Muslim Religious Experience: An Experiential Approach and Dialogical Tool
Doctor of Intercultural Studies
This dissertation explores the religious experience of eight Muslim participants from California through a series of twenty-four interviews. The research examines four areas: the Islamic formal prayer rite, the participants’ motivations for worship, their perception of sin and forgiveness, and their beliefs about death and the hereafter. The research employed methods of participant observation, in-depth interview, and ranking. It focused on a relationship of trust between the researcher—who participated in their formal prayer rites—and the participants. The design of interviews relied on storytelling and conversation.
The findings indicated that one central factor, the unknowable nature of Allah, orchestrates the Muslim religious experience. First, it doesn’t allow for knowing Allah’s nature, but rather his attributes through the Qur’an and the divine law. Consequently, the law functions to inspire fear of Allah’s punishment and verdict. It also emphasizes observance of rules in a performance-oriented worship, where sin is treated as an act in a legal context, rather than a nature and where forgiveness is postponed to The Day of Judgment. Lastly, it produces an enduring sense of guilt and uncertainty filled with hope.
In the application phase, the researcher utilized the three-part dialogue method to train and mentor three Christians for three months to employ skills for experientialdialogue with Muslims on the subject of religious experience, rather than theological issues. Findings showed significant change in motivations, attitude, and the quality and the quantity of interaction of these individuals in their engagement with Muslim friends.
Mentor: Judith Lingenfelter
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