Cleansing the soul; enjoying the life: Ethics, morality and spirituality in the Open Society


open Discussions/ Gulf Cultural Club

Cleansing the soul; enjoying the life:

Ethics, morality and spirituality in the Open Society


Father Laurence Hillel *

Revd Frank Gelli**

Ali Azam****



In the present Open Society, mankind are exposed to ever-intensifying materialism. Consumerism, utilitarianism, individualism and opportunism are gradually replacing ethics, morality and spirituality as main drivers of God-fearing people. While Muslims await the advent of Ramadan for fasting in less than three months, devout Christians have already begun their Lent (the fasting season that precedes Easter’s Good Friday). The aim is to combat the ever-intensifying push towards materialism and achieve self-purification and the cleansing of the soul. Ethics, morality and spirituality are interlinked and are the subject of debate at this month’s seminar.



15th March 2016


Father Laurence Hillel: Our talk today is premised on concern that the values which seem to dominate our world, namely materialism. consumerism, utilitarianism, individualism and opportunism are taking us away from what should be our true focus in life, namely how we place God first iand also how we treat our neighbour.


As a religious leader living in the West I quite often speak in my addresses about how we are distracted from what is really important and what will give us true happiness, by the pursuit of power, status, wealth and the good life both in our work and in our leisure. That said it is worth reflecting that for a vast number of people in our world the reality is a struggle for physical survival, for a secure place to live, for enough food to eat, and for a place to live where one can feel safe, and for a place where everyone is treated as a person of value, in Christian terms “made in the image of God”.


The current refugee crisis, the proliferation of food banks in the UK, the increased numbers of those living on our streets is evidence of this. Christians develop their ethics and morality from a range of sources. Some will stress the teaching of the Bible and in particular they may focus on its message in both Old and New Testament that God sides with the poor and the vulnerable, the excluded and the persecuted. Others will turn to passages of

Jesus’ teaching like the Sermon on the Mount and be inspired by such verses as “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, Blessed are the Merciful, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Blessed are the Peace makers. Others will talk about the need for following Jesus’ example of compassion and mercy, forgiveness and love, and seek through their own understanding, guided by the teaching of the church, to put this into practice in their lives.


Beneath all this is an understanding that God loves his creation (in its wider sense not just humanity, but the whole created order), and that his desire is for the created order to flourish and to thus reflect the glory of God in all its dealings. In a sense we may understand this as a vision of “heaven on earth”


Christians pray daily, in the saying of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy (God’s) Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven” The prayer continues “Give us this day our daily bread,” a prayer not just for ourselves but for all humanity, and applying both to physical food and spiritual food, and then “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who trespass against us”.


This directly links us with the season of Lent which Christians are now observing.

The season of Lent provides Christians with an opportunity to annually reflect on all of what I have been saying and to try and re-orientate their lives so as to better reflect God’s glory. Of course this is not something that can be achieved by human effort alone, if at all. Christianity has an understanding of humanity that we are all flawed beings and finite beings, and we need God’s providential grace to be redeemed. This is very much the focus on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.


When Christians come to the church for forgiveness, their foreheads are marked with ashes reminding them of the biblical symbol of repentance (sackcloth and ashes) and mortality: “You are dust, and to dust you will return, turn away from Sin and commit yourself to Christ”.


Lent is one of the oldest observations on the Christian calendar. Its purpose has always been the same: self-examination and penitence, which is the acknowledgement of one’s own sin (one’s failings) and the expression of the desire for forgiveness. Lent is a season to prepare oneself for Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the Dead, which for Christians is the foundation event of their faith. I would like to speak first about how Lent has been observed in the past, but then to reflect on its meaning for Christians in the UK today.

Traditionally Christians have been encouraged to spend time during Lent in prayer, to confess one’s sins, to fast, and to do acts of charity. In past centuries it has been treated as a time of self-denial, when metaphorically one suffers for one’s sin in order to purify one’s soul. It was treated as a period of sombre reflection lasting forty days which comes to a climax in the period of Holy Week when Christians recall the events leading up to the passion and death of Jesus Christ.


Why forty days? The number “40” has special significance in scripture. In the Old Testament, On Mount Sinai, preparing to receive the Ten Commandments, “Moses stayed there with the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights, without eating any food or drinking any water” (Ex 34:28). Most importantly, in the New Testament we learn that Jesus fasted and prayed for “40 days and 40 nights” in the desert before He began His public ministry (Mt 4:2). It is described in the NT as a period of inner turmoil and challenge for Jesus when he faces his adversary “the devil” and is tempted by him to follow his own desires for power, wealth and status. Jesus’ renounces these distractions and instead pronounces that what is prime importance is the Worship of God and doing his will.


In terms of practice traditionally Lent was strict in its interpretations of the rules of fasting. Generally it meant abstaining from meat and sometimes fish. The day before Lent began (Shrove Tuesday; so named after the practice of striving) was a day of feasting and carnival; to let off steam before the lectern fast began. The rule during Lent was for a person to have only one meal a day.


However from the late 20th Century the emphasis on fasting had been relaxed, although Ash Wednesday and Good Friday remain days of fast. What I have been speaking about so far is a traditional understanding of Lent. Today there is less emphasis on the “suffering elements” and more positively an emphasis on the opportunity for Christian to renew their relationship with God. Christians believe that their sin and the sin of the world separates

human beings from God. It also separates us from each other. There is a greater emphasis today on the communal aspects of sin and on the sins of society. There is also a recognition that often people are trapped by the situations they are in and that compassion rather than punishment is called for. Lent is after all about rediscovering the heart of God in Christ; For Christians the core of Jesus teaching is about love and compassion. Thus they seek to put this into practice into their lives.


We are conscious of the ease with which we can selfishly be drawn into the consumerism and

materialism which is around us. Lent provides an opportunity to restore the focus, to cleanse the mind and heart and to rediscover the roots of one’s faith. It also provides an opportunity to think about one’s lifestyle and to try and change one’s daily practices to better respond to the needs of the world.


The Christian tradition has a strong emphasis on social justice and Lent provides an opportunity to focus on this. So reinterpretation of the spiritual practices has taken place. For example, fasting may now be linked to one day (traditionally Friday) and the emphasis will be on eating a simple meal and then giving the proceeds saved to a charity. One practice we are following in our church which comes under the heading fasting and purification is the project “40 bags in 40 days decluttering challenge”, a challenge to rid ourselves physically of those things which are not needed, to put them into bags and then maybe to give them to charity or share them. But we might take this idea further; to emotionally declutter

(perhaps face those things which are preventing us from moving on or growing in our lives or

obstructing our relationships with family or friends), and to declutter spiritually, to rid ourselves of anything which is impeding our relationship with God. Another examples; In terms of charity our church community puts a special emphasis onto supporting the foodbank run in a neighbouring parish as well as seeking to support those whose lives are in danger globally.


The English word ‘Lent’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon (early English) word meaning to ‘lengthen’. Lent comes at a time when the hours or daytime are ‘lengthening’, as spring approaches, and so it is a time when we too can ‘lengthen’ spiritually, when we can stretch out and grow in the Spirit. We provide the opportunity by focusing our selves on God through our spiritual practices for God to build his home in us. It is a time therefore of renewal and rebirth, a time to rediscover the light of Christ within us, a time

to remember our Baptisms, sacramentally (metaphorically) our time of birth in Christ (traditionally Baptisms took place at Easter) Today, the spiritual practices we pursue (prayer/fasting/charity etc) are less interpreted as paying a penalty, and more about refocusing and renewing our lives in God/Christ.


This is why Lent now is seen as a joyful season, about a renewal of inner peace (in the face of all the distractions of the world) and a refocusing on what should be important in our lives.





May I speak to you in the name of the One True God: In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen

My talk is about a fascinating figure of Christian spirituality. The French scholar, Islamologist and priest Louis Massignon. And his valuable ideas vis-à-vis interfaith relations between Islam and Christianity. First I shall speak about Massignon. Who was he? Then I shall tell you about the Sufi martyr who inspired Massignon’s life and work, al-Hallaj. And how Massignon understood al-Hallaj. Then the association or guild or fraternity called BADALIYA founded by Massignon. Lastly why I believe the idea of Badaliya may still be interesting for us today.


LOUIS MASSIGNON was born 1883. His ruling passion, the love of his live became the Arab world and the Arab language. He travelled to Algeria and Morocco and studied Arabic for his diploma in Paris. Then he went to Egypt where he first read a book by the Persian mystic, Farid Uddin Attar on the lives of Sufi saints. He discovered the tragic figure of Hussayn Mansur al-Hallaj. Later he went to Baghdad. He went native, wore Arab dress, led a disordered life. He wrote of ‘violent jaunts’. Travelled to Karbala and Najaf to explore the sights there. Was accused by two Germans as a spy, was imprisoned, beaten, threatened with death. While languishing in prison he was visited by a figure he calls it the STRANGER – a hallucination? A day-dream? A fantasy? God knows – certainly supernatural, who went through the closed, barred doors of his cell and, he says, lit a FIRE in his heart. He wrote cryptically about this mysterious Stranger.


He was A PURE, INEFFABLE PRESENCE. Massignon perceived that some INVISIBLE BEINGS assured him of their protection. But also he felt was saved thanks to his Arab hosts, who protected him. They gave him hospitality. He felt that hospitality was a sacred thing. This idea of a sacred hospitality, which he learnt from the Arabs, deeply impressed him. Indeed after some more painful trials he was released and eventually made it back to France. He abandoned his previous agnosticism and became a practising, devout Catholic.

During WWI Massignon served in the French Army and met T.E. Lawrence, so called Lawrence of Arabia in Jerusalem. (He by the way mocked Lawrence’s crude, inadequate Arabic.) Later he became a Professor of Social Sciences at the College de France in Paris. After years of research, composed a massive, scholarly text: THE PASSION OF AL-HALLAJ.


Spent the rest of his intellectual and political life passionately devoted to the Arabs and the Arab language.

He said that ‘Arabic is the last liturgical (or sacred) language in which God has spoken to human beings’.

And he criticised Christians who attacked Muhammad. He asserted that Islam’s Prophet had ‘TRANSMITTED WITH SINCERITY AND AUTHENTICITY A MESSAGE FROM HEAVEN’.

Massignon tried to study, to know Islam not from the viewpoint of the external, detached academic observer but from within it. ‘You should study the two religions on a fair, similar level, and not compare the ideal of Christianity with the behaviour of Muslims’.


Born in the province of Fars in 858 AD and died in Baghdad on the scaffold after atrocious tortures in in 922 – 309 of the Hijra. A disciple of several Sufi masters, the most famous being Junayd. He himself attracted many followers and travelled around incessantly on pilgrimages.


The tradition has a celebrated anecdote. One day in Baghdad he knocked at Junayd’s door. The master asked: ‘Who is there?’ Hallaj answered with a sentence that has become the most famous and outrageous of all mystical claims: ‘ANA AL-HAQQ’. ‘I am the Truth. I am the Absolute’. Tantamount to claiming, perhaps: ‘I AM GOD’. Thus contradicting the fundamental Islamic concept of Tawhid, the Absolute Oneness or Unity of God. This is all over the Qur’an but in particular Suratulikhals, N.112) Kul hua Allahu had – He is Allah, the One…


Anyway, it took a long time for al-Hallaj to be tried and executed for his blasphemous statement. He left Baghdad and spent years travelling. He went to Mecca, Khorasan, Turkestan and India, Gujurat and Sind. Everywhere he preached and called people to God, in intensive love and great asceticism.


Eventually al-Hallaj was arrested and pilloried, then imprisoned. The Caliph’s mother and the chamberlain were on his side but the all-powerful uazir, vizier, Hamid was his deadly enemy. Years went by before Hamid could force the highest judge in Iraq to sign al-Hallaj’s death sentence. He was scourged his hands and feet cut off and put on a jibbet, the gallows and decapitated. His body was burned and the ashes scattered on the river Tigris. The pious hagiography says that the people of Baghdad saw the ashes forming over the water the words: ANA AL-HAQQ.


Why did Hallaj matter to Massignon? The Frenchman thought al-Hallaj was the Islamic Christ. Or the counterpart of the figure of Jesus Christ in Islam. Massignon saw analogies or parallels between the Passion of Jesus and that of al-Hallaj, quite apart from his shocking cry of UNION WITH GOD:


  1. Like Jesus, Al-Hallaj was betrayed, denounced by a disciple;
  2. Condemned before a special tribunal for advocating the destruction of the Ka’aba and the cessation of sacrifices;
  3. Delivered into his enemies’ hands despite the prayers of the Caliph’s mother and sentenced by a cowardly ruler, who chose to release instead another criminal, with the same name as Hallaj.
  4. Accepted willingly his martyrdom but affirming the blindness of the people, praying for his tormentors before the execution, insulted on the scaffold by his enemies, denied by one of his own disciples, lamenting to have been abandoned by God.
  5. The day he died was also in the lectionary of the Catholic Church the commemoration of St Dismas, the good thief.So for Massignon al-Hallaj became the Sufi embodiment of man achieving Union with God – albeit through terrible suffering, through what he called the Passion of al-Hallaj.And Massignon considered al-Hallaj as a Saint according to the Church. Because, he wrote, you can belong to the Church after a visible manner, those who are ‘inside’ it, by receiving the sacrament of baptism, but also after an invisible and hidden manner some who are outside, by virtue of divine grace, who realise the Divine Will…THE CONCEPT OF BADALIYAMassignon’s key spiritual idea was that of ‘spiritual substitution’ or suffering, out of love, in another’s place. A mystical concept, a bit difficult to grasp. So in Egypt he established in 1934, amongst Arab Christians of Eastern rite, a Fraternity of Prayer called BADALIYA in Arabic. Badal in Arabic means ‘a substitute, a replacement, but also a ‘compensation, an exchange, a price’. In Compare in Arabic for example the phrase, ‘tabaadul assalam’: the exchange of greetings of peace. The members of the Badaliya – al-Abdaal – were to be spiritual substitutes. Not trying to convert, to win over Muslims to Christianity, but loving Muslims so much to offer themselves as spirituals substitutes on their behalf – and paying their ransom or price – after the example of Christ, through their spiritual exertions or sufferings. The Abdal would stand in lieu of Muslims before God. To witness – Massignon used the Arab word shahada – for Muslims and on behalf of Muslims, to God.The Abdal not unlike Muslims, followed Five Pillars: they witnessed, prayed, fasted, gave alms and went on pilgrimages.   Muslims of course do not accept the crucifixion of Christ. The Qur’an appears to deny that Jesus hung upon the Cross – he was delivered by God out of the hands of his enemies. Well, Massignon and his followers decided to accept – live out – the Cross in their place. As a Frenchman he was not an Arab Christian but later in his life, despite being married, he was secretly ordained priest in Cairo according to the Melkite Church. Arab-speaking Catholics of Eastern Rite.Later Massignon opposed the creation of the State of Israel. Became president of the Association Friends of Gandhi and became committed to a non-violent struggle against the French war of occupation in Algeria. In 1958 he was attacked during a conference, beaten in the face and lost the sight in his right eye. Two years later he took part to a sit-in in Vincennes to protest against the racist treatment inflicted to Algerians in France. He termed it haram – ignoble, despicable. He was 77 years old when, after being arrested, he got a criminal record for having broken the law in protesting against the treatment of Algerian civilians. He wrote that his criminal record would be his badge of honour in the Day of Judgment.In a 1962 letter – he was a frenetic, constant letter writer – he wrote that what prevents reconciliation between Frenchmen and Arabs was ‘the refusal of the spirit of fraternal hospitality towards fellow Abrahamic worshippers.’ Abraham of course the archetype and paradigm example in Genesis, chapter 18, of sacred hospitality when in a celebrated theophany, or divine manifestation, the Lord appeared to Abraham in the form of three men or angels whom he received as guests. A most famous Russian icon by Andrei Rublev depicts that encounter. Harvard Professor Jon Levenson in his book ‘Inheriting Abraham’ has actually claimed that the current notion of Abrahamic religions, so much appealed to in interfaith dialogue – Abraham as the common ancestor of Jews, Muslims and Christians – indeed was somewhat illegitimately invented by Massignon, which Levenson does not much like…Finally, was can the idea of Badaliya be of value today in interfaith work? Speaking as a Christian, I would submit that it does. It can inspire us. But inspiration does not mean imitation. The idea of a mystical substitution for others is not for everybody. Instead, I suggest that we can replace the notion of substitution with the less mystical but more accessible idea of representation. Christians who believe in genuine dialogue, who are committed to it, would to represent Muslims, before and to the Church. To stand on their behalf, as Christians, for what is good and holy in Islam. (Remember, Massignon’s Islam is a pure, perhaps even idealised Islam. It is NOT the Islam practiced by ISIS or al-Qaeda or even sects like Wahhabis.) Particularly recalling what is the genuine sense of the word ‘Islam’, as submission to the Creator. To be representatives of Islam in the Church. To be examples of Christian love for Muslims. To recognise them as fellow monotheists, to affirm what we share together. To pray that God’s will would be done for Muslims. Why? Because love commands it. As Massignon wrote: ‘Il faut que la Francais et surtout les pretres aiment les Arabes, jusq’a la mort…
  6. Each prayer session of the Badaliya started before a Crucifix with the recitation of the Faatiha, the most famous Arab prayer from the Qur’an. He said that that prayer invokes Malik youm addin’ – which, I quote, ‘we desire Islam to find in its heart.’ Regular invocations were made to the Virgin Mary – of course she is mentioned more often in the Qur’an than in the New Testament – to Fatima, the ‘Lady of Islam’, to the Sleepers of Ephesus, those young men mentioned in Suratulkahf, chapter 18. Islam shares them with Christianity because the sleepers of Ephesus were recognised and canonised by the Church. Passages from the writings by St Charles de Foucauld, another great Frenchman committed to loving Islam. And from St Francis of Assisi who during the 5th Crusade travelled to the Middle East and had a famous encounter with Sultan al-Kamil.
  7. As predecessors of his work, Massignon mentioned the monks of ‘Our Lady of Mercy’, the Mercedarians. A medieval religious order whose task was to tender the sick but also to rescue Christians who had been taken captives by the Moors. Their sacrificial rule of life included pledging themselves to offer their person as hostages if needed for the freedom of Christian slaves. To substitute themselves for a prisoner, out of love for him.


Ali Azzam: My sincere thanks to Dr Shehabi for providing me with this opportunity to address you. In my discussion I would like to tell you about the important of virtue ethics in order to make a shift from the utilitarian orientated world that we live in today to a world which is based on virtue ethics. But we live in a very rule-based society and virtues are not rules.


I have selected for this discussion a part of Aristotle discourse which addresses the question of why are we here, what is the purpose of our existence. The reason I have chosen this discourse is because I feel there are very important answers contained within it and are very relevant to tonight’s discussion.


Aristotle suggested all our aims and actions and activities are aiming to serve some good. He calls that good as the ultimate end the supreme good or the final happiness because he thinks that all the actions are only means. They are not ends in themselves. Being honourable, just, honest and kind. These are all the virtues that may produce happiness. But they are not happiness in themselves. Therefore he concludes that happiness is the final end.


And inquiring into happiness he further distinguishes happiness from pleasure and he concludes relates to the animal or the desiring part of the body whereas happiness relates to the rationality of man. Since man is a rational being and the fulfilment of the purpose for men is in rationality, the function of rationality is the contemplation of the one.


I would like to stop here and just take an Islamic view on this. In the Islamic view we may consider this contemplation of the one, this contemplation of the absolute. We can see that in uniting with the one, uniting with the universal truth, uniting with haq, uniting with qadra and from an Islamic angle we would say uniting as submission. The existential confession of tawhid or of oneness. This is only attained through the activity of the soul and in accordance with virtues and in accordance with, very importantly, applying the principle of reason with it. So virtues are inseparable from reason. Virtues can only be applied with the principle of rationality.


Aristotle suggests that men must make this supreme good as the ultimate target, otherwise all his actions will be subjected to infinite progression so men will be making all activities, all actions but really without direction. This is much like his argument of infinite progression which he established in the logic of the first cause.


The emergence of science and technology has somewhat subtracted the soul and the soul’s vertical or metaphysical approach to reality. It has consumed itself with the cosmological and phenomenal aspect of reality. So what it has therefore done in Athens is it has really induced material self indulgence, hedonistic orientated theories in society whose principle would be that happiness is pleasure or any act which is beneficial is a moral act: this gives birth to opportunism.


Aristotle puts it himself, for the generality of mankind, happiness actually lies in pleasure but is man’s intrinsic nature not defined by the absolute. At the bottom of the score he seeks nothing else but the yearning of that one becoming one with the universal truth.


So what I am going to draw from Aristotle’s discourse is that the world we are living in, the position of supreme good has been shifted from the attainment of the final happiness to attainment of mere pleasure and all human aspirations have also shifted in position.


I would now like to discuss the activity of the soul and the Quranic perspective, the Quranic view, what are Islamic ethics. There are three major categories and concepts of ethnics in Islam. The first one relates to God’s ethical nature itself since God in himself is the absolute article which we know as the divine attributes, for example the benevolent, the kind, the just the merciful which were later developed by the theologians as divine attributes. The second part relates to man’s response to God and man’s response to God is nothing else because God is ethnical in action and he acts upon him with the ethical nature it requires. Or he requires man to reciprocate and take the same return. Reciprocate by returning from multiplicity back to unity with the same ethics. Man’s response to God is both at the same time ethics and religion.


So the ethics are derived from the divinity of God, God has all the divine attributes and man is basically reciprocating the same thing. So man is basically a reflection or an imitation of God, returning the same thing. And when it comes to what man is doing, towards other men or humanity men must act towards other men with justice and humanity because God’s actions are always absolute and right. When man acts towards humanity he ought to be doing that with justice and righteousness. We can discuss what justice is. How can I claim I am being just to someone because other philosophers have said is that to be just we have to fulfil the purpose we were created for.


We have already seen from Aristotle’s discourse that to be able to fulfil the purpose. Through rationality you have to become one with the universal truth which is the active intellect. So it is not easy to be able to fulfil the purpose unless we are fully using our rationality. So our rationality is important in virtue ethics.


I would like to just like to illustrate again the very astonishing correlation and relationship between some of the terminologies which are used in ethics or in Islamic ethics: halaq, mahluk, and halq. Halaq is the creator, mahluk is the creature, ahlaq is ethics and halq in the form of the essence that God has made or created man. So we can see a very remarkable relationship between halaq and mahluk. The form which he has created or the essence which he has created is actually ethics itself. So it goes back. God is all ethical therefore the relationship between man and God is through those ethics, vertically and horizontally.


In Islam ahlaq is literally translated as ethics. But it also interchangeable with a term adab which is the practical application: moral manners, attitudes and behaviour whereas ethics itself is the science or philosophy of knowing what one ought to do. The most important aspect is objectively, so applying wisdom to it. One ought to know what one ought to do.


We are living in a very rule based society and we are having interpretations as universal wisdom or universal solutions to our every day interactions but really the use of those terms is very important.


I would like to know speak about Islamic ethics. I would like to discuss the outer manifestations of the ethics and virtues. So what are these outer manifestations? How do we see the manifestations of these virtues in this most excellent manner applied with the rational wisdom and here what the Prophet of God (pbuh) is saying: there is indeed for you the in the messenger of God a beautiful example. “Indeed O Prophet, your character is of a tremendous nature.”


So I have selected a quality of him which is really the crux of society at the moment and where the spirit of him that we require in our society. So this quality of him is also very much dominated in the spirit of the Quran itself. So the Quran is fill of the quality of him al halim which is generally translated as the mild and the gentle. The quality of him has a lot more connotations and meanings, a lot more qualities which are comprised with the quality of him and some of them I will name: they are forbearance, patience, composure, self control, the ability to avoid conflict, seeking peace, reconciliation, justice and most importantly wisdom – an objective view of what is required in each situation.


There is a need to be detached from one’s self interest, ego and desire. This quality therefore enables one to resist the pressure of tribalism and sectarianism, nationalism or any other concepts which might be distorted from one’s perception of justice. So we can see the importance of using and applying wisdom to the virtues.


I am trying to draw the actual manifestation of the virtues as how they are in their purity with the true model of the virtues. The vices which oppose him are jal but it is not simply the involuntary absence of knowledge. It is rather the guilty ignorance of perhaps the conduct which is being done against our primordial nature. Those are for example ego centricity, impatience, rashness, fanaticism, being hasty, selfishness, injustice. The Prophet is saying I was raised as a Prophet to perfect the most noble traits of the human character. He saying is an illusion to the principle that understanding the divine message which is again vertical and conveying it which is again horizontal. Being just and kind to people produces nobility.


As time is short I will now talk about the inner manifestation or the inner functionality of the soul and how the soul is working. I will talk about knowledge by presence which Muslim philosophers have developed and it is the knowledge of intuition, illumination and a direct tasting of reality. The example I can give when we see Aristotle in the mirror we have a representation of us but that is not us because us is our consciousness and the understanding of that consciousness we feel an immediacy when we think about it.


But any knowledge which is gained by the faculty of reason or even sensory it is not complete. So men contain the knowledge. The philosophers have said that the heart is really the true instrument of true knowledge. There is a famous dictum of Jesus Christ: The kingdom of God is within you. The Prophet has said “blessed is he who makes his heart grasping.”


It is the heart, the centrality of being, that knows God and that which constitutes the soul of the human self. It is the heart to which God looks to and addresses himself, manifest as mystery to himself.” So the very nature of the heart is to mill the totality and absoluteness of the unity of being.


In the Hadith Al Qudsi God says before time and space I was the hidden treasure and I wanted to be known. So he has created mankind in his own image so he can see his own mystery to himself. What I have tried to discuss was about that heart which becomes a heart through which you have a reflection of God. So in Islam ethics underpins everything.


The world in which we live is very chaotic. Mankind is facing very difficult challenges. We really need true virtues and the ability to apply them in our everyday activities and actions in all aspects whether to do with political, social or economical judgments so we are first able to reconcile our position in this materialistic, secular world and on the second hand only through the earnest endeavours of this application are we able to influence the world at large in an attempt to try and remove the shift back of happiness to where it belongs which at the moment is in pleasure.

* Father Laurence Hillel is an Anglican Priest and  works part time as Assistant Priest at St Anne’s Brondesbury and is Co-Director, London Inter Faith Centre. He is also Inter Faith Adviser for the Willesden Area of London Diocese. He was  Chaplain at Bishop Ramsey Church of England School. He was also School Chaplain at Bishop Ramsey School, Ruislip, Middlesex.


** The Revd Frank Julian Gelli

Fr Frank obtained a BA in Philosophy from Birkbeck College, London, an MA in Christian Ethics as well as a PGCE, both from Kings College, London. He also holds an Oxford University Certificate in Theology. Three years ago he obtained an MA in Islamic Studies from the Muslim College, London. In 1986 he was ordained as Anglican priest. He served in London parishes, as well as a chaplain to the Church of St Nicholas, British Embassy, Ankara, Turkey.

From 1999, Father Frank has devoted himself to writing and to interfaith dialogue. He has lectured on interfaith in the US, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Qatar, where he was Visiting Fellow at the Family Institute, Qatar University. He often takes part in interviews and discussions on TV Channels like Press TV, Ahlulbayt TV and Islam Channel.

He has two books available online. ‘Julius Evola, the Sufi of Rome’ and ‘The Dark Side of Britain’. His next book will be ‘The Qur’an and the Art of Problem-Solving’.


****Ali Azam Holds MA in comparative philosophy and religion. He has been interested in researching Virtue Ethics in an attempt to deal with the modern social diseases in our societies. Thus he embarked on a series of talks entitled: Islamic virtue ethics addressing the activists and youth. His aim is to raise awareness of virtue ethics as an important side of socio-political and economical judgements, both within religious communities and the human race. He has recently published a book entitled: “Change of Will, where Hollywood, politics and religion collide”



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