“Difference! A word and an infinity. A word and a law. A reality, a discipline and a value. A society that integrates and builds this concept in its identity survives the challenges of change and spreads its influence over vast communities in the world.”
Our articulations differ from one ethnic group to another. Yet, language always serves the same objectives. A sign, a sound or a structured word does not matter. Significance lies in our attempts to create a discipline to live with and understand the world we live in. Significance lies in our dreams, hopes and works to reach an end. From the ancient Sumerian and Egyptian culture and from before the moment man began to use horses in warfare to this moment where unmanned flying machines can reach far beyond the limits of time and space no things has changed. The same route and the same desires; the route of knowledge and the desires for comfort and peace. Peace of mind of course…
Man keeps the same obsessions and takes the same challenges. To know. Yes to know! Knowledge was and still is the sole route to infinity. Abdallah Al-Arwi says in a chapter he choses to pragmatically define the Repentance and the Plea:
“articulations, images and expressions vary in our cultural arena. This variation may have stronger influence in other disciplines. However, the purpose is always the same and the same experiences are shared. These shared experiences are reflected in our historical obsession with time.”
“Historically, we always wanted to know this unique component and explore it. Paradoxically, as time can be the barrier that stops you at a certain point as it always gives you a chance to see behind and see the long distance you had crossed in your past experiences.” Accepting this explanation can lead us to one conclusion.
This conclusion is to understand this paradox and build on this attempt new foundations and new convictions. This conclusion is to reflect, to explore the past so we can assess those experiences and see what was right and what was wrong; to know more accurately what happened and how it happened without necessarily confronting or challenging any discipline. What we want is simply to identify the areas of disfiguration and isolate them. This may help us rebuild our structures. The structures that are now collapsing and failing.
In the Islamic world, every thing starts with the prophet Ibrahim. Life, history and our shared memories. The prophecy gives us hope and comfort but once approached to through misleading routes it leaves marking scars of illusions on our faces. Illusion that makes of every sect of our spacious islamic world the one most sacred and closest to Allah, the creator. In the arms of our mothers, in the moments of submission to our teachers recounting miraculous events in Mount Sinai or in our prayers, the story of Ibrahim was always the same story.
The story of Ibrahim is a story of similarities and paradoxically a story of differences. How? Are not they the same lines? Isn’t the same sequence? Isn’t about a man, a father and a prophet? Isn’t a life and a miracle? Did not we agree; jews, Christians and Muslims, that no journey began before his steps? Why did we chose different tracks? Why did we belong to different sects? Why did we pray in different chapels and different oratories? What did cause divisions? Many questions in minds we all share and we all chose to ignore. No one among us wants to leave his or her zone of comfort. No one wants to leave the community and bear the fear of isolation. Of course, no one wants!
In our Islamic world, we are still unable to have absolute answers to these questions as they bear heavy dose of sensitivity and chain historically with a religious theocracy. The religious discourse either in Islam or other Abrahamic religions still over-triumphs its supremacy and sanctity and makes it difficult for any initiative to question the legitimacy of its power. Europe, under the influence of humanism, could overpass relatively this challenge and challenged its authority. We do not need to agree with this fundament component of European culture now and, without necessarily disadvantaging religion, we can absorb some of the ideas and concepts developed throughout that European throe.
According to our historian, Al-Arwi, from pre-Islamic era to Muhammed’s emigration from Mecca- the land of first revelations -to Medina, peoples expressed the same concept and the same sequence. It was the same experience. Nothing new. It was the same message and the same family. Every thing chained to our father, Ibrahim. “ Every thing began with Ibrahim and every thing ended to him.” If it should be so! Why do not we have the same conclusions? What does explain these numerous occurrences of disagreements and confronts?
The same questions have challenged Al-Arwi in his attempts to give us more accurate explanations. Actually, this is what has been provoking his thought and his convictions which makes me today; and with stronger confidence to assume that he actually could give us a valuable resource of knowledge and expose us to valuable explanations for our loss and our failure. The story of Ibrahim is of mysteries and ambiguities, magic and illusions, and a lost reality. The story is impressively detailed and rich to have one interpretation. In mosques, churches and chapels, Ibrahim is the memory and the treasure.
Here, AL-Arwi says:
“we recall that Ibrahim was the initiator. Ibrahim was first to walk a path, cross a line, pause, doubt, negotiate, call, comfort and admit. When thing changed. The answer became a revelation and a call. We, in a novel manner, have read the story of Ibrahim and we knew that he had talked first to his father, his family and later to his people. We knew that Ibrahim had challenged the revolving planets, one after one and in that he could understand the sequence of events in time and shared his conclusions….Ibrahim chose liberation and emigration; a voluntary choice to travel and explore. In his voyage, Ibrahim discovered vast lands and preserved us a shared history.”
If so, why do we read it differently than others? Why do we have different answers to similar questions? Is there another Ibrahim and another story?
To be continued…
From The Islamic World: Religion, Philosophy, Politics and History, a cross-cultural comparative study
This work was inspired by ‘Al-Sona wa Al-Islah’ of the great Moroccan historian and philosopher Abdallah Al-Arwi