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.
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.'
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
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
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
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
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:
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