Tag Archives: islam and judaism

Jewish -Islamic Encounter: Death of Sheikh Bukhari and rise of US encounter

Two items in the paper of importance to the Jewish-Muslim encounter.

Sufi sheikh who preached nonviolence laid to rest

In a small and ancient family plot attached to his ancestral home in Jerusalem’s Old City, regional Sufi leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari was laid to rest on Tuesday at age 61, after a long struggle with heart disease. He was head of the mystical Naqshabandi Holy Land Sufi Order.

A longtime proponent of nonviolence and interfaith unity, Bukhari found his inspiration in Islamic law and tradition, as well as in the writings of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. “The stronger one is the one who can absorb the violence and anger from the other and change it to love and understanding. It is not easy; it is a lot of work. But this is the real jihad,” he once told the Globaloneness Project in an interview.

His teachings and practices put him in danger and under great stress that over the years harmed his health, said Sheikh Ghassan Manasra of Nazareth, whose father heads the regional Holy Land Qadari Sufi Order. “Sheikh Bukhari influenced lots of people, worked hard to bridge the religions and cultures; and his teaching is keeping part of the youth on the right path. We worked together for many years and succeeded many times and failed many times and decided to stay on the [path] of God to bring peace, tolerance, harmony and moderation,” he said.

“But on both sides, Jewish and Muslim, there are moderates but also extreme people, and our work was very dangerous, with a lot of pressure and stress until now, and I think this explains, in part, his heart problems.”

Bukhari later also got involved in the Interfaith Coordinating Council in Israel, the Interfaith Encounter Association, and the Sulha Peace Project, and in 2007 launched the “Jerusalem Hug” every June 21, where Israelis, Palestinians and foreigners of all faiths form a human chain of prayer around the Old City.

During Operation Cast Lead, Bukhari initiated a delegation of Arab youth and religious leaders to show solidarity with the students and teachers in Sderot and to share the pain of his own family’s experience in Gaza.
“He was really special,” Rabbi Tzion Cohen, a native of Sderot who is chief rabbi of the Shaar Hanegev region, said of their meeting.
“Despite his own great pain for his family, and despite the fact that some of the group got heated up during the discussion, he and his wife remained gentle and patient and so very kind. I was truly impressed by their pleasantness.”

Muslim-Jewish engagement is growing in the United States, with the greatest expansion during the past two years, a new report found

Even as the political situation in the Middle East continues to heat up, more groups dedicated to Muslim-Jewish education, dialogue and joint social action are being formed, according to the report issued by the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement in Los Angeles, a partnership between Hebrew Union College, Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation and the University of Southern California. The data were collected from two surveys conducted in November 2009.

More than 70 percent of these groups have emerged since 9/11. Of those, half were created in the past 24 months. Half of the groups have no staff or budget, demonstrating a heavy reliance on volunteerism. Fifty percent of existing groups raise less than $250 a year, according to the report.

Many of the newest groups emerged from the Weekend of Twinning, a two-year-old project of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding that has brought together more than 200 mosques and synagogues for weekends of joint activity. Seventy percent of the mosques and synagogues that took part in the 2009 weekend say they have developed ongoing relationships.

From Bergen County to Istanbul

Here is an interesting interfaith moment of a frum couple from Bergen county finding themselves on Turkish TV. I knew of this as soon as it occurred but was waiting for the You Tube. The couple are interested in Jewish Muslim reconciliation and were in correspondence with Adnan Oktar (Harun Yahya) and visited him and found themselves recorded for posterity. Adnan Oktar (Harun Yahya) is the leading Turkish creationist rejecting secular Turkey and the more rational Islamic approaches. Adnan Oktar (Harun Yahya) has a rich debate around him on the web. Look at his wiki page and the Anti-Wiki pages. and hate sites against him. Was he anti-Semitic and then saw the light after a prison term and is now pushing for Jewish-Muslim reconciliation? Was he imprisoned and placed in a psycho ward as a set-up victim of the state or did he deserve it? Here is a critical article.

Gil Amminadav writes to me after reading the links on this post.

“We had read some of the allegations against Harun Yahya before (as well as his group’s responses), but nothing as emphatic as that Humanist article! It was a very well-written piece. If we had read all of this before agreeing to meet with him, I can’t say that it would have changed anything; we believe that part of the purpose of cultivating a sensitivity towards negative and defamatory speech is to remind us that, when all is said and done, there is quite a lot said, and not nearly as much actually known. Even with truth to a single allegation, we are not interested in judging, we are interested in working. Another’s personal failures serve to remind us of our own – narcissism is hardly a unique trait. All in all, the man struck us as sincerely interested in promoting friendship and fellowship, from within his own cultural context, and for that we give him much credit and hope that he inspires others to do the same, God willing. If he has an imbalanced sexuality or mistreats others in any way, then we hope that God brings him “a healing of soul and a healing of body,” and that anyone who feels harmed by him is brought the same.”

“Elana and Gil Amminadav run Derusha Publishing, an indie publishing house based in New Jersey. Among their publications is Hakham Jose Fauer’s recent book. “So here are these young Jewish seekers who didn’t realize they were going to broadcast our conversation until we actually sat down. I am not sure what to make of it. This stuff is going on all the time. Here is the TV interview in two parts.

From the transcript:

Look. See how Islam resembles Judaism? The fact they resemble one another stems from their being the same in the faith of the Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and very ancient Sunna, insha’Allah.

GIL AMMINADAV: Yes, even more. It is a river and everyone drinks from the river. And some people drink from here and some people drink from there. But it is the same river. Beyond Abraham (pbuh), Ishmael (pbuh), Isaac (pbuh) and Jacob (pbuh) and all these beyond today, you have people drinking from the same river and know. Unfortunately, it seems we have seen a lot of people, unfortunately a lot of Israeli, has forgotten. We are supposed to be the people of memory but we have forgotten. But we are now remembering

GIL AMMINADAV: We have a sheikh, a tzadik (righteous teacher). His name was Rabbi Nachman ben Feiga, very nice person. He talks about the flip (sudden change) from this world order to the next world order. Inthe blink of an eye. No guns, no tanks, no missiles, just prayer

ELANA AMMINADAV: We also find that a lot of times we are looking forsomething called mussar, like instruction on how we can change ourselves. So when we find a Holy Book that teaches us or that points out things that might be problems in our people. Like things in the Qur’an talk about how the Jews might have worshipped their Rabbis. So then we can look at ourselves and say, why someone would say that to us, and that can teach us how to change and how to make ourselves better.

Gil’s statement afterward:

“We believe it is worthwhile for human beings to see the benefit in making religion a positive, unifying, and enriching force in their lives and in their relationships.  Meetings between those people who speak the language of friendship are key components of the widespread change unfolding around us.  We were honored to reflect upon the sanctity of Judaism, Islam, and other expressions of humanity’s relationship with God, for those who find sanctity in them, with Mr. Harun Yahya, a delightful, spiritually-sensitive educator and communal leader in Istanbul.  We hope that as human beings recognize more of each other in themselves, we will enter the next chapter of human history with a liberating new vision of the future.”

For a sense of how common this is becoming. Harun Yahya has had many Israeli guests on his show
including members of the current attempted Sanhedrin. A national Haredi yearning for the Ottoman Empire?

From the transcript:
The video is here:

RABBI ABRAHAMSON: Hello, my name is Benyamin Abrahamson. I am an orthodox Chassidic Jew from Israel. And I work as a historian or a kind of consultant to the court in Jerusalem that Rabbi Hollander is talking about. Mostly people here know me from my
endless discussions about the similarities between the Islam and Jewish customs. I enjoy talking about the Hadiths, Tabari, Ibn Hisham and al-Waqidi, and talking about the kings of Himyar as I much as I enjoy talking about the Midrash Rabbah, the Midrashei Geulah,
Rambam, Tosefos or the Shulchan Aruch. I like very much to talk about the common shared customs between Islam and Judaism, about the similarities in architecture between the masjid and the synagogue, between the similarities of the calendar, holidays and customs. But it is
clear to me that there is more than just similarities, that they obviously go back to a common root and a common faith.

So what do we make of this reapproachment? It is not the commonality of Jews living in Arab lands or of neighbors. It is not exactly dialogue, theology, or formulated views. And it is happening on the margins. Help me make sense of the implications. I do not want to discuss the people involved, just the encounter.

Jewish respect and admiration for Muslim religiosity

Here is something from last week by Zvi Zohar, Jewish respect and admiration for Muslim religiosity

A full English translation of the original account is here. The original Hebrew article, with extensive footnotes was “An Awesome Event in the City of Damascus” in Tolerance in Religious Traditions (Shlomo Fisher ed., 2008).

Here I consider one such source, found in the writings of Rabbi Yitzhak Farhi of Jerusalem (1782-1853). It tells of a relationship between two outstanding men in late 18th century Damascus: a great Sufi sheikh and the Chief Rabbi of Damascus.
One of the two heroes of Farhi’s tale, the Sufi sheikh, attained great mastery of the Seven Wisdoms, i.e., the body of universal human knowledge. Since a person’s perfection is contingent upon mastery of these wisdoms, the sheikh was more perfect than all the Jews of his generation, with the exception of the rabbi of Damascus, who was his equal and even slightly his superior in the realm of universal wisdom.

But the Seven Wisdoms are of course only one aspect of religious perfection: the highest form of religious accomplishment is the encounter with God and closeness to Him. In this realm, the realm of religious-mystical experience, it emerges quite clearly from Rabbi Farhi’s account that the sheikh was on a higher level than the rabbi. In that account, it was the sheikh who guided the rabbi along the paths of mystical experience, by way of the garden and the pool, until their joint entry into the Holy of Holies to encounter the Divine Reality reflected in the holy name YHVH. The words on the golden tablet they gazed upon were: “I envision YHWH before me always”. This formula is to be found in every synagogue. Yet as related by Farhi, the one who actualised the promise born by this verse, the person who was indeed able to envision in his consciousness “He Who Spoke and the universe was created”, was not the Jewish rabbi but the Muslim sheikh.

At the end of their joint journey, the rabbi shed copious tears, acknowledged the sheikh’s advantage in this crucial realm, and concluded: “It is becoming upon us to do even more than that”.

Rabbi Yitzhak Farhi, addressing his audience in Jerusalem and the Ottoman Empire in the fourth decade of the 19th century, presented the Sufi sheikh as an ideal spiritual figure reaching the greatest heights of awe of God.
And above all else, there are shared elements and a partnership in the mystical experience itself—and in the joint focus of this experience: “He Who Spoke and the universe was created”. Not a Muslim God, and not a Jewish God, but the God of all existence, the Creator of all.

* Zvi Zohar is a professor of Sephardic Law and Ethics at Bar Ilan University, a Senior Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of Advanced Judaic Studies in Jerusalem. A full translation, analysis and discussion of Rabbi Farhi’s account will soon be published in Jewish Studies Quarterly under the title “The Rabbi and the Sheikh”.
Read Full op-ed Version here.

Update: I received a comment of Islamaphobia with an IP number from the Israel Tel Aviv Ministry-of-finance. Dont they at least tell people not to make such statements from work? Or at least not in English?