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How To Achieve The Great Objective Of Global Peace?

By Sufi Rehman Muhaiyaddeen

19 July, 2008

The Saudi King Abdullah, whose country hosts Islam's two holiest places in Mecca and Medina has inaugurated the three-day World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid on Wednesday. The conference is organized by the Muslim World League. Saudi King Abdullah appealed for "constructive dialogue" to end disputes between the world's major religions. Around 200 participants are attending, including representatives of the world's major religions. Among them are the secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, Michael Schneider, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who is responsible for dialogue between the Vatican and Muslims.

Addressing to the conference Kind Abdullah said, "We all believe in one God... We are meeting here today to say that religions should be a means to iron out differences and not to lead to disputes. He called for a "constructive dialogue to open a new page to reconciliation after so many disputes." "Most of the dialogue (between religions) has ended in failure...," King Abdullah said in the speech, delivered in Arabic. "To succeed we must emphasize the common link between us, which is a belief in God." He said religion could combat many of the problems of modern society. "Terrorism..., the breakdown of families, drugs, exploitation of the weak - all these are the consequences of a spiritual void."

This conference makes an important and timely contribution to the expanding network of interfaith dialogue as it strives to broaden and deepen relations among faiths, communities and societies that seek peace and stability. Such conferences could discuss issues of relevance and importance to all of us from the experiences of one another's faiths in this and previous eras, to views on the practical application of interfaith dialogue and on questions of terrorism in the era where we are facing the threat from transnational terrorism.

The threat from transnational terrorism is of great concern in particular for Muslim communities around the globe – that, given current trends in transnational terrorism, others will mistakenly identify terrorism with the religion of Islam. We do all face a grave threat – one of potentially huge costs in human, economic and material terms as well as to the strength and vitality of the diverse and tolerant communities which contribute to the peace, non violence and coexistence in the societies.

Although the conferences, meetings, dialogues and sessions to achieve interfaith harmony and religious peace are of great value yet more important is to firstly understand the basics of religious extremism and terrorism in depth and then to make a practical and wise strategy to combat those.

What the extremists want, their ultimate goal is to express superiority of their religion and themselves over rest of the religions and the nations. Such a narrow minded approach leads to a pre-modern world, where there is a little capacity to the emerging ideas of a global community and a world for all, developed after more communication and understanding among the diverse communities and nations around the globe. A society built on the concept of superiority of a particular religion and 'solo representation of God' has less room for the women's and minorities' right and where personal choice and economic freedom would not be tolerated.

In a society built on the concept of a superior religion and solo representation of God the moderate followers are regarded as Apostates and they seek to eradicate them along with the governments and authorities they have established. To achieve such exclusive goals the zealous religious extremists use the unhealthy and destructive means like killing, fighting and abusing. In such conditions the extremists are always ready to implement the 'agenda of God' by force and to achieve this objective they feel no embarrassment or empathy in attacking the 'others' by the means like suicidal bombing.

To me, the approach of a personal God, ready to crush and destroy rest of humanity, has nothing to do with the real sense of religion. While studying any theory of religious experience, we find that the supreme experience in the life of the founder of a religion is a mystical experience in its nature. And in this regard the mystical experience becomes the most important aspect of the religious experience of mankind. In its essence a mystical experience consists of the response of our entire personality; its will, intellect and devotion to the Supreme Reality of the universe, which is absolutely recognized as the source and ground of our being. The same mystical experience is the common thread among the world religions which forms the core theme of the world religions. Such core theme expresses the shared beauties of the world religions by the Sufi, Yogi, Mystic and Kabala vision.

I believe, and I challenge, if we promote religion in its real sense the pseudo religious approaches like religious extremism and religious terrorism will automatically die.

The core theme of the world religions expresses, and what the Sufis and mystics around the world believe, a dispute means the selection of the illusionary approach by the two parties into a vast area sharing the lands of illusion and reality. Many ways of looking the outside world distinguish illusions and realities. Our illusionary state of mind compel us in observing the phenomena of the world as something discrete due to which we have the extreme opinions about the outside environment. For us, the hero is a symbol of the uprightness while the villain is the mark of wickedness. Similarly, despite knowing about the financial and social conditions of the people of most of the countries, we feel gracious for the people of the 'friendly country' while we become cruel for the people of the 'enemy country'. Carl Marx classified people in oppressed and the oppressors whereas some believers classify humanity into two classes, their associates and infidels. This viewpoint relates all the virtue to the associates and the evil to the infidels despite knowing that the good and the bad people are everywhere. According to the Sufi approach Truth is a pathless land … Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique.

Sufis believe that man can come to reality only by changing his inner lens to view the outside world: the way of finding reality within – the Sufi, Yogi, Mystic and Kabala way. We believe that man has built in himself images as a barrier of security - religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, and beliefs. The burden of these images dominates man's thinking, his relationships and his daily life. These images are the causes of our problems for they divide man from man. Our perception of life is shaped by the concepts already established in our minds. The content of our consciousness is our entire existence. This content is common to all humanity. The uniqueness of man does not lie in the superficial but in complete freedom from the content of his consciousness, which is common to all humankind … the Mystic, Yogi, Sufi or Kabala approach or the core theme of the world religions.

Sufism is the experience of mystical union or direct communion with Ultimate Reality (God), and hence affirms that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or Ultimate Reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight). And the same is the common characteristic of the mysticism within the world religions. The most profound aspect of Sufism is the expression of global unity of the mankind without the divisions of race, color, creed or nation. In this regard, Mysticism is just an expression of unconditional love to all of humankind. The earlier mystic movements of the history had produced profound outcomes in their times and had swept across the borders from age to age. These popular mystic devotional movements shared some core doctrines and practices due to their great similarities of thought, creeds and devotion to humanity. Those great devotional movements swept like waves across North Africa, Europe and Asia. Some of these were the great Mysticism and Caroling Religious Fairs of the Middle Ages Catholic Europe, the Catholic Rosary Devotion to Jesus through Mary, and the popular Eastern Rite Catholic and Orthodox Christian practice of constantly reciting 'The Jesus Prayer'.

Later there was a great revival of the Rosary devotion to 'Jesus living in Mary', led by Saint Louis de Montfort in France, which spread like wildfire across Europe. Beside the great Catholic revivals led by Saint Francis of Assisi and other Christian Mystics of the 11th and 12th centuries, during the same era, was the rise of the Muslim Sufi Divine Love Tradition of Rumi, al Ghazali, Suharwardi and the Woman Saint Rabe'ah al-'Adawiyya (Basri). A central practice of this devotion was the invocation of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah.

In Japan, the Pure Land Bhakti Buddhist Saints Honen, Shinran, Ippen and Nicherin eventually popularized the constant repetition of Amitabha Buddha's (HRIH's) Name as the 'Nembutsu', 'Namu Amida Butsu'. In Judaism Bridal Mysticism flourished from time-to-time in the form of devotion to Hashem, The Holy Name, and the Kabbalistic study of Shekinah (Peace). There was also a revival of related Jewish Spirituality in the 11th and 12th centuries, with the rise of Hasidic and Mediterranean Neo-Platonic Jewish Mysticism. All of these movements were actually historically related to mysticism, and had an inner or esoteric core of peace and humanity. All of these mystic Movements tended to unite the various lineages and sectarian offshoots of these great religions.

Thus from its very beginning, the Mission of Sufism/ Mysticism was far more than the mere continuation of a single specific sectarian lineage within a particular religion. Nor was it merely a mission to unite all of the orthodox doctrines. Rather, the complete Mission of Mysticism (Sufism) was nothing less than the global mystic unity of all humanity...a unity transcendent to race, class, gender, language, education, occupation and even lineage, or creed...

In the light of these historical facts we can reaffirm that the great objectives of world peace and interfaith harmony cannot be achieved merely by arranging interfaith conferences and inter-regional peace dialogue. We have to supplement these by opening out our inner eye. Neither can we achieve the great objective of global peace by bombing the towns and communities of the extremists. However the great objective of global peace and interfaith harmony can easily be achieved by promoting the core theme of the world religions which is nothing but finding reality within.

I believe in this…

Sufi Rehman Muhaiyaddeen is a disciple of Sufi Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, a Sufi mystic from the island of Sri Lanka. Around 1940 Sufi Bawa Muhaiyaddeen established an ashram on a farm in Sri Lanka, teaching a traditional Qadriyyah Sufi doctrine. Now the branches of his school of thought are found in many countries. Sufi Rehman Muhaiyaddeen can be reached at:

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