Category Archives: Inter Faith Dialogue

“One of a Kind Soul – Hasan Askari” by Candice Rowland

Candice Rowland  http://fruition2012.wordpress.com/ is an aspiring author on a spiritual journey. Her passion is to HELP others someway, somehow. She cannot say she is religious but religious about all faiths. Candice BELIEVES there is a God with a mighty purpose for all of us to follow. Candice hopes all can listen within to our tiny voice, “If we silence ourselves, God is whispering to us all the time. If we listen long enough we will find our true purpose in life. Anything is possible if you are pure and true in mind, heart, body, and soul.” Candice’s faith resides in Love and Peace. “When one’s soul has found LOVE within oneself, one has found God. When one has found GOD with LOVE peace and tranquility assumes their being. When peace and tranquility begins with one soul, this will transpire to another soul and another and so on.”

“One of a Kind Soul – Hasan Askari” by Candice Rowland

“We have first to wake up from the spell which our collective identity, whether it be of race or of religion has cast upon us, and see the sun of awareness rising in the horizon of our souls, in whose light the hidden grace in each one of us would become visible to the other. As we bow to each other as soul beings, we bow before God who is both in us and above us. What can then prevent us from saying to each other that my soul and your soul is one soul, that our God and your God is one God? We shall then abolish fear, and then our greeting of peace will be a perfect greeting!” Hasan Askari http://www.interreligiousinsight.org/January2004/Jan04Askari.html

Reading Hasan’s words above gives me goose bumps within my own soul every time I read them; how divine his words resonate with souls on a spiritual journey such as mine as yours. His connection with the religious diversity is far beyond wisdom; it was part of his true being to bring all faiths to an interfaith dialogue to speak, to converse with one another of one another’s religious beliefs; to bring understanding within one’s soul to another soul.  As Hasan states, “Our coming together in dialogue becomes akin to an act of worship; our exclusive witness is transformed into co-witness; our one-way mission is replaced by mutual mission.” 

The one thing Hasan believed man had forgotten which has brought much suffering in the world, forgetting the Supreme (God), and the soul. “The loss of a sense of transcendence from our consciousness, and the accompanying loss of the gnosis of soul, have led first to the degeneration of religion and eventually to the despiritualisation of politics and science.”     

Hasan was a man with a mission to somehow, someway to spark awareness in mankind to transcend him back to God and to “our nobler and loftier companion, our Soul.” Hasan directly points out, “First soul, then God! The soul possesses the vision of the Supreme One.” He proceeds to say further in his article, “First one must “Know thyself” (written on Gate of Entrance to the ancient Temple of Delphi) and “Whoever knows his self knows his Lord” (said by the Prophet of Islam).

As Hasan expresses adamantly, “Soul is one and many, a universal being. It is in souls of each other that we encounter each other both individually and universally. We surpass the boundaries of our outer identity.”  In other words, we must as spiritual beings find within ourselves, our soul then only then can we move to find God. And when we unite with the soul we find God; then can we see our soul reflected in other souls with different religious backgrounds, race and culture because the soul is universal as so is our God, all is one; we are one.

One quote always remained in my memory from Hasan and this is why I chose this article in particular to try to bring clarity to myself and others on a spiritual journey. It is this, “A real evangelist would be one who brings the good news of universal truths as these are glimpsed through various religious symbols and philosophies.” This rang with vibration within my soul when I read this because if we all could speak of universal truth and not just what we collectively identify with in our culture, this would bring a sort of peace to mankind. Why? As Hasan says: “Our perspectives will expand: we shall not only notice religious diversity as a spatial fact but also value the coming and going through time of teachers and prophets, religions followed by religions – all calling upon us to wake up and humbly bow in self-knowledge before the almighty source of our souls. Then our conversion will be not to this or that religion but to one God (speaking theistically), All Transcendent-All near, All Freedom-Ever New!” How beautiful Hasan wrote this; brings tears to my eyes.

Not only did Hasan write scholarly, spiritual inclined papers with answers to beyond difficult questions one must answer to bring peace to Earth and unity of mankind, but he wrote poetic articles. As such, the “Seven Mirrors.”  https://spiritualhuman.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/seven-mirrors-by-hasan-askari/

Reflecting his vision during silence of one candle; reflecting in seven mirrors reflecting seven candles. He then through thought realized, “If the original candle stands for the eternal presence of the Light of God, all its reflections too were eternally present before it. For God there is neither before nor after, neither past not future, but one eternal present, not like our present but a time that includes without division all times.”

And lastly, Hasan’s heartfelt story, “The Rebirth Through My Son.” https://spiritualhuman.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/rebirth-through-my-son-by-hasan-askari/

This is about a father’s journey through his life while in search of meaning knowing the pain and misery he caused to himself and his family.

But his youngest son never gave up on his father. He visited his father because of a bond he could not help from feeling to his father and the longing to want to know more of him. Finally one day the son asked him a question that stirred him within.It was that evening that all of a sudden he felt that he was renewed deep from within. His son’s remark had demolished his shyness before his son. He felt that they were now brothers.”

And so how Hasan ends the story with a story to his son, “Once a visitor called and said to his father, “I have come to see your son. May I know where he is?” His father replied: “Do not call him my son. I am his son!” How this says it all between Hasan and his son, Musa.

Now this brings me to the end, to Hasan’s son Musa. If was not for Musa I would not have had the beautiful experience of reading Hasan’s work. And because of Hasan’s works it has brought me to a new but reviving view of my spiritual journey.

Hasan, I can only say you are a precious soul for other souls to follow in your footsteps but that would not be right, as you would say, “This is not a journey for the feet; the feet bring us only from land to land; nor need you think of coach or ship to carry you away; all this order of things you must set aside and refuse to see: you must close the eyes and call instead upon another vision which is to be waked within you, a vision, the birthright of all, which few turn to see. (PLOTINUS – The Enneads, 1.6 “On Beauty”)

On this day February 19th, a very special day, I can only say Hasan would be so very proud of his son, Musa. To keep his work alive through his continuing relentless effort or shall I had said “effortless” for Musa. I thank you Hasan for your work; and your loyal son and your best friend, Musa. God Bless both of your souls.

I have only mentioned a couple of Hasan’s articles that resonated with me, but how all of his articles and works are a tremendous awakening for all to read. I encourage you to read them all.

Namaste, Shalom, Salam, Peace,

Candice Rowland

Inter-Religious Dialogue : An Encounter by Musa Askari

Below Musa Askari’s article for HeadWaters/Delta Interfaith

http://blog.headwatersdelta.org/2011/05/inter-religious-dialogue-encounter.html

To engage in inter-religious dialogue is a tremendous moment of encounter. An encounter primarily between individuals. A great challenge at the same time. For to enter dialogue is to run the risk of being transformed positively by the witness and testimony of the other. It is this challenge which at the same time holds great reward for those who partake in dialogue wholeheartedly as individuals and not simply as individual representations of a collective identity.

Here lies the first challenge to see the other as someone from whom one can learn; that their experience has something deeply meaningful to offer. Sadly, many fall at the first hurdle. The individual is missed and we are left with only a shell, an appearance of dialogue, where inter-religious dialogue is seen as the destination and not as one of many starting points to spiritual quest. Which maybe is why some remain disillusioned that the promise of dialogue did not bear more fruit after initial discussion sessions.

For purposes of context crucial we state a distinction between the term “inter-religion” and inter-religious dialogue. They are not one and the same. “For centuries this inter-religious consciousness was suppressed, the only way to redeem it is to clearly and whole-heartedly acknowledge the reality and necessity of multi-religion….inter-religious dialogue is one of the many ways in which inter-religion becomes a conscious process.” (Hasan Askari, from Inter-Religion, 1977)

If inter-religious dialogue is only about acquiring knowledge about the faith of one’s spiritual neighbour then it is not “dialogue”. It is a study of religion and there are many ways to acquire this socio-historic knowledge outside of a dialogue meetings. That cannot be the goal of dialogue. If it is then it is a secondary not a primary goal. The goal at its core surely must be of encounter, to bear co-witness leading to mutual mission.

Should inter-religious dialogue remain an institutional formality then I fear it may never rise to fulfill its promise of deep and meaningful engagement between peoples of diverse faiths and backgrounds. It is as individuals we dialogue not as collective identities. To arrive at such a door of dialogue presupposes some deep sense of inquiry about the very fact of a multi-religious world. A knocking upon an inner door followed by entry in to dialogue which is both with the other and within oneself. Both individuals become doors for each other’s entry in to a moment of “presence” before one another. A presence that is both independent of them and also within them.

To partake of inter-religious dialogue is to ask the question, consciously or not, “Why do we have more than one religion upon our planet?”(Hasan Askari).Thus to engage in inter-religious dialogue is also to peer in to the very obvious phenomenon of more than one religious and spiritual witness. It is a call to abolish exclusivity and one-sidedness, first and foremost within the mind of the individual. To break free of the grip of collective hypnosis; that one’s own tradition alone holds the truth exclusively:

“Perhaps we need more than one religion. How could the mystery of the Transcendent Reality be equated with the form of one faith and practice, or with one state or sign of a given religious experience! That there was something essentially desirable and positive about the very existence of more than one religion. Accepting multi religion as a theological necessity, almost a blessing. Religious diversity was thus a school of true humility and patience”. (Hasan Askari: Spiritual Quest – An Inter Religious Dimension)

My own journey spiritually, which includes a deep appreciation for inter-religious dialogue, began at the hand of my teacher and friend, my late father Professor Hasan Askari (1932-2008) https://spiritualhuman.wordpress.com/hasan-askari/. From a young age I was immersed in the work of who many regard as one of the pioneers of inter-religious dialogue. At first it was a curiosity to know more about the work of a father before me but later it became, through love, a life’s endeavour and remains so. Religious diversity has always been a part of my life. Looking back I was fortunate in other ways too by having a childhood in both India and England. The spiritual diversity which was overtly a part of my life in India continued in England. However, it continued in a more subtle manner but nonetheless significant.

I came to accept, very early on, religious diversity as a sign of deep inquiry rather than something to confront. Furthermore, I came to accept it was not enough for me to be simply curious about the variety of religious practices, rites and rituals, but to move on from that understanding and integrate it in to my spiritual life, an inner life. I was interested in the individual before me as much as I was interested in my own individuality.

Spiritually I needed the presence of the other to help me consider the mystery of religious diversity. Without the other, who bears no outward resemblance to one’s collective history, to the faith in to which one is born, without the other there is no diversity. Without diversity there remains no self-limiting principle within the life of humanity to remind us of the dangers in making the most exclusive and one-sided claims to truth and finality.

I was not interested in pseudo dialogue. I was interested in not only what the other before me had to say of their faith but more so interested in a “sentiment” which can be shared despite outward differences. I was interested in a most ancient and beautiful term, the essence of one’s being, namely soul (atma/psyche/ruh).Overtime I realised that unless one is prepared to stand apart from exclusive truth claims, from the baggage of collective identity, breaking free from the weight of collective burden that one was somehow responsible for the entire collective faith of one’s tradition, one would never meet the individual in dialogue. There would always remain a hesitation to engage fully. There would be no dialogue let alone encounter only a repetition of well known themes and objections ending in not dialogue but monologue. There would be neither sentiment nor the rising to a moment of being present to one another in co-witness.

Is inter-religious dialogue failing? Is it yet to deliver on its promise? It maybe too early to say despite the great efforts made over the previous four to five decades. For example, from Ajaltoun consultation to Lebanon and Broumana in Colombo, Europe and the United States. From those early days of commitment inter-religious dialogue has now become a global phenomenon which must be regarded as some measure of success. Today we have the “Common Word” initiative – Love of God and Love of Neighbour. In the end as in the beginning the common word for me literally and spiritually is simply “Life”. To ponder this mighty question of “Life” spiritually one cannot help but stumble upon soul as the principle of “Life”. Perhaps, just perhaps, what is missing from inter-religious dialogue may be met by reviving the classical discourse on soul.

The Dialogical Relationship between Christianity and Islam

By Professor Hasan Askari (published 1972 Journal of Ecumenical Stidies)

“It is sometimes easier to reflect with the aid of poetic metaphors, particularly when one has to tread the difficult space between two massive traditions. Where the conceptual finds the door solidly barred against all entry, the symbolic carves its way in. Where the theologian is confident within his boundaries, the poet takes the risk and leaps beyond. Rumi, the Persian Sufi poet, once said: 

“O for a friend to know the sign, And mingle all his soul with mine.”

“With the help of these two line, let us reflect on the “friend,” the “sign,” and the mingling of “all his soul with mine.” Is there any common sign between Christians and Muslims? Would they become friends? And would their souls mingle?”

“There are certain difficulties in the way. Dialogue is sometimes misunderstood by Muslims as a masked attempt at syncretism. The suspicion is not always without basis. The Muslim immediately becomes self-conscious of the differences that lie between Christianity and Islam. He often fails to notice the deep and vast changes the Christian faith, in its interpretation and expression, has been undergoing in almost every century. The notion of an evolving and expanding faith is somehow alien to the Muslim mind. It is however strange that evolution is often considered as betrayal and perversion of the original dogma. Herein lies, I suppose, that most serious disparity between the Christian and Muslim attitudes to questions of faith. Secondly, the political experience of Christianity, recently in the form of imperialism, hampers on both sides the openness and trust necessary for an informal encounter. Thirdly, the cultural experience of Christianity, particularly in the shape of science and technology, is usually looked upon as a threat to Islamic civilization. The Christian-Western influence is held responsible for secularization of culture and institutions. The intermingling of academic and religious traditions by Muslims is another aggravating factor. One often comes across an intriguing mixture of fantasy with fact, inquiry with apology. It appears that, more than the primary and fundamental differences in the dogmatic frame, the differences in historical experience and cultural development are responsible for incommunication and mistrust among Christians and Muslims.” 

“But equally grave are certain features in the Christian situation. Many a complex issue owe their origin to the scientific traditions as well. The speech of religion is being determined after the model of the speech of science. The process of secularization has already taken command paving the way for the priority of “word of man’ over “Word of God.” Above all, the entire theory of communication on which most of the theologians and philosophers rely is a historicist theory through and through. We are told that the first revolution in communication was brought about by scientific invention and mechanical engineering, and the heroes of this revolution were Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. At the heels of this revolution came another, the consequence of the theory of cybernetics headed by Norbert Wiener and Dichter. It was the discovery of the unity of communication and control. All communication to the giant computers seems to take place in an imperative mood. Wiener is afraid that this process might be reversed with immense consequences for the human civilization: The process of from man to machine might soon become from machine to man. A corrective against the cybernetic threat becomes imperative. The foundations of a third revolution have to be explored.”

Continue reading at http://www.sierraf.org/articles/Askarieh.pdf

From Interreligious Dialogue to Spiritual Humanism

By Professor Hasan Askari

“I have always looked at religious diversity with a sense of wonder. The differences between religious beliefs and practices have never bothered me, nor have their conflicting truth-claims unnerved me. I was mystified by the fact of diversity itself. But the call to tolerate and coexist with the other in mutual respect, however desirable, was not enough for me. The intuition underlying the ancient saying, “the lamps are many but the light is one,” gently led me on to look for a theological affirmation and validation of more than one religion. What was lingering in the depths of my soul came to the surface of my consciousness sometime in the mid-1970s when I clearly realised that transcendental reality could not be equated with any one religious form; otherwise a religion will become a god and that would be utter blasphemy. The prospect of a religion reflecting the Absolute absolutely would turn that religion into the most dogmatic and oppressive belief system imaginable. Hence, there should be room between the religions for mutual critique and complementarity. In turn, this should generate a religious need for religious plurality and diversity.”

“Each religious form should then express the beauty and the splendour, and the transcendence and the mystery, of the Supreme One in terms of its own language and culture, framed in its own historicity and reflected in the vision of its pioneers. To enter into dialogue is to celebrate the splendour of the infinitely Supremely Good, in the unity and diversity of our faiths. By the theological affirmation of religious diversity, our coming together in dialogue becomes akin to an act of worship; our exclusive witness is transformed into co-witness; our one-way mission is replaced by mutual mission.”

Continue reading at InterReligious Insight http://www.interreligiousinsight.org/January2004/Jan04Askari.html