Jamal Rahman smilingIn part 3 of a 4-part series, Imam Jamal Rahman of the Three Interfaith Amigos shares his views on progressive Islam.

Imam Jamal Rahman is co-founder and Muslim Sufi Minister at Interfaith Community Sanctuary in Seattle and adjunct faculty at Seattle University. Originally from Bangladesh, he is a graduate of the University of Oregon and the University of California, Berkeley. He has a passion for interfaith work and travels often, teaching classes, workshops and retreats locally, nationally and internationally. He is available for interfaith weddings and ceremonies and, like Rabbi Ted, has a private spiritual counseling practice. His books include Spiritual Gems of Islam: Insights & Practices from the Qur’an, Hadith, Rumi & Muslim Teaching Stories to Enlighten the Heart & Mind; The Fragrance of Faith: The Enlightened Heart of Islam and Out of Darkness into Light: Spiritual Guidance in the Quran with Reflections from Jewish and Christian Sources.

Visit his Web site to learn more.



  1. Rod Woodward November 2, 2013 at 7:45 am - Reply

    I really enjoyed your podcast with Jamal Rahman. Thoughtful listeners will have learned as much about Islam as I have by living four and a half years in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. We learn that Muslim simply means one who submits to God and overcomes his own ego. In this context, I have confirmed to many inquirers that I too am Muslim, although I am LDS. Most educated Muslims I have known in Saudi Arabia have met LDS people in the States and have the highest regard for them.
    It was mentioned by the Imam that there is little acceptance of diversity in Saudi Arabia. I want to disagree with that point- I have heard their expressions of acceptance of Christians and Jews as members of the same family- “children of the book.” I was also surprised to witness their high regard for Moses, Jesus, and Mary.
    Imam reminded us that the Islamic empire was once the most powerful one in the history of the world, and yet the Muslim world is now home to the poorest, least developed nations. Lest we get too arrogant for our position in the U.S. as the only geopolitical superpower, let us take a lesson from history. Empires (and religions) begin their decline when they concentrate too much on proselytizing and raising funds, while neglecting their principal message of transforming the self into a more godlike being. Imam Jamal reminded us that this was the true meaning of the Arab word ‘jihad’: the effort and exertion to become a more complete and developed human being.
    Imam Jamal acknowledged that fighting between nations has always been motivated by the gaining of economic and political resources, not religious ideologies. Writers like Samuel Huntington, who wrote “The Clash of Civilizations” argue that there is no way to come to terms with the Islamic world because their worldview is so different than ours based on their religious paradigms that we will never be at peace with one another. I disagree with this concept. I have found my Arab hosts to be extremely hospitable, kind, tolerant, and generous with me. I have sat with them in their homes and in their tents in the desert and have talked about values we share. I find great commonality between our aspirations, e.g., family, education, work ethic, morality, caring for the needy, the environment, health, loyalty, friendship, appreciation for beauty, etc.
    I recently heard Ann Coulter state that the best solution for dealing with the Middle East would be for us to kill their leaders and go in and convert all the people to Christianity. Mormons are not allowed to do missionary work in the Middle East, and it may be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps we need first to reflect on what Imam Jamal referred to as “the ethics of evangelism.” What are our goals with respect to these, our cousins through Abrahamic lineage? If it is not to help them be more complete, happy human beings, we won’t convert them to anything. They also have a lot to teach us.

    • John Dehlin November 2, 2013 at 10:15 am - Reply

      Thanks, Rod. I love your feedback.

    • I November 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Thanks rod for sharing your experience. I think we all need to be more tolurent with others. We as Mormons need to do a better job at this. We judge other faiths and atheists. We think we are so right and they are so wrong.

      Thanks John for the interview. Thank you Jamal.

  2. Ellen November 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    This was the last one I listened to, so I’ll leave my thanks here. I loved these interviews.

  3. Seasickyetstilldocked November 3, 2013 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    If there is one thing about the current LDS church that needs to go away, then it is the one true Church mentality. I am one who went from tbm to atheism. Believe me, I have no love for religion and yet I have absolutely no problem listening to these three at all. By the time I was done listening to the last podcast, the LDS Church had never looked so small, so insular.

    The message these guys are spreading makes the tbm mentality look smaller and less relevant than Church history and doctrine ever could. Don’t get me wrong, I am not so much ripping on what we have a Latter Day Saints but rather expressing the opinion that the one true Church paradigm is keeping Mormonism from becoming all that it could become.

    I stopped believing the LDS church was the one true Church because of the history, doctrine etc (you know the drill). But, I left Mormonism because in its current state it is the exact opposite of the kind of message these three are spreading. I would have my own children sit through a lesson Mr. Rahman is teaching any day of the week and yet I won’t subject them to the programs of the Church I grew up in and was faithful to for 4 decades. I take no pleasure in saying something like this but when it comes to my own kids and my own marriage, I just don’t have time to wait. How long will it take until the top 15 sound like these three? The Church would then stop being a place that divides marriages, splits families and otherwise marginalizes any person that does not conform their thoughts and behaviors to their one true life narrative.That day can’t come soon enough, even though, you know, I am not exactly banking on it.

    Great podcast. Really.

  4. Emily November 4, 2013 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all of these podcasts, they were incredible!! I don’t know if there currently is anything close to a group of “three interfaith amigas” but I’d really love to hear some progressive female interfaith individuals as well! I learned a lot and want to learn even more!!

  5. Orson November 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Forgive me if this is premature, I just reached the part where it is mentioned Joseph Smith claimed to be the next Mohammed. I know that it was claimed that Joseph said he was the next Mahomet (a fictional and fanatical leader) indicating blood would flow from those in opposition to Mormonism. This took place during the Missouri struggles and if the statement was made it would have been an attempt at intimidation.

    I love this series and have gained much from it!

  6. Elis November 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    Rod – Imam Rahman is right about Saudi Arabia not being accepting. Have you ever thought through the implication of the fact that when Muslims talk about respecting other religions, they only ever mention Jews & Christians? What about pagans and atheists? What about Manicheans, Sikhs, and Baha’is? They find zero acceptance and only oppression in Muslim countries. What about relatively progressive Muslim sects, like the Ahmadiyya and many Sufis? What about homosexuals?
    On another note, honest Muslims admit that the primary meaning of jihad is violence. Take, for example, the book “Destiny Disrupted” by Tamim Ansary. Non-violent takes on what jihad means have always been subordinate to the primary violent meaning.

    • Matthew November 14, 2013 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      Elis – I never liked hearing people of other faiths telling me (a Mormon) what Mormons believe. I kind of feel like you’re doing the same thing to the good imam here.

  7. Glen November 7, 2013 at 2:00 am - Reply

    John, these were three wonderful, spiritually healthy, interviews. I’d like to know the cite in the Qu’ran that addresses the comments about God intending to allow multiple religions and cultures. I wonder if anything in LDS scripture could also be viewed similarly. It seems right; it explains so much. But, it strikes at the heart of the question Joseph Smith asked in the Grove.

    • Matthew November 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Excellent observation. Should we actually interpret Joseph’s question as, Which church is right for me? instead of, Which church is right?

  8. J November 7, 2013 at 11:21 am - Reply

    I’m going to give the book Rough Stone Rolling to my TBM parents for Christmas. This is the note written to go with it. I mention Muhammad. any suggestions?

    Dear Mom and Dad, and marry Christmas.

    Rough Stone Rolling is an absolute wonderful book. I would like to share it with you. This is my personal copy. The only copy I have. Of all the books and literature I have read about Joseph Smith I feel this comes closest to representing the man he was. The book strengthened my testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith. I have felt the spirit whisper to me as I have read it’s pages.

    I love Joseph Smith and his story. It has played an important part in my life.

    This book is written by a former stake president, patriarch, historian and active member of the church. So, their may be some bias in it, but over all I felt the author did his best to present a fair evaluation of who Joseph Smith was and the situation surrounding the prophet. I have read glowing reports written by people who felt Joseph Smith was practically God like. I’m also aware of reports that make Joseph Smith out to be a charlatan. In both cases I have found proponents of these two narratives to have their own agenda. They take what documents and truths we have of Joseph Smith and shape them into what they want to portray. I believe that with in these two lines of thought some where lies the truth.

    When I was doing an in-depth study of Joseph Smith I came across many topics like the origin of the book of Abraham, the nature of “translating” the book of Mormon, and polyandry, just to name a few. The perception I had been taught about Joseph Smith being of higher moral standard than average humans did not bow well with the facts I was learning. How could their be so much that was not true and factual and still he be a prophet of God? This is when I came across this book.

    In spite of the flaws surrounding Joseph Smith and his story I do believe he as a human being was doing the best he could. Trying to make his way in the world and had a real intent on trying to make the world a better place, in the way he saw fit to do so. He wanted people to be better and to be of one mind and heart. I believe Joseph Smith to be what he said he was, a prophet of God. He was a prophet in the same vain as Moses, Muhammad, Sun Myung Moon, Tenzin Gyatso. We are all Gods children, we all have revelation to contribute. God manifests his existence in every one of us.

    Most of the book covers the standard narrative we hear in church but the author also does not keep unsavory topics out of site. He does treat them with respect and a positive out look. He’s a realist with a healthy dose of optimism. I think any one who profess to be a student of Joseph Smith, or has an interest in him should read this book. No book about Joseph Smith is complete. Like Joseph Smith said, no man knows his history, and no one possibly can know another mans history unless they have walked in their shoes. Joseph Smith was a rough stone rolling.

  9. stupified November 14, 2013 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Just listened to all 3 and while great and totally worthwhile, none really focused on what sets them apart….how is Judiasm special from Christianity, and Islam too? I loved hearing about the commonalities but I think anyone could agree with what was said….everyone is for universal good for man, love, and believing in a greater being — yet not everyone agrees about which religion has the most truth. I’m not sure how representative each of these guests were for the actual beliefs of their religion (this can happen in missionary mode). I did find it very interesting to learn about faith traditions and how religious aspects take form in a culture. Every religion has members who adhere to the cultural side but never really dug into the faith/deeper side of their religiosity. I know a lot more about being LDS than I do about being Jewish or Muslim but to me it appears that Mormons address much more specific concerns and spiritual connections (not necessarily deeper, but certainly more specific), ie: connections to the dead and specific ordinances, organized methods of service actions, watching after the flock (home teaching), developing a personal connection with God through prayer, etc. Maybe it just wasn’t the place to delve deep into these other religions to examine how or if these kinds of functions developed there but it certainly would be interesting to me.

    • Matthew November 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm - Reply

      Do you view Islam as “the way.” He says, “No. Absolutely not.” He alludes to the idea that we are often born into a religion, and we become familiar with that religion, and if that works for us, that’s great. Interfaith is not about conversion, it’s about completion.

      stupified, I feel you’re missing Imam Jamal’s point completely. You want him to talk about why his religion is the right one, but he’s past that argumentative stage in his spirituality, which I think is beautiful. He says toward the end that proselytizing is not about converting one to your religious perspective, its about working to achieve unity among all of us and to become a better human being.

      • stupified November 14, 2013 at 10:51 pm - Reply

        Oh I think I understand the points completely– and I agree with him (them). I wasn’t looking for any contention among the 3 amigos but if all is the same there is no need for differences (which there clearly are). I have a very hard time believing that all Muslims would agree with their spokesman here, don’t you? I do like how he mentioned that celebrating and noting their differences are what makes them meaningful. The question I had was, the Mormon religion requires some very specific and committing things (covenants) from it’s believers…..what is the equivalent in the others faiths? That’s what I was looking for but I didn’t hear it. I heard what Dehlin also characterized as a universalist approach that God is love, care for the earth, appreciate what God has given us, unity…. True, I grew up in the LDS faith tradition but to me that should (and usually is) the basis of *all* true religions…but it should go much deeper than that and I’m not talking about observing archaic customs that only hold true meaning for a few (the “tradition” part of the culture) but truly committing time and effort by lay people in the religion to minister. LDS can of course be guilty of this just like any other.

        • Matthew November 15, 2013 at 10:58 am - Reply

          Point taken. I think if you looked at something like the covenant of consecration we make in the temple, I could see Jamal finding Muslim parallels in consecrating your life to God, but not necessarily the part about consecrating your life to an earthly institution (the church). Basically, I think he would conclude, and did conclude, that there is no one religion that can lay claim to the Kingdom of God. I tend to agree with him, and don’t find the commitment to the earthly organization to be as meaningful.

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