I flirted with inter-faith dialogue and understanding for some time. But it was not until I met Salahuddin Hasan over fifteen years ago that I really made this a more consistent part of my on-going pilgrimage. He challenged me "to come on board" so to speak and to reach out to those of other faiths so that I might learn and relate. My attempts at doing so have been nothing short of enriching. And now my mentor is gone. Salahuddin died yesterday morning after a rather lengthy time of ill health.
Salahuddin was the Imam at Masjid-Al-Muminum here in our city for many years. His wife, Linda, was the manager for a dozen years or so at My Sister's House, the local shelter for women and children fleeing abuse. Though he was a great talker, theirs was not a faith-expression of words. They acted. And in so doing, they made a difference.
Salahuddin held his convictions strongly. He was not going to be intimidated by anyone. But he encouraged others in their convictions, even if they differed from his. Following 9/11, he bore down hard, insisting that Christians, Muslims, Jews, and anyone else talk to each other, get to know each other, walk and work together. Our community of faith and his celebrated numerous Thanksgiving Eve worship services together.
I know that the heat continues to be turned up by some Christians insisting that their way is the only way to God. I reject that notion and have long since moved past it. The way of Jesus works for me. But there are many roads on this one journey and Salahuddin found the way that worked for him. To believe there is only one road is to claim complete understanding of the mind of God and, for me, is an arrogance to the nth degree.
I know. I know. Many will want to quote John 14:6 about Jesus announcing, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." That's clear enough, right? Well, take a deep breath and hear me say - I don't believe Jesus ever said that. In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus doesn't talk a whole lot about himself. In John's Gospel, he just talks on and on. The "I am" statements are prime examples. It only makes sense to me that much later followers, looking back at who Jesus had become for them, put those words into Jesus' mouth and now the church has tried to make them mandatory for everyone. No sale, here. But by the way, while we are on the subject, what was "The Way" of Jesus? Was it not for everyone to die to self and come alive to a whole new unfolding experience? And that is the main thrust of all major faith expressions.
Salahuddin helped teach me this.
He was strong and gentle, intense and humble, lover of family and a gift to friends. And I will miss him. Rest in peace, Salahuddin Hasan.