"Who can be better in religion than one who submits his whole self to God, does good, and follows the way of Abraham," asks the Qur'an, "for God did take Abraham for a friend" (4:125). Indeed, Islamic tradition holds that Abraham (or Ibrahim in Arabic) was the first Muslim in the sense of being a self-surrendering "Friend of the Merciful." But in a legend similar to a Jewish midrash, even this revered prophet and father of monotheism had to learn about respecting and honoring the feelings of those whose beliefs and ways of worship were different from his own. The Prophet Abraham had a daily practice of delaying his breakfast until a hungry stranger could join him. One day the guest happened to be a Zoroastrian, a so-called "fire-worshipper," and his unfamiliar prayers so infuriated Abraham that he told him to leave immediately. But God reproached Abraham, saying, "I have given this man life and food for over seventy years. Could you not feed him even one day?" At once Abraham ran after the man, brought him back to his tent, and treated him with exquisite hospitality and respect. If our prophets and founding father had to move beyond their prejudices and human self-interest, how much more is it necessary for us lesser beings to break through our biases and grow in graciousness?

Walking This Practice into the World

It is almost a cliché to say it, but one of the best ways to open our hearts to others is to pay more attention to their feelings and ask ourselves how we would feel in a similar situation. Even in difficult circumstances, such as a confrontation with an unfriendly or threatening person, we should do our best not to create unnecessary hurt while taking righteous action to resolve or neutralize the situation. That other person is a face of God, and the loving heart will respond with deep regard for the Divine in that other person's heart. Rumi exclaims, "O God, You have created this I, you, we, they to play the game of adoration with Yourself." We need to engage in this cosmic game with mercy, graciousness, and generosity!

Don Mackenzie, Ted Falcon, Jamal Rahman in Finding Peace through Spiritual Practice