Ten ways to explore your faith

Explore your faith with these ten ideas

The women of WISDOM share their stories and through them, you may be inspired to explore your own faith as well. The following is a list composed of their advice. Each point on the list is from a different perspective or faith.

1. Join an interfaith group.

In recent years, I joined this new group of educated women, WISDOM, so that I could learn more about other religious traditions. For example: Baha’is. I didn’t know much about Baha’is before I joined WISDOM. And do you know what happened to me? Th is new group made me go deeper into my own religion! Now, I am always wanting to learn more so that I can talk intelligently to other people about Islam.

2. Organize a service project

Our first large event was on August 20, 2006. We had invited women to work together on a local Habitat for Humanity building site. We had no idea what to expect. That day, we were scheduled to work on installing windows and siding on two homes. Most of the women who had signed up had no experience with construction, so we were all a little nervous about who would show up. Still, we all were blown away at the Habitat site when 55 women actually showed up. With everything else going on in the world, with some skepticism from other people about what we were doing—they came!

3. Host an Open House.

When my Muslim community began building up the Muslim center in Canton, there was some community opposition around us from non-Muslims who wondered what this place was going to become. If we had stayed inside our Muslim box, we would have grown anxious, afraid. Instead, we held Open Houses. We invited people to come inside. We welcomed so many people that I remember going into a drug store one day and being surprised to find that a woman working behind the counter knew me already! Th e woman had come to one of our Open Houses and had enjoyed it so much that she greeted me in the store. I know that not everyone is as open as I am, but I do think that this is the way to make the world a safer place for all of us. We need education. We need relationships with people from different countries and cultures. Once we make friends with people, they aren’t just Muslims or Hindus or Christians—they become our friends.

4. Watch a documentary with a group.

There was a documentary created about the “Reuniting the Children of Abraham” process. Brenda invited me to come and see the documentary when it was shown for the fi rst time at Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Th is was the spring of 2006 and I excitedly accepted the invitation. I have always been interested in visiting various places of worship, and as I had oft en driven past this beautiful church, I was especially looking forward to this event. I was so inspired after seeing the documentary and hearing the responses from the participants in that debriefing session.

5. Talk to someone outside of your own faith.

Mr. and Mrs. Honel had no children. As I recall it, Mrs. Honel seemed almost reluctant one winter when she surprised me by asking if I would like to trim their Christmas tree with them. Their ornaments were beautiful, and I wanted to help.

I had to ask for my parents’ permission, of course. They were Orthodox Jews, but my mother still gave her permission. And we hit it off! From then on, the Honel tree wasn’t trimmed until “their girl”—and that was me—was there to help them.

How well I remember those figures under their tree that depicted the birth of Jesus. We even exchanged gift s. Th e Honels got Christmas gift s from us. We got Hanukah gift s from them. I treasure those memories of sitting in their home, a young girl sharing with this elderly couple. In their wonderful kitchen, I would talk with Mrs. Honel as I helped her bake goodies in an old-fashioned wood-burning stove.

6. Tell your story.

We Sikhs need to tell the story of our faith more widely. Most people have heard the word “Sikh” and know that it is the name of a person of our faith, but they don’t know more than that. Most people don’t know the significance of men wearing a turban (a turban is supposed to give the look of a saint, or of a holy person). They don’t know that we believe in eating jhatka meat, meat from an animal that was killed in our traditional way with no pain. The word “jhatka” is like the word Jewish people use for properly prepared food: kosher. Or Muslims say: halal. Everyone has an idea what it means when he or she hears someone use the word “kosher.” But, when I am at a restaurant, it is hard to find someone to ask about whether any of the meat is jhatka. No one even knows the word, in most cases.

7. Don’t be afraid to be what you are.

Noelle grew up in a household with little interest in religion, but she became curious as a teenager and sampled a wide range of religious experiences. When she got married in 2002 and started her own family, she and her husband decided to make religious practice a central part of their home. They joined a little-known religious group within Buddhism. There are a lot of Americans like me, she writes, who look around for the religion that’s right for them—and who do make changes. Millions of Americans are making new religious choices. I hope that more people will become accepting of these choices. I know it’s possible. At a wedding, I found myself sitting at a table with a girlfriend from college. She’s a Christian but she is very open to new ideas. We got to talking about what we believe. I told her about my practice—and she was interested in my story. We had a good and very lengthy discussion. She made me feel confident in the way she responded. It was a wonderful experience.

8. Answer questions.

People will say, “Oh, you’re Muslim, so you don’t believe in Jesus.” And I say, “What? That’s not true. I believe in Jesus. I don’t believe he was God, but Jesus is a very important part of Islam.” I’ve come to see that working on relationships with other people is a lifelong process. It really is. There’s a verse in the Quran from Surah 94 that reads:

When thou art free (from thine immediate task), still labour hard, And to thy Lord turn (all) thy attention.

What it means is: You’re never really finished with anything. When you’re free from your immediate task, keep working hard, because there’s still more to be done

9. Put on a fundraiser with your faith group.

My husband and I—together with many friends—began to work on establishing a Muslim center in Canton, a town west of Detroit, where we live. In the beginning, we would rent a hall when we got together or sometimes we met in someone’s basement. Twenty-five or thirty families would gather for potlucks. We organized ourselves and worked on establishing our own place. The women helped to raise the money to build our school and community hall. This was difficult, but we knew that we were laying the foundation of our faith for our children, so we worked hard. One year we raised $80,000 by catering for all kinds of occasions like weddings and other events. The families that helped were Muslim, but they also were diverse—from many different places. Some were Pakistani and Indian, some were Egyptian, others were Libyan. They were from many places.

10. Follow through with your new friends.

You know how, after a chance meeting, people always say, “Oh, we’ll be sure to get together!” Well, we did—and she actually did invite me to her house. I debated whether to go. Did she really want me to come? Would I be comfortable? Would I know all the right things to do in her home? But I am an extroverted person, and I went out there, even though I was nervous. It turned out to be just great!
She served lunch, and we put our babies down on the floor together. We talked and talked. When it was over, I said what you would expect: “Now, you’ll have to come to my house.”

Driving home—if I tell this story honestly—I didn’t think I’d ever see her again. It was one thing for me to drive out to her house, but she had to come into Detroit to visit mine. It was one thing for us to visit just once, like we’d promised when she left the hospital. But to continue this as a real friendship? No, I didn’t think it would happen. Again, she surprised me. She really did want to come to my house. She had no problem coming into Detroit. She visited, and I served her lunch this time. Our babies played on
the floor together and, once again, we talked and talked.

Read the stories from the Women of WISDOM:

This list comes from a collection of personal stories from Friendship & Faith, a book that delves into the decisions and experiences about faith and friendship shared by a group of Detroit-area women.

Want more? Read another story or check out Friendship & Faith.

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