Monthly Archives: August 2017

Taqrib, Not Takfir: The Way to Rediscover

(A modified version of a reaction to the presentation “Intra-Religious Dialogue: How a Faith Tradition Can Rediscover Its Unity” by Felix Körner, SJ, PhD, Pakighinabi Conversation Series, Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, Philippines, August 30, 2017. Fr. Körner, a German Jesuit priest, holds two doctorates in Islamic Studies and Catholic Dogmatics. Affiliated to the Rome-based Pontifical Gregorian University, and a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue’s “Commission for Relations with Muslims,” the lead discussant lectures on the Catholic faith, intra-Christian dialogue, and Muslim-Christian relations.)

At the outset, let me greet all of you – including the awake, the sleepy and the sleeping ones – with the greetings of peace: Salamun ‘alaykum! I am Mansoor Limba, your brother in faith and/or humanity…

Considering the very short time allotted, I shall concisely describe what I observe to be the trend of every faith tradition, and then I will cite Qur’anic passages that somehow give a hint on this trend. I will proceed on attempting to make a conceptual clarification of the word ‘unity’. Thereafter, I will cite three cases of efforts toward Islamic proximity (taqrib). Then I will make my concluding remarks.

Trend of Every Faith Tradition

I hope that all of you have no qualms in agreeing with me that true to all faith traditions, during the early period of each faith tradition, the doctrines and practices were simple and uncomplicated, while the original guide or guides were present, guiding the community of believers.

At a later period, the doctrines and practices would tend to become complicated, with the coming of new circumstances, followers, and questions. You can add to that the fact that during the same time, the original guide or guides were no more present.

The early period may be described in every faith tradition as an ideal period on account of the absence of differences. On the other hand, the later period may be described as a period challenge or challenges due to the then emerging differences and conflicts.

Qur’anic Citations

Making a hint on both periods, some Qur’anic passages, such as those below, can be cited:

“Indeed this community of yours is one community, and I am your Lord. So worship Me.” (21:92)

“The faithful are indeed brothers.” (49:10)

“Hold fast, all together, to Allah’s cord, and do not be divided.” (3:103)

“And do not be like those who were divided [into sects] and started discord.” (3:105)

“O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you. And if you dispute concerning anything, refer it to Allah and the Apostle, if you have faith in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more favorable in outcome.” (4:59)

Conceptual Clarification of ‘Unity’

The title of this Conversation is “Intra-Religious Dialogue: How a Faith Tradition Can Rediscover Its Unity.” As you may agree, a key term here is ‘unity,’ which requires conceptual clarification; otherwise, we will commit the same mistake of the anecdotal four blind men – in the poetry of Hafiz – who claim to know what elephant is, whereas in reality, each of them only touched an elephant’s body part.

When we talk about Islamic unity, we actually mean any of the following conceptions: (1) homogenization, (2) heterogeneity, and (3) proximity.

In homogenization, the way to attain the unity of the Muslim ummah (community) is to homogenize all Muslim schools of thought; to unify the Islamic school of thought. The outcome of this approach to unity is takfir or to declare other Muslims as unbelievers (kafir) and, therefore, as apostates (murtaddin) – “whose blood is ought to be shed”.

Another way to Islamic unity is ‘heterogeneity’ in which we assume that all these Muslim schools of thought are absolutely correct. The outcome of this approach is, in my view, something that borders on hypocrisy (nifaq).

The third way to achieve unity among the Muslims, which in my opinion, is the viable and reasonable one, is proximity or taqrib. Under this conception of unity, there is the attempt at exploring common grounds as guided by mutual recognition and respect among the various Muslim schools of thought.

Efforts Toward Proximity (taqrib)

And in recent years there have been many efforts along this line. One case was the long correspondence between a Sunni and a Shi‘ah scholar, namely, Shaykh Salim Bisri, the Rector (Mufti) of Al-Azhar University, Egypt, and Sayyid ‘Abd al-Husayn Sharafuddin al-Musawi of Lebanon. The outcome of this effort was the publication of their series of correspondence in book form under the title Al-Muraja‘at (“The Correspondence”). The good news is that its English rendition is available online for free.

Subsequent to this correspondence was the interaction between two equally prominent Sunni and Shi‘ah Muslim scholars at the time, namely, Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut, the Mufti of Al-Azhar University, Egypt, and Sayyid Husayn Burujirdi of Iran. The two outcomes of this effort by these two religious giants in the then Muslim world were Shaykh Shaltut’s fatwa (religious edict) recognizing Shi‘ah Ithna Ash‘ari jurisprudence as a valid Islamic jurisprudence, and the creation of World Forum for the Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought (Dar al-Taqrib bayn al-Madhahib al-Islamiyyah).

A third and relatively recent case is the Amman Message, which fortunately was mentioned by Fr. Felix in his presentation. 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. It 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)?

Three important points are highlighted in the document: (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.

Conclusion

In conclusion, rather than takfir, taqrib is the way to rediscover Muslim unity, and a simple step viable to you and I at this point in time is the endorsement of the Amman Message (http://ammanmessage.com). In doing so, you will only spend a minute indicating your name, email, position, and word of endorsement (http://ammanmessage.com/invitation-to-endorse-the-amman-mes…).

In case a minute is still too long for you, just Like and Share Amman Message’s official Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Official.Amman.Message). Doing so is just as fast as saying, “Yes to TAQRIB, No to TAKFIR!”

Thank you!

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Meet Maya

Meet our new friend, Maya. She is the grade 3 daughter of Prof. Jianrong Chen, the Founder and Executive Director of Jinan University’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, which hosted and organized last month the China-Asia Peace and Leadership Training Workshop at Jinan University, Guangzhou, China.

Brought up in Asian values of respecting elders, Maya would not just settle with calling us workshop participants as “uncle” or “aunt”. She would rather call us“granduncle” or “grandaunt”!

The first ‘victim’ of this appellation was no other than ‘Granduncle’ Kriya Langputeh during last year’s workshop when Maya met him for the first time. Next year, it would be nice to hear her calling him ‘Great-granduncle’!

Maya is the youngest peace-builder in the group. She is a photographer, an English interlocutor, a Tai Chi practitioner, a drawing artist, and a workshop facilitator.

As we finished our last dinner after the workshop’s closing program, I taught her the ‘magic’ of putting a piece of paper at my back neck and pulling it out from my mouth.

Thereafter I returned to the hotel at dust amidst a heavy downpour.

As I was folding my umbrella in my hotel room and recalling how happy Maya was for knowing the ‘magic,’ I couldn’t help but wish – “How I wish this umbrella would turn into a magic wand for world peace that Maya and her generation would truly enjoy!”

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Retreat as Presence

In all my moments of joy and sadness, You have been always with me. You always bless me, support me and sustain me. I feel blessed although I don’t deserve it because I know my lapses and weaknesses. In unexpected moments, I always feel Your Unseen help. But in times of sadness, I would feel You most. You are there as I would experience the pain, and later on, I would open my heart for acceptance and take lessons from it.

I also believe that in times I don’t remember and am oblivious of You, You are always there, without leaving me even for a single moment. I thank You for giving me the opportunity to thank You, and once again, I do thank You for the opportunity to thank You for the second time. Therefore, I have to thank you infinitely.

In all those years, I cannot desire anything but thanks and gratitude to You — gratitude to You for the successes as well as the opportunity to accept the sad experiences with an open heart.

Right now, my relationship with You is that of reconciliation and continuous returning; a relationship of a lover with his Beloved who is absolutely loving and unconditionally caring.

My concept of You is that of an All-loving, unconditionally compassionate and ever understanding Friend. With this conception of You, I do experience You in all the ups and downs of my life – both in times of remembering and obliviousness, moments of prosperity and adversity, alone or not.

My attention to small ‘beloveds’ seemed to be the hindrances in my pursuit of a greater love with You, my Real and Only Beloved.
Instead of submitting to Your will and winning Your Divine pleasure, time and again, I allow myself to follow the dictates of my whims and caprice. In other words, I allow myself to pay attention to other than You.

Perhaps, I am called to a conversion of the heart so as to be more closely united with You through the ways of Your Word: the declaration of nearness to me, the assurance of Your forgiveness whenever I sincerely ask for it and return to You, and the certainty of Your unmatched understanding and overflowing grace.

As a commitment of faith or personal mission statement, I will try to be a better lover everyday; now better than yesterday; and tomorrow better than today. This I will do by saying thus: ‘Verily, my prayer and my sacrifices, my life and my death are all for the sake of You, my Beloved.”

Give me the goodness in this world. This ‘goodness’ is absolutely known to You and You alone. It can be longevity of life or its opposite. It may be health or the lack of it; it may be wealth or the lack of it; it may be the enormity of friends and well wishers, or the scarcity of the same.

This goodness in this world may be intelligence or its contrast. It may be physical attractiveness or repulsiveness. It may be multitude of offspring or the lack of it.

As such, I desire nothing but what You desire because I certainly know that I may desire for something which is bad for me, and on the contrary, I may dislike something which is good for me.

In short, of a surety, whatever You desire is that which is absolutely desirable for me. Because of this, I thank You endlessly.

I ask for Your love, for understanding Your love, and for always tasting the sweetness of Your love.

Let my words and deeds be imbued with the Divine Love. Let them be a manifestation of sincerity and truthfulness, humility and meekness.

Let every offence I make, if ever I will, be a source of self-realization and feeling of remorse. Let it give me the sense of alienation and distance from You so that I would long to immediately return to Your lap. Let it become a window of enlightenment.

Do not let every good I do turn into a speck of atom of pride and self-confidence in me. Do not let it give me a feeling of self-sufficiency and independence from You. Do not let it transform into a sense of goodness and holiness in me.

As this shortwhile retreat inevitably comes to a close, I thank You for this rare opportunity for a rendezvous. I see it as a journey to continue the longer journey of life.

Just as I look at retreat as a kind of entrance and exit, I also consider concluding a retreat a sort of exit and entrance – exit from dating with one’s Beloved and entrance to the realm of dealing with and giving attention to others while always keeping in one’s mind and heart the all-pervading presence of one’s Beloved.

As I become more aware, once again, of Your Divine Presence, I do totally submit to Your desire and pleasure. So, always bestow me the pleasure of winning Your pleasure.

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Retreat and Silence

Retreat does not only mean withdrawal from the hustle and bustle of daily life; it is an encounter — an encounter with solitude and silence; it is an encounter with your Darling; it is a rendezvous with your Beloved; it is meeting with your Favorite.

Retreat is finding space. It is an exclusive tete-a-tete with you Best Friend.

Silence means the lack of noise and voice. It is the special fast observed by Prophet Zachariah and Blessed Mary. It could be a noisy silence or a voiceless one. It is a definite immunity from oral mistake.

Silence means freedom from the menace of the most dangerous flesh on earth (tongue). It means not only not talking but it is speaking through a voiceless language; it is hearing noises within; it is listening to the voiceless voice within.

Silence means knocking at the door of solitude. It means initially entertaining tumults and agitations of the heart. It is the speaking engagement of the heart.

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West Asia

The “Middle East” is that region in the continent of Asia which, whenever it is mentioned, what immediately comes to our mind is “Arab Region”.

For the Europeans, it’s the “middle” East just as China and its neighboring countries in East Asia are the “Far East” as it is furthest for them. For us in Southeast Asia, however, the “Middle East” is not the middle, neither is the “Far East” far from us. This is a classical example of social construction in geography and other social sciences.

Be that as it may, this region is a crossroad of major religious traditions; a melting-pot of tastes and textures; a locus of tradition and modernity.

That is West Asia.

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Photographers

It has been always a wholesome way of ‘giving back’ to snap photos of our photographers who would passionately capture significant moments of our training workshop.

          

Photographers – professional or not – are truly unsung heroes of events and occasions.

They are gallant warriors whose formidable weapons are camera lenses and right angles.

          

They are zealous missionaries whose lofty mission is to capture non-retractable moments and instances in our lives.

          

They are ardent lovers who are infatuated with imagery, enamored by panorama, and enchanted by vista. Their favorite serenade is “Ready, one, two, click!”

         

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Tougher to Negotiate With

The second module we had studied during the Asia-China Peace and Leadership Training-Workshop (Jinan University, Guangzhou, China, July 14-23, 2017) was about International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, and for this two-day module, we were lucky enough to have PROF. GUY OLIVIER FAURE as our facilitator or resource person.

Dr. Faure is currently a Visiting Professor at CEIBS, Shanghai, China; Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Sorbonne University, Paris; and Director of International Conflict Resolution Center, The Hague, Netherlands.

Having done extensive works in international negotiations and conflict resolution, particularly in the domains of Long-term Strategic Forecast, Terrorism, and Business Security, Prof. Faure has lectured in a number of renowned universities and institutions including the Harvard Law School and the New York University.

He has authored, co-authored and edited 19 books and over a hundred articles, and one of those books is entitled “Negotiating with Terrorists: Strategy, Tactics and Politics” (Routledge, 2008).

During the second and last day of the module, as the time for lunch was approaching and everybody seemed to be already imagining to hold a spoon, instead of ballpen, I posed a question:

“Sir Olivier, taking into consideration your wide array of experiences in negotiation, both as a theoretician and a practitioner, which do you think is tougher to negotiate with: the ISIS, or MISIS (“wife” or “madame” in Filipino)?

After an unprecedented laughter, Sir Olivier retorted, “Of course, it’s the MISIS because they personally know our soft spot!”

How I wish, Sir Olivier’s next book project will be entitled, “Negotiating with MISIS: Strategy, Tactics and Politics.”

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Retreat: A Forward Movement

Retreat (i’tikaf) is not to step backward; it is rather a forward movement. It is a motion to desire (iradah). It is to desire for something; at times, it means to desire not to desire. It is a desire for a rendezvous (liqa’); yes, it is a desire for a date – dating with a Familiar Face, nay the Most Familiar One. As a corollary, it is a desire not to desire for anything other than the Most Familiar Countenance.

Retreat is not to go to a remote place; rather, it is a homecoming. It is not a journey to a strange land, but to be a resident dweller. It is not to observe a ritualistic fast of silence, but rather to shout, “Home sweet home!”

Retreat is not a departure, but rather an arrival. It is an arrival to the warm embrace of nature – the chirping of birds, the falling of leaves, the caterwauling of cats, the murmuring of bees, the gentle waves of the sea, and the splotching in a brook.

Hence, when you have no desire yet, then desire for that desire from the Source of desires, as He is indeed most desirous to grant you that desire. And as you approach the doorstep of the House of Returning (tawbah) by walking slowly, be aware that your Beloved is welcoming you running most ardently.

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