November 18, 2018.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, November 18, 2018 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.

Today we are entering into the final two weeks in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. The emphasis is on the End Times so mysteriously and richly proclaimed in the final book of the Christian Scriptures, called the Book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse. This is a kind-of literature that existed in the Jewish culture from the second century BC and throughout the first century CE and was full of references to numerology and visions that, although often confusing and even frightening, were meant to remind us that our lives now, and in the future, depend on God's benevolence and merciful love. The depictions of the struggle between good and evil remind us that the Divine is intimately involved in human history. We have been given the freedom to choose whether to live with or without God in our lives both here and in the hereafter.

In our gathering in September, we began an exploration of the two prayers that represent the essence of the message in the traditions of both Islam and Christianity and are the first prayers that we have learned as children. In the Lord's Prayer, Christians are reminded of our own human tendencies to be drawn to selfish and sometimes even evil actions or decisions in our lives. Thus, we pray, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" and later, "lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil." We are daily made aware of the struggle between good and evil that has perennially plagued our human condition throughout the ages. Christians see the tendency of evil as emanating from the Devil, or Satan and are asking God to give us the strength to resist falling into temptation. In Aramaic, the language that Jesus would have spoken, "temptation" means "forgetfulness" being caught up in the superficial aspects of our lives thereby not "remembering" the essence of Christian spirituality which is Divine Unity. The Aramaic for "evil" is also multifaceted. It means not being "ripe" or "in tune with cosmic reality".

In the Fâtiha, the first Sura in the Qur'an, Muslims pray to be "guided in the right path, the path of those You have showered with Your kindness and not of those who have incurred Your wrath nor of those who have gone astray." There are varied understandings of Satan, or Iblis in Islam. Even the name Iblis, found in the Qur'an, is only speculated to come from the Arabic root letters meaning "to remain in grief" or perhaps "in confusion". Traditionally, Iblis was an angel that refused God's command to bow before His new creation, Adam. Iblis argues with God that he is made from fire and Adam is only made from mud and therefore Iblis is superior. Although he is banished by God to hell, he is given permission to try to lead Adam and his descendants astray, however God warns him that he will not have any power over God's true servants. This permission given to Satan by God may remind Christians of the Biblical Book of Job. There too, God trusts that even in the face of the most tragic losses in his life Job will remain faithful. (Job 1:6-11)

In Sufism, there are varied interpretations of the meaning of Iblis who sees himself as the first and therefore, the true lover of God who refuses to bow down to anyone but his "Beloved". He is thus transformed from an angel into a demon due to his rebellion from the commandment of God. The Sufi Poet and Saint, Rumi saw Iblis as the manifestation of the sins of pride, envy and cunning who was unable to see the hidden spark of Divine Love in God's creature, Adam.

In some of the Hadith, or sayings of the Prophet referring to the Fâtiha, such as one reported by At-Tirmidhi, "those who have incurred God's wrath and those who have gone astray" refers to Jews and Christians. Other commentaries suggest that the meaning is more general stating that Iblis' greatest fault is that he knows that God alone is his master and yet, due to his pride, he rebels anyway. The most serious sins are those we commit consciously, knowing full well that we are violating the commandments of the Divine.

In reflecting on the End Times, that ultimately lead us to what both traditions call, "the Last Judgement", we do well to reflect on the many ways that we are tempted to lose sight of our spiritual path and a greater depth of meaning and purpose in our lives. May we trust in the merciful love and compassion of Divine Unity in the midst of the many difficult challenges in our daily lives.

Peace to you,


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