Cornwall Faith Forum’s member, Valerie Ward, shares with us her thought on the Islamic pilgrimage, the Haj:

Pilgrimages are journeys motivated by religious sentiments.  They may be to visit a place considered sacred or as an act of devotion.  All major religions have some form of pilgrimage.

At the beginning of September 2017 Muslims all over the world will be thinking of the Islamic pilgrimage, the Haj.  The Haj fulfils both criteria; visiting a sacred place and performing acts of devotion.

Haj is the fifth Pillar of Islam, pillars which are the basis of faith.  It is referred to in the Holy Quran, Ch.22 v. 27/28.

“and Proclaim unto men the Pilgrimage(Haj)….”

“That they may witness the benefits for them and may mention the name of Allah during the appointed days…..”

All Muslims should perform the Haj at least once in their lifetime if they have the health and the means to do so.

Muslims travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia where the ancient place of worship called the Ka’ba is found.  Today the Ka’ba stands in the middle of the large courtyard of Masjid al Haram or the Sacred Mosque.  This place of worship was known to Abraham.  In the Sacred Mosque is also the Station of Abraham(Maqam a Ibrahim) and the spring of water called Zam Zam.

There is a very close connection between Abraham and the Haj in Mecca.  Abraham took his wife and his baby son, Ishamel to Mecca, under instructions from God although at that time there was no settlement there.  Later he and his son Ishmael rebuilt the Ka’ba, also under instructions from Almighty Allah.  As Abraham was told to rebuild the Ka’ba it must have existed as a place of worship before that but had fallen into ruin through misuse.  After the time of Abraham it has been in continual use as a house of worship and pilgrimage, though the monotheism of Abraham was at times lost so that by the time of the Holy Prophet Muhmmad(saw) the Ka’ba was contained more than 300 statues and idols.

There are rituals and prayers special to the Haj.  Today pilgrims travel from all around the world.  They go in guided groups with scholars to explain the customs and meanings of the prayers so that all, no matter what nationality or language, can benefit from their Haj.

There are many websites explaining the detail and importance of the rituals of Haj.

Since the lifetime of the Holy Prophet(saw) the Haj has been performed each year.  The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar and so the days of the Haj change throughout the seasons.

In addition to the performance of the rituals of Haj and its sacred spiritual benefits it should also be a time for Muslims from all around the world to renew their fellowship, friendship and unity, to develop cordial relationships for the benefit of all.

May Almighty Allah enable all Muslims to perform the Haj in its true spirit and heal the divisions between them and all God’s creation.

Ramadhan 2017

Valerie Ward, from the Muslim Faith Community, recently wrote the following ‘Thought for the Week’ relating to Ramadhan

25/26th May 2017 with see the start of Ramadhan for this year.  Muslims all around the world will be looking forward to this special month with great enthusiasm and pleasure.  Ramadhan is 29/30 days of complete fasting – no food or drink at all between dawn and sun set.  This will be particularly hard for those of us in the northern hemisphere where in UK we may be fasting for 18 hours or more. In the southern hemisphere it is their easier time with the days now much shorter.  But we are all grateful not to have to endure the high temperatures and humidity of those Muslims who live nearer the equator even though their days do not vary so much in length.

Wherever Muslims live they will strive to enjoy the blessings of Ramadhan.  It is a time to renew their connection with God, to remove laziness and slackness in practice of His commandments.  Most Muslims will try to read at least one part of the Holy Quran every day and perform the prescribed prayers in a better way than they might have been doing.  Ramadhan is a refresher course, revitalising us for the coming year and renewing our knowledge, our practice and our relationship with God.

Tradition says that during Ramadhan Almighty Allah keeps Shaitan (Satan) held in chains.  All Muslims feel the blessings of this encouragement to try our best to do all that pleases Allah.  Giving in charity, avoiding division and arguments and keeping to the right path which, InshaAllah will be a blessing to us all.

When the fasting month is completed the sighting of the new moon of the next month announces Eid-ul-Fitr.  One of the two Muslim Eid festivals. Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated with an extra prayer service, and by sharing meat and meals with each other and often the giving of gifts to family and friends; sharing the joy and blessings felt on completing the fast successfully in all its aspects.

Ramadhan Mubarak to all and inshaAllah we will all reach for greater peace this Ramadhan for all the world.

Easter Sunday – 16th April 2017

A chance to hear again from Jem Thorold from the Christian Faith Community who shared with us his thoughts on Easter ….

A joyous time for all people, especially Christians as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus the Son of God.

Symbols of new birth, life from where there is death are all part of the message that God re-creates us all and as spring awakens the earth all around us this re-creation speaks of a continuing resurrection.

In Jesus, who rose from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion and in doing so has energised countless millions since, this conquering of death surly gives us hope that everything and anything can be experienced as an opportunity for recreation, our own rising from the darkness of a death to the wonder of life.

People everywhere will be telling the story of the first Easter during Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday. Leading up to this Lent has been observed, which is a time for deeper reflection and acknowledging where we have allowed ourselves to become separated from the love of God.

Join with the acclamation which will be heard in churches and places of worship throughout the world – Jesus is Risen, He is Risen indeed alleluia.

Thought for the Week – The Exodus and the Stranger at our Gate

Every year Jews tell the story of the Exodus. In fact, they tell it twice, once in the synagogue, when they read the weekly portions from the Book of Exodus, or Shemot, the Book of Names in Hebrew, and once when they sit down at the seder, or festive, table, and read from the Haggadah. This book, often illustrated, tells the story of the Exodus and relates it to the present, to the family and to the community. It is an ever repeated, living act of memory.

What is it we should remember? We remember many things, at the centre of which is that we were led out of slavery and brought to the threshold of freedom, to a growing awareness that we are able to choose good or evil, that these choices have consequences and that we must assume responsibility for our own lives and for the lives of others. Whereas much of Genesis tells the story of a family, Exodus recounts the birth of a nation. The most urgent need of this new nation is to forge an ethic based on honouring God and creating a just society. Thus, as the Israelites begin to wander through the desert, they are given rules, rules and more rules. These range over a wide spectrum of behaviour: economic, social, cultural and, of course, religious. We are told to honour our parents, to keep certain festivals, to build a beautiful travelling home for the word of God and for the very presence of God, to leave the fields fallow every seven years, to ensure that the debtor has a warm coat to sleep in, no matter how poor they may be, not to bend justice either for the rich or for the poor, to distinguish between the profane and the holy, to help our neighbour’s donkey when it stumbles under its load, to love our neighbour as ourselves. Now that is a really difficult law to keep.

One law which is repeated in different forms many time relates to the stranger. After all, as soon as you have a nation, you also have strangers, the others, those who do not belong to the nation. “Do not ill-treat a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in Egypt,” it says, and elsewhere: “When a stranger lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The stranger living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt.” Such commands are given no less than 36 times in the Torah or Five Books of Moses. In this context, it is interesting that the story of the Exodus is called Shemot.  It is the first significant word in the book. It is also a word which gives humanity to an enslaved people, for slaves, like the prisoners of tyrannical regimes, often do not have names. They are reduced by their owners or captors to objects. The root of the word shemot is also pivotal, since it is where the first word of the most important Jewish prayer also comes from: Shema, which means ‘Listen’.

In this time of suspicion or fear of the stranger, the other, the one who is not one of us, we should remember to listen to the story of the other and to recognise that, while we may be different, we all have names that deserve to be heard, and that these names and the stories that they carry with them are all part of the story of humanity.

Jeremy Jacobson OBE, 1 April 2017

Holocaust Memorial Day – 27th January

This week Valerie Ward from the Muslim faith community shares her thoughts for Holocaust Memorial day:

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27th January each year.  It is a time to pause and to remember the millions of people who have been slaughtered or had their lives changed beyond recognition.

Holocaust Day remembers the people, Gypsies, Jews and disabled who suffered in Nazi Germany and also those since then who have suffered in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.  Today there are still thousands suffering in Myanmar, in Yemen, in Syria and in CAR.

The reason why 27th January is remembered is because it is the date that marks the liberation of the people who survived the largest Nazi death camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau.

HMD is designed to help us think about the lessons of the past and to recognise that genocide does not take place on its own; it is a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not prevented.

What can we do to help prevent the steps which lead to fear, hatred, discrimination and persecution from developing in our communities?

We are all children of our Creator and as such are brothers and sisters. Our world is small and we all have to live together in harmony to allow the best of each of us to develop.  The suffering of one of us is the suffering of all of us.  Injustice and frustration lead to hatred what can we do to remove injustice and frustration?

I pray that we may reach the point where we can all say we feel and we act upon the motto Love for all; hatred for non, and we always want for others what we want for ourselves – and work to  bring about that.

Thought for the Week 2017

With a new year coming we are starting to think about Thought for the Week 2017.   If you have a ‘thought’ about a festival/event in your faith, or if you have a thought about a present day topic, you may want to sign up to write a ‘thought’ which we will upload on our website each Sunday.  List of dates:  Thought for the Week 2017 – Master list

To sign up choose your date from the list and let Rosey Sanders know cornwall.faithforum@truro.anglican.org

Week of 17th July – Martha and Mary

The Revd Canon Malcolm Bowers shares his thought with us for this week:

The Gospel reading for many Churches on Sunday 17th July is a typical family situation. Jesus is visiting his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Martha is being a good host busying herself by the many tasks that had to be done in the house. It is interesting to note that the text says “Martha was distracted by her many tasks”. Mary sits at the Lord’s feet listening to what he is saying. We should note that only men would be allowed to sit and learn from a Rabbi, yet Jesus allows a woman; Martha may have thought this is a step too far. Martha complains that Mary has left all the work to her and asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Gently Jesus says to Martha that she is distracted by many things and Mary has chosen the better part. This will not be taken away from her.

Many of us would sympathise with Martha, why should she do all the work? Martha’s work was good in itself but this was not what was wanted by Jesus at the time. Martha needed, like Mary to listen to Jesus; other things needed to wait.

So often we are so busy in our lives that we do not stop and listen to God. Noise also envelops our world and there are few places where we can experience real silence.

Even in our prayers we speak to God and leave very little time to listen to him. Like Martha, sometimes we get our priorities wrong when having to choose between two things, both of which are good in themselves.

The hymn “be still for the presence of the Lord” comes to mind. We have to try make time in our prayers and at other times to be still and just wait on God. God came to Elijah when his life was in danger. God was not (at this time) in the great forces of nature but in sheer silence. God came to the boy Samuel in the night and Eli told him to say, “speak Lord, for your servant is listening”. May they be our words.


Week of 10th July – Eid ul Fitr

This week Valerie Ward from the Muslim Faith Community shares a thought on Eid ul Fitr.

Muslims all around the world celebrated one of their two Eid festivals last week.   This was Eid ul Fitr.

It is celebrated on the first day of the new lunar month after the end of Ramadhan.

Eid ul Fitr comprises an additional congregational prayer service with a sermon. This is often held at the largest prayer hall/mosque in a town and is held in the morning.

In spiritual terms this is known as the lesser eid and is somewhat akin to Christmas with giving of gifts, wearing of new or special clothes and visiting family and friends.

For those who have been able to complete the fast successfully with all its obligations this Eid is very special and marks the beginning of a time of renewed spiritual vigour, reinforcing good habits for the coming year.

Week of 26th June – The Martyrdom of the Bab

This week our contribution from the Baha’i Faith by Philomena Clifford looks ahead when Baha’is commemorate , ‘The Martyrdom of the Bab ‘ at mid-day on July 9th.

The Bab who’s title means , ‘The Gate’ , was born in 1819 in Shiraz in the South of Persia. As a youth , He was noted for great personal beauty and charm, extraordinary piety and nobility of character together with exceptional knowledge , which was innate, having only received an elementary education. He declared His mission in December 1844, whereupon began – for Himself and His Disciples – a long series of imprisonments, deportations, examinations before tribunals, scourgings and indignities, which ended with His martyrdom in 1850. He was just 31 years old. The Bab’s remains were rescued and eventually brought with great danger and difficulty , to the Holy Land. They are now interred in a beautiful tomb on the slopes of Mount Carmel. Baha’is all over the world will commemorate this solemn Holy Day at mid-day on July 9th which is the exact time of the Bab’s martyrdom.

A main part of the Bab’s mission was to prepare the way for Baha’u’llah who declared His own mission in the Garden of Ridvan in 1863. Baha’is believe that the Bab and Baha’u’llah were Co-Founders of their Faith.

On this day, this year ,these historical accounts will stop me in my tracks and make me think about people of all religions…the truly great and valiant souls who bring messages of peace and Love to the world …who bless the world with their life and very being and who are still today being persecuted for it…

Week of 12th June – Walking the Walk

This week’s ‘Thought’ comes from Kathy Pope who shares her reflection on pilgrimage:

Pilgrimage – a word with many understandings and expressions. A journey that might be undertaken in groups or alone, in buses or on foot, a common feature of many religions as people seek spiritual insight, time out for reflection, and the experience of visiting somewhere very special to their faith. Muslims, for example, visit Mecca during the Hajj, Hindus might travel to Varanasi and Baha’Is to Haifa. In Britain St Michael’s Mount was an important pilgrimage destination, and Walsingham, in Norfolk, still welcomes thousands of pilgrims each year. Of course each of us has our pilgrimage through life.

Just recently we undertook a pilgrimage walking 110 Km of the Camino in Northern Spain, nothing as adventurous as Paul Haines’ walk from Rome to Jerusalem, but following another ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella – traditionally the burial place of St James the Apostle. We walked an average of 14 miles each day, quite enough for ageing limbs, and greatly admired those pilgrims carrying all their possessions in backpacks. Our bags were transported for us but it was still a challenge to keep focused on putting one foot in front of the other, day after day. Pilgrims carried a scallop shell as a sign of this particular pilgrimage, greeting each other with ‘Buen Camino’ – sometimes with more energy and cheeriness than others! Each part of the journey had a spiritual dimension, from the rhythm of walking helped by short repeated prayers, to the thanksgiving for each kilometre, each stage and every day completed.

Arriving in Santiago, and a packed cathedral for the daily Pilgrims’ Mass, the sense of a spiritual community of travellers was palpable. Everyone in their own way, drawn to something other than themselves and outside their ordinary lives – an inspiring experience to continue into each part of our onward journeys in peace and thanksgiving. Buen Camino!