Why This Christian Studies Islam

People often ask me, "Why do you study Islam if you are a Christian?"

Here is my answer:

I am hungry for meaning, wherever it might be found. I do not care if it is in a desert of Arabia or a small village in France. I want to bridge the perceived worlds, through meaning-making. I want to find the sources that lead to peace.

I like stories about ancient times. I like stories about humanity. Through history I find direct connections to my spirit, or what I like to call my essence. Spirituality helps me overcome my pride, my own sins. That helps me grow. And growth is healthy. It makes me a better, more balanced person.

I have to leapfrog obstacles to find inner peace. One of those obstacles is ignorance. To knock that wall of ignorance down, I have to understand the common realities that we all share.

I am believer that human beings have a higher conscious, that there is a higher way of being, and that we are all capable of getting there. This is my reality. Reaching that state of being is my goal. The state of being is peace.

As a human being, I want to live with and meet God. To do so, I know that I need to be transparent towards the divine. I need to purify my heart and mind so I can heal my own personal pain and rage. Only then can I help others.

How do we deal with people who are unable to transcend their own self, their own immediate circles? We need to raise them from their lower state.

Human beings need more perspective and bigger views of the world.

Sometimes we retreat into our ignorance, into our own comfort zones. Take religious fundamentalist movements. These are mundane movements. They dull the spirit. They are full of darkness. They isolate. They restrict. They cannot see goodness. They have lost touch with Christian and Muslim spiritualities. They have forgotten Saint Anthony. They have forgotten Rumi. They have forgotten the soul.

To make peace, we have to stop radicalism in all its forms. The problem with radicals is that they are not at peace with themselves. If they are not at peace with themselves, it is impossible for them to be at peace with others.

The problem is not how radicals read the Bible or the Quran. The problem is arrogance. The radical thinks he or she knows it all. That is a psychological issue. The radical does not know how to be humble. The radical is selfish. The radical needs to be shown how to love. The radical needs psychotherapy of the soul.

I say this humbly. I am trying to be a transformative human being. I do not want to be from one place; I want to be from all places. I want to find that extraordinary illumination that can liven the souls of others.

So I say: let us follow the way of inner healing so that we can be how God wants us to be -- at peace with each other. If we want to taste the atmosphere of love, we have to humble the self and the presence of others. We need human interaction. We need to shut down our televisions. They keep us hypnotized, in a state of imagination. We need to abandon our fears. You cannot have both fear and faith. And you cannot have peace without faith.

To begin the process of learning, the greatest spiritual journal, I go and find a place of solitude. I enter into a state of the soul. I like to feed my spirit by learning through others. I like to use my imagination. I like to visualize.

The first stage of peace is imagining that there can be peace. Together, we need to overcome the illusion that peace is impossible. Human beings are not naturally selfish and egotistical. Our humanity is a common humanity. One soul.

To encounter everything -- that is a true spiritual experience, and that is my personal preference. It is not easy. It requires spiritual warfare, but I would rather fight my ego than fight another human being.