We are living in times of ever decreasing nuance. Perhaps this is why brands prevail, for without them, we could muster little thought on our own. I am reminded of a question I had as my time as chaplain about Muslim/non-Muslim relations, when I came across this passage in Sherman Jackson’s On The Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam:
Kufr, according to al-Ghazali, is purely a matter of rejecting the truthfulness of the Prophet Muhammad. Beyond this, it reveals, in and of itself, virtually nothing about a person’s moral or religious constitution. (7)
I say this not only to remind ourselves of the capacity to work with people of “good conscious” — by the secular definition — regardless of faith tradition, but also to remind ourselves of the pragmatic transformative power of religion. Often Muslims look upon their fellow Muslims’ actions with dismay when they do not quite add up to what they (we) think is correct (even when we are right!). The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم stated similarly,
فَخِيَارُكُمْ فِي الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ خِيَارُكُمْ فِي الإِسْلاَمِ إِذَا فَقِهُوا
“Those who were the best amongst you in the Pre-lslamic period (jahiliyyah) are the best amongst you in Islam if they comprehend it.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
I mention this, not to propose a laissez-faire attitude towards moral rectitude and religious commitment, but to draw attention to the important fact that if we, as a faith community, are going to help actualize a person’s potential: religiously, spiritually, psychological or otherwise, then we must take into account their (and our!) past, if we are to attempt having any success. This will require a paradigm shift in our communal mindset from investing in structures to investing in infrastructure, i.e., people of capacity.