#Article (Archive)

Constructive Interaction Between the World Religions

Jul 17, 2009, 6:14 AM

Greater world peace and order, which is characterized by a lasting and apposite mutual understanding between the peoples of the world, cannot be envisioned without a penetrating intellectual and metaphysical basis. Aspects of commonality in culture, language, race, economic structure or political system, and their like, do not suffice. What is needed is a series of unchanging principles which are innate to humanity and the human condition. This erudite paper endeavors to outline a number of such principles and their inevitable grounding in religion.

The world today is like a single city and all individuals are the virtual citizens of this assembly. Tranquility and peace of mind for all {in this global village} comes about in the wake of mutual respect and balanced interaction. A lasting and apposite mutual understanding can not be arrived at without a penetrating intellectual and metaphysical basis.

For, those things which fall outside the human disposition are not only various and variegated, but are contradictory and antithetical as well; and everything that is external to the essential human self is not only different in relation to other such external things, but in fact it is inconstant and mutable in relation to itself as well. It is apparent that that which is not only variegated but rather antithetical, and that which is not only different but rather mutable as well, can never be the source of unity and the basis of unification. Hence, language, features of time and place, particularities of race and region, can not form the rationale for reasonable interaction. That thing which can be the driving motive for world harmony and order and which can play its part in removing the dirt of [discrimination arising from] differences and [caprice coming from] mutability and changeability will be presented to the respected audience in the course of a number of principles:

First Principle: Human nature, something that informs the entire identity of man, is immune from changeability and protected from discrepancy. That is to say, the disposition of every man­­-vis-à-vis its general principles and its all governing human ideals-is neither mutable in itself, nor is it different from those of other men. Hence, not only do human natures not oppose one another, but they are also not different from each other. Moreover, differences in body types, changes in geographical climes, or the like, cannot affect established and accepted principles such as the principles of freedom, independence, security, and justice. Regarding human nature, its uniqueness, and its purity from any type of alien influence, the creator of man and the world [and the Lord of the bond and tie between these two] has said: So set your heart on the religion as a people of pure faith, the nature of God according to which He originated mankind. There is no altering God's creation; that is the upright religion}Quran30:30.

This nature, so long as it is not clouded by pollutants and when it dose not become the underling of carnal desires, takes pleasure in pure thought as well as in clean motives. Every man can experience this truth in his inner self and can see its effects in others. Hence human society is composed of a permanent and established principle, that is [human] nature, and a mutable and variable secondary aspect, which is characterized by physical, temporal, and regional particularities and their like.

Second principle: Man , who has an immaterial spirit and a fixed [human] nature, is never overcome by the bitter experiences or unresolved situations of life. Nothing obliterates the spirit and it always exists by the grace of God. This ascendancy of man in his encounter with death lies in the fact that it is he that kills death and abolishes dying; death dose not destroy him. The Holy Quran, that truthful and trustworthy narrator of reality, in judging the encounter between man and death has this to say: Every soul shall test death} Quran 3: 185.

That is, the soul of every man is a taster and death is that which is tasted. What is clear is that the taster remains and that the tasted thing is eventually digested and eliminated. From this perspective, that which takes place on the daunting fields of the encounter between man and death is the perseverance of man and the degeneration of death. What the "death of death" means is the termination of the [natural] course of degeneration and mutability and the accession to the throne of permanence and immutability.

The quintessential point of spiritual anthropology and the sacred deposit of all of God's prophets is that in dying, man comes out of his skin  and not that he decays with it; or alternatively, that by dying, man only shuffles off this mortal coil and not his soul; and again, by dying man soars to new heights and dose not sink to the dark depths.

Third principle: Man's true identity, according to the two above mentioned principles, is the same at all times and in all places, and will continue to be so. All prophets, especially of the Abrahamic  lineage, who are the true owners of the hearts of the monotheists, have taught these two matters to man so that by acquiring  this divine science he will not be inclined towards the left, nor will he frequent the right-because both have deviated far from the straight path. Imam Ali[RLA]says," the right {path} and the left {path} cause one to go astray; the middle path is the {right} way."{ Nahj al- balagha,sermn16}

The approach of the " common principles" makes possible deliverance from differences and discrepancies, and augments equitable interactions amongst the people of the world- especially the followers of the monotheistic religions and doctrines. In this regard, the call of heaven and the voice of revelation is:..and speak kindly to people.] [Quran 2:83]

The meaning of speak here is "all interaction," including all speech, writing, behavior, and action, and not just speech by itself. It can be concluded that the reasonable or logical mutual understanding between religious communities has an ontological basis has the capability of going from the level of conceptual knowledge to the level of concrete reality.

Fourth Principle: Equitable and balanced interaction between the followers of various religions and faiths is not possible without the establishment of a legal code. The convening of scholarly symposiums and discussions as what I do in this paper is a precursor to that legal code and constitution The composition of the legal code is prior to the ratification of its clauses and the formation of a catechism. This is because a secondary without a primary principle is absent of cognitive content and is not founded upon any base of knowledge. The value-laden articles of the legal code are procured by clauses pertaining to justice, freedom of speech and expression,indepndence, public safety and security, human right, democracy, non-violence,anti-terrorism , and their like. But the mentioned concepts go to form the underlying foundation of the legal code and are in no way to be considered as its sources. This is because each and every one of the mentioned notions has various interpretations and due to the discrepancy that exists between these interpretations it is not possible to arrive at a single and universally accepted  covenant or international agreement. Hence, for the sake of the theoretical consistency and practical stability of the reasonable interaction between monotheistic believers, it is necessary to derive the legal code from sources that are both immutable and common. This weighty affair calls for the prior apprehension of what this common source is and its ability to give rise to those specific founding legal precepts as have the ability to inform the legal code in question ...

To be continued.