A fascinating experience - within a few days of each other, I was given some info brochures on Muslim customs, culture, and theology and on Jehova's Witness customs, culture, theology. It's interesting to compare them - they take completely opposite approaches to educating people about their faiths.
I snapped a couple of pictures of each. I think these are pretty representative pictures -
The main point of the two Jehova's Witnesses brochures seems to be that you can be happier with more unity in your life -
When you look at the scene on this tract, what feelings do you have? Does not your heart yearn for the peace, happiness, and prosperity seen there? Surely it does. But is it just a dream, or fantasy, to believe these conditions will ever exist on earth?
Most people probably think so. Today's realities are war, crime, hunger, sickness, and aging - to mention just a few. Yet there is reason for hope. Looking to the future, the Bible tells of a "new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to [God's] promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell." --2 Peter 3:13, Isaih 65:17
These "new heavens" and "new earth," according to the Bible, are not a new material heavens or new literal earth. The physical earth and heavens were made perfect, and the Bible shows they will remain forever. (Psalms 89:36, 37; 104:5) The "new earth" will be a righteous society of people living on earth, and the "new heavens" will be a perfect heavenly kingdom, or government, that will rule over this earthly society of people. But is it realistic to believe that "a new earth," or glorious new world, is possible?
The two Jehova's Witnesses brochures go along those lines. There's scenes of harmony and happiness and unity with family, nature, and religion. And it talks about loving the Creator, giving your heart to God, and learning God's will.
The brochures don't contain instructions - it's more a promise of what's possible contrasted against what's wrong with the world right now, and then they encourage you to get more information.
The "Invitation to Understanding Islam" brochures take almost the opposite approach. They emphasize conduct, custom, and the work you're going to be required to do. They make many less promises, and instead explain what actions are required and why (and they don't make it sound easy at all).
Why can't I pray my way?
Muslims are required to pray 5 times a day at fixed times.
During these prayers, they recite verses from The Noble Qur'an which is in Arabic.
The prayer positions include standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting.
After embracing Islam, I was wondering why do I have to pray in this way.
I liked the idea of stopping our daily activities 5 times to communicate to Allah The Permanent Who sustains everything.
But I kept fighting the need to recite rote lines in the Arabic during prayer. It is not my native language and therefore reciting in that language doesn't seem like it is from my heart.
The sitting position during prayer can be quite uncomfortable to someone who is not used to this way of praying.
Why would Allah want me to be so frustrated and be in difficulty when I'm trying to communicate with Him?
Wouldn't it be better for me to get into a relaxed position and really speak from my heart?
The brochure then goes on to explain that everyone is a slave to something - whether it be to their ego, or to God, or something else. And praying in the mandated way is a test that can deliver you closer to God or further away. It tears down your ego. Wanting to pray your own way is due to your ego, and serving in the commanded way tames your ego and does your life's work of serving God.
What interested me when I got these sets of brochures was how radically different they approached the concept of introducing you to their faith. The Jehova's Witness approach is to ask you if you're interested in a level of harmony and peace far beyond the modern world, explain that you'll need to know God's way to reach it, and encourage you to get more information.
The Islamic brochures are almost the opposite. They explain that you'll be expected to give a lot, and they don't go as much into the appealing benefits. I would say the Jehova's Witness brochures are something like 90% discussing what's possible and contrasting it against what's currently bad, and 10% telling you the action that's required. The Islamic brochures seem to be 90% telling you what's required and why, and 10% telling you the benefits of greater harmony with God and purpose in life.
It's interesting to me because they're both fast growing religions that put an emphasis on conversion and missionary work, yet their printed literature take 180 degree different courses on how to approach it.
I don't have too much analysis here, but I think it's worth having a think for a moment about why and how the two faiths might have chosen to go about this differently. I learned a lot by reading through both of these brochures - both about the respective faiths, whose members I feel I understand a bit more now, but also in different approaches to introducing people to something new. It might be worth you giving a couple moments to considering the advantages and disadvantages to presenting your a case a certain way - do you start by heavily stressing what's required, and then sharing the benefits? Or start by heavily emphasizing the benefits, and then telling people what the next step is?
Check out a deeper analysis of religion by a very learned man/philosopher (nevertheless a mortal mind you). Interesting read with reference to this topic.
Link taken from here (http://www.allamaiqbal.com/works/prose/english/reconstruction/index.htm )
May our eyes n mind not close even if they are open/alive (respectively) in the coming solar year & the already new lunar year.
I think the real analysis can only be conducted & deduction can only be dram & elucidated from the de-facto text of both the religions.
Quran is said to be the GOD (ALLAH's) word, not human's. Only 1 version of it exists for ~14 hundred years. Not sure about the Jehova's text.
But anyway the taste of the pudding lies you know where.
Those brochures create by some mortal are bound to have flaws here & there. Our study of human psychology & deductions of it over the years are also bound to have flaws as the study goes on & on. Ideas of starting discussion on positive notes & then getting on to the bitter realities of the topics (sandwiching) & being abrupt etc.. merits of these can be discussed for ever.
Just read the original text & decide. Put a hold on that strategy, wining, defeating, killing, gathering material riches thing for a while.
Note: Love to read your mumbo jumbo, make me feel normal & thankful :)
To sum up my response:
Your post compared Jehovah's Witness and Islamic brochures. That caused me to think about the comparison of the respective outcomes of Empires' widespread adoption of Christianity and Islam, where Christianity (at least in the Roman Empire) is said to have led to the decline of a great empire, whereas Islam led to the establishing of a great one.
From Wiki page on Islam:
After the signing of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah many more people converted to Islam. At the same time, Meccan trade routes were cut off as Muhammad brought surrounding desert tribes under his control. By 629 Muhammad was victorious in the nearly bloodless Conquest of Mecca, and by the time of his death in 632 (at the age of 62) he united the tribes of Arabia into a single religious polity.
Interesting. What I draw from the brochures is that Islam emphasizes actions for salvation, whereas Christianity emphasizes faith for salvation.
This reminded me of something I read last night.
"The pagan religions opposed the Christians during the early centuries of their church, declaring that the new faith (Christianity) did not demand virtue and integrity as requisites for salvation. Celsus expressed himself on the subject in the following caustic terms:
"That I do not, however, accuse the Christians more bitterly than truth compels, may be conjectured from hence, that the cryers who call men to other mysteries proclaim as follows: 'Let him approach whose hands are pure, and whose words are wise.' And again, others proclaim: 'Let him approach who is pure from all wickedness, whose soul is not conscious of any evil, and who leads a just and upright life.' And these things are proclaimed by those who promise a purification from error. Let us now hear who those are that are called to the Christian mysteries: Whoever is a sinner, whoever is unwise, whoever is a fool, and whoever, in short, is miserable, him the kingdom of God will receive. Do you not, therefore, call a sinner, an unjust man, a thief, a housebreaker, a wizard, one who is sacrilegious, and a robber of sepulchres? What other persons would the cryer nominate, who should call robbers together?"
I also remember Edward Gibbon writing In the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire about how the adoption of Christianity as the state religion in the Roman Empire led to its collapse, as it led to a decline in martial vigor. To contrast, the spread of Islam led to increased martial vigor, and resulted in the "Golden Age of Islam", a period of history surprisingly often neglected in modern history books, but a period where science, medicine, philosophy, and education flourished.
The Islamic Golden Age refers to the period during the history of Islam when the Muslim world was politically united under caliphates, experiencing a scientificand cultural flourishing. This period is mostly taken to have lasted throughout the 9th to 12th centuries, and sometimes extended to include parts of the 8th and 13th centuries. It began with the inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun ar-Rashid (786 to 809), where scholars from various parts of the world sought to translate and gather all the known world's knowledge into Arabic.[
The Abbasids were influenced by the Quranic injunctions and hadiths, such as "the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr," that stressed the value of knowledge. During the Fatimid era (909–1171) Egypt became the center of an empire that included at its peak North Africa, Sicily, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Red Sea coast of Africa, Tihamah, Hejaz, and Yemen. During the age, the major Islamic capital cities of Baghdad, Cairo, and Córdoba became the main intellectual centers for science, philosophy, medicine, trade, and education. The Muslims during this period showed a strong interest in assimilating the scientific knowledge of the civilizations that had been conquered. Many classic works of antiquity that might otherwise have been lost were translated into Arabic and Persian and later in turn translated into Turkish, Hebrew, and Latin. They assimilated, synthesized, and advanced the knowledge gained from the ancient Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Egyptian, and Phoenician civilizations.
Sorry, this comment is a bit unorganized, and might not make sense. I would spend more time making sure it is understandable by another, but I ought to be working on something else-- yet your posts stimulate a lot of thoughts, and I can't resist the Siren's call to scrawl them out.
I think the problem with Islamic brochures is that they're often produced by teams of people from the Middle East who are perhaps not so aware of how important a vibrant, colorful, & catching advertisement has to be.
I'm Muslim, & when I was first entering Islam I had ordered tons & tons of brochures from various Islamic organizations, both in the U.S. & abroad, & I'd say 90% of them were not eye-appealing whatsoever.
Furthermore, I agree - there were more than just a few brochures I got that did little to appeal to a potential revert (convert) to Islam...focusing more on just informing what Islam is, rather than why it's so beneficial to a person.
I have some Jehovah's Witnesses coming over for breakfast on Wednesday...it should be fun. We've been talking back & forth on the phone, exchanging emails that are briefing our faiths, & I'm looking forward to finally being able to sit down with him.
Again, as a Muslim (I'm a revert, from a Christian family, a white as can be Massachusetts boy), I do feel that Islam is the true religion, & I look forward to being able to present factual information as to why that is.
And yes, that's right...factual.
Islam has proof...and faith. But Islam is the only religion that has proofs of God.
Should be engaging.
Great analysis, ithink the best leaflet would be sth in the middle. Both of them are similar religions.Jehovah's concentrate more on one prophet of Allah, Jesus, whilst Islam is the complete picture from Adam to Muhammad. Islam is also open to discussion and reorganizing your thoughts and challenges. The leaflet though for me did poor job.for fresh Muslims.
As a practicing Jehovah's Witness I appreciate the time you took to look at the brochures and actually think about them. It's nice to see them get in the hands of someone who considers them thoughtfully rather than immediately throwing them in the trash.
I can offer a little insight into your implied question. The brochures and the tracts are intended to be "conversation starters". The goal is for us to learn about the things that perplex or distress you individually. Then we try to use a personal individual study of the Bible to explain the questions and concerns in the context of those things that you noticed we highlight in the publications: God's Kingdom, His purpose for the world, and your relationship with other people.
"Requirements" and "Discipline" and all those things highlighted in the Muslim brochure are extraordinarily important to practicing our faith as well. In fact, they're so important that I often appreciate your similar viewpoints about them that you express in your blog.
We may disagree about the origin, center, direction and circumstance of morality and ethics but it has been my experience that people who who thoughtfully consider ethics frequently come to very similar effective conclusions. Such things have been noted for millennia, and are even pointed out in the Bible itself.
Without getting too long winded, we believe the force of scripture is best expressed in the form of general principles that we individually need to act on. The Bible study I mentioned is the start to learning what those principles are and (hopefully) persuading the student to reconsider how he lives his life and treats those around him.
Whereas many try to enforce morality externally upon others through laws, force, coercion, bribery, or guilt, we believe that the only way to spread good is by individually teaching each person to be a force for good. In that way, even if every law were repealed, every punishment withheld, and all consequences averted we as a group would still try to lead upright, moral lives that demonstrate love for God and neighbor.
So although you're not likely interested in becoming a Jehovah's Witness, the short, thoughtful Bible study is a worthwhile endeavor that you'll find is different from most other theological studies you've likely been exposed to. Don't be afraid to consider it. Given your blog content, you will at least give my brother an extraordinary challenge!
I frequently enjoy reading your blog. It's very interesting to see how people perceive ethics and try to make practical changes in their lives apart from religious indoctrination or vapid mysticism. Thanks for being an enjoyable spot on the internet to read good conversations.
Get a coffee and some popcorn ready before you read this one. Love it or hate it, either way you'll be wildly entertained. Names and details changed, for obvious reasons.
Subject: Very important email from Sebastian. Please read ASAP.
This is a very important email. Please read it, wait 10-20 minutes before replying and just think about it (don't surf the web, just think), and then reply with your thoughts.
First, the tactical things -
1. Anyone one of you can use the following credit card to sign up for anything.
The word, ‘Allâh’, is the Arabic term for God and it most emphatically means the One True God, the Creator of the universe, the Lord of all lords, and the King of all kings. Arabic translations of the Bible and the Torah also refer to God using the term, ‘Allâh’. Non-Muslim Arabs use the term ‘Allâh’ when they pray or speak of God. Muslims all over the world prefer to use the term, ‘Allâh’, because the word ‘God’ has so often been misused, abused and corrupted. The term ‘Allâh ’ does not have a plural form like ‘gods’ nor does it have a feminine gender form like ‘goddess’. It is never used in compound nouns like ‘god- man’, ‘godfather’, and ‘godmother’. Moreover, the term, ‘Allâh’, signifies every one of the attributes which can be used to qualify none other than the Most Merciful Creator and Sustainer of the universe. It is a term that can be applied only to the Most Supreme, Who cannot be compared to anyone or anything and to the concept of God which has never been vilified by idolatry or myths of incarnations.
"He to Whom belongs the dominions of the heavens and earth, and Who has begotten no son and for Whom there is no partner in the dominion. He has created everything, and measured it exactly according to its due measurements." [The Qurân Ch: 25 Furqân, V: 2]