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of todays Muslim youth. Experiences, realizations and conclusions.”
By Prof Yusuf Ali Morales School Administrator, Asian Academy of Business and Computers Manila Representative, Lahore Ahmadiyyah Islamic Society Usa-Philippines Member, Tariqah Naqshabandi and Rifaiyyah Sufi Tariqah
The paper aims to use the experiences of the author when he was a resource speaker for three Youth leadership summits in Cotabato City, Tubod and Polomoloc South Cotabato, where he lectured on three topics respectively, “Islamic Pluralism as a tool for understanding others”, “Moderation in Islam, A backdraft in reflection”, and “Pillars and Fundamentals of Islam”. “Simillarities and Diferrences of Islam and Christianity” The papers aims to dissect both the reactions of the youth participants from the inputs he gave, the contents he presented, how they were adjucted to suit to the particular audience, as well as his personal realizations that he has encountered in doing the lecture tour. The paper also aims to present alternative persepectives on how Interreligious and intercultural; dialogue can be best done with todays youth as well as an analysis of how this can be used as a model for creating a subculture eventually leading towards a culture of peace. Part of this paper would deal with the prime movers of our youth... the teachers..... as experinecd by the authour when he presented the topics for the teachers themselves and reflections and realizations he has gained from his workshop with the teachers themselves. The paper may not be a definitive know-all albeit a work in progress but it aims to start the ball rolling in presenting new paradigm shifts in this regard. Introduction:
Bismillah Hirahman Niraheem
Alhamdullilahi Ladhi Allamal Bil Qalam Allamal Insana Ma Lam Ya' lam
Wa salatu wa salmu alal Ashrafiyal Anbiya'a wal Mursalin, Sayyidna Muhammad
Wa alal alihit-Tahirin wa ashabi montajibin, wa awliayka Kareem, wa Mujadidoon alkareem, wa ummati wasiyeen.
My brothers and sisters in life.....Assalamu alaikum
In the Name of Gid most merciful and Most Compassionate All Praises be to Him who has created Knowledge Taught mankind what he knows not
All salutations and benedictions be unto the Beloved Prophet of Islam, Sayyidna Muhammad, to his blessed family, to his righteous companions, to the Awliyah of Allah, the Reformers of Islam and to the Muslim Ummah.
The common usage of the word interfaith Dialogie has in a way repeatedly used to denote any activity where there is dscussion of religious experiences, comonalities, as well as living in the midst of diversity.
The aim of this paper, however, is not to reinvent the wheel of interfaith dialogue but to share experiences in using a new tool adapted in order to further ones activities in the pursuit of mutual understanding, learning and travelling along the path, as a member of the Naqshabandi Sufi Tariqah, as well as an active member of the Anjuman Ahmadiyyah Isha'at Islami Lahore, a religious society that aims to propagate a peaceful and interactive Islam that draws from the experiences of islam as well as the Awliyah and the reformer of the 19th Century in Asia, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.Being a scholar known to espouse intellectual exchange as well as inter-religious understanding, I was invited to deliver a
series of talks on Interreligious dialogue, among them were three topics respectively, “Islamic Pluralism as a tool for understanding others”, “Moderation in Islam, A backdraft in reflection”, and “Pillars and Fundamentals of Islam” as well as “ simmillarities and differences of islam and christianity”.
Personally I believe that it is pluralism as a paradigm is one of the best tools for interreligious dialogue as it as a concept allows other belief systems to co-exist and respect each other. For those who are not familiar with the concept allow me to describe it in brief as was detailed in my presentation in Islamic pluralism in last years conference.[i] What entirely is Islamic Pluralism? Islamic pluralism is defined as the concept of maintaining peaceful relations between different religions, that is manifested in a number of related ways:
Islamic Pluralism may describe the Islam's worldview that it is not only one's religion as not the sole and exclusive source of truth, and thus recognizes that some level of truth and value exists in at least some other religions. Islamic pluralism often is used as a Basis for interfaith dialogue. At a minimum, This leads promotion of unity, co-operation, or improved understanding between different religions, or denominations within the same religion
This is normally a synonym for religious tolerance, which is a condition of harmonious coexistence between adherents of different religions or religious denominations.......This furthers inter-human understanding beyond an exclusionary and consequently intolerant institutional religiosity.
Islamic revelation presents a theology that resonates with the modern pluralistic belief that other faiths are not merely inferior manifestations of religiosity, but variant forms of individual and communal responses to the presence of the Transcendent in human life. All people are created in same divine nature (fitrah Allah) with a disposition that leads to the knowledge of God, the Creator to whom all worship is due simply because of the creation. [ii]
This universal knowledge of the being in creation holds equally for the believer or nonbeliever, the worshiper of one being or of idols. More important, both a monotheist and an idolater can understand God by inspiring faith in divine mercy and forgiveness, can guide anyone who He wills to save.[iii] This paper describes the experieneces and learnings that I have gained from both the process of the seminars we have lectured in as well as the interaction that I have had with the different Government agencies, the youth, the different sectors I have talked with as
well as the people there, whom I dedicate this paper. This paper is also dedivated to the Scholars, the awliyah as well as the Mujadidoon.
The series of activities that I was invited to lecture was the Youth leadership summit, which is a 4-day stay-in seminar that has the same workings of other trainings, workshops, group dynamics, teach-ins as well as contests. But the meat of this activity was to create a rather new persepective of attaining peace and order, it also encourages them to rediscover their skills and talents to become better leaders of society. As of the moment we have successfully conducted i three areas, Awang, North Cotabato, Tubod Lanao del Norte and polomoloc South Cotabato, as of this wroting we are aiming to conduct in Zamboanga, Basilan,Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Davao. It was an inter-agency project by both the government, Local Government Units, the AFP and several NGO and CSO's.
For a young group of Community leaders, The seminar was quite unique in the sense that it incorporated nationalism, patriotism as well as community building. Interfaith concepts were incorporated to ensure that the community spirit transverse the bounds of tribe, race, religion and culture. This was where I was coming at. My role was to ensure that they learn the value of interfaith and interreligious dialogue. It was here that I decided to use the paradigm of Islamic pluralism, teaching both as a paradigm to be emulated by Muslims as well as making the christians and Lumds understand that there ias way to talk and still keep the peace.
Being a young group that was of mixed persuasions and religious orientations, it was quite a challenge how to create a presentation that would catch their attention. Muslims and Christians coming from either very conservative families others who are familiar with both city and rural lives. It was actually a challenge how to present to them.
Most of the apprehensions that they faced was: "How do we embrace the faith of the others?" "Its easy to embrace our friendship with them but are they welcome in embracing our diffrences in Religion?", "would they welcome us if we ask them sensitive questions?" How are we simmillar and how are we different?". "how do we embrace diversity?"
What were the initial issues and impressions that the young people were concerned about? Among the things they were concerned were the following: if indeed the seminar organizers were conscious of gender sensitivity such as the proper billetting of the genders;familiarity with the different traditions of Muslims and Christians, among them
prayer and dietary issues for Muslims so as not to offend the other people who were participating in the seminar, doubts about the ability , sincerity and capacity of the organizers,if they would ask the hep of organizers;who were the good guys?Christians? Muslims? Their belief systerms;who were the real terrorists and why does the war in Mindanao doesnt stop?
Normally the first day was getting to know each other and camp rules. The second day was the inputs day, normally islam woyld be the first set of topics to ensure that misconceptions and clarifications would be done in the first day.
Whenever I would come into a room I would always try to do a little assesment and personal question stuff that would make them more comfortable listening, preparing a powerpoint presentation as well as dressing up comfortably. Seeing a Islamic scholar dress in a casual manner was the first surprise they got, getting a very simple down to-earth lecture that delved more in to the practical side than the theoretical side made them more comfortable to listen and ask questions. Although on other places I would only deliver two lectures as the others were prepared by other scholars.
Honestly, from the faces and smiles I saw, they were all hopefull of some solution to the conflict that afflicted their families and their lives, and that solution lay ahead of those who were lecturing before them. Tough luck, because honestly, the solution actually lay before their eyes.
When I delivered a talk on "Pillars and Fundamentals of Islam", I sincerely believed that it was not the Muslims that I should focus my talk into, as every Muslim knows about these things, I was structuring the lecture on how to present the general concepts and ideas why these issues and concepts were created as guidance for Muslims as well as the philosophical foundations for Muslims being requireed to believe in them.,
The next topic that I delivered, was "Simmillarities and differences of Muslims and Christians," funny as it would appear, a lot of Christian children were surprised to hear that Muslims loved, respected and cherished the Biblical prophets. This was a revelation for them. Since Young Muslims were not that open to talking or discussing theological concepts with their Christian friends, its was big relief for them to hear how to break chunks of religious ideas into down to earth ideas that could be digested by both Muslims and Christians alike.
When I delivered the talk "Moderation in Islam, a backdraft in reflection" I realized that indeed although there were Muslims and that my main target audience was to make Christians understand Muslims, it appeard that I also had to explain these concepts to Muslims as well who were supposed to espouse this concept. Because, the very concept of being moderate and not to be extreme in beliefs and the conflicts springing from the contraditions was an experience not only confined to Muslims themselves, it was an experience and paradigm that spread to other religions as well.This was mutually agreed upon by Christians and Muslims as well. For them, the concept of moderation as the best manifestation of faith was such a very attractive idea, that one can be Christian/Muslim and be cool at the same time without compromising their religion.
Whenever I would deliver my talk on “Islamic Pluralism as a tool for understanding others”,it always makes them realize that indeed this is a new paradigm shift in dealing with each other, that indeed there are possibilities of making this happen and indeed it is a very practical solution for them, to mutually respect and accept each others views and opinions, whether they may agreee with each other or not. Initially they were at a loss how to accept the idea of agreeing to agree and agreeing to disagree. I explained that it is like an issue of having simmilar things you like and some things that you dislike in people, only in this situation these are concepts and not people that you may not agree with, but you may still respect and agree with other things that a person may believe in.
Inputs given during the seminar: Topic Philosophical value why it is taught Fundamentals It is a guide to theIt shows them both how to deal of Islam belief system ofwith both the intrinsic and Muslims and a guideextrinsic issues as a Muslim.It for them as a way ofshows how proximate their life belief system is to Christianity Commonalities It shows how proximate their of Islam and belief system is to Christianity, Christianity it also showed that Muslims and Christians have a lot in common. Moderation InTo expalin theModeration allows people Islam theological basis ofenough space to interact with Moderation and thesociety withour having to be danger of extremismafraid of the theological as a sign of deviancelimitations that is imposed upon and misunderstandinga believer. It ensures that he of the Teachings ofknows that he is acting along General concept
Islam the rules set by religion. Islamic This concept providesIt enables Muslims to be Pluralism as athe theological basisparticipative and interactive with basis forfor interfaith dialoguepeople of other religions without understanding as well as thebeing in the mindset that they others philosophical basis forare the only ones worthy of dealing with peoplesalvation. who differs in beliefs and perceptions.
At the end of the presentations, both Muslims and Christians realized that both as individuals and Community leaders, they have a lot to share, understand and relate with each other. The inputs gave them a more bigger persepective on how to deal with people from another religious orientation and have a long and lasting friendship with them. In fact it has made them realize that at the end of the day, they may have to subsume , peripheral issues and focus more on the welfare of the communities they serve for the better interest and welfare of all.
What was also good, was that Teachers from Tubod, lanao del Norte also requested for such a training and orientation, I was able to conduct a summarized presentation like this for some teachers of Polomoloc South Cotabato and They really appreciated the cultural and religious sensitivities that I was able to highlight and make them understand these issues.
Personally I have realized a lot of things myself. First, the paradigm of interreligious dialogue must not be confined to either the religious people or clergy and separated from the regualr masses. It must be understood that the religious people/clergy must bring and explain actively to their jama'ah/flock the need of interreligious dialogue as well as undertake community wide steps to ensure the success of these endeavours. I have realized that both Chistian and Muslim religious scholars need to inculcate this concept among their very own clergy/lay people. As most of the young people who have fears regarding this concepts normally attribute their justifications from their very own scholars and clergy regarding the inapplicability of inter-religious dialogue. Perhaps in Metro Manila this may not be that case, but in isolated areas, this has been mostly the case as I had experienced in all of the three areas that I have done my trainings. And thus I believe that efforts must be done so that these concepts trickle down to these areas and be eventually be a paradigm that would be shared by all.
It is important that in order for the younger people to adpot the paradigm of Interfaith dialogue, particularly adopting the tools of Islamic pluralism, the religious people must have an active part in understanding and cultivating this intellectual legacy that is manifested in both the Qur'an and hadith. For it is the opinion of the key formators of these youth that may eventually be impressed in their minds; and if the formators themselves are not open to these paradigm shifts, then indeed we need to do extra efforts to be able to let them embrace this paradigm. Such a subculture in out youth may indeed be the impetus of a renewed thrust for Peace.
Who should we be involving in this paradigm shift?
Other than the youth themselves, we must involve the community leaders, the teachers who are with them them during the day, as well as the scholars who advise them on religious matters. By involving these three key groups, with support from both the local government and national initiatives, rest assured this paradigm of Islamic Pluralism being adopted by Muslims as well as pluralism from a Christian persepective would be embraced as a way fo life ensuring mutual respect and peace for the coming times.
The Author would also like to acknowledge and thank the Inter-Agency task force that organized the Youth leadership summit, jointly headed by Sec. Mesa chief of the,NCTU and Commmissioner Mohammad Camid of the National Youth Commission, for allowing me to be part of that activity as well as use the inpuits from the seminar/trainings as the basis of my conference paper. References: • • • • Islamic Pluralism as a tool for understanding others, conference paper presentation,”Theories and Practices of Interfaith Dialogue in The Philippines,April2426, Dela Sale University ,Manila Sachedina, Abdulaziz, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism,Center for Strategic and International Studies,2001, Oxford University press document: Assessment, Youth Leadership Summit Evaluation: Mindanao Caravvan, AFCOC,September 15,2009
Islamic Pluralism as a tool for understanding others, conference paper presentation,”Theories and Practices of Interfaith Dialogue in The Philippines,April24-26, Dela Sale University ,Manila
[ii] Sachedina, Abdulaziz, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism,Center for Strategic and International Studies,2001, Oxford University press. pp14 [iii]
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