September 24, 2006.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, September 24, 2006 from 3pm-4:30pm 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, in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

We come together each month in the spirit of Louis Massignon and the first members of the Badaliya prayer who gathered in Cairo, Egypt in 1934, and subsequently in groups established in many parts of the world, joined in spirit by many individuals from all three Abrahamic faith traditions. In his letters to the members he continually re-focuses them on the essential call and meaning of the Badaliya prayer while also highlighting the critical areas of conflict in the world at the time. His insight into the economic and political agendas and often his outrage at injustices and failures to act on behalf of those oppressed and marginalized were an invitation to prayer, and action when appropriate and possible. The call to Badaliya prayer was his ground and source of energy and strength for the many marches and vigils in which he participated. Standing on the steps of the Paris Mosque he prayed the Muslim prayer called the Fâtiha in Arabic as a Christian witnessing to solidarity with his Muslim brothers and sisters. He reminds us that the focus of Badaliya is to offer our prayers, our actions and our very selves for those who most need our prayers, the ones among us who would harm us. We are called to learn all that we can, to "cross over" to members of other faith traditions with openness of heart and willingness to learn from them about their faith experience rather than relying on the limited or false representations in the media, including the Internet. With this in mind I offer the following quotations for our reflections this month:

To understand the Muslim prayer called the Fâtiha I turn to a commentary and explanation written by Hani Ramadan and published by Editions Tawhid in Europe:

The Fâtiha means the Opening and it is the first Sura, or chapter of the Qur'an. It is the first prayer learned by all Muslim children and is prayed as many as seventeen times during the cycles of prayer each day.

"The Fâtiha is recited with each bodily inclination and in many situations outside of prayer and constitutes an important element in the spiritual life of the believer. It is first of all a connecting link to God. It affims that the fundamental bond that establishes itself between the Worshipped and the worshipper is that of mercy and love. An intimate and deep connection thanks to which the soul of the human being acquires its fullness, praising the Lord. It is thus that the fâtiha invites us to true life: that which establishes an indissociable bond between a spirituality purified of every unhealthy representation and an engagement in the history of human beings in the service of the most noble cause, that of submission to God.
It has many names which al-Khazin suggests 'indicates its value and merit'.
These include Introducer of the Qur'an and to prayer, The Sura of Praise of Allah (God), The Source, or Mother of the Qur'an, The Seven Repetitions, that indicates the 7 verses, all of which are recited at the beginning of each of four cycles of prayer and with each bodily inclination. Because it is never divided in pieces and recited as a whole it is called the Complete. It is Sufficient to recite it without adding any other Sura and none can replace it. There are other names as well including the Foundation, the Cure, the Protector and the Exorciser of magic and evil. It is called the Immense Qur'an because it represents a remarkable synthesis of the whole Qur'an."

The Fâtiha 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 worship and praise:

Surat el-Fâtiha

"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)

Asra Q. Nomani in her book, "Standing Alone: the American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam", discusses how she learned that Islam teaches compassion and forgiveness when she went to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage. She writes,

"The womb is rahim in Arabic and its derivative, Al- Raheem, is one of ninety-nine names for God in Arabic, meaning 'the Compassionate'."

In one of his meditations Blessed Charles de Foucauld wrote:

"We must never despair, neither for ourselves, nor for others, nor for any human being whatsoever, no matter how sunk in vice they might be, no matter how completely every good instinct may appear to be extinguished; let us never despair, not only of their being saved, but even of the possibility they might one day be very great saints. God is powerful enough to do that."

Peace to you.