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Interfaith Dialogue ( 22 May 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Love in Islam and Christianity: A Counterterrorism Discourse

 

By Belinda F. Espiritu, New Age Islam

23 May, 2015

In 2007, 138 Muslim religious leaders from different parts of the world signed the open letter entitled “A Common Word between Us and You” which was addressed to Christian religious leaders from different Churches. The Muslim religious leaders expressed clear vision and good will in stating that the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians who make up over half of the world’s population. They stated that the basis for this peace and understanding is part of the foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour (para. 2). They recognized the common ground between Islam and Christianity, which is the unity of God, the necessity of loving Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour.

Such initiative by Muslim religious leaders was a groundbreaking move, with Muslim religious leaders extending their hand of peace to Christian religious leaders of different Churches, affirming their recognition of the two commandments of love as the common ground between the two major religions. In a time when religious extremism is rampant and world peace is at stake, the forging of peaceful alliances between Muslims and Christians despite their religious differences and the spread of what is good and noble are important and necessary steps to attain the common aspiration of peace and progressive enlightenment of humankind.

Religious extremists believe in an angry, punishing God and see themselves as the agents of this God. On the other hand, the mainstream followers of the Qur’an and the Bible understand themselves as called to be agents of divine mercy and love (Berry as cited in Trefle, 2013). Religious extremism leads to terrorism, breeds bigotry and hatred, and uses violence as its methodology with the aim of exacting punishment on those who are perceived to be enemies or infidels. The result is the reign of terror, the reign of violence and bloodshed due to a fallacious and defective interpretation of the Qur’an or the Bible. At the same time, the secular ideologies of global capitalism and world domination through the might of military and economic power are also real threats to world peace, global harmony, and integrity of creation. These are also forms of terrorism because they justify the killing of innocents, the violation of human rights and of nature, and the disregard for international laws.

There is a need to put forward the idea that an understanding of the mystical oneness of humanity and an aspiration for divine love can counteract the forces of evil and terroristic movements in the world. The aspiration for divine love and its overflow as love of neighbour is in accord with the common ground referred to by the 138 Muslim religious leaders who took the initiative in 2007 to speak a common word between them and Christian religious leaders from different Churches. A review of some of the writings of Maulana Jalal al-Din al Rumi and Fethullah Gulen will be interwoven with the writings of selected Christian writers.

Divine Love and Love for Humankind

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, a Christian Sufi and author of Prayer of the Heart in the Sufi and Christian Mysticism, wrote that in a time of so much division in the world, it is important to reclaim this primal truth that belongs to our heritage: this great song of the soul that celebrates the oneness that is within the heart of each of us and underlies all of creation. It is the song of mystical love which has been present for millennia celebrating the divine unity that is our real nature and the deepest secret of our relationship with God. Vaughan-Lee (2012) wrote that “Hearing the many voices that today so easily consume our attention, it is easy for us to forget this quiet voice of divine love. And yet it is one of the great secrets of humanity, passed down from lover to lover, needing to be embraced, to be known, to be lived”.

Love is the central theme of all Rumi’s works. His poems reveal the idea that all things participate in God’s Love, the motivating force of creation, so all things are lovers. Each existent is infused with need and desire for other existents and is constantly striving to gain union with them (Chittick, 1983). On closer examination, one sees that all love is in fact love for God, since whatever exists is His reflection or shadow (p. 201). Love for other than God derives from love for Him; it ultimately leads to Him. Vaughan-Lee (2012) puts it this way: “Step by step we walk along the path of love until finally we are taken by love into love; we are taken by God to God, and there is no going back, only a deepening and deepening of this love affair of the soul.”

          Christian authors like John Eldredge and Brent Curtis, authors of The Sacred Romance (1997), and Pablo Perez, author of The Lovesick God (2011), described God as the “lovesick God”, the “ageless romancer”, who is wooing his human creatures with an ageless love, since He has made their hearts for Himself. And as Augustine of Hippo has realized it centuries ago, “O Beauty ever ancient, ever true.…..Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee”. Fethullah Gülen of Turkey put it this way: “Creation is the result of the lighting of the wick of the candle of love, the wick of ‘being known and seen’. If the Lord did not love creation, there would be neither moons, nor suns nor stars. The heavens are all poems of love, with the Earth being the rhyme.” (2006, p. 5).

          Gulen (2006) wrote that only those who are immersed in hatred, wrath and enmity plan to resist and struggle against love, but ironically, the only cure that will calm these brutal souls is love. For Gulen, “The only magic, the only spell that can destroy the tricks of Satan, is love”. The saints have tried to gather together the undisciplined and rebellious souls through love. The book of the Song of Songs describes love as stronger than death, stronger even than hell. The flash of it is a flash of fire, the flame of Yahweh himself.

Anything in this universe that is beautiful, affectionate, or loving belongs to God who has created the world out of love and whose essence and nature is love. We can hear this quiet voice of divine love that is at the ground of oneness of all creation in our hearts. The voice of divine love resonates in loving hearts throughout the world, which in science is explained by the phenomenon of “entanglement” in quantum physics. The phenomenon of “entanglement” in quantum physics means that two particles which interact in the same way, even if far apart, would have the same outcome when measured simultaneously, with their states being dependent on each other. In the world of sound, entanglement is similar to the phenomenon of resonance. Resonance is the state of a system in which an abnormally large vibration is produced in response to an external stimulus. This happens when the frequency of the stimulus is the same, or nearly the same, as the natural vibration frequency of the original system. A string of a cello, for instance, would vibrate when the right note in the piano is played on the other side of the room. This implies that to resonate with the divine love, human hearts need to be in the right frequency to the Heart of God, to the mystical oneness of all creation in love. Rumi was able to sense this depth when he wrote:

Come, come and join us, as we are the people of love devoted to God! Come, come through the door of love and join us and sit with us. Come, let us speak one to another through our hearts. Let us speak secretly, without ears and eyes. Let us laugh together without lips or sound, let us laugh like the roses. Like thought, let us see each other without any words or sound. Since we are all the same, let us call each other from our hearts, we won’t use our lips or tongue. As our hands are clasped together, let us talk about it.

The Power of Love against the Tide of Terrorism

          Today more than ever, a call is arising to open paths of trust even in humanity’s darkest hours (Brother Roger of Taize, 2009). Neither misfortunes nor the injustice of poverty come from God because all God can do is love. He looks at every human being with infinite tenderness and deep compassion, including those who have resorted to terrorism and violent acts. Since God loves even the most forsaken of human beings, we are made more aware of the dignity of each person and we ask ourselves: how can we help prepare a different future?

          Gulen (2006) wrote that the love of God is the essence of everything and is the purest and cleanest source of all love. Compassion and love flow to our hearts from Him and any kind of human relation will develop in accordance with our relation to Him. Brother Roger explains that we may not be able to bring solutions but be a simple presence of love. Following the principles of entanglement and resonance, if human hearts throughout the world begin to become, by their own lives, points from which peace radiates, they sustain hope that is communicated afar and further afar. It is better to light a candle than remain in darkness. And if more and more people light the flame of love in their hearts and keep it burning, this light will engulf even the hearts and souls of those in darkness.

Works Cited

A Common Word between Us and You. (2012). Five-year Anniversary Edition. MABDA Monograph Series No. 20. Amman, Jordan: The Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought.

Brother Roger of Taize. (2009). God is love alone: Glimmers of happiness. Makati City: St. Pauls.

Chittick, W. C. (1983). The Sufi path of love: The spiritual teachings of Rumi. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Curtis, B. and Eldredge, J. (1997).The sacred romance: Drawing closer to the heart of God. Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Gulen, M. F. (2006). Toward a global civilization of love and tolerance.New Jersey: The Light, Inc.

Perez, P. (2011). The lovesick God: Answering the deepest longings of your soul. California: Destiny Image, Publishers, Inc.

Trefle, S. (2013).Love and compassion in Islam. Retrieved from

 http://www.wccm.org/content/love-and-compassion-islam

Vaughan-Lee, L. (2012). Living love’s oneness. Retrieved from

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/llewellyn-vaughanlee/mysticism-living-loves-oneness_b_1304518.html

 

Dr. Belinda F. Espiritu is an associate professor of communication and is currently the Coordinator of the Mass Communication Program of the University of the Philippines Cebu. She has done research on Christian-Muslim relations in Manila, Philippines and is interested in the study of communication, religion, spirituality, development studies, peace studies, and democratic participation using new media.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/interfaith-dialogue/belinda-f-espiritu,-new-age-islam/love-in-islam-and-christianity--a-counterterrorism-discourse/d/103123

 

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