Curt Mire is a 24-year-old divinity student pursuing a master’s degree from the Reformed Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. But during a recent trip to Friday prayers at a local mosque, his interest was purely Islam.
Mire, who hopes to become a Christian Presbyterian minister upon the completion of his studies, sat down with Imam Rawaa Hussain to talk about Islam and about how Christianity is viewed by Muslims. He also observed Jumaa prayers, as well. His jaunt to the Al-Farouq Masjid was part of his theological study of Islam, which is required for his academic coursework.
During his talk with Imam Hussain, Mire questioned him about the central tenants of Islam, his view of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his relationship to other prophets; the reliability of the Qur’an versus the Bible and the Torah, as well as how Muslims rank the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the Hadith in order of importance.
“I was interested in whether or not what I was learning in my studies was correct,” he told AboutIslam.net. “I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t learning (about Islam) in a shallow way.”
Mire was especially interested in how Imam Hussain viewed Jesus (peace be upon him). “He is a miracle,” the imam answered. “And he talked about the coming of Muhammad (peace be upon him).”
Belief in Other Faiths
During the discussion, Imam Hussain also explained the difference between messengers and prophets of God and how Muslims feel about revealed books that came before the Qur’an.
“The Torah and the Gospel are essential parts of our belief,” he said. “We believe in all God’s books.”
Mire, who has learned that Muslims believe parts of these revealed texts have been corrupted by people over time, questioned Imam Hussain as to how he believes they’ve been changed. Hussain declined to answer, which Mire said was disappointing.
“In religious discussions, I like everyone to lay their cards on the table,” he said. “I want to hear what they have to say, what they think. Maybe I can challenge them and they’ll challenge me.”
However, Mire said he found Imam Hussain’s description of Islam and its subsequent beliefs to be clear and forthright. He said he also appreciated the imam’s investigative approach to learning about other faiths, a technique Hussain said he wished non-Muslims would adopt when they want to inform themselves about Islam.
“I hope people read and investigate (for themselves),” Hussain said. “Don’t look to the actions of Muslims (to learn about Islam). Read the Quran and the Sunnah. Go back to the basic sources and understand.”
Of this Mire said he was in full agreement, lamenting that, oftentimes, people rely on internet sources for their information about Christianity rather than talking with a person who is knowledgeable.
“I really appreciated that he said you should investigate a religion to really know what it is,” he said.
Following the Friday sermon and prayer, Mire had several observations.
“It was interesting to see that people would come in during the sermon and do their prayers while (the imam) was speaking. I was also surprised to see how the kids would wander around or would perform the prayer of their own volition.”
Based on the sermon, Mire called Islam a “very moralistic religion, where you’re always looking to the hereafter.”
He also commented on the organization of the Friday prayers, which he said was very simple compared to his own church experience, which often includes a call to worship, repentance, singing, and other elements.
Overall, Mire said he enjoyed the experience and was very open and eager to continue a comparative religious discussion on Islam and Christianity with Imam Hussain or any learned Islamic figure.
“I really want to hear more about their interpretation and beliefs,” he said.