By Medhat El-Banna
For much of history, a key reason for all wars, other than the fight over material wealth, is the recognition that we are different from each other; ethnically different, linguistically different, and after a while, religiously different. And since the creation of the “Peacebuilders” and the “Mediators” Job, one of their main goals is to appeal to people to identify common interest/s in transforming the conflict.
And as we are in the 21st century, the century of the Religious-Based and Quasi-Religious-Based wars we need to reflect on whether people that share the same religion are as coherent as an orchestra and if there really is a solid boundary between the different religions?
From a psychological point of view, it’s impossible that two persons understand one concept in an identical way, and in my own point of view this includes the comprehension of religion, and of God. Taking the “Sunni-Islam” religion and it’s rules the “Sharia” as an example, you will find extreme varieties in fundamental issues of what god sees as right and what god sees as wrong, and you will see those varieties not only in the same country or region, but inside the same family, e.g. the religious opinions of me, my brother, my mother, and my father vary to a great extent. To prove this variation, let’s have a quick look at the sharia; in regard to whose approval to consider when deciding to marry an adult (never married) girl. Imam Ebin Hanbal’s view is that you should take the approval of the girl’s father and disregard her opinion as it is not important, whilst Imam Malek and Imam Shafae opine that you should take the approval of both the girl’s father and the girl, and Imam Abohanifa holds the view that you should take the approval of the girl only. And all three different opinions are the rule of the Sunni-Islam and the rule of Sharia. This goes to show that it is very hard to think that the people from the same religion share identical interpretations. Even if they share the same religion “Islam” and the same School Mazhab “Sunni” they still can have different opinions upon fundamental matters. In my own point of view, I believe that this is a very healthy and useful phenomena which should help the wise men or Oly El Albab to accept the other and to be moderate and stay away from fundamentalism and extremism.
On the other hand, is Islam a religion different from all the other religions in the world? Aren’t there any similarities between Islam and other religions? With a deep open-minded look into the Islam teachings you can find many similarities between it and other Abrahamic and Non-Abrahamic religions. In 1881 when Imam Mohamed Abdo visited Paris and came back to Egypt, he was asked about Paris and the French people, so he answered with his famous quote “I found In Paris the teachings of Islam but I found no Moslems, and when I returned to Egypt I found a lot of Moslems but I couldn’t find the teachings of Islam” This great Islamic Imam (Religion man) said that because he had the realization that the people of France are honest, sincere, value work, clean their cities and houses, and all of those values are important in Islam and they are called in the sharia, the core of the ethics Makarem El Akhlak, so the Imam found that the French people are closer to him and to his understanding of Islam than the people of his own Islamic country, i.e. Egypt. Imam Mohamed Abdo is not only considered a great religious man in Egypt, but he also he is one of those who “reformed” El-Azhar Mosque, which is one of the most Important Religious schools in the Islamic world.
In conclusion; yes religions are units, and believers of a particular religion are brothers and sisters, but they, of course, are not twins, so they have differences and similarities. If they leave aside the fundamentals and extremes’ pre-judgments, they will find similarities between them and those of other religions. And before one uses a magnifying lens to try to find differences between them and those of other religions, they should ask themselves, why is it necessary do so? Rather, we should try to find the similarities which are much more abundant and extremely useful to find. A case in point are prayer beads, which are used by Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Sikhism to pray.
The President of the MENA Forum,
The International Court for Dispute Resolution (INCODIR)
Medhat El-Banna, The President of the Middle East and North Africa Forum at the International Court for Dispute Resolution. Medhat always identifies himself as ADR Expert (Alternative Dispute Resolution Expert), a professional Adjudicator, Arbitrator, Mediator, Negotiator, Peace Mediator and Peacebuilder. Well known for being a very good Negotiator. Since, June 2013 stopped to act as Arbitrator (with little exceptions) to devote more time to peace mediation, negotiation, and Peacebuilding. Though he is from a legal background and listed in the Egyptian Bar, he always say in regard on peace mediation “Let us resolve the dispute first then see what the law says in what we have done”. Hates the Bureaucracy of the third world countries and keep ignoring it most of the times. In addition to presiding the Middle East and North Africa Forum at the International Court for Dispute Resolution INCODIR (an UK registered entity), Medhat is the head of the board of directors of North Egypt Chamber for Dispute Resolution NECDR (Egyptian Registered Entity), he also the head of the Egyptian Branch of the Association for Young Mediators AYM (Main HQ in the UK), and the head of Egypt representative office at the Association for International Arbitration AIA (Main HQ in Belgium).