Shaykh Seraj Hendricks
We live in an era of increasing polarisation and extremism – both at the inter and intra-religious levels. It is an era that appears to have become emblematic of the very antithesis of Islam viz. that Islam, on the other hand, is a religion of balance, of equilibrium – a religion of the middle way.
و كذلك جعلناكم أمة وسطا لتكونوا على الناس شهداء.
And thus we have appointed you as a middle nation, that you may be witnesses over other peoples. (Baqara, 2: 143)
Witnesses to what.? Witnesses to the fact that Islam as a religion of the middle way has, as one of its central messages, the call to peace. The word “Islam” itself is derived from the root word “salm” and “silm” meaning peace. To be Muslim, therefore, is to submit to the message of peace, which is Islam. It is a state of peace, nonetheless, that is not merely submissive for the sake of a meek and mortifying submission. On the contrary, it is a peace that stands in both dynamic and diametric contrast to the centrifugal tendencies of conflict and chaos. Paradoxical as it might sound, it is our duty as Muslims to be the bearers, the vicegerents, of this dynamic peace.
However – and as it is with the nature of justice – there can be no peace in the absence of wisdom and compassion. Most acts a Muslim performs are accompanied by the phrase بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم “In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.” Oftentimes we ourselves as Muslims do not fully comprehend the significance of this benedictory phrase. Indeed, while we are surrounded by prejudice and bigotry; we are equally the agents of prejudice and bigotry. Prejudice is often the result of an inability or sheer lack of will to understand and accept difference and diversity. In our quest for peace, therefore, we need to understand the wisdom behind the diversity that we witness in the world. Moreover, we need to connect with that wisdom in a spirit of engaged pluralism.
The World Interfaith Harmony, and all those responsible for its realization, should be commended for this extraordinary initiative in trying to heal the unwarranted wounds – wounds of bitter misunderstanding, incomprehension and mutual hatred – that blight the universal human condition during the present hour.
May the Grace of God be upon this effort.
Country: South Africa
Al-Zawiyah Institute, Cape Town South Africa.
University of Johannesburg, Studies in Islam, Department of Religion.
Patron, Dome Publications.
Hakim, Crescent Observers’ Society, South Africa.
Al-Zawiyah Institute, University of Johannesburg, Dome Publications, Crescent Observers’ Society of South Africa
Title / Position
Lecturer/ Religious Teacher