Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and Their Rights

Companions of the Prophet (peace
be upon him) and their Rights

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The importance of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the history of Islam and for the Muslim community is enormous. This first generation of Islam is really very unique and remarkable in the sense that they are the eye-witnesses of the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet (peace be upon him); they are the ones who met the Prophet (peace be upon him) personally and saw everything happened; they are the eye-witnesses of the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him); through them we got the text of the Qur’an; they are the ones who collected the text of the Qur’an during the life of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq; they are ones who did the second writing of the text of the Qur’an during the life of the third Caliph Osman and finally, they are the ones who presented the Qur’an to the Ummah as one Book. Thus, this first generation, the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is very important for us, for the Muslim community. This is one of the reasons, the Islamic Cultural Centre, London in cooperation with the Daw’ah Office in the UK held a Seminar recently.

Seminar on the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh)
A one-day Seminar on the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and their Rights, organised by the Islamic Cultural Centre, London in cooperation with the Maktab-e-Daw’ah, the Daw’ah Office in the UK, was held at the Library Hall of the Centre, on Saturday, the 26th of February, 2011. The Seminar was attended by the respected guests Professor Dr. Ghazi Makki, the Cultural Attache of Saudi Arabia and Yasser Shaban, a Counsellor at the Embassy of Egypt; Abdul Aziz Al-Harbi, Dr. Al-Hazmi and Dr. Sayyid from the Daw’ah Office in the UK and other brothers and sisters.

There were two sessions: in the first session under the chairmanship of Shaikh Saad Al-Jloud, there were two speakers; Dr. Ahmed Al-Dubayan and Shaikh Haitham Haddad who spoke on the ‘Reading in the Traditions of Ancestors’ Scholars about the Companions (RAA) and their Rights’ and ‘The Relationship between the Companions and the Family of the Prophet (pbuh)’ respectively. In the second session under the chairmanship of Shaikh Khalifa Ezat, there were again two speakers such as Shaikh Sultan Fayad Al-Hassan and Shaikh Mohammed Abd Al-Hadi Afdal who spoke on ‘The Superiority of the Mothers of Believers (RAA) in general and Mother of Believers Ayesha in Particular’ and ‘The Mother of Believers Ayesha’s Participating in narrating the Prophet’s (pbuh) Traditions’ respectively.

Welcome address by Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan
While welcoming the respected guests and other brothers and sisters, Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan mentioned about the importance and speciality of the Seminar. Dr. al-Dubayan said, “When we talk about the first generation, we closely talk about the biography of the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh), i.e. we talk about the history of the Qur’an; we talk about the Sunnah al-Sharifa; we talk about the beginning of our faith, ISLAM.”

“Our Seminar today is about the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh), Shahaba and Their Rights. This is very important because it is really a very fundamental piece of Islamic education for the young generation to know more and more about the first generation of Islam,” mentioned Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Speaking about the first generation of Islam, Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned, “They are the eye-witnesses of the Qur’an and the Qur’an revealed to the Prophet (pbuh); they are the eye-witnesses who met the Prophet personally and saw everything happened whatever we read in the paper about the Prophet (pbuh). It is very simple to say that they are the model for us; they are the models we have to follow; they are the generations, as I said, who conveyed the message from the Prophet (pbuh) to the next generation which we call historically tabeyeen and the next generation after them which we call tabe tabeyeen.”

While explaining the objective of the Seminar Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned, “Recently we find some books, some articles, some people who try really unobjectively to criticise this generation and they try to minimise what we know about their rights and what attitude we have to have towards them as a first generation of the Prophet (pbuh). I am saying unobjectively because I myself read some of these articles, some of these books which talk about the companions, written by some Orientalist and by some people in the modern times from the Muslim themselves either from the Muslim countries or from the Muslim communities. They really missed lot of the principles without understanding many objective things.”

“It is very very important for every Muslim and every Muslimah to know more and more about the Shahaba, the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) and to know about their rights and to know how we should deal with this Hadith which actually we find in our Islamic heritage about the Prophet (pbuh) and about the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh). Of course, when we talk about the Companions, we don’t mean only men; we mean also women. We have few thousands of women; they were the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh),” mentioned Dr. Al-Dubayan.

First Session
In the first session under the chairmanship of Shaikh Saad al-Jloud, there were two speakers as I mentioned earlier; the first speaker was Dr. Ahmed Al-Dubayan who spoke on the “Reading in the Traditions of Ancestors’ Scholars about the Companions (RAA) and their Rights.’ The second speaker was Shaikh Haitham al-Haddad, well-known in the Muslim community and a member of the Shari’ah Council who spoke on ‘The Relationship between the Companions and the Family of the Prophet (pbuh)’.

Dr. Ahmed Al-Dubayan
Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan started with the first question: Who is the Companion of the Prophet (pbuh)? He dealt with this question elaborately and said, Muslim historians have different opinions and Muslim scholars have also different opinions especially among the Ahle-Hadith about the definition of the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh). “But I think the best one, most of them have accepted that any Muslim who had met the Prophet (pbuh) and then died as a Muslim, is a Companion even if he met the Prophet (pbuh) even may be for one hour or two hours; he will be considered as one of the Prophet’s companion,” Dr al-Dubayan said.

Who are the Companions?
Dr. Al-Dubayan also elaborated by saying, “Every Muslim, who met the Prophet (pbuh) even for short time, is considered to be one of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh). This is actually for men and women together; so we have shahabis and shahabians, the male and female companions.”

Dr al-Dubayan also raised another question: How many companions we have? This is a very good question and sometimes we used this question to ask the younger generation at the secondary school: How many companions we have? Dr. Al-Dubayan said, “Actually we don’t have one book or one record in which we have all the records of the names of the companions or if we go to the biography of the Prophet (pbuh) or if we go to the collections of the Hadiths or Traditions of the prophet (pbuh).” Of course, at the end of his speech, he has given some statistical information about one of the biggest collections of the companions.

Their Classification
Dr. Al-Dubayan classified the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) into two groups: those who narrated the Hadiths and those who have only their names. Dr. Al-Dubayan elaborated this point saying, “If we read the biography of the Prophet (pbuh), for example, the battle of Badr, or the battle of Uhud, we find some names of the Companions in these two battles but we don’t find any Hadith from them. Either they were not at the beginning or they died early, so the next generation did not have enough time to talk to them or take Hadith from them or they were young. Whatever, actually we find some names but we do not find their names in the Hadith.”

Their Exact number
Going back again to the question Dr. Al-Dubayan raised earlier about the number of Companions of the Prophet (pbuh). There were different estimated figures about this. Quoting of the greatest Muhaddeshins, who said when the Prophet (pbuh) died there were more than 100,000 who saw him, met him and listened to him, men and women. Dr. Al-Dubayan also mentioned there is another Tradition from him, who said when the Prophet (pbuh) died; there was 114,000 Companions of the Prophet (pbuh). The person, who talked to the Imam, asked him, ‘Who are they’? ‘Where are they’?”

It is a big number, 114,000. Where are they? Then the Imam said, ‘These are the people of Madinah, people of Makkah, people of the villages between Makkah and Madinah and between who came from the desert and between Makkah and Madinah and met Prophet (pbuh) and those who conducted with him the Farewell Pilgrimage. There were more than 100,000; they listened to him, they saw him especially when the Prophet (peace be upon him) standing in Arafat and delivered the famous speech, the Sermons on the Mount of Arafat, the Farewell speech, which we all know in the history. So all those people who met him we can estimate the number 114,000,” mentioned Dr. Al-Dubayan.

Then Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned that the names of the Companions themselves were kept in the Seerah of the Nabubiyah, in the Prophet’s biography. He mentioned that the first book or biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was written by Muhammad ibn Ishaaq, who died in 151 AH. which is 768 according to the Gregorian calendar; i.e., in the 8th century. He is the first one who actually collected all the Ruayat or Traditions about the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as one collection. Of course there were many before; but they were really separate traditions to collect this as one story, Muhammad bin Ishaaq who started to do this.”

These are the reasons, maintained Dr. Al-Dubayan, Muslims love and respect the Companions. There is no doubt that the message of the Qur’an is the last message, the last revelation from Allah the Almighty. We believe that the Qur’an is the last book revealed to Mankind. Allah the Almighty said in the Qur’an He is going to protect this Qur’an and He will guarantee the continuity of this. Dr. Al-Dubayan said, “The first generation of the Companions were very straightforward, they were honest, reliable. Without them, the continuity of the Message is not possible.”

Another point which Dr. Al-Dubayan wanted to make clear is about the Companions. There is a wrong notion about Ahle Sunnah and Ahle Jamaah. “We don’t believe that Shahabas are masumin, they are protected from doing sin; no. They are human beings. They can have a mistake,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan and mentioned, “What the Ahle Sunnah said is that Shahabas are all straightforward and we love them; we respect them but we don’t say that they cannot commit sin. This is not correct; this is wrong. And this misunderstanding many of the writers has especially in the modern times.”

Speaking about his attitude to the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Dr. Al-Dubayan said “two things, their straightforwardness and our mahabbah, the appreciation and love that we have for all of them. Allah the Almighty rewards them for the things they have done for all of us; because without them, we will never be able to have the Qur’an; as we have it today; and the Sunnah as we have it today; and this clear picture that we have about the Prophet (pbuh) today.”

Shaikh Haitham Haddad
The next speaker of the First session was Shaikh Haitham Haddad who spoke on the Relationship between the Companions and the Family of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Shaikh Haitham said, “We need to understand this topic because many Muslims and Orientalist attacked the Companions by claiming that there was tension and dispute between the Companions (RA) themselves. They capitalised on the dispute that took place after Ali ibn Abu Talib (RA) between some of the Companions and the camps of Ali ibn Abu Talib and the camps of Ayesha (RA).”

Shaikh Haitham through many narrations demonstrated how much love the Companions had among themselves and how much the Companions used to love and had love for the members of the family of the Prophet (peace be upon him). “We have seen from many narrations the nature of relationship between all Companions and even in particular the respect the Companions used to show, in particular, to the family members of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Then Shaikh Haitham mentioned about some sects who focussed on the relationship between Abu Bakr (RA) and Omar al-Khattab (RA) in particular with Fatema (RA) and in particular the relationship between Abu Bakr and Ali ibn Abu Talib (RA).. Again after quoting many narrations, Shaikh Haitham said, “There are many narrations and we can go on talking about those narrations I mean the statement from the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him).”

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Islam, Democracy and Modernity in Indonesia

Islam, Democracy and Modernity
In Indonesia

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world. Around 85% of its 230 million populations are Muslims. Indonesia is also the largest economy in South East Asia. It has been widely seen as a remarkable model of democracy with its fourth largest population in the world. Its three consecutive free and fair direct presidential elections is a clear proof of that achievement. Its economy has also been deemed as showing a fast growth with many analysts considering Indonesia as one of the emerging economy powers.

An International Seminar on Indonesia’s Future Political Landscape was held at Inmarsat Conference Centre, London on 19th January. There were mainly two sessions: First on Political Islam in Muslim Countries and the West and the second session was on Challenges Facing Indonesian Political Parties. The Seminar was addressed by Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Mr. Lutfhi Hasan Ishaaq, the President of the Prosperous and Justice Party of Indonesia and Mr. Anis Matta, Deputy Speaker of the Indonesian Parliament and other Members of the Indonesian Parliament as well as other important political party figures.. ,

The international seminar was started with the issues which were addressed were: how do the people in the West and Muslim countries perceive political Islam? Is political Islam really a threat to democracy and the West? What are the achievements and contributions of political Islam to the societies in the West and in the Muslim countries?

Interview with the Deputy Speaker
Of Indonesian Parliament
Before I start reporting on the one-day conference, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Mr. Anis Matta, the Deputy Speaker of the Indonesian Parliament.

The last General Election of the Indonesian Parliament was held in 2009; 38 political parties participated in the 2009 General elections of the Indonesia Parliament and 9 political parties came out largest parties and formed the government. The Prosperous Justice party (PKS) is the number 4 in that list of winning parties. The Prosperous Justice Party has 57 members in the Indonesian Parliament of 570 members. There are five speakers in the Board of Speakers.

Mr. Anis Matta, deputy speaker said, “There are five speakers. As PKS is number four among the winning party of nine, so it has one speaker. There are eleven commissions in the Parliament. We separate the duties and responsibilities of the Board into four and each one of them is in charge of political, another in charge of economy, another in charge of social and another in charge of Finance & Budget.” Mr. Anis Matta is deputy speaker in charge of Finance & Budget.

“Megawati’s party, PDI, is now number three. They are declining now. The Golkar Party is number two but also declining. In the first elections, the Megawati party got 34%, but in the next elections 19% and in the last elections they got 14%. The Golkar Party in the first elections got 25%, in the second elections they got 20%, and in the last elections they got 14%,”mentioned Mr. Matta.

Mr. Matta has specialised in Shari’ah from the Saudi University. He has Bachelor degree in Shari’ah from the Indonesian branch of the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1992. He also completed Defence National Course. He was teaching Islamic Economics in the University of Indonesia before joining politics. He joined political party, say the Prosperous Justice Party in 1998.

Ambassador of Indonesia, Yuri Thamrin
While delivering his Opening Remarks, the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Kingdom and Ireland, Mr. Yuri Thamrin, said, “Today, Indonesia is a living proof that democracy can develop robustly in a Muslim majority country. Indonesia is a country where Islam, democracy and modernity could go hand in hand harmoniously.”

“First, the basic assumptions of those who argue that Islam and democracy are incompatible are not accurate. The progressive trajectory of democracy in the Islamic world is more influenced not by culture but more by structural and instrumentalist factors such as modernisation, industrialisation, urbanisation, education and literacy, globalisation and elite orientation,” the Ambassador mentioned.

The Indonesian Ambassador Thamrin also mentioned, “I believe that the Qur’an, the Muslim’s Holy Book, does contain basic values and principles such as justice (‘Adl), consultation (Shoura), equality (Musawah), consensus (Ijma), freedom (Al- Hurriya) and dissent in opinion (Ikhtilaf). In my view, those basic values and principles could only live well in a representative form of government and could never prosper in an authoritarian regime. How could we expect that justice will be brought about to its fullest under a tyranny? Obviously no justice would ever be possible unless we have a participatory and representative government.”

While quoting from the World Value Survey, The Ambassador mentioned, “According to World Value Survey carried out in 2008, of all 1.2 billion Moslems the world-over and including 260 million Moslems in Middle East, it turns out that the majority of citizens believe in democracy and its compatibility to Islam. The survey argues that the desire for democracy in some parts of the Moslem world has not progressed as it should, not because of culture, but more of the repressive nature of the existing political system.”

Ambassador Thamrin said, Indonesia has established itself as a democracy, so the part of Indonesia’s identity is now about democracy and moderate Islam. “From this identity, Indonesia has actively projected democratic values in its international relations such as in ASEAN as well as by taking important initiatives such as the first ever dialogue on democracy among countries in Asia known as the Bali Democracy Forum that has continued every year since December 2008.”

Mr. Jazuli Juwaini, head of PKS-
The Prosperous Justice Party of Indonesia
The keynote speech was delivered by Mr. Jazuli Juwaini, M.P. the Head of the Central Executive Board of PKS – The Prosperous Justice Party of Indonesia. In his keynote speech, Mr. Juwaini first mentioned, “Islam is the religion of peace and the mercy for the universe and it is not merely about rituals, but a comprehensive way of life: ‘Aqidah (creed), ‘Ibadah (worship), ‘akhlaq (moral), education, social and culture, law and justice, economy, politics etc. Such a comprehensive view of Islam has been widely regarded as political Islam. This topic has been a very interesting discourse since the end of the cold war, and especially when the war on terror started and led by the US in 2001 as the response to terrorist attack on the twin towers in Manhattan, New York on September the 11th 2001.”

Referring to the political Islam, Mr. Juwaini mentioned, “The implementation of Islam as a political power dated back to the early era of Islam when Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, and his companions established the Medina Society. At that time, the city of Medina was a sovereign territory governed by a gentlemen agreement between various tribes and bounded the whole population of Medina. Since then, the history has witness the rise and fall of Islamic power until the early 20th century. We surely cannot deny that for centuries Islam has enlightened and positively contributed to the advancement of many parts of the world, including the Europe.”

Mr. Juwaini said, “Our party members and functionaries consist not only Muslims from one specific school of thought, but also from other religious and diverse backgrounds. This is because for us, the most important thing to consider is one’s commitment, integrity, capacity and contribution for the good and welfare of the nation,” mentioned Mr. Juwaini.

Mr. Juwaini also said, “PKS realises the importance of making and maintaining relations and cooperation with all nations around the world, for the Qur’an teaches that men and women are created into tribes and nations so that they may get to know each other. Furthermore, most of the members of PKS are young generation and educated and open-minded people. Some of them received their higher education from UK, USA, European, Arab, China, and Japanese universities.”

Practical Celebration of the Prophet's (pbuh) Birthday

Practical celebration of the Prophet’s (pbuh)
birthday through adhering to Sunnah and Islam

Dr. Mozammel Haque

This is the month of Rabi al-Awwal, the month when Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was born in Makkah al-Mukarramah in the 7th century. Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was the Last and Final Prophet sent by Allah the Almighty to this world, to the universe as the Mercy for the Mankind. The Holy Qur’an, the last revelation, was revealed by Allah the Almighty to the Prophet through archangel Jibrael. Muslims throughout the world celebrated and is celebrating his birthday. Now what is the best way to celebrate Prophet’s birthday? I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, the former President of the Jeddah-based King Abdulaziz University, the ex-Secretary General of the Makkah-based Muslim World League and presently Secretary General of the International Islamic Council for Da’wah and Relief (IICDR).

“The occasion of the birthday of the Prophet is celebrated emotionally everywhere. But the practical celebration is to follow Islam and adhere his Sunnah in our life, in all spheres of our life. We adhere to his Sunnah properly. He is not only our spiritual leader; he is our guide and he brought the light to this universe. Then we have to encourage people to come closer and closer and to strive to live his life,” said Dr. Naseef.

“But unfortunately in many Muslim countries the celebration is through the public holidays, the songs and dances,” lamented Dr. Naseef and said,” There should be love for the Prophet and what is the essence of love? If you love Prophet (peace be upon him), you have to follow him and to follow him is to adhering to Islam.”

Dr. Naseef also mentioned, “If you look for how many people are adhering to Islam; you will find very very few. That’s why; our Ummah is suffering today and very much below the life of Islam.”

Dr. Naseef prayed and hoped, “Insha Allah, I ask Allah the Almighty to guide Muslims to come closer to the banner of Islam, to the Sunnah of the Prophet and Muslims should strive hard to uplift the Ummah from its present situation. Allah is Great and He will do it Insha Allah.”

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Islam and Muslim in Italy

Islam and Muslim in Italy

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Shaykh Abd Al-Wahid Pallavicini, the President and founder of COREIS (Comunita Religiosa Islamica, the Italian Islamic Religious Community) came to London on 3rd February for the launch of his book entitled “A Sufi Master’s Message: In Memoriam Rene Guenon” written by him. He has also a very tight schedule of lectures at different centres of London. The Islamic Cultural Centre & The Regent’s Park Central Mosque was honoured by his visit on Friday, the 4th of February, 2011. The Shaykh Abd al-Wahid accompanied by his son Shaykh Yahya Pallavicini prayed Jumah prayer at the London Central Mosque, Regents’ Park and then met with the Director-General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan and Imam of the London Central Mosque and other members and staff of the Centre. Shaykh had a very tight schedule of lectures.

On the same day, on 4th of February, there was launching of his book entitled “A Sufi Master’s Message: In Memoriam Rene Guenon” on the 60th anniversary of the death of Rene Guenon. The City Circle organised an event entitled “Meeting Genius and Holiness. Rene Guenon and Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi” at Abrar House, London. Shaykh Abd Al-Wahid gave a lecture and spoke about his spiritual journey. St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, London also organised a meeting in the honour of Shaykh Abd Al-Wahid Pallavicini at the centre on Monday, the 7th of February and the Shaykh delivered a lecture on “The Universality of Abrahamic Monotheism”. London Metropolitan University also organised a meeting in the University on Wednesday, 9th of February on the Book. The book “A Sufi Master’s Message: In Memoriam Rene Guenon” by Shaykh Abd Al-Wahid Pallavicini was also launched at the Islamic Cultural Centre on Thursday, the 10th of February. Shaykh Pallavicini also delivered a lecture on Interfaith.

Shaykh Abd Al-Wahid Pallavicini’s
conversion to Islam
Shaykh Abd Al-Wahid Pallavicini, as a young man, was so well-versed in Rene Guenon’s teachings that he was inspired to seek out Julius Evola, editor of the Italian translations of Guenon’s books. In 1946, in Rome, Evola understood the Shaykh’s search to be purely spiritual rather than political and pointed out in the direction of Titus Burkhardt. Evola and Burkhardt had been in correspondence before the war.

Titus Burkhardt, known by the Muslim name Ibrahim, lived in Bern and was among the first Europeans to convert to Islam because of the works of Rene Guenon. On January 7, 1951, at the age of 25, Shaykh Pallavicini came to Islam at the hands of Sidi Ibrahim himself. Sidi Ibrahim Burkhardt gave him the name Abd al-Wahid, Servant of the Only One, as a tribute to Abd al-Wahid Yahya Rene Guenon, whose writings Burkhardt could see, had inspired Shaykh Pallavicini’s conversion to Islam. Only Later did the Shaykh come to know that Rene Guenon had passed away in Cairo on the exact same day as his conversion.

This sign was clearly a reminder that the inheritance of a standard Islamic name could become associated with a spiritual legacy whereby the faithful continuation and implementation of Guenon’s work would be embodied. This was not a succession, a term which Guenon never recognised in those who arbitrarily used it, but an entrance into the current of wisdom that had guided the great French metaphysician. Hence carried along by this same current Shaykh Pallavicini entered the Alawiyah, an Islamic brotherhood with a branch in Lausanne, through one of its European representatives who had corresponded with Guenon.

Shaykh Pallavicini returned to Italy and Founded
Italian Islamic Religious community (COREIS
Shaykh Abd Al-Wahid Pallavicini decided to return to Italy and bring home the blessings he received in the East. Upon his initial return Italy in the seventies and eighties was a stranger to Islam; the country had yet to experience its current level of Muslim immigration. After having been totally unknown for many years, the Shaykh’s orientation has become well received in Italy. He is the President and founder of COREIS (Comunita Religiosa Islamica, the Italian Islamic Religious Community) to spread the wisdom underlying Islamic orthodoxy to a wider audience.

Islamic Centre and
Great Mosque of Rome
During those decades Shaykh Pallavicini would meet with the ambassadors of Islamic countries for Friday prayers. Sometimes they were unable to gather even the minimum number of seven man needed to perform the ritual properly. As he worked to serve the first generation of Italian Muslims, the Shaykh contributed to the establishment of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Italy that now manages the Great Mosque of Rome.

At that time, the refined and visionary Persian Prince Abolghassem Amini was the Secretary General of the Islamic Centre and he exerted great effort in establishing the Cultural Centre and the Great Mosque of Rome. Despite being the largest in Europe, the Mosque’s ability to establish Islamic dialogue in Italy’s capital, host to the seat of the Vatican has since been diminished by power struggles and ideological influences both internal and external to the Mosque.

Shaykh Pallavicini’s Interfaith Role
The first Mosque, the only Mosque in Italy, the Great Mosque of Rome was built up and King Faisal bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia had the privilege to inaugurate the Mosque with the permission of the Italian government.

Shaykh Pallavicini has functioned as an intermediary between Christianity and Islam since 1986 when he was in Assisi as one of the members of the Muslim delegation invited by Pope John Paul II to participate in the first meeting with the representatives of the world religions. He continued to bridge the two faiths during the years he acted as an ambassador between the Mosque of Rome and the Vatican. He channelled a metaphysical quality still present in both the Muslim and Christian Orthodox communities of the East. Abiding by the teachings of Shaykh Guenon, he did not intend to bring the metaphysical message to Christianity itself – which has always had this perspective and always will – but rather to the institutional structure of Catholicism.

Universality of Abrahamic Monotheism
Speaking about his lecture on “The Universality of Abrahamic Monotheism” at the St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, London on Monday, the 7th of February, Shaykh Pallavicini said, “Once we embrace universality, it is but a short step to the belief in one God for all mankind, a belief expressed in the Islamic statement of faith: “There is no god but Allah”. Allah denotes precisely the Oneness of God, the one whose essential message Rene Guenon has so clearly pointed out in his works.”

According to Shaykh Pallavicini, “monotheism” should not have a different meaning than that of “universality”, which etymologically refers “to the One”, the one God of Abraham. He said, “It is this Abrahamic origin that brings us closer to our Jewish brothers who did not want to close the Prophetic cycle with the coming of Prophet Moses(as), through whom the Word of God was made “Law”. Through the continuation of this “law”, we Muslims, the last to arrive, were enabled to recognize the prophetic tidings in this final cycle of time, the Qur’an. This revelation was given to us by the last of the Prophets: the ummi, literally “unlettered”, Muhammad (peace be upon him)”.

“This ‘Universalism’ the fact that we are all directed towards the One God of Abraham does not involve either syncretism or a mixture of traditional forms. Nor does it even involve relativism, because everything is effectively relative before the Absolute. Instead, ‘Universality’ requires the recognition of the equal personal dignity of a believer in any orthodox faith, which, as such, necessarily entails the recognition of the Salvific virtue of its dogmas, even though they may differ from each other,” maintained Shaykh Pallavicini.

An interview with Shaykh Pallavicini
I had the privilege and opportunity to meet Shaykh Abd Al-Wahid Pallavicini and his son Shaykh Yahya Pallavicini on Friday, the 4th of February, 2011 at the Novetal Hotel, near Kings Cross, London.

Speaking about Islam in Italy, Shaykh said, “We have to say first that Italy is only country in the world where Islam is not officially recognised. It may be very surprising to you; but it is true and we cannot put any blame on anybody or any religion. But the fact is that Islam was not present in Italy in the times of Frederick II. He was Emperor of Sicily. From that time I must say up to us there was no Islam in Italy. That’s why, the first mosque was the only mosque in Italy; the one in Rome where we know the King Faisal had the privilege to inaugurate the mosque with the permission of the Italian government.”

“But since then which is about 15 years ago, there was no provision to build any other mosque in Italy. Although there is 1,300,000 Muslims in Italy now. Naturally, there is not Italian, 1,300,000 immigrant Muslims. So with such a large population, there is no permission to build another mosque besides the one I mentioned, the one in Rome,” said Shaykh Pallavicini.

Project to build another Mosque in Milan
Shaykh Abd Al-Wahid Pallavicini is an Italian by birth and as an Italian by birth Muslim he thinks it is his responsibility to convince his government to recognise Islam as a religion. “As an Italian by birth, we have to press the government in a way so that Islam will be recognised. By being Italian Muslim, this is our project to build a second official mosque in Italy in Milan which is the northern Italy and where there are mainly immigrant Muslims living; where we can give them the example of the Italian Muslims as there is French Muslim, English Muslim and other Muslims all over Europe. That’s why we are struggling for the fact to establishing a mosque in Italy run by this small minority, all Italians,” said Shaykh and maintained, “We are insisting on the government to make the possibility so that Islam would be recognised as a religion possible to be al-Ameen which means universal and eternal, as it is from the time of Adam (peace be upon him) to the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Islam is not recognised as Religion in Italy
As Islam is not recognised as religion in Italy so there is no Muslim organisation or association. Speaking about the organisation or association of Muslims in Italy, Shaykh Pallavicini said, “Muslims have no influence on the government because they are mainly immigrants; they are considered to be foreigners. We are the only Muslims who are considered to be Italians. We are Italians by birth. About 50,000 Italians are native Muslims. Italian Islamic Religious Association is the organisation of the Italian Muslims. But as we don’t have status in front of the government, there is no question of having an association. It is a question of having a mosque; because Islam is a religion; it is the religion of the ONLY GOD.”

“There are many associations. Nobody has the privilege to represent Islam in Italy,” said Shaykh Pallavicini.

Shaykh Pallavicini also mentioned, “There is no prayer hall in Italy. There is only one in Rome. WE can pray at home; we can pray at apartment, but that does not mean Islam is representative to the government, particularly there is a very strong opposition by the Vatican which pretend to be the only religion of the Italians. This is a problem.”

Christians-Muslims Relationship
Speaking about the Christian-Muslim relationship, Shaykh Pallavicini said, “There is no Muslims officially in Italy. So there is no relationship. There is only one relationship which is between native Italians and immigrants. We have to make a distinction. We don’t speak about religion. We speak about nationality. So nationality is not the representative of the religion. So the people who are coming from all over the world are considered as foreigners, as immigrants and that’s the problem.”

“Islam is a religion which requires to be compared with other religions present in Italy without discrimination,” emphasized Shaykh Pallavicini.

Shaykh Pallavicini said, “We cannot ‘Christianize’ Islam, even from a methodological point of view. We cannot colour our participation in tasawwuf with a Christian ‘mystical’ attitude, such as an ascetic detachment from life and the world. Nor can we expect to build an Islamic monastic structure, even one inspired by hesychasm, since Islam has neither monasticism nor clergy.”

“True Islam allows one to live Islam’s spirit and to follow its law wherever one may be and at any given point in time, even at the end of times. Indeed, the Sunnah identifies the end of times as the period when Islam will spread to new parts of the world,” said Shaykh Pallavicini.

Rene Guenon’s conversion to Islam
Speaking about Rene Guenon’s conversion to Islam, Shaykh Pallavicini said, “Rene Guenon’s so-called conversion from Christianity to Islam should not be misunderstood as a rejection of his original religion. Instead, it should be regarded as an acceptance of Islam through which he joined what he called the Primordial Tradition (din al-qayimah) in its final expression, which incorporates all previous Revelations without opposing them.”

Shaykh Pallavicini’s Wise Words
Shaykh Pallavicini said that there is a need to reconstruct the eroded integrity of believers. “In the West, intellectuality has become intellectualism and logic has become rationalism or, worse still, psychologism; in the East, intuition has created impulsiveness and fatalism has produced fanaticism,” mentioned Shaykh Pallavicini and said, “We need an exchange in which believers, from both the West and East, learn how to regenerate the beneficial waves of their complementary attributes from the respective shores of their common sea. In this way, we Westerners will return to intelligence, regaining our divinity by reflecting upon the intellect of God. Likewise, the East will once again manifest His Light when the Easterner rediscovers his or her own innate sense of divine immanence