# 23 September 25, 2005.

Dear Friends,

At the kind invitation of the staff at St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge, MA we will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday September 25, 2005 at 3pm in the small chapel in St. Paul’s Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we pray for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

At our last gathering we began our efforts to respond to Louis Massignon’s clear message that to effect peaceful relations and reconciliation with those of other faith traditions we must begin by opening our own minds and hearts to conquer our fear of differences. He spoke often of the need to “cross over” to the “other”, to learn their language, study their beliefs, practices and culture as the beginning of mutual respect and understanding. In the process of learning to truly know others, from the inside out so to speak, we find that our own values and belief systems become more defined and clear. Our faith experience is enhanced rather than diminished. The goal of “substutionary prayer”, of “Badaliya”, is to see the face of Christ in every human person and learn to love them as Christ loves us.

As Christians we are challenged to overcome centuries of misinformation and prejudice that we have sometimes even unconsciously absorbed. In one of his books the Fransiscan Fr. Giulio Basetti-Sani writes about his own journey of studying the condemning writings of the scholars of his time about Islam and Muhammad and approaching Louis Massignon with those ideas. He wrote:

“Once, when Professor Massignon was in Cairo, I went to see him at the French Institute of Oriental Archeology.... Only someone who has known Massignon can fully imagine his reaction to my ideas. His usual grave expression changed to a smile like the lighting of a lamp and his eyes twinkled. He said, ‘The medieval world taught that Muhammad was a messenger of Satan and that the Allah of the Qur’an was not the God of Abraham. We should not do to others what we would not have them do to us’.

Basetti-Sani quotes much more than this as he describes how, following Massignon’s advice, he began to move in a totally different direction in what became years of Islamic studies. He wrote: “Islam is a mystery linked with the blessing obtained by Abraham from God for his son Ishmael and Ishmael’s progeny. This line of thought, derived from the Bible, is the one to take in order to grasp the significance of Islam.... Before we parted, Massignon gave me two thoughts meant as guidelines in my reorientation, one from St. Augustine, ‘ Love sees with new eyes.’ and the other from St. John of the Cross, ‘ Where there is no love put love, and you will find Love Himself’. It was true, my eyes had seen badly... Later, when my eyes were to see clearly, I would discover in Islam and the Muslims the reflections of the infinite goodness of God”. (From Basetti-Sani.1977. “The Koran In the Light of Christ”)

With the inspiring examples of Fr. Giulio Basetti-Sani, Massignon himself and his own mentor, Bro.Charles de Foucauld, and in the spirit of St. Francis, let us begin our process of learning about Islam. Last month I introduced the following Sura of the Qur’an:

One of the first prayers in the Qur’an memorized very early by every Muslim child is the opening Sura (verse) called the Surat-al -Fatiha. The language of Islam and the Qur’an is Arabic and therefore all Muslims learn to chant the verses in this ancient and poetic language. The Fatiha is a wonderful summary of Muslim belief that God is the Lord of all being, entirely separate from the world yet forever present and aware, providing a Path from darkness into light and a direction for worshop and praise:

“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Praise be to God, the Lord of all being.
The Merciful, the Compassionate.
Master of the Day of Judgement.
It is you alone that we serve,
It is only from you that we seek aid
Guide us on the straight path.
The path of those whom you have blessed.
Not of those with whom you are displeased.
Nor of those who go astray.”(Translated by Matthew S. Gordon)

In the coming month of October there will be a convergence of Holy days within the three Abrahamic faith traditions. The sacred Muslim lunar month of Ramadan and the sacred Jewish lunar month of Tishrei (which includes the High Holy Days) both begin October 3-4th; October 4th is the Feast of St.Francis of Assisi, and October 1st is the Feast of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

In his letters to members of the Badaliya Massignon often invites them to join in both the fasts and the feasts of both Islam and Judaism. We have an opportunity to fast and pray the Fatiha in spirit with our Muslim brothers and sisters, as Massignon did, during the Muslim month of Ramadan. He chose always to pray the Fatiha on the feast of the 27th day of Ramadan marking “the Night of Destiny” when Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an.

For further information about these shared Holy days see:


May we look neither for likenesses nor differences as we learn about all faith traditions but rather see just what is there. That is seeing with the eyes of Love.

Peace to you.