Constructive Interaction between the World Religions – Part 2

Constructive Interaction between the World Religions: A Framework for World Order

By Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli
Translated by S. A. Mirza

Read Part 1 Here

Fifth Principle: Man moves according to his own particular epistemological perspective. If his epistemology is limited to his senses and sensory experience, his ontology in turn becomes restricted to the material realm, and his life—due to his false belief—ends up being strapped in the confines of the straightjacket that the natural world becomes for him. But if his epistemological perspective is broader and includes not only empirical reason but also abstract intellection, then his ontological perspective is given free rein in the more expansive realm which includes both the material and the immaterial. For it is only in proportion to man’s awareness of Reality that he gains freedom in the physical and metaphysical realms. The materialists and the myopic worldlings are and have always been in a psychological and military war with the free-minded believers regarding the physical and meta-physical. God, almighty, relates the bad behaviour of the crooked-minded in relation to the prophets in this way:

يَا حَسْرَةً عَلَى الْعِبَادِ ۚ مَا يَأْتِيهِمْ مِنْ رَسُولٍ إِلَّا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ
How regrettable of the servants! There did not come to them any apostle but that they used to deride him.[1]

The underlying reason for their deriding and mocking the prophets is their stagnation based on the limited knowledge of the physical and natural world. The Qur’ān says,

فَلَمَّا جَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَرِحُوا بِمَا عِنْدَهُمْ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ وَحَاقَ بِهِمْ مَا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ
When their apostles brought them manifest proofs, they exulted in the knowledge they possessed, and they were besieged by what they used to deride.[2]

So if the prophets of God such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and the last of them, Muhammad (pbuh) have been the object of profanities at the hands of the Salman Rushdies, the Danish cartoonists, or the ilk of the destroyers of the sacred shrine of Imam al-Hadi and Imam al-Askari of our time and of all other ages, it is because they are prisoners of the natural world and consider the free space outside their prison to be nothing but fairy tales and the “opium of the people”.

Sixth Principle: The official mandate of the prophets is to inform man about the world, about man himself, and about the bond and nexus between man and the world; their responsibility is to equip man with doctrinal knowledge, ethical character traits, jurisprudential laws and legal stipulations so that he neither goes astray himself, nor becomes an obstacle in the way of others. Such an exalted task calls for unity in the source of receptivity (or material cause), which can be had by way of an analysis of the meaning of human nature and the original disposition and identity of man. Such an endeavour also requires the unity of the source of action (or efficient cause), one which is guaranteed by the Creator and Lord of the three-way relationship mentioned above and one which is had by tracing the causes of the unity and unicity of the Godhead. On one hand, the common goal of all of the prophets and all of the immaculate Imams is to cultivate and bring to blossom the potentials of human nature (for Imam ‘Ali says, “they lay bare to them the deposits of the intellects”[3]), and on the other hand, their goal is to teach the Book and wisdom vis-à-vis knowledge and vision, and the spiritual cleansing of the souls vis-à-vis effort [the application of the will]. Hence, every former prophet was the harbinger of the prophet that came after him—and every latter prophet was the confirmer of the ones that preceded him. God speaks of the project of former and latter prophets in this way:

لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنْزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ
Certainly We sent Our apostles with manifest proofs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that mankind may maintain justice.[4]

According to this explanation, the secret of success of the divine prophets is in their bringing forth the Law. Now, because in such a scheme the subjects of the Law or the ruled are one—as per their original human identity, and because the Lawgiver, God Eternal, is One, and because the bringers and expounders of the Law, the prophets, are united in their integrity and trustworthiness—we can conclude that all of the elements and prerequisites for a balanced interaction and all of the factors for a mutual understanding are obtained. In such case there is no reason to entertain agreements and contracts based on “friendship”.

Where is Moses that with a staff in this desert bare;
Set to flow a hundred odd springs from this stony lair?
Where, from five apparent senses and five hidden ones-
Is the springer from this body of the ten fountains?
Spirit is Jesus to the corpse of our cradle, true;
But where is Mary who can rock this cradle, anew?[5]

It is the absence of prophets or rather disregard of them that causes the harmonious order between the followers of the world’s religions to break down.

Seventh Principle: The world is there to be in the service of man, not man in the service of the world; that is why God, the Keeper of the heavens and the earth, has spoken of man subjugating the expanses of the earth and mastering the flow of history, and not being subjugated by them. Man’s proper use of the ocean depths and the far reaches of space becomes possible when there is an exchange and interplay of ideas and not when they are set into conflict—being [forcefully] imposed and [meekly] absorbed. This interplay of ideas is very much like the marriage that takes place between opposite sexes and it paves the way for the unfolding of knowledge and the production of arts. World unity [or peace] by way of political, economic, and industrial artifices, or their like, is tantamount to a façade, whereas faith forms the foundation upon which these artifices are to be built. The only principle that can procure a harmonious world order is a unity of faith or the alliance of the believers in the world’s religions and their various branches. Although unity may be difficult to achieve, the formation of an alliance is not as demanding. Islamic Iran has had the honour to convene such a prestigious gathering and, as such, will be the point of departure for constructive interaction. Those engrossed in worldly concerns and dealings, who are alien to the very principle of faith, must know well that when they carry out sacrilege and profanation of religious sanctities, or when they murder the men of God or even when they engage in the desecration of the shrines of such saints (from Karbala to Baqi’, and from Baqi’ to Samara), or when they insult and blaspheme the paragons of religion, (and they do all this for a material world that is dark, dismal, and spiritless), then these acts of theirs will stop them from making any type of progress, and apart from the repercussions, if any, at the hands of the people, such deeds will only lead to Divine punishment. It could be that human battles are a portion of that Divine retribution, for as the Qur’an says:

قَاتِلُوهُمْ يُعَذِّبْهُمُ اللَّهُ بِأَيْدِيكُمْ وَيُخْزِهِمْ وَيَنْصُرْكُمْ عَلَيْهِمْ
Make war on them so that Allah may punish them by your hands and humiliate them, and help you against them.[6]

The correct analysis and explanation of this matter is the responsibility of religious scholars in their role as the inheritors of the prophets.

Eighth Principle: The purpose for convening such symposiums, whether in Iran or in any other Islamic country, is not to sign a political agreement or to affect a military ceasefire; rather, the purpose is to save existing cultural links and to deepen religious relationships—such as will not be altered by any political or economic events. Solidarity amongst the prophets and the unity of their common goal is pertinently portrayed by the Qur’an. For God says of those who belied their own prophet that they have actually belied all of the prophets:

وَلَقَدْ كَذَّبَ أَصْحَابُ الْحِجْرِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ
Certainly the inhabitants of Hijr denied the apostles.[7]

كَذَّبَتْ عَادٌ الْمُرْسَلِينَ
[The people of] ‘Ad impugned the apostles.[8]

كَذَّبَتْ قَوْمُ لُوطٍ الْمُرْسَلِينَ
The people of Lot impugned the apostles.[9]

It is possible that what is meant here is that they denied prophethood itself and, hence, the evil consequence of such a denial is to belie all prophets. In any case, what is being said here is that those who go beyond the bounds of mutual understanding [and respect] for people, always end up destroying whole generations and their tilth, and wherever they invade they leave in ruins.

إِنَّ الْمُلُوكَ إِذَا دَخَلُوا قَرْيَةً أَفْسَدُوهَا وَجَعَلُوا أَعِزَّةَ أَهْلِهَا أَذِلَّةً

Indeed when kings enter a town, they devastate it, and reduce the mightiest of its people to the most abased.[10]

However, apart from these and their ilk, those who do have the capacity to carry on a scholarly exchange, can, nay rather they must, apply themselves to enumerating the intellectual errors of the former and must carry out their discussions in a perfectly open forum that is free from sacrilege. With the hope that we will come to witness a world full of peace, freedom, and prosperity, I would like to once again welcome the honoured guests—the followers of the world religions and religious schools of thought and would like to thank the conveners of this outstanding gathering. I would like to end this message by sending the best of salutations and the highest of blessings upon the pure souls of the prophets of God (may Peace be upon them)—in particular his eminence the last of the prophets (may God bless him and his progeny and upon them be Peace)—and upon the pure souls of the Imams—in particular Imam Hadi and Imam Askari, whose shrine was desecrated in Samara, and the noble spirit, the last of the Imams, the promised Mahdi (upon him be Peace).

Peace be upon he that follows the Guidance.

[1] Qur’an 36:30

[2] Qur’an 40:83

[3] Nahj al-Balaha, sermon 1

[4] Qur’an 57:25

[5] Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi, poem 2176

[6] Qur’an 9:14

[7] Qur’an 15:80

[8] Qur’an 26:123

[9] Qur’an 26:160

[10] Qur’an 27:34