Peace – The Only Way to Peace
presentation by Jonathan Granoff
prepared for the Sidi Shiker World Meeting of Tassawuf Affiliate
Organized by the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs
July 10-11, 2009
Honorable Religious and Spiritual Guides and Friends, Brothers and Sisters, May the Peace of the Almighty be with you.
May God bless and protect the Kingdom of Morocco, its people and government, its Royal Family, and bring to them all peace and prosperity.
Particular thanks are due to the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs and those who serve there, Ahmed Toufiq and Ahmed Kostas for their exceptionally diligent work in bringing us together for this extraordinary gathering.
Morocco is an extraordinary place — a bridge between tradition and modernity, Africa and Europe, and East and West. Bridges of understanding and cooperation are imperative today. Appreciation of unity in diversity has always been God’s will. It is high time we fulfilled his mandate. In the Holy Quran He said:
“Oh man, Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, Allah is all knowing and all aware.” (Sura Al Hujurat; 49: 13)
Because of the gifts of technology in the realms of communications and transportation there has never been a time when fulfilling this duty has become so available. But there must be hands committed to this task. As Sufis we must exemplify and embody the energy to advance deep human unity. And that energy will only come from the power of love. Our task is to help turn from the love of power to the power of love itself.
As Sufis we strive to harmonize our hearts with the God’s grace so that we might harmonize all hearts. Out of gratitude for the gift of life, consciousness, and love we experience the privilege of serving. Wherever His compassion and mercy resonate the wisdom to grow and attain nearness to God arises. May that knowledge grow in all of us. Ameen.
I am humbled to address this gathering. I know that there are others here whose hearts are wide as the ocean and whose wisdom is deeper than can be measured. My knowledge is not that broad or deep but like all of you I do respect the value of getting wet with God’s grace. If we have but a drop of that goodness it is worth our long journey to be together. In reality it is God who has gathered us here into this world of contrasts, He who sustains us all together on one tree of life, and He who is blessing us in all our moments. He is the Life within all lives, the Love within all loves, and Eternally Existent and All Encompassing. Our lives are contingent. His reality is absolute. What appears is an example. What is eternal is real. He has brought each of us here into this world and thus we must remember who is the actual host and how very precious are all His guests. If we but remembered how glorious God has made each of us we would have His true love.
May Allah’s blessings of wisdom, health, wealth and grace be overflowing upon all and permit us the privilege to be a force for healing and goodness. May He give us pure hearts so that we might become fully worthy and succeed in this precious human birth, remembering fully its exalted purpose. Ameen
When we forget our deeper purpose, superstition, fear, envy, falsehood, deceit, arrogance and pride cover the human heart. When religious institutions forget they behave more like franchise competitors rather than servants of compassion. When countries forget, injustice follows and the quest for dominance over others becomes the symptom. This leads in the modern age to great dangers. The abuse of the gift of intellect leads to ecological crisis through unsustainable economic patterns and the production of weapons of mass destruction. We are all downwind from nuclear weapons. We all share a small planet. For this reason the ways of loving kindness and the technology of becoming a beautiful human is so universally important. For goodness and evil are not unique to any people or country and Allah alone will be the judge.
I live in a great city in the United States and I am not forgetful that Morocco was the first country to recognize our independence from Great Britain way back in 1777. My city has an exalted name, Philadelphia, which means the “city of brotherly love.” It is the place where William Penn, leaving religious prejudice and oppression in England, created the first city devoted to religious tolerance. It is the place where men came to together over two hundred years ago and based a country on a Constitution and the rule of law. They did not seek power for themselves but created a great country devoted to accountable, limited government based on principles of democracy, freedom, and justice. They did not seek to establish power over one another or over others. But they did not succeed in abolishing a terrible sin that tainted their efforts. That sin of slavery several decades later cost rivers of blood in North America in the Civil War, and I would not even venture to describe the more horrendous suffering that took place in Africa because of that evil. May God forgive us all.
But today I am so very proud that my country might be healing from that sin, that we have a President, Barack Hussein Obama, who cares for others in his heart and whose very being states the fact that racism can be overcome.
Now in the world there are new challenges that need new and wise applications of justice to address other forms of slavery. Let me list some of them: gross disparities of wealth that institutionalize the slavery of poverty, irresponsible business practices that do not properly respect our responsibility to the living systems of the earth and demonstrate an enslavement to a false materialism, and the obsession with unsustainable attempts to pursue security through military means most frighteningly expressed by the threat to use nuclear weapons thus enslaving all humanity to lives with a sword over our heads. These three evils: poverty, environmental degradation, and nuclear weapons can only be solved by greater levels of human cooperation. No nation or even a large group of nations can solve these problems alone. They require what the wise have been telling us from time immemorial, an understanding that humanity is one and that all life is sacred and interconnected. Now we must find ways of living with this larger sense of community. We simply must find unity in diversity.
These values are needed by the world at large. Development without them is not sustainable. These values help give meaning to social activities. Material development is a means to an end. The end is to become human. Otherwise, we are plagued with improved means to unimproved ends, activities existing as a how without a why.
Weapons without security. Art without beauty. Law without justice. Wealth without satisfaction. Medicine without healing. Statecraft without peace. Religion without love and transcendence. As Sufis we must be the why behind the how. There may be many hows — different expressions of faith, different ways of expressing beauty, different approaches to healing, different rites, rituals and practices to honor God — but the why is always the same — to praise God through beauty, justice, healing, peace and transcendence. As Sufis we must exemplify the why. And we know deeply that in doing so we fulfill God’s purpose.
We know that one of God’s purposes in manifesting creation is to make Himself known. We know that only by knowing oneself can He be known. Thus our way is based on a faith filled with knowledge and service.
The time is now for people of faith to openly honor and remember the source of all life, the one life in all lives, by being witnesses to peace. In that inner peace wisdom awakens, and wisdom reveals that we can know ourselves. In knowing ourselves we take an enormous stride toward knowing God. Those who know themselves and appreciate God are the witnesses who demonstrate the why. The why of all human activities is to express the beautiful qualities of God, His holy names, the gifts He shares with us.
One of God’s Messengers stated that we should honor all of His messengers. He also demonstrated how a human being can exemplify the why of being born a human.
Muhammed (Sal.) is not just a Rahmat ul Muslimeen, a mercy on believers, but certainly is a Rahmat ul Alameen, a mercy upon all creations. (Sura Al Anbiya; 21:105). His example is clear before us: he is a human worthy of praise and thus known as Ahmed (Sura As Saff; 61:5). Because his surrender to Allah has perfected him as Allah’s servant he is known as Abdullah or Abduhu (Sura Al Isra; 17:1 and Sura An Najm; 53:10). His pure service shines as a warning, Nahdir, a bringer of good tidings of Allah’s bounty, Bashir, and a shining lamp, Sirajun Munir (Sura Al Ahzab; 33:45-47). He is covered and wrapped in the most beautiful of Allah’s attributes (Sura Al Muzzamil and Sura Al Muddaththir): Oh Habib, Beloved, Oh Munir, Radiant, Oh Karim, Generous (Sura Al Duha; 93:6), Oh Rauf, Mild, Kind and Concerned (Al Tawbah; 9:128). May these names become living realities in our hearts and deeds.
God did not create each of us as unique very special individuals for idle sport. (Sura Al Anbiya; 21:16). He sent us here as a crop to grow and return to Him. Were our souls not questioned earlier: “Am I not your Lord that cherishes and sustains you?” And, Did they not respond: “Yes, we do so testify.” None of us can say on the Final Day that we were not aware of God’s personal relationship with each of our souls. (Sura Araf: 7:172)
When we live without those qualities we become dangerous beasts. When we live with them, wisdom dawns. And with wisdom we can know ourselves and thus know our Creator. In knowing our Creator we come to appreciate that this world is His blessing and all lives are His. We come to understand His love. Let me share with you how my Sheikh, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, the most humble man I have ever met and who lived fully surrendered to God, described that love:,
If each of you will open your hearts, your actions, your wisdom, and your conduct and look within, you will see that every face is your face, every nerve is your nerve, each drop of blood is your blood, every sickness is your sickness, all hunger is your hunger, all poverty is your poverty, all sorrow is your sorrow, all lives are your life. You will experience this in your nerves, in your body and in what you see. When that state develops inside you, that is God’s love. That is God’s true love because all suffering is His suffering, all sorrow is His sorrow, all hunger is His, all poverty is His, and all grief is His… This is how God does His duty. Therefore, if you develop that love, you will do your duty in the same way. If that love develops you will not hurt any other living thing, you will not cause pain, you will not reject any life, and you will not torture any other life, because if you hurt anyone it will hurt you. (Book of God’s Love, pgs. 22-23)
Let us seek forgiveness in God’s mercy and live with one another helping to remind each other that to be human is to remember God. How do we remember God? By living his qualities of compassion in our intentions, our prayers, our thoughts and our deeds. And for those called to the inner way, most important, by making this breath a time to go deeply into the secret of La ilaha Il Allah, affirmation of the reality of God — His immanence, transcendence, and unity.
Let us remind humanity that peace is the only way to peace. Violence does not bring peace.
Let us remind humanity that to be human is exalted and that all humans, whether they believe or do not believe, are worthy of our care. For if the Prophets only loved those who knew already, how could they have patiently taught? Jesus (may God’s peace be upon him) said love God with all your heart, might and soul and like unto that love your neighbor as yourself. In today’s world the neighborhood is global and thus one. In Islam unity of the divine is the foundation of tawhid. The realization that hyat, life, is worthy of reverence must guide us.
As we understand ourselves and one another across this grand creation our understanding that He is the one fully aware in and throughout every life will increase. That understanding must become part of the technology of the modern world. At the UN Peace Summit at the millennium moment an Eskimo elder offered an insightful plea. He said, “We have known our environment’s history for at least 40,000 years. Now, lakes are appearing on the polar ice cap as never before. You have technology that is melting the ice cap. When will you have a technology to melt the human heart.” May our efforts help actualize that technology. The whole world needs it. Ameen.
Ahamed Muhaiyaddeen (Jonathan Granoff) [email protected]