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On a blustery weekend this past February, 26 people met at the Cenacle Retreat House in Chicago to reflect on the religious dimensions of marriage. What was unusual about this gathering was that it brought together Christians and Muslims who are married, engaged or seriously considering marriage.
Attendees hailed mostly from the Chicago area, but also from Valparaiso, Minneapolis, Rochester, Minn., and Seattle.
The couples were asked to split into four groups (Muslim women, Muslim men, Christian women, Christian men) to discuss and list negotiables and non-negotiables in the form of “I shall” and “I shall not” statements.
They were also asked to list their fears, rational or not.
But privately in the morning and evening they are learning to pray side by side, each using their own prayer forms and postures, including prostration, but always praying the du ’ a (supplicatory prayer), which allows for petitions and more freedom in structure and language.
Most of these unions involve Catholics and other Christians (a more ecumenically sensitive term is “interchurch” marriage rather than “mixed,” which has some negative connotations).Compromise is more complicated in the other direction, for a Muslim cannot agree to pray in the name of Jesus, or even to “God the Father.”It’s not just the language of prayer that can be tricky, but postures too.