Monthly Archives: June 2015

Revisiting the ‘Verticalization’ of Eschatology

Mahdawiyyah

MAKATI CITY (3 June) – Exactly eight years ago, while waiting for half a dozen professors constituting the defense panel to finish reading the last draft of my dissertation, I had embarked on the translation into English of a Persian book on the mystical subtleties of supplication (du’a’).

For two straight days, however, I had to set aside the Persian treatise and a couple of Persian-English dictionaries so as to meet the deadline for the submission of full paper for an annual international conference on Mahdism or Messianism.

I wrote a paper on the status of the Holy City of Jerusalem in Islamic Messianism, which I had sent on the last hour via email to the conference secretariat.

As in previous years, this international assembly which was held at OIC Summit Conference Hall in the northern part of Tehran was expectedly flocked by participants of diverse religious affiliations—Buddhists, Shintoists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians of various sects and denominations, and of course, Muslims belonging to different madhahib (schools of thought).

Twenty years ago, while we were sitting in front of a college in MSU-Main Campus, a Seventh-Day Adventist friend of mine from Bukidnon told me, “Everything can serve any purpose. You see, if I position this horizontally (referring to a blue ballpen he was holding), it serves as a bridge, but if I put it this way (that is, vertically), it becomes a wall.”

Accordingly, ‘horizontal’ God is He who is viewed as the Creator and Lord of the universe and all mankind. This Supreme Being becomes ‘vertical’ when He is thought to have certain few ‘favorites’ at the expense of a ‘damned’ majority.

Religions also function as a bridge if the common elements among them such as spirituality, moral principles and a notion of Judgment Day are more emphasized. This function was illustrated by la convivencia (‘coexistence’ or ‘living together’) put into practice in Toledo in particular during the Moorish rule of Spain. As a microcosm of the atmosphere of religious tolerance then prevalent in the city, Jews, Christians and Muslims were working together in the city’s libraries, translating books from Arabic into Castilian Spanish and then into Latin.

On the contrary, there is no more need of embellishing this column with accounts of religions in ‘vertical’ position as human history is drenched enough with innocent blood spilled in their name.

Eschatology is no exception to this horizontal-vertical binary.

Etymologically derived from the Latin eschatos (‘last’ or ‘farthest’), eschatology refers to the branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or the ultimate destiny of mankind. One of its important subjects is the idea of a ‘savior’ to come at the end of time. This awaited savior is known by various names and titles—Saoshyant, Messiah, Christ (in his Second Coming), and Mahdi, among many others.

Neither is Filipino folklore devoid of it. Legend tells us that Bernardo Carpio who is confined in a cave in Mt. Tapusi in Montalban Mountains (or Mt. San Mateo in Rizal) or trapped within two clashing mountains for a long time will one day come out to redeem the Philippines. (Apo Ferdie, as I was told by a Marcos loyalist when I was 12 during the 1985 Snap Election, was the personification of Bernardo! Remember the catchphrase, “This nation can be great again!”)

Sociologically, human society in whatever appearance it takes—race, nation, class or religious order—upholds this concept. As argued by Dr. ‘Ali Shari‘ati, a contemporary Iranian sociologist and historian, all known communities, without exception, display two common characteristics. First, every community holds that in the distant past it had a ‘golden age’ during which there was justice, peace, tranquility, and love, and that this golden age came to an end at some point in time and was followed by corruption, darkness and injustice. Secondly, they believe in a great and liberating upheaval in the future and a return to the golden age—the age of victory of justice, equality and brotherhood.

These beliefs obviously serve as a bridge as they give a sense of hope, determination and common universal vision and purpose for all peoples of diverse cultural currents and religious persuasions.

This is the ‘horizontal’ side of the story.

Its ‘vertical’ side is now spectacularly moving toward its catastrophic climax as suggested by the carnage of civilians perpetrated daily by ‘Islamist puritans’ in Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere. Interestingly enough, certain messianic extremists in Iraq are reportedly as zealous in resisting foreign occupiers as in engaging in intra- and inter-sectarian frenzy of reprisals, executions and vandalism.

Meanwhile, televangelists and other ‘new armies of God’ are passionate enough in freeing the genie of apocalyptic prophecies (e.g. Daniel 9, Ezekiel 38, Revelation 16:14-16) out of the bottle and wish for their governments to unleash trigger-happy dogs of war in the Middle East, thereby heralding the ‘coming of the Lord’.

An equally smart version of ‘vertical’ eschatology is the espousal of God’s alleged consignment of a piece of land to His selected ‘darlings’ to the detriment of the ‘outcasts’ and ‘bastards’.

In this critical moment when eschatology is extensively fielded via satellite and in the cyberspace as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD), a universal campaign to stop its ‘verticalization’ is an indubitable recipe for planetary survival.

The annual worldwide gathering on Messianism/Mahdism is a seminal stride, though a limited one, in a long gradual process of forging a ‘Non-Proliferation Treaty’ specifically covering this more devastating type of WMD.

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The ‘Amman Message’: A Primer

The Amman Message

MAKATI CITY (3 June) – Immediately after the first round of Pakighinabi (Conversation) Series on the significance of the ‘Amman Message’ in interfaith and intra-faith dialogues (http://www.addu.edu.ph/blog/2015/04/29/the-significance-of-the-amman-message-by-dr-mansoor-limba) at the Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, on April 22, 2015, and another presentation (The Role of Religious Organizations in the Promotion of Mutual Understanding and Harmony: The Case of ‘Amman Message’) at an international interreligious conference on the approach of Islam and Christianity towards religious extremism and violence (http://www.ust.edu.ph/news/international-conference-on-interreligious-dialogue) held at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, on April 29-30, 2015, the need for an introductory reading material on the said document was expressed by some attendants to both forums. This primer is a personal response to the said request.

Q: What is the ‘Amman Message’?

A: The ‘Amman Message’ started as a detailed statement released on the eve of the 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH / 9th November 2004 by H.M. King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Q: What does the ‘Amman Message’ significantly contain?

A: The ‘Amman Message’ significantly contains three (3) questions posed to 24 of the most senior Muslim scholars from around the world (including Shaykh al-Azhar of Egypt, Ayatullah Sistani of Iran and Shaykh Qaradawi of Qatar): (1) Who is a Muslim? (2) Is it permissible to declare someone an apostate (takfir)? (3) Who has the right to undertake issuing fatwas (legal rulings)?

Q: What relevant event happened subsequent to the issuance of the detailed statement?

A: In order to cement further the religious-legal authority of the answers to the said three fundamental questions, King Abdullah II convened in July 2005 an international Islamic conference of 200 of the world’s leading Muslim scholars (‘ulama) from 50 countries.

Q: What were the points highlighted in the said conference?

A: Three (3) points were highlighted in the said conference, namely: (1) Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (madhahib) of Muslim jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i, and Hanbali), the two Shi‘ah schools of Muslim jurisprudence (Ja‘fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Muslim jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Muslim jurisprudence, is a Muslim. (2) There exists more in common between the various schools of Muslim jurisprudence than there is difference between them. (3) Acknowledgement of the schools of Muslim jurisprudence (madhahib) within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas.

Q: In short, what is the significance of the ‘Amman Message’ in intra-faith dialogue or the relationship among Muslims?

A: The said document is reportedly the largest contemporary ijma (consensus) in the Muslim world. From July 2005 to July 2006, it had already earned 552 endorsements from 84 countries including those of the late King Abdullah al-Saud and 14 other personalities from Saudi Arabia, Al-Azhar University Rector (mufti) Sheikh Tantawi of Egypt, Sheikh Qaradawi of Qatar, Ayatullah Sistani of Iraq, and Imam Khamene’i of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As of June 1, 2015, there are 68,975 online endorsements since March 1, 2007.

Q: What are other efforts along this line of the ‘Amman Message’?

A: In contemporary time, there have been many intra-faith efforts by Muslim scholars, some of which are the correspondences (al-muraja‘at) between Sheikh Salim Bisri of Al-Azhar University, Egypt, and Sayyid Sharafuddin Musawi of Lebanon; the exchanges between Sheikh Mahmud Shaltut of Al-Azhar University, Egypt, and Sayyid Husayn Burujerdi of Iran; the opening of Dar al-Taqrib bayn al-Madhahib fi’l-Islam (Forum for Proximity of the Schools of Thought in Islam) in Egypt; re-opening of Dar al-Taqrib bayn al-Madhahib fi’l-Islam in Tehran; the declaration of 12th to 17th of the Islamic lunar month of Rabi‘ al-Awwal as International Islamic Unity Week; and the annual International Islamic Unity Conference every month of Rabi‘ al-Awwal, among others.  

Q: In short, what is the significance of ‘Amman Message’ in interfaith dialogue or the relationship of Muslims with followers of other religions?

A: A relevant point highlighted in ‘Amman Message’ is that acknowledgement of the schools of Muslim jurisprudence (madhahib) within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas. In other words, only a high-ranking Muslim scholar worth his title has the authority to issue religious edict, which oftentimes targets the lives of both Muslims and non-Muslims. As such, not any Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman or ‘Ali is religiously qualified to do so.

Amman Message’ website further elaborates, thus: “The safeguarding of the legal methodologies of Islam (the madhahib) necessarily means inherently preserving traditional Islam’s internal ‘checks and balances’. It thus assures balanced Islamic solutions for essential issues like human rights; women’s rights; freedom of religion; legitimate jihad; good citizenship of Muslims in non-Muslim countries, and just and democratic government. It also exposes the illegitimate opinions of radical fundamentalists and terrorists from the point of view of true Islam.”

Q: Given this intra-faith and interfaith significance of the ‘Amman Message,’ how can one endorse the document?

A: It is very easy. The endorsement can be done online. Just visit ‘Amman Message’ website at http://www.ammanmessage.com.

Q: How long will online endorsement take?

A: It will only take one to three minutes to fill up the following information: full name; email (required); country (required); date of birth (required); title; position; organization; whether Muslim or not; whether Muslim scholar (‘alim) or not; and gender.

Q: May a non-Muslim endorse the ‘Amman Message’?

A: The fact that one of the pieces of information asked in the online endorsement box is whether the endorser is a Muslim or not logically follows that a non-Muslim may endorse the ‘Amman Message’ considering its practical importance and benefits to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Q: How can one invite a friend to join the online endorsement?

A: The website provides a Tell a Friend Script (http://ammanmessage.com/tellafriend/index.php) which will only take a minute to fill up.

Q: How many and who are the prominent Muslim entities from the Philippines that have already endorsed the ‘Amman Message’?

A: Based on the information provided in the ‘Amman Message’ website (http://ammanmessage.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17&Itemid=31) as of June 1, 2015, there is no prominent Muslim entity yet from the Philippines that has endorsed the ‘Amman Message’.

 

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