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The Light, Love and Peace of Islam

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The Light, Love and Peace of Islam
(Transcription of a TV Interview of Shaykh Fadhlalla, Broadcast in Canada in 1991)

(By John Giancarlo)

This booklet is presented with the hope that it will help people to better understand the concepts of Islam and to lead them to a higher level of reverence for God and greater level of spiritual fulfillment. Islam signifies submission to God, and a Muslim is one submits to God. Muslims, Christians and Jews are united by their belief in One Divine Being, variously named God, Jehovah or Allah who enjoins us to respect life and to love one another. They also share the belief of the survival of the inner self or soul after the body dies.

Unfortunately, the popular media often report the tragic occurrences that tend to cause division among people of different religions, culture and races rather than those events which unite us. In this booklet Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri discusses the ideals and practices that, if followed, can enrich and unite all humanity. It was my good fortune to meet Shaykh Fadhlalla, to question him and hear the inspirational message that he delivered during my interview with him.

The initial meeting that eventually led to the publication of this booklet was arranged by Tayie Rehem, the producer of TV ISLAM INTERNATIONAL. On a rainy morning in May of 1990, I received a telephone call from Tayie to advise me that Shaykh Fadhlalla was visiting in the area, and asked me if I could meet with them.

As Director of Umma Television Productions based in St. Catherine's, Ontario, Tayie wished to film my interview with television across Canada. Tayie and I had just returned from a trip to Italy and Spain where we had filmed a series of television documentaries on Islam in Rome and Granada. In Italy we were invited, by the Director of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Rome, Abdul-Qayuum Khan to visit the new Mosque under construction just about 3 miles from the Vatican. An indication of the positive changes that are occurring among religious groups is that the Vatican now has an official representative, whose role it is to serve as the liaison official of the Catholic Church with the Muslim community. Our interview with Father Michel at the Vatican revealed the sympathetic attitude of the Church that now exists towards people of other faiths and Muslims in particular.

As we traveled through countries of Europe by train, Tayie and I had a great deal of time to discuss such matters as religion, values, morality, ethics, the self, and many of the ideas that Shaykh Fadhlalla has written about in his book 'The Journey of the Self.' I had received a copy of this book almost a year before our trip to Europe and had read the book a number of times. It took me some time to get used to the style of writing, terminology and the original ideas it contained.

When Shaykh Fadhlalla talks about the heart being "empty", for example, he does not mean it is devoid of feeling, rather he refers to one's heart being free of the anger, hatred, greed, or envy, that in actuality interferes with the bliss a person is capable of experiencing. The underlying theme of the book is the development of one's inner-self, right action in this life and the unity of the self with the Infinite.

As we drove to meet Shaykh Fadhlalla in St. Catharine's, I jotted down a few questions I wanted to ask him about the thoughts he had expressed in his book on the self. Shaykh Fadhlalla greeted us with very warm welcome. The peace and joy that he radiated put us immediately at ease and the conversation flowed freely between us. As a Sufi teacher Shaykh Fadhlalla has many followers and has written extensively on the subject of Sufism in his book 'The Elements of Sufism.' [Nuradeen: The Elements of Sufism has now been reprinted under the title, 'The Thoughtful Guide to Sufism'] There is some speculation on the origin of the word Sufi, but according to some authorities the term is derived from the Arabic word "safa" which means purity. A Sufi is a person who seeks the path of inner enlightenment and purification of the heart. Sufism is "the heart of Islam" according to Shaykh Fadhlalla, and its followers aim at the improvement of their character and behavior as part of their submission to God. Spiritual progress is achieved by abandoning attachments to the material world, and pursuing the awakening of the inner life as a necessary condition to achieving fulfillment as a human being. Shaykh Fadhlalla writes that, "The true art of Sufism leads towards the steady state of being contented, integrated, wise, courteous, kindly and at peace". These are the very qualities that I observed Shaykh Fadhlalla to have during our meeting that day in May. It was these admirable qualities that he himself has achieved that drew me to a contemplation of his message.

The taping of my interview took place at Niagara-on-the-Lake at the home of Dr. Sahin, an eminent physician, and a major supporter of TV ISLAM. Tayie Rehem filmed almost continuously for about 4 hours, stopping only to reload the camera periodically.

None of the interview was rehearsed. Shaykh Fadhlalla spoke completely extemporaneously and with great enthusiasm. Some of the questions I addressed to him were those that I had planned to ask, but as Shaykh Fadhlalla spoke most of my comments and questions arose spontaneously. The result was a message that came completely from the heart as sincere and inspirational as one could ever wish to hear. When Tayie produced the tapes to be aired on national television during the month of Ramadan in 1991, I was amazed as I heard once again the voice of Shaykh Fadhlalla. His words had an even greater impact as I heard them again. It occurred to me that the tapes should be transcribed and made available in a booklet for convenience and easy reference so that one might read and reflect on the words of this renowned spiritual teacher. The idea received the unqualified support of Shaykh Fadhlalla and his friends. The title of the booklet, "The Light. Love and Peace of Islam" suggested itself to me for several reasons. The words of the title denote the major concepts of Islam that were discussed by Shaykh Fadhlalla.

Light was chosen because it is the medium through which God reveals to us all that is beautiful. In the Qur`an we find this passage referring to light and enlightenment: "Light upon Light, God doth guide Whom He will To His Light".

Ultimately, a Sufi teacher has written, "enlightenment is a gift from Allah". We can compare ignorance to darkness and knowledge to light or enlightenment. In the translation of the Qur`an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali we find the following commentary on Light: "So men of God who preach God's truth are themselves illuminated by God's Light and become the illuminating media through which that Light spreads and permeates human life". Shaykh Fadhlalla is a Sufi teacher who has been given the gift of enlightenment, and in turn strives to illuminate the path for others.

Love and Peace were chosen as part of the title because of their prominence in Shaykh Fadhlalla's thoughts. He has written, "It is by love that we are propelled towards contentment and fulfillment". Love takes many forms but the most satisfying is the love of God. It is through this love that we achieve peace.

One of the divine names of God is "As-Salaam", or Peace. The achievement of true peace within ourselves is accompanied by a great joy and a love for all creation. The other equally important aspect of love is the love of mankind and indeed for all that God has created. It is written in the Qur`an that, "Of Him seeks its need every creature in the Heavens and on earth every day in new splendor Doth He shine".

In this passage we observe the word "shine" which denotes God's light. God is ever merciful and compassionate. Shaykh Fadhlalla notes that another of the divine names of God is "Al-Jamal", the Beautiful. A prophetic Muslim proverb states: "Allah is beautiful and loves beauty". Shaykh Fadhlalla is also realistic in acknowledging that the world, though beautiful, is beset by problems, tragedy, and strife. There is among its people competition for, as well as waste of, food, water, and natural resources. Poverty, ignorance and many evils abound. These problems, however, cannot be laid at the doorstep of God. They are the inevitable results of man's inaction and unwillingness to work together with others in solving human problems. Shaykh Fadhlalla writes, "As long as there is injustice there will be agitation and turmoil preventing the possibility of lasting peace". It behooves us, all enlightened persons of all faiths, therefore to do all within our power to help in eliminating prejudice, hate, and injustice and promoting understanding, brotherhood, and peace. Such is the aim of Shaykh Fadhlalla as his words and actions testify. In the words of the Qur`an: "Those who believe, and work righteousness their Lord will guide them because of their Faith; this will be their cry therein 'Glory to Thee, O God!' and 'Peace' will be their greeting".

May the words of Shaykh Fadhlalla in this booklet bring light to your life, love to your heart and peace to your soul.

John Giancarlo, January 22, 1992

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