Dr. Robert D. Crane, Editor in Chief, Armonia
The vision or purpose of this journal, Armonia, is to help bring together the best of all civilizations and religions in order to apply their common wisdom in promoting the harmonious pursuit of peace, prosperity, and freedom for all persons and communities through compassionate justice.
A major mission or goal of this journal is to promote holistic education as a means to restore the primordial understanding of the transcendent dimension of reality and to develop the natural inclination in human nature to give rather than take in life, termed infaq in classical Islamic thought, as the ultimate source of harmony through natural law and human reason.
The implementing objectives and courses of action include the advancement of original thought by publishing seminal essays as a “Readers Digest” of major book-length publications and on-going projects. This journal is to include special thematic issues designed to preserve the best of its associated conferences. In its online edition, this journal will attempt also to make more widely available the best of the blogosphere, especially as it relates to the United Nations’ World Interfaith Harmony Week.
This first quarterly issue of Armonia highlights the centuries-long history of Muslim cooperation with Hindus in Kerala, India, within a framework where the differing cultural practices of the two religions combine to bring out the essence of all world religions. This remarkable report by Dr. Abbas Panakkal, entitled “Inter-Religious Harmony and Cooperation: A Muslim Model from the Traditional Arts and Cultures of Malabar”, summarizes his doctoral dissertation on the subject supporting his ongoing research on the Muslim Malabar diaspora in the South Pacific as a model for the expanding diasporas of other world religions through time and space.
In its mission of interfaith understanding through both Abrahamic Common Word and the broader Common Ground, this journal welcomes articles on such themes as the role of justice in Buddhist thought, for example, as based on the Hinayana detachment from the material world, and the Mahayana awakening to the transcendent nirvana, and beyond that to the Tantrayana level where one’s great desire is to bring compassionate justice to every person and every thing.
This first issue of Armonia introduces three foundational essays, beginning with an historical analysis of the universal concept and paradigm of harmony by Jeremy Henzell-Thomas, based at Cambridge University’s Centre of Islamic Studies. He is best known as the Founder and former Executive Editor of the Book Foundation, which published and disseminates Muhammad Asad’s translation, The Message of the Qur’an. He has been a regular columnist over the years in Islamica, Emel Magazine, The Times, and The American Muslim, and is Associate Editor of the quarterly, Critical Muslim.
In his introductory essay, “Armonia: Fitting Together in a Plural World”, Jeremy writes, “The primordial Indo-European sense of harmony as ‘fitting together’ converges with the Germanic root fagraz (‘fitting’), which produced the English word fair, with its dual sense of justice/equity and beauty/proportion. The range of meanings of the word fair reflects a truly Qur’anic concept, the idea that to be just is to ‘do what is beautiful’ (ihsan), to act in accordance with our original nature (fitra), which God has shaped in ‘just proportions’ as a ‘fitting’ reflection of divine order and harmony”.
The second seminal essay, “The Moral Sense, Common Grace, and the Common Future of Human Harmony”, is by Stephen B. Young, Global Executive Director of the Caux Round Table, which is influential today in all the world’s major capitals. Caux is an offshoot of the Moral Rearmament movement that brought Germany and France together after the Second World War.
Steve approaches the role of harmony from the perspective of Protestant Christianity. He writes, “The concept of grace, from the Greek charis, has been central to all Christian thought as a paradigm for harmony between God and individual human beings and, moreover, for lifting humanity above its pettiness and its self-destructiveness. The consensus has always been that grace is the power of God’s love in awakening a loving response from individual persons inspiring them to excel.
In addition to such personal grace, including sanctifying, sacramental, and actual grace, there is a concept of Common Grace, a realm of life that is worldly and secular, but which has been created for us and not really by us. “The purpose of this essay”, he writes, “is to document the framework of Common Grace in Christian scripture and in all the other wisdom traditions as our innate capacity to have a moral sense.
Steve addresses the paradigmatic conflict between neo-conservatism oriented toward establishing physical power as the ultimate way to stabilize the world, with all of its injustices, and “moral capitalism” oriented toward establishing harmony through principled natural law and institutional reform as the most reliable path to justice.
In the second quarterly edition of Armonia, Norman Kurland and Michael Greaney, are scheduled to address the institutional reform of money, credit, and central banking through a Just Third Way beyond the envy of socialism and the greed of capitalism designed to reduce the “wealth gap” within and among countries as a means to reduce the disharmonies that foster global terrorism.
The third seminal essay in this founding edition of Armonia reproduces the introductory part of Volume Three of the four volume textbook, Islam and Muslims: Essence and Practice. In response to a request by Shaykha Moza bint Nasser al Missnad, the head of the Qatar Foundation, I prepared this 500-page Volume Three when I was professor of Islamic studies at the Qatar Foundation and Director for several years of the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies’ Center for the Study of Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies, charged with examining the origins, state of the art, and alternative futures of the “Arab Spring”.
The entire vision or purpose, mission or goals, and implementing objectives of this four-volume textbook can be summarized as follows: The future of Islam is up to Allah, but the future of Muslims is up to every person through one’s observance of the first two essentials in the universal Islamic creed. These two, known as taqwa and ‘adl, are the core of the essence of Islam as a religion. Taqwa is loving awe of Allah in response to Allah’s love of every person. Taqwa is also submission to Allah as the source of truth, love, and justice. ‘Adl is love of compassionate justice as a framework for expressing our love for each other.
This issue concludes with a section on “Harmony through Translation”. The first of two articles is Eric Winkel’s short exposition of the methodology that he uses in translating the twelve volumes of the critical edition of Ibn Arabi’s Futuhat al Makkiya. The history of translating Ibn Arabi illustrates the causes of the sometimes vehement rivalry among the self-proclaimed experts, namely, that each translator has a unique level and origin of understanding. Eric Winkel in his short introduction to his own methodology uses Ibn Arabi’s explanations of unavoidable methodological diversity in a way that leaves open the way for each person to understand his vision from one’s own perspective, based on acknowledgement that this diversity not only is unavoidable but beyond this is a gift from God.
This same conclusion is reached by Safi Kaskas from his multi-year project to compare the three Abrahamic religions by translating the Qur’an with thousands of footnotes referring to similar passages in the Old and New Testaments.
He writes that, “The contribution that religion can make to peacemaking – as the flip side of religious conflict – is only beginning to be explored and understood. … People still need tools to facilitate the harmony they seek. Hence the new book, The Qur’an with References to the Bible.
Establishing harmony should not be merely a thematic issue, but should be contextual and substantive by preserving the voice of revelation in its original context to reveal the essence of all the world religions in order to highlight the voices that promote building bridges rather than walls.