Friday, 29 February 2008
'Hospitality' and 'Accommodating' within Islamic Theology and Culture
I wanted to raise a few questions about these words because we often use them to free ourselves from tricky situations.
Hospitality is usually associated with the relationship between a guest and
a host. In terms of Scotland who are the hosts and who are the guests? The boundaries get very blurred in my situation as I feel that I am a Scot but I often come across other Scots who want to be hospitable to me because they believe that I am a 'guest'. Maybe we need to consider the position of the first generation Pakistani (or any other nationals) Muslims and that of the subsequent generation? I know that my parents would still feel that they are 'guests' of Scotland and that is because they have such strong links with Pakistan. But then again my father did have a business in the south side of Glasgow where he was very much the 'host' to the community in Shawlands, and dearly missed since his retirement I hear. It gets even more confusing when Muslims in Scotland try to create this identity known as 'Scottish Muslims' because what they do is try to be the host and the guest at the same time. Is there some form of initiation that guests need to undertake to become the hosts? Is it possible for me to be a true Scot without folk considering the colour of my skin or my religious convictions?
I often say to kids in my RE class to consider what passers by see me as.
Is Mr De Sondy seen as a Scot? A Paki (stani)? A foreigner? A Glaswegian?
A guest? A host? The kids are usually stunned into silence. I once got more than I had bargained for from a fourth year pupil who yelled from the back of the class, "Sir, you will always be a cool Paki for us", "You cannae call him that you ****", shrieked a girl in the class. I just stood back shaking my head. So, I, nor my students, have clear answer to any of these questions but I just wanted to think out loud.
Accommodating is another word which I am thinking about from a theological and religious viewpoint. In what way do we accommodate our lifestyle to our specific theology? How do we react when our lives don’t fit the status quo? How do we accommodate the Muslim daughter who wants to marry the Catholic boy? How do we accommodate the Muslim son-in-law who wants to marry a second wife? How do we accommodate the Muslim daughter who does not want to wear the Hijab (head covering)? Are we twisting scripture for our own sake?
I went to listen to a paper presented by one of my much loved theologians,
Professor Perry Schmidt-Leukel, Chair of World Religions for Peace at Glasgow University on 'Multi-religious Identity: problems and considerations'. Perry made a profound statement in which he said that we are all made up of 'patchwork religiosity', which means that no one can say they are a 'pure' Muslim, Christian or Jew. We all accommodate all sorts of different ideas within our religious understanding. In the same way that I am content in my identity as a Scot but at times I can feel a little Pakistani, a little Arab, a little European, a little Glaswegian. The boundaries are never set in stone and whether we like it or not we accommodate all sorts of things into our lives.
'I am your host. With robber's hands in my hospitable favours You should not ruffle thus.' William Shakespeare
The picture shows Abraham showing hospitality to the Angels: Source Wikipedia