March 20, 2016.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, March 20, 2016 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Inter-faith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

In the Christian lectionary the most Holy week of the year begins today. It is traditionally called Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. Having journeyed through the last six weeks of fasting, prayer and alms giving in preparation for this Holy Week we will walk with Jesus from his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem to His agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene , the betrayal of a disciple to an arrest and unjust condemnation to the brutal Roman means of punishing criminals, death by hanging on a cross. We Christians know that this is not the end of the story and that the glory of the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus the Christ will follow. But our invitation every year is to allow the story to unfold and inform our lives with meaning, direction and purpose. This story becomes a metaphor for life itself and the very real betrayals, prejudices, unjust condemnations, and abuses of power in our world and in our lives and speaks to the resilience of the human spirit when faced with sometimes overwhelming odds, to rise to new life, again and again.

Although the events described in the Christian scriptures during this Holy Week are not only not included in the Qur’an or Hadith and are even disputed, the metaphor for our very human life experiences may still resonate with our Muslim friends as well. In Islam, Isa, or Jesus, is revered as a Prophet of God, second only to Muhammad and Isa is the only Prophet, other than (Idris) Enoch mentioned in the Qur’an who does not die but has been raised up by Allah, like Elijah in the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian Ascension of Jesus the Christ. According to the Hadith, Jesus will return to earth as a just judge before the Day of Judgment and his return will be the third sign of the coming of the Last Days.

The resurrection is the main theme in Surah 75 in the Qur’an, called al-Qiyamah and there are many descriptions in the Hadith by well-known commentators such as al-Ghazali, ibn Kathir, ibn Majah, al-Bukhari and ibn Khuzaymah  They describe twelve signs, or major events that will indicate that the time of judgment is at hand.

“At the time of judgment, terrible corruption and chaos will rule. The Mahdi (the prophesied redeemer) will be sent and with the help of Isa (Jesus in Islam), will battle Masih ad-Dajjal (the Antichrist in Islam). They will triumph, liberating Islam from cruelty, and this will be followed by a time of serenity with people living true to religious values…. The Hadith reference both the Mahdi and Isa simultaneously, and the return of the Mahdi will coincide with the return of Isa. He will descend from the heavens in al-Quds (Jerusalem) at dawn. The two will meet, and Mahdi will lead the people in [just] prayer. After the prayer, they will open a gate to the west and encounter Masih ad-Dajjal. After the defeat of ad-Dajjal, Isa will lead a peaceful forty-year reign until his death. He will be buried in a tomb beside Muhammad in Medina. Though the two most certainly differ regarding their role and persona in Islamic eschatology, the figures of the Mahdi and Isa are ultimately inseparable for according to the Prophet, though Isa is said to descend upon the world once again, the Mahdi will already be present…. Like other Abrahamic religions, Islam also teaches resurrection of the dead, a final tribulation and eternal division of the righteous and wicked.”
(See Jahannam

An image that we may all reflect upon at this moment of Easter Joy is this one: The Prophet is said to have described what will happen when we stand “naked, barefooted and uncircumcised before God. The Qur’an states, “As we began the first creation, We shall repeat it” (Qur’an 21:104) And Saheeh al-Bukhari commented, “ The first human being to be dressed on the Day of Resurrection will be Prophet Abraham, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.”

And so we return to the Patriarch of all three monotheistic traditions, the “three Abrahamic faiths” as Massignon called them, and to the source of our common humanity in the Oneness of the God of Abraham (Ibrahim).

Blessed Holy Week and Easter Season.

(See for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)