BBC Radio Scotland
Thought for the Day
Dr. Amanullah De Sondy
Wednesday 21st December 2011
A primary school in Ellon, Aberdeenshire brought in real camels for their nativity parade on Monday. The headteacher of the school said that pupils were excited about what they had organised. Reading this piece of news made me think about the various ways in which we Scots look toward Christmas. For some it is a moment of religious significance as the birth of Christ and for others a time for parties and exchanging gifts. As a Muslim, I must say I was rather excited about coming back home from Miami this Christmas. I guess I was finding it difficult to celebrate Christmas in 25 degree heat with palm trees – somehow it didn’t seem ‘right’.
The different ways in which Christmas plays a role in our lives made me think about how just one religious tradition can be understood in a variety of ways. I still remember how confused I was when my colleague told me about Santería, a mixture of Caribbean culture, African Yoruba traditions with foundations rooted in Catholicism. For some religion, others heresy and for the vast majority just life, leaving us to wonder who has the authority for the authentic interpretation? I see similarities when I think about different ways of living and interpreting Islam. Take for example the Scottish governments proposal on same-sex marriage, which has ignited a heated debate amongst all Scottish society, including Scottish Muslims. I guess, dealing with something radically different from the ‘mainstream’ will always be a challenge, especially when trying to understand religious texts in modern times.
I’ve been invited to St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral tomorrow to present a Qur’an reading in between their Carol service with Bible readings. It’s something I’m really looking forward to. In a world of differences, I’ve learnt through travel and seeing how we’re all muddling through, trying to live good lives, balancing ancient wisdom and modern living, that in the end we don’t all have to be the same. Maybe our very own Robert Burns hit the nail on the head in his challenge to us Scots when he said, ‘there is no such uncertainty as a sure thing’.