which is mu’tazilism (we believe in Free will, then we don’t believe that whatever happened is th will of God -Allah means God-). We believe (second principle) in the justice of God, and the people must be fair. And of course, we believe in freedom of religion.

    Problem is, when you speak of islam, you should be more specific. The word Islam is like the word christianity. If I blame christians for having too much confidence in the leadership of the Pope; all protestants, orthodoxes and maybe others, will answer that they don’t recognize the Pope as a legitimate leader. We have the same problems here about interpretations, and what is accepted, and what isn’t.

    Someone talked about differences between Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon both of them), and he mentioned some issues (wedding with a child, killing 500 hundreds prisoners etc.). We most confess that a lot of muslims do believe on those things. But lot of others don’t, and that, since the middle ages. So may God give us the strength to question our own certainties !

    I just want to thank Mr Naveed for it’s very beautiful attitude. And I want to thanks the Quaker, and salute them for their history, and their magnificent moral values.

    Wa Allah a’lam (God knows best)

    Wa salamu aleykom (Peace be upon you)

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