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Charity and Compassion Interreligious Perspectives

VIEWS: 21 PAGES: 143

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									  ISSN: 2218-7480                          RELIGIONS/ADYĀN
  Price: $10/QR 30
  Published by the Doha Internation-       • Dr. Patrick Laude, Professor at the Georgetown University School
                                             of Foreign Service in Qatar, Editor-in-Chief.
  al Center for Interfaith Dialogue
  P.O. BOX: 19309 Doha, Qatar
                                           Editorial Board:
                                           • Dr. Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Chairman, Doha International Center for
  Tel: +974 486 46 66                        Interfaith Dialogue.
  +974 486 55 54                           • Dr. Dheen Muhammad, Associate Dean, College of Sharī’ah and
  Fax: +974 486 32 22                        Islamic Studies, Qatar University.
  +974 486 99 00                           • Dr. Mark Farha, Visiting Assistant Professor, Georgetown
                                             University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.
                                           • Dr. Roger Bensky, Professor at the Georgetown University School
                                             of Foreign Service in Qatar.

                                           Administrative and Editorial Staff:
                                           • Ellen Lafouge, Graphic Designer.
                                           • Hamdi Blekic, Head of Public Relations, Doha International
                                             Center for Interfaith Dialogue.
 Charity and Compassion:                   • Firose ‘Abdul-Khader, Editorial Assistant, Doha International
Interreligious Perspectives                  Center for Interfaith Dialogue.
                                           • ‘Abd-ar-Rahman El-Khalifa, Editorial Assistant.
                                           • Yasmeen Al-Sayyad, Editorial Assistant.

                                           International Advisory Board:
                                           • Dr. Akinade Akintunde, Professor of Theology, Georgetown
                                             University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.
                                           • Dr. Rodney Blackhirst, Philosophy and Religious Studies, La
                                             Trobe University, Bendigo, Australia.
                                           • David Bakewell Burrell, C.S.C., Hesburgh Chair of Theology &
                                             Philosophy, Notre Dame University, United States of America.
                                           • Dr. James Cutsinger, Professor of Religious Studies, University of
                                             South Carolina, United States of America.
                                           • Dr. Amira El-Zein, Professor of Arabic, Georgetown University
                                             School of Foreign Service in Qatar.
                                           • Dr. Eric Geoffroy, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies,
                                             University of Strasbourg II, France.
                                           • Dr. Ibrahim Kalin, Chief Policy Adviser to Prime Minister Recep
  Cover: Copyright, Kai-Henrik Barth,
                                             Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey.
  Pushkar, Rajasthan, India,
                                           • Dr. Jean-Pierre Lafouge, Associate Professor, Department of
  September 20, 2009                         Foreign Languages and Literatures, Marquette University, United
  Pictures Credits and Copyright:            States of America.
                                           • Dr. Oliver Leaman, Professor of Philosophy and Zantker Professor
  p. 33. Abda Latif Al-Mitwali               of Judaic Studies, University of Kentucky, United States of America
  pp. 6, 14, 19, 21, 29, 38, 49, 56, 65,   • Dr. Rusmir Mahmutcehajic, Professor, University of Sarajevo,
  70, 79, 80, 85, 86, 132, 135. Kai-         Bosnia-Herzegovina.
                                           • Dr. Kenneth Oldmeadow, Philosophy and Religious Studies, La
  Henrik Barth
                                             Trobe University, Bendigo, Australia.
  pp. 119, 122. Nuria Garcia               • Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, University Professor of Islamic Studies,
                                             The George Washington University, United States of America.
  p. 55. Jennifer Jones
                                           • Dr. Jacob Neusner, Professor, Bard College, New York, United
  pp. 24, 127. Patrick Laude                 States of America.
                                           • Dr. Eliezer Segal, Professor, Department of Religious Studies,
  p. 76. Aun Ling Lim
                                             University of Calgary, Canada
  p. 102. Aramia Neguib                    • Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi, Research Associate, The Institute of
                                             Ismaili Studies, London, United Kingdom.
                                           • Dr. Arvind Sharma, Birks Chair of Comparative Religion, McGill
  2                                          University, Montreal, Canada.
A Scholarly Journal Published by the Doha International Center for
Interfaith Dialogue

Religions/Adyân is an annual and bi-lingual (English and Arabic) publication in interfaith studies
published by the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue with an emphasis on interreli-
giousdialogue and the relations between Islam and other faiths.
In a world of religious misunderstandings, violence, and hijacking of religious faiths by political
ideologies, Religions/Adyān intends to provide a welcome space of encounter and reflection upon
the commonalities and shared goals of the great religions of the world. The title of the journal sug-
gests religious diversity while suggesting the need to explore this diversity in order to develop keys
to both a deepening of one’s own faith and a meaningful opening to other creeds. The Qur’ân sug-
gests a commonality of faith and a striving for the Truth within the context of religious diversity:
“To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If God had so willed, He would
have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive
as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the
matters in which ye dispute.” (The Table Spread 5:48, version of Yusuf Ali)
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understood, while engaging the various religious faiths that share common principles and values
within this broadly defined context.
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logue and mutual enrichment. Its aim is to promote understanding between religious faithful of
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better understanding of the causes of their conflicts, and the current challenges of their encounter
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     Charity and Compassion:
    Interreligious Perspectives

   Editorial                                                                       07
   by Patrick Laude

   A Conversation with Rabbi Steinsaltz                                            08

   On Love, Passion and Fidelity                                                   14
   by Archbishop George Khodr

   A Charter for Compassion                                                        21
   by Karen Armstrong

   The Confucian Perception of Religious Pluralism: Globalization and Diversity    29
   by Tu Weiming

   Loving Compassion in Islam and Buddhism: Rahma and Karunā                       43
   by Reza Shah-Kazemi

   Love and compassion in the Abrahamic religions                                  57
   by Oliver Leaman

   Compassion in Traditional and Secular Morality                                  65
   by M. Ali Lakhani

   Can Creatures ‘adorn themselves’ with the Names of God?                         76
   by David B. Burrell

   Further Observations on Love (or Equality)                                      86
   by Nur Yalman

   Shared Typologies of Marital Love and (Com)passion in Islam and Christianity 102
   by Mark Farha

   The Face of the Praised                                                        119
   by Rusmir Mahmutćehajić

   Book Reviews                                                                   140

   Contributors                                                                   145

   English Abstracts of Articles in Arabic                                        148


One year ago, the launch issue of Religions-Adyān was published. This first out-
put was met with a high degree of interest and enthusiasm both in Qatar and
around the world. Taking stock of these promising beginnings, the Doha Interna-
tional Center for Interfaith Dialogue and its Chairman Dr. Ibrahim Al-Naimi have
supported the conception and realization of the first numbered issue that will be,
so we hope, a major landmark in providing our journal with a wider diffusion.
    Our initial issue was centred upon the common grounds shared by the world’s
religions, as a foundation for further inquiries and exchanges. When faced with
the consideration of a theme for the current issue, none seemed more appropri-
ate than the virtues of charity and compassion. There is no religion that does not
teach that the Supreme Reality involves goodness and love, and does not call
mankind to reach perfection by treating other human beings with compassion
and charity. This is the golden rule upon which all religious ethics are based.
    Now, it must be recognized that the notions of charity, compassion and love
are not without some elements of diffusiveness or ambiguity, and sometimes may
even refer to realities that are not necessarily contingent upon, nor consonant
with, religious principles. After all, everybody “loves love,” but in what ways do
religiously informed compassion and charity differ, in their understanding and
practice, from the basic human, and even secular, forms of benevolence? More-
over, the words love, charity and compassion may be translated in different ways
in various languages, while human love covers a whole spectrum of manifesta-
tions, from motherly love to the love of God.
   Finally, as much as religion is about love and charity, it is also about law, fear,
knowledge, and many other dimensions. Attention must be paid, therefore, to
the ways in which these manifold aspects relate to, and sometimes intersect with
compassion. The goal of this issue is to explore some of these matters and show
that the notions of charity and compassion have much richer and deeper layers of
meaning than may appear at first sight.
    While mercy, charity and compassion are indeed common principles among
believers of all traditional faiths, they are also the very conditions for the possibil-
ity of a meaningful dialogue across faiths. Through a richer understanding of the
meaning of loving bonds between mankind and God and among mankind, we
enable ourselves to engage in a more fertile encounter with other faiths.

                                                                       Patrick Laude

A Conversation
Rabbi Steinsaltz

Patrick Laude: What are the                     of the word rahamim, compassion – rhm
Hebrew words that would                         – also carries the meaning of love (a similar
best encapsulate the meanings                   word is found in other Semitic languages
                                                too). In many cases, the difference be-
of love and compassion in
                                                tween the words is that the term “love” is
religion? What do these words                   used towards one who is of equal or higher
suggest?                                        status, while “compassion” is connected
Rabbi Steinsaltz: The Hebrew words for          with whoever is of equal or lower stand-
love – ahavah – and compassion – raha-          ing. In the broadest sense, there is a certain
mim – are used in the language in a gen-        linguistic and intrinsic difference between
eral way, namely, there is no linguistic dis-   the two words: love contains an element
tinction between the use of the words in        of wanting something, while compassion
a religious sense and in a secular sense;       is mostly connected with the notion of giv-
moreover, the terms are not always con-         ing. There are, however, other distinguish-
fined to humans but sometimes are used           ing features between the two words when
even in regard to animals.                      used in a purely religious sense, vis-à-vis
    There is a general distinction between      God (and in Biblical and post-Biblical think-
love and compassion, although the root          ing this love is mutual and expressed both

ways – from God to man and from man to            be found in the Talmud?
God), as it assumed that the human ability        RB. In the Talmud – which is a compila-
to love God is, in itself, a mark of Divine       tion of the Oral Law and is much more
grace, of God loving this person; while           detailed and elaborate than the Scriptures
when used in the human sense they may             – love and compassion are treated in a
as well be one-sided.                             very detailed way. In fact, in Talmudic or
                                                  even pre-Talmudic times a new term was
PL. What is the specifically                       coined: Gemilut Hasadim. This term has no
Judaic perspective on human                       adequate translation into any other lan-
love, i.e. conjugal love, but also                guages, and its various loose translations
friendship?                                       are not very enlightening. On the whole,
                                                  Gemilut Hasadim is a very generalized no-
RB. As stated before, the meaning of the
                                                  tion of charity. But while charity is con-
word “love” is very general, and therefore
                                                  nected with giving financial help to the
the main distinction between love in the
                                                  destitute, Gemilut Hasadim is the general
religious sense and in the general sense is
                                                  admonition to help other people in every
not the power and depth of the emotion,
                                                  sphere of life and give them every kind of
but in its subject.
                                                  help they might need. Unlike charity, which
    In common usages the word “love” may
                                                  is mostly to poor people, Gemilut Hasadim
sometimes be downgraded to mere liking
                                                  is for everybody who needs assistance,
or plain desire; but the general meaning of
                                                  even temporarily or subjectively, regardless
love contains two elements: the wish to be
                                                  of whether the receiver is poor or rich.
closer to the subject of love, and the wish
                                                      In this sense, Gemilut Hasadim bears
to give more and more to this subject. In
                                                  the fullest meaning and is the actual ex-
this sense, love in the human context may
                                                  pression of the term “compassion”, which
be more specific, or more confined, than
                                                  literally means “to feel with somebody
Divine love, but essentially is not different     else,” whenever that person has any prob-
from it. In fact, in many Jewish sources the      lem. Gemilut Hasadim involves a very large
love relationship goes both ways: on the          set of instructions and advice, and the im-
one hand, love between human beings is            portant place that this set of instruction oc-
seen as derived from Divine love; and on          cupies in Jewish life is reflected in the Tal-
the other, human love is often used as a          mudic saying, that Gemilut Hasadim is one
symbol for Divine love.                           of the three pillars upon which the world
    Friendship, in a fullest sense, is not con-   stands (Pirkei Avot – Ethics of Our Fathers
sidered different from love, even though in       1:2).
practice it expresses itself in different forms       On a more theological level, all acts of
and ways than conjugal love, for instance.        Gemilut Hasadim are a part of the very
On a deeper level, friendship that does not       general notion of imitatio Dei. Indeed, in
contain the element of love is not consid-        many cases it says that a certain deed is
ered true friendship, but only a mutual           not just a good deed which is beneficial for
agreement to work together, or at least not       society, and that a certain intention is not
to harm each other.                               only right in the sense that it is a positive
                                                  mindset and a state of spiritual devotion,
PL. What are the main lessons                     but that according to Scripture it is the way
about love and compassion to                      in which God Himself acts.

    The importance of Gemilut Hasadim is          centripetal power of constraint, Gevurah,
such, that sometimes not only whatever is         the power that works from the periphery
directly connected with “good deeds,” but         inwards and which keeps a certain equilib-
practically the entire body of command-           rium in existence.
ments and instructions that deal with our             According to this view, Mercy, Raha-
world (not necessarily those of direct wor-       mim (or Tifereth, in Kabbalistic terminol-
ship) is seen as included within Gemilut          ogy), is seen as a combination of the cen-
Hasadim, since any good deed that is done         trifugal and centripetal powers, because
by people (including some rituals) is seen        Mercy is not only an outburst of an inner
as a way in which people give something           feeling, but also a reaction to the outside
in order to make the very structure of the        existence. The object of love may be any-
world higher and nobler. Doing all these          thing and anybody, and a gift of love is
deeds it is part of sanctifying the universe.     not meant to fulfill any lack in the object;
In this sense doing good deeds, giving and        rather, it is an expression of the innermost
helping others, saying pleasant things etc.,      drive: to love, to give. Mercy, on the other
goes beyond the realm of human needs              hand, although it too contains the notion
and is part of the general notion that doing      of giving and sharing, is judgmental, be-
positive acts toward everything – animals,        cause it starts with the notion that some-
plants, and even inanimate objects – is           body or something is in need, is lacking.
also an act of Gemilut Hasadim. Accord-           Fulfilling such a need is an act of mercy, but
ing to this view, the act of doing anything       mercy is invariably a response or reaction
positive, whatever its object, is considered      to something which is seen as a lack or a
a display of mercy and compassion, and            blemish. Whereas love is based on an in-
therefore has an aspect of Divine worship.        ner drive to give, to be closer, regardless of
                                                  whether the recipient actually needs any-
PL. Has Kabbalah something                        thing, Mercy starts out from the recipient,
specific to teach us about love?                   from the object, and is an attempt to fulfill
RS. In the world of Kabbalah there is a fur-      a want. In this sense, Mercy is more de-
ther distinction between love and mercy.          fined and more “objective” than love; that
The basic idea is that love, on any level,        is why it is seen as a very central power:
stems from within and is fundamentally            judgment treated with love.
non-judgmental. Very broadly speaking,            In fact, some Jewish sources say that the
love – or its outward manifestation as            name of the Lord (Y-H-W-H) is the name
Chesed, which is the attribute of goodness        of the attribute of Mercy, which is the cen-
as well as showing goodness – can be seen         tre point, that combines both the inner self
as defining one of the main powers in the          and the outer existence. Human beings
world, which is an emotion or deed that           may feel mercy most strongly when they
flows from within out unto the world in            encounter pain and suffering; but in the
general, to specific objects within it, and        eyes of the Lord the whole world, being
most specifically to people. This force may        intrinsically confined and incomplete, de-
be seen as the centrifugal power of the           serves mercy. This is how the verse “and
universe, whereby things go from the cen-         His mercy is on all His deeds” (Psalms 145)
ter (or the self, in human terms) to the pe-      is understood: all creatures, even the Arch-
riphery: giving, embracing, sharing, keep-        angels, deserve this kind of mercy. Mercy
ing the world in balance. Parallel to it is the   in people can be felt towards anybody (or

anything) that is suffering for whatever rea-     PL. It has also been written
son. Love has in it a certain amount of re-       that Judaism is more centered
spect for and appreciation of the beloved,        on fear of God than on love
while mercy does not have this limitation;
the farthest and the lowest can equally be
                                                  and knowledge of God. How
objects of mercy.                                 would you respond to this
                                                  view? How do you see the
PL. Considering the ternary of                    relationship between fear and
“Abrahamic religions”, some                       love, knowledge and love in
writers have associated hope to                   Judaism?
Judaism, charity to Christianity                  RS. Judaism deals both with love of God
and faith to Islam. How do you                    and with fear of God; however, in order to
see the specificity of Judaism                     define it properly it should be stated that
in relation to these three                        Judaism as a living religion is unique among
                                                  world religions in that it is very much con-
“virtues,” and particularly in
                                                  cerned with the knowledge of God. There
relation to charity, or more                      is a huge drive in Judaism to attain more
broadly to love?                                  and more of this knowledge. Furthermore,
    RS. If I were to make such a succinct def-    in Judaism there has never been a defined
inition of these three religions, I would do it   group or caste of “the knowledgeable
very differently – namely, by relating more       ones”; on the contrary: everybody – young
to the core ideas and self-understanding of       or old, rich or poor, scholarly or ignorant –
these religions, rather than by attaching a       is expected to be knowledgeable, although
slogan to each. I think that even linguisti-      there always will, of course, be differences
cally, and surely historically, Islam is the      between individuals, and there will always
religion of acceptance of yoke and subjec-        be those who are more capable of study-
tion to God (as far as I know, this was how       ing and gaining knowledge, and others
Muslims and Islam defined themselves in            who for many reasons cannot do that to an
the beginning); Christianity is mostly about      equal degree. In fact, the Messianic dream
Divine redemption, and Judaism is over-           of Judaism, which is also the very last and
whelmingly theocentric, as it concerns it-        summarizing sentence in Maimonides’
self mainly with being connected to God           Code of Law, is: “for the earth shall be full
and doing His will. In this context, charity is   of the knowledge of the Lord, as the wa-
a very broad view of everything. The gen-         ters cover the sea” (Isalah 11:9). The act of
eral aim of life is to fill gaps, to give, to      attaining this knowledge is considered not
mend whatever exists, from the inanimate          only the fulfillment of a wish, but an act of
to the human beings. Nobody and noth-             worship.
ing is complete, and making things better
is our way of continuing God’s creation.
                                                  PL. Is there a universality of
Charity towards human beings, then, is ba-
sically the same thing: it is the attempt to      Judaism, and how would you
fulfill the lacunae of existence in whatever       define or suggest it?
way; sometimes it can be done with a coin,        RS. In Judaism, there are two aspects. One
sometimes with a compliment.                      is the particular duties and command-
                                                  ments that are pertinent only to Jews,
while the other is a very clear view of a        PL. Some important intellectual
universal religion which is the dream and        figures in Judaism defined
desire of Judaism to share with the world.       the relationship of Jews
The commandments of this universal reli-
gion are formalized as the Seven Noahide
                                                 with other communities as a
commandments (those which pertain to             “confrontation” (not in the
all of Noah’s descendants – namely, every        negative sense of the term
human being). They are general precepts          but in the general sense of
about faith and behavior which are the           “being confronted” by alterity);
common human heritage: belief in God,            what do you think of this
prohibition of murder, adultery and incest,      assessment?
creating a just society, and caring for the
                                                 RS. The confrontation of Judaism with oth-
well-being of all other creatures. This “re-
                                                 er communities stems from the assumption
ligion of Adam,” of humanity, is seen as
                                                 that the Jews shouldn’t be different. How-
the ideal way of life for humanity in gen-
                                                 ever, difference does not necessarily mean
eral, and therefore spreading it (but not the
                                                 animosity or hatred; it is just the acknowl-
commandments that pertain particularly to
                                                 edgment of the fact that religions, like in-
Jews) is seen as an ideal.
                                                 dividuals, are different. Love between man
                                                 and woman begins with the acknowledg-
PL. How do you understand                        ment of difference. Difference, then, may
interfaith dialogue from a                       be one of the main forces that create love.
Jewish perspective? What                         But the desire to enforce uniformity – by
is/are its goal(s)? What are                     force, by laws, by temptation – creates a
its prerequisites? What are                      negative response. Confrontation is some-
its pitfalls and limits? What                    times just the natural reaction to an invita-
can Jews bring to interfaith                     tion such as “You have to join us.” In those
dialogue?                                        places where the notion of difference was
                                                 accepted (e.g., India), there was also no
RS. Interfaith dialogue can be a positive
                                                 feeling of confrontation.
deed, if it is done with care, understand-
ing and sensitivity. Its main goal is, mostly,
listening and getting to know each other.        PL. Given the highly politicized
The pitfall of such interfaith dialogue may      and sensitive context that
be in all kinds of missionary attempts, in       surrounds the relationship
which the other is seen as lacking some-         between Abrahamic faiths, and
thing essential that does not make it pos-       particularly Muslims and Jews
sible for him to attain fulfillment and re-       in the modern world, what
demption. Judaism can share some of the          would you say to a Muslim
many treasures it has accumulated in its
more than 3000 years of existence, some
                                                 about your faith that may help
of which can surely be useful and helpful        him or her understand the
for others. In its essence, Judaism is not a     Jewish point of view?
missionary religion, and this fact can surely    RS. It is a great pity that the relationship
contribute to creating a better, saner rela-     between the Abrahamic religions is con-
tionship with other religions.                   nected to politics. In the long run – as can

be seen from any examination of the existing problems between Muslims and Jews – these
problems are based on misunderstandings and on creating justifications for hatred. The
modern combination of nationalism and religion can be lethal, both psychologically and
literally. The first and obvious results appear at first in hating and fighting a real or imaginary
enemy. But in a very consistent way it develops into a toxic mixture which destroys both na-
tion and religion. Hopefully, this phenomenon will subside, even though many people with
short-sighted views try to fan the fires instead of quenching them. The main thing to say to
Muslims about Judaism is to offer them to gain a better, more comprehensive view of the
Jewish faith. Hatred is so often based on ignorance and prejudice, both of which can be
cured by trying to know more, to understand better.

On Love , Passion
          Fidelity   By Archbishop George Khodr

Is it not strange – or at least conspicuous      as an institution or as a state of conscious-
– that Christ does not utter a single word       ness. The essential element of this (multi-
on the kind of love which man and woman          faceted) “revolution” is that it has severed
feel towards each other? By the same to-         sex from love even as it isolated it from
ken, he does not say a word about beauty,        the marital bond. This may be likened to a
and there is not a single letter in the New      puerile regression, as the adolescent who
Testament about natural infatuation. When        fancies sex to be everything – and indeed
he says: “Look at the lilies of the field” then   many an adult - may live his whole life as a
it is not to call to mind their magnificence,     hostage to an instinct which, stripped from
but to draw attention to God’s care for          love, will end in the dead end of monotony
them.1 And when Paul commands the love           and a self-consuming boredom.
between the sexes, he does so by drawing              It seems to me that in absence of re-
an allegory to Christ’s love for the Church.2    ligious convictions we are bound to stray,
There is thus no allusion to anything akin to    not only in this perishable body, but also
the throbbing of hearts and mutual (sexual)      in denial of the sovereignty of God over
attraction, and the latter is not stipulated     it. If you follow the course of history, you
as a precondition for marriage in the Holy       will know that periods of decadence and
Scripture.                                       debauchery have not been alien to this,
     Likewise in Islam, the Qur’ān does not      or any other, region. Likewise, a myriad
mention the term “love” [hubb] in its hu-        of sexual deviations have always been
man meaning. The Qur’an does employ              practiced. Yet in my estimate these were
the verb “love” several times, but in a dif-     practiced without being codified as legiti-
ferent context. The descended scripture          mate vices, whereas today you have some
elaborates on the role of men and women          people who seek to enshrine deviation as a
in marriage, its contract, conditions and        guiding concept.
ethics; the closest it comes to speaking of           In order to understand marital love
intimacy between the spouses is the verse:       we must know that the Greek language
“Truly your women are garments unto you,         encompasses two different words, Eros,
and you are garments unto them” (Al-Baq-         which is love in the sense of a desire for a
ira, 187). Yet there is no allusion to love as   thing or a person, and Agápē, which sig-
we know it in the modern age. Yet modern         nifies the love of God for man and man
man, since the Arab age of ignorance (ja-        for God, as well as fraternal love. Agápē
hiliyya) - which contains and prefigures a        is derived from Hebrew or Arabic.3 If you
lot of modernity – has not only written a lot    say in Greek “Agapáō” or “I love” it be-
about love but also come to regard it as the     comes clear that the Greek and the Arabic
very node of modern life.                        expression are one voice. Eros is the natural
     It seems certain to me that the “sexual     attraction of the two sexes to each other.
revolution” which first erupted in the West       It is not restricted to the carnal force but
has reached and intruded us so that talk         it usually has a connotation of some form
about infidelity has now become common-           of arousal. It is mentioned peripherally in
place in our media, whether it be in films,       the Old Testament to indicate the emotive
books or print magazines. Our entire civi-       force which unified the spouses, reaching
lization is turning towards an aggrandize-       its utmost expression in the Song of Songs
ment of sex, fomenting its “freedom” to the      and in the Book of Hosea. Yet passion
degree of questioning the family, whether        or lust – with which I translate the word
Eros/’Ishq – do not appear a single time in      there is no trace here of any ardent emo-
the New Testament; as if the Gospel implic-      tion as a prerequisite for the contract.
itly places it within the context of the natu-        Within the Oriental Christian environ-
ral man (or the psychological man in the         ment, it was commonplace for the kin
literal meaning of the Greek word). When         of the man to select a young girl for him
the New Testament speaks about mar-              which he would only see in the Church
riage, it says that it is an eternal contract    after her entrustment to him by the fam-
predicated on the love which does not dif-       ily. In some circles this tradition might well
fer from what the Lord said in this regard:      continue until the present day. In this re-
“Love your neighbor like yourself”: we are       gard, the famed French poet Paul Claudel
to love another human being in devoting          said: “Marriage is not a product of love
our attention towards him and offering our       but of mutual agreement.”5 If the passion
service to him.                                  is preserved beyond the phase of the hon-
     You must understand that it is not for-     eymoon, this is wonderful. But the same
bidden for you to marry a woman with             flame might not endure, or it may not re-
which you share no natural, physical love.       main in the same form once married life
If the latter is provided, then this is natu-    has become drudgery, or empty through
ral, and Christianity takes account of the       the routine of sex, or overshadowed by the
innate state you find yourself in without         task of the upbringing of children.
turning it into a fundament of theology.              In Christianity, we do not come across
What is more, there are civilizations such       any infatuation with, or aggrandizement
as the Indian civilization which are re-         of, passionate love, nor did we find it is a
plete with examples of passion between           central notion upon which the endurance
the deities as illustrated by the statues in     of the marital bond is predicated. As for
the temples carrying an overt sexual con-        what Hollywood, the media and advertis-
notation; yet they too do not speak about        ing industry have to say about the lifestyle
love as a precondition for marriage. Denis       of homosexuals and lesbians, that is an-
de Rougemont claims in his famous book           other matter. It bears no relation whatso-
L’Amour et l’Occident (Love in the West)         ever to the spiritual heritage of the mono-
that the West learned about such passion-        theistic religions, nor to the faith traditions
ate love from the Andalusian troubadour          of the Far East. The question may then be
bards and that romantic, chivalric love is       formulated as follows: “How do you sanc-
essentially an Arab invention.4 If we were       tify this element of our nature so that it
to amend this thesis we might say that this      does not jeopardize your integrity of be-
amour-passion is Oriental in origin, and         ing and soul? How do you prevent the love
perhaps the Song of Songs made its way           which is in you from becoming a destruc-
into Hebrew from the Sumerians or the            tive force? How do you not fall into a to-
like. Likewise, the Qur’ān does not seem to      tally bodily state, into an isolated fixation
mention love as a precondition for the con-      with sex, into an introversion and preoc-
tract of marriage. What it has to say about      cupation with the ego, and, conversely, a
the relationship of the spouses is: “They        desire for domination over the other, by
are garments unto you and you are gar-           means of power and money? How do you
ments unto them (Surat Al-Baqira, 187) as        preserve the humanity of the relationship,
well as: “And He created love and compas-        that is to say its completeness, including its
sion between you” (Surat al-Rum, 21). Yet        sexual aspect; how do you tame and do-

mesticate it without “turning neither into       and image. Likewise, we shall arise on the
an angel nor a devil” to paraphrase Pascal:      Day of Resurrection in bodily form, and we
“He who wants to pose as an angel, acts          shall remain in it, giving light and praise in
as the brute.”6                                  the Kingdom forever. Christianity is not to
     Christianity does not claim that married    be confounded with corporal asceticism.
life will automatically guarantee you this       What it does denote is an emancipation
wholesome, humane mode of life, even             from the all-consuming fixation with the
though it does maintain that marriage is         body, even as she is an emancipation from
the natural setting for your humanity to         the total devotion to the bare intellect un-
reach its fulfillment due to the framing          enlightened by God. We do not suppress
of love within the covenant which God            the body even as we do not suppress the
has concluded. For if God has dwelled in         mind. Rather, we are to monitor them and
your presence and in the presence of your        to call the Lord to ward over them so that
spouse, then it is He who has bestowed on        we may remain true to our divine image,
both of you that serene purity by which          that is to say loyal to our unifying, inte-
you stave off the supremacy of one over          grating code of living. And the means to
the other, as well as the self-enjoyment by      achieve this integration of life is love.
means of the other, without compassion                Paul the Apostle had this to say: “Oh ye
and charity.                                     men, loveyour women as Christ loved the
     I repeat that Christianity does not teach   Church, and submit yourself for their sake
man anything about a love desire innately        (Ephesus 25:5).8 The love referred to here is
residing in him, even as it does not teach       the charity (Agápē/mahabba) bequeathed
him about food or drink. Christianity prods      to us by God. If the intent here had been
man starting from the state in which he          the natural arousal or emotional attraction
or she is, and bestows on him what ush-          then the apostle would have had no reason
ers from on high. It does indeed accept the      to utter any injunction. One does call for an
beautiful [bodily] desires as long as these      already existing or pre-supposed emotion
are wedded to love. This by way of prin-         or desire. One calls for an obligation. As
ciple. The Lord said: “He who looks at a         the famous philosopher Kierkegaard men-
woman to lust for her has committed adul-        tioned: To love your neighbor as yourself
tery with her in his heart” [Matthew 28:5].      means that it is your duty to love him. The
Notice the choice of words in his expres-        apostle exhorted man to love his wife un-
sion: “the lust for her.” The text did not       til death, and this is not something which
prohibit lust but it does censure raw lust in    comes from mere nature. Passion [‘ishq]
so far as you are not to look at your wife       does not suffice as it is bound to “with-
as if she were a mere “good”, for she is         er like the desert flower” in the words of
a person, that is to say a full and equal        Isaiah.9 It is in need of the love [mahabba]
being.7 In your request for her complete         which descends from your Lord.
personality in the marital union lust is set          Paul goes further in his contemplation
aside, dissolving in the full being. That is     on the matter, saying: “He who loves his
why there is no sense to the talk of the         wife loves himself.” This complete corre-
ill-informed purporting that Christianity        spondence and identification of the two
is antagonistic towards the physical body.       individuals cannot occur unless God be-
Some of the patristic fathers have said that     stows on them his great favor and kindness
the body was created by God in his liking        so that all aversion - stemming from dif-
ferences in character - dissipates between      patibility. This is a shallow and ludicrous
them. By necessity, the relationship of love    expression. You will find “hearts whose
has its moments of mutual attraction and        love reviles each other,” as the poet says.
repulsion. This is why there is this repeated   In times of discord, there is then a call for
clash between the two lovers. The state of      reconciliation which comes about amongst
the lover does not save man, and does not       us [Christians] by ways of Jesus Christ. He
make him one with the other as the divine       who wants something else apart from this
word wants: “For this reason, man shall         has chosen hell for himself, moving from
leave his father and mother and cleave to       divorce to divorce. Such a person may
his wife, and the two shall be one body.”10     choose to immerse himself in the flame
In fact, the two beings are susceptible to      of the flesh, blood and agitation without
hate. Shared tastes, affinities of minds,        partaking in a marriage like the wonder-
intelligence, and beauty may prepare the        ful wedding of Cana which Jesus and his
way for union, but these are not inevitable     disciples were invited to.
guarantees. The flesh, sentiments and lust           Jesus transformed water into wine, a
are places of possible meeting, yet any-        symbol for divine ecstasy and the last sup-
thing from the earth is no more than an         per. There is no human being, whatever
energy or a possibility. There is no union      his allure and attraction, who can immerse
between man and woman until and unless          you in his being forever since none of us
the divine care [‘atf] descends on them. At     is overfilled with the same abundant ten-
that point, the two are part of the body of     derness, understanding, solicitude and
Christ.                                         warmth night and day. Conversely, it is im-
    There is no way for lust [‘ishq] to be      possible for you to consistently inspire ad-
transformed into the divine love [mahabba       miration in your counterpart with the same
ilahiyya] bestowed on the husband or wife,      energy day in and day out. For this reason,
or both of them together. In writing these      it was seen as indispensable for the groom
lines I did not deny the great importance of    to show a capacity for spiritual giving prior
desire in marriage and its beneficial role for   to his entering a nuptial union. If he is an
its perpetuation, but rather I did not deem     immature adolescent he will confuse mar-
it an essential component in the formation      riage and lust in his mind and (falsely) sup-
of Christian matrimony. God alone, in his       pose that the latter contains the power of
unending love, is the creating element in       perpetuation.
whose absence there is no meaning to the            To be sure, my counsel to a man is not
sacred mystery of marriage. These lines are     to marry a woman who does not attract
a rejoinder to all the modern movements         him, relying solely on the divine blessing.
claiming, in a nutshell: “If there is nothing   This would be a big gamble since we are of
left of love, there is nothing left of mar-     flesh and blood. However: maybe the lust
riage.” You may expend your entire energy       and infatuation will not be an overflow-
for a spouse you desire or on one you do        ing river, nor a blazing flame, but perhaps,
not desire. The most odious thing in my         on the level of your natural dispositions,
mind is for a marriage to be dissolved be-      there is a kind of mutual attraction and un-
cause it appeared to the court that there       derstanding. There is a minimum level of
was a lack of harmony between the two           shared characteristics making cohabitation
parties. “Scientific books” may speak in         under one roof possible. The upshot of
this manner about the lack of sexual com-       what I said is simply: do not think that lust

is everything and that marriage will endure      to a mere registration in the archives of the
with it. I additionally stated that the divine   state and church. At first, the unification
love manifested in the spousal union is          of the spouses is an oath and a contract;
what sanctifies the house, and allows mar-        to the degree that the vow is realized, the
riage to ascend from a mere co-existence         family becomes a small church and an im-
to an abode for God’s presence.                  age prefiguring our life in the Kingdom of
    The Lord teaches us from where we            God. As man struggles to bring his life in
are. Should we be in a married state, he         unison with God, the struggle for the unity
will rear us from and in it. Should we be at     of his house and family proceeds in lock-
work, he will do the same there. Your Lord       step. Everything else is merely an alignment
does not eliminate anything existing but         of body to body, or wealth to wealth. For
sanctifies and impels everything to com-          this reason I am not a believer in teaching
municate with the Divine so that this cre-       what is called the “preparation for mar-
ation can assume its full meaning. Marital       ried life” or the “approaches to sex” since
love is but the implementation of the com-       there is no sex apart from emotions, and
mand to love your neighbor, yet it is also in    no emotions outside of the entire being,
emotional accord with our natural instincts      and no being, at depth, without God. May
which it transmutes from their natural state     each of us seek to be at one with the Lord,
to one in which you are in harmony with          may one cleanse oneself in seeking this
God, as if, in married life, we have tasted      communion, for this is what enables one to
something of heaven.                             meet the other in a balanced and healthy
    Marriage then begins in the natural          state of mind. As for the man who fancies
realm, and endures through divine blessing.      that his money or prestige may safeguard
Any relation devoid of the latter amounts        the loyalty of his woman, he is deceiving
himself. And the woman who calculates that her charms shall retain her husband is equally
foolish. Nothing external can truly summon the other. The problem is that we do not seek
the inner essence of the other, but his body or what is in his possession. Once we learn how
to enter into matrimony while each of us is in our God-given splendor, then we will have
married in the true sense and become initiated to the secret.
                                                                        Translated by Mark Farha

  “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor
spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the
grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you,
O men of little faith?” (Matthew 6: 28-30)
    “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
  For more on the possibly Semitic etymology of Agápē, see the supplement with Semitic, largely trilateral roots
in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, (Boston: Houghton Miflin, 2006), pp. 2056-2066. and
the groundbreaking studies by Theo Vennemann, Europa Vasconica - Europa Semitica. Trends in linguistics. Studies
and monographs, (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2003).
  Denis de Rougemont, L’Amour et l’Occident, Livre II, « Les Mystiques Arabes » (Paris : Libraire Plon, 1972),
    Paul Claudel, L’Otage suivi de Le Pain Dur et Le Père humilié (Paris: Gallimard, 1963).
 « L’homme n’est ni ange ni bête, et le malheur veut que qui veut faire l’ange fait la bête. » Blaise Pascal, Les Pensées, (Paris:
Guillame Desprez et Jean Desessartz, 1714), VI, 358.
  “Once she is man’s equal, woman cannot be ‘man’s goal’ as Novalis supposed, thus reviving courtly mysticism.
Yet at the same time, she escapes the bestial abasement that sooner or later must be the price of divinizing a
creature. But this equality is not to be in a modern sense of revindication of rights. It emanates from the mystery
of love. It is but the sign and proof of the victory of Agape over Eros. For the truly reciprocal love exacts and
creates the equality between the lovers. God manifests his love for man in exacting that man be holy as God
is holy. And man evidences his love for a woman by treating her as a fully human person, not as a fairy from
some legend – half-divine, half-bacchante, a fantasy of reverie and sex.” “La femme étant l’égale de l’homme, elle ne
peut donc être ‘le but de l’homme’ comme le croira cependant Novalis, renouvelant la mystique courtoise et les vieilles traditions
celtiques. En même temps, elle échappe à l’abaissement bestial qui tôt ou tard est la rançon d’une divinisation de la créature. Mais
cette égalité ne doit pas être entendue au sens moderne et revendicateur. Elle procède du mystère de l’amour. Elle n’est que le signe et
la démonstration du triomphe d’Agapè sur éros. Car l’amour réellement réciproque exige et crée l’égalité de ceux qui s’aiment. Dieu
manifeste son amour pour l’homme en exigeant que l’homme soit saint comme Dieu est saint. Et l’homme témoigne de son amour
pour une femme en la traitant comme une personne humaine totale – non comme une fée de la légende, mi-déesse mi-Bacchante, rêve
et sexe. » Denis de Rougemont, L’Amour et l’Occident, p. 338.
  The imperative “love” invoked by Paul corresponds to the Greek “agapáō” referred to in the preface of this
    (Isaiah 40:8)
     (Genesis 2: 24), (Matthew 19:6).

  A Charter for Compassion

By Karen Armstrong                                 each its unique insights. But on one point
                                                   they agree. They all insist that compassion
As a religious historian, it has long been         lies at the heart of the spiritual and ethical
frustrating to me that religion, which             life; that it is the test of true religiosity; and
should be making a major contribution              that it helps to bring us into relation with
to one of the chief tasks of our time — to         what is called God, Nirvana, Brahman or
build a global community where people of           Dao. It is an ideal that has a direct bearing
all persuasions can live together in harmo-        on our polarized world.
ny — is often seen as part of the problem.              Every single one of the world faiths
All too often the voices of extremism and          has developed its own version of what
hatred drown the more moderate voices              has been called the Golden Rule: “Do
that speak of respect for every single hu-         not treat others as you would not like to
man being. As a result, religion is often          be treated yourself” — or, in its positive
seen as inherently intolerant and the reli-        form: “Always treat others as you wish
gious traditions are widely assumed to be          to be treated.” One of the first to insist
locked in sterile rivalry. This of course is not   that religion was inseparable from altru-
correct. The great traditions are profoundly       ism was Confucius (551—479 BCE). When
different; each has its particular genius and      his disciples asked him: What is the thread

that runs through all your teaching? What          clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy,
can we put into practice all day and every         understanding all the mysteries there
day? Confucius replied: “Never do to oth-          are, and knowing everything, and if
ers what you would not like them to do             I have faith in all its fullness, to move
to you.”1 The Golden Rule required you —           mountains, but am without charity, then
                                                   I am nothing at all. If I give away all that
“all day and every day” — to look into your
                                                   I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let
own heart, discover what gives you pain,
                                                   them take my body to burn it, but am
and then refuse, under any circumstance            without charity, it will do me no good
whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody         whatever.4
else. A story attributed to the Rabbi Hillel,
the older contemporary of Jesus says that           Compassion is not an attitude of slop-
one day Hillel was approached by a pagan,       py, uncritical benevolence. It is not solely
who promised to convert to Judaism if he        about pity. The English word comes from
could recite the whole of Jewish teaching       the Latin patior and the Greek pathein,
while he stood on one leg. Hillel replied:      which means to “suffer or endure.” The
“That which is hateful to you, do not do        Golden Rule requires a disciplined effort to
to your neighbour. That is the Torah and        “experience with” the other. “All day and
everything else is only commentary; Go          every day” you have to make a deliberate
and study it!”2 It was an extraordinary and     intellectual and imaginative attempt to put
deliberately provocative statement: there       yourself in somebody else’s shoes.
was no mention of the existence of God,             All the traditions also make it clear that
the creation of the world, the Exodus from      you cannot confine your benevolence to
Egypt or the 613 commandments of the            your own ideological, national, familial or
Law of Moses. This was all merely “com-         religious group. You must have what the
mentary,” a “gloss” on the Golden Rule.         Chinese sage Mozi (480—390 BCE) called
    In the same spirit, H. H. the Dalai Lama
                                                jian ai, “concern for everybody.”5 It was
has said: “My religion is kindness.” For
                                                incumbent upon you to honour the for-
Jesus, like Hillel, the meaning of the Law
                                                eigner. “If a stranger lives with you in your
and the Prophets could be summed up in
                                                land,” says the biblical book of Leviticus,
the command: “Always treat others as you
                                                “do not molest him. You must count him
would like them to treat you.”3 In an oft-
                                                as one of your fellow-countrymen and
quoted hadith, the Prophet Muhammad
                                                love him as yourself — for you were once
said: “Not one of you can be a believer if
                                                strangers in Egypt.”6 Here again we see
he does not desire for his neighbour what
                                                the fundamental dynamic of the Golden
he desires for himself.” This did not, of
                                                Rule. Remember the suffering you experi-
course, imply that all the other rituals, be-
                                                enced in the past, and refuse to inflict it on
liefs and practices were worthless or irrel-
                                                the stranger in your midst. In the Qur’an,
evant. Rather, it suggests that if religious
                                                which in its entirety can be seen as a call to
enthusiasm issues in hatred, intolerance, or
                                                compassion, God tells humanity: “Behold
unkindness instead of compassion, some-
thing is gravely amiss. St Paul expressed       we have created you all out of a male and
this memorably:                                 a female and have made you into nations
                                                and tribes so that you may come to know
     If I have all the eloquence of men or of   one another.”7 The experience of living
     angels, but speak without charity, I am    compassionately in your own community,
     simply a gong booming or a cymbal          which is bound to include some people

do not find congenial, prepares you for          and attainable. Indeed, it is essential; we
the more challenging task of becoming ac-       have witnessed too many exploitative, self-
quainted with the foreigner and the alien.      interested and short-term policies which
The purpose of a nation or a tribe is not to    have lamentably failed to treat other na-
kill, occupy, colonise, dominate, conquer or    tions with the respect they deserve. Many
exploit other peoples to all.                   of our current problems can be traced back
     Jesus took the teaching of Leviticus a     to such behaviour.
step further.                                       The compassionate ideal is not a sen-
                                                timental or romantic dream. The great
   You have heard how it was said: You          teachers and prophets who preached the
   must love your neighbour (Leviticus          Golden Rule were living in times like our
   19:18) and hate your enemy. But I say
                                                own in which violence and warfare had
   this to you: love your enemies and pray
   for those who persecute you; in this way
                                                reached unprecedented heights. They were
   you will be sons of your father in heaven,   also living in a nascent market economy,
   for he causes his sun to rise on bad men     which brought benefits but also prob-
   as well as good, and his rain to fall on     lems. This is particularly clear in the case
   honest and dishonest men alike. For if       of the Prophet Muhammad, who brought
   you love those who love you, what right      the Qur’an to his people when Mecca had
   have you to claim any credit? Even the       reached the zenith of its commercial pow-
   tax collectors do as much, do they not?      er and at a time when tribal warfare had
   And if you save your greetings for your      reached a crescendo. In this climate of ag-
   brothers, are you doing anything excep-
                                                gression and greed, the Qur’an’s compas-
   tional? Even the pagans do as much, do
   they not? You must therefore be perfect,
                                                sionate message asserted that this was the
   just as your heavenly Father is perfect.8    sustainable way forward.
                                                    Today in a dramatically shrunken world,
    The written Torah does not include the      we are all neighbours. We have never been
teaching “hate your enemy.” Jesus was us-       so tightly meshed together. When the
ing a contemporary Aramaic idiom, which         value of stocks falls in one country, there
meant “you do not have to love your en-         is a ripple, domino effect throughout the
emy.” But Jesus insisted that we do. The        markets of the world. What happens in
word “love” needs commentary. Neither           Afghanistan, Iraq or Gaza today can have
Jesus nor Leviticus, which he was quoting,      repercussions in New York or London to-
required emotional tenderness towards           morrow. The entire human race faces the
the enemy. Leviticus is a legal text and talk   terrible possibility of environmental catas-
about feelings would be as inappropriate        trophe. We cannot live without the other;
as they would be in a Supreme Court rul-        our fates are tightly bound together, and
ing. “Love” was a legal term, used in the       we have become aware of our deep inter-
ancient Near East in international treaties.    dependence. And yet we are dangerously
Two kings would promise to “love” each          divided. In an age where, increasingly,
other, which did not mean they would be-        small groups will have powers of destruc-
come best friends, but that they undertook      tion that hitherto belonged only to the na-
to give their allies practical help and loy-    tion state, it is clear that unless we learn
alty. You would come to his aid and seek        to apply the Golden Rule globally, treating
his best interests, even if this went against   all peoples, all nations as we would wish
your own. This kind of “love” is practical      to be treated ourselves, we are unlikely to
                                                                prizes to people they think
                                                                have made a difference but
                                                                who, with their help, could
                                                                make even more of an im-
                                                                pact. They give you some
                                                                money, but more important-
                                                                ly they give you a wish for
                                                                a better world, which they
                                                                will try to make true. Other
                                                                winners have included for-
                                                                mer President Bill Clinton,
                                                                the scientist E. O. Wilson
                                                                and the British chef Jamie
                                                                Oliver. I asked TED to help
                                                                me to create, propagate
                                                                and launch a Charter for
                                                                Compassion, which would
                                                                be composed by leading
                                                                thinkers and activists in all
                                                                the major faiths and would
                                                                restore the Golden Rule to
                                                                the centre of religion and
                                                                morality. At a time when
                                                                the world faiths are seen to
have a viable world to hand on to the next      be at loggerheads, this would be an act of
generation. We have to “love” each other        cooperation, demonstrating that despite
in the practical sense prescribed by Leviti-    our differences we could work together for
cus. We need a global democracy, where          a more peaceful world.
all voices are heard and where everybody’s          I cannot praise the energy and creativity
aspirations and fears are taken seriously —     of TED highly enough. First they created a
not simply those of the rich and the pow-       multilingual website and people were in-
erful. Any ideology that preaches hatred,       vited to comment, week by week, in Ara-
suspicion or exclusion is failing the test of   bic, Hebrew, Urdu, English and Spanish on
our time.                                       a draft charter which I had drawn up. This
    Even though the world faith traditions      was to be a grassroots document to which
are uniquely positioned to make a major         people had a sense of ownership. Hun-
contribution to the creation of a peaceful      dreds of thousands of people from all over
and just world order, we do not hear this       the world responded and their comments
compassionate voice. But I was also aware       were collated and presented to the Coun-
from my travels that in people all over the     cil of Conscience, a panel of thinkers from
world — in the East and the West — there        six major religions (Judaism, Christianity, Is-
was a hunger for a more compassionate           lam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucian-
expression of religion. Then in 2008 I heard    ism), which met in Switzerland in February
that I had won the TED Prize. Every year,       2009. Council members included H.E. Ali
TED Conferences ( awards            Gomaa, Grand Mufti of Egypt, Archbishop

Desmond Tutu, the Reverend John Chane,            To return to the ancient principle
Bishop of Washington, Rabbi David Saper-          that any interpretation of scripture
stein, director of the Religious Action Cen-      that breeds violence, hatred or dis-
tre of Reform Judaism, and the Reverend           dain is illegitimate.
Peter Storey, who had worked alongside
                                                  To ensure that youth are given ac-
Tutu and Nelson Mandela in the struggle
                                                  curate and respectful information
against apartheid. In Switzerland we began        about other traditions, religions and
to put the Charter together and continued         cultures
our discussions by email. This was the final
draft on which we all agreed.                     To encourage an informed empathy
                                                  with the suffering of all human be-
   The principle of compassion lies at            ings — even those regarded as en-
   the heart of all religious, ethical and        emies
   spiritual traditions, calling us always
   to treat all others as we wish to be           We urgently need to make compas-
   treated ourselves.                             sion a clear, luminous and dynamic
                                                  force in our polarized world. Root-
   Compassion impels us to work tire-             ed in a principled determination to
   lessly to alleviate the suffering of           transcend selfishness, compassion
   our fellow creatures, to dethrone              can break down political, dogmatic,
   ourselves from the centre of the               ideological and religious boundar-
   world and put another there, and               ies.
   to honour the inviolable sanctity of
   every single human being, treating             Born of our deep interdependence,
   everybody, without exception, with             compassion is essential to human re-
   absolute justice, equity and respect.          lationships and to a fulfilled human-
                                                  ity. It is the path to enlightenment,
   It is also necessary in both public and        and indispensible to the creation of
   private life to refrain consistently           a just economy and a peaceful glob-
   and empathically from inflicting                al community.
   pain. To act or speak violently, out of
   spite, chauvinism or self-interest, to
                                               We were all convinced that the Charter
   impoverish, exploit or deny basic hu-
   man rights to anybody, and to incite
                                               must essentially a summons to action. It
   hatred by denigrating others — even         could not simply be a statement of intent;
   our enemies — is a denial of our            like any religious teaching, it should issue
   common humanity.                            in dedicated practice.
                                                   The Charter implies that we have a
   We acknowledge that we have                 choice. We can either emphasize those as-
   failed to live compassionately and          pects of our tradition — religious or secu-
   that some have even increased the           lar — which are aggressive, exclusive, and
   sum of human misery in the name of          intolerant, or we can stress those that ad-
                                               vocate respect for the inviolable rights of
   We therefore call upon all men and          others. This will require a creative effort. It
   women:                                      means that we have to study our scriptures
                                               to bring their compassionate ethos to the
   To restore compassion to the centre         fore; it also requires us to look seriously at
   of morality and religion.                   those texts that are often abused or tak-
en out of context by extremists to justify         One of the most exciting develop-men-
atrocity. How should they be understood in     ts since the launch is that people clearly do
our troubled world? We need to take great      feel that they own the Charter. Instead of
care about the way we educate the young        waiting for directives from on high, they
about other nations and different religious    have taken the Charter and are running
traditions. We need to raise consciousness     with it. Only today I learned that one of
about bigoted, uncompassionate speech in       our partners has adapted the Charter for
the same way as feminists and civil rights     the use of children and is working to have
activists made people aware of the bias in     it included in primary school curricula.
their language on matters of gender and        Our Ethiopian partners declared April 5th
race. This reminds us that it is possible to   Golden Rule Day and on that date the
change habits of heart and mind. We can        first Golden Rule Ceremony was held in
change our world, if we make a deliber-        the United Nations Building in New York.
ate, concerted effort, working together        We hope to make this an annual oppor-
across the religious, political and economic   tunity for the media, educators, and reli-
divides.                                       gious leaders to focus on the importance
    The Charter was launched in sixty dif-     of compassion, bringing it to the forefront
ferent locations throughout the world on       of people’s minds. Our Australian partners
                                               will present the Charter in the Parliament
November 9th, 2009. On plaques, designed
                                               in Canberra on June 21st 2010, and are
pro bono by a member of the TED com-
                                               working with two major universities to
munity, the Charter, now translated into
                                               get students involved. In Singapore, par-
several different languages, was put up in
                                               liamentarians are working to integrate the
religious houses of worship across the road
                                               Charter with public policies. In Malaysia,
as well as in such locations as the Karachi
                                               partners erected a Wall of Compassion in
Press Club and Sydney Opera House. That
                                               Kuala Lumpur and founded an organiza-
weekend hundreds of sermons in various
                                               tion dedicated to promoting the Charter.
religious traditions were preached on the      On April 24, 2010, Seattle declared itself
Charter and thousands affirmed the Char-        the first City of Compassion and invited
ter on on         other cities to do the same.
the day of the launch, including HH the Da-        We are fortunate that the Fetzer In-
lai Lama, Queen Rania of Jordan and Rich-      stitute, which has long been working to
ard Branson. We need a lot of signatures       advance Compassion and Forgiveness,
if the Charter is to have “teeth” and we       has taken the Charter under its wing.
shall shortly be starting a big promotional    The Fetzer team are especially keen to pro-
campaign to encourage more people to           mote an international Youth Movement
affirm. We now have nearly 200 partners         for compassion. Education is crucial. I have
located in almost every region of the globe    become acutely aware that many people
and the numbers are growing almost daily.      are confused about the meaning of com-
These are institutions that have long been     passion. The word seems to have fallen
working in the field but now have the op-       out of the public domain so that it is often
portunity to work together. They have their    equated with feeling sorry for somebody.
own website and we are planning virtual        This mistaken idea is both widespread and
conferences every few weeks so that part-      engrained. I recently gave a lecture in the
ners can share ideas and projects.             Netherlands in which I explicitly said that

compassion did not consist solely in that       ing practically in impoverished regions in
kind of sympathy. But when the text of          East Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and
my lecture was published in Dutch in the        returning with new insight about the pain
newspaper De Volskrant, on every single         and problems of the wider world.
occasion, English word “compassion” was             On the last day of my visit, I was privi-
translated with the Dutch word for “pity.”      leged to meet H.E. Sheikh Nahyan ibn
I have therefore just completed work on         Mubarak al-Nahyan, Minister of Higher Ed-
a “Vook” ( This is a new          ucation and Scientific Research at his Majlis
technology, a cross between a book and          in Abu Dhabi. He too gave the Charter his
a video; people will be able to download        wholehearted support. Badr and I then left
it onto the I-pads and other electronic de-     for Dubai, where I addressed members of
vices. My vook is entitled “Twelve Steps to     the local chapter of the Young Presidents’
a Compassionate Life,” and I hope it will       Organization. At the end of the evening,
enhance people’s understanding of what          one of them promised that his company
compassion involves. It will also appear in     would become the Compassionate Com-
several languages as a short book.              pany. It was an inspiring visit and I very
     In April 2010, I visited the United Arab   much look forward to returning. The Char-
Emirates to promote the Charter there.          ter is now enshrined in all the buildings
Some months before the launch, TED-             of Crescent Petroleum, it will be installed
ster Badr Jafar, Executive Director of the      throughout University City in Sharjah; and
Crescent Petroleum Group of companies,          both H. H. Sheikh Sultan and H. E. Sheikh
undertook to promote the Charter in the         Nahyan have undertaken to put plaques up
Middle East and, despite his massive busi-      in all the buildings they control — which is
ness obligations, has been a heroic am-         a lot of buildings. The UAE could well be-
bassador of compassion in the region. As        come a global leader in the work to create
soon as Badr presented the Charter to H.H.      a more compassionate world.
Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed al-Qassimi,               The task before us is immense. As I
Ruler of Sharjah, he immediately saw its        said on November 9th when I unveiled the
relevance, became the first Arab leader to       Charter in Washington DC, the launch is
affirm the Charter, and warmly invited me        only the beginning of a voyage. The chal-
to the UAE. During my visit, I spoke about      lenge is to translate the Charter into cre-
the Charter at the American University of       ative action that will make compassion an
Sharjah as well as the neighbouring Uni-        effective force in the world. That will not
versity of Sharjah and was enormously           be easy. Compassion is a human quality;
impressed by the intelligent interest of the    it is what makes a mother get up every
students. Somebody told me that after one       night to tend her child, no matter how ex-
of my lectures she had come across a large      hausted she feels. It is what makes us stay
group of students, passionately discussing      with our dying relatives, instead of walking
how best they could live a compassionate        away when they are approaching the end
life. They were quick to grasp the global       of their lives, as other species do. We have
implications of the Charter, not only be-       to cultivate compassion as assiduously as a
cause Sharjah’s University City welcomes        dancer enhances her natural ability to run
students from over 45 different countries,      and jump and, after years of disciplined
but also because many of the students take      practice, finds that she is able to move with
part in a project called Global Vision, work-   unearthly grace and perform feats that are
impossible for an untrained body. The great sages of the past tell us that the disciplined
practice of compassion enables us to develop new capacities of mind and heart. Those who
practice the Golden Rule assiduously have found it personally transformative. But we must
not forget that greed, selfishness and aggression are also human characteristics — and that
they characterise a good deal of life in the 21st century. The first decade of our century has
been a decade of war and terror. To make the second a decade of compassion will require
a mighty effort.
    But we should not despair. Nor should we succumb to the voices of scepticism. The
fact that so many people in so many different parts of the world have been excited by the
Charter and are working so creatively with it shows that there is appetite for the task. I
drew great encouragement from the wise words of Sheikh Nahyan. Speaking of the duty
incumbent upon us all to do all we can to make the world a better place, he told me a story
he had heard from an environmentalist. There was once a forest fire; all the animals gazed
aghast, paralysed by the spectacle of the approaching inferno. But the elephant kept filling
his trunk at a nearby stream and repeatedly, tirelessly attempted to extinguish the flames.
When the more sceptical animals laughed at him, he simply replied: “At least I am doing
something to ward off the conflagration."

    Analects 15: 24 cf. 4:15 in Arthur Waley, trans. and ed., The Analects of Confucius (New York, 1992)
    B. Shabbat 31a
    Matthew 7: 12. All quotations from the Bible are taken from The Jerusalem Bible.
    I Corinthians 13:1—3
    The Book of Mozi 3.16
    Leviticus 19:34
    Qur’an 49.13 in Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur’an (Gibraltar, 1980).
    Matthew 5:43 —48

Family, Nation, and the World

by Tu Weiming                                  racy, and secular ethics. While the vogue
                                               for things Chinese that overwhelmed Eigh-
                                               teenth-century Europe was more a craze
An unintended consequence of Matteo
                                               for chinoiserie than a quest for philosophi-
Ricci’s 'introduction’of Catholicism to Chi-
                                               cal insight, Confucian China was an intel-
na and the Jesuits’ China experience in the
                                               lectual challenge to the self-reflexivity of
seventeenth century was the Chinese intel-
lectual contribution to the Enlightenment      some of the most brilliant Western minds.
in Europe. Through missionary reports,         Unfortunately, the effects of the Enlighten-
intellectuals in France, England, Italy and    ment mentality, especially in its nineteenth-
Germany became aware of the humanis-           century Eurocentric incarnation, on China
tic splendor of Chinese civilization. Mon-     and her self-perception as a developing
tesquieu, Voltaire, Quesnay, Diderot, the      modern state has been devastating.
philosophes, the physiocrats, and the De-          The modern West’s dichotomous mode
ists were fascinated by Chinese world view,    of thinking (spirit/matter, mind/body, physi-
cosmological thinking, benevolent autoc-       cal/mental, sacred/profane, creator/crea-
ture, God/man, subject/object) is diametri-      have only just begun to see indications
cally opposed to the Chinese habits of the       that the Chinese thinkers are recovering
heart. Informed by Bacon’s knowledge as          from this externally imposed and internally
power and Darwin’s survival through com-         inflicted malaise.
petitiveness, the Enlightenment mentality            With all of its boundless energy and
is so radically different from any style of      creative impulse, the Enlightenment men-
thought familiar to the Chinese mind that        tality is incapable of reflecting on things
it challenges all dimensions of the Sinic        at hand, oblivious to the “holy rite” of
world. The Enlightenment faith in instru-        human-relatedness, and ignorant of self-
mental rationality fueled by the Faustian        cultivation as an art of living. The collapse
drive to explore, know, subdue, and con-         of the former Soviet Union may have de-
trol made spectacular progress in science,       stroyed the Chinese Communist faith in
technology, industrial capitalism, nation-       the inevitable historical process precipi-
building, democratic polity, legal system,       tated by the revolutionary vanguard in
educational institution, multinational co-       the strategy of class struggle for universal
operation, and military hardware.1 As the        equality. However, the assumption that hu-
international rules of the game, defined in       man beings are rational animals endowed
terms of wealth and power, were super-           with inalienable rights and motivated by
imposed on China by gunboat diplomacy,           their self-interest to maximize profit in the
the Chinese intellectuals countenanced the       market place is a persuasive, if not inspir-
inevitability of Westernization and acted        ing ideology in the People’s Republic of
accordingly.                                     China. Market economy, democratic polity,
    The sense of urgency that prompted           and individualism, perceived by Talcott Par-
May Fourth (1919) generation Chinese             sons as the three inseparable dimensions
thinkers to advocate wholesale westerniza-       of modernity, are likely to loom large in
tion as a precondition for cultural survival     China’s intellectual discussion. The Enlight-
was disorienting and self-defeating.2 The        enment mentality is live and well in cultural
deliberate choice to undermine rich spiritu-     China. Understandably, scholars like Vera
al resources and to embark on a materialist      Schwarcz and Li Zhehou have argued, in
path to save the nation led to revolution-       their reflection on the May Fourth move-
ary romanticism and populist scientism.          ment, that the basic intellectual problem in
The demand for effective action and de-          the tragic history of China’s modernization
monstrable results was so compelling that        was that national sentiments to save the
the life of the mind was marginalized. As        nation overshadowed the need for a deep
a consequence, there was little room for         understanding of the Enlightenment. This
reflection, let alone meditative thinking.        lamentable outcome made China’s march
For philosophy, the outcome was disas-           toward modernity painfully tortuous. The
trous. In this regard, the modern fate of        assumption is that the concerted effort
Chinese intellectuals was much worse than        to learn from the West was frustrated by
their Indian counterparts. While centuries       the burning desire for national survival. As
of colonization did not break the backbone       a result, the time was too short and the
of Indian spirituality, the semi-colonial sta-   space too limited for Enlightenment ideals
tus prompted the Chinese intelligentsia to       such as liberty, equality, rationality, and due
reject in toto and by choice all the spiritual   process of law to grow and flourish in the
traditions that defined China’s soul. We          Chinese intellectual soil. It may have taken

centuries for science and democracy to be-       of the Sinic world. Both Kang Youwei and
come fully established in Western Europe         Tan Sitong propounded the destruction of
and North America, but the Westernizers          family particularism as a precondition for
and, by implication, the modernizers had         the revitalization of inclusive Confucian hu-
only a few decades to try to transform Chi-      manism. Xiong Shili, the Confucian thinker,
na in the spirit of science and democracy.       straightforwardly condemned the family as
However, some of the difficulties lay in the      the source of all evils.
ambiguity of the Enlightenment mental-               The rise of Maoism, as the ruling ide-
ity itself as well. The Chinese Westernizers     ology for China’s modernization in the
and modernizers, seasoned in the Enlight-        1950s, further intensified the critique of
enment mentality, were all committed po-         Confucian family ethics. As the confluence
litical activists with a passion to save China   of several seemingly incompatible currents
from the dark history of backwardness, its       of thought, all under the disguise of the
own feudal past.                                 “Enlightenment mentality”: positivistic sci-
     The ills of the Chinese family as charac-   entism, romantic revolutionism, agrarian-
terized by the authoritarianism of the three     ism, iconoclasm, industrial modernism, and
bonds (domination of the father over the         nativistic spiritualism, the thought of Mao
son, the ruler over the minister, and the        Zedong was incompatible with Confucian
husband over the wife) have been thor-           humanism in general and Confucian family
oughly critiqued by some of the most ar-         ethics in particular. The belief that totalistic
ticulate and influential writers in modern        social transformation based on the univer-
China. Ba Jin’s novel, The Family, represen-     sal laws of historical progress is possible,
tative of the iconoclastic ethos of the May      that continuous revolution as the develop-
Fourth generation, poignantly reminds us         ment of consciousness as well as mate-
that the Confucian idea of “home,” in the        rial goods will eventually eliminate China’s
perspective of contemporary consciousness        backwardness, that the peasants are the
informed by Western liberal democratic           motive force for China’s march toward mo-
ideas, is actually a “prison house” denying      dernity, that the destruction of China’s feu-
the basic rights of the individual and en-       dal legacy is required to welcome the brave
slaving the creative energy of the young.        new world may have been a naive and dis-
Indeed, Confucian family ethics as depicted      torted version of the Enlightenment, but,
by the indignant pen of Lu Xun with tell-        for almost half a century, it was taken for
ing effectiveness was no more than “ritual       granted as a hope, a faith, indeed a light
teaching.” Such an outmoded education,           source for the future. In this peculiar ver-
instead of humanizing the world, contains        sion of the Enlightenment, Confucian con-
the subtle message of cannibalism, or, in        ceptions of community, not only the family
his graphic phrase: “Eat people!” The slo-       but all modalities of human interaction (the
gan, “Down with Confucius and Sons!”             five dyadic relationships for example) were
was directed against the feudal past in          relegated to the dustbin of history.
general and the Confucian family in par-             In a contemporary perspective, while
ticular. Understandably, even those who          we are willing to grant that the modern-
advocated the revival of Confucian human-        ization project as exemplified by the West-
ism, acknowledged that the Confucian             ern Europe and North America is now the
family ethic was the single most important       common heritage of humanity, we should
cultural factor inhibiting the modernization     not be blind to the serious contradictions
inherent in the project and the explosive         alent of community in the three cardinal
destructiveness embodied in the dynam-            virtues of the French Revolution, has re-
ics of the modern West. The legacy of the         ceived scanty attention in modern Western
Enlightenment is pregnant with disorient-         economic, political, and social thought.
ing ambiguities. The values it espouses           The willingness to tolerate inequality, the
do not cohere as an integrated value sys-         faith in the salvific power of self-interest,
tem recommending a coordinated ethical            and the unbridled affirmation of aggres-
course of action. For example, the conflict        sive egoism have greatly poisoned the
between liberty and equality is often unre-       good well of progress, reason, and individ-
solvable.                                         ualism. The need to express a universal in-
    An urgent task for the community of           tent for the formation of a “global village”
like-minded persons deeply concerned              and to articulate a possible link between
about degradation of the environment, so-         the fragmented world we experience in
cial disintegration, and the lack of any form     our ordinary daily existence and the imag-
of distributive justice is to rethink the En-
                                                  ined community for the human species
lightenment heritage. The paradox is that
                                                  as a whole is deeply felt by an increasing
we cannot afford to uncritically accept its
                                                  number of concerned intellectuals. Un-
inner logic in light of the unintended nega-
                                                  derstandably, the basic unit in any society,
tive consequences it has engendered for
                                                  past and present, namely the family, looms
the global community; nor can we reject
its relevance, with all of the fruitful am-       large in contemporary political discourse.
biguities it entails, to our intellectual self-   The idea of global stewardship implicit in
definition, present and future. There is no        this line of thinking demands a new ethic
easy way out. We do not have an “either-          significantly different from the Enlighten-
or” choice.                                       ment mentality.
    The possibility of a radically different          From the Confucian perspective, this
ethic or a new value system separate from         requires, at a minimum, the replacement
and independent of the Enlightenment              of the principle of self-interest, no matter
mentality is not realistic. It may even ap-       how broadly defined, with the golden rule
pear to be either cynical or hypercritical.       stated in the negative: “Do not do unto oth-
We need to explore the spiritual resources        ers what you would not want others to do
that may help us to broaden the scope of          unto you.” The recognition that what we
the Enlightenment project, deepen its mor-        cherish as the best way to live our lives may
al sensitivity, and, if necessary, creatively     not be applicable to the concrete situation
transform its genetic constraints in order to     of our neighbor is the initial step toward an
fully realize its potential as a world view for   empathetic appreciation of the integrity of
the human community as a whole.                   the other. Since this version of the golden
                                                  rule is stated in the negative, it will have to
A New Ethic for the Global                        be augmented by a positive principle: “in
Community                                         order to establish ourselves, we must help
A key to the success of this intellectual joint   others to establish themselves; in order to
venture is to recognize the conspicuous ab-       enlarge ourselves, we have to help us to
sence of the idea of community, let alone         enlarge themselves.” An inclusive sense of
the global community, in the Enlighten-           community, based on mutual benefit and
ment project. Fraternity, a functional equiv-     fruitful interchange, rather than the zero-

sum game in an economic calculus, need           the synergy engendered by individual ini-
to be cultivated.                                tiatives with group orientation has made
    Industrial East Asia, under the influ-        this region economically and politically the
ence of Confucian culture, has already           most dynamic area of the world since the
developed a less adversarial, less individu-     Second World War.
alistic, and less self-interested modern civi-       The Westernization of Confucian Asia
lization.3 It is now widely acknowledged         (including Japan, the two Koreas, mainland
that the co-existence of market economy          China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore,
with government leadership provides an           and Vietnam) may have forever altered its
important impetus for rapid economic de-         spiritual landscape, but its indigenous re-
velopment in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan,         sources (including Mahayana Buddhism,
Hong Kong, Singapore, and, more recently,        Taoism, Shintoism, shamanism, and other
the People’s Republic of China. Scholars         folk religions) have the resiliency to resur-
in comparative politics have also noticed        face and make their presence known in a
that the development of democratic polity        new synthesis.
in East Asia is not at all incompatible with         In the Confucian perspective, neither
meritocracy. Indeed, educational elitism,        capitalism nor socialism (both exemplify
through competitive examinations, may            the Enlightenment mentality) addresses
have been instrumental in developing a           the issue of primordial ties: the embedded-
style of leadership which enables the pub-       ness of the human condition. Specifically,
lic sector to continuously attract the best      the vital importance of ethnicity, gender,
talents among college graduates. In short,       language, land, and religion in defining the

concrete living human being in a unique          is greatly valued in all modern societies. If
nexus of human relationships. The abstract       a Confucian society, based on its cherished
universal principle in either the capitalist     value of “learning for the sake of oneself”
or the socialist conception of the homo          and the moral imperative of continuous
economicus totally fails to account for the      self-realization, can generate ideas of basic
complexity and variability of human settle-      liberties and rights and develop a legal sys-
ments that physically constitute the global      tem to protect the privacy of its citizenry,
community. The primordial ties, as cultur-       its belief in the person as a center of rela-
ally specific and historically contextualized     tionships rather than as an isolated individ-
ways of fashioning the human community,          ual may be conducive to stable democracy.
are diametrically opposed to the Enlight-            In its basic belief, the Confucian tra-
enment assumption that modernization             dition apparently lacks ideas of radical
naturally leads to homogenization. On the        transcendence, positive evil, and transcen-
contrary, Confucian inclusive humanism           dental rationality. As a result, Confucian
may provide rich resources for us to devel-      societies may not have rich resources to
op an ethic that celebrates cultural diver-      check the abuses of power by autocratic
sity, respects difference, and encourages a      or paternalistic regimes. Modern Confu-
plurality of spiritual orientations.             cian societies must learn to appreciate the
    The caveat, of course, is that, having       psychology of suspicion in conceptualizing
been humiliated and frustrated by the im-        the proper relationship between the gov-
perialist and colonial domination of the         ernment and the governed. Lord Acton’s
modern West for more than a century, the         liberal dictum that “power tends to cor-
rise of industrial East Asia also symbolizes     rupt and absolute power corrupts abso-
the instrumental rationality of the Enlight-     lutely” is particularly instructive to East
enment heritage with a vengeance. Indeed,        Asian intellectuals, who have been too
the mentality of Japan and the Four Mini-        much seasoned in the Confucian scholar-
Dragons is characterized by mercantilism,        official mentality to cultivate a critical spirit
commercialism, and international competi-        against the dictatorial tendency of strong
tiveness. Surely, the possibility of their de-   rulership for their own well-being. The
veloping a more humane and sustainable           idea of God as the Absolute has been, by
community should not be exaggerated.             and large, effective in rendering all worldly
However, this need not undermine the per-        structures of power relative in the West;
suasive power of the Confucian idea that         the unintended healthy consequence of
despite ethnic, linguistic, religious, social,   making political authority subsumed under
political, and economic diversity, human         a more transcending framework of mean-
community ought to be inclusive.                 ing is eminently suited, as a prescription, to
    In the modern liberal-democratic per-        the East Asian vulnerability toward authori-
spective, the Confucian humanism clearly         tarianism. Yet, the Confucian theory of the
suffers from manifold shortcomings. In its       Mandate of Heaven, based on the ethic
overall spiritual orientation, the Confucian     of responsibility of the elite, is more con-
tradition apparently lacks a strong commit-      genial to democratic polity than, say, the
ment to individualism. The issue of indi-        divine right of kings. The Confucian ideas
vidualism as a reflection of modern ethos         of benevolent government, the duty-con-
is complex but, undeniably, the dignity, au-     sciousness of the elite, and the right of the
tonomy, and independence of the person           people to revolution are all consistent with

democratic demands for civility, impartial-       an adversarial division of labor within a
ity, and public accountability. Actually, the     constitutional framework, loyal opposition
Confucians are noted for their commit-            and total political participation. Authori-
ment to cultivating the value of reasonable-      tarianism, either harsh or soft, continues
ness in ordinary daily human interaction for      to haunt East Asian democracies. The pen-
they believe that true social harmony is at-      chant for consensus formation undermines
tainable only through communication and           the dynamism, engendered by a creative
negotiation.                                      tension inherent in an adversarial system, in
     In its political philosophy, the Confu-      East Asian political culture. The patient tol-
cian tradition apparently lacks concepts          erance and informed understanding of the
of liberty, human rights, privacy, and due        role and function of the loyal opposition,
process of law. The Confucian predilection        characterized by most western democra-
for rightness, duty, public-spiritedness, and     cies, is yet to have a presence in East Asia.
ritual may have undermined the East Asian         Surely, multi-party elections have already
capacity to fully integrate freedoms of indi-     become a reality of life for all industrial
vidual expression, inalienable political and      East Asian politicians. Even The People’s
civil rights, respect for the private sphere,     Republic of China is experienced in vot-
and an independent judiciary. However, in         ing behavior. However, while the political
a complex modern society, we can no lon-          process within a constitutional framework
ger afford to underscore the value of liber-      is being worked out in most industrial East
ties without considering adequate political       Asian societies, it will take years to create
measures to protect the economically disad-       an ethos of civility and openness in intra-
vantaged. The ills of an inefficient welfare       party communication. The idea of govern-
system notwithstanding, the government            ment for, of, and by the people is no longer
must ensure that vicious competitiveness          merely wishful thinking in Japan and the
enhanced by market forces does not lead           Four Mini-Dragons, but democratic polity,
to unbearable inequalities. This requires the     far from being an institutionalized mecha-
cultivation of a strong sense of culpability      nism fully integrated into the ordinary way
and answerability of business and govern-         of life, remains contentious, disruptive, and
ment elite to the well-being of society at        even explosive.
large. Confucian concern for duty is not at           In interpersonal praxis, the Confucian
variance with the demand for rights. Ac-          tradition apparently lacks the precedents
tually, for a discourse on self-interest and      of social contract, civil society, and public
privacy to have the salience it deserves, the     sphere. However, the fruitful human inter-
development of a public sphere, where the         action involved in “network capitalism,”
spirit of impartiality is respected, is both      which has successfully extended to virtually
desirable and necessary. Paradoxically, the       all corners of the global community, sug-
formation of a civilized mode of conduct (a       gests that the ethical requirements of com-
fiduciary commitment to the public good)           plex business transactions, such as trust,
by legal professionals may still be the most      reliability, responsibility, and obligation,
effective way to curtail concern for self-        rooted in Confucian culture, are a salient
interests.                                        feature of this approach. Although, with-
     In its institutional structure, the Confu-   out a well-developed legal system, this way
cian tradition apparently lacks a mechanism       of generating wealth is hardly universaliz-
and checks and balances against autocracy,        able, it has already created a unique style
of economic and social development with          his profit through rational calculation in
far-reaching implications for the rest of the    the market place adjudicated by a legal
world. The emergence of public institu-          framework is certainly incompatible with
tions in business, mass media, academia,         the Confucian perception of the self as a
religion, and the profession, independent        center of relationships and the Confucian
of the political center and yet instrumental     emphasis on duty-consciousness, general
in shaping its long-term policies, enables       well-being, rightness, sympathy, and the
industrial East Asia gradually to develop        moral transformation of ritual.
full-fledged civil societies. While it is diffi-        The re-presentation of the Problematik
cult to predict the course of action of these    of community in European and American
emerging institutions which have made            political discourses in recent years is symp-
the idea of civil society intelligible to East   tomatic of the confluence of two appar-
Asian intellectuals, the increasing plural-      ently contradictory forces in the late twen-
ism inevitably leads to new constellations       tieth century: the global village as both a
in thought, religion, ethics, aesthetics, and    virtual reality and an imagined community
world views. Whether or not a truly func-        in our information age and the disintegra-
tioning public sphere adjudicated by com-        tion and restructuring of human together-
municative rationality will come into being      ness at all levels, from family to nation.
in each of these newly industrial countries,          It may not be immodest to say that the
the density of the human network and             Confucian tradition can provide a spiritual
the complexity of the cultural texture have      resource for us to develop a new vision of
made them a remarkably modern exem-              community from the core of the Enlight-
plification of “organic solidarity” in Dur-       enment project itself. The need to go be-
kheim’s conception of division of labor as a     yond the Enlightenment mentality, without
necessary condition for modernity.               either deconstructing or abandoning its
    The above discussion of the limitations      commitment to rationality, liberty, equal-
of the Confucian tradition in the liberal-       ity, human rights, and distributive justice,
democratic perspective and the possible          requires a thorough re-examination of the
Confucian responses to the Enlightenment
                                                 kind of global ethic that is necessary for
mentality suggest a new ethical horizon.
                                                 human survival and flourishing.
    In ethical terms, what Confucian East
Asia exemplifies is a significantly different
form of modernity. Surely, market econo-
my, democratic polity, and individualism         If we assume, as dictated by the East Asian
are all present in East Asian modernity, but     example, that traditions shape the mod-
government leadership, meritocracy, and          ernization process and, in a substantial
communitarianism have so fundamentally           way, define the meaning of being modern,
restructured the market as the “invisible        what is the status of the claim that moder-
hand,” democracy as an adversarial system,       nity must be conceived in terms of three
and the individualistic ethos that the basic     inseparable dimensions: market economy,
rules defining modernity in Western Eu-           democratic polity, and individualism? Sure-
rope and North America do not necessarily        ly, the case at hand enhances the convic-
apply. The idealized notion of a human be-       tion that market economy, as a powerful
ing as a rights-bearing individual motivated     engine of modernization, is a constitutive
by self-interest who attempts to maximize        part of modernity.

     It is worth noting, however, market        in the betterment of the human condition
economy, as it has been practiced in East       through self-effort, commitment to family
Asia, is not at all incompatible with strong    as the basic unit of society and to family
and comprehensive government participa-         ethics as the foundation of social stability,
tion. Often, political leadership provides      trust in the intrinsic value of moral educa-
necessary guidance for a functioning mar-       tion, belief in self-reliance, work ethic, and
ket. In both domestic coordination and          mutual aid and a sense of an organic unity
foreign competition, economically sophisti-     with an ever-extending network of rela-
cated government officials are often instru-     tionships provides rich cultural resources
mental in allowing for the smooth func-         for East Asian democracies to develop their
tioning of the system and for creating an       own distinctive features.
environment for healthy growth. Collabo-            It is true that the Confucian rhetoric,
ration between officialdom and the busi-         as in a discussion of Asian values, may be
ness community is the norm in East Asian        used as a strategy for criticizing the indis-
societies and the pervasive and fruitful in-    criminate imposition of Western ideas on
teraction between polity and economy is         the rest of the world. The new agenda to
a defining characteristic of East Asian po-      broaden human rights from exclusive em-
litical economy. The authority of the gov-      phasis on political and civil rights to include
ernment in adjudicating economic matters        economic, social, and cultural rights may
may take different forms: direct manage-        very well be perceived of as a strategic
ment (Singapore), active leadership (South      maneuver engineered by Asian leaders to
Korea), informed guidance (Japan), passive      divert attention from blatant human rights
interference (Taiwan), or positive non-inter-   violations by authoritarian regimes in East
ference (Hong Kong)--but the presence of        Asia. While the need for East Asian soci-
the government in all weighty economic          eties under the influence of Confucian
decisions is not only expected but also de-     culture to free themselves from nepotism,
sired by the business community as well as      authoritarianism, and male-chauvinism is
the general public.                             obvious, democracy with Confucian char-
     The universal applicability of democrat-   acteristics is not only imaginable but may
ic polity notwithstanding, the East Asian       also become practicable.
manifestations of the democratic idea               East Asian intellectuals are actively in-
strongly suggest that democratization as a      volved in probing the Confucian tradition
process is not necessarily incompatible with    as a spiritual resource for economic de-
bureaucratic meritocracy, educational elit-     velopment, nation-building, social stabil-
ism, and particularistic social networking.     ity, and cultural identity. But, the echoes
The western democratic experience itself        of the iconoclastic attacks on Confucius
has been significantly shaped by traditions      and Sons still reverberate in the halls of
of pragmatism, empiricism, skepticism, and      academia and in the corridors of govern-
gradualism as in the English case, anti-cler-   ment throughout Japan and the Four Mini-
icalism, rationalism, culturalism, and the      Dragons. Paradoxically, the Confucian per-
revolutionary spirit as in the French case,     sonality ideals (the authentic person. the
and romanticism, nationalism, and ethnic        worthy, or the sage) can be realized more
pride as in the German case. And the con-       fully in a liberal democratic society than ei-
tinuous presence of a strong civil society as   ther in a traditional imperial dictatorship or
in the American case. The Confucian faith       a modern authoritarian regime. East Asian
Confucian ethics must creatively transform    among Chinese intellectuals that Cultural
itself in light of Enlightenment values be-   China is no longer an agrarian society with
fore it can serve as an effective critique    its vast majority statically wedded to the
of the excessive individualism, pernicious    land. For it is also one of the most dynamic
competitiveness, and vicious letigiousness    migrant communities in the world.
of the modern West.                               With more than 36 million ethnic Chi-
    Intellectuals in the Confucian world      nese overseas, primarily in Southeast Asia
have been devoted students of Western         and throughout the world, it is impossible
learning (Dutch, British, French, German,     to relegate the most enduring and domi-
and American) for more than a hundred         nant ethical system to the background by
years. As they became seasoned in the         consigning it to either the “feudal past” or
“universal” discourses exclusively informed   the “agrarian present.” China encompass-
by the Enlightenment mentality of the         es not only the largest farming population
modern West, they began to raise chal-        but also one of the most enterprising mer-
lenging questions by drawing from their       chant classes in the emerging global com-
own indigenous spiritual traditions. The      munity. If we assume that culture matters,
transvaluation of Confucian values as a       that values people cherish or unconsciously
creative response to the hegemonic dis-       uphold provide guidance for their action,
courses of Western Europe and North           that the motivational structure for people
America seems a natural outcome of this       is not only relevant but crucial to their eco-
intercultural communication. Part of the      nomic ethics, and that the life-orientation
impetus came from a critical awareness        of a society makes a difference in the eco-

nomic (and political) behavior of its people,       If we broaden our scope to include both
whether or not our current ethical thinking      industrial and socialist East Asia, the pres-
can provide strong enough of a moral basis       ence of Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese
for the kind of global stewardship essential     communities throughout the world further
to world peace is vitally important.             enhances the need to understand Confu-
    The matter is immensely complicated          cian ethics.
by the decision of the political leadership         I would like to quote, at this junction,
of the People’s Republic of China (PRC),         a paragraph from Edwin Reischauer’s pro-
through the “reform and open” policy, to         phetic statement made in 1973 and sub-
join the restless march toward modernity         sequently published as “The Sinic World in
narrowly defined in terms of wealth and           Perspective” in Foreign Affairs:
power. Already, an internal migration of
                                                    The peoples in East Asia...share certain
more than 100 million people has occurred
                                                    key traits, such as group solidarity, an
within the PRC mainly from the country-             emphasis on the political unit, great or-
side to the cities, especially those along the      ganizational sills, a strong work ethic,
southeastern coast where economic devel-            and a tremendous drive for education.
opment has been most vibrant. As the tidal          It is because of such traits that the Japa-
waves of commercialization begin to over-           nese could rise with unprecedented
whelm the Chinese interior, the pressure of         speed from being a small underdevel-
migration will be greatly enhanced.                 oped nation in the mid-nineteenth cen-
                                                    tury to being a major imperial power
    In the perspective of “Cultural China,”
                                                    in the early twentieth century and an
a second migration, as contrasted with the          economic superpower today.... And
first migration of millions of Chinese from          now her record is being paralleled by all
Guangtong and Fujian provinces to South-            the other East Asian units that are un-
east Asia in the nineteenth century, is un-         encumbered by war or the economically
derway. Chinese with substantial financial           blighting pall of communism, namely,
resources in Southeast Asia, for reasons            South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and
of political security, economic opportu-            Singapore, which, like Hong Kong, is es-
                                                    sentially a Chinese city-state. Through-
nity, cultural expression, or education for
                                                    out the non-East Asian countries of
their children, have begun to emigrate to           Southeast Asia, Chinese minorities re-
Australia, Canada, and the United States            main so economically and educationally
in the last two decades. The number will            dominant as to cause serious political
be greatly increased as residents of Hong           and social problems. One cannot but
Kong and Taiwan join the process. In the            wonder what economic growth might
United States, ethnic Chinese from South            be in store for Vietnam, if peace is ever
Vietnam and students from the PRC in re-            achieved here, and for China and North
                                                    Korea if their policies change enough
cent years have literally altered the land-
                                                    to afford room for the economic drive
scapes of Chinatowns and international              of which their people are undoubtedly
student communities throughout the coun-            capable.4
try. On the other hand, it should also be
noted that there has been a steady flow of            If we maintain that Confucian ethics is
highly qualified professionals in science and     an underlying East Asian value, two qualifi-
engineering returning from North America         cations are required. First, the implicit des-
to industrial East Asia in recent decades.       ignation of East Asia as “Confucian” in the
ethicoreligious sense is comparable to the
validity and limitation of employing “Chris-
tian,” “Islamic,” ”Hindu,” and “Buddhist” in
identifying geopolitical regions such as Eu-
rope, the Middle East, India, or Southeast
Asia. The matter is confounded by the re-
ligious pluralism of “Confucian” East Asia.
However, it is not at all difficult to imagine
that Shintoist or Buddhist Japan, shaman-
ist, Buddhist or Christian Korea, and Dao-
ist or Buddhist China are all constitutive
parts of the East Asian spiritual landscape.
Second, Confucian ethics so conceived is
not a simple re-presentation of traditional
Confucian teaching. Rather, it is a way of
conceptualizing the form of life, the habits
of the heart, or the social praxis of those
societies which have been under the influ-
ence of Confucian education for centuries.
     As we are confronted with the issue of
a new world order in lieu of the exclusive
dichotomy (capitalism and socialism) im-
posed by the super powers, we are easily
tempted to come up with facile general-
izations: “the end of history,” “the clash of
civilizations,” or “the Pacific century.” The
much more difficult and, hopefully, in the
long haul, much more significant line of in-
quiry is to address truly fundamental issues
confronting the global community:
     Are we isolated individuals, or do we
each live as a center of relationships? Is
moral self-knowledge necessary for per-
sonal growth? Can any society prosper or
endure without developing a basic sense
of duty and responsibility among its mem-
bers? Should our pluralistic society deliber-
ately cultivate shared values and a common
ground for human understanding? As we
become acutely aware of our earth’s vul-
nerability and increasingly wary of social
disintegration what are the critical spiritual
questions to ask?
     Since the Opium War (1939), China has
endured many holocausts. Prior to 1949,

imperialism was the main culprit, but since    dimensions of human flourishing must be
the founding of the PRC, the erratic lead-     sought.
ership and faulty policies must also share          The time is long overdue to move be-
the blame. Although millions of Chinese        yond a mindset shaped by instrumental
died, the neighboring countries were not       rationality and private interests. As the
seriously affected and the outside world       politics of domination fades, we witness
was, by and large, oblivious to what actu-     the dawning of an age of communication,
ally happened. Since 1979, China has been      networking, negotiation, interaction, in-
rapidly becoming an integral part of the       terfacing, and collaboration. Whether or
global economic system. More than 30%          not East Asian intellectuals, inspired by the
of the Chinese economy is tied to interna-     Confucian spirit of self-cultivation, family
tional trade. Natural economic territories     cohesiveness, social solidarity, benevolent
have emerged between Hong Kong and             governance, and universal peace, will ar-
Quangzhou, Fujian and Taiwan, Shandong         ticulate an ethic of responsibility as Chi-
and South Korea. Japanese, European, and       nese, Japanese, Koreans, and Vietnamese
American as well as Hong Kong and Tai-         emigrate to other parts of the world is pro-
wanese investments are present in virtually    foundly meaningful for global stewardship.
all Chinese provinces. The return of Hong           We can actually envision the Confucian
                                               perception of human flourishing, based
Kong to the PRC, the conflict across the
                                               upon the dignity of the person, in terms
Taiwan Straits, the economic and cultural
                                               of a series of concentric circles: self, fam-
interchange among overseas Chinese com-
                                               ily, community, society, nation, world, and
munities and between them and the moth-
                                               cosmos. We begin with a quest for true
erland, the intra-regional communication
                                               personal identity, an open and creatively
in East Asia, the political and economic in-
                                               transforming selfhood which, paradoxi-
tegration of the Association for Southeast
                                               cally, must be predicated on our ability
Asian Nations, and the rise of the Asia-Pa-
                                               to overcome selfishness and egoism. We
cific region will all have substantial impact   cherish family cohesiveness. In order to do
on our shrinking global community.             that, we have to go beyond nepotism. We
    The revitalization of the Confucian dis-   embrace communal solidarity, but we have
course may contribute to the formation of      to transcend parochialism to fully realize its
a much needed communal critical self-con-      true value. We can be enriched by social
sciousness among East Asian intellectuals.     integration, provided that we overcome
We may very well be in the very beginning      ethnocentrism and chauvinistic culturalism.
of global history rather than witnessing       We are committed to national unity, but
the end of history. And, from a compara-       we ought to rise above aggressive nation-
tive cultural perspective, this new begin-     alism so that we can be genuinely patri-
ning must take as its point of departure       otic. We are inspired by human flourishing
dialogue rather than clash of civilizations.   but we must endeavor not to be confined
Our awareness of the danger of civilization-   by anthropocentrism, the full meaning of
al conflicts, rooted in ethnicity, language,    humanity is anthropocosmic rather than
land, and religion, makes the necessity of     anthropocentric. On the occasion of the
dialogue particularly compelling. An alter-    international symposium on Islamic-Confu-
native model of sustainable development        cian dialogue organized by the University
with emphasis on the ethical and spiritual     of Malaya (March 1995), the Deputy Prime
Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Iberhim, quot-          transcends secular humanism, a blatant
ed a statement from Huston Smith’s The              form of anthropocentrism characteristic of
World’s Religions. It very much captures            the Enlightenment mentality. Indeed, it is
the Confucian spirit of self-transcendence:         in the anthropocosmic spirit that we find
                                                    communication between self and commu-
     In shifting the center of one’s empathic       nity, harmony between human species and
     concern from oneself to one’s family           nature, and mutuality between humanity
     one transcends selfishness. The move
                                                    and Heaven. This integrated comprehen-
     from family to community transcends
     nepotism. The move from community to           sive vision of learning to be human can
     nation transcends parochialism and the         very well serve as a point of departure for a
     move to all humanity counters chauvin-         new discourse on the global ethic.
     istic nationalism.5

   We can even add: the move towards the
unity of Heaven and humanity (tianrenheyi)

  For more on Weber’s distinction between instrumental and value-oriented rationality, see: Max We-
ber, Economy and Society, ed. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1978). pp.6-20.
 Chow Tse-Tsung, The May Fourth Movement. Intellectual Revolution in Modern China (Cambridge/
Mass.: Harvard University), 1960.
 Tu Weiming, “Industrial East Asia: The Role of Culture,” Bulletin of American Academy of Arts and
Sciences,Vol. 38, No. 7, April 1985: 9-20.
 Edwin O. Reischauer, “The Sinic World in Perspective,” Foreign Affairs, 52, No. 2, January 1974,
 Huston Smith, The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions, (San Francisco: Harper’s, 1991),

                                                              Compassion in
                                                              Islam and
                                                              Rahma and

By Reza Shah-Kazemi                             expression in this quality, for when the illu-
                                                sion of separation is overcome, the suffer-
                                                ing of the ‘other’ cannot be separated from
Compassion, even on the human plane,
                                                oneself; the virtues of compassion and
is not just a sentiment, it is an existential
                                                mercy, generosity and love thus become
quality. This existential quality presupposes   the hallmarks of the character of one who
a concrete sense of participation in the suf-   has truly realized Unity. Likewise, but from
fering of others, as is expressed by the ety-   a different angle: when self-centredness is
mology of the word: com-passion means           overcome, together with the worldliness,
to ‘suffer with’ another. The metaphysics       subtle or overt, which feeds it, then the
of tawhīd finds its most appropriate ethical     same qualities centered on compassionate
love will flow forth naturally and sponta-         dominate the nature of one’s conduct in
neously: these qualities, inherent in the         relation to others; this ideal, at once ethi-
spiritual substance or fitra of each soul, will    cal and spiritual, derives its ultimate justifi-
no longer be constrained or suffocated by         cation and transformative power from the
coagulations of egotism and worldliness.          fact that it expresses on the human plane
Rather, compassionate love will emanate           a principle which is rooted in the heart of
to the whole of creation, the compassion-         the Absolute.
ate soul will reflect and radiate the all-             In both traditions compassion is in-
encompassing grace of God. Speaking of            separable from love, mahabba in Islam
two types, those who reject God and those         and mettā in Buddhism.2 In Buddhism one
who believe in Him, the Qur’ān declares:          even finds the compound maitrī-karunā
                                                  ‘love-compassion’ which expresses the in-
     Unto each, the former and the latter, do     tertwining of these two principles; in Islam,
     We extend the gracious gift of thy Lord.     likewise, Rahma cannot be adequately
     And the gracious gift of thy Lord can
                                                  translated by the single English word ‘com-
     never be confined (17:20).
                                                  passion’ or ‘mercy’, but requires the addi-
   This is because God’s Rahma, being in-         tion of the element of love. A compelling
finite, can be excluded from nowhere, and          reason for translating Rahma as ‘loving
from nobody: My loving Compassion en-             compassion’ and not just ‘compassion’—
compasses all things (7:156).                     and certainly not just ‘mercy’—is provided
                                                  by the Prophet’s use of this word in the fol-
Islam and Buddhism are not so far apart           lowing incident. At the conquest of Mec-
from each other as regards the role of this       ca, certain captives were brought to the
quality of compassionate love. Despite            Prophet. There was a woman among them,
their very different conceptual starting-         running frantically and calling for her baby;
points, both traditions stress this human         she found him, held him to her breast and
quality as a key ethical trait; and for both      fed him. The Prophet said to his compan-
traditions, this human quality is inseparable     ions: ‘Do you think this woman would cast
from the Absolute—from Allāh in Islam,            her child into the fire?’ We said, ‘No, she
and the Dharma, or the Void (Shūnya) or           could not do such a thing.’ He said, ‘God
Nirvāna in Buddhism.1                             is more lovingly compassionate (arham)
    In this article we intend to show ways        to His servants than is this woman to her
in which the Islamic conception of Rahma          child.’3 The Rahma of God is here defined
helps to render explicit what is largely im-      by reference to a quality which all can rec-
plicit in the earliest texts of the Pali canon;   ognize as love: the mother’s acts of com-
in this respect, it can be seen to serve a        passion and mercy stream forth from an
function similar to that of Mahayana Bud-         overwhelming organic love for her child.
dhism, wherein compassion comes to play           One cannot love another without feeling
a determinative role, elevated as the very        compassionate to that person, while one
principle, cosmological and not simply ethi-      can feel compassion for someone without
cal, which motivates the Buddhas and Bo-          necessarily loving that person.
dhisattvas. We would therefore argue that             The Jewish scholar Ben-Shemesh goes
for both Muslims and Buddhists, the qual-         so far as to translate the basmala as ‘In the
ity of loving compassion must determine           Name of God, the Compassionate, the Be-
the core of one’s personality, and it must        loved’ to bring home this key aspect of love

proper to the root of Rahma.4 He argues          ing them the means—the ‘noble eightfold
that in both Arabic and Hebrew the mean-         path’—to eliminate that cause. It is clear,
ing of love is strongly present in the root      then, that even in early Buddhism compas-
r-h-m, and gives the following evidence:         sion was not just a cardinal virtue, it went
Psalm number 18 contains the phrase: Er-         to the very heart of the Buddhist upāya,
hamha Adonay—‘I love thee my Lord’.5 In          the ‘expedient means’ or ‘saving strategy.’
Aramaic/Syriac, the root r-h-m specifically       However, it is not hard to see that in the
denotes love, rather than ‘compassion’.          later texts, those from which the Mahay-
One can thus feel the resonance of this          ana branch of Buddhism derive, the stress
Syriac connotation within the Arabic Rah-        on compassion goes well beyond anything
ma. Moreover, there is epigraphic evidence       found in the earliest texts, those of the Pali
that early Christian sects in southern Ara-      canon, upon which the Theravada branch
bic used the name Rahmānan as a name of          of Buddhism is based. In the latter, com-
God, and this would probably have been           passion is indeed fundamental and indis-
understood as ‘The Loving’.6                     pensable, but it remains a human virtue;
    God’s Rahma is described by the Proph-       in Mahayana texts, by contrast, it takes on
et as being greater than that of the woman       altogether mythological dimensions, and
for her child, implying that the transcen-       enters into the definition of what most
dent prototype of this most loving and           closely approximates the Personal God in
compassionate of all human qualities is          Buddhism, namely, the Buddha of Infinite
found in the divine Reality. It is interesting   Light, Amitābha. By tracing the compas-
to note that the Buddha refers to an almost      sionate function of Gautama the sage back
identical image in order to bring home the       to its principial root, Mahayana Buddhism
meaning of mettā, the love that is insepa-       helps to solve a logical problem within the
rable from karunā. This is from a passage in     very structure of Theravada Buddhism, or
the Mettā-sutta (‘Teaching on love’) in the      at least makes explicit what is implicit in
Pali canon:                                      the earlier tradition. The logical problem is
                                                 this: If, as the Buddha preached, there is no
   Even as a mother watches over and pro-        ultimate reality pertaining to the individual
   tects her child, her only child, so with a    soul (this being the doctrine of anattā, ‘no
   boundless mind should one cherish all         soul’), from where does the compassion
   living beings, radiating friendliness over    derive its substance, and its enlighten-
   the entire world, above, below, and all       ing efficacy? If the soul is but a conglom-
   around without limit. So let him culti-
                                                 eration of empirical and psychic envelopes
   vate a boundless good will towards the
   entire world, uncramped, free from ill
                                                 (skandhas), with no essential reality, can
   will or enmity. Standing or walking, sit-     the compassion manifested by such a soul
   ting or lying down, during all his waking     have a more substantial reality than these
   hours, let him establish this mindfulness     ‘envelopes’ themselves? In other words,
   of good will, which men call the highest      what is the ultimate source of the compas-
   state!7                                       sion of the Buddha?
                                                     A simple answer would be that this
    It is out of compassion, indeed, that the    source is none other than the enlightened
Buddha preached his Dhamma: his desire           state itself: compassion flows forth from
was to liberate people from suffering by en-     the very nature of Nirvana or Shūnya. But
lightening them as to its cause, and show-       the question remains: how does compas-
sion spring forth from an impersonal or          as the ‘Pure Land’, let alone that state
supra-personal state, when the very nature       of Nirvāna wherein the various Buddhas
of compassion is so clearly personal, that is,   themselves are all transcended.
it so intimately implies a personal will, ac-        It is clear, then, that Mahayana Bud-
tively and compassionately involved in the       dhism comes close to the Islamic concep-
lives of suffering humanity, a personal will     tion of divinity as regards the root of the
which, moreover, must at the same time be        quality of compassion. Both traditions
transcendent or absolute. It must be tran-       make explicit a metaphysically irrefutable
scendent, otherwise it could not save rela-      principle, one about which the Buddha
tive beings through its compassion; but it       himself was silent, but which he did not
must also assume a dimension of relativity,      contradict: compassion cannot be exhaust-
otherwise it would have no relation to liv-      ed by its purely human manifestation; on
ing human beings. It is precisely this combi-    the contrary, it derives all its power and
nation of absolute transcendence and per-        efficacy from its supra-human, absolute
sonal compassion which is expressed in the       or ‘divine’ source. This source is transcen-
Islamic conception of divine Rahma, and in       dent, but insofar as it radiates towards all
the various heavenly Buddhas depicted in         creatures, it assumes a ‘personal’ dimen-
later Mahayana texts.8                           sion, for it consists of an active, conscious
    According to these texts, the principle      and loving will to save all creatures: and
of compassion, so perfectly embodied in          to speak of such a will is to speak of some
Gautama the sage, is depicted as a prin-         kind of ‘person’ directing that will.
ciple transcending his own empirical in-             In one respect, then, this can be seen as
dividuality. He insisted that one can only       a personalization of the Absolute, bestow-
‘see’ the Buddha in the light of the reality     ing upon the pure, ineffable and incon-
of the Dharma, the supreme principle,9 of        ceivable Essence a personal or anthropo-
which he is an embodiment: ‘Those who            morphic dimension, a dimension without
by my form did see me, and those who             which it cannot enter into engagement
followed me by my voice, wrong are the           with human persons. For the pure Abso-
efforts they engaged in; me those people         lute has no relation whatsoever with any
will not see. From the Dharma one should         conceivable relativity. But this personal di-
see the Buddha, for the dharma-bodies            mension does not in any way diminish the
are the guides.’10 The compassion proper         intrinsic absoluteness of the Absolute. For
to the Dharma is universal; Gautama the          the manifestation of such qualities as com-
sage manifested this quality in one particu-     passion, love, and mercy does not exhaust
lar modality. This relationship between the      the nature of the Principle thus manifested.
particular and the universal is expressed in     In Islamic terms, the pure Absolute is the
Buddhism by means of the mythology of            Essence (al-Dhāt), transcending the Names
cosmic Buddhas existing in unimaginably          and Qualities which are assumed by the
distant aeons prior to the earthly appear-       Absolute in its relationship with the world;
ance of the Gautama. Mahayana texts              transcending these Names and Qualities
therefore present a picture of a ‘Personal       implies transcending those ‘personal’ di-
God’ with diverse traits—the Ādi-Buddha,         mensions of God which presuppose and
Vairochana,      Amitābha,     etc—without       manifest these Names and Qualities.
whose grace and mercy, one cannot attain             The Islamic synthesis between two con-
salvation into the celestial domains known       ceptions of God—the supra-Personal and

the Personal—can be seen as analogous to         and al-Muhīt, ‘the All-Encompassing’. Now
the synthesis effected by Mahayana Bud-          it is from this all-embracing dimension of
dhism between the two dimensions of the          divine reality that compassion springs: for it
Absolute. For the personal and supra-per-        is not just as being or knowledge, presence
sonal dimensions of Allāh, comprising all        or immanence, that God encompasses all,
the qualities designated by all of the divine    it is also as Rahma: My Rahma encompass-
Names, are in perfect harmony and per-           es all things, as we saw above. The angels,
fect synchronicity. There is no contradiction    indeed, give priority to God’s Rahma over
between asserting, on the one hand, that         His knowledge (‘Ilm) when addressing Him
the Essence of God infinitely transcends          as the one who encompasses all things:
all conceivable ‘personal’ qualities, and on     You encompass all things in Rahma and
the other, that God assumes these personal       ‘Ilm (40:7).11
qualities for the sake of entering into com-          It might still be objected: God is certain-
passionate, enlightening and saving rela-        ly ‘merciful’ but He should not be called
tionship with His creatures. This Islamic syn-
                                                 ‘compassionate’ as He does not ‘suffer’
thesis can help to show that what has been
                                                 with any creature. Mercy, it will be argued,
called Mahayana ‘theism’ does not violate
                                                 is the more appropriate word by which to
early Buddhism’s insistence on the imper-
                                                 translate Rahma. One may reply as follows:
sonal nature of the Absolute, the transcen-
                                                 insofar as compassion is a human virtue,
dence of the Dharma/Nirvāna/Shūnya vis-
à-vis all conceivable qualities, personal or     it cannot but be rooted in a divine qual-
otherwise.                                       ity; it is this divine quality of Rahma which
                                                 serves as the transcendent archetype of the
                                                 human virtue of compassion. The relation-
Oneness and Compassion
                                                 ship between this divine quality and its hu-
Islam also helps to answer the question          man reflection is characterised by two ap-
which might be posed to a Buddhist: what
                                                 parently contradictory principles: similarity
is the connection between the metaphysics
                                                 (tashbīh) and incomparability (tanzīh). Thus,
of unity—in terms of which there appears
                                                 in respect of tashbīh, God as ‘The Com-
to be no ‘other’, no ‘dualism’, Samsāra and
                                                 passionate’ can metaphorically be said to
Nirvāna being ultimately identical—and the
                                                 manifest sympathy for us in our suffer-
quality of compassion—which logically pre-
supposes both an agent and a recipient of        ing; and it is out of this ‘com-passion or
compassion, thus, a duality? Or it might be      ‘sym-pathy’ that He graciously lifts us out
asked: is there a contradiction between the      of our suffering. However this conception
absolute transcendence of Reality, and the       needs its complement: the point of view
compassionate manifestation of this Real-        deriving from the principle of tanzīh: in-
ity? We would answer in terms of Islamic         asmuch as the quality designated by ‘The
metaphysics that the oneness of Reality          Compassionate’ has no self-subsistent es-
strictly implies compassion. For the one-        sence, but subsists solely through the Es-
ness of God is not simply exclusive, it is       sence as such, it cannot possibly be subject
also inclusive—it is both Ahad and Wāhid,        to any relativity. The inner dimension of this
it is both transcendent and immanent. As         divine quality must perforce transcend the
al-Wāhid, all-inclusive oneness, God en-         sphere within which suffering and other
compasses all things, whence such divine         such relativities are situated, failing which
Names as al-Wasi‘, ‘the Infinitely Capacious’     it would not be a transcendent quality, that
is: one that is rooted in the utter transcen-   to desire for His creatures, when He pos-
dence of the divine Essence.                    sesses perfectly and infinitely all that He
    Conversely, on the human plane, com-        could possibly desire? Can the Absolute
passion as Rahma is evidently a virtue          desire the relative? Al-Ghazālī addresses
which one must acquire and cultivate; it        this question, first in theological mode,
must therefore be present in God, failing       and then in terms of the metaphysics of
which our human quality of compassion           oneness, from the point of view of ma‘rifa.
would lack any divine principle; compas-        One can legitimately apply the same word,
sion would then be a human effect with-         love (mahabba), both to man and to God;
out a divine cause. This is made clear in       but the meaning of the word changes
the prophetic saying on the Rahma of the        depending on the agent of love. Human
mother for her child: human compassion          love is defined as an inclination (mayl) of
is akin to the compassion of God for all        the soul towards that which is in harmony
creatures, except that divine compassion        with it, beauty both outward and inward,
is absolute and infinite, while human com-       seeking from another soul the consumma-
passion is relative and finite. The essence      tion of love. Through this love it attains
of the quality is one and the same, only its    completeness, a mode of perfection which
ontological intensity, or mode of manifes-      cannot be attained within itself. Such love,
tation, is subject to gradation.                al-Ghazālī asserts, cannot be ascribed to
    The aspect of transcendence proper to       God, in whom all perfections are infinitely
God implies that this attribute, when as-       and absolutely realized. However, from a
cribed to God, has an absolute and infinite      higher, metaphysical point of view, one can
quality, in contrast to the relative, finite     indeed say that God loves His creatures.
participation in that quality by human be-      God’s love is absolutely real, but His love
ings. In the human context, then, compas-       is not for any ‘other’ being or entity. Rath-
sion manifests two things: a virtue whose       er, it is for Himself: for His own Essence,
essence is divine, on the one hand, and         qualities and acts. There is nothing in being
a human capacity to suffer, on the other.       but His Essence, His qualities and His acts.
In the divine context, the transcendent         Hence, when the Qur’ān asserts that ‘He
source of human compassion is affirmed,          loves them’ (5:54), this means that ‘God
but the susceptibility to suffering, which      does indeed love them [all human souls],
accompanies the human condition, is to-         but in reality He loves nothing other than
tally absent. As between the human virtue       Himself, in the sense that He is the totality
and the divine quality—or simply: between       [of being], and there is nothing in being
the human and the divine—there is both          apart from Him.’12
essential continuity and existential discon-        Al-Ghazālī demonstrates that God is
tinuity, analogical participation and onto-     the entirety of being by reference to the
logical distinction, tashbīh and tanzīh.        holy utterance (hadīth qudsī), in which
    Another way of resolving the apparent       God speaks in the first person, on the
contradiction between divine compassion         tongue of the Prophet: ‘My slave draws
and divine unity is provided by al-Ghazālī.     near to Me through nothing I love more
If compassion be understood as a mode of        than that which I have made obligatory for
love, then one can reformulate the ques-        him. My slave never ceases to draw near
tion and ask whether it is possible to as-      to Me through supererogatory acts until I
cribe love to God: can God be susceptible       love him. And when I love him, I am his

hearing by which he hears, his sight
by which he sees, his hand by which
he grasps, and his foot by which he
    It is the saint, the walī Allāh (lit-
erally: friend of God), who comes
to understand the reality that God
alone is—that there is no reality by
the divine reality—and this under-
standing comes through efface-
ment, fanā’, in that reality, and this,
in turn is the function of God’s love:
‘My slave never ceases to draw near
… until I love him.’ It is from this
divine love that the saint comes to
see that God loves all creatures,
and that the reality of this love is
constituted by God’s infinite love of
Himself. This love is expressed not
just by the term mahabba but also
by Rahma, which encompasses all

Rahma as Creator
Turning now to another aspect of
compassion, that of its creative
power, we see again that what is
left implicit in early Buddhism is
rendered altogether explicit both in
Islam and in such Mahayana tradi-
tions as Jodo Shin. In both tradi-
tions, the Creator is nothing other
than the ‘All-Compassionate’, or the ‘All-    significant action be initiated with a rec-
Loving’; but whereas this conception is en-   ollection of the compassionate source of
shrined in the very heart of the Qur’ān, it   creation. In terms of the two divine Names
emerges in Buddhism only in certain Ma-       deriving from the root of Rahma, the first,
hayana traditions.                            al-Rahmān is normally used to refer to the
    The Muslim consecrates every important    creative power of Rahma, and the second,
action with the utterance of the basmala,     al-Rahīm, to its salvific power. Combining
the phrase: Bismillāh al-Rahmān al-Rahīm.     these two properties of loving compassion,
This formula also initiates each of the 114   the creative and redemptive, one sees that
chapters of the Qur’ān (except one). It is    ultimately nothing can escape or be sepa-
altogether appropriate that all ritual and    rated from God’s all-embracing Rahma.
This is why calling upon al-Rahmān is tan-      ing the very nafs, the Self or Essence of
tamount to calling upon God: Call upon          God. The use of the image of ‘writing’ here
Allāh or call upon al-Rahmān (17:110). If       can be seen as a metaphor for expressing
al-Rahmān is so completely identified with       the metaphysical truth that Rahma is as it
the very substance of God, then it follows      were ‘inscribed’ within the deepest real-
that the Rahma which so quintessentially        ity of the divine nature. God’s ‘inscription’
defines the divine nature is not simply          upon Himself is thus God’s description of
‘mercy’ or ‘compassion’ but is rather the       Himself, of His own deepest nature.
infinite love and perfect beatitude of ulti-          The creative aspect of the divine Rahma
mate reality, which overflows into creation      is vividly brought home in the chapter en-
in the myriad forms assumed by mercy and        titled ‘al-Rahmān’ (Sūra number 55), it is
compassion, peace and love.                     al-Rahmān who ‘taught the Qur’ān, cre-
     Rahma is thus to be understood primar-     ated man, taught him discernment’ (verses
ily in terms of a love which gives of itself:   1-3). The whole of this chapter evokes and
what it gives is what it is, transcendent       invokes the reality of this quintessential
beatitude, which creates out of love, and,      quality of God. The blessings of Paradise
upon contact with Its creation, assumes the     are described here in the most majestic
nature of loving compassion and mercy,          and attractive terms; but so too are the
these being the dominant motifs of the re-      glories, beauties and harmonies of God’s
lationship between God and the world. As        entire cosmos, including all the wonders of
was seen above, God’s transcendent Rah-         virgin nature, these verses being musically
ma is alluded to by the Prophet in terms of     punctuated by the refrain: so which of the
the most striking expression of Rahma on        favours of your Lord can you deny?. In this
earth—that expressed by a mother who,           chapter named after al-Rahmān, then, we
after searching frantically for her baby,       are invited to contemplate the various lev-
clutches it to her breast and feeds it.         els at which Rahma fashions the substance
     ‘Call upon Allāh or call upon al-Rahmān;   of reality: the Rahma that describes the
whichever you call upon, unto Him be-           deepest nature of the divine; the Rahma
long the most beautiful names’ (17:110).        that is musically inscribed into the very reci-
It should be noted in this verse that all       tation of the chapter; the Rahma that cre-
the names are described as ‘most beauti-        ates all things; the Rahma that reveals itself
ful’, including therefore all the names of      through the Qur’ān and through all the
rigour as well as those of gentleness. But      signs (āyāt) of nature. One comes to see
the most important point to note here is        that God has created not only by Rahma,
that the name al-Rahmān is practically co-      and from Rahma but also for Rahma: …
terminous with the name Allāh, indicating       except those upon whom God has mercy:
that the quality of loving mercy takes us to    for this did He create them (11:119); and
the very heart of the divine nature. In two     within Rahma: My Rahma encompasses all
verses we are told that Rahma is ‘written’      things (7:156).
upon the very Self of God: He has written            Combining these two properties of lov-
mercy upon Himself (6:12); Your Lord has        ing compassion, the creative and redemp-
written mercy upon Himself (6:54). The          tive, or the ontological and salvific, we see
word kataba, ‘he wrote’, implies a kind of      why it is that ultimately nothing can escape
inner prescription, so that Rahma can be        or be separated from God’s all-embracing
understood as a kind of inner law govern-       Rahma, which is the divine matrix contain-

ing the cosmos. The word ‘matrix’ should              Amida is the Supreme Spirit from
be taken quite literally, in relation to its      whom all spiritual revelations grow, and to
root: ‘mother’. The word for womb, rahim,         whom all personalities are related. Amida
derives from the same root as Rahma. The          is at once the Infinite Light (Amitābha) and
entire cosmos is not just brought into being      the Eternal Life (Amitāyus). He is at once
by Rahma, it is perpetually encompassed by        the Great Wisdom (Mahāprajna: daichi)—
Rahma which nourishes it at every instant,        the Infinite Light—and the Great Compas-
as the mother’s womb nourishes and en-            sion (Mahākaruna: daihi)—the Eternal Life.
compasses the embryo growing within it.           The Great Compassion is creator while the
One should note here that in Buddhism,            Great Wisdom contemplates.15
one of the terms denoting the Buddha is               Some lines later, we read about the uni-
Tathāgatagarbha, which literally means the        tive power of love; this can be compared
‘womb’ (garbha) of the Tathāgata, the ‘one        with the compassionate love which is
thus gone’. This womb or matrix not only          spiritually required and logically implied by
contains all things, it is also contained with-   the metaphysics of tawhīd: ‘In love … the
in the soul, being one with the immanent          sense of difference is obliterated and the
Buddha-nature (Buddhadhatu) which each            human heart fulfils its inherent purpose in
individual must strive to realize.                perfection, transcending the limits of itself
                                                  and reaching across the threshold of the
     In the Islamic worldview, God’s Rahma is
not just mercy; rather it is the infinite love
                                                      In love, the sense of difference is oblit-
and overflowing beatitude of ultimate real-
ity, one of whose manifestations is mercy.        erated: the unity of being, which may be
In this light, one can better appreciate such     conceptually understood through knowl-
perspectives as the following, within Jodo        edge, is spiritually realized through love,
Shin Buddhism: ‘The inner truth is: From          whose infinite creativity overflows into a
the Eternal Love do all beings have their         compassion whose most merciful act is
birth’.14 Such a statement articulates a di-      to reveal this very oneness. To return to
mension of causality left completely out of       al-Ghazālī: the perfect and eternal love
account by the earlier Buddhist scriptures,       of God creates the human being in a dis-
where the entire emphasis was on escape           position which ever seeks proximity to
from the round of births and deaths. The          Him, and furnishes him with access to the
only important point about the ‘birth’ of         pathways leading to the removal of the
beings was the existence of the ‘unborn’ to       veils separating him from God, such that
which one must flee for refuge: the process        he comes to ‘see’ God by means of God
by which beings were born was thus seen           Himself. ‘And all this is the act of God, and
as a process of enslavement to the inelucta-      a grace bestowed upon him [God’s crea-
bility of suffering and death. In Mahayana        ture]: and such is what is meant by God’s
Buddhism, however, one can find expres-            love of him.’17 This enlightening grace of
sions of love and compassion which are            God towards His creatures is constitutive of
identified with the creative power of the          His love for them, a love which in reality
Absolute. This passage from Naturalness           is nothing other than His love for Himself.
shows that the Absolute reveals its ‘Eternal      Human love and compassion, by means
Life’ through the dimension of its ‘Great         of which the sense of difference is obliter-
Compassion’:                                      ated between self and other, can thus be
                                              made clear by the following verses of Mil-
                                              arepa, the great poet-saint of Tibet:

                                                 Without realizing the truth of
                                                   Even though you meditate on the
                                                 Great Light,
                                                   You practice but the
                                                   Without realizing the unity of Bliss
                                                 and Void,
                                                   Even though on the Void you
                                                   You practice only nihilism.18

                                                  The truth of ‘Many-Being-One’ can be
                                              read as a spiritual expression of tawhīd,
                                              and mirrors many such expressions in Is-
                                              lamic mysticism, indeed, the literal mean-
                                              ing of tawhīd being precisely a dynamic
                                              integration, not just a static oneness. It is
                                              derived from the form of the verb, wahha-
                                              da, meaning ‘to make one’. Phenomenal
                                              diversity is thus integrated into principial
                                              unity by means of the vision unfolding
seen as a unitive reflection herebelow of      from this understanding of tawhīd. In these
the oneness of the love of God for Him-       verses, Milarepa tells one of his disciples
                                              that however much he may meditate on
self within Himself. Absolute compassion
                                              the supernal Light, if he regards that Light
and transcendent oneness, far from being
                                              as being separate from all things by way
mutually exclusive are thus harmoniously      of transcendence, then he cannot realize
integrated in an uncompromisingly unitive     the immanence of that Light in all that ex-
tawhīd.                                       ists, that immanence by virtue of which the
    The compassion which we have been         ‘many’ become ‘one’, the ‘face’ of reality
examining is clearly an overflow of the be-    being visible in everything that exists. In the
atitude which defines an essential aspect      absence of this vision, then meditation on
of ultimate Reality, the oneness of which     the Light results only in ‘clinging’—cling-
embraces all things by virtue of this com-    ing, that is, to a false distinction between
                                              the One and the many, a duality which will
passion, precisely. Inward beatitude, prop-
                                              imprison the meditator within the realm of
er to the One, and outward compassion,
                                              multiplicity. It is when Milarepa addresses
integrating the many, is a subtle and im-     the intrinsic nature of the Void, however,
portant expression of the spiritual mystery   that the similarity with the Islamic concep-
of tawhīd. We observe in this affirmation      tion of the beatific rahma of God emerges
of tawhīd another conceptual resonance        in a striking manner. ‘Without realizing
between the two traditions, a resonance       the unity of Bliss and Void’, any medita-

tion on the Void is but nihilistic. The Void        from whom compassion flows to all is one
is intrinsically blissful, or it is not the Void.   in whom ‘the overflowing Void-Compas-
Nirvana and the Void (Shūnya) are identi-           sion’, as Milarepa calls it in another verse,
cal in essence, the term Nirvāna stressing          has been realized: it ceaselessly overflows
the blissful nature of the state wherein            from the Absolute to the relative, and to
one is conscious of the Absolute, and the           the extent that one has made oneself ‘void’
term ‘Void’ stressing the objective nature          for its sake, one becomes a vehicle for the
of the Absolute, transcending all things are        transmission of the Compassion of the
‘full’—full, that is, of false being. Milarepa’s    Void:
verse makes clear this identity of essence,
and shows moreover that it is precisely be-
cause the Void is overflowing with beati-               Rechungpa, listen to me for a
tude that the experience of the Void can-                 moment.
not but be blissful: it is far from a nihilistic       From the centre of my heart stream
negation of existence and consciousness.               Glowing beams of light.
Knowing and experiencing the beatitude                 …
                                                       This shows the unity of mercy and
of the Void thus cannot but engender in
                                                          the Void.20
the soul a state of being reflecting this be-
atitude, and a wish to share that beatitude
with all beings: such a wish being the very
essence of compassion, which is not simply
                                                    To conclude this article, it may be objected
a capacity to feel the suffering of others as
                                                    that however remarkable be the similari-
one’s own—which articulates one level of
                                                    ties between the Islamic and the Jodo Shin
ethical tawhīd—but also, at a higher level
                                                    conceptions of the loving compassion that
of tawhīd, a capacity to bring that suffering
                                                    articulates the creativity of the Absolute,
to an end through making accessible the
                                                    Jodo Shin cannot be taken as representa-
mercy and felicity ever-flowing from ulti-
                                                    tive of the broad Buddhist tradition, and is
mate Reality. This is the message—which is
                                                    rather an exception proving the rule. To this,
immediately intelligible to any Muslim—of
                                                    we would reply that the Jodo Shin presen-
the following verses of Milarepa:
                                                    tation of this crucial theme—God as Cre-
   If in meditation you still tend to
                                                    ator through compassion—does not prove
      strive,                                       that the two traditions of Islam and Bud-
   Try to arouse for all a great                    dhism can be crudely equated as regards
      compassion,                                   this theme; rather, it simply demonstrates
   Be identified with the All-Merciful.19            that the differences between the Islamic
                                                    conception of God as Creator through
    Here, we see the All-Merciful being             compassion and the Buddhist silence on
identified with Absolute Reality, referred           the question of such a Creator need not be
to earlier as the Void, but here, the char-         seen as the basis for a reciprocal rejection.
acter of the Void is clearly affirmed as in-         Rather, the very fact that at least one Bud-
finite mercy. To identify with this mercy is         dhist school of thought affirms the idea of
to identify with the Absolute; arousing for         a compassionate Creator shows that there
all ‘a great compassion’ means infusing             is no absolute incompatibility between the
into one’s soul a quality which reflects the         two traditions as regards this principle.
infinite compassion of the Absolute. One             There is no need to claim that the principle
plays an analogous role in both traditions,                  nication’, shows convincingly that the concept of
far from it: definitive, central and inalien-                 ‘Dharma’ is a bridge linking Buddhism to the other
                                                             religious traditions: ‘If Dharma corresponds, on the
able in Islam; and conceivable, possible,                    one hand, to the absoluteness and infinitude of the
and, at least, not absolutely undeniable in                  Essence, the dharmas for their part correspond to
Buddhism.                                                    the relativity and contingency of the accidents.’ M.
                                                             Pallis, A Buddhist Spectrum (London: George Allen
Notes                                                        & Unwin, 1980), p.103. It should be noted that just
1                                                            as Dharma can mean both Reality and the Law or
  It is all too often stated that Buddhism is ‘atheistic’,
                                                             Norm or Rectitude which leads to that Reality, so the
insofar as it does not speak about the Personal God.
                                                             Arabic concept of Haqq refers both to the ultimate
But, as Frithjof Schuon explains, the Buddhist no-
                                                             Reality and the human obligations and duties fash-
tion of the Void, or of extinction, is God conceived
                                                             ioned by conformity to that Reality.
in subjective mode, as a ‘state’; what is called ‘God’ in
the theistic traditions is conversely, the Void consid-          Vajracchedikā, 26a, b. Cited in Buddhist texts through
ered objectively, as principle. F.Schuon, Treasures of       the Ages eds. E. Conze, I.B. Horner, D. Snelgrove, A.
Buddhism (Bloomington: World Wisdom, 1993), p.19.            Waley (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1954), p.144.
See also our Common Ground between Islam and Bud-            11
                                                                It is interesting to note that in Tibetan Buddhism,
dhism (Louisville: Fons Vitae, 2010), on which this          there is likewise a certain priority of compassion
article is based.                                            over knowledge, as far as the manifestation of these
  Anukampā and dayā, translated as ‘sympathy’, are           qualities is concerned on earth, for the Dalai Lama,
closely related to the idea of compassion. See Har-          representing the Bodhisattva of compassion (Chen-
vey Aronson, Love and Sympathy in Theravada Bud-             rezig, the Tibetan name of Avalokiteshvara) has
dhism (Delhi, 1980), p.11. As Reverend Tetsuo Unno           priority over the Panchen Lama, who represents the
notes in his introduction to Kanamatsu’s Naturalness         Buddha of Light (Opagmed, the Tibetan name for
(p.xiii), the author uses the English word ‘love’ to         Amitābha). See M. Pallis, The Way and the Mountain
translate karuna, normally translated as ‘compassion’.       (London: Peter Owen, 1991), pp.161-162.
3                                                            12
  Bukhārī, Sahīh, kitāb al-adab, bāb 18 hadīth no. 5999          Al-Ghazālī is here cites the saying of Shaykh
(Bukhari summarized: p.954, no.2014); Muslim,                Sa‘īd al-Mayhinī. This is from ‘The Book of love
Sahīh, kitāb al-tawba, hadīth no. 6978.                      and longing and intimacy and contentment’ of his
 See A. Ben Shemesh, ‘Some Suggestions to Qur’an             Ihyā’ ‘ulūm al-dīn (Beirut: Dār al-Jīl, 1992), book 6,
Translators’, in Arabica, vol.16, no.1, 1969, p.82.          part 4, vol. 5, p.221.
    Ibid.                                                       An-Nawawī’s Forty Hadith, p.118, no.38. It is cited
                                                             there from Bukhārī, Kitāb al-riqāq, p.992, no.2117.
   See Albert Jamme, ‘Inscriptions on the Sabaean            14
Bronze Horse of the Dumbarton Oaks Collection’,                  Kenryo Kanamatsu, Naturalness—A Classic of
in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, vol. 8 (1954), pp. 323-324         Shin Buddhism (Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2002),
et passim.                                                   p.113.
   E. Conze, Buddhist Scriptures (Baltimore, 1968),               Ibid., p.63.
p.186.                                                       16
                                                                  Ibid., p.64.
8                                                            17
  This celestial level of the manifestation of the Bud-           Al-Ghazālī, Ihyā’, op. cit., pp.221-222.
dha-principle is referred to as Sambhoga-kāya, in con-       18
                                                                The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, (tr. Gar-
tradistinction to the Dharma-kāya—which pertains to
the supra-manifest Essence—and the Nirmāna-kāya,             ma C.C. Chang) (Boston & Shaftsbury: Shambhala,
the human form of the earthly Buddha.                        1989),vol. 2, p.526.
 Marco Pallis, in his important essay, ‘Dharma and                Ibid., vol.2, p.561.
Dharmas as Principle of Inter-religious Commu-                    Ibid., vol.2, p.445.

Love and compassion in the
Abrahamic religions
By Oliver Leaman

Talking about the role of love and compas-         worth spending some time here looking at
sion in religion is always problematic, since      the Islam=love idea, since it is quite popular
we have a very positive attitude towards           now, especially in its contrast with the rath-
love and most things associated with it. As        er grim stereotype of Islam that persists in
a result, advocates of a particular religion       many minds. This idea is very much based
tend to see that religion as embodying love        on a particular interpretation of Islam as
in the strongest possible way, and by com-         Sufism, a form of mysticism which empha-
parison with other religions often rather          sizes the personal relationship between the
better than they do. No-one has anything           believer and God, and which often inter-
bad to say about love and compassion, and          prets this relationship very much along the
if it can be shown to be what a religion is        lines of love and affection. For example,
“all about”, that seems to be even better.         when someone is loved, he can get those
An added bonus occurs if the religion is           who love him to act in certain ways with-
thought by many to be about something              out acting himself, since the lovers all try to
else entirely. So for example when a lot of        please the loved one, and admire his quali-
people have negative views of Islam due            ties even if the loved one does not directly
to its putative connections with violence          respond. This is not a bad way to see the
and terrorism, what better way of defusing         relationship between God and his crea-
the situation than by arguing that Islam is        tures and has the advantage of explaining
in fact imbued with values that are based          how the distance between him and us is
on love and compassion, that the Prophet           maintained, even though we are affected
himself in his sayings and lifestyle embod-        greatly by him. There are also antinomian
ied such values, and any interpretation of         trends in Sufism, the suggestion that the
Islam that takes a different attitude is sys-      rules of Islam and the doctrinal principles
tematically misleading? This simplistic ap-        of a particular approach to religion are not
proach is strenuously pursued, for instance,       so important, especially when compared
by Gülen and his many followers, and really        with the emotional links between people,
does not do justice to the complexity and          and we find this quite often in Rumi when
sophistication of a religion like Islam.           he refuses to distinguish between Muslims
     On the other hand, many Muslims do            and the People of the Book, on occasion,
compare their religion with Christianity on        as though this difference does not matter.
this topic and argue that on the contrary          Anyone can love God, and if all who seek
the latter pays too much respect to love,          to do so are equally respected from a re-
and as a result is unbalanced. Christianity        ligious point of view, then the distinction
is seen as being too “soft” in its emphasis        between religions becomes less significant.
here on love, while Judaism as too “hard”              Let us see how this might work for
in its materialism. Islam is the religion in the   Christianity and Judaism. It is often now
middle, with just enough love and also ma-         argued that Paul did not really set out to
terialism to hit the happy mean. But it is         establish a huge distinction between Juda-
ism and the new religion of Christianity,        love one another (mutahabinna) for My
although he is often credited, or blamed,        sake, sit together for My sake, visit one an-
with this accomplishment. He seems to be         other for My sake, and give generously to
arguing most of the time against Christians      one another for My sake’.” It is often said
who insisted that in order for a gentile to      that Islam refers to love a good deal less
be a Christian he or she would have to con-      than Christianity, yet we should not notice
vert to Judaism first. This seemed to Paul        that the customary reference to God does
to be an exaggerated demand, and he op-          involve two expressions, al-rahman and
posed it. Provided the gentiles agreed to        al-rahim, both of which involve love since
abide by the seven Noahide rules that all        they are often translated as the compas-
righteous people are supposed to follow,         sionate and the merciful, and it is difficult
the rules that were set in the Hebrew Bi-        to make sense of those terms unless they
ble at the time of Noah, they can become         are linked with love. Yet in the rest of the
Christians. This was of course a clever move     Qur’an it is certainly true that love is often
for the new religion to make and greatly         referred to negatively, as when people love
increased its attraction. The notion that        to believe something false, or do some-
Jewish law is harsh and inflexible is some-       thing they should not.
times suggested in the New Testament,                Judaism and Islam both regard law as
but just as often Jesus speaks of the law        a very important way for people to work
with respect and denies that he has come         out how they are to live. Christians often
to overturn it. Many would say that the di-      see law as something rigid and insensitive
chotomy between love and law is a false          to the feelings of those who are covered
dichotomy anyway. After all, Christianity        by it. The thing about law is that it estab-
says some quite harsh things also about          lishes rules which apply to everyone in the
people which puts its status as a religion       community and establishes rules of how
based on love into jeopardy. For example,        to live that make it possible for the indi-
we are told that “If anyone comes to me          vidual to understand and follow religion.
and does not hate his father and mother,         In doing this he or she acts in the way that
his wife and children, his brothers and          God wishes them to act, as they see it, and
sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot       there is nothing in itself harsh and inflexi-
be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). We need to         ble about this. There are certainly rules that
acknowledge also Mark 3:31-35 and Luke           are difficult to follow, and the two Jewish
11:27-28 where again Jesus seems to pri-         legal schools of Hillel and Shammai distin-
oritize supporters over family, which is per-    guished themselves often in terms of how
haps a rather strong way of saying that one      difficult they made life for those following
should not prioritize family over everyone       them. The school of Hillel was invariably
else, but still seems to be rather inappropri-   gentler than the School of Shammai, and
ate in a religion said to be based on love.      saw this as a virtue. Whether we should
There are plenty of similar passages in the      see it as a virtue depends on whether one
hadith, where ordinary love is said to be        thinks that religion should present the indi-
secondary and love of God and his Prophet        vidual with relatively easy or relatively dif-
primary, so that the former is made pos-         ficult tasks to perform.
sible by the latter. In the hadith collected
by Malik there is “God said, ‘My love (ma-
habbati) necessarily belongs to those who

Compassion and animals                           the companionship of their offspring and
It is not difficult to find reasons to be com-     vice versa.
passionate in Judaism. First of all we need          The Jewish and Islamic modes of ani-
to pay some attention to the reason that         mal slaughter are complex but basically
                                                 involve the quick cutting of the throat of
human beings were created in Judaism.
                                                 the animal, after a short prayer, with a very
Adam was created by divine breath to look
                                                 sharp implement, and the rules are clearly
after the garden. Adam is made from the
                                                 designed to avoid pain as far as possible.
dust of the ground and his role is “to till it
                                                 However, in modern times there are other
and care for it” (Gen 2.15). He is assisted by
                                                 methods of killing which seem to most
the creation later on of a woman to be his
                                                 observers to be more satisfactory. For ex-
companion, but before the woman arrived
                                                 ample, if an animal is first of all stunned,
he was with the animals whose names he
                                                 then killed, surely the pain is even less. The
was taught. After the flood God says to
                                                 problem from a Jewish and Muslim point
Noah and to his sons and said “I now make
                                                 of view of this procedure is that if the ani-
my covenant with you, and with your de-
                                                 mal is first stunned, it is not possible for it
scendants after you, and with every living
                                                 to be killed appropriately according to reli-
creature that is with you, all birds and cat-    gious law. This has led to a debate about
tle, all the wild animals with you on earth,     whether it should be allowed for Jews and
all that have come out of the ark” (Gen          Muslims to kill their animals in ways that
9. 8-11). The ox and the ass are not to be       contravene ordinary standards of animal
yoked together, presumably because one           welfare, although of course talking about
is stronger than the other and this would        animal welfare when this involves killing
be unfair, and on the Sabbath the ani-           millions of animals is perhaps a strange
mals are supposed to rest, and also can be       form of expression. In recent times the de-
looked after even though this might con-         bate has been widened to include wider
stitute what would otherwise be forbidden        issues of cruelty where factory farming is
work. There are many stories about how           at issue, although the kosher nature of the
animals have important roles in the life of      slaughter is technically not in question. If
the world, and how our attitudes to them         the Torah and Qur’an emphasize compas-
reveal much about us. Moses and David,           sion for all creatures, and indeed care and
for instance, as shepherds are supposed to       concern for all life, then should Jews and
have behaved in ways that would suggest          Muslims be allowed to treat the earth and
strength in a leadership role, since a good      the creatures on it as available to them to
shepherd has to be pay attention to the          be used and exploited, or should they rath-
weakest of his followers and those most          er see themselves as in partnership with
prone to going astray. Levi was the brother      our environment and responsible for tak-
who discovered Benjamin’s money in his           ing care of it?
sack, it is also suggested, because he unlike        Abraham Kook (1865-1935) is an un-
the others attended to his animals’ needs        usual thinker on the treatment of animals.
before his own, a meritorious disposition        He was a very traditional rabbi, indeed the
displaying care and compassion for weaker        first (Ashkenazi) chief rabbi of Palestine, yet
creatures. Not sacrificing parents and chil-      regarded Judaism as advocating vegetari-
dren together is another rule that perhaps       anism. He suggested that the very complex
allows parents to enjoy, at least for a time,    rules about eating animals were designed
to make us think that it would be better         we are supposed to think about the words
to give up that practice! For example, Jews      we are using, and we reflect on them and
are supposed not to mix meat and milk,           on what they might mean in a particular
so rules developed about what constitutes        situation. We perhaps give some money to
meat and milk products, and what degree          charity, and then think about why we do
of separation should exist. Some go so far       it, and we eat a cracker that has a kosher
as to have two kitchens in which meat and        or a halal sign on it, a symbol that it is ko-
milk products can be prepared, and two           sher or halal, and we think about the laws
sets of cutlery and crockery for each type       of kashrut or halal and what their purpose
of food. Then dead animals that have been        might be.
slaughtered appropriately might still raise          According to Maimonides, unless we
an issue, such as if a drop of blood found       explore the reasons for the command-
on the animal rendered it potentially un-        ments we are really operating on a very
acceptable, and a visit to the rabbi might       superficial level in following them. It is bet-
be required. Keeping kosher is time con-         ter to follow them superficially than not
suming and often difficult, and Kook sug-         to follow them at all, of course, but the
gests that perhaps the strict rules about        whole point of even the ostensibly minor
meat and its consumption and production          ceremonial laws is to change us as people,
are designed to make us wonder whether           to make us acquire the right frame of mind
we ought not to do without it altogether,        and the ability to understand why we act
which he saw as raising us to a higher level     in the ways we do and have the feelings
of moral consciousness. The Torah works          we possess. God has given us laws he
with us rather than against us and realizes      wants us to follow not for his sake, since
that we tend to enjoy meat and often see         he needs nothing from us, but for our
the world as our possession to use as we         sake, since these ways of acting are in our
wish, and seeks to wean us gradually from        interests. They are in our interests as ac-
this notion by putting in front of us obsta-     tions particularly because if we think about
cles in the form of Jewish law which do not      what we do we start to change into the
prevent us from doing what we want, but          sort of people who take an intelligent and
make it tougher and more convoluted.             self-aware view of who we are. There is a
    He is using here a very important idea in    nice story in the Talmud of a calf who es-
Jewish thought, an idea that Maimonides          caped from the slaughterer and who end-
enunciated very clearly, and that is that        ed up in the prayer house and hid under
God could just create in us a disposition to     the cloak of the great Judah Hanasi, the
behave in whatever way he wants us to,           compiler of the Mishnah, pleading with
but prefers to allow us to get to that dispo-    him to save him from the knife. Hanasi
sition gradually through our own efforts,        said, quite reasonably, that the calf should
albeit aided by his law. After all, a disposi-   return to the fate which had been estab-
tion, a way of doing things and thinking         lished for him, presumably with slaughter
about them, is acquired by us on the whole       as its end. The passage ends up criticizing
gradually, over time, and the point of a re-     him, although everything he says is techni-
ligion is to get us to think about what we       cally correct, since it is rather heartless to
are doing, and why, through the mecha-           reject such an appeal from a creature who
nisms of the religion. We go to pray and         manages to escape from the knife. Heaven
although the prayers may be familiar to us,      was not pleased with Hanasi’s actions here,

or rather absence of actions, and it is said    the complexity per se that should make us
that for that reason, his lack of compas-       think about the rationale for what we are
sion, a lack of compassion was shown to         doing, Kook would argue, but the fact that
him. He relieved the situation though later     so much care is taken to ensure that the
on when his servant uncovered a group           eating and killing of animals is done in just
of kittens in his house and was about to        the right sort of way. That should get us to
destroy them, only to be prevented by his       think about the whole process and in his
quoting the verse Ps 145.9 “His mercy is        terms raise the issue of how we reconcile
upon all his work”. As a matter of custom       that with the compassion that we should
we often do treat animals who escape in         feel for other forms of life on the earth.
situations like that of the calf rather dif-         Despite his argument and that also of
ferently from the rest of the animals who       Maimonides that law makes us think about
just end up being killed. Why are we com-       what the deeper purpose of what we are
passionate about this particular case, and      doing involves, there is an argument that
are apparently encouraged to be so by the       law can take us in an entirely different di-
Talmud (Bava Metzia 85a) when in general        rection. We can become so entranced by
we have no compunction, as a culture, in        the law, so enmeshed in the legal processes
doing to death for our pleasure huge num-       and learning what the law requires of us,
bers of similar creatures? Why were the kit-    that we ignore or become abstracted from
tens spared, and their sparing approved by      what the aim of the law might be. This
heaven, when presumably there is nothing        is not really an objection to Maimonides
wrong with destroying animals in our hous-      since he understands that this is possible,
es that we regard as objectionable?             he talks about a category of people who
                                                are skilled in the law yet who are not re-
Love and law                                    ally advanced in coming close to the truth
This raises an intriguing question about        since they remain at the legal level without
compassion, which is how can we justify         enquiring into what the law is really for.
limiting our compassion to particular ob-       It is worth pointing to this danger of law,
jects? If it is right to be compassionate in    though, that it tends to have an intellectual
all cases where a certain situation applies,    structure of its own that can be satisfying
which surely it is, unless compassion is to     in itself and we may well stay at that level
rest on nothing more than a whim, then          and not delve any deeper. To go further,
should we not be compassionate in all such      the greater the complexity of the law, the
cases? This is the point of the command-        greater the sense of achievement in mas-
ments, according to Maimonides, they help       tering it, and perhaps the less of a tenden-
us move from the particular to the general      cy there is to wonder what it represents. It
by helping us think about why we do what        becomes an end in itself. In this sense law
we do. So for example we follow the rules       operates contrary to compassion, since we
of what we are allowed to eat and then          may do what we ought to do legally with-
come to wonder what the point of these          out asking any of those more searching
rules are, except to obey the word of God. It   questions about what the law is actually
must be more than that, and surely as Kook      supposed to bring about. What the law
says it might be to question the whole activ-   usefully addresses is the idea that people
ity of killing and eating animals, the source   have to be treated in general terms, and
of the complexity of kashrut. But it is not     that is why in the Anglo-American tradi-
tion justice is depicted as blindfolded, so     ish community, and he is supposed to be
that she does not notice the individuals        constantly attuned to what is taking place
who come before her, just the deserts of        around him.
their cases in general. But compassion ap-          Yet how is this possible, except in a sto-
plies to individuals, and although we may       ry that is supposed to have as its moral the
acknowledge that we ought to be com-            idea that we should be interested in the
passionate to everyone who deserves it,         welfare of others? If someone is really in
it is very difficult to act in this way. If we   tune with all the feelings of even a limited
spread compassion around too thinly, there      group of people, how will that individual
is not enough to go around even to ap-          manage to function? Will he not be so af-
ply to those close to us. Yet at the same       fected by those sufferings, and also plea-
time that we limit our compassion to only       sures, that he will be unable to concentrate
a few, we acknowledge our duty to apply         on his own affairs or even carry out his
it to everyone, and it is this paradox that     basic religious functions on behalf of the
the Abrahamic religions are very interested     community? It would be like trying to have
in exploring                                    a conversation with one person while car-
                                                rying on a conversation with lots of other
Love and responsibility                         people all at the same time. Religions are
In one of the stories that Buber so much        good at emphasizing the significance of
enjoyed, the tzaddik, the authentic com-        compassion, but they are also excellent at
munity leader in the mystical pietistic         explaining how to maximize compassion
movement of Hasidism, is expected to take       while allowing the other aspects of life to
thorough responsibility for all that goes       continue. In Judaism the yetzer ha-ra, the
on in the neighborhood, not limited to his      evil inclination, that leads us to do evil ac-
congregation or whom he knows. Rebbe            tions, comes in, as one would expect, for
Mordechai of Neshkhizh said to his son,         a lot of abuse, and yet it is also praised
the Rebbe of Kovel, “He who does not feel       as a faculty that allows for a lot of good
the pains of a woman giving birth within        things also. It is involved in the notion of
a circuit of fifty miles, who does not suffer    ambition, of competition and the desire
with her and pray that her suffering may        to succeed. Unless we have these desires
be assuaged, is not worthy to be called a       we shall do very little in life, unless we are
tzaddik.” His younger son Yitzchak, who         saints, and most of us are not saints. It is
later succeeded him in his work, was ten        the point of religion to direct our evil incli-
years old at the time. He was present when      nations in positive directions, and for this
this was said. When he was old he told the      to happen what religion does is work with
story and added, “I listened well. But it was   who we are, where we are and how we
very long before I understood why he had        can become better. It does not just tell us
said it in my presence.” (Buber, 1991,164).     to reform and improve, on the contrary, it
    The degree of empathy and compas-           works with those negative aspects of our
sion referred to here is evidence that the      personality and thought to direct and trans-
Hasidic tzaddik is supposed to have an al-      form them into more positive directions. A
most organic connection with the body of        tzaddik is a very unusual person, certainly
the community as a whole, and there are         very different from most members of the
many such stories. The community in these       community. This leads to another danger,
stories is certainly not limited to the Jew-    the opposite of feeling dissatisfied if one

is not perfectly compassionate to everyone       who perhaps are more comfortable help-
(and everything?) around one, the danger         ing people directly who need to be helped,
of feeling that since this is an ideal one is    and who have the interpersonal skills to
unlikely to meet, one does not need to try.      achieve something significant in this area.
As it says in the very practical Pirkei Avot     Not everyone does. For them to do this
(Ethics of the Fathers 2.16): “You may not       other people need to make resources avail-
complete the task but you are not therefore      able to them for their work, and so are per-
excused from trying to complete it”. This        haps better regarded as indirectly compas-
still does not help us a lot since it leaves     sionate. There is no general formula that
open precisely how compassionate we              would suit everyone and every situation,
ought to be, what is the level of compas-        and again religions are very good at invit-
sion that is acceptable and compatible with      ing the individual to think about how he
bringing about the appropriate degree of         or she can best participate in the project of
improvement in the world that we are ca-         making the world a better place, what in
pable of through our ordinary activity.          Hebrew is called tikkun olam.
     Another Hasidic story that is often quot-
ed is of a rabbi called Zusya who regretted      Religion and law
not being Moses, by which he presumably          We return to the topic that started this dis-
meant that he regretted not reaching the         cussion, the idea of religion as expressing
heights of prophecy and leadership es-           or identifying a middle position, something
tablished by Moses. Moses is supposed to         that Islam very much prides itself on. Love
have said to him that his role was not to        is certainly important, but surely it is too
be Moses but to be Zusya, and we are re-         vague and variable an emotion to base
minded of the passage from the Pirkei Avot       one’s behaviour on entirely. This is why
where we are told to be both for ourselves,      many religions like Islam and Judaism think
but not only for ourselves and to regard         law is important as a way of working out
the present time as the time when things         how to act. Basing our actions on love and
ought to be done (1.14). That is, we should      compassion would make those actions too
not constantly put off what we know we           subjective, it might be argued, and also
ought to do because we are waiting for the       would not help us learn from them, since
time to be right. This brings out nicely the     instead of looking for principles to follow
sort of balance that is involved in being a      and think about we would be forever re-
human being, and for different people the        flecting on our personal experiences and
amount of compassion that their lives en-        feelings. The latter are certainly important
compass will differ. For example, there are      but their role in helping us understand why
people who perhaps would find it easier           we act as we do and what we ought to do
and more effective to work for a living in       is necessarily rather limited. Here again the
some commercial field where they can earn         Abrahamic religions like Islam and Judaism
money and then dispose of it in charitable       are rather clever in suggesting that love
directions, to an extent, and where their        and compassion need to be embodied in
improvement of the economic structure            something more solid than just in what we
of their country is in itself a helpful activ-   are experiencing at a particular time.
ity. Their ordinary work creates the context
within which compassion can be effec-
tive as directly carried out by others, those
Buber, M. (1991) Tales of the Hasidim, New York: Shocken
Eshots, Y. (2006) ‘ishq, in Leaman, O. (ed) The Qur’an: an encyclopedia, London: Routledge, 310-
Gülen, M. Fethullah (2006) Toward a global civilizatrion of love and tolerance, New Jersey: Light
Leaman , O. (1997) Moses Maimonides, London: Routledge
------ (2009) Islamic philosophy: An introduction, Cambridge: Polity
------ (2010) Judaism: An introduction, London: I. B. Tauris

Compassion in Traditional
and Secular Morality

By M. Ali Lakhani                               tional worldview is in terms of its existential
                                                perspective. For the modernist, the start-
   But a certain Samaritan…had compas-          ing point can be framed in these terms:
   sion on him.                                 “I exist, and the world exists around me”;
                         (St. Luke: 10, 33)     while from the traditional vantage, the for-
                                                mulation would be: “Only Absolute Real-
   Mercy is the first word of God; it must       ity exists, and neither I nor the world has
   therefore also be his last word.             any independent reality”. These different
   Mercy is more real than the whole world.     existential perspectives—which might be
                           (Frithjof Schuon)1   termed “anthropocentric” and “theocen-
                                                tric”2, respectively—inform one’s under-
                                                standings of identity and relationship, and
One of the principal ways in which mod-         will tend to indicate significantly different
ernism can be distinguished from the tradi-     conceptions of human purpose and val-
ues, conceptions which lie at the core of         form the understanding of compassion in
so many issues facing the contemporary            the various faith traditions.
world, including its definitions of morality.
    While the modernist perspective tends                                *
to be secular3, the traditional perspec-                                * *
tive tends to be religious4. These different      From a traditional perspective, Reality is the
worldviews—modernist and traditional—             intimate unity that transcends all relativis-
have given rise to differing conceptions of       tic conceptions of oneness. It is the all-em-
“humanism”. The modernist conception              bracing Presence of the Absolute Beyond-
of secular humanism holds that man alone,         Being, which transcends contingency and
governed by the instrumentality of Reason,        limitation, yet penetrates to the core of all
is the arbiter of human values, while the         existence. The nature of this Reality is not
traditional view of spiritual humanism pro-       physical or psychic, but spiritual. This ever-
ceeds from the understanding that human           present core or spiritual Center is, in man,
values are inscribed into the spiritual core      the Heart, whose cardial quintessence is
of one’s innermost self, and can be dis-          compassion.6
cerned not by merely discursive reason, but           In Islam, this principle of transcendent
by the instrumental grace of the transcen-        unity, known as “tawhīd”, is reflected in
dent Intellect which is the spirit’s cognitive    the testimonial creed or “Shahāda”, ac-
faculty. Thus, for the modernist, the para-       cording to which “There is no reality if not
gon of humanity is the “Enlightenment”            the Reality” (“lā ilāha illā’Lah”). This prin-
man, while for the traditionalist, it is the      ciple is present in all the major faith tra-
“enlightened” man.                                ditions. By whatever name this Reality is
    The purpose of this brief essay is to trace   termed (Ptah, Brahman, YHWH, the Tao,
the metaphysical contours of the tradition-       the Monad, the Godhead, Allāh, Haqq), by
alist understanding of compassion, and to         whatever hypostasis, or by whatever expe-
examine the implications of modernist at-         rience (nirvana, samadhi, satchitananda,
tempts to define a moral philosophy con-           fanā’), it is the same Reality and principle
structed on secular humanistic values. We         that is being apprehended. In the words
will conclude with a few remarks on the           of the Rig-Veda: “With words, priests and
central importance of compassion in both          poets make into many the hidden Reality
worship and morality.                             which is One.”7
                                                      Principially, Reality is the Origin and
While the particular viewpoint and illustra-      transcendent Center. Existentially, it is the
tions offered in this paper will be Islamic5,     radiating Circle of Existence, with multiple
the perspective described will be traditional     dimensions, within which it is immanently
and universal, and therefore will be found        present. Teleologically, it is the reality of re-
to exist in all the major faith traditions. We    union within the principial Center, so that
will refer to correspondences in other faith      the Origin (Alpha) is also the promised End
traditions as an illustrative reminder of this    (Omega). Each of these ways of appre-
universal perspective, though this paper is       hending Reality—principle, manifestation,
not intended to be a comparative survey           and purpose—reflects the compassionate
of particular theological expressions of the      nature of Reality, and we shall now con-
universal metaphysical principles that in-        sider each of these aspects in turn.

     From the principial perspective, tran-        Arabic term Rahmah, whose root letters,
scendent Reality is Beyond Being and be-           R-H-M, signify the sense of a nurturing
yond all limitation, and its Essence is there-     womb—the womb that is the existential
fore beyond all name and understanding.            matrix. The term Rahmah, denotes com-
Nevertheless, the ineffable Absolute has           passion in two senses—as both Beneficent
revealed itself in three ways: through its         Grace and Benevolent Mercy. It is the root
creation, its holy books and messengers,           of the Koranic Names of Mercy, ar-Rahman
and our innermost Self. Each of these re-          and ar-Rahīm, which correspond to these
ceptacles of the Divine Word bears the             two senses of Grace and Mercy, the for-
imprint of the Divine Spirit of Presence.          mer describing the projecting “Mercy of
It is for this reason that mankind is urged        gratuitous gift” (rahmah al-imtinān) which
in the Koran to seek evidence of Reality           is synonymous with the divine nature,
both within the outer world of creation            and the latter describing the reintegrating
and also within oneself: “We shall show            “Mercy of obligation” (rahmah al-wujūb)
them Our signs upon the horizons and in            exercised based on divine discrimination.9
their selves”.8 These “signs”—which also           These terms are contained in the verse of
include the Koranic verses themselves—             consecration—Bismi Llāhi ar-Rahmāni ar-
are symbolic gateways to the Divine Trea-          Rahim, “In the Name of God, the Infinitely
sury of the qualities and attributes of Re-        Good, the All-Merciful”. The importance
ality, which in Islam are called “The Most         of this verse is evident in the fact that it
Beautiful Names” (al-asma’ al-husna). They         is used to commence all but one surah of
represent all the archetypal qualities and         the Koran,10 and is uttered by every Mus-
attributes manifested in creation, which           lim in prayer. Commenting on the Names
include both the rigorous (masculine), and         of Mercy, Martin Lings explains how they
the clement (feminine), aspects of Reality.        relate to the divine nature:
These are the “names” that God revealed
to Adam (or primordial man), so that their            Amongst the most striking features
knowledge is thereby inscribed pre-existen-           of the Revelation were the two Divine
                                                      Names ar-Rahmān and ar-Rahīm. The
tially within the Adamic Heart and, in their
                                                      word rahīm, an intensive form of rahīm,
quintessential reality, constitute its primor-        merciful, was current in the sense of
dial nature (fitra). According to Muslim tra-          very merciful or boundlessly merciful.
dition, God has kept for Himself the name             The still more intensive rahmān, for lack
of His Essence. Yet, this “Hidden Treasure”           of any concept to fit it, had fallen into
can be known by the Heart—the cardial                 disuse. The Revelation revived it in ac-
Center of the innermost self—within which             cordance with the new religion’s basic
it resides, for, in the words of a sacred tradi-      need to dwell on the heights of Tran-
tion, “God has said: The heavens and the              scendence. Being stronger even than
earth would not be able to contain Me, yet            ar-Rahīm (the All-Merciful), the name
                                                      ar-Rahmān refers to the very essence or
I dwell in the heart of the true believer.”
                                                      root of Mercy, that is, to the Infinite Be-
This interiority is, as we shall see, the most
                                                      neficence or Goodness of God, and the
intimate proof of divine compassion, but it           Koran expressly makes it an equivalent
is also the foundation of gnosis. Hence, it           of Allāh: “Invoke God (Allāh) or invoke
is also said, “Whoso knows himself, knows             the Infinitely Good (ar-Rahmān), which-
his Lord.” The quintessence of the indwell-           ever ye invoke, His are the names most
ing “Hidden Treasure” is designated by the            Beautiful.” (Sūrat al-Isrā’, XVII:110)11

    This scriptural affirmation of the equiv-       From the perspective of the divine man-
alence of the divine nature with the root of   ifestation, there is no existence but God.
Mercy and “Infinite Beneficence or Good-         Existential Being is Mercy. The analogy of
ness of God”, is reiterated in another im-     light or illumination is frequently employed
portant Koranic verse, “He has prescribed      to express the idea of creation14 and this is
Mercy for Himself.”12 The Arabic words         because it is in the nature of light to give
used to describe this prescription (kataba     of itself—or, according to the well-known
‘ala nafsihi r-Rahmah) can be rendered “He     Platonic and Augustinian maxim, it is in the
has inscribed (or written) Mercy upon Him-     nature of the Good to communicate itself.
self”, conveying the sense that the quality    Relating this to our discussion of the divine
of Rahmah (Grace and Mercy) is integral        nature of Grace and Mercy, existence can
to (“written upon”) the divine nature and      be understood as inherent within the di-
is not contrary to any outward manifes-        vine nature, as the gracious response of
tation of the Divine Acts, no matter how       the Absolute to those possibilities of ex-
seemingly contradictory these may appear.      istence latent within Itself—that is, within
In other words, such outward contradic-        the Divine Treasury15 of archetypes from
tions—such as the evils, sufferings, and       which creation emerges. It is important
apparent imperfections of this world—are       here to understand creation not in a chron-
                                               ologically linear and historic sense, but in
not evidence of God’s lack of compassion,
                                               a trans-historical and metaphysical sense
but merely of our own metaphysical priva-
                                               as a dynamic process of the ever-renewing
tion, spiritual ignorance or moral failings.
                                               theophany. Thus, according to Ibn ‘Arabi’s
For, as the Koran also explains, “Whatever
                                               famous theory, creation is a perpetual pro-
good comes to you is from God, and what-
                                               cess of instantaneous annihilation and re-
ever evil comes to you is from your own
                                               creation, occurring within an ontological
soul.”13 The Koranic explanation of God’s
                                               continuum whose very core is Mercy. Ibn
compassionate nature as “written upon”
                                               ‘Arabi likens this to the process of breath-
Reality can be understood in this sense:       ing. God creates through the breath of His
though God is all-powerful and possesses       Speech, through his inhalation and exhala-
powers of wrath, severity and rigor—as         tion, through spiritual projection and spiri-
well as those of gentleness, compassion,       tual reintegration, which Ibn ‘Arabi calls
and mercy—He cannot transcend His own          the Nafas al-Rahmānī or “Breath of the All-
good nature, which, like that of a good        Merciful”.16 God is as intimately present
parent, is to be maternally loving, com-       within us as our breathing. We are not only
passionate and merciful, despite the ap-       originated in and through compassion, but
pearance of paternal rigor. For this reason,   are embraced and sustained within the
though God possesses rigorous attributes       oceanic Spirit of Mercy. The enveloping na-
as well as clement ones, the divine nature     ture of this sustaining Spirit is referred to
transcends these archetypal polarities, and    in the Koranic verse, “My Mercy embraces
is intrinsically compassionate. This accords   everything”17—which further affirms the
with the famous hadīth, “God has said:         central principle of tawhīd, emphasizing
Verily, My Mercy precedes My Wrath!”,          both the transcending oneness of Reality
and this precedence has profound salvific       and its integrally compassionate nature.
and eschatological implications, as we shall       Implicit in the principle of tawhīd is the
see.                                           notion of the divine imprint. It is a universal

theme in faith traditions to view man as be-      without the means at hand for our own
ing created “in the divine image”18, with         salvation—though in the end all salvation
the Divine Spirit breathed into his soul19, or    is nothing but Grace. Our task is merely
to view Reality in terms of a metaphysical        to respond to God’s compassion—present
correspondence between Earth and Heav-            within His “signs” and in the latent capaci-
en20 by virtue of the presence of the divine      ties of our Heart—and to do so through
imprint within manifestation. This derives        our own God-given compassionate nature,
from the understanding that creation is           by seeking refuge in the intimate “heav-
the Divine Self-Revelation: it is the exteri-     en” of His Radiant Presence, from the dark
orization of the divine principle, with each      “hell” that is blind to the Face of God.24
level unfolding hierarchically from principle     This response requires a re-orienting “con-
to manifestation through successive lev-          version”—or “turning away” from dark-
els, and each unfolding level reflecting the       ness toward Light—which is the essence of
higher level and thereby bearing the divine       repentance. It is in this sense that repen-
imprint from which all things originate. It       tance is Mercy. This profoundly comforting
is in this sense that the Heart—that is, the      message assures the faithful that they can
compassionate core of man’s primordial na-        seek refuge in the comfort of God within
ture or fitra—contains God. The fact that          their own Heart, which reflects His intrin-
all creatures therefore contain something
                                                  sic Mercy. The three dimensions of mani-
of God, and are intrinsically good21, is a fur-
                                                  festation—the outer creation, the revealed
ther confirmation of the All-encompassing
                                                  Word (transmitted in the scriptures and
nature of Divine Mercy, which embraces all
                                                  through divinely inspired messengers), and
things. A corollary of this is that the Divine
                                                  our innermost Self—are all “signs” of the
Image or the “Face of God” is everywhere.
                                                  Face of God and of His compassionate and
Thus the Koran states, “Wheresoever you
                                                  gracious reaching-out to mankind.25 There
turn, there is the Face of God.” 22 This is
                                                  are “tongues in trees, books in running
the saving Face, or salvific Presence of Mer-
cy, of which the Koran states, “Everything        brooks, sermons in stones, and good in ev-
will perish save His Face”23—for Rahmah           erything.”26 It is only when we are blind
alone is Absolute, “embracing everything”,        to our innermost self that we lack the eyes
transcending all polarizations, and the orig-     to see. As we noted earlier, the intimacy
inating source and eschatological end of          of God’s compassion is evident in our very
everything that is contingent.                    breathing—and the Beauty of the Divine
    From a teleological perspective, the end      Face is as much taken-for-granted as is our
of everything is to retrace its way back to its   own breathing. The antidote to this human
Divine Source. In our end is our beginning.       “forgetfulness” is the practice of divine
The purpose of human life is the Self-dis-        “remembrance” (in Islam, dhikr), about
covery that is the counterpart of Divine Self-    which we shall have more to say later—but
disclosure. Self-search proceeds through          for now, we shall pause. We have surveyed
levels of interiority, each level mirroring the   how the traditional worldview places com-
processes of exteriorization. From the outer      passion at the very heart of Reality, in its
we are led by degrees to the inner sanctum        metaphysical nature, its existential reality,
of the Heart—and what leads us to that            and as the raison d’être of human exis-
Center is our own receptivity to its com-         tence. We will now contrast this with the
passionate and radiant Light. We are never        modernist perspective.
If transcendent unity is at the heart of tra-   Goodness and outer Beauty—as is evident
dition, modernism by contrast is character-     in the Platonic dictum of “Truth, Good-
ized by fragmentation and deracination. In      ness, and Beauty”. Truth is the primordial
a deconstructed world, there is an urgent       perception of theophany. It is the gracious
need to discover the “terra firma” upon          perception of the symbolist spirit, not the
which to construct the edifices that are         human synthesis constructed out of an at-
vital to human existence. The traditional       omized universe. Reality is the sacred Pres-
worldview emphasizes that Reality is inti-      ence of Goodness and Beauty. It is neither
mately interconnected, and this intercon-       material nor mental, but profoundly spiri-
nectedness—vertically, between man and          tual. It is to be discerned not by human rea-
God; and horizontally, between man and          soning but by the self-reflective Intellect—
his fellow creatures—constitutes the foun-      by that transcendent faculty within us that
dation of traditional ethics and aesthetics,    enables us to look receptively, beyond
by which virtue is related to beauty. There     appearances, to perceive our own Heart
is a profound connection between inner          reflected everywhere. This compassionate

core is both the intrinsic beauty within us—      dent roots, terms such as goodness, love,
Goodness, or, in Arabic, ihsān—and the            and compassion become no more than
extrinsic goodness in creation—Beauty, or,        malleable personal morals or else abstract
in Arabic, husn. Both Goodness and Beauty         ideas without any proper underpinning in
are aspects of the Divine Face—the Mercy          reality. In our times we are all too aware
that encompasses everything. But in the           of changing moral standards. This is pre-
modernist conception, these vital connec-         cisely because modernist versions of mo-
tions are either lacking or, where appar-         rality are deracinated, without spiritual
ently present, are superficially grounded in       roots. In this regard, Frithjof Schuon has
human constructs derived from rationalis-         noted how modernist values differ from
tic arguments or subjective preferences.27        traditional virtues: “Morals can vary, for
They are not rooted in the Absolute and           they are founded on social exigencies: but
therefore lack any metaphysical objectivity.      virtues do not vary, for they are enshrined
It is beyond the scope of this paper to at-       in the very nature of man; and they are in
tempt a proper demonstration of how dif-          his primordial nature because they corre-
ferent modernist schools of thought—that          spond to cosmic perfections and, a fortiori,
is to say, those that reject the traditional      to Divine qualities.”28 Secular moral con-
axiom of the transcendent and immanent,           structs that fail to root morality in primor-
Absolute ground of Reality—are subject to         dial virtue cannot fully engage us because
fatal errors that manifest either as relativism   they do not engage us ontologically. When
or false reductionism. Suffice it to say that,     morality fails to engage us, we become
however noble the intention to construct a        “heartless”. This is what the Koran terms
secular basis for morality, it is self-evident    kufr or the “covering up” of the Heart. An
that the lesser cannot construct a path to        example of disengaged morality is found
the greater, but can only walk across the         in Dostoevsky’s masterpiece, The Brothers
                                                  Karamazov, in Ivan Karamazov’s famous
path that the greater holds out to it. All
                                                  speech on love, where he says, “The idea
attempts to construct a secular morality
                                                  of loving one’s neighbor is possible only as
based merely on constructs of rational con-
                                                  an abstraction: it may be conceivable to
sensus or secular humanistic “values” are
                                                  love one’s fellow man at a distance, but
doomed to failure insofar as they are root-
                                                  it is almost never possible to love him at
ed in the modernistic denial of transcen-
                                                  close quarters”.29 There is a dangerous dis-
dence and thereby deny the metaphysical
                                                  engagement underlying that sentiment, an
foundations of “virtue”. For man is much
                                                  amorality bordering on blindness. Another
more than the sum of his thoughts, and the
                                                  example of this blindness—this one involv-
universe is much more than the sum of its
                                                  ing a more substantial “covering up”—is
parts. Both man (the microcosm) and the           found in the chilling moral rationalization
universe (the macrocosm) derive from the          provided by Harry Lime to his friend Hol-
same Origin and Center, and it is this meta-      ly Martins (in Graham Green’s The Third
physical intersection of (metacosmic) Real-       Man), when Martins asks Lime about his
ity, which alone can form the construct of        “victims” in their famous encounter on the
any foundation of morality.                       Ferris Wheel:
     It is meaningless to speak of modern-
ist conceptions of morality because they             MARTINS: Have you seen any of your
are not grounded ontologically in virtue.            victims—
Without anchoring virtue in its transcen-
     HARRY: Victims? Don’t be melodra-            tachment is the movement towards Real-
     matic. Look down there. All of those hu-     ity, and is the removal to a higher (spiritual
     man beings… don’t they look like dots?       and participative) plane. It is only through
     Would you feel any pity if one of those      the verticality of detachment that we can
     dots stopped moving forever? If I of-
                                                  engage the interiority of compassion. It is
     fered you 20,000 pounds for every dot
     that stopped moving, would you really,
                                                  by living in cardial sympathy with our fel-
     old man, tell me to keep my money? Or        low creatures, by seeing them not reduc-
     would you calculate how many dots you        tively as mere “dots” on the landscape,
     could afford to spare? Free of income        but ontologically as translations of our very
     tax, old man. Free of income tax. It’s the   selves, that we can engage our true human
     only way to save money nowadays—             potential for compassion. It is our capac-
     …                                            ity for the realization of this potential that
     You’re just a little mixed up about things   constitutes the essence of our humanity.
     in general. Nobody thinks in terms of             Modernistic humanism, however laud-
     human beings. Governments don’t, so
                                                  able its aims, cannot arrive at the heart of
     why should we? They talk about the
     people and the proletariat. I talk about
                                                  compassion, for it is precisely its oblivious-
     the suckers and the mugs. It’s the same      ness to the Presence of the Heart that fun-
     thing. They have their five-year plans,       damentally undermines its aims. The Heart
     and so have I—                               is both the vital center of one’s being and
                                                  the qualitative seat of compassion—and it
     MARTINS: —You used to believe in             is no accident that these meanings coin-
     God—                                         cide in the term “heart”. But the search
     …                                            for our center is not a solipsistic enterprise
     HARRY: —I still do believe in God, old       for we live within a larger universe whose
     man. I believe in God and Mercy, and all
                                                  center is none other than the immanent
     that. The dead are happier dead. They
                                                  Self that is our own transcendent Heart.
     don’t miss much here, poor devils…30
                                                  This is the identity of Brahma and Atmā in
    Ivan Karamazov’s conception of neigh-         Vedantic terminology. It is this ontological
borly love is as dangerously abstracted and       coincidence that resonates within us, and
disengaged as Harry Lime’s empty concep-          its resonance is what we feel as compas-
tions of God and Mercy. Both examples             sion. This is the vital essence of Reality—
involve a reductionism—the erasure of             the transcendent and compassionate unity
the reality of the “neighbor”—and relativ-        of being that lies at the center of all faith
ism—placing self-interest above objective         traditions.
interests—that typify the flaw of spiritual
blindness in modernist conceptions of hu-                              *
                                                                      * *
manism. There can be no real engagement
of compassion when we are blind to Real-          The humanistic appeal of the recent initia-
ity—that is, blind to the spiritual “in-sight”    tives promoting a Charter of Compassion31
of “Heart-vision”. This spiritual disengage-      and “A Common Word”32 based on Love,
ment contrasts with the traditional virtue        points to an existential truth that is central
of spiritual detachment, which, through           to traditional teachings, namely, that the
interiorization, engages compassion. While        qualities of compassion and love lie at the
disengagement is a flight from Reality to a        very heart of reality. These are important
lower (infernal and self-limiting) realm, de-     initiatives because they are attempts to

drill below the surface of our differences to    is its spiritual center; while morality, in its
the spiritual core of those Heart-centered       spiritual sense, is the operation of virtue
values that can unite us as human beings.        through the compassionate illumination of
These values are metaphysically rooted,          the soul. As it is compassion that has origi-
transcending theological differences while       nated and sustains us, so it is compassion
respecting them, and they point to an un-        that continually calls to us to respond to it
derlying spiritual humanism that is vital for    from our Heart-Center wherein it lies—the
us to promote in these troubled times.           Hidden Treasure within our soul. And this
     But there are two significant dangers        response is both reintegrating prayer and
in this enterprise33: abstraction and senti-     transforming virtue. Prayer is the remem-
mentalism.34 With regard to abstraction, it      brance (dhikr) of the existential verity of
is important for any initiatives that advo-      tawhīd. We remember who we really are,
cate humanistic universal values to avoid        so that we may “act out in God’s eye what
promoting them as “a priori” neo-Kantian         in God’s eye we are.”36 Remembrance is
categorical imperatives, for—as the quoted       our witnessing of the sacred Presence of
words of Ivan Karamazov indicate—there           the Face of God within and around us. This
is a danger that values can be abstracted        can only be done by being Heart-centered.
of any meaningful reality when they are          This is the essence of dhikr. Though human
removed from their metaphysical under-           beings may feebly attempt prayer, in truth
pinnings. A “value” is truly valuable only       they can at best “get out of the way”, for
when it operates as a “virtue”—that is,          it is the Heart alone that prays—hence the
when it is transformatively and alchemical-      Koranic verse, “Remember Me, and I will
ly operational within us. There is a further     remember you”.37 When God remembers
danger—that of sentimentalizing values so        us, it is the Heart that opens (in self-remem-
that they become mere expressions of emo-        brance) to its own compassionate nature.
tion rather than operative virtues grounded      It is through this compassionate opening
in the moral intelligence of the Heart.35 It     that the illusory boundaries between the
is important in this regard to recall that the   soul and the spirit, and between the “self”
Heart is the seat of the Intellect, and that     and the “other” dissolve. We are able to
love and compassion are above all aspects        discern the sacred within us and thereby its
of moral intelligence.                           resonance in all things. There is no virtue
     Earlier in this paper, we referred to the   without this transcendent foundation. We
vertical relationship of man and God, and        can be virtuous only when we are respond-
the horizontal relationship of man with his      ing out of our Heart—when our actions
fellow creatures. These relationships dictate    are “heart-felt”, and addressed not to the
the two central obligations of mankind:          “other” but to the transcendent Self. Thus,
worship and morality. But the point we           according to the famous hadīth of Gabriel,
wish to emphasize here is that the relation-     “Spiritual virtue (ihsān) is to adore God as
ships and obligations are integrally linked:     if thou sawest Him: and if thou seest Him
it is because we worship God or the greater      not, He nevertheless sees thee”. Spiritual
Reality, that we owe moral obligations to        morality is integrally based on faith and
all that is holy or sacred within creation.      worship. Virtue is the “in-sight” of com-
Compassion is central to both worship and        passion. It is what enables us to be com-
morality. Worship is the self-surrender of       passionate, like the Good Samaritan, act-
the soul to the compassionate core that          ing out of our innermost nature, in the
faith that God sees us, and in the knowl-                     Rig-Veda, X, 114.2; see also Rig-Veda, I, 164.46:
edge that “All that lives is holy”.                         “Being One, the sages name Him variously.”
                                                             Sūrat Fussilat, XLI:53: The “horizons” refers to the
Notes                                                       macrocism, while the Self is the microcosm. Each
1                                                           of these contains “signs” of the metacosmic Reality.
  Frithjof Schuon, “Spiritual Perspectives and Hu-
man Facts”, translated by P. N. Townsend. Perennial           This distinction by Ibn ‘Arabi is discussed by
Books, Middlesex, 1987, p. 56.                              Toshihiko Izutsu in Sufism and Taoism (University of
2                                                           California Press, Berkeley, 1983), chapter IX, “Onto-
   Non-theistic perspectives, such as that of Bud-
                                                            logical Mercy”, p. 116 et seq.
dhism, are intended to be embraced within this
definition: while we recognize that the terminology             The verse of consecration is absent only in Sūrat
is not ideal, its selection is primarily a matter of con-   at-Taubah (IX), stressing the rigorous nature of this
venience, with the caveat that the term “theocentric”       particular revelation.
is not intended to refer to any particular limited con-     11
                                                                Martin Lings, Muhammad: His Life based on the Ear-
ception of divinity, but to embrace a conception of         liest Sources, Unwin Paperbacks, London, 1983, 1986,
ultimate Reality which is Absolute and Infinite and          chapter XVI, pp. 46 and 47.
Perfect, whether expressed in theistic terms or not.        12
3                                                                Sūrat al-An-‘ām, VI:12.
    That is, it privatizes religion, sometimes regard-      13
ing it as an irrelevant anachronism, if not rejecting            Sūrat an-Nisā’, IV:79
it outright—the latter tendency being better under-         14
                                                                 For example, “Light is the progenitive power”
stood as “secular fundamentalism”.                          (Taittiriya Samhita, VII: 1.1.1)
4                                                           15
   That is, it views all aspects of existence through           See Sūrat Al-Hijr, XV:21: “There is no thing
its theocentric lens, though this does not necessarily      whose storehouses are not with Us, but We send it
place it in conflict with either empirical science or        down only in a known measure.” The Storehouses
those secular aims that reject theocracies—the ten-         are the Divine Treasury, the archetypal realm out
dency to such a conflict within the religious outlook        of which things are brought into existence as the
being better understood as “religious fundamental-          “Speech of God”.
ism”.                                                       16
                                                               The word for “breath” (nafas) is a cognate of the
  One of the reasons for this paper’s focus on Islam        word for “self ” (nafs), demonstrating etymologically
is that, though compassion is central to the message        the link between creation and the divine nature.
of Islam, the conception of Islam in the “West” is—         17
                                                                 Sūrat al-Ar’āf, VII:156.
for historical and other reasons that are beyond the
scope of this paper—dominated by images and un-                 For example, Book of Genesis, 1:27; and the had-
derstandings of the faith, of its sacred scripture, and     ith: “God created Adam in His own form.”
of the Holy Prophet, that derogate from the central-        19
                                                               For example, Book of Genesis, 2:7; and Sūrat As-
ity of its compassionate message.                           Sajdah XXXII:9: “Then He fashioned him in due
6                                                           proportion and breathed into him of His Spirit.”
  Etymologically, the word “compassion” is derived
from the terms “passio” (suffering) denoting an in-         20
                                                               For example, Katha Upanishad, IV.10: “Whatever is
tense feeling or suffering, and “com” (with) denoting       here, that is there. What is there, that again is here.”
participation. It conveys the sense of participation        21
in the suffering of the “Other” to the point where             Book of Genesis, 1:31: “And God saw every thing
distinctions between the Self and the Other are dis-        that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”
solved in a sense of fellow-feeling. As such, the term      Note also William Blake’s dictum, “Everything that
is strongly linked to “sympatheia” (Gr.), from “syn”        lives is holy”—the term “holy” conveying that it
(together) and “pathos” (feeling). However, as Dante        bears the divine imprint, being “of the whole”, and
has noted (in Il Convito, II.ix.2), compassion is a hu-     “wholesome” or good.
man predisposition of the soul to certain qualities         22
                                                                 Sūrat Al-Baqarah, II:115.
that are inherent in (its) nature: “Compassion is not a     23
passion; rather a noble disposition of the soul, made            Sūrat al-Qasas, XXVIII:88.
ready to receive love, mercy, and other charitable             The presence of Hell does not contradict the
passions.” This primordial predisposition has meta-         inherent Mercy of the Absolute, for the purpose
physical roots, as we discuss in this paper.                of hellfire is precisely to burn away the impurities

within us that keep us from Heaven. According to            30
                                                                Radio Script of Graham Greene’s “The Third
Muslim tradition, when all is purified and finally re-        Man”, Shamrock Eden Publishing, Kindle edition
stored to its primordial condition at the end of time,      released March 7, 2009.
God will stamp out the fires of Hell.                        31
    That God has not abandoned man, in some Deis-           32
tic sense, is evident in the many scriptural revelations,
and in the ever-renewing theophany itself. The fact         33
                                                               No doubt the initiators of the Charter of Com-
that there were diverse scriptural revelations (each        passion and A Common Word are well aware of
with the language of their own folk—see Koran,              these dangers. No criticism is intended of these
14:4), and the fact that we exist and that existence is     laudable initiatives, yet it is important to bear in mind
being sustained, are themselves expressions of Di-          how difficult it is to avoid these appealing universal
vine Mercy.                                                 values of “compassion” and “love” finding appeal
26                                                          merely at the level of “values” rather than as onto-
     William Shakespeare, As You Like It, II.1.13.
27                                                          logical “virtues”.
    One recent example of a modernist attempt to
construct a system of ethics based on secular hu-               Abstraction reduces forms and particulars to
manism is that of Jurgen Habermas, presented in The         generalized mental concepts. It is the excessively
Future of Human Nature, Polity, 2003. In his review         “dry” intellectualism of Truth without Presence.
of this work in the journal, Sacred Web, Vancouver,         It expresses itself through various forms of philo-
Volume 13 (, the traditionalist           sophical humanism and syncretism. Its charity is
scholar Ibrahim Kalin considers the feasibility of          either disengaged or condescending. Sentimental-
Habermas’ project. Kalin comments (in the review,           ism, by contrast, is the excessive attachment of the
which is titled, “All Too Human…And That is the             emotions to particular forms. It is the excessively
Problem”) on the difficulty of doing away with reli-         “moist” emotionalism of Presence without Truth. It
gion when discussing any system of ethics. He asks          expresses itself in certain forms of evangelism and
(at p. 156), “Can one construct a secular ethics with       New-Ageism. Its philanthropy is sentimental and
total disregard to the religious and the metaphysical?      therefore not disinterested.
Assuming that one can, the question is then: can one        35
sustain it? The known history of secular humanism              See the quotation from Dante, supra, at footnote
does not provide us with any convincing answers             6, which emphasizes the distinction between com-
that this project can be completed without violating        passion and mere (sentimental) passion.
rules of logic or subverting religious arguments into       36
                                                               This phrase is derived from Gerard Manley Hop-
a quasi-religious and quasi-secular discourse.”             kins’ sonnet, “As kingfishers catch fire…”, where he
28                                                          writes: “…Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he
   Frithjof Schuon, “Spiritual Perspectives and Human
Facts”, supra, p. 62.                                       is—/Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand plac-
29                                                          es,/Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his/To the
     Fyodor Dostoevsky, “The Brothers Karamazov”,
                                                            Father through the features of men’s faces.”
translated by Andrew H. MacAndrew, Bantam Clas-
sic, 1981, p.285.                                                Sūrat al-Baqarah, II:152.

                           By David B. Burrell

                           To introduce us to the genre proper
                           to his celebrated commentary on
                           the ‘Ninety-nine Beautiful Names
                           of God’, al-Ghazālī opens by offer-
          Can Creatures    ing readers the goal of ‘adorning
                           themselves’ with these names.1
 ‘adorn themselves’ with   For this is not a mere speculative
                           adventure into ‘naming God’, but
     the Names of God?     an exercise meant to effect some-
                           thing in readers who will under-
                           take the disciplines indicated with
                           each name in the form of ‘admo-
                           nitions’. Now any Muslim who
                           dares to speak of love, charity, or
                           compassion will be reminded im-
                           mediately of God’s own names, for
                           these English terms already suggest
                           a number of them (with Qur’anic
                           references). Besides the ubiquitous
                           Al-Rahman, al-Rahim [the Infinite-
                           ly Good, the Merciful], consider
                           Al-Wahhāb [The Bestower] (3:8,
                           38:9, 38:35), Ar-Razzāq [The Ever-
                           Providing] (51:58), Al-Karīm [The
                           Bountiful, The Generous] 27:40,
                           82:6), Al-Wakīl [The Trustee, The
                           Dependable] (3:173, 4:171, 28:28,
                           73:9), Al-Afuww [The Pardoner,
                           The Effacer of Sins] (4:99, 4:149,
                           22:60), Ar-Ra’ūf [The Compassion-
                           ate, The All Pitying[ (3:30, 9:117,
                           57:9, 59:10),
                               Now inspired by the Muslim
                           convention that whoever intends
                           to name a child with one of these
                           names must prefix it by ‘abdul-‘,
                           as in ‘Abdul-Khadr’, we might
                           well ask whether we can ever
                           ‘adorn ourselves’ with any of these
                           names. And pursuing that query
                           will open a rich vein of comparative
                           reflection for Christians and Mus-
                           lims. To take a name paradigmatic

for the exercise of love, charity, or compas-    ing whether we had fulfilled it: who of us
sion, we may ponder ‘al-Ghaffar’, where          could ever be sure of loving with our whole
the intensive fifth form of the Arabic verb       heart, or all of our soul or strength? And
suggests a rendering like ‘One who never         might we not surmise that to be Jesus’ very
ceases to forgive’ or ‘One whose forgiv-         point: reminding the ‘lawyer who asked
ing continues to forgive’ (Qur’an 20:82,         him a question to test him’, as Matthew
38:66, 39:5, 40:42, 71:10, 13:16, 14:48,         puts it, to seek the answer in his own scrip-
38:65, 39:4, 40:16). Christians would be         ture. Following directly upon the founda-
reminded of Jesus’ way of responding to          tional shema, the pride of place is given to
the query of Peter: ‘Lord, how often shall       a command which defies execution!
my brother sin against me and I forgive              Moreover, the first of the letters of John
him? As many as seven times’? As if to           explains why that must be the case. After
dispense with any such accounting, Jesus         a convoluted lead regarding a command-
turns the number offered into a multiplier       ment at once new and old, John focuses
carrying us beyond calculation: ‘I do not        on ‘the message you have heard from the
say to you seven times, but seventy times        beginning, that you should love one an-
seven’ (Mt 18:21)! Might this maneuver           other’ (1 John 3:11). Yet to remind us that
suggest how al-Ghaffar stands ready to           we are unable to fulfill that injunction, he
forgive us? Indeed, I would propose there        goes on to exhort:
can be no other reading of Jesus’ response.
For he can hardly be suggesting that any            Beloved, let us love one another; for
of us would be capable of repeating the             love is of God, and he who loves is born
act of forgiving that many times! Indeed,           of God and knows God. He who does
were it necessary to do so, we would have           not love does not know God, for God is
                                                    love. In this the love of God was made
to wonder whether the act could ever be
                                                    manifest among us, that God sent his
efficacious? Yet that wonderment might
                                                    only Son into the world, so that we
well prove to be the thread we need.                might live through him. In this is love,
    For Christians speak readily of loving          not that we loved God but that he loved
and of forgiving, yet closer scrutiny of the        us (1 John 4:7-10).
lives of exemplary Christians, in the light of
scriptures offering them access to the One           What distinguishes this form of know-
who animates their lives, suggests that          ing is that it follows upon doing--‘he who
truly loving or forgiving lies quite beyond      does not love does not know God’, much
their power to effect. Let us begin with the     as Al-Ghazālī offers an exercise to follow
admonition attached to the shema, ‘Hear,         if we are have any inkling of the import of
O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord’          a divine name. And for John that exercise
(Deuteronomy 6:4-5), which Jesus cites in        recapitulates the way Jesus completes his
answer to an ostensibly academic ques-           answer to the lawyer: ‘this is the great and
tion; ‘which is the greatest commandment         first commandment. And the second is like
of the law’? ‘You shall love the Lord your       it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself’
God with all your heart, and with all your       (Leviticus 19:18, Mt 22:38-39). As John
soul, and with all your might’ (Mt 22:36-        elaborates it:
38). But this admonition puts the gram-
mar of ‘commandment’ to a severe test,              Beloved, if God so loved us, we also
for we would have no way of ascertain-              ought to love one another. No one has

     ever seen God; if we love one another,      brother or sister from your heart’ (18:34-
     God abides in us and his love is perfect-   35). But how can Jesus be so unequivocal
     ed n us (4:11-12).                          if, as I have been intimating, forgiving itself
                                                 is an impossible undertaking for us? For
    John’s form of address offers the deci-      the very reason that John gives: though
sive clue: he is addressing those already        we cannot hope to fulfill these command-
‘beloved’ by God, so can expect them to          ments ourselves, we are never alone, we
understand the import of what he is say-         who are ‘beloved of God’. And here we
ing:                                             find the hidden key to Jesus parable of the
                                                 ungrateful servant. The force of the par-
     by this we know that we abide in him        able turns on the apparent contradiction:
     and he in us, because he has given us
                                                 one who has been forgiven fails to forgive;
     of his own Spirit. … So we know and
                                                 yet the servant could never have acted as
     believe the love God has for us. God is
     love, and he who abides in loves abides     he did had he truly accepted forgiveness.
     in God, and God abides in him (4:13-             In fact, the contradiction is only appar-
     16).                                        ent. The original servant never received
                                                 forgiveness for he never acknowledged
     Moreover, the source of this knowledge      his fault; he simply breathed a sigh of re-
is                                               lief at having been reprieved. Yet failing to
                                                 acknowledge any fault kept him outside
     the anointing you have received from        the kingdom of God, for only those able
     him [which] abides in you, [so] you have    to admit sinfulness are able to ask for and
     no need that anyone should teach you;       receive forgiveness, and so be admitted
     as his anointing teaches you about ev-      to the kingdom. For it is only in receiving
     erything, and is true (2:26-7).             God’s forgiveness that we can forgive oth-
                                                 ers, yet to receive we must ask, and to ask
    John even finds it superfluous to issue        we must acknowledge our need. Resting
this original commandment to ‘beloved’           on our own laurels, we can never forgive,
already anointed, as if to emphasize what        for we will always be busy ‘editing and
a strange form of command it is: evoking         re-editing a yet more elegant version of
the active presence of God to remind us          ourselves’ (Kierkegaard). Such is the dy-
that we ought not take these commands            namic of the invitation to love, charity, or
to be exhortations to fulfill, as though we       compassion issued by the Christian scrip-
could carry them out ourselves.                  tures and the Qur’an. It quickly becomes
    Yet to return to Jesus’ admonition to        an invitation to seek the presence of the
forgive ‘seventy times seven’ times, he          God who commands, so that we may be
confirms his point with a story of a servant      released from our own preoccupations
whose master forgave a huge debt when            enough to hear those commands and be
he implored him to do so, only then to turn      empowered to fulfill them.
around himself to throttle a fellow servant
who owed him far less (Mt 18:23-33). And
Jesus endorses the master’s punishment—          Parallel Muslim Testimony
‘to deliver him to the jailer till he should     So far our focus has been on forgiving, as
pay all his [original] debt’—by insisting:       the acid test of love, charity, and compas-
‘so also my heavenly father will do to ev-       sion, and as a way of showing how we
ery one of you, if you do not forgive your       can only connect with the reality intimated

by the ‘divine names’ via that reality itself.     qudsī, love for being known initiates
As the first letter of John puts it: ‘not that      creation, so it is knowledge of God that
we loved God but that he loved us’. Reza           brings about a love which consummates
Shah-Kazemi elucidates the more meta-              creation. In other words, it is conscious-
                                                   ness of God that attracts the love of
physical aspects of divine love in Muslim
                                                   God, and this love reveals the ultimate
tradition, stemming from the hadīth qudsī:         meaning of the first testimony of Islam,
‘I was a hidden treasure, and I loved to be        ‘No God but God’. It is this dimension
known, so I created the creation in order to       of tawhīd as union that the saints or
be known’.2                                        the ‘friends of God’ (awliyāh Allāh, sing.
                                                   walī Allāh) have realized.
   [this] knowledge … is not abstract but
   concrete, not just posited discursively but     Such knowledge results in the ‘state of
   ‘realized’ spiritually, that is, made ‘real’;   the ‘friend of God’,’ the ‘slave’ who has
   since ultimate reality is at one with love,     ‘drawn near’ to God, to the point where
   ‘realized’ knowledge must be a perfect          God loves him’, as another hadīth qudsī,
   synthesis between the two principles,           expresses it: ‘My slave never ceases to
   just as it must integrate knowledge with-       draw near to Me through supereroga-
   in being. Without the dimension of love,        tory acts until I love him. And when I
   knowledge remains abstract; realized            love him, I am his hearing by which he
   knowledge is thus overflowing with love,         hears, his sight by which he sees, his
   and the consummation of love is beatific         hand by which he grasps, and his foot
   union with the Beloved, thus, tawhīd in         by which he walks’.3 Here Reza Shah-
   its deepest spiritual significance of ‘mak-      Kazemi invites us beyond the obvious
   ing one’. Just as, according to the hadīth      import of this saying, to see the way in

     which al-Ghazzālī interprets this saying,         and His acts’. Hence, when the Qur’ān
     one of the most oft-quoted in the works           asserts that ‘He loves them’ (5:54), this
     of the Sufis. Book six of volume four of           means that ‘God does indeed love them
     his Ihyā’ is entitled ‘The Book of Love           [people], but in reality He loves nothing
     (mahabba) and longing and intimacy                other than Himself, in the sense that
     and contentment’. In his discussion on            He is the totality [of being], and there
     the love of God for man, he writes, in            is nothing in being apart from Him.’
     theological mode, that whereas one can            Al-Ghazzālī proceeds to show how this
     legitimately apply the same word, love,           love of God for Himself … most clearly
     both to man and to God, the meaning               manifests itself, and this he does by ref-
     of the word changes depending on the              erence to the saying: ‘God is the hear-
     agent of love. Human love is an incli-            ing, sight, hand and foot of the one He
     nation (mayl) of the soul towards that            loves, and the one He loves is the one
     which is in harmony with it, beauty both          who draws close to Him through super-
     outward and inward, seeking from an-              erogatory prayer.’
     other the consummation of love, for its
     perfection cannot be achieved within it-          Finally, and most significantly for our
     self—and such love cannot be ascribed          inquiry:
     to God, in whom all perfections are infi-
     nitely and absolutely realized.                   This capacity to attain this degree of
          However, at this point al-Ghazzālī           ‘nearness’ is itself an expression of the
     shifts into a completely different mode           eternally real love of God. According to
     of discourse, and asserts that God’s love         al-Ghazzālī, this perfect and eternal love
     is absolutely real, and that His love is not      of God creates the human being in a dis-
     for another—such is inconceivable—                position which seeks proximity to Him,
     but rather is for Himself: for His own            and furnishes him with access to the
     Essence, qualities and acts: for ‘there           pathways leading to the removal of the
     is nothing in being except His Essence            veils separating him from God, such that

   he comes to ‘see’ God by means of God              mative power from the point of view of
   Himself. ‘And all this’, says al-Ghazzālī,         walāya, that sanctity which is the fruit
   ‘is the act of God, and a grace bestowed           of the purest tawhīd, which in turn is
   upon him [God’s creature]: and such is             predicated upon the complete efface-
   what is meant by God’s love of him.’               ment of all that is other than God—only
   This enlightening grace of God towards             then can one speak about God’s love for
   His creatures is constitutive of His love          Himself through His creatures. …. To see
   for them, a love which in reality is noth-         a saint is thus to witness something of
   ing other than His love for Himself; and           the divine reality which he has rendered
   there is a clear link between this divine          transparent by his very effacement in
   love of God for Himself and the highest            that reality.
   realization of mystical tawhīd.
                                                   Christian Testimony of John of
     Although on the surface the saying
                                                   the Cross
appears to make God’s love the result of
contingent actions—the voluntary perfor-           We may readily compare this unitary view
mance of religious acts of devotion— di-           of creator and creature with John of the
vine love is the eternally pre-existent reality,   Cross’s presentation of the inner dynam-
for God is not subject to change: all that         ics of a life of faith.4 John is disarmingly
can change is the perception of the soul,          forthright in identifying the goal of that
which, mysteriously, comes to see its own          journey: ‘the union and transformation
illusory nature and the unique reality prop-       of the [person] in God’ (Ascent of Mount
er to God; evidently, only God can ‘see’ this      Carmel 2.5.3); as well as the means: ‘faith
reality, whence the saying: God becomes            alone, which is the only proximate and
the ‘eye’ by which the saint sees, and the         proportionate means to union with God’
saint ‘sees’ both his own nothingness and          (2.9.1). He is at pains to distinguish this in-
the sole reality of God. In other words, it        tentional union from the ‘union between
is only possible to assert that God loves          God and creatures [which] always exists [by
Himself as and through His creatures, from         which] God sustains every soul and dwells
the point of view of one who has gained            in it substantially. ... By it He conserves their
this ‘proximity’ to God and thus comes to          being so that if the union would end they
a realization that it is indeed God and not        would immediately be annihilated and
himself who ‘sees’ through him, ‘hears’            cease to exist’ (2.5.3). So John will pre-
through him, and so on. Such a knowledge           sume the unique metaphysical relation of
is only granted, according to al-Ghazzālī in       all creatures to their source which Meister
another treatise, to those who have seen           Eckhart elaborated from Aquinas’ ‘distinc-
through the illusory nature of their own           tion’, and does not hesitate it to call it a
existence, and this can only occur as a con-       union--indeed, an ‘essential or substantial
sequence of realizing the state of fanā’, ex-      union’.5 This grounding fact attends all
tinction, annihilation, in God. It is this that    creatures, hence it is natural and found in
the highest category of knowers of God             everything (though displayed differently in
undergo, it is this self-dénouement that           animate from inanimate, and in animate,
provides them with the ultimate realization        differs from animals to humans, though
of the principle of tawhīd:                        among humans it can still be found in ‘the
                                                   greatest sinner in the world’), while the
   The love of God for Himself through His         intentional union is supernatural and can
   creation assumes an altogether transfor-        only be found ‘where there is a likeness of
love’ [such that] God’s will and the [per-        truth, in unfailing service of that ultimate
son’s] are in conformity’ (2.5.3).                goal for the sake of which our will is com-
    In her study of Shankara, Sara Grant          manding our mind’s assent’.8 Unlike ordi-
shows how the ‘non-reciprocal relation of         nary belief, then, faith must be an act of
dependence’ which attends all creatures           the whole person, involving a personal and
of a free creator eliminates any prospect         critical quest for a truth which outreaches
of ‘heteronomy’ between those two wills,          our proper expression. John assesses our
but let us attend first to the internal con-       concepts sharply: ‘nothing which could
nection between faith and union which             possibly be imagined or comprehended
John confidently asserts.6 What makes              in this life can be a proximate means of
this sound so startling is our propensity to      union with God’ (Ascent of Mount Carmel
confine such talk to ‘mystics’ as we tend          2.8.4), since ‘nothing created or imagined
to reduce faith to belief: holding certain        can serve the intellect as a proper means
propositions to be true. This long and            for union with God; [rather], all that can be
complex debate in Christian theology cuts         grasped by the intellect would serve as an
oddly across confessional lines, so the best      obstacle rather than a means, if a person
we can do here is to remind ourselves that        were to become attached to it’ (2.8.1).
John of the Cross could well have been
responding from the Iberian peninsula to          Culminating in Al-Ghazzālī on
sixteenth-century winds from northern Eu-         trust in God
rope. He does so by elaborating key asser-        The operative alternative to conceptual
tions of Aquinas to defuse debates polar-         knowing in Islam is trust, the epitome
izing intellect and will in the act of faith.     of which is found in the state of tawak-
For Aquinas, ‘faith is a sort of knowledge        kul, elaborated by Al-Ghazzālī in the cen-
[cognitio quaedam] in that it makes the           tral book of his Ihyā’ ‘Ulūm al-dīn as the
mind assent to something. The assent is           complement to tawhīd, which culminates
not due to what is seen by the believer but       in the believer’s profound conviction ‘of
to what is seen by him who is believed’.7         the unalterable justice and excellence of
The one who is believed is, of course, the        things as they are ..., of the `perfect right-
incarnate Word of God, Jesus, as mediated         ness of the actual’. 9 Eric Ormsby sees
through the scriptures, so this peculiar ‘sort    this conviction as the upshot of the ten
of knowledge’ is rooted in an interpersonal       years of seclusion and prayer following
relation of the believer with Jesus. It is that   Al-Ghazzālī’s spiritual crisis. By ‘the ac-
relation at the root of faith which John of       tual’ he means what God has decreed,
the Cross sets out to explore, quite aware        itself the product and reflection of divine
that what results from it will ‘fall short of     wisdom. And in asserting the primacy of
the mode of knowing [cognitio] which is           the actual over the possible, Al-Ghazzālī
properly called “knowledge” [scientia], for       shows himself a true theologian. For
such knowledge causes the mind to assent          philosophers, contingency tends to be-
through what is seen and through an un-           speak the logical fact that ‘whatever ex-
derstanding of first principles’ (Ibid.). More     ists could always be other than it is’. Yet
positively, Aquinas will characterize faith as    while it may be ‘logically correct and per-
‘an act of mental assent commanded by the         missible to affirm that our world could be
will, [so] to believe perfectly our mind must     different than it is, it is not theologically
tend unfailingly towards the perfection of        correct and permissible--indeed, it is

impious--to assert that our world could              There are stages of trust in divine provi-
be better than it is. The world in all its       dence, to be sure, which Ghazzālī cata-
circumstances remains unimpeachably              logues as (1) the heart’s relying on the
right and just, and it is unsurpassably ex-      trustworthy One [wakil] alone, (2) a trust
cellent’.10 Yet the excellence in question       like that of a child in its mother, where the
is not one which we can assess indepen-          focus is less on the trust involved than
dently of the fact that it is the product of     on the person’s orientation to the one
divine wisdom, so Al-Ghazzālī directs us to      in whom they trust; and (3) the notori-
the second part where practice will allow        ous likeness of a corpse in the hands of its
us to traverse domains which speculative         washers, where the relevant point is that
reason cannot otherwise map.                     such trust moves one quite beyond peti-
    What sort of a practice is tawakkul:         tion of any sort. Yet the operative factor is
trust in divine providence? It entails ac-       present already in the initial stage, which
cepting whatever happens as part of the          is not surpassed but only deepened by sub-
inscrutable decree of a just and merci-          sequent stages: trusting in the One alone.
ful God. Yet such an action cannot be            The formula for faith here is the hadith:
reduced to mere resignation, to be cari-         ‘There is no might and power but in God’,
catured as ‘Islamic fatalism.’ It rather en-     which Ghazzālī takes to be equivalent to
                                                 the Qur’anic shahādah: There is no god
tails aligning oneself with things as they
                                                 but God, thereby reminding us that the
really are: in Ghazali’s sense, with the truth
                                                 hadith does not enjoin us to trust in power
that there is no agent but God Most High.
                                                 or might, as attributes distinct from God,
This requires surrender since we cannot
                                                 but in God alone. It is in this context that
formulate the relationship between this
                                                 he selects stories of Sufi sheikhs, offering
single divine agent and the other agents
                                                 them as examples to help point us towards
which we know, and also because our or-
                                                 developing specific skills of trusting: hab-
dinary perspective on things is not a true
                                                 its of responding to different situations in
one: human society lives under the sign          such a way that one learns by acting how
of jāhiliyya or pervasive ignorance. Nor         things are truly ordered, the truth of the
can this resignation be solely intellectual,     decree. The principle operative through-
as though I could learn ‘the truth’ so as to     out is that a policy of complete renun-
align myself with it in the way speculative      ciation of reliance on customary means
reason is supposed to illuminate practical       [asbab] is contrary to divine wisdom, the
judgment. For this all-important relation-       Sunnah Allāh, but those who journey in
ship resists formulation. Nevertheless, by       faith will learn that means are of different
trying our best to act according to the con-     kinds, hidden as well as manifest.
viction that the divine decree expresses the         So there is a school whereby we learn
truth in events as they unfold, we will allow    how to respond to what happens in such
ourselves to be shown how things truly lie.      a way that we are shown how things are
So faith [tawhīd] and practice [tawakkul]        truly ordered. This school will involve
are reciprocal; neither is foundational.         learning from others who are more prac-
The understanding given us is that of one        ticed in responding rightly; Al-Ghazzālī’s
journeying in faith, a salik, the name which     judicious use of stories is intended to in-
Sufis characteristically appropriated for         timate the Sufi practice of master / dis-
themselves.                                      ciple wherein the novice is offered way
of discerning how to act. Philosophy no       Notes
longer pretends to be a higher wisdom;        1
                                                Al-Ghazālī on the Ninety-Nine Beautiful
speculative reason is wholly subject to       Names of God, translated by David Burrell
practical reason; the inevitable implica-     and Nazih Daher (Cambridge: Islamic Texts
tion of replacing the emanation scheme        Society, 1992; Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae,
with an intentional creator, evidenced        1998)
also in Maimonides. So the challenge of         See Reza Shah-Kazemi, ‘God ‘the Loving’,
understanding the relation of the free cre-   in Miroslav Volf, Ghazi bin Muhammad, and
                                              Melissa Yarrington, eds., Common Word:
ator to the universe becomes the task of      Muslims and Christians on Loving God and
rightly responding to events as they hap-     Neighbor (Grand rapids MI / Cambridge UK:
pen, in such a way that the true ordering     Eerdmans, 2010) 88-109. These quotations,
of things, the divine decree, can be made     however, are taken from a portion of his con-
manifest in one’s actions-as-responses.       tribution which was omitted form the printed
                                              version, which we are indebted to the author
Al-Ghazzālī expresses this relationship be-   for supplying.
tween speculative and practical reason by     3
                                                Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Kitāb al-riqāq, no.2117,
noting that we need to call upon both         p.992.
knowledge and state [of being] in guiding     4
                                                John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle, The
our actions according to a wholehearted
                                              Living Flame of Love in Collected Works of St.
trust in God. What he wishes to convey        John of the Cross (Washington DC: Institute
by those terms in tandem is an awareness      of Carmelite Studies, 1991).
of the very structure of the book itself:     5
                                                See Robert Dobie: Logos and Revelation:
the knowledge which faith in divine uni-      Ibn ‘Arabi, Meister Eckhart, and Mystical
ty brings is only gained through practice,    Hermeneutics (Washington DC: Catholic Uni-
leading one to an habitual capacity to        versity of America Press, 2010), and Reza
                                              Shah-Kazemi: Paths to Transcendence accord-
align one’s otherwise errant responses to
                                              ing to Shankara, Ibn Arabi and Meister Eck-
situation after situation according to the    hart (Bloomington IN: World Wisdom Books,
guidance that faith offers.                   2006); French trans. Shankara, Ibn ‘Arabi et
    These reflections have shown how the       Maître Eckhart : La Voie de la Transcendance
faith of these diverse communities in a       (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2010)
free creator converges to challenge us to       Sara Grant, Towards an Alternative Theology
find ways to articulate the ensuing rela-      (Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame
tionship between creatures and creator,       Press, 2002).
and notably free creatures, so as to give         Summa Theologiae
due homage and gratitude to divine wis-           Summa Theologiae 2-2.4.5.
dom in creating.                              9
                                                Al-Ghazālī on Faith in Divine Unity and Trust
                                              in Divine Providence, tr. David Burrell (Louis-
                                              ville KY: Fons Vitae, 2002).
                                                 Bernard McGinn and David Burrell, eds.,
                                              God and Creation (Notre Dame IN: University
                                              of Notre Dame Press, 1990) 257.

Further Observations on Love
(or Equality)

By Nur Yalman                                   presence in spirit was an encouragement to
                                                the rest of us to emulate his (or her) contri-
An essay dedicated to Talat Halman 1
                                                butions to our existence. Societies through-
                                                out history have often had such revered
                      I                         oftentimes saintly personages held up as
André Malraux in his Les Noyers de              a source of inspiration for the rest of hu-
l’Altenburg writes of the decline of interest   man kind. The great prophets or exemplary
in the modern world of the “admirable”          teachers like Confucius or the Buddha have
person; a person whose life and actions         shown “the way” for human kind with
were highly esteemed and held up as ex-         their radiant personal examples. Islam is
amples for the rest of humanity, whose          no exception. Beginning with the beloved

prophet himself, it also has its extensive list   ior which inform personal relations in small
of “saintly” personages and their myths. In       towns and villages. In this sense, the rise
Iran such “teachers” are simply referred to       in Islamic politics in recent years in Turkey
as “mercii taklid” (lit. locus of emulation).     may be interpreted as partly a reaction to
In Turkey, the saintly personages whose           the materialist and instrumental values so
simple or elaborate tombs provide a sacred        heartily espoused, and so callously flaunted
geography for the countryside, which are          by the Westernized elite. The greedy and
often venues for pilgrimages, have always         shameless financial scandals in the “mod-
had this kind of attraction for the ordinary      ern” sector compounded by high inflation
people. It is indeed impressive for an an-        has served to remind people of the attrac-
thropologist to see the degree to which the       tions of an imagined alternative timeless,
mystical teachings of the contemplative           pure, and ethical way of life.
orders, and especially the actual personal            Although much of the paper concerns
narratives of the “saints” (evliya) have          the question of love and equality, it is not
penetrated into public consciousness (Hal-        intended to distract attention from the
man 1981). A great deal of the ethos of           untold suffering, the terrible toll of vio-
the Turkish countryside can be seen to be a       lence and hate that has been so much in
reflection of these ethical teachings which        evidence in recent years (Sayari 1985). This
have become so deeply rooted in the hearts        was so even before the Kurdish revolt in
and minds of the people that their origins        Southeastern Turkey (see Yalman, von Bru-
are no longer recognized or even known.           inessen?) for particular local reasons, and
The paper that follows attempts to bring          has now escalated with complicated inter-
to the surface the interplay between the          national dimensions involving Iraq, Syria
mythic history of a famous dervish order          and other countries.
(the Mevlevi) and the cultural forms which            The paper therefore deals with only one
can be observed in the life of simple people      positive facet of the cultural ethos of reli-
in the eastern provinces of Turkey. Not only      gious life in Turkey. It refers to a happier pe-
do the present cultural forms bear a close        riod before the rise of Kurdish irredentism.
affinity to the values expressed by the mys-       It also highlights the contrast between the
tics since ancient times, they also represent     deeper rhythms of culture and demands of
a fascinating contrast to the consumerist-        immediate political action.
capitalist values that now inform much of
Western life. In Turkey, the consumerist-                                II
capitalist way of existence is developing         In looking back over Islamic political philos-
rapidly, “converting” the masses to a con-        ophy it is difficult not to see the connection
sumerist-capitalist ethos especially among        with certain very “modern” preoccupations
the growing middle and professional class-        of the social sciences. There is the preoccu-
es, but the expression of “traditional” Is-       pation with certain central concepts such
lamic values remains very strong. This is still   as equality and justice in the community,
in evidence not only in the resurgence of         but there are also the discussions on the
Islamic discourse both on television and in       triad of prophecy (nebi), tradition (had-
the large number of published books and           ith) and reason (akhil). These are evidently
papers — there are immense book fairs in          the main issues worthy of speculation for
the courtyards of the great mosques in Is-        Farabi, Ghazzali, Ibn Khaldun and others.
tanbul — but also in expectations of behav-       It is surely noteworthy that this same triad
which might be restated as charisma, tradi-       (Schimmel 1991) whose work is closely re-
tion, and rationality is the cornerstone of       lated to Rumi, does not mince his words:
Weberian sociology and not unrelated to
the thoughts of Pascal who also writes of            “God’s revelation in man” and “the hu-
inspiration, tradition and reason. The Is-           man being as a true reflection of God’s
lamic philosophers were evidently thinking           beautiful images” are recurrent themes
                                                     in Yunus Emre’s poems:
along lines which have been familiar in a
non religious context.                               He is God Himself - humans are his im-
     These apparently academic concerns in           ages. See for yourself: God is man, that
Islamic thought are enlivened from time to           is what He is. It is a duty for the mystic
time by the irresistible upsurges of emo-            to love God, and to become, through
tion. The vehicles for spiritual emotion are         love, the perfect man.“
the brotherhoods, known as the tariqat
(from tariq: the “way,” the “path”), which           And, “See all people as equals,
are organized communities which bring the            See the humble as heroes.”
pious together to celebrate their devotion
                                                     “We regard no one’s religion as contrary
to God. These communities are formed
                                                     to ours, True love is born when all faiths
around the metaphors of “love” and “ad-
                                                     are united as a whole.” (Halman 1981),
oration”: the love of man for God, and               pp.9-14.
the love of man for man in the most gen-
eral sense. The tariqat are always formed             How these lofty concerns about love
around the memory of an exemplary saint-          and equality have been translated into
ly (veli-pl. evliya) personage. They celebrate    practice and how Islamic societies have
the Saint’s life and personal example and         dealt with the more profound forms of
allow individuals to dedicate themselves to       social inequality remain completely con-
living their lives in his image. There are hun-   temporary issues everywhere that Islam is
dreds of such communities active in the Is-       practiced. One could well say that the one
lamic world today (Popovic 1986, 58). One         serious question which torments Islamic
of the most famous of these brotherhoods          society in this age is the preoccupation
is that of the Mevlevi, formed in memory of       with the political form taken by the social
the beloved mystic poet Celaleddin-i Rumi         contract. How Islam as is reflected in these
after his death in the year 1273, which has       high expectations to be put into practice as
come down to our day with their central           a political regime? The question is worthy
shrine (tekke) and mausoleum (turbe) in           of sustained analysis with care and depth.
Konya in central Anatolia. The metaphor of            This paper on the cultural expressions
“love” for God is most clearly expressed in       of love (and equality) attempts to portray
the parable of Rumi and his adoration for         some of the elements which characterize
Shems-i tabrizi which is recited in devotion-     the relations among Muslims. The underly-
al Islamic poetry in many places and diverse      ing expectation of equality which provides
languages. It needs no great insight to see       legitimacy for the sense of community is
that the overwhelming “love” of man for           often near the surface. It cannot be dis-
man must embrace “equality” too, albeit           missed in discussing the nature of social hi-
in an abstract and general sense. Halman          erarchies, and administrative classes in the
writing of another celebrated mystical            Islamic East. It is certainly true that the gap
poet, the great Yunus Emre (d.1320-21?),          between expectations and practice has

been quite painful in most Islamic coun-          are closely related ideas. Given the caste
tries, but it is useful to have a clear idea of   hierarchy as an elaborate social and reli-
some of the cultural aspirations.                 gious system of categories which fully de-
                                                  termines the trajectories of individual lives,
                      III                         “renunciation” allows for a sense of “lib-
This paper is not about the sexes, but it is      eration”. In other words, the renunciation
about the sentiment of love and “equal-           of the world turns out to be an powerful
ity”. But, as my Indian friend, the sociolo-      religious mode which permits the specially
gist T.N.Madan, so perceptively noted, it         gifted individual to escape from the strict
does border on the question of how “di-           crucible of caste connections, to liberate
vine adoration” may even penetrate some           himself from family ties and obligations,
of these vexed concerns of “equality”             and provides a prestigious cultural open-
among human beings. The paper there-              ing, a greatly valued different “route” for
fore is about that old but central concern        some special persons. So the Hindu san-
in Islam (and Christianity) that is the subject   nyasi is greatly respected, but only on the
of love between men and God, which in             condition that family and social ties have
turn is a powerful metaphor for love (but         been abandoned. The sannyasi therefore
not sex) among men (and women) in con-            undergoes funeral rites for himself and
nection with certain doctrines of equality        is “reborn” outside his caste, in a special
among men (and women) in these vital re-          casteless state (Dubois 1906). Thus, he
ligious traditions.                               can be respected as a saintly figure by all
    The subject of “equality” in Islam, and       castes. That at least is the theory.
of the metaphor of Dionysian love, which              “Renunciation” is a well recognized
we may accept as the religious dimension          theme in Islam and Christianity as well, but
of equality, stands in stark contrast to what     the conditions are very different from the
a great French anthropologist has written         Indian case. In Islam, especially in keeping
about India. Professor Louis Dumont has           with the concern about avoiding the cre-
written subtly and imaginatively of “hierar-      ation of a privileged group with privileged
chy” in the culture of Hinduism, and of the       access to Divine truths, the more extreme
doctrines of renunciation, which we could         forms of world renunciation have always
regard as the religious dimension of hierar-      been discouraged by the doctors of Islamic
chy. On this latter point, we have Dumont’s       law, the Ulema. Piety and humility is valued
celebrated Frazer Lecture in 1958 (Dumont         but ascetic otherworldliness in not consid-
1980), whereas on the Islamic side the situ-      ered to be a privileged or indeed accept-
ation has not been fully clarified. Nonethe-       able form. So, although there are many
less, we may have here, in this highly ideal-     traditions of “otherworldly” behavior,
ized formula, equality and love on the one        much mortification of the flesh especially
hand, hierarchy and renunciation on the           in some tariqat communities, and among
other, an almost mirror image-like com-           the Shi’a during Muharram celebrations,
parison of two religious world-views which        Islam has no monasteries and nunneries
have intermingled with such bitter intimacy       which are such important institutions in
for more than a thousand years in India.          many other religions.
    Dumont has an unusual perspective on              In writing of equality in the culture of
Indian civilization. He has argued that “re-      Islam, and of the doctrine of love, I do not
nunciation” and caste as a sacred hierarchy       mean of course that there is no “inequal-
ity” among Islamic peoples. A mere men-            what of the friendly hospitality among our
tion of Islam in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh       intellectual circles and Universities to schol-
and of Islamic “castes” of the sub-conti-          ars of the most astonishing backgrounds
nent, not to speak of all kinds of Islamic         (Gibb and Bowen).
groups elsewhere, would be enough evi-                 I do not want to give the impression
dence of inequality. There are also the “no-       of an early utopian Marxism. The open-
ble” tribes of Arabia, as well as the intense      ness of recruitment appears to have given
preoccupation with pollution in many parts         a tremendous emphasis to the need for
to indicate that, in practice, the relations       achievement and power, because so much
of inferiority and superiority are as much         seems possible and open to the individual.
a part of daily Islamic experience as any          We have the words of Sir Adolphus Slade,
other. While this is indeed often enough           an Englishman who served as an officer in
the practice, the high ideals of Islam do          the Ottoman Navy in the 1820’s.
turn around the principle that there are no
privileged persons in Islam, or rather that a         It is curious to observe the similarity of
person’s worth depends upon the moral-                advantages which are enjoyed by na-
ity of his or her intentions, behavior, and           tions in opposite spheres of knowledge,
                                                      and separated by perfectly distinct man-
piety. This may lead to the gates of heaven
                                                      ners and religion. Hitherto the Osman-
but even in the worldly kingdoms, once
                                                      ley has enjoyed by custom some of the
converted to the belief of Islam--i.e., have          dearest privileges of freemen, for which
“surrendered” (teslim) to the Will of God--           Christian nations have so long struggled.
they must be given an equal chance to rise            He paid nothing to the government be-
in society. Hence the promise of Islam, for           yond a moderate land tax, although lia-
instance, to Black Muslims in America, and            ble, it is true, to extortions, which might
other oppressed peoples elsewhere.                    be classed with assessed taxes. He paid
    Hence also the many celebrated cases of           no tithes, the vacouf (waqf) sufficing
the converts who went on to become the                for the maintenance of the ministers of
highest officers in the Islamic states. This           Islamism. He traveled where he pleased
                                                      without passports; no custom house of-
is true for the Arabic, Persian and Turkish
                                                      ficer intruded his eyes and dirty fingers
and even Mogul Empires, and comes from                among his baggage; no police watched
a conception that whoever accepts the sa-             his motions, or listened for his words.
cred constitution--the shari’a- -is a full “cit-      His house was sacred. His sons were
izen”. The openness of recruitment to the             never taken from his side to be soldiers,
highest positions of the state has meant              unless war called them. His views of am-
that at least among the Ottomans, men of              bition were not restricted by the barri-
every possible cultural background in east-           ers of birth and wealth; from the lowest
ern Europe, Poles and Albanians, Bosnians             origin he might aspire without presump-
and Serbians, Macedonians, Montenegrins               tion to the rank of pasha; if he could
                                                      read, to that of grand vizir; and this
and Greeks and Armenians and Georgians
                                                      consciousness, instilled and supported
and of course the peoples of western Asia,
                                                      by numberless precedents, ennobled
Arabs, Persians, Kurds, Circassians, and              his mind, and enabled him to enter on
many others were completely assimilated               the duties of high office without embar-
in the service of the empire and of Islam.            rassment. Is not this the advantage so
Recruitment to the Ulema too, appears to              prized by free nations? Did not the ex-
have been quite open, reminiscent some-               clusion of people from posts of honor

   tend to the French revolution?...For this        Or in a lighter vein, about this fraternity,
   freedom, this capability of realizing the     the Syrian leader, Shukry el Kuwatly, had
   wildest wishes, what equivalent does the      apparently complained about the intracta-
   sultan offer? It may be said none. (Lewis     ble attitudes of his countrymen: “Fifty per-
   1968: 125-126).                               cent of Syrians think that they are national
                                                 leaders, 25% think they are prophets, and
    However, the notion of “equality” is so      the rest think they are God.”
vivid in the minds of some Islamic scholars
that Maududi, the celebrated activist writer                           IV
in Pakistan is said to have declared: “If you
                                                 The interest in Love as a social doctrine can
want to see Islam put into proper practice,
                                                 be said to arise with the mystic tariqats very
go to see the China of Mao Tse Tung”. I
                                                 early in Islam. There is much talk of the
would not argue the case of a similarity of
                                                 heart (Al Ghazzali): Love in this sense is a
intention between Marxism and Islam, or
                                                 dangerous even subversive doctrine. So are
even of a political attraction, when we have
                                                 the tariqats regarded to this day in many
had case after case of unspeakable hostility
                                                 places. The love of men for God, and for
both in the Middle East and inside the for-
                                                 each other has a Dionysian quality difficult
mer Soviet Union of communism and Islam.
                                                 for the authorities to control.
Suffice it to say that they had met on the
                                                     Such irrepressible and all consuming
ground of equality, but obviously parted
                                                 love is expressed in highly emotive rituals,
company in the fundamentals.                     the passion plays of the Shi’a, or the ritual
    Equality of opportunity was not achieved     chanting (dhikr) of the various Dervish or-
in Islamic states for Muslims, but something     ders, or the sema (whirling) of the Mevlevi,
like it seems at least to have been intended.    and, in all cases, it is reported that the ef-
In this sense, Islam has always given the im-    fect of the communal ritual is the submerg-
pression of a “fraternity” (and “sorority”)      ing of the individual in an “ocean of love”
to outsiders. Since it is at least a utopian     in his group.
movement, if not often a tide of social re-          The degree to which the Middle East at
volt, there is also the constant interest in     least was susceptible to such ideas can be
proselytization which is another facet of        understood from the fact that love-”divine
open recruitment. Consider, for instance,        love” (“tasavvuf”) mysticism is the largest
the education of the great Persian poet,         and most persistent subject in the poetry
Sadi, known for his sexually free views. We      and music of the Ottoman and Persian and
have the words of G.M. Wickens:”It is usu-       indeed Mogul Empires. The stream ran
ally accepted that Sadi received his early ed-   deep and wide for many centuries. It is in
ucation in (Shiraz) and then proceeded to        full flood still. The major poets such as Yu-
the famous Nizamiyya Academy at the ca-          nus Emre and Celaleddin-i Rumi, Sadi and
liphal metropolis of Baghdad... Prestigious      Hafiz and many others too numerous to
institution though this was at different pe-     mention were much involved with mystic
riods of its existence, Sadi would not have      orders and their entire and vast corpus is
found himself excluded by the modern             about divine love. Behind the divine spiri-
obstacles of poverty, entrance standards,        tuality one senses the powerful imagery
limited enrollment, course requirements,         of love as a metaphor for human relations
centrally set quotas, and all the rest.” (The    (Andrews 1985). Again, the insistence is on
Gulistan of Sa’di).                              communal joint Mystic experience. Individ-
ual mystic experience and ecstasy is said to      individuals, I am tempted to say through
belong properly to Christians (for Mevlana,       “vibrations.” Governments in the Middle
see Schimmel 1992; Schimmel 1993).                East are always complaining that formal-
     The metaphor of love, the love of men        ity, order, rules and organization cannot
for God and for each other has certain po-        be effectively maintained and are going
litical implications. It denies, of course, the   to the winds. In Turkey, which has made a
machine-like quality that well-run societ-        massive effort during the Republic to cease
ies sometimes come to exhibit. Love as a          all these “vibrations,” there are pejora-
consuming passion would deny formalities,         tive terms expressing this combination of
and would undermine social barriers. It           warm, personable, informal disorder--”alla
would erode the privileges of small closed        Turca.”. This is opposed to alla Franca
groups which often run the important in-          meaning cold, distant, elegant, formal. The
stitutions in societies, and would insist that    East is laubali, annoyingly informal and un-
the hierarchical structures, built up with        necessarily friendly; it has no time sense.
such care, and which depend of people             The West in the archetype, is formal, struc-
keeping their places and doing their du-          tured, organized and obsessed with punc-
ties, be brought down. It would insist that       tuality. The stereotype at least, fits in with
men be level with each other, dissolve the        the complaints of the author of The Green-
barriers separating them and unite with           ing of America.
one another in a sense of community and               One meets the expressions of these cul-
identity and become one with each other           tural preoccupations in unexpected ways.
and with God.                                     During field work in eastern Turkey in the
     I am not advocating the ritual of love       town of Malatya, I was much impressed
as a practical solution to social problems.       by the fulsome bodily contact that was
I merely observe that these sentiments            constantly taking place between men. I
which from time to time rise to the surface       used to spend time in the shop of an in-
in the West as well, permeate the work of         formant friend, a small merchant of about
the poets mentioned above. It is character-       fifty who was in the dried fruit business.
istic of a major theme in Islamic writing. In     We would sit on great mounds of apricots
reading them, one takes these matters and         and apples and prunes and discuss matters
the element of social protest in the mystic       of local interest. Now and again his friends
orders almost for granted (Basgoz 1981).          would come in. Even though, in this small
It is often mentioned as a deeply humanist        town, he encountered them almost every
concern.                                          day, they would be kissed, caressed, their
     The contrast with the hierarchy, rituality   cheeks stroked and examined with a special
and sense of structure in Dumont’s depic-         cultural gesture much like that of a gastro-
tion of India is striking. These mystic move-     nome examining the ripeness of a peach.
ments, all based on love, are a threat to         Then after the first pleasantries and much
whatever social order and administration          laughter, sometimes horseplay, the friends
they have encountered.                            would stand arm in arm, or hand in hand
     How does this humanism appear in             for many minutes and talk. This expres-
“anthropological” terms? An intriguing            sion of cordial intimacy was accompanied
feature of the Islamic world, at least in         by a self conscious effort of great trust in
the Middle East, is that it is a “vibe” cul-      many matters, but in particular, in matters
ture. People must relate to each other as         of money. These friends were merchants,

and hence considerable sums would pass           the more successful, even rapacious, larger
back and forth between them for business         landlords could be heard saying, “I am an
purposes. They would trust each other and        old man. My needs are few. All I need is a
other friends with immense sums of money.        piece of bread and a bit of cheese (iki lok-
In an almost medieval context where banks        ma peynir ekmek) to keep me going.” This
and personal checks were not in great use,       was an expected cultural expression again
(I am writing of the 1960’s) this almost ritu-   of a way of life most evident in the care
al trust between friends--and friends not so     freeness of the Dervish orders. It was be-
close--was perhaps understandable but still      ing manifested among ordinary people not
very impressive. The group of friends tend-
                                                 necessarily members of Dervish groups,
ed also to pray together five times a day of-
                                                 who, while making protestations of pov-
ten in the same mosque, and though these
                                                 erty and lack of needs, were quite often
people were merchants and involved in bit-
                                                 engaged in cut throat struggles with other
ter politics in the small town and province
to which they belonged, there was a con-         political groups, and even numerous blood
stant denial of the importance of money          feuds between the various clans of the lo-
and wealth, a claim that these were surface      cality. It may be recalled that Khomeini too,
matters, and that beyond money what was          when he returned to Iran, made a great im-
important was a good moral family, a good        pression leading a very humble existence.
name, honor and a circle of thoughtful chil-     He too is said to have dined on a simple
dren. The preoccupations of a consumer           meal of bread and yogurt in the evenings.
society, the labels and fashions would not       It did not prevent him from sweeping away
have been further from their minds. Even         the vast machinery of the Shah regime.
    This culture of detachment in worldly         in the city of Konya, with many students
matters, in particular to money, was also         at this University and many interested in
expressed in the indifference shown to            his work and lectures in the town. He was
dress. My friends, though important mem-          on very good terms with the court of the
bers of the community, would go around            Seljuk kings. He was, in other words, a very
unshaven, in old clothes which looked as          successful intellectual concerned with his
if they had been slept in since they had          books, papers, lectures and deeply inter-
been first put on months ago, old crum-            ested in the explication of religion.
pled shirts and overcoats frayed around the            Suddenly, on the 29th of December
edges and buttonholes. They wore western          1244, a revolution took place in his placid
“business suits,” but as they prayed every        life. He met a man called Sems-i tabrizi in
day on their knees, and as they took their        Konya (the “sun” of Tabriz). The circum-
ablutions numerous times in the course            stances of their meeting are not very clear.
of the day, the sleeves of their coats and        There are many diverse accounts. Sems
trouser bottoms would be rolled up and            apparently simply grabbed the bridle and
down, and the backs of their shoes would          stopped his horse on the street. Sems is said
be pressed down from washing their feet.          to have been a man good for nothing. He
There were, of course, occasions when             might have been called a “hippie” at this
they would be spruced up, but it did seem         time. However, it is clear that he exempli-
as if the religious preoccupation with purity     fies “love” and the mystery of the “divine”
and cleanliness, a state most evident to the      in the story. Upon meeting Sems, Mevlana
inner man took precedence over how they           is stunned by his alien way of life. He goes
appeared on the outside. And these were           through what we may call a mental crisis
merchants supposedly in competition in            and falls irresistibly in love with Sems. He
the capitalist modern world.                      stops his lectures. He ceases to see his stu-
                                                  dents, friends, members of the court. He
                      V                           withdraws with Sems into a cell in the col-
The preoccupation with love is rendered           lege where they stay together engaged in
most explicit in the story of the life of one     friendly discourse for forty days. (A ritual
of the poets of Islam, Mevlana Celaleddin-i       number often associated with austerities).
Rumi. The stature of Rumi in Islamic litera-      During this time, the population of Konya
ture is like that of Chaucer or Shakespeare       is increasingly incensed. There are great ri-
in English. His story has been told many          ots outside the college. The Seljuk throne
times. He is also the saintly spirit which ani-   itself is said to be endangered. Friends of
mates the famous Mevlevi order of “Whirl-         Mevlana fear for the life of Sems. Finally,
ing Dervishes” which has survived to this         Sems departs. This departure occasions the
day. He was born in Balh (Central Asia) on        most extraordinary gushing forth of lyric
September 30, 1207; but lived most of his         poetry on the subjects of love and separa-
life in Konya, Central Turkey, and died in        tion from Mevlana. He feels he must see
Konya on 17 December 1273. The time is            Sems again. His son, Veled Cebebi goes to
one of great upheavals in the Islamic world;      find Sems, and succeeds in bringing him
the rise and fall of great states; great in-      back to the hostile environment of Konya,
vasions of Turkish speaking peoples from          but once again their intimate happiness is
Central Asia. Mevlana was a professor of          threatened by the mobs. Sems leaves fi-
law like his father. He was greatly admired       nally, never to return. There are traditions

suggesting that he may have been killed           and the U.S. Nicholson writes, “We see
(see Schimmel 1993, 1992). Then Mevlana           him standing out as a sublime mountain
travels to Damascus to find Sems, but is un-       peak; the many other poets before and af-
successful. He spends the rest of his days,       ter him are but foot-hills in comparison”
again in Konya, at his College, with his stu-     (p.26).
dents, but this time his life has meaning,             My description of the relations among
which is predicated on divine love. He com-       men in eastern Turkey, and the life of Mev-
poses vast and still deeply moving works of       lana are separated by many centuries. But
poetry on the allegory of Love.                   the teaching of Mevlana concerned with
    It should be observed that the entire         mysticism and love ran as a powerful cur-
story has a heavy religious tone and the in-      rent energizing intellectual and emotional
cidents in Konya are interpreted in entirely      life for many centuries. There is little doubt
metaphysical terms. Nicholson notes that          that the culture of Turkish society has
“Sultan Walad likens his father’s all-absorb-     been profoundly affected by the powerful
ing communion with this “hidden saint”            stream of mystical thought (Sapolyo 1964).
to the journey of Moses in company with           The entire Mevlevi order, together with nu-
Khadir (Koran, xviii, 64-80), the sage whom       merous other manifestations of popular Is-
Muslim mystics regard as the supreme hi-          lam, indeed all the tariqats, was outlawed
erophant and guide of travelers on the Way        by the Turkish Republic in the 1930s; but
to God.” (Nicholson 1970, p.19) What is           all evidence suggests that their teaching
clear to the commentators, and in the po-         and traditions were carefully maintained.
etry, is that Sems-i tabrizi is turned into the        Since the 1960s public and private in-
master symbol of divine love between men          terest in these traditions has experienced
and God, and between humans. Nicholson            a great reawakening (Gunes-Ayata 1994).
again, “In this union of loving souls all dis-    Interestingly enough, these Orders were
tinctions vanish: nothing remains but the         originally outlawed since they appeared to
essential Unity of Love, in which “lover”         express too much “otherworldliness” and
and “beloved” have merged their sepa-             “fatalism” to the positivist modernizers
rate identities” (Nicholson, p.21). It is not     such as Ataturk or Inonu who set the direc-
fortuitous that “sems” is named after The         tion of the young Turkish Republic (Mardin
Sun. He gives direction to the life of Mev-       1989; Mardin 1994).
lana and meaning to his existence, but he is
both united with Sems and separated. The                               VI
rituals relating to this story, especially the    The difference between men in eastern Tur-
commemoration of the death of Mevlana             key, and the formality and relative distance
and his reunion with God, can still be seen       in the relations of men in Sri Lanka, where
every December in the town of Konya at            I spent much time in field work in small vil-
the college of Mevlana. The books of po-          lages was always striking to me. In Sri Lanka
etry - almost all in Persian - have been the      too, like in South India, there are concerns
basis for the tariqat from the 13th century       about body pollution. The different castes
to our day. Many would regard them as the         maintain degrees of space between each
central religious element in the Turkish and      other. The act of kissing, even between
indeed Anatolian psyche. The rituals ac-          husband and wife, has heavy overtones of
companied by courtly mystical music have          pollution and is almost never seen in pub-
taken place from time to time in Europe           lic. The anxiety about bodily pollution ap-
pears even in unexpected contexts such as
the manner of food consumption. There
is little doubt that commensality expresses
a certain kind of “equality” in both India
and the Islamic East. The difference is that
in the Hindu case, the tendency is to eat
separately and to deny the “equality” that
eating together would imply. The many
descriptions of the Brahman male eating
in his home in splendid isolation, or the
public marriage feasts of Jaffna Tamils eat-
ing in strictly “hierarchical” rows on sepa-
rate mats in a happier time before the civil
war which has overtaken them, stand in
eloquent contrast to the constant attempt
made in the Middle East to get men to eat
together around a round copper tray, and,
if possible, from the same pot of soup or
the same plate of rice. I recall vividly seeing
the local Muslims in Pottuvil in Sri Lanka
showing their solidarity in great public cer-
emonies by cooking rice in enormous caul-
drons in public and having a ceremonial
feast for all to see. It seems to me again,
that the symbol is the same, but its context
and message is different; food brings out
“hierarchy” in India and Sri Lanka, but im-
plies “equality” in the Middle East.
     Finally consider how much the preoccu-
pation with Love, worldly involvement, and
equality contrast with the predominant val-
ues of Hindu-Buddhist civilization of “hier-
archy” and “detachment” from the world.
The master symbol of this renunciation is
the Sannyasi or indeed the Buddha. The
Buddha’s sacred quest in search of Nirvana
liberation involves the touching story of
giving up his family, abandoning his wife         Said b. Abi’l-Khair (d. 1049) the following
and child to be detached from the world.          story is told:
Even his horse Chantaka dies understand-
ing that he will be abandoned when the               They said to him, ‘So-and-so walks on
Buddha in his incarnation as Prince Sid-             the water’. He replied: ‘It is easy enough:
dharta takes final leave of him. How very             frogs and water fowl do it.’ They said,
different from the conception of piety on            ‘So-and-so flies in the air’. ‘So do the
the Muslim side. Of the mystic poet, Abu             birds and insects’, he replied. They said,

   ‘So-and-so goes from one town to an-            is not subject to the discipline, respect,
   other in a moment of time.’ ‘Satan’, he         and obedience of wifely love. It is a love
   rejoined, ‘goes in one moment from the          among equals which is bound to be
   East to the West. Things like these have        more intense and more sweeping than
   no great value.’ And he added: ‘The true        the love between a superior and an in-
   saint goes in and out amongst the peo-          ferior. Fear, respect, sense of inequality,
   ple and eats and sleeps with them and           absence of all distracting fac-
   buys and sells in the market and marries        tors in the intensity of love...” (Hence)...
   and takes part in social intercourse, and       the love of the gopis for Sri Krishna was
   never forgets God for a single moment’          wild and dashing like the storm or the
   (Grunebaum 1951, pp. 71-72).                    gale and it swept everything before it...
                                                   it knew no check or restraint. The gopis
    If we can claim that the principle of          forgot themselves absolutely. They for-
“equality” in Islam finds its most prominent        get their own bodies, their dress, their
religious expression in the cult of love such      homes, their people (husbands, sons,
as that of Mevlana, and that as Dumont             daughters, parents-in-law...) They were
has claimed, “renunciation” is one of the          not aware of how time was gliding...
central values of Hindu civilization, where        (Singer 1966, p. 131).
do we place the extraordinary love cults in
Hindu history and experience? What do we           In other words, all social structures of
do with the Divine Love of God Krishna and      time dissolve in the passion of love. And
the Gopis, the exquisite Bhajans of South       more pointedly:
India, the superb Vaishnava traditions of
Bengal and elsewhere?                              Nityananda, unlike Caitanya, was decid-
    In fact, we have evidence that these           edly conscious of the social significance
                                                   of the bhakti doctrine. Not only was he
important traditions of love in Hindu civi-
                                                   himself casteless, as a member of an
lization also powerful metaphors of social
                                                   Avadhuta ascetic order, not only did he
equality. “...the followers of Bhakti are          “stay with the Sudras” as indeed Cai-
persons who consider poverty and service           yanya himself had done, not only was
as positive virtues for...devotion. ...They        he “apostle to the Banyas” but he has
stress the understanding of the misery of          been accused by tradition of allowing
others, compassion and impartiality toward         “degraded elements”-- some thousands
all persons regardless of class. Their stan-       of Buddhist monks and nuns, presum-
dards include modesty, ...freedom from             ably Tantrics-- into the Vaishnava fold.
pride in birth, actions, class, caste, wealth          Indeed, Caitanya says, “Hear, O Ni-
or status” (Hopkins 1966, p. 18). “...Bhakti       tyananda. Go quickly to Navadvip. It is
religion itself is considered an act of com-       my promise, made with my own mouth,
passion on the part of the Lord by which           that ignorant and low-caste and hum-
women, Sudras, and those who have fallen           ble people will float upon the sea of
from twice born status might be brought            prema (love) can set them free by
                                                   bhakti”(Dimock, Jr. 1966, p.53-54).
to better condition” (Hopkins 1966, p. 19).

   The great intensity of the gopis love for
                                                   This makes the point neatly, it would
   Krishna...comes from its being the love      seem, for Divine Love expressed in com-
   of a woman for her lover. This kind of       munal ritual and feeling as a revolutionary
   love is even more intense than the love      and leveling force in society. It is a point
   of a woman for her husband, because it       of profound contact in Hindu and Mus-
                                                ties of the superstructural conceptions of
                                                the universe (to revert to a Marxist idiom)
                                                which is most worthy of our attention.
                                                    Islamic mysticism and Bhakti with their
                                                intense attention to the “inner” and indi-
                                                vidual particularity of the person, their fer-
                                                vent pleas for individual spiritual liberation,
                                                are both indeed a metaphors for ultimate
                                                human freedom. They do understand each
                                                other. Robinson in a recent review writes of
                                                religious tolerance in Bangladesh, which is
                                                ‘a striking feature of this world’: “A Mus-
                                                lim mystic sings of the longing of Radha for
                                                Krishna, and his Muslim audience is enrap-
                                                tured by this metaphor of the soul’s long-
                                                ing for God.” “All of us, Hindus, Muslims,
                                                Christians, Buddhists,” Haripada Pal (de-
                                                scribed [by art historian Kathleen A. Foster]
                                                as one of the ‘finest sculptors at work in
                                                the modern world’) declares “are here in
                                                this vexed place, struggling to endure for
                                                a brief span. The world is one, and we are
                                                one, all of us alike in the drop of God we
                                                contain” (Robinson 1998). This longing is
                                                expressed in the language appropriate for
lim devotionalism. But in the Hindu case,       a different age but the intention is crystal
it is a minor theme of a great civilization,    clear.
whereas in Islam many have said that little         All the Musim mystics from the great
else matters.                                   martyr al-Hallaj onwards have sung of the
     In both cases I have written in the same   sanctity of the individual and his (or her)
vein as Louis Dumont. These appear to be        vision of God. The martyrdom of al-Hallaj
fundamental principles on which different       (857-922) at the hands of a cruel tyrant
civilizations base their most profound con-     in Baghdad on 26 March 922 has passed
ceptions of human existence and meaning.        into Muslim legend. It is also the subject
In both cases, the vision is religious and      of an extraordinary feat of French scholar-
therefore more difficult to understand for       ship which has brought the matter to the
persons brought up in the anti-religious        attention of western readers (Massignon
positivist, utilitarian and pragmatic tradi-    1982). Sung and celebrated through the
tions of the late 19th and 20th century in      centuries, the story of the dreadful inci-
the West. In both cases, it seems profitless     dent (Arberry has 28 March 913 as the
to reduce these principles to merely utili-     fateful date) is a master narrative of this
tarian or pragmatic ones such as economic       passionate claim for individual illumination
facts, social categories or power relations.    as against oppressive and unjust authority.
It is the dialectical interplay between these   The compendium of Attar (b.1119-d.1220)
infrastructural bases and the singulari-        contains a long list of those who suffered

similar fates (Attar 1990, pp.264-71). Islam        tivals. 1951.
shares this passion for the free inner life of      Gunes-Ayata, Ayse. “Pluralism versus Author-
the individual (and its proper expression)          itarianism: Political Ideas in Two Islamic Pub-
with the other world religions. This is what        lications.” In Islam in Modern Turkey: Religion,
brings Massignon, the Catholic scholar, so          Politics and Literature in a Secular State, ed.
                                                    Richard Tapper. London & New York: I.B.Tauris
close to al-Hallaj. The mystical orientation        & Co., 1994.
to individual spiritual experience is to speak
                                                    Halman, Talat S. “Yunus Emre’s Humanism.”
about human dignity, individuality, sanctity        In Yunus Emre and His Mystical Poetry, ed.
and decency in a different voice. As we re-         Talat Sait Halman. Bloomington, Indiana: In-
call the gentle memories of Mevlana Cela-           diana University, 1981.
leddin-i Rumi and Yunus Emre, the genera-           Hopkins, Thomas J. “The Social Teaching of
tions of Islamic poets in many languages,           the Bhagavata Purana.” In Krishna: Myths,
the musicians as well as the love songs of          Rites, Attitudes, ed. Milton Singer. Honolulu:
the Gopis for Krishna, we should remem-             East West Center Press, 1966.
ber that the critique of the state authorities      Lewis, Bernard. The Emergence of Modern Tur-
(in any guise) in personal life, so necessary       key. London: Oxford University Press, 1968.
in our world to-day, is entirely in their spirit.   Mardin, Serif. Religion and Social Change in
                                                    Modern Turkey: The Case of Bediüzzaman Said
References                                          Nursi. SUNY Series in Near Eastern Studies,
                                                    ed. Said Amir Arjomand. Albany, N.Y.: State
Andrews, Walter G., Poetry’s Voice, Society’s       University of New York Press, 1989.
Song. Seattle: University of Washington
                                                    Mardin, Serif. “The Naksibendi Order in Turk-
Press, 1985.
                                                    ish history.” In Islam in Modern Turkey: Reli-
Attar, Farid al-din. Muslim Saints and Mystics:     gion, Politics and Literature in a Secular State,
Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliya (Memo-        ed. Richard Tapper. London & New York:
rial of the Saints). Translated by A.J.Arberry.     I.B.Tauris & Co., 1994.
London: Penguin Group (Arkana), 1990.
                                                    Massignon, Louis. The Passion of al-Hallaj:
Ayata, Sencer. “Traditional Sufi Orders on           Mystic and Martyr of Islam. Vol. XCVIII. Trans-
the Perihery: Kadiri and Naksibendi Islam in        lated by Herbert Mason. Bollingen Series,
Konya and Trabzon.” In Islam in Modern Tur-         Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.
key: Religion, Politics and Literature in a Secu-
                                                    Nicholson, Reynold A. Rumi: Poet and Mys-
lar State, ed. Richard Tapper. London & New
                                                    tic (1207-1273). ed. A. J. Arberry. London:
York: I.B.Tauris & Co., 1994.
                                                    George Allen & Unwin, 1970.
Basgoz, Ilhan. “Yunus Emre’s Transforma-
                                                    Robinson, Francis. “Quotidian Treasures.”
tion.” In Yunus Emre and His Mystical Poetry,
                                                    New York Times Book Review (March 8,
ed. Talat Sait Halman. Bloomington: Indiana
                                                    1998): 24.
University Press, 1981.
                                                    Sapolyo, Enver Behnan. Mezhepler ve Tarikat-
Dimock, Jr., Edward C. “Doctrine and Practice
                                                    lar Tarihi. Istanbul: Turkiye Yayinevi, 1964.
among the Vaisnavas of Bengal.” In Krishna:
Myths, Rites, Attitudes, ed. Milton Singer. Ho-     Sayari, Sabri. On Terror in Turkey. Rand Cor-
nolulu: East West Center Press, 1966`.              poration, 1985. p. 7124.
Dubois, Abbe J.A. and Beauchamp, Henry K.           Schimmel, Annemarie. Ausgewåhlte Gedichte,
Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies.Ox-           Yunus Emre, Seçme Siirler. Koln: Onel Verlag,
ford: Clarendon Press, 1906.                        1991.
Dumont, Louis. Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste         Schimmel, Annemarie. I am Wind You are Fire:
System and its Implications. Chicago: Univer-       The Life and Work of Rumi. Boston: Shamb-
sity of Chicago, 1980.                              hala Publications, 1992.
Grunebaum, Gustave von. Mohammedan Fes-             Schimmel, Annemarie. The Triumpal Sun: A

Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi. 1993.
Singer, Milton. “The Radha-Krishna Bhajanas of Madras City.” In Krishna: Myths, Rites, Attitudes,
ed. Milton Singer. Honolulu: East West Center Press, 1966.
Yalman, Nur, "Islamic Reform and the Mystic Tradition in Eastern Turkey," European Journal of
Sociology, (1969), 10: 41-60.

  I met Talat when we were young boys at that legendary school in Istanbul, Robert College. We
were both interested in literature with the significant difference that I read novels whereas he
not only composed poetry but did so in those amazingly complex classical Ottoman meters.
I knew something about recent literature, or so I pretended, whereas he could read and even
understand those enigmatic courtly poets writing in their obscure Arab- Persian Ottoman forms
in the 16th century. I regret to say that this difference has endured except that now his expertise
in the entire sweep of Turkish literary and epic adventures from the earliest writings in Central
Asia to the sparkling outpourings of the latest poetry (and literature) radiates from many univer-
sities. Quite apart from Talat’s contributions to an understanding of the Turkish mind in America
(not a task for the faint hearted), apart from his efforts as minister culture and ambassador for
Turkey, representative at UNESCO and similar public service duties, his most important contribu-
tion has been to make both Westerners and Westoxicated Turks understand the depth and rich-
ness of the Turkish literary and spiritual heritage. Talat was one of the early voices among the
secular republicans to draw attention to the profundity and continuing vitality of the humanist
spiritual tradition in much of the Turkish literary heritage. This after all is no small achievement
considering the immense corpus of works spanning a period longer than a millennium that is
hardly glimpsed at in the West and often neglected in Turkey. The brief work that follows owes
much to our conversations over the years about the powerful current of humanism in Turkey.

Shared Typologies of Marital Love and
(Com)passion in Islam and Christianity

By Mark Farha                                 love (mawadda, rahma, misericordia)
                                              and compassion (mawadda, misericor-
A comparison of the extensive literature on
                                              dia) [see appendix].1 Like most traditions,
spousal love and affection across the ages    Christianity and Islam have come to discard
shows that Islam and Christianity have dis-   ephemeral impulses and infatuations as a
tinguished terms associated with lust and     foundation for marriage.2 The Danish phi-
passion (‘ishq, hawā, eros) from spousal      losopher Kierkegaard once marveled that

“in the whole New Testament there is not              mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and
found a word about (emotional) love in the            they twain shall be one flesh?’ Where-
sense in which the poet sings of it and pa-           fore they are no more twain, but one
ganism defined it;”3 much the same could               flesh. What therefore God hath joined
be said about the Qur’ān and Islam.                   together, let not man put asunder. [Mat-
                                                      thew 19:4-6]
    While it may be conceded that love has
not figured as the centerpiece of Muslim
theology per se,4 one may call into ques-          Jesus’ above reference to the notion
tion the facile deduction that the Qur’ān          of a pre-existential unity of the sexes in
itself is silent on this existential topic. From   God’s cosmos is also an integral part of the
the dawn of Islam, this majestic verse from        Qur’ānic conception of marriage:
the Sūrat al-Rum has constituted the tex-
                                                      It is He who created you from a sin-
tual touchstone for all subsequent Muslim
                                                      gle soul (min nafsin wāhidatin), and
conceptualizations of the marital nexus:
                                                      made from it a mate of like nature,
                                                      in order that you might dwell with
   Among His signs is this: That He created           her. [al-‘Araf 7:189]
   for you, from your souls, spouses that
   you may find repose in them, and [that]
   He has created love [mawadatan] and             Part of an ancient, universal cosmolo-
   compassion [rahmatan] between you.              gy,7 the pre-existential “tri-unity of love,
   Verily, in that are signs for those who re-     lover and beloved” surfaces in neopla-
   flect. [30:21]                                   tonic Islamic writings,8 and the account
                                                   of the creation of Adam in from clay
Kenneth Cragg goes so far as to speak of           and the fashioning of Eve from his rib
traces of a “marital benediction and sacra-        [2:30-34]. The conjugal union signals
ment” in [30:21],5 and indeed the homage           but a reconstitution of the separated
to God as the ultimate source for the affec-       sexes in one flesh/one species (jinsin
tion between the spouses is in full accord         wāhidin), hence the familiarity (isti’nās),
with the Christian consecration of mar-            intimacy, tranquility (sukūn), rest (istiqrār)
riage. Yet the common ground extends               and serenity (tumā’nīna) retrieved within
further. In his authoritative commentary           marriage.9 The ultimate repose referred
on this verse, the fourteenth century exe-         to in [30:21] is essentially a “resting of
gete Ibn Kathir employs language highly            the hearts” (sukūn al-qulūb) as al-Razi put
reminiscent of that found in Jesus’ fa-            it, and is effected by the attracting forces
mous discourse in Matthew:                         of mawadda and rahma.10
                                                       Given that the customary Arabic trans-
   Truly man will cleave for his wife, be          lation for Christian love (agápē) in the Gos-
   it out of love or compassion felt to-           pels has been mahabba, it is particularly
   wards her, be it that she may beget             relevant to point out that the major medi-
   children from him or…due to har-
                                                   eval Muslim mufassirūn in fact equate ma-
   mony and familiarity (ulfa) between
                                                   habba with the Qur’ānic mawadda, while
                                                   reserving their unadorned opprobrium for
   Have ye not read, that He who made              ‘ishq and hawā.11 Such latter, passionate
   them at the beginning made them male            infatuation, while celebrated by many a
   and female [Genesis 2:24] and said, For         poet, generally met the censure of classic
   this cause shall a man leave father and         commentaries as irrational caprice and an
anti-social, “devlish desire”.12 The chief      mordial relationship between Adam and
defect of lust (shahwa) and fickle forms         Eve. To illustrate the difference, the clas-
of “love” (hubb) is that they are more          sic commentators cite a pithy saying by
akin to a sexual whim (nazwa jasadiyya)         Ibn ‘Abbas: „Love (mawadda) befits adults
which does not lend itself to the continu-      while mercy (rahma) is due to the small
ity of a conjugal union (dawām al-ishrā).13     and weak.“17 Nonetheless, it would be
The Muslim commentators of the Qur’ān           misleading to view mawadda and rahma,
would thus readily second Luther’s admon-       spousal and social love, so to speak, as two
ishing advice:                                  unrelated categories. Fakhr al-Din Razi
                                                ends up by positing mawadda as “the in-
   A wife is easily taken, but to have abid-    stance which results in rahma.”18 Thus, he
   ing love, that is the challenge. One who     hints at a link between private and public
   finds it in his marriage should thank the     spheres in Islam.
   Lord God for it. Therefore, approach
                                                    Its sharp rejection of heedless devo-
   marriage earnestly and ask God to give
   you a good, pious girl, with whom you
                                                tion does not imply that Islam was inimical
   can spend your life in mutual love. For      towards compassionate love. Nor did the
   sex establishes nothing in this regard;      Qur’ānic commentators gloss over sexual
   there must also be agreement in values       desire. Rather, sensuality was relegated
   and character (ut conveniant mores et        to a secondary position within the larger
   ingenium).14                                 framework of the marital codependency
                                                between man and woman:
Writing half a millennium earlier, Ibn Hazm
foreshadows this skepticism towards shah-          Thus God established between man
wa which he defines as an affection that            and woman love and compassion by
does not pass beyond the “beauty of the            means of marriage, an arrangement
form.”15 Fakhr al-Din al-Razi makes an             not known to other animals. The ob-
                                                   jective being [the establishment of]
analogous distinction between shahwa
                                                   domestic life…since man is dependent
and rahma as it is invoked in 30:21. Pictur-
                                                   on mutual acquaintance (ta‘āruf) and
ing a mature marriage in which the wife            cooperation (ta‘āwun) necessary recip-
has aged, fallen ill and “left the state of        rocal love (tawadd) and commiseration
desirability (shahwa), al-Razi highlights the      (tarāhum).19
importance of rahma:
                                                The precondition for procreation, emo-
   For we may still find between two             tional and sexual attraction (hubb) to one’s
   spouses (qarīnayn) mutual respect un-
                                                spouse is validated as the natural conse-
   beknownst even among blood relatives.
   This is not due to the existence of desire
                                                quence of the mutual longing for com-
   (shahwa) which indeed may have ended         pleteness, but subordinated to the active
   with age, but rather because compas-         affection (mahabba) kindling cooperation
   sion (rahma), which is from God, has         between the spouses.20 This crucial dis-
   remained.16                                  tinction made by the renowned Qur’ānic
                                                exegete al-Tabatabai mirrors Immanuel
Implicit in rahma then is a hierarchical,       Kant’s differentiation between “pathologi-
asexual relationship of commiserating mer-      cal love” and “practical love.”21 The for-
cy (shafqa) or compassion (rā’fa), whereas      mer instinctual attraction may be likened
mawadda is often interpreted as the pri-        to the passionate, burning Eros which has

been lamented as a disease - or lauded as        – are twofold. For one, this kind of love
a Daemon - in Plato’s symposium, Ovid’s          almost always unfolds outside the con-
Ars Amatoria, the famed Arabic couples           fines of marriage and thus is predicated
Leila and Majnun, Jamil and Buthaina, the        on what is perceived as a selfish claim to
tragic European couples of Abelard and           exclude third parties, neglect social obli-
Heloise, Tristan and Iseult, the Trobadors       gations and shut off the private from the
of the Provence and Aquitaine, the me-           public realm.28 Secondly, from a religious
dieval Minnesaenger, Juan Ruiz’ Libro de         perspective, the command to “be in love”
Buen Amor, or De Amore by Andreas Ca-            appears nonsensical at best, and detri-
pellaneus amongst countless others. The          mental to human freedom and agency at
striking similarities between the European       worst.29 Nor do the religious notions of
courtly love and the Arab ‘Uthrī and Hijāzī      “mercy and compassion” presuppose any
love poetry has led a number of scholars to      of the “admirable” qualities in the object
document multiple historical links and liter-    of love the poets are wont to exalt.30 Ki-
ary affinities between the two genres via         erkegaard underlines that the Gospel’s
Muslim Andalusia.22 Like de Rougemont,           command to love one’s neighbor, can, by
Werner Sombart, an economist, locates the        definition, not be conditioned on subjec-
beginning of what he calls the “seculariza-      tive tastes and predilections, but on objec-
tion of love” in the early Middle Ages when      tive human need alone.31 Care for the per-
southern Europe began to exchange goods          son, in other words, must take precedence
and ideas with the Near East.23                  over the infatuation with passion. In De-
                                                 nis de Rougemont’s critique, such Passion
The marks of this unrequited and unrealiz-       d’amour – whether it takes the sublimated
able love (amor de lohn, amour lointaine)        form of courtly love, the more explicit form
are a usually unreachable beloved pined          of carnal ribaldry, or the literary obsession
after by a servile suitor, in part a reflection   with (extra-marital) romance - is but a form
of the feudal system with its rigid class hi-    of escapism fomented by “mechanical
erarchies. 24 Insurmountable obstacles only      boredom” (l’ennui mécanique).32 Yet in
spur the intensity of this passion which is      tracing the origins of the “heretic” myth
almost always illicit and secret in contradis-   to the Troubadors’ denigration of con-
tinction to a public vow of fidelity which        ventional matrimony, de Rougemont fails
constitutes marriage.25 Tellingly, both in       to sufficiently acknowledge that negative
its Oriental and Occidental manifestations,      views of marriage in fact preceded the ad-
the word for matrimonial love (mawadda,          vent of any “Carthar heresy”: In the early
mahabba, Agápē) is absent from almost            phases of Christianity, St. Paul, Origin and
the entire body of this genre of literature      Tertullian viewed marriage as a concession
extolling extramarital expressions of pas-       to our carnal nature and made their pref-
sion (‘ishq, hubb, hawā, eros).26 So too is      erence clear for celibate life.33 Such was
the role of God as the indispensable lode-       the perceived rift separating Christian love
star of the matrimonial troth.                   (agápē) from wedlock that some scholars
                                                 have stipulated a total alienation of the
The misgiving Christianity and Islam show        two up until the 18th century.34
for this kind of all-consuming love – which          There is some exaggeration in this the-
at times may be sublimated into a Platonic,      sis, at least as concerns its historical chro-
spiritualized adulation of the beloved27         nology and categorical claim. Augustine’s
foundational treatises or the homilies of        einigung).38 Even if most of these disquisi-
St. John Chrysostom in the eighth century        tions largely pertained to love outside of
could display a high esteem for marriage;        marriage, they contain a certain ambiguity
likewise St. Gregory Nazianzen hailed the        which precludes a clear-cut categorization
“true chastity” of marriage in his writ-         within the binary dichotomy of eros and
ings.35 Even within the genre of Medieval        agápē. Chaucer, for instance, attempts to
Minnesang and troubadour love lyric, the         reconcile the courtly love paradigm with
picture is not always clear. It is true that     marriage. In his Franklin’s Tale, the hero
there are precious few odes to marital love.     Arveragus vows to be at once “a servant in
Yet the ennobling qualities of courtly love      love, and lord in marriage,” affirming that
may not invariably have been incompatible        “love wol nat been constreyned by maist-
with Christian love (agápē). Saint Francis       rye.”39 Be that as it may, there is no doubt
of Assisi for instance converted the ideals      that by the time of the Reformation in the
and virtues of courtly romance he sought         16th century, Erasmus and Luther unequiv-
as a youth into a Christian, and even mo-        ocally exalt and validate love in marriage.
                                                 Luther even deems marriage as superior to
nastic ideal of self-abasing service to God
                                                 celibacy, thereby inverting the prior hierar-
and those in need. Likewise, the homage
                                                 chy of the Church.40
paid to love’s ennobling features in the
                                                     In this sense, Islam may be said to have
admittedly burlesque Spanish classic Libro
                                                 preceded the vindication of the marital
de Buen Amor – possibly inspired by Ibn
                                                 state in Christianity.41 Five centuries prior
Hazm’s earlier, strikingly similar digest of
                                                 to Luther, in the most detailed treatise on
love’s refining power36 - need not be at
                                                 the origins and characteristics of love, the
odds with marital love:                          Tawq al-Hamama (The Dove’s Necklace),
                                                 the Zahirite jurisprudent (faqīh) Ibn Hazm
   The man who serves women has many
                                                 [d.1064] highlights the causal link between
   good qualities…he strives to be vigor-
                                                 the pre-eternal unity of selves and the
   ous, forthcoming, generous; the good
   man does not flinch from serving wom-
                                                 growth of an earthly union of the spouses
   en, for with hard work, he will live a life   in marriage: “As the cause of [this] cohabi-
   of great pleasure…love makes the igno-        tation He made the fact that she is made
   rant man wise, makes the dumb speak           from him…as for [the genesis of] true love,
   with eloquence, love makes the coward         there is no other reason save the reunion
   bold, and the lazy sharp and quick. It        of souls.”42 Ibn Hazm defines marriage
   keeps the young man youthful, and             as the restoration of the original state of
   makes the old man’s age fall away.37          complementary wholeness, harmony and
                                                 soothing security (sakīna) as outlined in
What is more, the earliest extant lyrical love   7:189 and 30:21.43 While conceding that
poetry in German by Dietmar von Aste and         all ordinary love waxes and wanes accord-
Der von Kürenberg, while acknowledg-             ing to distance and nearness, he maintains
ing that there is no love without suffering,     that this is not so for the “true love ema-
largely focuses on the joy of communion          nating from the soul (nafs).” Hence Ibn al-
of the lovers. De Rougemont himself              Hazm is insistent on drawing our attention
acknowledges that the German mystic              to an absolute, ontological love between
Meister Eckardt speaks of a deliberate,          the sexes which is not contingent upon any
voluntary communion of wills (Einigung),         outer causes such as beauty or even exter-
not a fate-induced, Platonic union (Ver-         nal affinity (munāsaba), but rather finds its

real, original cause in the “essential sub-      or neighbor may result in the ultimate act
stance of the soul” (fī thāt an-nafs).44         of “self-sacrifice” for a fellow human be-
     It thus bears repeating that both in the    ing,49 suicidal love is consumed in the im-
Christian understanding of marital Agápē         molation of the self and other, whether in
and the Islamic interpretation of mawadda        excessive aggrandizement or servile de-
in 30:21, physical love and infatuation be-      basement. Denounced in Greek, Roman,
tween the sexes is not denied its place, but     Arab and Chinese traditions as a sickness
rather framed in a broader cosmic duality        often associated with melancholy,50 this
of male and female, and subsumed under           egocentric obsession with emotive in-
the spouses’ continual, willed submission        toxication lends itself to dramatic poetic
(Islām) of their selves to God in a spirit of    expression due to its inbuilt anguish and
self-renunciation (Gr.: kenosis). As Muslims     tragedy as Kierkegaard pointed out.51 A
supplicate God in the Fātiha to guide them,      masochistic yearning for the reprimand of
so too Christians pray daily for God’s “will     the beloved finds expression in this famous
to be done” in the Our Father, following         Arabic verse likening passion to a drug-like
the example set by Jesus himself in the Gar-     addiction: “Stop reprimanding me, even if
den of Gethsamane: “Not my will, but Your        your censure is seductive; Heal me with her
will be done” (Mark 14:36).45                    who is my disease.”52 In the West, one
     Translated to the marital relationship,     of the most famous examples this kind of
Islam and Christianity affirm that overcom-       self-destructive delirium was Goethe’s Die
ing the division of the two genders is only      Leiden des Jungen Werther. The tragic end
possible in an “at-one-ment” with their          of this novel, in which the jilted lover com-
creator, God. Ibn Hazm affirms that “the          mits suicide after his final rejection, trig-
noblest love is the love of that pair of lov-    gered a spat of suicides by German adoles-
ers who love each other in God.”46 And           cents taken by the storyline. Suicide then
Saint Exupéry formulates a parallel insight:     stands revealed as the ultimate flight from
“To love is not to gaze at one another but       reality, while sacrificial love is the ultimate
to look in the same direction.”47 Only such      act of confrontation. If passionate desire
a love which constantly orients itself to its    amounts to a form of escapism from the
eternal source (as highlighted in 30:21) can     strictures of life and the dread of death, re-
aspire to be perpetual in destiny thanks to      ligiously grounded love confronts both and
the unfailing grace of God. The marked           thus liberates man from the clutches of a
agitation of the paramours contrasts with        false deity:
the soothing state of the couple whose
relationship is secured by faith in God, for        The God Eros is the slave of death be-
“in the remembrance of God do hearts find            cause he wishes to elevate life above our
                                                    finite and limited creature state. Hence
rest” [Al-Ra‘d 13:28].
                                                    the same impulse that leads us to adore
     This is not to say that marital love need
                                                    life thrusts us into its negation. There
be a somber affair devoid of fervid devo-           lies the profound woe and despair char-
tion. Yet despite misleading surface resem-         acterizing Eros, his inexpressible bond-
blances, a fundamental distinction must be          age; and in making this bondage evi-
drawn between sacrificial and suicidal loves.        dent Agápē has delivered Eros from it.
While the former is a “love unto death,”            Agápē is aware that our terrestrial land
the latter may be described as a concealed          temporal life is unworthy of adulation…
death-wish masquerading as “love.” 48 If            but that it can be accepted in obedience
an overflow of pity for one’s spouse, friend         to the Eternal.53

Both Eros/‘Ishq and Agápē/Mahabba may           es to shoulder the loads of life. While‘Ishq/
be seen as expressions of the soul’s search     Eros seduces with its promise of release
for immortality. Yet in addressing man’s        from all earthly ties and bondage, mar-
ardent hunger for eternal life, Christianity    riage, by contrast, constitutes a pledge to
unmasks the empty promise of avaricious         tie a perpetual bond. If passionate love is
desire by inverting its ideals.54 Instead       the dream of a supra-terrestrial existence,
of revelling in beauty, riches, showcased       marital love connotes a conscious commit-
virtues and elusive states of spiritual and     ment to make the transcendent immanent
sexual ecstasy, Christ inverts the order        in the here and now. As such, the marital
by speaking of lightness in the darkness,       bond, properly conceived, entails an eman-
a richness in poverty, the salvation of the     cipation of bride and bridegroom, at once
(penitent) sinners, the blessedness of suf-     from the internal illusion of infinite free-
fering, the love hidden in affliction and        dom, as well as from external coercion.61
disease. All this is anathema to the he-            To be sure, despite the great emphasis
donist or sentimentalist in pursuit of a fan-   on marriage being predicated on a fully
tasy from which the shadow sides of tran-       conscious decision, it would be mistaken
sient life and its suffering are screened out   to assume too radical a dichotomy be-
in aloof denial of death and time.55 Torn       tween will and vocation. Even the Church,
asunder by ever-shifting external pursuits      ever since elevating marriage to a sacra-
and the insatiable desire for rapturous re-     ment, recognizes marriage as a sacrament,
lease from our terrestrial, transient state,    recognizes an element of mystery and di-
this mode of ex-istence,56 far from result-     vine grace animating and sustaining matri-
ing in the desired deliverance, paradoxically   monial love. Without revisiting the age-old
reduces us to an animal solely occupied by      theological debate in Islam between free
its surroundings. Ortega calls this falsified    will and predestination (between adherents
mode of externalized life alteración.57 It      of “jadriyya” and “qadriyya”), we may rest
is to be shed for our authentic, “in-sisting”   satisfied with the Hadith which establishes
inner soul (enismismiento)58 which binds        a reciprocal relationship between human
us to humanity at large. This transition        effort and divine support, thus affirming
is comparable to Kierkegaard’s journey in       God’s grace without suspending our re-
Either/Or from the peripheral aesthetic life    sponsibility: “Anyone who approaches Me
to our personal core, or Heloise’s introspec-   by one handspan, I will approach him by
tion after her conversion from carnal love      one arm’s length; anyone who approaches
to spiritual love.59 Ortega underscores         Me one arm’s length, I will approach him
that this transformation rarely if ever can     by a cubit; if he comes to Me walking, I
be achieved without suffering.                  will come to him running.”62 There thus
                                                is room for God’s soothing serendipity in
   Lovers never attain to a love of self        love. By humbling ourselves before God,
   abandonment, of true fusion of soul          we give him space to unfold.
   and not merely of body, until the heavy
   pestle of sorrow has bruised their hearts    The Maturity of Marital Love:
   and crushed them in the same mortar of
   suffering...if bodies are united by plea-    Spousal, Social and Spiritual
   sure, souls are united by pain.60            Realms United
                                                Even long before Sigmund Freud’s semi-
The chief mark of marriage, its oath of fi-      nal psychoanalytic studies, there has been
delity, entails the acceptance of the spous-    a human penchant to regard the sexual

instinct as just that: a biological inborn      pearance and captivating words belied by
natural libido that may be channeled or         their poisoned hearts and barren deeds.
repressed, but essentially one that lies out-        Beginning with Kierkegaard, nineteenth
side the domain of our human volition and       century European philosophy would find it-
control. Marriage in this sense is reduced      self in an existential revolt against another
to a remedy for concupisience, a means          form of speculation and sophistic word-
for stilling man’s “sexual thirst.”63 Ortega    play. Kierkegaard was particularly upset
Y Gasset reveals the fallacy of this perva-     with Hegel’s hubristic infatuation with ab-
sive preconception in asserting that sexual     stract reason. Yet in his early years, Hegel
desire is overwhelmingly “the work of our       in fact too rejected the platonic, cerebral
magnificent ability to imagine which is no       conception of love as mere passive contem-
longer an instinct, but precisely the op-       plation of (absolute) beauty. Instead, Hegel
posite, a creation.”64 As a product of our      defined genuine love “existentially” as a
self-constructed imagination, cupidity and      “lived bond of virtues.”66 To illustrate his
concupiscience are not so much a result of      definition of love as enacted charity, Hegel
extraneous influences or set bodily func-        draws an analogy between Arab Bedouin
tions than of our inner disposition as Jesus    hospitality and the last supper shared by
points out:                                     Jesus. Such communal meals, far from be-
                                                ing “a mere symbol of friendship” are “an
   Nothing from outside can defile a man…        act, a feeling of friendship manifested, an
   the things that come from within a man       embodiment of the spirit of love.”67 In this
   are what defile a man. For from with-         very first elaboration of his famous dialec-
   in, out of the heart of men, come evil       tic, Hegel identifies the lived charity of hus-
   thoughts, adulteries, immoralities, mur-     band and wife as the synthesis of Hellenic
   ders, thefts, covetousness, deceit, sham-    beauty (sensuality) and Hebraic moralism
   lessness, jealousy, blasphemy, pride…All     (reason).68 He would thus anticipate his
   these evil things come from within, and      caustic critic Kierkegaard who made it his
   defile a man (Mark 7:18-23).                  calling to aver that Christian martial love
                                                (Agápē) is neither a sentiment nor an idea,
In a sense, the fraudulent freedom which        but an act.69
beckons in passion’s sea of enchantments             No less frequently we find a sustained
and ecstasies is the antithesis of the often    effort on the part of the Qur’ānic com-
prosaic, quotidian obligations demanded         mentators to emphasize the broad exis-
by acts of charity and compassion. Yet the      tential and practical implications of love
latter are prioritized by religion. We may      instead of confining it to the private, and
well recall that Islam and Christianity in      at times anti-social emotional satisfaction
many ways began as responses to societ-         shared exclusively between lover and be-
ies misled by enthralling eloquence. The        loved as the courtly love tradition – in both
Qur’ān's rebuke of the poets as “those          its Arab-‘uthrī and European variants - is
who say what they practice not” (26:226)        wont to celebrate. Tabatabai offers a sug-
is analogous to Jesus’ denunciation of the      gestive interpretation of mawadda as emo-
hypocrisy of the outwardly impressive,          tional love (hubb) in practice which finds its
prideful Pharisees.65 Silver-tongued, super-    analogue in the axiomatic Confucian virtue
cilious mockers, the Pharisees and the po-      (jen/ren) as concretized emotional love (ai),
ets embody vainglorious wordsmiths who          “redeeming the world through human ef-
lead the people astray with a splendid ap-      fort.”70

    That Islam defines compassion as an           balancing the respective male and female
active posture is also evident from Arabic       predispositions of “spirit and sense” (Geist
etymology. Edward Lane and the Lisān             und Gemuet), serves to spawn new “men
al-‘Arab tell us that the Arabic root verb       (and women) of integrity” whose inclina-
wadda – of which mawadda is the verbal           tions and comportment anticipate the laws
noun or masdar – does not only signify to        of reason and morality.75
“love or wish” but also “to do good, to               The (male) intellect and female sensi-
affect.”71 The English speaker will notice       bility need each other in order to connect
that affection in English too is etymologi-      abstract concepts to the concrete world
cally connected to a verb denoting action:       of nature. In Schiller’s worldview, the
to affect. This basic linguistic parallel car-   aesthetic “is” (beauty or “das Schöne”) is
ries an ethical and religious import as well.    quintessentially feminine and poetic, while
For the mark of genuine, marital love is         the ethical “ought” (truth or das Wahre)
that it will not stop at the satisfaction of     is actively discovered by the male intellect
the spouses but rather will serve as a main-     and philosophy (see appendix). Willhelm
spring for positive social implications. The     v. Humboldt contends that male sprit (der
state of sakīna, the soothing bliss of the       Geist) roams in the ethereal spheres search-
marital union alluded to in 30:21, is not an     ing for the absolute abstractions of trans-
end unto itself - in which case Islam would      temporal truth, whereas the female feel-
be reduced to self-sufficient stoicism - but      ing (die Gesinnung) is prone to rest with
rather the comforting ground of faith from       the individual, concrete being, the tangible
which new deeds of mercy may take root:          details of the here and now.76 Humboldt
“It is He who sent down peace of reassur-        traces this inclination to woman’s natural
ance (sakīna) into the hearts of the believ-     vocation (die Naturbestimmung) to receive,
ers that they might add faith unto their         give and preserve life, a duty which impels
faith. And He placed compassion and              her to remain faithful to immanent real-
mercy in the hearts of those who followed        ity. Woman teaches man in marriage to
him.” [Al-Fath 48:4]                             not seek pleasure but love, thus enhancing
    Ibn Hazm further insists that authentic      male beauty and dignity which is depen-
marital love will reveal itself as a source      dent on active nature prevailing over the
of knowledge (‘ilm), promote the sharing         pleasure principle (der Genuss).77 While
of goods and provide the energy neces-           woman is innately reasonable, man must
sary for exertion in work and affection in       make himself reasonable. Through the
human relations (mahabba al-qirāba).72           matrimonial union, duty and desire (Pflicht
To Fakhr al-Din Razi, the Qur’ānic allu-         und Neigung) are reconciled and joined to
sion to mawadda and rahma emerge as              vanquish the joint enemy of egoism.78 In
dialectic, disciplining forces which may at      Schiller’s reflections on the beautiful soul,
once safeguard the sacred and prevent            beauty manifests itself as a female state
humans from yielding to the loathsome            and a male deed. Seyyed Hossein Nasr
(makrūh).73 Hegel echoes this point of           cites an Arabic proverb reflecting a similar
view in concluding that the best antidote        idea: “Goodness is outward and beauty
against adultery is not merely negative pro-     inward in man, while in woman beauty
hibitions, but alerting our consciousness to     is outward and goodness inward.”79 In
the holiness of love.74 Schiller holds up the    sum, marriage allows for the mutual tem-
good Samaritan as a metaphor of gratu-           perance of gender-specific exaggerations:
itous, freely-disposed philanthropy rather       man’s impetuousness and imperiousness,
than externally dictated duty. Marriage, in      woman’s devotement and abnegation are

refined into an “independent, confident             that its discovery is a sign (āya), one which
femininity and a gentle, sensitive masculin-      should lead to contemplation and spur mu-
ity.”80                                           tual completion:

Conclusion: In the Fulcrum of                        As God put desire in man and woman
                                                     to the end that the world should be pre-
Faith                                                served by their union,
Any attempt to drive a wedge between                    So hath he implanted in every part of
the sensual, social and spiritual spheres            existence the desire for another part,
of marital affection will inexorably impair             Each in love with the other for the
each domain. In Kierkegaard’s vocabulary,            sake of perfecting their mutual work.83
the human condition mandates a constant
striving for an accord between the aes-              This spousal love, so majestically an-
thetic, the ethical and the religious dimen-      nounced in the Qur’ān and consecrated in
sions of life.81 It is this third perspective     the Gospels, is, once placed between the
which holds the secret of a synthesis. For        genders by God, bound to en-gender fur-
only by constantly calling to mind the eter-      ther compassions which may aid and ani-
nal source and sustenance of our earthly          mate society at large:
relationships can we prevent passionate
inclinations from descending into dissipa-           And the equivalence of this [spousal
tion and promiscuity while simultaneously            and domestic] love and compassion
shielding our ethical concern from self-             (mawadda wa rahma) is witnessed in
righteous conceit and hypocrisy: “Verily we          the larger civil society between individu-
belong to God and to him we shall return”            als, each of whom takes comfort in the
[Baqira, 156]. It is He who is the ultimate          other through empathy as they show
guarantor of our integrity.82                        pity for the poor, the aged and weak
                                                     who no longer are able to master the
    By relating itself to the absolute, marital
                                                     duties of life.84
love acknowledges human limitation and
imperfections and thus implies a constant
                                                  Across the centuries and confessions,
posture of forgiveness, prayer and com-
                                                  the spousal relationship, blessed by
passion. Eros/‘Ishq, by contrast, akin to a
                                                  God, is enthroned as the supreme sen-
drug, derives its vitality from the ceaseless
pursuit of intoxicating illusions of ecstasy      timent.Thus Ibn Kathir affirms: “There
and rapture, whether mental or physical in        is no greater affection (ulfa) between
nature. The highest form of marital love          two souls that that which is found be-
does – to be sure – make room for the             tween spouses.”85 Some three centuries
flame of passion, but it does so by embed-         later, the same hierarchy is ascertained by
ding these impulses within the broader            Martin Luther:
milieu of Agápē/Mahabba/Mawadda. The
                                                     The love between man and woman is,
later is revealed by Islam and Christianity
                                                     or should be, the greatest of all loves…
as an epiphany of God’s love for human-              Now there are three kinds of love: fraud-
ity which is gratuitously entrusted to us so         ulent love, natural love and marital love.
that we may pass it on to others. Perhaps            False love seeks its own, as one loves
the single most significant insight yielded           money, goods, prestige and women
by Sūrat al-Rum 30:21 then is that marital           outside of marriage and in violation of
compassion owes its existence and destiny            God’s command. Natural love obtains
to God’s original gift. The Qur’ān indicates         between a father and a child, between

   brother and sister, between friend and          The love of husband and wife is the
   in-laws and the like. But transcending          force that welds society together. Be-
   them all is matrimonial love which is a         cause when harmony prevails, the chil-
   spousal affection which burns like a fire        dren are raised well, the household is
   and seeks nothing other than the wel-           kept in order, and neighbors and rela-
   fare of the husband or wife.86                  tives praise the result. Great benefits,
                                                   both for families and states, are thus
Though on the opposite end of the theo-            produced.88
logical and political spectrum during the
Reformation, the Catholic Bishop St. Fran-      Ultimately, such a marital relationship
cis de Sales espoused a similar vindication     promises to afford an enlargement of con-
of marital love:                                sciousness within the “school of equality”
                                                which love is.89 For in the act of loving,
   Above all else I exhort married people
   to have that mutual love which the Holy
                                                each spouse goes out of him- and herself
   Spirit so highly recommends to them O        to discover the truer, deeper identity of
   you who are married, it means nothing        self and other.90 The particular character-
   to say, ‘Love one another with a natu-       istics of each of the genders is preserved in
   ral love’ – two turtle doves make such       the relationship, yet in jointly confronting
   love. Nor does it mean anything to say,      the marvels and miseries of daily life, the
   ‘Love one another with a human love’
                                                spouses touch upon their shared human-
   – the pagans have duly practiced such
   love. With the great apostle I say to you,
                                                ity: “Love thy neighbor as thyself’ does
   ‘Husbands, love your wives as Christ         not mean to love him as much as you love
   also loved the Church,’ and you wives,       yourself, for self-love is devoid of meaning.
   love your husbands as the Church loves       It means ‘love him as he whom you are’,
   her savior.87                                i.e. love is to sense a life similar to one’s
                                                own, not a stronger or a weaker one.”91
Muslims and Christians of all denomina-              No longer are sorrows and joys of the
tions thus find themselves in full concord       world indulged in as a means to a self-cen-
that the marital relationship – in order to     tred end viewed through the impoverished
be sustained – must be recommended to           and myopic vision of the aloof narcissist or
and referred to its creator by husband and      the frantic consumerist, but rather they are
wife if it is to endure and withstand both      transmuted by love into occasions of com-
the oscillations of time and our penchant
                                                munal celebration and consolation. Far
for self-centeredness. In this sense the
                                                from masking our weakness and embel-
rich body of writings on marital love found
                                                lishing our insufficiencies,92 outreaching
within Islam and Christianity remain well-
                                                compassion overcomes our mortality by
springs from which we may draw strength
and inspiration to fulfill the mandate of        embracing it. Far from blinding us to reality
compassion decreed for couples, families        as the arrows of cupid might,93 respond-
and society alike. All the writers included     ing to the needs of our neighbor, whether
in this study would have readily agreed         child or parent, spouse or stranger, alone
with the following synopsis of the salutary     opens our eyes to God’s incessant and in-
gifts bestowed by marriage which belongs        finite supply of mercy. The more we com-
to no confession and no age:                    mit ourselves to love and give, the more
                                                we shall see and receive.94 In the moment

of mercy and in the act of compassion, the tyranny of time is overcome in the communion
which is life eternal.

Appendix: Cross-Cultural Lexica of Love

 Greek            Eros                      Philia                 Agápē
 Arabic           ‘Ishq, Shahwa, Hawa                              Mawadda, Mahabba, Rahma
 English          Passion, Lust                                    Compassion, Love, Mercy
 German           Leidenschaft, Lust                               Barmherzigkeit, Liebe, Mitleid

 Chinese          (Self) love 愛 ai          仁; rén                 兼愛, jiān ài
 (Mozi)                                                            (universal love)
 J. Ruiz, Libro   Cobdicia (cupidity)                              Amor de Dios (charity)
 de Buen Amor     Cruel “Don Amor”                                 Misericordia
 Hegel            Hellenic Beauty           Hebraic Moralism       Christian Charity
                  Poetry (Hölderlin)        Philosophy (Kant)      Religion as “Living bond of
 Schiller         Das Schöne/Beauty         Das Wahre/Truth        Schöne Sittlichkeit
                  Freedom                   Necessity              Freely Desired Duty
 Kierkegaard      Aesthetic Life/Love       Ethical Life/Love      Religious Life/Love
 (Either/Or)      Johannes the Seducer      Judge William          The Knight of Faith
                  Preferential love         Love of Neighbor       Love by vow of Eternal
 Ortega Y         Alteración                                       Ensimismamiento
 Gasset           (life governed by                                (life governed from within)
                  external sensations)
 Wilhelm v.       Fantasy in the realm of   Geist in the realm
 Humbolt          possible and particular   of necessary and
 Miguel de        Love of self-alienating                          Spiritual, Sorrowful Love &
 Unamuno          abandon in pleasure                              Pity in action, consciousness
                  and ideas “ex-sistere”                           “in-sistere”

 Immanuel         Pathological Love         Practical Love
 Denis de         Passion d’Amour,                                 Amour comblée,
 Rougemont        Pagan Myth of Desire                             Marital, Christian love
 Martin Luther    False Love                Natural Love           Marital Love
                  (money, fame, sex)        (children, siblings)

Notes                                               rata, The Tao of Islam: A Sourcebook on Gender
1                                                   Relationships in Islamic Thought (New York:
  Susanne Enderwitz, Liebe als Beruf: al Abbas      Suny Press, 1992), 7.
b. Al-Ahnaf und das Ghazal, (Beirut: Orient In-     8
stitut, 1995), 172.                                   “Ce Tawhid dont le secret est la tri-unité
                                                    néoplatoniciennne de l’amour, de l’amant
  St. Paul, Augustine and St. Gregory deemed        et de l’aimé." Henry Corbin, tr., Le Jasmin des
celibacy superior to marriage. In an (in)fa-        Fidèles d’Amour. Kitab-e ‘Abhar al-’Ashiqin:
mous, polemical tract against marriage, St.         de Ruzbihan ibn Abi al-Nasr Baqli (d. 1209)
Jerome warned that “too ardent a lover of           (Teheran: Institut Français de Recherche en
his own wife is an adulterer” which itself is       Iran, 1987), 13.
an expression of earlier Roman and Greek            9
attitudes. Glenn Olsen, ed., Christian Mar-           Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb al-
riage: A Historical Study (New York: Herder &       Mushtahar bi al-Tafsir al-Kabir (Istanbul:
Herder, 2001), 118. Ibn Taymiyyya adopted           1881), 472-473. Sayyid al-Qutb, Fi Zilzal al-
a similarly negative attitude towards love in       Qur’ān vol. 21-25 (Cairo: Dar Ihya’ al-Kutub
marriage. Joseph Bell, Love Theory in Later         al-‘Arabiyya, 1950), 36. Muhammad Mutawali
Hanbalite Islam, (Albany: SUNY Press, 1979),        Sharawi, Ahkam al-Usrah fi al-Bayt al-Muslim
231. In Africa, India and China excessive love,     (Cairo: Makataba al-Turath,1998), 21. Qur-
even within marriage, was commonly seen as          tubi places primary emphasis on woman
a “threat to the solidarity of the extended         as the means for sakan, which he defines
family.” Stephanie Coontz, Marriage: A His-         as the abode in which man’s sexual thirst
tory (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), 15-           (ghula) is stilled. Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-
18. Georges Duby, The Knight, the Lady and          Qurtubi [d.1273] al-Jami li-Ahkam al-Qur’ān,
the Priest, (Chicago: Chicago University Press,     vol. XIV, (Cairo: Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, 1963),
1993), 28.                                          17. Abu Talib al-Makki in his Qut al-Qulub
                                                    goes even further and elevates sexual
  Soeren Kierkegaard, Works of Love [1847]          satisfaction to the ultimate objective.
(New York: Harper, 2009), 59.                       10
                                                       Qurtubi, 17; al-Razi, 473. John Milton too
  This too may be contested. The Qur’ān in-         saw in marriage a means of “banishing lone-
vokes words related to hubb in no less than         liness through agreeable companionship.”
twenty-two instances, for instance in [3:31]:       Cit. in Jeffrey Watts, The Long Reformation
„If ye do love God follow me: God will love         (Wadsworth, 2004), 294.
[yuhibbikum] you and forgive you your sins          11
for God is most compassionate and merciful.”             al-Razi, 857; Ibn Kathir, 367; Qurtubi, 17.
Besides the ubiquitous references to God as         12
                                                       Simon Kuntze, “Love and God,” in Ghazal
the compassionate and merciful (al-rahman           as World Literature, ed. Thomas Bauer and
al-rahim) with which every citatation is pre-       Angelika Neuwirth, (Beirut: Orient Institut,
faced, Al-Wadud (the loving) is one of the          2005), 163.
cherished ninety-nine names of God. (11:90          13
                                                       Abd al-Salam Tirmanini, al-Zawaj ‘and al-
and 85:14).                                         Arab fi al-Jahiliyya wa-al-Islam, (Kuwait: al-
 Kenneth Cragg, The Dome and the Rock (Lon-         Majlis al-Watani, 1983), 321.
don: Speck, 1964), 150.                             14
                                                       Luther cit. in Steven Ozment, Protestants:
6 Isail Ibn Umar Ibn Kathir, [d.1373], Tafsir al-   Birth of a Revolution, (New York : Doubleday,
al-‘Azim (Beirut: Dar al-Qalam, 1983), 368.         1992), 162.
7                                                   15
  On the complementarity of souls, see                 Ali ibn Ahmad Ibn Hazm [d.1064] Tawq al-
Plato, Lysis 221-220 in Plato: Complete             Hamamah, (Beirut, Librairie al-Hayat 1960),
Works trans. by Alexander Nehamas and               The Qur’ān mentions “love of desires” (hubb
Paul Woodruff, ed. by John M. Cooper (Hack-          al-shahawat) as human lust for worldly
ett 1997). Sachiko Murata compares the              goods, but ranks nearness to God as superior:
Qur'ānic cosmology with the Chinese                 “Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things
notion of a “Great Ultimate” (Tai Chi)              they covet: women and sons; heaped-up
from which male and female, heaven and              hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for
earth, ying and yang emanate. Sachiko Mu-           blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle

and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions     (which recognizes marriage as a contract)
of this world’s life; but nearness to God is the   than in Christianity. At least since the Fourth
best of goals.” (3:14)                             Lateran Council in 1215 (and probably even
     Al-Razi, 473.                                 before) - mutual consent was officially de-
                                                   clared as a sufficient basis for marriage (con-
   „Al-mawadda lil kabīr wa al-rahma lil           sensus facit nupitas). Febvre, 335.
saghīr.” Abu al-Fazl Maybudi, Rashid al-Din,       26
Kashf al-Asrar wa Uddat al-Abrar (Tehran: Iq-          The “school of love” (mathhab-i ‘ishq)
bal, 1910), 446. Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-            found in the satiric poetry of Hafiz and the
                                                   self-deprecatory malamati is discussed in
Qurtubi [d.1273] al-Jami li-Ahkam al-Qur’ān,
                                                   Hafiz and the Religion of Love in Classical Per-
vol. XIV, (Cairo: Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, 1963),
                                                   sian Poetry, ed. Leonard Lewisohn, (London:
                                                   I.B. Tauris, 2010).
     Al-Razi, 473.                                 27
                                                       Amongst many a mystic, the dividing
  Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar al-Baydawi, Anwar al-        lines between human love (‘ishq insani) and
Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta’wil (Damascus: Dar al-       divine love (‘ishq rabbānī or illāhī) is well-
Rashid, 2000), 243.                                nigh impossible to draw. Ritter tells us that
   Muhammad Hussein Al-Tabataba’i, al-             amongst the Muslim mystics who follow the
                                                   sober school of Junaid, earthly love is seen
Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur’ān (Beirut: 1970), 166.
                                                   as a symbolic (majāzī) preschool (Vorschule)
  Immanuel Kant, “Metaphysik der Sitten,” in       for the true, (eigentliche/haqīqī) love of God.
Kant’s Gesammelte Schriften, Teil I. (Gruyter      Certainly the views expounded by Ibn Dawud
1975), 671.                                        (d.909) in his seminal treatise on love, the
   The theory of an Arabic origin of romantic      Kitab al-Zahra, as well as the famous ‘uthrite
love was explored by the likes of A.R. Nykl,       poets like Jamil would confirm this thesis, as
Hispano-Arabic poetry and its relations with       they extolled chastity in love as a mark of
the old Provençal troubadours (1946); Marie-       divine martyrdom. Helmut Ritter, Das Meer
Rose Menocal, The Arabic Role in Medieval          der Seele, (Leiden: EJ Brill, 1978), 460ff. Sub-
Literary History: A Forgotten Heritage (Univ.      limated desire however might still conceal
Of Pennsylvania, 1990); The Legacy of Mus-         a form of passion. Schiller makes an intrigu-
lim Spain, ed. Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Manu-         ing observation in this regard, claiming that
ela Marín, (Brill Academic Publishers, 2001)       „however abstract we may think, something
amongst many others.                               sensual lies at the root of our thinking.“ “So
                                                   abstract wir auch denken moegen, so ist es
   De Rougemont surmises ancient Mani-             doch immer zuletzt etwas Sinnliches, was
chean and Orphic precedents as a source of         unserem Denken zum Grund liegt.” Friedrich
inspiration. De Rougemont, 62. Werner Som-         Schiller, Schiller’s Saemtliche Werke, (Stutt-
bart, Economic Life in the Modern World, (New      gart und Tuebingen, 1847), 135.
Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2001),          28
p.171. The zenith of passion was reached in           When Abelard proposed to marry Heloise,
the hedonism of the Renaissance, when one          his secret mistress rejected his offer, claiming
poet exclaims: “love is nothing but pleasure.”     that both his career and their love would suf-
                                                   fer, thus affirming the incompatibility of love
    Even in its formal rejection of social con-    and marriage. Cit. in Coontz, 17.
vention, this poetry often absorbed the lan-       29
guage of slave and master: “Do not seek glory         De Rougemont, Love in the Western World
(‘izz) in love (hubb), since only the slaves of    (Princeton N.J., Princeton University Press,
love’s law are free men….I am your slave, tor-     1983), 311.
ment you if you will, whatever you will of me,        “Christianity has never taught that one
do it, whatever it is! Accept my love, I give it   must admire his neighbor – one shall love
as a gift. Then reward me with rejection – that    him.”Soeren Kierkegaard, Works of Love
is love.” Abbas ibn al-Ahnaf (d.809) cit. in       [1847] (New York: Harper, 2009), 67.
Boase, 459, 467.                                   31
                                                      “To love the beloved, asks Christianity –
   The stipulation of public witnesses to mar-     is that loving?...‘Do not the pagans do like-
riage was traditionally more explicit in Islam     wise?’” Kierkegaard, 66-67.

   De Rougmont argues that Hollywood and              (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1978). The Council of
the media have further capitalized on this            Trent in 1563, in no small part as a response
myth. De Rougemont, 17.                               to the Protestant elevation of marriage, re-
    Marriage here was seen as a concession            confirmed a 1184 edict declaring matrimony
to human concupiscence. “But if they cannot           as a sacrament.
contain themselves, then let them marry; for             One notes for instance that formal ven-
it is better to marry than to burn.” (1 Cor. 7:9).    eration of the Holy Family by the Church only
De Rougemont, 85.                                     began in the 19th century.
34                                                    42
   “Nowhere do we find in the course of these               Ibn Hazm, 14.
centuries [16th-18th] any attempt whatsoev-           43
                                                         Despite invoking the duality of the sexes,
er to address the rapport between love and            Ibn Hazm curiously vehemently rejects Ibn
marriage in its depth…Love was but found              Dawud’s neoplatonic notion that souls are
outside marriage… Everything and everyone             “divided spheres”(aruwah maqsuma). For
rejected love-marriages.” Lucien Febvre,              more on Ibn Dawud and his Kitab al-Zahra,
Amour Sacre, Amour Profane (Paris: Gallimard,         see Enderwitz, 181.
2001), 322. Other scholars have maintained            44
that the alienation of marriage from passion               Ibn Hazm, 115.
led the latter to be channeled into prostitu-         45
                                                         By the same token, Jesus defines a believ-
tion, pederasty, adultery, and concubinage –          er as “anyone who does His Will, the will of
the last fed by Roman prohibition of marriage         Him who sent me.” (John 7:17).
between classes. (Olsen, 109).                        46
                                                           Ibn Hazm, 12.
   Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout       47
Life, tr. John Ryan, (New York: Doubleday,                "Aimer ce n’est point nous regarder l’un
1989), 222.                                           l’autre mais regarder ensemble dans la même
                                                      direction  ." Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Terre
   “A man in love will give prodigally to the         des hommes, (Paris: Gallimard, 1972), 225.
limit of his capacity, in a way that formerly         48
he would have refused; as if he were the one             There are countless examples in poetry of
                                                      this close association of passion and death,
receiving the donation…all this in order that
                                                      of which Oscar Wilde’s famous sonnet is but
he may show off his good points and make
                                                      one vivid example: “Yet each man kills the
himself desirable. How often has the miser
                                                      thing he loves, but all let this be heard, Some
opened his purse-strings, the scowler relaxed
                                                      do it with a bitter look, Some with a flatter-
his frown, the coward leapt heroically into the
                                                      ing word, The coward does it with a kiss, The
fray, the clod suddenly become sharp-witted,
                                                      brave man with a sword.” Oscar Wilde, The
the boot turned into the perfect gentleman,
                                                      Ballad of Reading Gaol [1898], (Ittaca: Cornell
the stinker transformed himself into the el-
                                                      University Press, 2009).
egant dandy, the sloucher smartened up, the
decrepit recaptured his lost youth…and all               “Greater love has no one than this, that he
because of love!” Ibn Hazm, 35. The theme             lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
of love’s power to purify and transmute is al-        50
                                                         Roger Boase, “Arab Influences on European
ready found earlier in Plato’s Symposium and          Love-Poetry,” in The Legacy of Muslim Spain,
later in Ibn Sina’s Risāla fī al-‘Ishq (Treatise on   ed. Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Manuela Marín,
Love).                                                (Brill Academic Publishers, 2001), 461. The
37                                                    notion of passionate love as a form of “di-
   Juan Ruiz, Libro de Buen Amor [The Book of
Good Love], tr. Raymond S. Wills, (Princeton:         vine madness” precedes Islam and Christi-
Princeton University Press, 1972), 155-156.           anity, appearing in Plato’s Phaedrus 265 and
38                                                    Symposium 202. See Plato: Complete Works
  Denis de Rougemont, L’Amour et l’Occident,
                                                      trans. by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Wood-
(Paris: Librairie Plon, 1972), 169ff.                  ruff, ed. by John M. Cooper (Hackett 1997).
     Cited in Boase, 468.                             51
                                                         “For what the poet shall celebrate must
   “One cannot remain unmarried and                   have in it the anguish which is the riddle of
chaste.” Martin Luther cited in Fathers, 189.         his own life: it must blossom, and alas, it must
Vom Ehelichen Leben und Andere Schriften              perish. But Christian love abides…but that

which has being cannot be sung about – it              Qurtubi, 17.
must be believed and it must be lived.” So-       64
                                                       Ortega Y Gasset, Man and Crisis, 102.
eren Kierkegaard, Works of Love [1847] (New
York: Harper, 2009), 26.                          65 “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypo-
52                                                crites! Because you are like whitewashed
  Abu Nuwwas cited in Adonis, Die Gesänge
                                                  sepulchers, which outwardly appear to men
des Mihyars des Damaszeners, (Zürich: Am-
                                                  beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s
man Verlag, 1998), 4.
                                                  bones and of all uncleanness. So you also
   Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western        outwardly appear just to men, but within you
World (Princeton N.J., Princeton University       are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. “(Matthew
Press, 1983), 311.                                23; 27-28) (Mark:7:7).
   Miguel de Unamuno, The Agony Of Christi-       66
                                                      “Ein lebendiges Band der Tugenden, eine
anity, tr. Reinhardt, (New York: Dover Publica-   Lebendige Einheit.” Hegel, G. W. F., Theologi-
tions, 1960), 15, 97.                             sche Jugendschriften, ed. Herman Nohl (Ber-
55                                                lin, 1923), 297. See Plato’s Symposia for his
   Soeren Kierkegaard, Either/Or. A Fragment
of Life (London: Penguin Books, 1992), 373.       ode to the love of the beauty of bodies, souls,
56                                                knowledge and absolute beauty. De Rouge-
    Unamuno suggests this etymology to
                                                  mont notes that this love remains contem-
sharpen the contrast between the “in-sist-
                                                  plative and restricted to the mind. As such,
ing”, demanding nature of a conscious state
and the indifferent, distracted and “ex-isting”    Platonic love remains a sublimated form of
unconscious mode of life. See Unamuno, 182.       desire (Eros). See De Rougemont, 168.
  José Ortega Y Gasset, Man and Crisis (New          G. W. F. Hegel, Theologische Jugendschrif-
York: Norton & Company, 1958), 91.                ten, ed. Herman Nohl (Berlin, 1923), 297.
                                                  Also see appendix to this article.
  This neologism could be translated as “to       68
be set and centred within oneself.”                  “In the spirit of the Hebrews, there stood
                                                  between impulse and action, desire and
   “The nature of the conqueror is constantly     deed, trespass and pardon an impassable
outside itself; that of the possessor inside      gulf, an alien court of judgment…what held
itself.” Kierkegaard, 459. “My love, which        them together was chains, laws given by a
brought us both to sin, should be called lust,    superior power…a living bond of virtues, a liv-
not love...Those who are Christians are whol-     ing unity, is quite different from the unity of
ly occupied with the inner man.” The Letters      concept…just as virtue is the complement of
of Abelard and Heloise, tr. Radice, (London:      obedience to the law, so love is the comple-
Penguin Books, 1974), 153, 174.                   ment of the virtues.” Hegel, G. W. F., Theolo-
   Miguel de Unamuno, The Agony Of Christi-       gische Jugendschriften [1790-1800] ed. Her-
anity, tr. Reinhardt, (New York: Dover Publica-   man Nohl (Berlin, 1923), 295.
tions, 1960), 135.                                69
                                                     “To be in love is a state; to love, an act. A
   “How can you force the bride to yield to       state is suffered or undergone, but an act has
marital and sexual union, how can you com-        to be decided upon (in marriage).” de Rouge-
pel her to marital accord and friendship when     mont, Love in the Western World, 310-311.
it was God who decreed mercy and love be-         70
tween the spouses? Indeed this can only be          Tabatabai, 166. For more on the Confucian
done by rousing her anger and aversion to-        perspective, see the contribution of Tu Wei-
wards her husband, and what kind of love and      Ming in this volume.
merry is there in that?” Ahmad bin ‘Abd al-       71
                                                     Edward William Lane, Arabic-English Lexi-
Halim Ibn Taymiyya, al-Masa’il al-Mardaniyya      con, (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society: 1984),
(Damascus: 1964), 116.                            293. Lisan al-‘Arab, ed. Muhammad ibn Mu-
   Hadith by Bukhari cited in Riyad as-Salihin    karram Ibn Manzur (Cairo: Dar al-Misriyah,
(The Meadows of the Righteous), Al-Imam Abu       1966), 468.
Zakariya Yahya bin Sharaf An-Nawawi Ad-Di-        72
                                                       Ibn Hazm, 14.
mashqi (Lahore: Dar-us-Salam Publications,        73
1999), chapter 52, no. 440.                            Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, 473.

74                                                82
   Hegel, Schiller and Schleiermacher all lay       “Only the sensing of the whole, i.e. love, is
great emphasis on the individual’s interior,      able to prevent the dissipation of the self.”
pure intent (Gesinnung) rather than exterior,     “Nur die Empfindung des Ganzen, die Liebe,
communal laws as the best guarantee for a
                                                  vermag die Zerstreuung des Wesens zu verhin-
preservation of morality and marriage. They
do not deny the validity of the laws of reason,   dern.“ Hegel, Theologische Jugendschriften,
but merely advocate an alignment of disposi-      270.
tion with dogma. Hegel pursued a more “sci-       83
                                                     Reynold Nicholson, The Mystics of Islam
entific” method to arrive at the synthesis via
his notion of reason Verstand than the Ger-       (London: Routledge, 1975), 123.
man romantics who valorized “sentiment”,          84
                                                     Muhammad Hussein Al-Tabataba’i, al-Mi-
but in the end both discounted the force of
                                                  zan fi Tafsir al-Qur’ān (Beirut: 1970), 166.
law as a gateway to the absolute, or even as
an efficient restraint on immoral behavior.         85
                                                       Ibn Kathir, 238.
Hegel, G. W. F., Theologische Jugendschriften,    86
ed. Herman Nohl (Berlin, 1923), 398. In this        „Vom Ehelichen Stand,“ Cited in Eheglueck
reasoning, they were informed by Luther as        und Liebesjoch: Bilder von Liebe, Ehe und Fa-
well as Romans 13:10: “Love is the fulfill-        milie in der Literatur des 15. Und 16. Jahrhun-
ment of the law.”                                 derts, ed. Maria Muller, (Beltz Verlag: Wein-
   „Ein sittliches Wesen.” Friedrich Schiller,    heim und Basel, 1988), 208.
Uber die Notwendigen Grenzen beim Gebrauch        87
des Schoenen (1795).                                 Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout
76                                                Life, tr. John Ryan, (New York: Doubleday,
   Willhelm von Humbolt, Gesammelte Wer-
                                                  1989), 220.
ke, (Berlin, 1841/1988: Walter Gruyter), 258.
     von Humbolt, 226                                St. John Chrysostom cit. in John Witte,
78                                                From Sacrament to Contract (WJK: Louisville,
     von Humbolt, 258.
                                                  1997), 21.
   S.H. Nasr, “The Male and the Female in Is-     89
lam,” Traditional Islam in the Modern World,         "L’amour est une école d’égalité, d’entraide
(Suhail Academy, Lahore, 1990).                   et d’écoute mutuelle. Une école où la décou-
A similar idea is expressed in the Proverbs:      verte de soi est découverte de l’autre, où la
“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart re-    découverte de l’autre est une découverte de
flects a man.” (Proverbs 27:19).                   soi." De Rougemont, L’Amour et L’Occident,
Ibn ‘Arabi even goes so far as to say that        338.
“God is more perfectly seen in a human            90
                                                     Ortega Y Gasset, On Love: Aspects of a Sin-
being than in any other being, and more           gle Theme (New York: Meridian Books, 1957).
perfectly in woman than in man.” Ibn al-
’Arabi, Muhy ad-din Muhammad, Tafsir al-             Hegel, G. W. F., Theologische Jugendschrif-
Qur’ān al-Karim (Beirut: Dar al-Yaqza, 1968),     ten [1790-1800] ed. Herman Nohl (Berlin,
339.                                              1923), 295.
80                                                92
   Friedrich Schlegel, [1795] „Über die Dioti-        “Love always speaks medaciously, what
ma“ in Kritische Schlegel Ausgabe, Hrsg. Ernst    is crude in itself seems good in the eyes of
Behler, (Munich: 1967), 91. The complemen-
                                                  love.” Juan Ruiz, 163.
tarity of the sexes in marriage in fact already
became a familiar trope in the Middle Ages.       93
                                                     “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the
Hicmar, Archbishop of Reims, viewed mar-          mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted
riage as a mitigation of “woman’s cunning-
                                                  blind.” William Shakespeare, A Midsummer-
ness and man’s roughness.” Duby, 33.
                                                  night’s Dream, Act I, Scene I.
   Soeren Kierkegaard, Either/Or. A Fragment      94
of Life (London: Penguin Books, 1992), 468-         “C’est l’amour qui fait voir. La vision est en
469.                                              proportion de l’amour. " Corbin, 15.

                                                                The Face of
                                                                the Praised

By Rusmir Mahmutæehajiæ                       Almost as a rule, one finds the following
                                              text inscribed calligraphically in the mihrabs
  I have fashioned thee as                    of Bosnian mosques: “Whenever Zacha-
  a work of art for Myself.                   riah went in to her in the mihrab.”1 One
                              Qur’an, 20:41   finds similar inscriptions in the mosques of
                                              other areas, but little detailed research has
  I will raise them up a Prophet              been done on them. The Zachariah in the
  from among their brethren,                  inscription is the prophet of God and priest
  like unto thee.                             at the Temple in Sion,2 the father of the
                       Deuteronomy, 18:18     prophet John [the Baptist], and the person
                                              upon whom he enters is the Virgin Mary,
  Verily of an immense magnitude
  is thy nature.
                                              the mother of the Messiah Jesus. The in-
                           Qur’an, 68:4       scription is one part of a Qur’anic verse
                                              that refers to Mary as being in the mihrab
  Out of the depths have I cried              of the Mosque or Temple.3
  unto thee, O Lord!                              For the Muslim tradition, the mihrab is
                            Psalms, 130:1     the symbolic centre or focus of the mosque
or place of worship and so of all human          This descent begins in the Light of the
life. What does the inscription mean and         Praised, the universal “seed”, the maternal
why is it found at this central place?           prophecy, and the principle of reception in
     Those who first inscribed this unfin-         absolute purity, quietude, and service. The
ished sentence in their mihrabs must have        end of the ascent is also the Praised as the
had clear answers to these questions. Their      universal “fruit”.
descendants today do not. They have ei-
ther lost or forgotten them. What has been                            1
forgotten can be recalled, however, as true      The mihrab inscription we are discussing
forgetting does not exist, at least within       is from the Recitation, the Word God sent
the human self or for the real. Forgetting       down through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of
is simply a condition of the self where its      the Holy, to the Praised.5 That Word cap-
indestructible core is obscured by false rep-    tures all of existence in verbal form as it
resentations and false knowledge.                relates to God, the only true Being. In this
     The core is cut off from the periphery,     way, existence and its relationship to God
which comprises the body, analytic Reason,       are brought together in human language.
the passions, and so forth. We then mis-         The focus of the entire discourse is the
take the periphery for the self as a whole.      name of God. Nothing can contradict or
What is lost can be found, however, so           equal it. Human being, however, is dual-
long as it is true. The truth cannot be lost.    ity, being both male and female, and is the
Only human beings can be lost. When we           obverse of that revelation of Unity. This is
find ourselves, we also find the truth that        why it is in the Recitation that we should
has been hidden from us. The inscription at      look for answers as to why Mary was in
the heart of the mihrab offers us signs with     the mihrab.
ontological, cosmological, anthropological,           God told the prophet Moses that He
and psychological references. To under-          had shaped him as a work of art for Him-
stand them, we must have recourse to the         self.6 He told him that He would raise up
framework of traditional intellectuality and     a Prophet like him.7 All the prophets swore
perennial wisdom.                                oaths in pre-existence to this Prophet who
     The disclosure of these signifiers is of     was like Moses.8 That Prophet’s nature is
crucial importance for the process of lib-       of an immense magnitude,9 and he is our
eration from forgetting or oblivion. Liberat-    most beautiful example.10 This is why the
ing ourselves, we disclose or discover our       Word was revealed to him in the form of
hearts as treasuries of immediate knowl-         the Book from which the text on the Virgin
edge – knowledge which does not depend           was copied.
on anything external, but on which human              The Recitation describes many and
self-realisation itself depends.4 In this way,   complex forms of relationship between
we may realise ourselves in line with our        God and humankind. God is the first cause
authentic nature. Memory or recollection is      and the source of all existence. Human
therefore our highest possibility. In it, we     being reflects and focuses existence. God
find both our beginning and our end.              owes nothing to anyone. We owe our ex-
     Finding our beginning and end entails       istence to God. Our relationship is of crea-
the discovery of both arcs of our existence      ture and Creator.
– the first marking universal descent from             God and human beings are always re-
the One, the other ascent to the same One.       lated in one way or another. God partakes

of this relationship as both absolutely near    forms of being-at-peace, faith, and beauty,
and absolutely far, alike and incomparable.     on the one hand, and rebellion, conceal-
He has every claim on us, but indulges us       ment, and idolatrous association, on the
and counterbalances our ability to sink to      other.
the lowest depth in the existential battle-
field with his offer of redemption and re-                            2
turn to Him. This bond takes on form both       Although undergoing constant revela-
in and outside of language and may be in        tion, the human self as a whole remains
either direction.                               concealed.11 Revelation and concealment
    The bond in language descends from          come together and are reflected in the
above, from God to humanity, as the             face. What is revealed speaks of what lies
Revelation. Ascending from below, from          hid, as its higher reality. From moment to
humanity to God, it can assume various          moment, we turn our faces to the world
forms of address – witness, praise, prayer,     and to other people, searching for this
repentance, sacrifice, etc. The non-linguis-     higher reality. But our faces find rest no-
tic bond from above includes signs on the       where. We cannot find that peacefulness
horizons of the world and in history. The       and rest in which we might be absolutely
bond from below involves various forms of       peaceful, before the Face. This is because,
human duty, ritual, and art.                    no matter where we direct our face or
    God is the Lord to Whom the most            what we encounter in the world, we can-
beautiful names belong. We are His ser-         not abide there for ever. We are searching
vants, and, as such, it is ours to receive      for more than is in all the world. It is only
and put on that through which our Lord          through this eternally higher world and
reveals Himself. To be worthy to serve our      what it contains that our path towards our
Lord, we must display absolute humility,        object has any sense at all.
quietude, loyalty, and openness to receive          This being so, we change from moment
and bear what He gives us. In this way, we      to moment, as the self alters with each
find ourselves between the abnegation of         new moment. Our face also changes, as in
mere appearance and rising up through           each new moment it engages with some
reality as received from and revealing our      aspect of the Divine Face Which is both re-
Lord. Where we stand is determined by our       vealed and hidden from us. And so we may
voluntary reception of confidence as the         well ask: where does it lead, this change in
form of our relationship with God. Acting       our face?
without this faith in God we become vio-            The answer to this question remains
lent and ignorant, in arrogance, rebellion,     hidden from us, so long as we look for it in
resistance, and closedness.                     terms of our being-within-change. In fact,
    God extends two possibilities to us, His    no final answer is possible, even though it
perfect and most rebellious servants. On the    become the focus of our life, will, knowl-
one hand, He is infinitely good and merci-       edge, power, and our faculties of hearing
ful, clement and kind, loving and forgiving     and sight. None of the potential answers
of His servant who is bound to Him in a         can transcend the difference to which our
bond of peace. On the other hand, God is        inability to turn our faces to and abide in
wrathful and severe, jealous and chastising,    Peace testifies.
but always absolutely just. These two pos-          This invincible difference appears in the
sibilities in our relations with God take the   form of a relationship between the seeker
and the Sought, between the face and the        and the external world. We are turned to-
Face. There are always two, but we yearn        wards this world with all our being. This
after the One, revealed in and affirmed by       turn would seem to be focused in our face.
that pair. We find ourselves always within       It is through our face that we address the
duality, constantly reminded of our higher      world as a whole. That world is a mirror
and more beautiful faculties. No matter         image of our face, just as our face is a mir-
how high we rise, this higher and more          ror image of world.
beautiful state remains out of reach, but            Everything we learn in our relationship
we want to unite with it, nonetheless.          with the world comes about, or perhaps is
    This aspirational desire emerges as will.   quickened, within us. Our face expresses
We desire the Face of our Lord, in which        this interior, as well as the exterior with
we will find everything our original and         which it is constantly related. Consequent-
final potential promises us. Our life and        ly, one may say that existence as a whole
our death, ritual and sacrifice, these are       is the obverse of the human face. We and
the way of virtue on which we are guid-         the world are two sides or two aspects of
ed by our desire for the Lord’s Face.12 In      one face, as every pair affirms and reveals
our quest for the Face, through which we        the One.
may overcome duality, we are constantly              Both the horizons of the world and
faced with the terrible void of oblivion or     the self are differentiated into an infinity
forgetting. Our need to overcome the void       of signs in continuous flux. Each sign has
leads us to fill the world with the expecta-     two sides and a contrary, as everything in
tion of receiving God and returning to Him      existence is part of a pair.14 There is noth-
through linguistic and ritual communion         ing within the horizons of the world or the
with the face. This quest takes on the form     self that is not part of a pair. The mem-
of witness: “All that dwells on the earth is    bers of a pair can never be reduced to each
undergoing annihilation, and there subsists     other, obliterating the differences between
the Face of your Lord, Possessor of Majesty     them. Only absolute unity can encompass
and generous giving.”13                         them and the differences between them.
                                                It is the same with the human face. Every-
                     3                          thing brought together and reflected in it
As individuals, we experience the duality       takes on a different aspect with each new
that runs throughout existence primarily in     moment, irreducibly different from that
terms of the opposition between the self        which has just past and that which is com-

ing. Whatever its condition, the human self       sense, which is to say they reveal the Unity
always partakes of the pair of the face and       towards which we aspire.
the Face.                                             We and the world are a pair. Nothing in
    Having turned our faces towards the           our selves or the external world is so sta-
horizons of the world to gaze at the heav-        ble or all-embracing that our quest can be
enly expanse, we return to our own selves         brought to an end: there is no level we can
tired and confused, for the majesty and           reach which is not a depth in comparison
beauty of what we have seen does not re-          to the One and the Most-High. The human
veal itself to us as showing the Face clearly     face is continuously turning to look for the
oriented towards us, the Face Which is to         Face Which will unite and bring fulfilment
unite everything that spurs us on to cease-       to all, before Which we will be alone be-
less searching and turning, the Face in           fore the Alone, standing before Him Who
Which all duality will be resolved. But we        Stands, sufficient before the All-Sufficient,
desire that orientation. No matter what we        and praised before the All-Praised.
seem to be looking at, it is ourselves we             So, we are continuously searching for
are searching for. Return from the expanses       our own face, in which to find and realise
of the horizons to the self recalls us to our     all that our highest moment entails, that
own inner self as the likely habitat of the       we may take on the aspect of the Face
Face we seek. As a result of this act of rec-     in undifferentiated fullness, in union with
ollection, the horizons and the signs they        what we know as beauty. This endeav-
contain lose their role as sources of knowl-      our steers us towards the horizons, which
edge. They become reminders of what we            nonetheless remind us of the core or heart
already hold within ourselves.                    of the self. There is nothing in the external
                                                  world which is not related in some way to
                      4                           our core, as the point of confluence where
The beauty revealed to us by the horizons         all distinctions disappear and differences
and other people’s faces does not last. It        appear as Unity. This possibility is above
calls to us continuously, only to fade. It ap-    and beyond all finitude. Only Unity is in-
pears briefly, but the memory of it stimu-         dependent of everything but itself, while
lates us all the more to search for it. Our       what is outside Unity depends on It. To re-
experience of beauty in the horizons of the       turn and ascend to the self means to find
world recalls us to the self as beauty’s real     one’s all in Unity.
habitat. Nowhere in the world can it take
root and become permanently available.                                 5
It resides within us: we belong to beauty         Experienced by the self as news that arises
and bear witness of it. But the signs in the      from its own core, majesty and beauty are
world do recall it, as well as the veil of for-   worthy of praise. Whenever we find full
getting which covers it.                          confirmation in either the world or the self
    What we see as beautiful is in fact how       of identity that transcends duality, we rec-
we would like to see ourselves from the           ognise in what we have found that self for
point of view of the Beautiful. This desire       which we are looking. When we find it, it
pervades our entire being, inside and out,        appears to us as a flash of the absolute. As
beginning and end. We are always some-            soon as we see it, it disappears. We bear
where between inside and outside, begin-          witness, however, as we recall that it came
ning and end. These are pairs in the fullest      from our own centre. In the indestructible
core of our being, we know that what has          The visible world is our face. In this way,
been shown us in the world and in our             we and the world are a pair, one term of
own self is the one truth. This is why our        which reflects the other.
consciousness is always discovering and re-           We find ourselves in the world, so
covering the crucial confession that there is     that whatever confirms our expectations
no self but the Self, no face but the Face.       is worthy of praise. But we also bring to-
     Revealing and remembering beauty             gether within our own selves whatsoever
speak of the human heart as comprehend-           is worthy of praise in either ourselves or
ing beyond time and space, as compre-             the world. We bring it together, firstly as
hending all time and all space. Drawing our       the recipients of the praise by which God
attention to this possibility, to our return to   reveals His being All-Praised and then as
it, God spoke to us through the Praised,          givers of what we have received through
commanding him to say: “Say: ‘Believe in          Praise of the Giver.
it, or believe not; those who were given the          No matter how high we raise ourselves
knowledge before it when it is recited to         in the heavenly heights or how low we
them, fall down upon their faces prostrat-        descend within ourselves, we are always
ing’, and say, ‘Glory be to our Lord! Our         within the boundaries and we can never
Lord’s promise is performed.’ And they fall       do away with them. This is why existence
down upon their faces weeping; and it in-         as a whole appears to us, in both the world
creases them in humility.”15                      and in our own selves, as twofold – as a
     We all have knowledge of this thanks         world within reach of our sensory percep-
to the act of our creation. We all have one       tion and another beyond its reach. We
and the same original nature, pure and en-        cannot overcome this duality, no matter
dowed with everything we need to return           what our condition. We cannot, because it
to God, as He told us: “So set thy face to        is through it that Unity is revealed as both
the debt, of the pure – God’s original upon       source and end of everything in existence.
which He originated mankind.”16
                                                      While the first world seems closer to
     Whenever that which we already know
                                                  us, it is not. The principle of the second is
within ourselves is revealed to us in the
                                                  higher in value: everything visible derives
course of our quest for the self, it becomes
                                                  from the invisible. The invisible and the
all our desire to abnegate this pair, to re-
                                                  inaudible are the principles of the visible
alise ourselves in Unity as the source and
                                                  and the audible. Whatever our condition,
end of all things manifest, and to abnegate
                                                  we are always “suspended” between two
our own face before the Face, which is our
                                                  possibilities: falling into the material depth
greatest promise in eternity and infinity.
                                                  or rising to the height of the Spirit. On
Thus, we bear witness that there is no face
                                                  each level we reach there is a visible sign
but the Face and that we can realise our
selves only in the Face.                          of its essence. This sign is, in fact, there to
                                                  remind us of our essence. The Praised said:
                                                      This House (Ka‘ba) is one of 15, seven
                      6                           in the heavens up to the throne and seven
The world reveals us to ourselves. The hori-      up to the limits of the lowest Earth. The
zons are in our image writ large, while we        highest one, which is near the throne,
are the image of those same horizons writ         is the ‘visited house’. Every one of these
little. Whatever we comprehend in the ex-         houses has a sacred territory like that of
ternal world is comprehended in our heart.        the Ka‘ba. If any one of them fell down,

the rest would fall down, one upon the            this couple be reduced, either to the other,
other, to the limits of the lowest Earth. And     takes on the form of witness of the One and
every house has its heavenly or earthly wor-      of their irresistible attraction for the One. In
shippers, like the Ka‘ba.17                       any such act of witness, both are turned to
   Knowledge is the relationship of the           Peace as the Goal in Which all differences
knower to the known. Unity, even if               will be resolved. Consequently, one can say
known, cannot be limited by anything. If          that each thing is a recipient and a revela-
we want it, there is no knowledge which           tion of Peace, just as being-at-peace is our
might limit the approach to Unity. No point       way of relating to both our beginning and
on the path of approach or ascent is final.        our end.
As long as we are in the world of duality,             The Face we seek, in and through Which
the upward path to Unity remains open.            we want to see ourselves, is irresistibly at-
This ascent depends on the heart, which           tractive. We love this perfect Face, but It re-
contains all the points or degrees, from the      mains always out of our grasp. It reveals and
lowest to the highest. Once the heart falls,      then conceals itself before us. To attain It,
the entire revelation of the One has fallen.      it is not enough to be completely at peace
                                                  before It; we must set out on the upright
                      7                           road, the road of the fortunate, on which
We want to be what we know and to know            the Praised or real individual is our example
what we are. This will is a desire for union.     and our guide. As such, he reveals duality as
As knowing subjects, we need that which           the non-differentiation of perfect masculin-
we know. Nothing can remove this need.            ity and perfect femininity in the same self.
This is because the Known is always out of
reach of our knowledge and, consequently,                                8
irresistible and unfailingly attractive. The      The One confirms the not-One as the ineffa-
name for this inextinguishable desire of the      ble principle of all things. Duality and limit-
human self is love. Unity is constantly at-       less multiplicity also confirm the One. Given
tracting to Itself whatever serves to reveal      that multiplicity announces the One, it also
It in the world of duality. It attracts because   announces the most beautiful name of the
there is nothing real in all existence that       One. The most beautiful names are scat-
does not come from It and belong to It. In        tered throughout the cosmos, but brought
this process of attraction, the pairs wish to     together in human being. To complete this
become manifest and return to the One.            gathering of the names, their own created
Our love for what we know is made mani-           principle, the Breath of the Creator was in-
fest in the confession that there is no self      spired into us, that we might bring them
but the Self.                                     together again and return them to the One,
     Through the continuous discovery of          and so even to the not-One.
beauty and majesty the self which seeks               It is through our imagination that we
the Self shows its inexhaustible nature and       transcend boundaries, and it is this which
consequently both its concealment and             enables us to seek the Named among the
its disclosure. It cannot be reduced to any       names and so return to or discover Him in
of its appearances, any more than any of          His own Breath at our core. The earth and
those appearances have any reality without        the heavens extend before us, far exceed-
It. Every manifestation of the One, how-          ing us in magnitude, but we have our place
ever, includes two. The impossibility that        within them and another beyond them, in
our consciousness and our imagination.             are fullness; not male or female, but male
There is in them nothing real but the Real.        and female. This means that the full hu-
Consciousness of this is our most profound         man being is the union of all divisions. This
content, as is clear from the words God            is shown at the level of signs in the praise
spoke through the Praised: “My earth and           of the One as the All-Praised.20 When indi-
My heaven embrace Me not, but the heart            vidual things, and therefore also their con-
of My believing servant does embrace               traries and so existence as a whole, praise
me.”18 The heart of the faithful servant           their reason and end, they are returning
mentioned in this holy tradition is that es-       the praise with which the One as the All-
sential place in which all contradictions are      Praised revealed Himself. The All-Praised is
reconciled.                                        beyond all difference, even though He re-
    Faith is our relationship, as beings of        veals Himself through differences.
faith, with God the Faithful. This relation-           When an individual reaches perfec-
ship takes place on the basis of what can          tion and recognises in him or herself the
only be a little knowledge, regardless how         vicegerent, which is to say a follower of
great it may appear, as it is subject to con-      the complete human being, it is in and
stant change in both its object and form.          through the perfect balance of the male
Even such knowledge, however, is suf-              and female aspects. God is the All-Praised.
ficient for us to recognise the Face which          His Self-revelation is like an emanation of
irresistibly attracts our own faces, as its es-    His praise. This emanation is creation as
sential nature is to intimate the Unchang-         the reception of praise and being from the
ing. This force of attraction is love. In faith,   All-Praised. Everything through which God
knowledge and love are one.                        reveals Himself as the All-Praised receives
    In this mutual attraction of the human         His praise. As this revelation contains noth-
face and the divine Face, our external ho-         ing that has not been received from God as
rizons and the self and the world of scat-         the All-Praised, praise is the mode of exis-
tered signs are oriented along an axis that        tence for all things. The most sublime sign
passes through all the worlds towards the          of this praise is the Praised as the maternal
throne of the One. Through the Praised,            prophet who corresponds to the maternal
God said of this: “We have seen thee turn-         book, in terms of his simultaneous priority
ing thy face about in the heaven; now We           and finality in creation.21
will surely turn thee to a direction that shall        God’s first manifestation is in Praise and
satisfy thee. Turn thy face towards the Holy       the Praised, mindful always that none are
Mosque; and wherever you are, turn your            praised but the All-Praised. What we find
faces towards it.”19                               on the lower levels of existence is a series
                                                   of images of the Praised as revealing the
                       9                           All-Praised. They are bound by the relation
Human beings are both male and female.             of praise. When praise is focused and flow-
Our form of being is manifest in or through        ers in the self, human being is perfected
this split in two which together reveal the        and reaches its fullness. Such a one is a
One. The full discovery of humanity re-            perfect example to all others in all their
quires that we transcend this division. To         circumstances and conditions.22 Through
transcend division is to be on the path of         such an individual, the Light is sent down
return to the One. The full manifestation of       from on high to the lowest level of exis-
the One is the fullness of humanity. For we        tence23 to be a shining lamp to every self

on every level of existence.24 The path back    you conceal, to God belongs all that is
to God, the All-Praised, lies through this      in the heavens and in the earth; God is
perfect individual.                             All-sufficient, All-praised.25

                                                And it is He who sends down the rain
                                                after they have despaired, and He un-
God the All-Praised spoke plainly of this       folds His mercy. He is the Protector, the
revelation through the Praised and we may       All-Praised.26
read in the Recitation of the universal indi-
vidual as the first recipient of praise and of   All that is in the heavens and the earth
the Praised as the fairest example, as well     magnifies God. His is the Kingdom, and
as of the sending down of praise into all       His is the praise, and He is powerful over
the worlds and of how they are gathered         everything.27
in our essence:
                                                And He is God; there is no god but He.
   To God belongs all that is in the heavens    His is the praise in the former as in the
   and in the earth. We have charged those      latter; His too is the Judgment, and unto
   who were given the Book before you,          Him you shall be returned.28
   and you, to remain conscious of God. If

   Proclaim thy Lord’s praise, and be of        thou not seen how to God prostrate all
   those who prostrate themselves, and          who are in the heavens and all who are
   serve thy Lord, until the Certain comes      in the earth, the sun and the moon, the
   to thee!29                                   stars and the mountains, the trees and the
                                                beasts, and many of mankind?”34 This ab-
   Surely thou art before Our eyes. And
   proclaim the praise of thy Lord when
                                                negation is the rejection of mere appear-
   thou arisest, and proclaim the praise of     ance for the sake of the Real, the annihila-
   thy Lord in the night, and at the declin-    tion of the face to reveal the Face. In this
   ing of the stars.30                          way the self shows its dissatisfaction with
                                                all its conditions except that of being a face
   But those who believe and do righteous       before the Face, of looking upon the Be-
   deeds and believe in what is sent down       loved and being looked upon by His eyes
   to the Praised – and it is the truth from    alone.
   their Lord – He will acquit them of their
                                                     In this process of discovery, the world
   evil deeds, and dispose their minds
                                                appears as glory thanks to the praise of
                                                the Lord. This discovery is expressed per-
   The Praised is not the father of any one     fectly by the ascent through the night to
   of your men, but the Messenger of God,       the Light, through the flesh to the Spirit.
   and the Seal of the prophets; God has        The path is trod from the lowest depth to
   knowledge of everything.32                   the highest height. One who has experi-
                                                ence of standing before the Upright and
                     11                         being praised before the All-Praised can
When it is a woman who is addressing this       fall to the lowest depth again and from it
sought after Face as the perfection of the      call the self to embark upon the upright
self, then she perceives it as the Praised in   path towards the realisation of our authen-
male form. When it is a man who is the ap-      tic potential.
pellant, then he addresses it as the Praised         The One affirms Suchness or Essence,
in female form. As the Face brings together     while duality affirms the One. As the first
and meets all expectations, It is beyond all    revelation of the Lord as the All-Praised
distinction. It is neither the female nor the   and as the universal man, the Praised must
male Praised; It is both. The Face resolves     be fully dual, for nothing can affirm the
all differences: “And call not upon another     One that is not such a duality. Such a dual-
god with God; there is no god but He. All       ity is made up of the perfect or first recep-
things perish, except His Face.”33 This is      tion and the perfect or first giving, perfect
the Face Which is before and beyond ev-         femininity and perfect masculinity. The
erything in existence. In and through It we     One sends down and publishes His Word
accomplish our ascent and return to our         through the Praised. This Word is the Book.
highest moment.                                 Having received it, the Praised is a maternal
    This return includes realisation of the     prophet. The book he has received is ma-
witness that there is no face but the Face.     ternal. It contains everything that reveals
Conscious of this and mindful of the Unity      the One.
which encompasses all things in Its revela-          This same One sent down and revealed
tion, we abnegate ourselves before the          His Word through the Virgin. This perfect
Face that we might be made in Its fullness.     word was the Anointed. He contained
God said of this in the Recitation: “Hast       nothing he had not received: like the

Praised, the Anointed said nothing on his       tic Owner, for the sake of whom they are
own account.35 The nature of the Praised        present and towards Whom they lead.
and that of the Virgin are determined by            In each instant of our existence we
the Book and the Anointed, respectively.        imprint our individual face upon the Cos-
The only woman mentioned by name in             mos. This imprint is an image in constant
the Book sent down to the Praised is Mary.      change. No such image can be identified
She is therefore a sign of the perfect du-      with the Face, though each bears witness
ality through which the One is revealed.        of It. The Cosmos thus provides the frame
The Praised and the Virgin are one and the      of the mihrab or battlefield on which we
same revelation of the One at the begin-        strive to attain the Face. There are count-
ning of the arc of descent and at the end       less instances of the mihrab and only con-
of the arc of ascent.                           fidence in the permanent presence of the
                                                Face is sufficient to fill them. Only with the
                    12                          Face can the multiplicity of Its Revelation
To glorify and praise the Lord means stand-     be re-offered to Him as total victory over
ing before the Face and the Praised and         the Gap that subsists between the face and
willing exit from duality: to become That       the Face.
Which one stands in front of and regards            The battlefield (mihrab) is therefore a
and nothing more. This desire is affirmed        key symbol of our effort to overcome this
symbolically by falling in prostration, deny-   Gap and to see ourselves as the Beloved
ing any form of self but the Self, and sacri-   sees us, as beloved by the Beloved. The
ficing all mortal things for the Living.         attractiveness of the Beloved, whether
    The world is continuously revealed          experienced as male or female, is move-
within us in ever-changing ways, as it itself   ment towards Peace and being-at-peace.
changes from moment to moment. Duality          The further from the manifestation and the
cannot be mastered, but we do not accept        closer to that by which He is manifest, the
this. For us, the world becomes a battle-       closer we are to Peace and so to union as
field on which to master duality and real-       our goal. Union means sacrificing duality
ize ourselves in the One and the Beautiful.     for realisation in the One.
Attaining the goal of our endeavour can             One should stress that the mihrab, in
seem impossible. But that is precisely what     all of its forms in all the different types of
we desire. We launch a war against the im-      mosque or place of worship, necessarily in-
possible, for no incomplete apprehension        volves the act of sacrifice. This is because
of existence can satisfy any self open to the   every ritual is at heart a sacrifice. The hu-
Self. In this way, we are always struggling     man self is split between two poles – death
with what appears before us, as we crave        and immortality. Presence in the world of
the Real Which nothing can mimic or re-         disorder and suffering is an aspect of the
duce to seeming.                                mortal self. Transcending the mortal self
    All our powers are trained on that goal.    via immortality entails leaving the world of
All who obstruct this endeavour are our         death and suffering for the triumph of eter-
enemies. Our greatest enemies are those         nity over all forms of appearance. This is
conditions of the self which imprison us        effected by suffering that loosens the self’s
in our sensual nature, the passions which       attachment to sensation and the things of
take the form of enjoyment in the beauties      the world, an attachment that has become
of the world, separated from their authen-      unmindful of the Beauty they reveal.
    What the self of the lower levels experi-        His will is to lead us to our goal. Every-
ences as suffering and pain is the passage       thing comes from God and it all returns
from closure to individuation and realisa-       to Him as the Gatherer-in and the Goal of
tion in the Self, the move from the signs to     the journey being taken by all of existence
the Signified. Bearing witness that there is      and each thing within it. This all, each and
no self but the Self and dying in our mortal     every particle, is under a debt to what is
self, we are born to erectness in the Self.      other, in the fullest meaning of that term.
The battlefield within both ourselves and         There is no atom or butterfly, no animal or
the world involves sacrificing the mortal to      constellation, no angel or spirit that does
attain the Eternal. In this way, the Praised,    not participate in this com-union whereby
as the goal, as the model followed, be-          every thing is at once alone and with all
comes an example of dying to attain life,        the rest.
of giving to receive, of leaving to return.          Human will is also involved in how we
    In the mihrab, we are alone. It is a place   relate to God. We have countless duties to-
for the individual to withdraw from his or       wards God. But we also have one claim on
her own diversity, from being in duality, so     Him. This claim is the right to return and
as to return to Unity as the Real. We ascend     to self-realisation, and it is both absolute
to the mihrab for the sake of the Beloved,       and perfect, and each and every self was
to be with Her alone and that She might be       made for it in accordance with our original
with us alone, rapt in mutual regard.            nature. God has opened to us the path to
                                                 Himself: to see Unity in duality as Its per-
                     13                          fect revelation, in that duality that appears
That the world glorifies its Lord through         as the union of male and female in pure
praise means that it reveals what it has re-     and full self-realisation through return to
ceived. The act of praise thus relates God       the original Unity.
the All-Praised with the world as praised.           We recognise what we have received
God is the Possessor and the Giver of            in the world only by rejecting any illusion
praise, while the world is its recipient and     of possessing it other than through the
promulgator. God alone possess and gives,        Giver. When this relationship to the totality
so that what He is not is nothing, save it       of existence as the recipient of praise from
be His Face. Both the world and man are          God, its Giver, finds expression in human
essentially or ontically poor in comparison      being, as the focus of existence, then we
to God the All-Sufficient. The truth of this      can speak of human being as both praised
cannot be altered. It cannot wane, but it        and praiser of God the All-Praised. For God
may be that forgetting covers it with a veil     and human beings relate through the act
of ignorance.                                    of praise.
    There is nothing in the self that has            The perfect reception of praise from
not been received from God. We are fully         God and the restoration of life, will, power,
in debt, and God is our Creditor. We are         knowledge, speech, hearing, and sight to
bound by debt.36 In this way, God’s abso-        the Giver is our highest faculty. It affirms
lute claim on us is established, so that we      the Praised as source and refuge of all exis-
have a duty towards God, which means to-         tence. All prophecy is discourse on this fac-
wards all of existence with all its contents.    ulty of humanity. Through such discourse
But, we did not arrive in existence of our       we receive news and are reminded of that
own will. That was the will of the Creator.      part of the self in which God resides. In

our constant quest for the One we turn to-       making this oath they accept God’s choice
wards the horizons, the ends of the earth,       that they remind others of their primordial
and the heavenly heights, but none of this       oath and so help free them from oblivion.
satisfies us. We are just reminded of our         Through this act of liberation, they are re-
highest and most sublime faculty, so that        vealed as free agents, undetermined except
we ask: Where is God? And the Praised has        by their authentic nature, for there is noth-
an answer to this question: “In the hearts       ing in the heart but this fullness for which
of his faithful servants.”37 He also says:       and with which we were made to travel
“The hearts of all of Adam’s children are as     through the worlds. They are witnesses of
one heart held between the fingers of the         the Praised as a mercy to the worlds, as the
All-Merciful. He turns it where He will.”38      Apostle who is always and everywhere the
                                                 best example imprinted in the self.
                     14                              While there have been one hundred
                                                 and twenty four thousand prophets, none
The Praised is the most beautiful example        of them is before or after the Praised. He
to us all and a mercy to the worlds. He          is their seal in pre-Existence, when we
is therefore our highest moment. As the          were all just intentions of the Creator. The
most sublime and the mightiest pattern,
                                                 Praised remains the seal of all the proph-
the Praised is, accordingly, important for
                                                 ets, even now that they have all entered
each of us as we realise our selves after his
                                                 existence and borne witness to that which
mighty pattern. To do this we must follow
                                                 they swore an oath in pre-Existence.
the Praised on the path from the periphery
to the core of humanity, in which all dif-
ferentiation fades. This is the confession of
Unity and return.                                The Praised is that individual and prophet
    Nothing can satisfy us but attaining         who testifies from the fullness of human
this sublime moment. It may appear to lie        nature that one can pass from the battle-
outside the self, somewhere in space and         field in this world of duality to the fullness
time, in culture and history. If anything of     of Peace. And so, he is the champion of
the sort is to be found there, it is only as     the people-of-peace. This does not mean
a sign for the self that it cannot attain re-    his condition can be distinguished from his
alisation anywhere but in the self, but only     desire, as peaceful and a person-of-peace,
through, above, and beyond all sensible          to connect with Peace through being-at-
things. But we are fitted by our authentic        peace.
nature, the principle given to us at creation,       The Praised is in the world of duality,
to find and realise ourselves. Each of us is      but as perfect reception of God and the
aware of this possibility of self-realisation    restitution of what has been received in
in our original nature which is equivalent to    accordance with His will. Receiving, he re-
the oath sworn to God in pre-Existence to        veals the Giver; giving, he reveals the God
bear witness to what we know, namely our         to whom all returns. Standing in the mi-
highest faculty – the Praised as the mighty      hrab, he gazes upon the Virgin Mary as
pattern and the light sent down.                 the best of all women in all the worlds. In
    Prophets are people who swear to God         her, he regards himself, and through her
that they will bear witness amongst their        he sees himself as she sees him out of that
fellows, with whom they live, of that which      perfect duality which is the revelation of
they know in their hearts as God’s news. By      the One. The Word was sent down into
                                                        Peace and the resolution of dual-
                                                        ity. In this perfect example, our di-
                                                        vision into male and female is un-
                                                        riddled as duality that reveals the
                                                        One. Mary looking at the Praised
                                                        and his looking at her share the
                                                        form of perfect human recollec-
                                                        tion of God.
                                                             The faces of Mary and the
                                                        Praised, turned to each other, re-
                                                        veal the perfection of the One and
                                                        the unity of the Perfect. These
                                                        two know each other by means
                                                        of their original perfection and the
                                                        Unity their faces reveal, through
                                                        the same single heart held in the
                                                        fingers of the All-Merciful. Neither
                                                        Mary nor the Praised seek in the
                                                        byways of the world the Face of
                                                        Him they praise, to whom they re-
                                                        turn what they have received. They
                                                        are before the Face, looking at It
                                                        and through It alone, bearing wit-
                                                        ness of It in all they do. God said
                                                        of this: “To God belong the East
                                                        and the West; whithersoever you
                                                        turn, there is the Face of God; God
                                                        is All-embracing, All-knowing.”39
                                                             As the perfect example of be-
                                                        ing in the mihrab, the Praised is
                                                        both alone and together with all
                                                        of existence. The Holy Spirit came
                                                        down to him there, on account
                                                        of his perfect receptivity, which is
                                               marked by the face of Mary, just as It did
the world – once as the Anointed or Christ,
                                               to her, bearing the word of God. Through
then as the Recitation.
                                               this Word that descended, the Praised rose
    The Word was sent down into the world
                                               up to Peace. To those who desire that path
through Mary and the Praised so that who-      of ascent, God said through his Apostle:
ever received it might arise through its       “Say: ‘I turn in Peace my face to God, and
agency to his or her authentic nature in       whosoever follows me.’”40 Turning his
which everything has been received in all      face to God, the Praised sees Mary. And
fullness. The Praised and Mary regard each     Mary, turning her face to God, sees the
other without cease, as in the eyes of the     Praised. This is how the One is revealed in
other they see their own self-realisation in

perfect duality through the confession that         God promised us that we will find Him,
there is no face but the Face.                  on condition that we seek Him with all
    God enlightens the face of the Praised      our heart and all our self.44 When we at-
with the Light of heaven and earth. This        tain that level of full seeking, then we are
same Light bathes Mary’s face. Those who        turned towards the Face, enlightened by It,
seek the Face yearn for this Light revealed     and through It we see ourselves. Then, the
through the face of the Praised, who said       Face is all there is for us. This is why the
of such seekers: “My people most loved by       Praised sees himself through Mary’s face.
me from my community would be those             He is in the world, but always turned to-
who would come after me but everyone            wards God. In this way, he is the example
amongst them would have the keenest de-         of perfect seeking and of being on the path
sire to catch a glimpse of me even at the       back to God. Only love, the yearning to be
cost of his family and wealth.”41               united, can guarantee that the traveller will
                                                find what he or she seeks.45
The Praised and Mary, as a pair, are the per-                        17
fect revelation of the One. The reference to    God is the All-Merciful, the Ever-Merciful.
the prophet Zachariah in the inscription in     His mercy encompasses all. The Praised, as
the mihrab relates to the word of God: “So      his first revelation, is the most beautiful ex-
remember Me, and I will remember you.”42        ample to us all, a mercy to the worlds. This
Whenever we are such that we remember           mercy takes the form of the receiving and
God, then God remembers us. When we             passing on of Peace. God speaks of this in
remember God, we are following the most         the Recitation:
beautiful example of the Praised as the per-         We have not sent thee, save as a mercy
fect apostle and the incarnation of the full-   unto all worlds. Say: “It is revealed unto
ness of humanity. This remembrance and          me only that your God is One God; are you
this following are our path to self-aware-      then people of Peace?”46
ness and flourishing in knowledge.                    Say: “My prayer, my ritual sacrifice, my
    The Praised is the perfect example for      living, my dying – all belongs to God, the
those who have hope in God and the Last         Lord of all worlds. No associate has He.
Day and who remember. It was to them            Even so I have been commanded, and I am
that God said: “I am with My servant            the first of those that are in Peace.”47
whenever he remembers Me and his lips                Peace is our highest possibility. God is
move.”43 Remembering God is the discov-         Peace and Peace comes from Him.48 All
ery of the beauty at the core of the human      of His creation and everything in it reveal
self. This discovery draws us irresistibly to   Peace. They are at-peace and relate to God
union with the beautiful as our means of        through being-at-peace.49 This is also the
ascent out of duality. The Praised is perfect   case for us, in our authentic and original
in remembrance and so in his love of God.       condition, and so also as we finally resolve
The Virgin Mary is also perfect in remem-       our involvement in the world of duality. In
brance, and so in her love of God. Facing       realising or discovering our original nature-
each other, the Praised and Mary reveal the     in-peace, we discover the Praised as our
Face in contrast to Which everything in ex-     highest moment, the moment of the self
istence fades and with Which the many is        for which we should be willing to give ev-
revealed as unition.                            erything – our family and all our wealth.
     Any turn towards God on the upright         which there will be no further turning, nor
path leads us to bear witness to the Praised     any face but the Face of the One.
as our champion and our highest possibil-            When the face and the Face are re-
ity. The Praised, as servant to his Lord, says   lated in this way, it is the most beautiful
“I”. His “I” is dual, as it was created to       state achievable, the mighty nature of the
reveal the uncreated “I” as the One. The         Praised. God, the angels, and all His friends
dual “I” of the Praised bears within itself      testify to this. Acceding to this witness is
the Virgin as perfect and so the feminine        the only proof for his followers. When the
aspect of perfect masculinity. This pair is      Praised, as the maternal prophet, is denied
made one in the mighty nature of full hu-        and insulted, he cannot be hurt by it. De-
manity.                                          nial and insult only harm the deniers and
     Being a person-of-peace is a reflection of   insulters, as by it they remove themselves
our will. Although we always remain such in      even further from their higher aspects.
our original nature which is realised through        No condition of the human self on the
return to God, it is within the bounds of our    path of ascent and return can supplement
will to deny this aspect of our being. Once      the model of most beautifully standing be-
we have brought our will into line with our      fore God. This is why the Praised is the seal
nature and assumed the mantle of a person-       of the prophets. He is the true self of the
of-peace, our little knowledge never ceases      faithful which is satisfied only by identifica-
to grow with regard to God the All-Know-         tion with the Praised, the servant and the
ing, Who encompasses everything with His         apostle of God. The faithful recognise the
knowledge. This orientation reflects faith as     condition of their selves as insufficient for
the mode whereby the person-of-faith re-         what is needed to follow the Praised as the
lates to God the All-Faithful.                   closest and dearest of humankind.50
     In our little knowledge, we bear witness        Our knowledge is constantly grow-
of the One, turning towards Him. Only in         ing. However little it may be, it is always
union with Him are we satisfied. This is          enough to point us towards God and the
why we are always striving to be beauti-         Praised. Ignorance is never an excuse for
ful, in order that the Beloved will look         denying and insulting our higher possibili-
upon us and see that we are so. We are           ties. It cannot be, because, independently
always looking at ourselves through the          of everything outside, we bear within our-
eyes of the Beloved. We look and we hear.        selves knowledge of our Lord and redeem-
In equating ourselves thus, we do nothing        er. Given that we recognise our higher
that God does not do.                            possibilities in the Praised, our love for him
                                                 transcends all others.
                     18                              This is a conscious choice which trans-
That the Praised was sent as a mercy to          forms the meanings of everything within
the worlds and a witness to the unity of         the horizons or in the self. “None of you
God was revealed through him, as God’s           are faithful,” said the Praised, “unless I am
servant. It is as such that he is revealed in    dearer to him than his child, his father, and
full perfection through his other aspect,        all others.”51 Following the Praised cannot
through the perfect pair and the full wit-       be separated from the love of the faithful
ness of Peace. Each self is constantly turn-     servant for the Faithful Lord. Only in this
ing. This means that the face is in constant     love and discipleship does the Faithful Lord
quest for peace or for the condition in          love His faithful servant.52

   Zachariah was a man remem-
bered by God and therefore
mindful of God. He saw human
perfection in the Virgin Mary.
What he saw in her was just
the image of the Praised as the
sublime potential in each of us.
Her reception of perfection was
revealed in the Teaching: “And
when the angels said, ‘Mary,
God has chosen thee, and puri-
fied thee; He has chosen thee
above all women in the worlds.
Mary, be obedient to thy Lord,
prostrating and bowing before

The war in the world of the man-
ifold can never be brought to a
close on the basis of human con-
fidence in our own powers. This
is because we realise ourselves
in and through Beauty, against
which we cannot war. We can                        turn against ourselves. The more resolutely we
love It, because Beauty attracts us irresist-      oppose the Praised, the servant and apostle of
ibly. It increases us in knowledge by means        God, the higher the dark tide rises within the
of this attraction. The closer we are to It,       self, urging us on to evil. The Praised, who is
the better we know It, and the better we           the mercy sent to the worlds, never abandons
know It, the more we love It. This is why          us, remaining as witness to our discipleship
the Praised, who wants to see us attain            and our apostasy.
perfection, says we are not named under                God has not left one of us bereft of
sign of war, but of beauty. It is in relation      the possibility of meeting the purpose
to God as the Beautiful that we discover           for which we are in the world. His mercy
the beauty in our own selves and act in all        exceeds His wrath.55 This mercy compre-
things we do on the basis of our connec-           hends everything that is, and all things end
tion to Beauty as the Owner of all beauty.54       in it, but with the just distinction of the
     However close we come to the boundaries       righteous and the guilty, with just wages
of the world, piercing ever higher, they remain,   for both good and evil. As the mercy to the
so that in our feeling of weakness new veils       worlds, the Praised will be our advocate on
fall upon our face. Unwilling to remove these      that day, as he himself told us, on that day
veils and confess that our love has made that      of resurrection when we shall all be in fear:
of which we can only know but a little every-         I shall start off and come below the
thing to us, everything without division, we          Throne and prostrate myself before my
become opponents of the Praised. And so we            Lord; then God will reveal to me and in-

    spire me with some of His Praises and           always been peripheral to the semantic field.
    Glorifications which He will not have            In all traditional teachings, the heart is con-
    revealed to anyone before me. Then it           sidered the core of the self and the principle
    will be said: “O, The Praised! Raise your       of the unity of human existence. As such, it
    head; ask and it will be granted; inter-        is both source and end. All existence comes
    cede and the intercession will be accept-       from it and returns to it, less in a temporal
                                                    sequence than in absolute unity. The entire
    ed.” I will then raise my head and say:
                                                    self is a manifestation of the heart. The hu-
    “O my Lord, my community, my com-               man self entirely depends on the heart, but
    munity.” It will be said: “O, The Praised!      the reverse is not true. Whenever one of the
    Bring in by the right gate of Paradise          countless multitudes of possible conditions
    those of your community who have no             of the self is taken to be independent of the
    account to render.” They will share with        heart and sufficient in itself, an apparent
    the people some other door besides this         hindrance may arise to the harmony of the
    door.56                                         one in the many. In such a case, a departure
                                                    continues within the self, as it travels down
                                                    towards its lower and darker parts. Then con-
                                                    sciousness and power are without guidance,
Notes                                               and they are applied as a violence and igno-
1                                                   rance: between the heart and the self there
  The full verse runs as follows (Qur’an, 3:37):
“Her Lord received the child with gracious fa-      lies a boundary which appears in the form
vour, and by His goodness she grew up come-         of hardening, rusting, and corruption. Con-
ly, Zachariah taking charge of her. Whenever        sciousness and power lack connection to the
Zachariah went in to her in the mihrab, he          source and the mouth, and so lack guidance.
found her provisioned. ‘Mary’, he said, ‘how        That the heart is the principle of the self, its
comes this to thee?’ ‘From God’, she said. Tru-     source and issue, does not mean that it gives
ly God provisions whomsoever He will with-          birth to phenomena nor that any phenomena
out reckoning.’”                                    gives birth to the heart. It is at the same time
  The mosque at Sion or the Remote or Far-          in and with all things, and beyond them. The
ther Mosque (ar. al-masjid al-aqsā) is one of       Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of
the key symbols of our being placed between         Confidence descends upon it and within it,
two extremes – the most beautiful height and        so that it reveals the Living, through all His
the lowest depth.                                   Names that are scattered across the horizons
                                                    and focused within the self. As both source
  The Arabic noun of place masjid, derived          and issue, the heart is precisely the Flux, the
from the verb sajada (“to prostrate one-            coincidence of coming into being and going
self”) and whose derivative form in English         out of being, of giving and receiving, waning
is “mosque,” has cognate forms and a long           and waxing, of inhalation and exhalation. It
history in most Semitic languages (See:             is Intellect as the recipient of knowledge and
Mahmutćehajić, The Mosque, 84n11). Its ba-          the maximum of closeness to God as the One.
sic use is to designate a place of worship or       5
temple, such as exist in all the Abrahamic            See Qur’an, 16:102. The Bosnian translation
religions. Each mosque has its focal point          of the Arabic noun qur’an is Učenje, for which
or mihrab at which the battle for the soul is       the normal English equivalent is the Reci-
fought out. The mosque being referred to is         tation. This was the revelation made to the
known in Arabic as al-masjid al-aqsā (“the          Prophet, the Praised (ar. Muhammad), which
Farther Mosque”).                                   after having been received was uttered or re-
4                                                   cited in Arabic, and only then written down
  The heart is one of a few key concepts for
                                                    in the Book.
this discourse. Its immediate reference is the
physical heart, the central organ of the indi-        See Qur’an, 20:41. Martin Lings has trans-
vidual through which the blood, as the bearer       lated God’s words to Moses into English as
of life, must pass. In the modern period, this      follows: “I have fashioned thee as a work of
meaning has become practically the only             art for Myself.” (Lings, Splendours of Qur’an
one, while for traditional intellectuality it has   Calligraphy and Illumination, 17)

    See Deuteronomy, 18:18.                       discourse given in this text is formed around
    See Qur’an, 7:157.                            the divine name of the All-Praised (ar. al-
                                                  Hamīd). This field also contains the human
    Ibid., 68:4.                                  name of the Praised (ar. al-Muhammad) as the
     Ibid., 33:21.                                first revelation of God’s being praised. The re-
11                                                lationship between God being the All-Praised
   The term the Self as used in this text cor-    and his revelation through the Praised is the
responds to the Arabic nafs. The noun is here     act of praise (ar. al-hamd). These forms cor-
used to signify the “human self or sense of       respond to the verb “to praise” (ar. ha-mi-da).
self” and the “entire personality” of a being     In this relationship, God is the Creator, while
that comprises body and the ineffable life         human being is created. This relationship
substance, somewhat opaquely designated           does not change. This is why every semantic
as “soul.” The creator gave the self inner        field in any discourse on this relationship is
harmony and such qualities as its role in cre-    subordinate and dependent on the field cen-
ation required. God breathed into its heart       tred around the name of God. (See further in:
His Spirit. Accordingly, the self is everything   Izutsu, God and Man in the Koran, 75–77)
comprehended by the extremes of “absolute         21
physicality” and “Spirit.” Any form lying be-         The translation “maternal prophet” is
tween these extremes which does not belong        for the Arabic nabiyy ummiyy (See Qur’an,
exclusively to one of them but is related to      7:157); the concept of the “maternal book”
both is “soul.”                                   corresponds to umm al-kitāb (Ibid., 13:39).
                                                  On the semantic fields and the chains which
   See Qur’an, 2:272–73. The prophet David        link them back to the verbal root umm and
said: “When thou saidst, seek ye my face;         the reasons for interpreting them as they are
my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will     in this discourse, see: Denny, “The meaning
I seek. Hide not thy face far from me; put not    of the ummah in the Qur’an” and Goldfeld,
thy servant away in anger.” (Psalm, 27:8–9)       “The Illiterate Prophet (Nabī Ummī): An in-
     Qur’an, 55:26.                               quiry into the development of a dogma in
14                                                Islamic tradition.”
     See Qur’an, 43:12.                           22
15                                                     See Qur’an, 33:21.
     Qur’an, 17:107–109.                          23
16                                                     Ibid., 7:157.
     Ibid., 30:30.                                24
17                                                     Ibid., 33:46
   Wüstenfeld, Die Chroniken der Stadt Me-        25
kka, 6, 10; cited in: Wensinck, “The Ideas of          Qur’an, 4:131.
the Western Semites Concerning the Navel          26
                                                       Ibid., 42:28.
of the Earth”, 51–52. It is appropriate at this   27
                                                       Ibid., 64:1.
point to recall the architectural and symbolic
form of the Temple of Sion (al masjid al-aksā).        Ibid., 28:70.
There are on the plateau of Sion, which is the    29
                                                       Ibid., 15:98–99.
location of the Second Mosque, two buildings      30
of crucial significance – the first is the Dome          Ibid., 52:48–49.
of the Rock, while the other has 15 doors.        31
                                                       Ibid., 47:2.
In this way, the goal of return is signified by    32
the Dome – that is, self realisation within the        Ibid., 33:40.
heart and passage from the lowest depths to            Ibid., 28:88.
the most beautiful height.                        34
                                                       Ibid., 22:18.
   Ghazālī, Ihyā’ ‘ulum al-dīn, 3:12. This sa-    35
                                                    See: John, 7:18, 14:10 and Qur’an, 26:192–
cred tradition is generally accepted among
                                                  95, 16:102.
Sufis, but is not to be found in the exoteric
collections of the prophet’s sayings. See :          In modern times, it has been usual to trans-
Hakīm, al-Mu‘jam al-sufi, 1265–66.                 late the Arabic term dīn as “religion.” This
19                                                captures only the derived meaning of the
     Qur’an, 2:144.                               term. “Debt” or “obligation” would seem to
     The most important semantic field in the      be a more comprehensive and exact transla-

tion of this key concept of Qur’anic discourse.          Ibid., 6:162–63.
37                                                  48
   This tradition may be found in: Ghazāli,           See Qur’an, 59:23. The Praised said: “My
Ihyā’ ‘ulum al-dīn, 3:1238.                         God, You are Peace, and Peace is from You;
     Muslim, 4:1397.                                You are blessed, the Possessor of majesty
                                                    and honour!” (Muslim, 1:292)
     Qur’an, 2:115.                                 49
                                                         See Qur’an, 3:83.
     Ibid., 3:20.                                   50
                                                         Ibid., 33:6.
     Muslim, 4:1478.                                51
                                                         Muslim, 1:31.
     Qur’an, 2:152.                                 52
                                                         See Qur’an, 3:31.
   These traditions are given in: Graham, Di-       53
vine Word and Prophetic Word in Early Islam,             Qur’an: 3:42–43.
130.                                                54
                                                       Imam ‘Ali, the son of Abu-Talib, said:
   See Deuteronomy, 11:13. Referring to this        “When the Beautiful One (Hasan) was born,
command, Mary’s son said: “Thou shalt love          I gave him the name of War (Harb). God’s
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all       Apostle came – may he always be with the
thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all       Peace of God! – and said: ‘Show me my son!
thy strength.” (Mark, 12:30) The addition           What name have you given him?’ I said: ‘War.’
“with all thy mind and with all thy strength”       He said: ‘No, for he is the Beautiful One.’” (Ibn
reflects the condition of humanity in the end        Hanbal, 2:164, tradition 730)
times of this period. (On this see more in:         55
                                                       God says: “My mercy exceeds My wrath.”
Lings, A Return to the Spirit, 29–43)               (Bukhari, 9:482)
45                                                  56
   God revealed to man, according to Deuter-             Muslim 1:131–32.
onomy (6:5): “And thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy
soul, and with all thy might.” This sequence of     BIBLIOGRAPHY
“with all thine heart”, “with all thy soul”, and    Arberry, Arthur J., The Koran Interpreted, Lon-
“with all thy might” represents the condition       don: George Allen & Unwin, 1980.
of humanity after the Fall. In the condition
of original purity, the heart, as the centre of     Bukhārī, Imam al-, Sahīh al-Bukhārī, 1–9,
being, represented the perfect balance of ev-       trans. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Beirut: Dar
erything peripheral. In similar fashion, Intel-     al-Arabia, 1985.
lect, as the unification of everything in exis-      Denny, Federick Mathewson, “The meaning
tence, is the link of everything revealed with      of the ummah in the Qur’an”, History of Reli-
the Revealer. Once the limits of the world in       gions, 15/1 (1975): 34–70.
which we had been placed had been violat-
ed, the periphery, and so the self and power,       Ghazālī, Abū Hāmid al-, Ihya‘ulūm al-dīn,
came to appear separate and independent             1–4, Cairo: Matba’at al-‘Āmirat al-Sharafiyya,
of the heart, and so there was a process of         1908–1909.
falling or “development.” The heart remains         Goldfeld, Isaiah, “The Illiterate Prophet (Nabī
the unquailing core of the self, that lies in a     Ummī): An inquiry into the development of a
twilight of forgetting and somnolence. For          dogma in Islamic tradition”, Der Islam, 57/2
the self to be turned towards the heart as its      (1980): 58–67.
core, there must come some stimulus from
                                                    Graham, William A., Divine Word and Pro-
the self, from the will, and from the power
                                                    phetic Word in Early Islam: A Reconsideration
still at our disposal. This possibility is from
                                                    of the Sources, with Special Reference to the
time to time reinforced by the direct sending
down of additional aids in this endeavour:          Divine Saying on Hadith Qudsi, The Hague:
through the prophecies by which we are re-          Mouton, 1977.
minded of all the heart comprehends. (See           Hakim, Su‘ād al-, al-Mu‘jam al-Sūfī, Bayrut:
further in: Lings, A Return to the Spirit, 29–43)   Dandara, 1981.
     Qur’an, 21:107–108.                            Ibn Hanbal, Ahmad, al-Musnad, Bayrut: Dār

al-S)ādir, s.a.
Izutsu, Toshihiko, God and Man in the Koran: Semantics of the Koranic Weltanschauung, Tokyo:
The Keio Institute of Cultural and Linguistic Studies, 1964.
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______, Splendours of Qur’an Calligraphy and Illumination, Vaduz: Thesaurus Islamicus Founda-
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Mahmutćehajić, Rusmir, The Mosque: The Heart of Submission, New York: Fordham University
Press, 2006.
Muslim, Imam, Sahih Muslim, 1–4, trans. ‘Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, Riyadh: International Islamic Pub-
lishing House, s.a.
Wensinck, Arnt J., “The Ideas of the Western Semites Concerning the Navel of the Earth”, in:
Wensinck, Studies of A. J. Wensinck, New York: Arno Press, 1978, 1–65.
Wüstenfeld, Ferdinand, Die Chroniken der Stadt Mekka, Leipzig: Olms Verlag, 1858.


Review of Paul L. Heck. Common                   (Grund in German) to describe God as
Ground: Islam, Christianity, and                 “the ground of Being.” But Tillich had
Religious Pluralism. Washington,                 been shaken so profoundly by the catas-
                                                 trophes of twentieth-century Europe that
DC: Georgetown University Press,
                                                 he knew the Grund could often appear as
2009, 240 pages.                                 an Abgrund (abyss); for Tillich, the expe-
                                                 rience of God always involves negativity,
By Leo D. Lefebure                               the shock of non-being that shakes the
                                                 foundations of all our usual assumptions.
In this wide-ranging, engaging, and in-          While H. does not invoke Tillich’s image of
formative survey of Muslim-Christian re-         the ground that can also be an abyss, the
lations, Paul L. Heck of Georgetown Uni-         questions posed by Tillich hover around
versity searches for what he hopes will be       H.’s discussion, as in H.’s apprehension that
“common ground,” but he also issues a            the common ground between Muslims and
chilling warning: “The common ground             Christians may vanish at any moment. The
may be there one moment and gone the             contemporary encounter of Muslims and
next” (6). Nonetheless, he ventures the          Christians has indeed been profoundly af-
hope that even in the most difficult mo-          fected by the shock of non-being, by catas-
ments, “it [the common ground] is still          trophes and violent conflicts. Many both
there, potentially if not always actually”       past and present would frame the relation-
(6). In light of this wager, H. explores vari-   ship between the two traditions in harsh,
ous points of contact and convergence be-        irreconcilable terms. In this horizon, H.’s
tween Islam and Christianity, ranging from       search for common ground is fundamen-
divine revelation to moral and social teach-     tally an act of hope that the convergences
ings to perspectives on God and politics.        between the two traditions will prove to
Areas of disagreement and divergence are         be of greater and more lasting importance
frankly acknowledged but are accorded            than the divergences and disagreements.
relatively less significance.                     H. moves on the boundary between two
     The German Protestant theologian Paul       great traditions, trusting that in the long
Tillich famously used the image of ground        run the common ground will hold firm.

     The foundation of his hope is that Ju-            H. bases his claim for a shared common
daism, Christianity, and Islam share “com-        ground in the scriptural heritage, which is
monality of purpose” (35), which H. de-           interpreted as prophecy calling forth sanc-
scribes as “reception of the word of God          tity, beginning and ending in the one God.
in the human heart” (36). He interestingly        Following Tarif Khalidi, H. argues that since
proposes that both Christianity and Islam         the Qur’an speaks of Jesus, it is “a gos-
can be understood as “rooted in the book          pel in a certain sense even if not squaring
of Isaiah” (36). Judaism, for H., “stands at      with Christian belief” (34). There has been
the heart of both Christianity and Islam. . .     much discussion in recent biblical scholar-
. the common ground is ultimately tripar-         ship over the genre of the gospel and the
tite” (2). Despite this strong affirmation, H.     role of Mark in its origin. In terms of lit-
focuses principally on Islam and Christian-       erary form, to characterize the Qur’an as
ity, relegating Judaism for the most part to      yet another gospel may seem to be a bit of
the margins of the discussion. The silence        a stretch; in terms of theological perspec-
of the unheard Jewish interlocutor provides       tives, this interpretation could reinforce the
an evocative, elusive framing of all that is      age-old Christian interpretation of Islam
said, raising further questions and chal-         as the last and greatest of the Christologi-
lenges.                                           cal heresies. Nonetheless, H.’s provocative
     Indeed, much of H.’s discussion is tenta-    claim stimulates reflection on what a gos-
tive and exploratory, often beginning and         pel is or is not and also on how to relate
concluding in the interrogative mood. He          the multiple meanings of euangelion in
refuses to pin down religions into “distinct      Christianity to what Muslims mean by the
cages of identity” (6), preferring to view        Injil received by Jesus (Isa).
them as active, dynamic subjects in mo-                Some of H.’s claims about the Christian
tion. The chapter titles are all questions.       tradition are open to question. He rightly
Again and again, after comparing various          points out that it is only the Gospel of John
aspects of the two traditions, H. draws no        that explicitly calls Jesus God, but he rather
definitive conclusion but rather poses ques-       puzzlingly argues that this is “not as God
tions for further reflection, questions that       the Creator” (35). Given the Johannine
are left to hang in the air, intriguing and in-   affirmation that all things were created
viting the reader to think further along the      through the Word which became incarnate
lines that H. has suggested. As a result, no      in Jesus (Jn 1:3, 14), the basis for H.’s dis-
strong thesis emerges from H.’s discussion;       tinction between “God” and “God as Cre-
every perspective can be considered from a        ator” remains unclear; his claim would not
different vantage point.                          be accepted by the later mainstream Chris-
     For the Western Christian reader who         tian tradition, which understood each of
is unfamiliar with Islam, H. provides a           the three Persons of the Trinity to be Cre-
wealth of introductory material that is of        ator. H. also asserts that in Christian his-
great value. H. devotes relatively less at-       tory prior to John Calvin in Geneva, Swit-
tention to instructing the Muslim reader on       zerland, “the state had been understood
the background of Christianity; as a result,      to enforce religion but not define it” (137).
some of H.’s generalizations about Chris-         Again the basis for H.’s distinction is un-
tianity could raise questions for those fa-       clear. The first seven ecumenical councils
miliar with the variety of often conflicting       of the Christian Church were all synods of
Christian perspectives.                           the Roman Empire, convened by the Byz-
antine Emperor and presided over by him           with an affirmation reminiscent yet again
or his delegate. Emperors from Constan-           of Tillich’s approach to faith: “Doubt is in-
tine to Justinian to Heraclius I to Leo III and   tegral to religion” (72).
Constantine V involved themselves directly            Throughout the discussion H. wishes
not only in enforcing Christian dogmas but        to problematize the meaning of and ap-
in deciding and defining them.                     proach to religion itself; but his framework
    After proposing a certain common
                                                  remains resolutely theistic, even Abraha-
ground in belief in divine revelation, H.
                                                  mic. In his conclusion he writes: “Religion
cautions: “But the common ground is not
solid” (40). This in turn introduces a very       holds the human soul to be sacred. Reli-
thought-provoking discussion of the place         gion also speaks of God as sacred” (222).
of doubt in the life of faith. Christian theo-    Buddhists traditionally do not believe ei-
logians have long reflected on the relation        ther in a human soul or in a creating God;
of doubt and faith, from Peter Abelard in         accordingly, they would have difficulty
the twelfth century to John Henry New-            recognizing their place in H.’s notion of
man in the nineteenth to Paul Tillich and         “religion.” Thus H.’s reflections on “reli-
the crisis of existentialism in the twentieth.    gious pluralism” remain within a theistic
For Christian readers, H. introduces the          horizon and would need to be reframed
important voice of the medieval Sufi theo-         to include non-theistic traditions of South
logian, Ghazali, who insisted that religion       and East Asia. Nonetheless, H. has surely
is not a matter of intellectual definitions
                                                  accomplished his goal of provoking further
alone but rather an enthusiastic embrace
                                                  reflection on what common ground Mus-
with the heart. H. compares Ghazali’s
insistence on the necessary roles of both         lims and Christians do and do not share.
reason and revelation to various Christians       This work merits the attention of all those
ranging from early modern Jesuits to Pope         interested in the relationship between Is-
John Paul II. H. concludes his discussion         lam and Christianity.

Review of Kenneth Cracknell,                    States provides the useful the necessary
In Good and Generous Faith:                     intellectual and experiential framework for
Christian Responses to Religious                dealing with issues and themes connected
                                                with interreligious relations. He writes as
Pluralism, Cleveland, Ohio: The
                                                a scholar who has invested so much time
Pilgrim Press, 2006, 265 pages.                 and effort in developing useful paradigms
                                                that can allow Christians to develop inter-
By Akintunde E. Akinade                         religious dialogue that is sustained by love,
                                                compassion, and friendship.
There are perhaps few other subjects in our         In Good and Generous Faith is divided
contemporary world that deserve urgent          into five chapters. The first chapter deals
attention as interreligious relations. Schol-   with salvation history for religious plural-
ars continue to explore some of the hard        ism. Cracknell encourages Christians to
questions in the relationship of Christians     move beyond a skewed understanding of
with people of other faiths from different      salvation history. He advocates for a new
perspectives. The answers to these ques-        understanding of salvation history that is
tions are not simple and clear-cut, but the     relevant to religious pluralism. The next
subject is unavoidable. In the context of       chapter deals with a Christology for reli-
present day globalization and transnation-      gious pluralism. Through a cross-cultural
alism, Christians are inevitably thrown into    analysis and exploration, Cracknell deals
the context of religious pluralism.             with the universal presence of the Word
    In the twenty-first century, the global      in this chapter. His intention in these two
landscape is a patchwork of many religions.     chapter is provide an inclusivist salvation
Our world has become increasingly inter-        history and an inclusivist Christology that
connected and interdependent—almost             will “enable Christians to behave with a
to the point of becoming a global village.      new openness and generosity towards oth-
Religious traditions that used to be self-en-   ers in light of their understanding of the
closed and accustomed to living in isolation    purposes of God”(p. 97).The third chap-
from one another now find themselves in a        ter provides an excellent articulation of
situation where they can no longer ignore       an ethic for religious pluralism. This is an
the presence of others. With increased mi-      ethic that is based on friendship and hu-
gration, missionary activities, and refugee     mility. The hubris that is usually associated
movements, religions have also shifted          with religious exclusivism only creates an
their counties of origin. For example, there    atmosphere of monologue and thrives on
are mosques in the so-called Bible belt re-     caricature and faulty hermeneutics. The
gions, Hindus in California, Sikhs in Boston,   fourth chapter deals with the spirituality of
Buddhists in New York City, and Christian       religious pluralism. The last chapter deals
churches in Pakistan. Thus, one of the          with a missiology for religious pluralism.
pressing challenges in this millennium is       This chapter ultimately reveals that Chris-
how to critically respond to this inevitable    tians have created a false dichotomy be-
religious diversity.                            tween mission and interreligious dialogue.
    Kenneth Cracknell is pre-eminently          Cracknell maintains that this is a spurious
qualified to write on the subject of inter-      bifurcation. For him, Christians in the
religious engagement. His academic od-          twenty-first century must regain the cour-
yssey in Nigeria, England, and the United       age to share the good news of Jesus Christ
with their neighbors and friends with great     provides a balm in Gilead that can heal our
humility and deep courtesy.                     world. Our contemporary global landscape
    The book concludes with two appen-          is punctuated by several events of sacred
dixes. The first one entitled “Ambivalent        fury and violence. In recent times, violence
Theology and Ambivalent Policy” deals           and conflicts in the name of religion have
the contributions of the World Council
                                                reached an appalling crescendo. Rigid,
of Churches to Interfaith Dialogue from
                                                dogmatic, and exclusive understanding of
1938-1999. The second appendix deals
with religious plurality and Christian self-    theological categories have also exacer-
understanding. These two studies provide        bated existing fragile relations. In times like
helpful theological insights for dealing with   this, Cracknell’s position concerning ‘good
religious pluralism. Through the office of       and generous faith’ provides compelling
Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and       insights that can engender peace, recon-
Ideologies and the Office on Interreligious      ciliation, and peacemaking. His voice radi-
Relations, the World Council of Churches        ates with hope for our new global village
has been at the fore-front of interreligious    we now call home. This book encourages
dialogue and has formulated an impressive
                                                Christians embrace and celebrate religious
Christian theological response to religious
                                                pluralism. This is not a position that wa-
pluralism. These two appendixes under-
score the ambivalence of the World Coun-        ter down Christian theological categories.
cil of Churches toward interfaith dialogue      Rather, it compels them to be the harbin-
for over five decades.                           ger of God’s love for all people all over the
    In a world that is sated with existential   world. This message is at the heart of the
nihilism and interreligious apathy, this book   Christian Gospel.


Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is an internationally renowned scholar, philosopher, social critic and
author. In 1988, Time magazine praised him as a «once-in-a-millennium scholar.» Born in
Jerusalem in 1937, Steinsaltz studied sciences at the Hebrew University, in addition to rab-
binical studies. He has served as scholar in residence at the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored some sixty books and hundreds of articles on subjects in-
cluding Talmud, Jewish mysticism, Jewish philosophy, sociology, historical biography, and
philosophy. Many of these works have been translated into English.

Metropolitan George Khodr was born in Tripoli, Lebanon, in 1923, and has been the
Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Mount Lebanon since 1970. In 1942, Khodr founded the
Mouvement de la Jeunesse Orthodox (MJO) and the journal Revue an-Nur. Since that time,
Bishop Khodr has been at the forefront of interreligious dialogue in the Middle East. He
has taught as a Professor of Arabic Culture at the Lebanese University, and as Professor of
Theology at the University of Balamand. Renowned across the Arab world for his highly
refined classical Arabic prose, far-reaching erudition and intimate familiarity with the full
spectrum of Christian and Muslim philosophy, history and theology, Bishop Khodr has been
writing a popular weekly column for the leading Lebanese daily An-Nahar for two decades.
His latest publications include Vanished Faces/Wujuh Ghabat (Arabic) (Beirut, 2009) and Et
si je Disais les Chemins de L’Enfance (Paris: Cerf, 1997).

Karen Armstrong, born in 1944, is a British author of numerous works on comparative
religion, who first rose to prominence in 1993 with her highly successful A History of God.
A foremost proponent of interfaith dialogue, she asserts that the great traditions have in
common an emphasis on the spirituality of compassion, as epitomized in the Golden Rule:
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Awarded the TED Prize in 2008,
she called on drafting a Charter for Compassion in the spirit of the Golden Rule to identify
shared moral principles across religious traditions, in order to foster peace and global under-
standing. It was unveiled in Washington, D.C. in November 2009. Signatories include Prince
Hassan of Jordan, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Tu Weiming, Harvard-Yenching Professor of Chinese History and Philosophy and of Con-
fucian Studies at Harvard University and Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute from
1996-2008, was born in February 1940 in Kunming, China. He grew up in Taiwan and
received his M.A. (1963) and Ph.D. (1968) both at Harvard. He taught Chinese intellectual
history at Princeton University (1967-71) and the University of California at Berkeley (1971-
81). He also taught at Peking University, Taiwan University, the Chinese University of Hong
Kong, and Ecole des Hautes Etudes. He has been on the Harvard faculty since 1981 and
was appointed in 2008 and currently serves as the Director of the Institute of Advanced
Humanistic Studies at Peking University. He is on the board of the Chinese Heritage Center
in Singapore, a member of the “Group of Eminent Persons” appointed by Kofi Annan to
facilitate the Dialogue among Civilizations, a participant of the World Economic Forum, and
a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has published over 30 books
in both English and Chinese, and more than a hundred articles primarily focusing on the
modern transformation of Confucian humanism. A five-volume anthology of his works was
published in Chinese in 2001.

Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi specializes in comparative mysticism and Islamic Studies. He is the
founding editor of the Islamic World Report and currently a Research Associate at the In-
stitute of Ismaili Studies in London with the Department of Academic Research and Pub-
lications. He received degrees in International Relations and Politics at Sussex and Exeter
University, before getting his doctorate in Comparative Religion from the University of Kent
in 1994. He later acted as a consultant to the Institute for Policy Research in Kuala Lampur.
His books include The Sacred Foundations of Justice in Islam and My Mercy Encompasses
All: The Koran’s Teachings on Compassion, Peace and Love.

Dr. Oliver Leaman is currently in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ken-
tucky, USA. He previously taught in England and the Middle East. He writes mainly in the
area of Islamic and Jewish philosophy, and his most recent publications are Islamic Aesthet-
ics: an Introduction (Edinburgh University Press), Islam: the Key Facts, co-written with Kecia
Ali, and Jewish Thought: an Introduction, both published by Routledge. He organised the
second edition of Ninian Smart’s World Philosophies, which appeared in 2008 and the sec-
ond edition of his Brief Introduction to Islamic Philosophy has been published by Polity in
the autumn of 2009 as Islamic Philosophy: an introduction. His Judaism: an introduction to
be published by I B Tauris in 2010.

M. Ali Lakhani is the founder and editor of the journal, Sacred Web: A Journal of Tradition
and Modernity ( He has edited and contributed to the anthology
on ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, titled “The Sacred Foundations of Justice in Islam” (World Wisdom,
Indiana, 2006). His book of essays titled “The Timeless Relevance of Traditional Wisdom”
(World Wisdom) is forthcoming. Lakhani is a graduate of Cambridge, and practices law in
Vancouver, Canada.

David Burrell, C.S.C., Theodore Hesburgh Professor emeritus in Philosophy and Theology
at the University of Notre Dame, currently serves as Professor of Ethics and Development
at Uganda Martyrs University. Efforts since 1982 in comparative issues in philosophical
theology in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are evidenced in Knowing the Unknowable
God: Ibn-Sina, Maimonides, Aquinas (1986) and Freedom and Creation in Three Traditions
(1993), Original Peace (with Elena Malits,1998), Friendship and Ways to Truth (2000), as
well as two translations: Al-Ghazali on the Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God (1993) and
Al-Ghazali on Faith in Divine Unity and Trust in Divine Providence (2001); and more recently,
essays exploring Faith and Freedom (2004) and Learning to Trust in Freedom (2009), as well
as a theological commentary on Job: Deconstructing Theodicy (2008).

Nur Yalman is Senior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows and Professor of Social An-
thropology and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University Emeritus. Dr. Yalman’s realms
of expertise include social and political conditions in South Asia, the Middle East and Japan,
contemporary social theory and theorists as well as the anthropology of religion. His most
recent book, coauthored with Daisaku Ikeda, is entitled A Passage to Peace: Global Solu-
tions from East and West (I.B. Tauris 2008). Further notable publications include “Islam and
Secularism - Plato and Khomeini: Questions concerning the Open Society and its Enemies”
in The Future of Secularism ed. T.N. Srinivasan (Oxford University Press, 2007); “Religion and
Civilization” in Dialogue of Civilizations: a New Peace Agenda for a New Millenium, eds. M.
Tehranian & D.W.Chappell (I.B. Tauris 2002); "Some Observations on Secularism in Islam:
or the Cultural Revolution in Turkey," Daedalus, 102 (1973), pp. 139-67; "On Secularism
and Its Critics: Notes on Turkey, India and Iran," in Contributions to Indian Sociology 25, 2.
(Sage Publications 1991) as well as his monograph Under the Bo Tree: Studies in Caste, Kin-
ship, and Marriage in the Interior of Ceylon, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967).

Mark Farha is Visiting Assistant Professor for Government at the School of Foreign Service
of Georgetown University in Doha, Qatar. He holds a BSFS from Georgetown University’s
School of Foreign Service, as well as a Masters in Theological Studies and a PhD in History
and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. Since 2008, he has been teaching
core courses on Comparative Political Systems, as well as upper-class electives on Lebanon’s
History, Society and Politics, Globalization and Geopolitics in the Middle East, Problems of
Identity in the Middle East and Secularism in the Middle East at the School of Foreign Ser-
vice of Georgetown University in Doha, Qatar. His forthcoming book is entitled Secularism
Under Siege in Lebanon’s Second Republic: Global and Regional Dimensions of a Malaise.

Rusmir Mahmutæehajiæ was elected Vice President of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina
in 1991. He also served as Minister of Energy, Mining, and Industry. He is currently professor
of applied physics at the University of Sarajevo, where he also lectures on the phenomenol-
ogy of the sacred. He is the founder and president of International Forum Bosnia (Sarajevo),
an NGO which advocates the strengthening of civil society in Bosnia. He is co-editor of the
periodical Forum Bosnae, and author of numerous historical-philosophical, sociological, and
political books and articles. His works Bosnia the Good: Tolerance and Tradition, Sarajevo
Essays and On Love are available in English.

Complexity of the Concept of                      Love and Mercy in the Sacred
Charity by Frithjof Schuon                        Scriptures and the Holy Qur’ān
The love of God must translate into the love      by George Tamer
of the neighbor because it consists in re-        The concept of love is as essential to Chris-
moving from our soul that which obstructs         tianity as the concept of mercy is to Islam.
the Presence of God, thereby abolishing           In Christianity, God is love and loving; in
that which separates us from our neigh-           Islam, He is merciful and compassionate.
bor. In this sense the love of God is not a       To believe in God means, in both religions,
sentiment but a whole spiritual and moral         not only to provide a verbal confession, but
attitude that makes room for Divine Love.         also to practice love and charity towards
Thus, love of God and the neighbor is nei-        human beings. Both the Bible and the Ko-
ther contrary to the love of oneself nor to       ran present love and charity among hu-
fear. In fact love of God as our Cause and        man beings as an indispensable response
that of others implies that one should love       to God’s original love and mercy towards
both oneself and the neighbor. As for fear        man.
it is the precondition of love because it is a        Based on the biblical definition of God
necessary basis for any understanding of          as love, the Trinity can be seen as divine
God. With respect to the neighbor this fear
                                                  love flowing between the Father, the Son
translates intio respect. The basis for all au-
thentic love is love of God because, in the       and the Holy Spirit. Beyond this, in Chris-
author’s words: “The first act of charity is       tianity, love is the most sublime form of di-
to rid the soul of illusions and passions and     vine revelation and forms the very essence
thus rid the world of a maleficent being;          of God’s attitude towards man from the
it is to make a void so that God may fill it       beginning of creation onwards. Humans
and, by this fullness, give himself. A saint is   are, thus, expected to reciprocate God’s
a void open for the passage of God.”              love for them by mutually loving each
                                                  other; love becomes, therefore, the main

component of Christian identity and a dis-      and the Coran. The starting point is the
tinguished rule of life.                        paradox that we find in the principles of
    Similarly, in the Koran, the faithful, in   each religion: Although the Abrahamic reli-
order to be rescued on the Day of Judg-         gions call for charity and mercy, the practic-
ment, must be committed to God’s univer-        es of some groups and individuals among
sal mercy. Believers are called to mutually     the faithful tend to incite to violence and
                                                the rejection of the other. It is argued that
practice charity which, thus, appears as a
                                                there is need for rethinking the meaning
communicative action in which all human         and nature of religions so that they may
beings should participate. By doing so,         become the foundational good and ulti-
they respond appropriately to God’s im-         mate goal of mankind.
mense mercy – it is this mercy which is the
raison d’être of the creation and all God’s     The Other In the Perspective of
actions, encompassing everything that has
                                                al-Amir Abd al-Qadir al-Jazairi
been and that will be in this world and in
the Hereafter.
                                                by Abd-al-Baqi Meftah
    Both Christianity and Islam consider        Al-Amir Abd al-Qadir’s (1808-1883/ 1222-
love and mercy to be divine graces granted      1300 AH) perception of the other is rooted
to human kind in order to form human            in his deep understanding of the truths of
bonds, not only within the boundaries of        Islam, and in the signs the Quran bears. Al-
                                                Amir’s perception of the other was further
the religious community, but also within
                                                embodied in his own behavior towards
humankind as a whole; indeed, in contrast       both friends and enemies, whether during
to the Aristotelian tradition, both religions   his long struggle to defend his country for
share the important principle that human        more than twenty five years, the five years
society is not established on the necessity     he spent in prison in France with more
of fulfilling the material needs of human-       than a hundred members of his family and
kind. From the theological standpoint of        friends, or in Damascus where he finally
both Christianity and Islam, human society      settled. The most important principles on
is based on the belief that God – loving,       which al-Amir’s perception of the other
                                                rest are the following: being a mujtahid in
merciful and compassionate – has created
                                                the fundamentals of faith, the necessity of
all human beings of one soul and grants         protecting freedom of faith, the recogni-
to humanity, from His immense love and          tion that people are different in denomina-
mercy, what makes them love Him as well         tions, beliefs, and ways of life should be a
as what makes them treat each other with        vehicle for the synthesis of knowledge and
love and mercy.                                 the enrichment of communication, behold-
                                                ing al-Haqq (the Truth) exalted in every be-
Compassion and Charity in the                   lief system out of respect for the different
                                                convictions people hold and their diligence
“Abrahamic” Traditions: A Study                 in seeking al-Haqq. Al- Amir summarized
in Inter-religious Dialogue                     his understanding of religion by saying: “all
and Discourse (Message and                      religions rest on two fundamentals: exalt-
History) by Ali Mubarak                         ing the Almighty God, and being compas-
                                                sionate towards His creatures. The rest are
In this paper, the author studies and dis-      all secondary details and without much
cusses some definitions relevant to the con-     importance. The Muhammadian Sharī’ah
cepts of mercy and charity in Abrahamic         is what gives the biggest value to respect,
religions, in reference to the fundamental      mercy and compassion, and all that pro-
scriptural sources, i.e. the Torah, the Bible   motes harmony and rejects discord.”

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