Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dialogue with a Muslim Friend

In the January issue of Traces, a booklet was included titled Broadening Reason. One instance of that dialogue the the Pope called for in his famous Regensburg address happened in Milan on October 26, 2006. Two fascinating talks are offered there, one by Wael Farouq, Professor of Arabic Language and Philosophy in Cairo, as well as the response by Fr. Julian Carron, Professor of Theology and President of Communion and Liberation. A summary of this event is available online.

The occasion was an introduction to Fr. Giussani's book The Religious Sense in Arabic translation. Farouq discussed the importance of experience in knowledge and started his talk with the point that friendship is a way to understanding. The "religious man", Farouq said, is different for Fr. Giussani because he is not one "who shows off his morality or who lives in a heaven far removed from the reality of this world." This is what Farouq experienced with friends at the Meeting in Rimini.

That experience of friendship challenged him to face the problem of the Pope's lecture at Regensburg in a different way. Instead of succumbing to prejudice, he decided to "enter directly into a reasonable and critical relationship with this reality and this lecture."

Farouq searched his own Islamic tradition to find resonance with this reasonableness of religion. He quoted the philosopher Al-Kindi (801-873):
Those who they who have gone away from Truth. They nourish an enmity for philosophers so as to defend the false roles they have taken on without deserving them, only in order to stand out and to make 'commercial use' of [exploit] religion, while they are without religion. Because whoever would make commercial use of something would be selling it, and whoever would sell something, then it would not be his. And whoever exploits religion has no religion. It is right to discredit from faith whomever sets things in opposition to true science, calling [science] unbelief.

A final section is very interesting and discusses the difference in the conception of Arab reason as opposed to the European. Farouq points out that agricultural communities place a strong emphasis on "place". For the nomads, however, belonging is attached instead to the tribe. Words that would indicate a fixed location in Western societies instead suggest a passage for the Arabic mind. Memory becomes the "instrument and container of knowledge". Whereas for the West morality comes from knowledge, for Arabic reason, morality is conserved in memory and knowledge comes from that tradition of values. He explained:

[T]he function of reason would be to prevent man from committing evil and to incite him to do good. In this context, the summit of art is poetry; the art of the voice (which is also a movement in time), and the society's memory.

The booklet is well worth the $3.00, plus you get the current issue of the magazine Traces. For a copy, write to: The Human Adventure Corporation, 420 Lexington Ave. #2754/55, New York, NY 10170; ask for Traces 2007 No. 1.

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