A Season of Unity
April 17, 2017
Editor's note: Spring is a season of significance for the three major monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In a three-part series of articles, members of Calvert Foundation's Jubilee Assembly explore how impact investing embodies elements of their faith traditions.
This spring marks the convergence of three seasons significant in the three major monotheistic religions: Passover, Easter, and the Night Journey and Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). As we all observe these occasions in our own ways, Calvert Foundation’s community of faith-based investors, the Jubilee Assembly, also commemorates these events by implementing our core teachings: liberation, sacrifice, and divine guidance.
Focused on using capital for impact and inspired by the universal call to love our neighbors, the Jubilee Assembly is made up of members of all faiths that are involved in social impact investing. It is a reminder of the commonalities found among many religions. The group's aim - to put forth new and inclusive financial models to help address economic and social injustices - is an example of how people of faith can put their principles to work in a constructive way.
Brotherhood in Divine Writ
The Abrahamic faith traditions share a commitment to economic justice and a call to love our neighbors and strangers as ourselves. The earliest of the three divine revelations, the Torah, commands believers to cultivate an active concern for others.
All the Abrahamic faith traditions (Judaism, Christian, and Islam) base themselves on Leviticus 19:7-18.
You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. / You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Similarly, Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), after reminding a questioner of the need to love God with all one's heart, soul, and mind, says in the Book of Matthew:
This is the first and greatest commandment. / And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’/ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (22:38-40)
Echoing and reiterating the teachings of his predecessors, Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
None of you has faith until you love for your brother what you love for yourself. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Iman, Hadith 13)
None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself. (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Iman, 67-1, Hadith 45)
Empathy and sympathy for the neighbor must also be accompanied by generosity and self-sacrifice.
The Qur’an says:
It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is one who believes in God and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and gives wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observes proper worship and pays the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress -- such are they who are sincere. Such are the pious. (2:177)
To me, the Jubilee Assembly is one concrete manifestation of that righteousness: an interfaith effort to benefit our society and work toward social justice. Perhaps as important as its social objectives is the fact that the Jubilee Assembly is a real-life demonstration of the power of interfaith action. By collaborating and putting our money where our morals are, the Jubilee Assembly provides an opportunity to live out our common values and make an impact in our communities. Being our brother's keeper is an obligation in the Abrahamic faiths, and together we can discharge our duties responsibly and in fellowship.
Night Journey and Ascension
I will conclude with a brief explanation of the Night Journey and Ascension of Muhammad (peace be upon him) as we approach its commemoration, a time of solemnity and reflection by Muslims around the world. According to Muslim belief, it was the miraculous occasion when Muhammad traveled from Mecca to Jerusalem by night, then ascended to heaven and beheld God.
In addition to the ascension to heaven itself, the journey from Mecca to Jerusalem is also significant, miraculously taking place in the span of one evening - a practical impossibility considering the distance and terrain between the two holy sites. Muslims believe that the journey took place through divine intervention and that Muhammad stopped in a number of holy places, each suggesting the continuation of an unbroken tradition of spiritual teaching.
Scholars say that he was commanded by God to pray near the location of the burning bush where God spoke to Moses (peace be upon him) as well as at the mountain where the Ten Commandments were revealed. In addition, Muhammad was also instructed to pray in Bethlehem where Jesus (peace be upon him) was born, connecting him to the divine mission of another who came before him. It was then, as it is now, truly a season of unity.
As we set about to redress social injustices, we would do well to remember the commonalities shared by the world's great religious traditions. They can be a guiding light toward a sustainable, just, and harmonious future for all.
Joshua Brockwell is a member of the Jubilee Assembly committee. He is Communications Director at Azzad Asset Management, a halal, socially responsible registered investment advisor located in Falls Church, Virginia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.