Apr 25, 2001

The Eternal Call To Man - A Perspective on Religion Dialogue

  • From a Friday Speech of Master Ali Rafea (Rabie Thani 12th, 1421 HC/July 14th, 2000)
  • Translated and Prepared for publishing by: Aisha Rafea
Master Ali Rafea teaches that the Islamic Call, as revealed by the Divine to Prophet Muhammad , is a rejuvenation of an eternal Call from Allah to Man guiding him to discern the real life within, and give it the chance to grow and flourish. When man hears that Call from within and around, and responds to it he begins to harmonize with the Law of Life. He surrenders to the Sublime Law. That is the implied meaning in the Islamic core pillar "There is no god But God, Muhammad is the Messenger of God" La Ilaha Illa Allah, Muhammad Rasulu Allah. Master Ali Rafea suggests that a Muslim, in his speech with followers of other religions should remind them of the shared Call of all Revelations and make it the point of departure on which they have to build up their discussions. Variations of concepts and practices, in all these Revelations, Master Ali Rafea clarifies, should not stop followers of those Revelations from reinvigorating the shared Call in the hearts of all of them impartially.
O Servants of God! Would you reflect upon the Signs of Allah within and around yourselves so that you might surrender to Him, be (truly) His Servants, attain real life, accomplish a fruitful earthly journey and hence fulfil the mission you are created for?

That is the Straight Religion, the Primordial Religion, and the Religion of Allah!
The Religion that Allah revealed is Islam (submission to His Will)
(HQ:3: 19)(Our translation)
If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him (HQ:3: 85)
When we talk about Islam we always mean the Religion of the primordial nature; the Law of Life; the Call that Prophet Muhammad was responsible for conveying more than fourteen hundred years ago.
We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures. (HQ:21: 107)
I was sent to ALL people (PH).1
The Call that Prophet Muhammad carried is directed to Man in any time and place, in any culture or civilization and to any race. It is a Call that addresses Man as the one who carries the secret of Allah within. It calls him to discern this secret.
(The Signs of Allah are) also in your own selves: will ye not then see? (HQ:51: 21) (Our translation)
Soon will We show them Our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. (HQ:41: 53)
This is a Call that transcends any form or image. The Qura'nic verses give us an example of how the Call can be:
Say: "O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; "(HQ:3: 64).
This is a Call to witness the Oneness of Allah, exalt the Truth and realize that He is the most Sublime who transcends any image, concept, human or physical goal. The holy verse "that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah implies that none has the right to claim that Allah is on his side alone; or that the Law of Life is confined to what he understands solely. Nor should anyone think that the Sublime Law is reflected exclusively in the law that he enforces.
The holy statement common terms points to the (kind of awareness) that the pure nature would reach for itself. The Call can be expressed thus: let us come together and think about the ultimate goal of our existence and how we can make of our life a means for realizing that goal. And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except by (saying) what is better"(HQ:29: 46)(our translation). The "better" is what we might all reach by getting in touch with our pure nature, the one that God baptized us with.
This is a Call addressed to all people, and this is the BASE on which we (Muslims) are supposed to build (our approach). If the base was not sound and strong the structure would be very fragile and it would not stand any possible occurrences.
We shall make such deeds as floating dust scattered about.
(HQ:25: 23)
..their deeds are like a mirage in sandy deserts, which the man parched with thirst mistakes for water; until when he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing: but he finds Allah (ever) with him, (HQ:24: 39).
This BASE is (implied in) the first pillar of Islam "there is no god but God, Muhammad is the Messenger of God" La Ilaha Illa Allah, Muhammad Rasulu Allah. However, people (followers of different religions) in different ages, and even today, do not want to make of that base the point of departure (of their talk). They go directly into the differences, contradictions, commonly used ideas and interpretations of their own inventions. Even followers of the one religion do not start from the proper point.
It is very normal that people differ, for this is part of the human nature as long as we are here on earth.
If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one People: but they will not cease to be different, (HQ:11: 118) (our translation).
And did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief. (HQ:2: 251)
There is no harm to differ about all human-made affairs while handling matters strictly of this world. However, when we come to communicate with each other, we have to start with the ESSENCE that we all agree upon. We might differ still, but conversation should not stop, because it is our way to understand more about that essence. Such interaction keeps up the motion within humankind. It is most recommended that people go from place to place and engage in conversations more and more. The truthful Call supports many people in different places find what they are searching for and discern the ultimate objective of life. This is actually the main target of any conversation and of any Call. It is not the primary goal of the Call that all people turn into one and the same image or limit themselves to one understanding. Rather, the main objective is to give the chance to all humans, everywhere and in all times to find truth, to discern their primordial nature, and to realize the essence (of Religion). When they are contented with that essence, they will find their way to it.
Actually all Revelations were nothing but a Call uncovering that kernel and enabling it to survive on earth. The Revelation that prophet Muhammad received was a culmination of all earlier revelations and religions. If ever someone would want to realize the Law of Life, he would find in what was revealed to prophet Muhammad, a completion of the essence of all previous revelations. The Revelation to Muhammad also uncovered the fact that humanity, in all ages that followed It, and forever, would not lack the existence of those who would unveil the truth and send confusions away. Prophet Muhammad, hence said,
"The knowledgeable in my nation are like the prophets of Israel's children"(PH)2
"Allah sends in the beginnings of each new century some sagacious one who would reinvigorate religious affairs for the common people"(PH)3
Actually Prophet Muhammad meant to remind people to go back to the Origin, and not to veil the essence by being too involved in the branches. The Origin must be prominent, manifest, unmistakable and very clear, because it is the essence of the Call.
That is what our Religion teaches us but, alas, we (Muslims) are negligent of it, being preoccupied with superficialities and formalities, forgetting about the origins. We need to be reminded constantly of deepening the origins in our hearts, souls and minds. We need to make of the essences the bedrock on which we build up and start our Way, manner suluk, and conceptualization. On so doing, we would be transformed into true Servants of God and real Muslims. We remind ourselves of this truth always, so that we might remember, be reminders, and hopefully be tools for goodness, peace and mercy to prevail.
Oh Servants of God! We continually remind ourselves, because remembrance (of the Truth) benefits the believers. Man needs to be reminded of the meaning of Life deep in, the pure nature he is endowed with, the Light of Allah within, and the secret of Allah inside him. He has to be regenerated to see truthfully that there is no God but God La Ilaha Illa Allah and witness honestly that Muhammad is the Messenger of God Muhammad Rasulu Allah. This is a creed based on righteous understanding and behavior suluk, and not merely a statement to be uttered by the lips alone. La Ilaha Illa Allah, Muhammad Rasulu Allah, is lived truly by him who would remind himself and others (of the Truth) and call all of them for the sake of Allah alone.
Let there be no compulsion in religion: (HQ:2: 256)
Therefore give admonition in case the admonition profits (the hearer). The admonition will be received by those who fear (Allah): But it will be avoided by those most unfortunate ones, (HQ:87: 9-11)
Such a person would fulfill the mission he is charged with during his earthly journey by clarifying to people what he came to be aware of hoping to be a means of goodness. He would be ever ready to return to the truth wherever he finds it. He would never stick to a view that proved to be mistaken, but rather adjust his conceptions continuously, and reform his Call unceasingly, asking Allah for forgiveness all the time Istighfar. The possibility that he is apt to commit mistakes would not make him refrain from taking action, for God guides him to repent unceasingly, to struggle, to get refined, and to return to Him in every breath. The Divine commands Prophet Muhammad to tell people:
If you do not commit sins and follow them by praying for forgiveness, God would create another humankind who would commit sins, ask for forgiveness, and God then would forgive them. (PH)4
Sins in this context are not those of the physical body only, they might be some misconceptions, an inappropriate call, or a faulty direction as well. A sin in general is sometimes embedded in the heart, the mind and/or the physical existence. The Prophet teaches us by saying:
My heart is susceptible to run after desires unless I pray to God for forgiveness a hundred times a day. (In a vision Al Shadzli asked him, "are they desires of this world's occurrences, oh Prophet?" "No, they are those of lights," he responded).5
Prayers for forgiveness, in this context, point to seeking purification constantly. Actually, purification, ritual prayers and all aspects of worship are nothing but a search for forgiveness Istighfar. Prophetic Hadiths mention this truth frequently. A Hadith, for instance, says that every ritual prayer is an atonement of the sins committed in between it and the previous one. Another says that Ramadan fasting purifies a person of all the sins he had committed in the period that followed the previous Ramadan. A third Hadith says that Pilgrimage Hajj purifies man from all his sins if he performed it truthfully. The core teaching in all of such Hadiths is that man is susceptible to commit sins of different kinds and levels.
Virtues of the reverent ones might be the vices of the closest (to God), (said a Sufi once).
Worship is, in essence, a pursuit for God's forgiveness Istighfar because it polishes the hearts, minds and bodies. We need Istighfar all through our life, because we, as physical bodies, have Satan running in our blood and we need to be purified from his influence on us. By purification and seeking forgiveness we will not give the chance to our iniquities to grow as huge as mountains that we cannot remove.
Hearts get rusted as does iron. Praying to Allah for forgiveness (Istighfar) polishes them (PH).6
We do not want to reach a state where our hearts cannot be unstained because the rust has eaten them up already. We do not want our minds to be too rust-eaten to think. Nor do we want our physical tools to be too degenerated to be reformed and guided righteously. We are in constant need of the emanations of Heaven, the Light of God, the Mercy of God, and the Forgiveness of God, to polish our hearts, minds and physical bodies.
We pray Allah for forgiveness. We return to Allah asking Him not to condemn us if we forget or fall into error. Unless He guides us we will surely be among those who go astray.
  1. Narrated by Bukhari and Ahmad
  2. Even though that Hadith is controversial. Namely, not all scholars approve it as narrated by Ibn Al Najjar, its meaning is in full harmony with what came out in a sound Hadith narrated by Tirmidhi and Abu Dawoud: the knowledgeable are the inheritors of prophets.
  3. Narrated by Abu Dawoud and Al Hakem.
  4. Narrated by Muslim.
  5. Abu Al Hassan Al Shadzli is a well known Sufi teacher (593-656 HC) .His statement is sometimes used when the Hadith is mentioned
  6. Narrated by Tabarani