Can You “Test-Drive” a Religion for a Month?

Would inter-religious dialogue be easier if Christians actually knew what it was like to be Muslim, or vice versa? †One of the biggest challenges of attempts to bridge religious divides is the fact that faiths are seen as long-term, lifelong commitments. †But would it be possible for people to try out another religion for a month, just to see what it’s like?

That’s the idea behind a program, sponsored by a social enterprise group called the Blood Foundation, called”Muslim for a Month,” where non-Muslims can travel to Turkey, stay with Muslim families, pray, fast, and listen to lectures by Muslim scholars. †Participants are immersed in Islam with no strings attached. †Not all of them are non-Muslim; one man who was brought up Muslim in India decided to do the program as a way to more deeply understand Muslim mystic traditions like Sufism.

“My first response was that I was bemused, frankly,” he explained to Catrin Nye of the BBC. “I was bemused that something that we take as sacred as religion could become like a shopping mall – try this out for a month. †It really seemed a very post-modern phenomenon, but, once here it really envelops you with its own world view so I think it’s fascinating.”

Some participants were less enthusiastic about the program. †They disliked the fact that, in Muslim prayers, women are separated from men. †But Ben Bowler, one of the coordinators of “Muslim for a Month,” said this was to be expected.

“I mean these are very hot points that often if they’re not dealt with can be blown out of all proportion,” he explained. †”The difference is sticking with that and working through that and certainly there is an element of how woman are treated in a religious sense in Islam, which is different from what we would expect in our culture, but this is the point of a cultural exchange if it was exactly the same it wouldn’t be interesting.”

In any case, the project seems to have been successful enough to allow other immersion programs. †”Muslim for a Month” follows “Monk for a Month,” a Thailand-based program designed to immerse participants in Buddhism. †The Blood Foundation is now exploring “Sufi for a Month,” “Sikh for a Month,” and “Christian for a Month” programs.

There are obvious theological issues inherent in any project that allows participants to “try out” a religion, just as there are problems with people who try to do the same thing with other cultures. †Bu there could also be benefits for interfaith dialogue. †The Blood Foundation’s coordinators clearly see this as much of a cultural exchange as a religious immersion, but they also need to be careful that such a project doesn’t turn into religious tourism. †It’s a fine line, and it will be interesting to see if, and how, their programs move forward.

Perhaps most importantly: would you do a program like this? †And if so, why?

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

64 comments

Lynn D.
Lynn D5 years ago

Very interesting and would be better than just reading about other religions and how they work, could create a better tolerance.....God must really be disapointed in His creation! Thanks for sharing with us!

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jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

interesting concept

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William Y.
William Y7 years ago

Good one Mary B. only instead of $100,000, try those who make over a million.

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Mary B.
Mary B7 years ago

How about doing something like this with people who reach the $100,000 a year income level.Go live on $10,000 a year. Only make it mandatory and and they can't have credit, or go back to the upper income level untill they can procure houseing, transportation, a job, food, eye and dental and medical care, and everything else that is needed to participate in this culture.This should be required training for anyone seeking public office so they know who 'the public' is that relys on safety net programs.If people from all parts of the country did this and filed a report on their experiences we would have a well documented picture of poverty in this country and what is actually needed in the way of public services for low income people.

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Rani K.
Rani K.7 years ago

I shall refrain from killing any being.

I shall refrain from stealing what belongs to others.

I shall refrain from misbehaving
.
I shall refrain from telling untruths.

I shall refrain from taking any form of intoxicants.

If one observes these 5 precepts daily, one automatically becomes a Buddhist. . Buddhism is not a religion. It is a way of life. Buddhism does not want anyone to follow blindly what Lord Buddha has preached. There is no forcing or conversion. Buddhism says to inquire, find out and if and when one is convinced fully it is the right path to follow, to do so.
I do not think the term 'test driving ' is appropriate here.

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Maarja L.
Maarja L7 years ago

I would certainly try to be a monk for a month. Buddhism has always seemed a peaceful religion to me, so I'd like to see how it is from the inside.

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Scott Freewheeler

The path that began with Adam, Noah, Moses and Jesus, (peace be upon them all and their families) culminates with the Last Holy Prophet Muhammad (ṣall Allāhu ʿalay-hi wa-sallam).
All religions are ultimately only one religion, revealed at different stages according to our ability to fathom. You will see in previous versions that another Messenger or Prophet is promised except in the final and completed religion.

The Jews gathered in Medina awaiting their prophet but were dismayed when they found that he was not a Jew. Although he matched all their criteria and answered all their questions perfectly they rejected him and made all kinds efforts to eradicate him and his Teachings.

Islam recognises the divinity in all the great Faiths and praises highly their prophets (peace be upon them), scriptures, scholars and adherents. There is no conflict in them.

Some employ prejudice instead of reading them. I realise most do not have time for such a study but at least know Islam because it is the religion for our age and until the End of Days.

It is a matchless gift and a sublime blessing on the world and you are sadly missing out. It is the only Scripture that is the verbatim word of God; you can tell this by reading it. No other faith makes this claim. It is in as perfect condition as it was when it was revealed. If it were not so powerful why would there be such a great fuss? See for yourself.

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Jane L.
Jane L7 years ago

Hmm..that sounds quite interesting! I would be interested in doing it if I had such an opportunity, especially being monk for a month. Being muslim for a month would be hard for me since I'm so independent; the contrast of being a women in such a religious context...I think would be hard for me to bear. But perhaps it is true that you learn the most from your opposite nature....

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Brenda Gilbert
Brenda Gilbert7 years ago

Any initiative that contributes to tolerance, understanding and acceptance is welcome.
I feel that any kind of extremism and exclusivity is based on fear and can only lead us away from the compassionate society that will foster values of respect and equality. It makes no difference what the political, religious, economic or intellectual basis of the extremism is. If it excludes and judges and condemns anything or anyone who is not in agreement with what it preaches, then it has no place in a civilised society.
If this programme serves to open minds and hearts to the wonderful diversity of human thought and experience then it will make a hugely positive contribution to the development of a better world for all of us.

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Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance7 years ago

Continuation . . .

. . . these young Muslims are doing the same thing, but unfortunately, they are being influenced by Islamism, a political ideology, not the religion of Islam.

The problem is, what do we do about it? I have no answers but trying to understand the dynamics is a first step. Extremism, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu . . . whatever, has no place in this world. To quote from the movie Robinhood, "Allah (God, the Creator) loves wonderous variety!"

Here is the link if you wish to read the entire piece. It isn't long.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/its-muslim-kids-not-parents-who-are-embracing-a-politicized-islam/article2087476/

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