Dear Directors of Peace Mala (the Peace Mala Youth Project for World Peace):
Pam Evans, Norma Glass MBE, Martin Green, and Pam El-Hosaini,
At a time when a small, but vocal, minority of extremists promote hatred, and a majority of people maintain silence, it is a relief, and a sign of hope, to find people like yourselves who are so passionately committed to the cause of peace.
Your message is simple, clear, and direct: "Treat others as you would wish them to treat you." This is the Golden Rule, the same, universal, spiritual, moral, and ethical message that is shared by spiritual traditions throughout the world.
This message, which is at the heart of Islam, is expressed implicitly in the Qur'an and explicitly in the Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him). "As you would have people do to you, do to them," taught the Prophet, "and what you dislike to be done to you, do not do to them" (Kulayni). "None of you has faith," he taught, "until he loves for his brother or his neighbor what he loves for himself" (Muslim / Nawawi). "By him in whose Hand is my soul," he preached, "a servant does not believe until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself" (Ahmad). The Messenger of Allah said that "None of you has faith until he loves for the people what he loves for himself" (Ahmad). In another narration, he stated that "The servant does not reach the reality of faith until he loves for the people what he loves for himself (Ibn Hibban). He also warned that "Whoever would love to be delivered from the Hellfire and enter into Paradise ... let him treat people the way he would love to be treated" (Ahmad). According to the Prophet, following the Golden Rule was so important that it actually defined one as a believer: "Be kind to your neighbor and you will be a believer; love for the people what you love for yourself and you will be a Muslim" (Tirmidhi). These are only some of the dozens of examples of the Golden Rule in sources universally accepted by Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Sufis.
It is in the nature of peaceful people to be calm, quiet, and collected. However, to the surprise of many, when pushed to its limits, even a mute animal like a rabbit can emit a cry for help. As Peace Mala argues, "The voices of intolerance are all around us - the voice of tolerance needs to be louder." Let us work together and bring our voices together like a choir singing a song of friendship, respect, peace, tolerance, love, compassion, and forgiveness. Perhaps, then, we can bring more light to this dark world.
Dr. John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas Islam)
ABOUT DR. JOHN ANDREW MORROW (IMAM ILYAS ISLAM)
John Andrew Morrow was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1971. He received his doctorate from the University of Toronto where he acquired expertise in Hispanic, Native, and Islamic Studies. He has served as a faculty member and administrator at numerous colleges and universities, the most notable of which was the University of Virginia's Semester at Sea program for which he taught Spanish, English, and Religious Studies while circumnavigating the globe.
Dr. John Andrew Morrow - Imam Ilyas 'Abd al-'Alim Islam - is the author of the groundbreaking book The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World [Angelico Press, 2013]. This is not to say that his earlier achievements are in any way insignificant. He has travelled extensively and seen first-hand the challenges, both internal and external, faced by Islam in many parts of the world. He has attained an impressive degree of erudition in both the traditional Islamic sciences, of which he is a recognized 'alim, and in the scholarly methods of the western world. His European/Native American ancestry and his bilingual upbringing (English and French) in Quebec, plus his fluency in Spanish and scholarly knowledge of Arabic and other languages, have given him a unique outlook on both history and current events. He is a student of Latin American liberation struggles, of the Native American influence on Latin American poetry, of the history of the Moriscos in Spain and the Aljamiado literature, of fiqh, of hadith, of Shi'ism, of Sufism, of the contribution of Malcolm X, of Islamic symbolism and lexicography, and of Islamic herbal medicine. He is the author of a dozen books (a half-dozen more forthcoming), which demonstrate his authority to shed a penetrating light on both socio-political and spiritual Islam. And he is rare if not unique in his understanding of what the forms of Islam that have taken root in the western world can contribute to the renewal of al-Din the world over.
Even more significant than all these achievements, however, is The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, which has been well-received and glowingly praised in many parts of Muslim world, as well as by western scholars and journalists. It is one of the real mysteries of both the Islamic and the western intellectual traditions that the treaties and letters composed by the Prophet Muhammad himself, peace and blessings be upon him, have been largely neglected by scholars. It was in order to begin to fill in this massive gap that the book in question was written, which seems poised to found a whole new branch of Islamic historical scholarship, that of "covenant studies." And, given the dire state of the Muslim world in the 21st Century, what book could be more relevant? The covenants of the Prophet demonstrate not merely his tolerance but his fatherly love for the Christians in his charge - who, in line with Holy Qur'an, he numbered among the mumin'in, the "faithful." They clearly define the rights and duties of both Christians and Muslims within his growing empire, strictly prohibiting Muslims from attacking, robbing or killing law-abiding Christians (rebellious or subversive Christians being another matter), or submitting them to excessive taxation, or damaging or destroying their buildings, or preventing their Christian wives from going to church, defining the duty of Muslims vis-à-vis Christians as one of protection, and making it clear that these directives apply to all Muslims "until the end of the world." In line with the commands of our Prophet the book contains a document called "The Covenants Initiative" which invites Muslims to accept these words of Muhammad as legally binding upon them today. In a time when Islam seems to be polarizing between those who erroneously view the West as Christian and therefore see all Christians as the enemy, and those who wish above all to be "good Muslims" by accepting "interfaith" agendas that were largely developed in western political think-tanks for the purpose of putting both Muslims and Christians in their place - a polarization that has effectively excluded the bulk of traditional Muslims from any relevant dialogue - a return to the interfaith principles of the Prophet himself is so timely as to appear literally providential. For this labour alone, if not for his earlier achievements, Dr. John Andrew Morrow deserves recognition as one of the most influential Muslim scholars in the world.