Islam and Judaism: Time to Tie the RopesPosted: 2014/04/12
Text: Solveig Hansen
Dr. Shai Har-El is the Founder and President of the Middle East Peace Network (MEPN). His new book, Where Islam and Judaism Join Together: A Perspective on Reconciliation, is due to be released in the summer of 2014. In the book, he quotes “the rope of God” from the Koran and says that Islam and Judaism can no longer be separate dangling ropes next to each other, but be tied together, and “each rope must give up little, surrender a bit of its original length, to achieve a stronger unity.”
Dr. Har-El is has kindly allowed us to publish this piece on his forthcoming book.
Jews and Muslims Can Build a Common Ground
By Dr. Shai Har-El
I am pleased to announce the publication by Palgrave and MacMillan of my new book, Where Islam and Judaism Join Together: A Perspective on Reconciliation this summer. This book is the result of many years of thinking, speaking and writing about peace. It is a sincere effort to go back to our sacred texts and reinterpret their teachings so that an open space is created to embrace religious pluralism and respect of other people’s truths. In this book, I chose to concentrate only on Islam and Judaism, sister religions that are closely related to one another with roots intertwined in the land, in the language, and in the memories of shared history. Of all religions, they are by far the closest to each other in their fundamental religious tenets, practices and systems of law, and their social, cultural and ethical traditions.
In the introduction to this book, I quoted the beautiful words of the Qur’ān (3:103): “Hold firmly, all together, by the rope of God and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude God’s favor upon you, for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His grace, you become brothers.” Thus, to be the knotted rope of God that joins people in brotherhood, Islam and Judaism can no longer relate as separate ropes dangling next to each other. In order for them to tie their ropes together, each rope must give up little, surrender a bit of its original length, to achieve a stronger unity.
So we all have a choice: either we become the knotted rope of God that binds us together, or we continue to exist as separate ropes apart from each other. Either we live in unity as brothers and enjoy God’s mercy, or we live apart as enemies and suffer. Like one of Martin Luther King’s pearls of wisdom, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
It is in this spirit of harmony and brotherhood that I wrote this book – as a place, where I attempt to bridge between Islam and Judaism, and as a tool to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of the two Abrahamic traditions. It is my hope that both Jews and Muslims, in their search for common ground, will adopt the symbol of sharing and bonding represented by the unique symbol of the knotted rope.
The book is intended to create an opening in the minds of the Jewish and Muslim readers to see the light at the end of the dark hostility tunnel and encourage them to embrace each other as brothers and sisters. The ultimate course requires, however, far more than a shift in thinking. The key is action – the actual translation of this mind shift into concrete implementation in the form of peacebuilding and peacemaking.
This book is a call for action!
- A call to reject the argument that religion is a source of conflicts and emphasize the role of religion as a resource for resolving them;
- A call to fight the fanatics among us – those who manipulate religion and turn it into an instrument of hatred and violence – while supporting the voices of peace among us;
- A call to repudiate all cultures of denial and allow infrastructures of mutual trust and reconciliation to be erected instead;
- A call to cast aside exclusivist religious visions and violent passions and replace them with relationships marked by mutual human care and compassion;
- A call to combat the forces of chaos and darkness that divide people and create for them instead peaceful ecology, where they can rejoice in the human diversity of experience, the colorful tapestry of expression and the noble acceptance of each other;
- A call to condemn all senseless wanton acts of violence and engage in peace education in our schools, places of worship, and media networks so that our children and grandchildren live in a safe world and enjoy a brighter future;
- A call to convince the world that Islam and Judaism can and must reconcile their terribly bitter and unholy differences; that this reconciliation would forward the cause of world peace, in general, and help defuse the Arab-Israeli conflict, in particular.
My only hope is that Where Islam and Judaism Join Together would not remain on your shelf, but inspires you to take action in support of Jewish-Muslim dialogue; that the book will ultimately develop into a force strong enough to affect public opinion about the possibility of Islam and Judaism coming together; that the book becomes a sacred gateway, where readers of all nations can embark on a journey of exploration of other people’s culture; that the book becomes, not a monologue, but a start of an open dialogue, a conversation that nurtures mutual respect and understanding.
I invite you to email me your own suggestions of how to build bridges of understanding between Islam and Judaism. I would also be very appreciative if you could spread the word about the forthcoming book, as I believe it is an important contribution to the field of peace studies, and that it will be of interest to scholars, students, practitioners and policymakers.
But the Jewish sages’ teach us, “It is not the study that is essential, but rather the action” (Pirkei Avot 1:17). So I decided to take my own action. I am in the process of establishing a collaborative peacebuilding project between the Middle East Peace Network (MEPN) and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) at the University of Chicago, entitled Jewish-Muslim Reconciliation Initiative (JMRI). If you live in the Chicagoland area, you are invited to participate. You are invited to do the same in your own town. Let me know so that I can support you.
I respectfully ask all Jewish and Muslim spiritual leaders, scholars, educators, opinion makers and community leaders, to join hands, in the spirit of the Torah and the Qur’ān, and open a constructive interfaith dialogue to which this book is a modest contribution. I believe that with our shared vision of peace and prayer of hope, we together could succeed where politicians have failed miserably.
May you all embrace the following inspirational message of the Arab poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran (1883-1931):
I love you, my brother, whoever you are – whether you worship in your church, kneel in your temple, or pray in your mosque. You and I are all children of one faith, for the diverse paths of religion are fingers of the loving hand of one Supreme Being, a hand extended to all, offering completeness of spirit to all, and eager to receive all.