Shaykh Abd al-Wahid Pallavicini The Universality of Abrahamic Monotheism


The Universality of Abrahamic Monotheism

Shaykh Abd al-Wahid Pallavicini

President CO.RE.IS. (Islamic Religious Community) ITALY


Even in an age like ours, which has been rightly called “Unreasonable,” science and religion would not be the two terms of an antithesis if we could only add an attribute to each term: “sacred” for science and “orthodox” for religion, so that we can speak of “sacred science” and “orthodox religion.” In the same way, our age would not be so “unreasonable” if we would only remember that even human reason itself is not considered by every really “sacred science” to be independent of another non-antithetic term which is represented by the “intellect.” This is the reflection of the “divine intellect” which has made us “ ‘ala suratihi”, in “His image and resemblance”, as is said in every orthodox religion, meaning a Revelation given to everyone by the One and Only God of Abrahamic Monotheism.

At a time when words have lost their meaning, and not just their etymological sense, please forgive the pleonasm in the title of my speech: for to speak of “monotheism” should not have a different sense from that of “universality”, although the latter refers to the design of the Unicity “of the God”, as our immigrant fellow-believers would say, which translate the Arabic name Allah, unicity which is already contained in the expression “monotheism” and reaffirmed in this Universalism, or rather “Universality”, which turns “towards the One”, the one God of Abraham.

It is this Abrahamic origin which brings us closer to our Jewish brothers, who did not want to conclude the Prophecy with the coming of the Prophet Moses (‘as), through whom the Word of God was made “Law” and which continued after him, to enable us Muslims, the last to arrive, to be equally able to see the prophetic comings, up to the final coming of the Koranic revelation, which was given to us by the last of the prophets, the ummi, literally “unlettered”, Muhammad (s‘aws).

The character “unlettered”, referring to the Prophet Muhammad (s‘aws), ummi in Arabic, is a word that stands not only for the Islamic community but also “the mother”, which is the source of our existence,may be closer to the figure of the Virgin Mary, who in her immaculate innocence, represents the “virgin” terrain in which God wrote his “Word”, in the same way that He engraved in the heart of the Prophet the verses of our Holy Koran, which also represents His un-incarnate Word.

It enables us to also include in the prophetic succession, which faithfully reflects the temporal succession of the Abrahamic monotheistic Revelations, the figure of Sayyidna ‘Isa (‘as), our Lord Jesus Christ, regarded by Muslims as Ruh Allah, “Spirit of God “, and whose Second Coming is awaited, together with our Christian brothers, as an” announcement of the Hour of the End “, an eschatology which is also present in the form of the Messianic expectation of our brothers the Jews.

It should be clearly understood that this “universalism”, the fact that we are all directed towards the One God of Abraham, does not involve either syncretism or a mixture of the traditional forms or even relativism because, effectively, everything is relative before the Absolute. Instead, “universalism” 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 worth of its dogmas, even though they may all differ from each other.

To counter these views, we took the liberty of sending a letter to the Pope on the occasion of his visit to the Synagogue of Rome in January 2010:

Your Holiness, in Italy, where Islam has not been present for seven centuries, perhaps since the time of Frederick II, might an old Italian Muslim be allowed to feel some nostalgia for a unique period of history when the wise men of the three monotheistic revelations, from Maimonides to St. Albert the Great to Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, encouraged each other along the path to God within their own different faiths?

Could your august presence today at the Synagogue of Rome not perhaps give us hope that, at least on an intellectual level, representatives of the different religions can still come together in this world that needs an example of a return to holiness in preparation for the Messiah’s coming that we are all awaiting, as proof of the sacrifice that has led us to give a meaning to our life on this earth, where God has brought us together?”.

Without wishing to stray too far from the topic proposed for this encounter, I would like to extend the concept of “victims of violence” beyond women to all religious men, in a world that seems to have forgotten the meaning of the sacred which, in the words the First Letter of Saint Peter, made of us all “a nation of priests consecrated to God.”

Particularly for us in Italy, where such a consecration seems reserved only for those who legitimately represent it as a member of a clergy, something specific to a single confession, but excluding those belonging to other religions, who do not seem to have the right to such sacredness even though they too were born in Italy.

On a personal note, I have just returned from a meeting with the Italian President Napolitano, where the King of Jordan was the guest of honour. “Do not judge by appearances,” I said, “I’m Italian.” “But God forbid, don’t think about it,” he said, implying that also an Italian can be Muslim in Italy.

But God forbid,” I wanted to reply, “that there should be an official recognition of Islam as a religion.” Italy is the only country in the world where Islam is not officially recognized as being equal to the other monotheistic faiths. But whenever we point out this absurdity to our non-Italian brother Moslems, they never want to believe us.

As is clear from some recent statements, Christianity today does not seem to be a civil super- religion: by misinterpreting the proclaimed historic meeting with God on earth, there is the risk of forgetting that long-awaited return of the Messiah that we Muslims have the duty to remind everyone about before it’s too late.

We are, in fact, drawing near to an eschatological time, foreseen by all faiths, for which we must prepare ourselves and rediscover the meaning of our lives in which God has asked us to make a choice of being with Him or without Him and, if we stand with Him, to accept the prophetic messages that have been passed on to us since the creation of man.

Islam is not the third revelation of Abrahamic Monotheism and this “Abrahamic” Monotheism does not go back to Abraham, but has always been “monotheist”, even before Abraham, because God has never ceased to be “One” for all men on earth, or at least for those who want to obey Him.

This is the meaning of the word Islam, which means submission to the One God, just as “Muslims” are literally all those who obey Him, even though they may be called “Jews” or “Christians,” or even belong to one of the earlier orthodox religions.

I existed when Adam was still between water and clay,” says the Prophet, which echoes the words of Jesus Christ: “Before Abraham was, I am,” because the immortal “Spirit of God,” as we Muslims call Jesus, could not have been not present even before the creation of the world, to instil in men the consciousness that they too have been made “in the image and likeness of God.”

It is precisely this likeness which allows men to be able to identify with the absolute Divine Presence through the rituals required by the various religions that have followed each other with the passing of time, in order to renew the possibility of knowing that Knowledge remains the only purpose of human life on this earth.

But what knowledge is this? The Knowledge of God! Because “If God became man,” as we are reminded by a saying of early Christianity that is still preserved in the doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is because “... man becomes God,” not through the affirmation of human individuality, but with the death of his egocentric nature as reflected in the exclusivity of his choice of faith.

Naturally, some historical events may not coincide with those in other theologies, but the “Logos” which generated them is God Himself, who is above history; that is to say “meta-historical” as it is “metaphysical”. It is the “divine point of view” above all logic, even theological, in which it is manifested according to the time and place which, to paraphrase René Guénon, of whom I have the honour of bearing the Islamic first name, together represent the dimensions of the symbolism of the Cross.

In referring to this same symbolism,we would like to consider the Orthodox cross which, in its representation of the truth present in each revealed revelation, and therefore “relative”, has not two but three dimensions, adding to the dimensions of length and width that of height, or rather “depth”, so recalling the “Pax profunda”, or “Great Peace”, that a “Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century”would wish for whoever still desired, in these latter days, to under stand the meaning of the “triple dimension”, which is equally present in the universality of Abrahamic monotheism.

To conclude, I wish to refer to the question that this same Muslim saint addresses to those, among the usual “doctors of the law”, who criticize him for the fact that his tasbih, his rosary, resembled the shape of a cross:“And we” he said, holding his arms at shoulder level,“what shape do we resemble?”

Assalamu ‘alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa barakatuHu,

May the peace of the Lord be upon you all.