CIP Greetings to People of the Book on Their Holidays
by Stephen Suleyman Schwartz
The Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP), an international network of Muslim scholars, clerics, authors, journalists, Sufi shaykhs, and other believers, active in 32 Muslim-majority countries and Muslim-minority communities, extends greetings to our Jewish and Christian neighbors and friends on the occasion of their sacred holidays, the Jewish Passover (Pesach), which begins at sundown on Monday, April 14, and the Christian Easter, celebrated on Sunday, April 20.
We share the grief and outrage of Americans and others, Jewish and non-Jewish, at the terrorist attack on a Jewish Community Center and retirement home in Overland Park, Kan., on Sunday, April 13. This horror, in which three lives were lost, was carried out, allegedly, by a well-known paramilitary, neo-Nazi, and pagan figure. We warn our fellow-citizens that in the current, turbulent global economic and social environment, such incidents will proliferate. Neo-Nazi and related forms of prejudice strike homicidally at Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike.
The Jewish Passover marks the liberation of the House of Israel from oppression by the Egyptian Pharaoh. Moses, known to Muslims as Musa aleyhisalem, is seen by both Jews and Muslims as the only human being who spoke directly to the Creator, the all-powerful master of worlds. Jews hold family feasts, called a seder, at which a text recounting their deliverance from Pharaonic rule, the Haggadah, is read.
As moderate, traditional, conventional, spiritual, and even conservative (but not radical) Muslims, the members of CIP hold Moses/Musa a.s. and his struggle for the freedom of his people in high esteem. Qur'an teaches us to answer those who claim that the One God in which all Abrahamic religions believe "revealed nothing to any human being." We are commanded to reply, "Who revealed the Scripture that Moses brought down as a light and guidance to humankind?" [Q 6:91]
The great 12th c. CE Islamic metaphysician, or Sufi, Ibn Arabi, in his Fusus Al-Hikam (The Seals of Wisdom), declared, "The wisdom of Moses is plentiful." The 17th c. CE Bosnian commentator on the Fusus, Abdullah Al-Bosnawi, synthesized the Islamic view of Moses. Al-Bosnawi's reading of the Fusus has been analyzed recently in Bosnian and English by our beloved friend and colleague, Professor Rešid Hafizović of the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo.* As Professor Hafizović writes, "Musa's wisdom shows us how to move our soul on in self-gnosis from the level of the historical to that of the symbolic, visionary, and initiatory."
Easter, in Christianity, is derived from the Jewish Passover, but celebrates belief in the resurrection of Jesus, or Isa aleyhisalem. As Muslims, we believe that Jesus was not crucified, but that "God raised him up" [Q 4:158]. In the Fusus, Ibn Arabi wrote, "Jesus brought the dead to life because he possessed the divine breath." Abdullah Al-Bosnawi, according to Prof. Hafizović, perceived in Jesus "the Spirit of God."
Today we see an ideological extremism similar to that displayed in the Kansas atrocities on the other side of the globe, in Ukraine, where Orthodox Christians identified with Russia kill Ukrainian Orthodox, Uniate, and Catholic Christians, and members of the indigenous Muslim community of Crimea, the Crimean Tatars. We stand with the Ukrainian Christians and Crimean Tatars against the expansionism of Moscow; with the Ukrainian Moses against the Russian Pharaoh. Every Muslim should oppose Russian imperialism.
At the same time we defend Christians under attack in martyred Syria, which has been devastated by the non-Muslim, Pharaonic, and Russian-backed tyranny of Bashar Al-Assad.
As Muslims, we do not believe that submission to a merciful and compassionate God may be reconciled with acceptance of an oppressive authority like that represented by Pharaoh. For this reason, in particular, Sufis in CIP reject "New Age" interpretations that attempt to merge the revealed, Abrahamic faiths with the pagan and other belief systems that preceded them, coexisted with them, or were invented after them.
To all who are oppressed, freedom will come by the will of Allah. And Allah knows best. May the People of the Book be protected, blessed, and fulfilled in their celebrations, everywhere they gather.
*Persons interested in The Essential Reading of Ibn 'Arabi's Fusus in Light of Abdullah Al-Bosnawi's Commentary, by Professor Rešid Hafizović, are invited to contact CIP.