By Lisa Nofzinger with Umair Usman
Editor’s note: Many of us at Easter Lutheran Church community wonder about people of other faiths/religions. What do they think and believe? How do they live and pray? In this blog post, Lisa Nofzinger interviews her new friend Umair Usman, via e-mail. Umair lives in Pakistan and is a member of the Islamic faith (they met online via social media LinkedIn). Umair graciously agreed to be interviewed for our blog.
Lisa: Describe your faith. What is your relationship with God like? How does this relationship help you in daily life?
Umair: Hi Lisa, Great we could do this. For everyone who doesn’t know me, I am Umair Usman, I am 28 years old and I live in Lahore, Pakistan. I of course am a Muslim. Islam, by its very definition means to submit one’s will to God. For me however this goes beyond simple will and includes submitting ones objectives, purpose, ego, dependence, everything to God.
My relationship with God is probably not as strong as it should be though. I pray as regularly as I could and try follow the basic tenets of Islam, such as fasting in the month of Ramazan (Ramadan). However in daily life, my biggest relationship to God is probably being mindful of how ‘weak’ I am as a being created by God and how dependent I am on him for security, sustenance, success etc.
Right now I am striving to accept this weakness or dependence on God, so I can in a way be practicing my religion in daily life, by asking him for help, 24/7.
Lisa: What is your view of Christianity? How is your faith similar and what are the differences?
Umair: Jesus is a very important figure in Islam, in fact we cannot be Muslims if we do not believe in Jesus. We believe, Jesus, much like the prophets before him (Moses, Abraham, etc.), brought God’s message to the people, and they and their message have to be respected.
The major difference in Islam and Christianity is probably the view on Trinity, or that Jesus was God’s son, while we regard him as one of the most important prophets. We do however believe he was born through a miracle and Mary was a Virgin. This is something we surely believe. Overall, I am not too much of an expert on comparative religion but I can safely say that there are more similarities than differences among Christianity and Islam.
Lisa: What do you want us (Christian, Minnesota people) to know about you, your family, your religion, your country? Our church has had some seminars on topics like Islam, Charlie Hebdo, and race but there is a lot of misinformation out there about Islam, especially in American media.
Umair: I am lucky enough to have been brought up in a family that had always been very open-minded, educated, well-traveled, not just by Pakistani standards, by any standards. I grew up in a business family interacting with a lot of foreigners and eventually went for higher education to the UK. My family, especially my mother always made sure I followed Islam but also appreciated the good in everyone around me. She herself was not only tolerant, but even curious and appreciative of people of other faiths and therefore we grew up to be curious and appreciative as well.
However, the reality of Pakistan is that it is mostly a developing country, with high rates of illiteracy and poverty. People do not even know Islam over here properly, let alone basic education of other disciplines. As Pakistan is not very cosmopolitan people are hardly ever exposed to a broader perspective of the world and people. This has often made the average person in Pakistan feel like a victim, for example, a victim of the great powers such as the UK or the US. Of course, politicians being politicians have also done their part in putting blame for their own poor performance on ‘external’ factors that a gullible, uneducated society readily accepts.
As for terrorism and intolerance, I can write a half a book on the topic, but to keep it relevant (and non political), I have always told people to view global terrorism like any other crime. No matter what the crime, its basis is in inequality and poverty. It seems hard to digest this idea, but it is easy to understand that an educated, employed youth has naturally little to do with terrorism or any crime for that matter. Inequality, on a global scale, is one of the most basic drivers of Terrorism or international crime– and like any crime, I believe it should be dealt with by force as well as by eradicating poverty, inequality and giving people opportunities.
Lisa: And anything else you care to share?
Umair: Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure to be able to do this with you. I have always been immensely curious and it is just a blessing to be able to do this with you. Me here in Lahore, Pakistan and you there in Minnesota! May God bless us all!
About the writers: Lisa Nofzinger attends Easter Lutheran Church, lives in Eagan and works for the state of Minnesota. Umair Usman lives in Lahore, Pakistan and is key accounts manager for the Usman Carpet House.