A Sacred Journey

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A Feeling of oneness binds us together beyond boundaries…….!

By Mehraj Din

Mehraj-Din-in-TurkeyThe books of Islamic history are replete with the grandiose sacerdotal significance of Ottoman Empire and how it carved the fate of Muslim Ummah. I being a student of Islamic studies always tried to engage, imagine and connect myself with the glory and grandeur of Ottoman Empire, which was considered to be the “last-Hope” of the Muslim world. Muslims across territorial boundaries are united with common monotheistic sacred sacrosanct feelings which attenuate the infinite distance between countries into absolute oblivion.

The colonial onslaught from the West and dismantling of Muslim unity never deterred us from dreaming our glorious past.  The absence of our sacred umbrella—Caliphate was always a cherished goal of Muslims across territorial boundaries and my craving for experiencing and visiting the “last hope” of twentieth century Muslim world and “renewed optimism” for leading the Muslim Ummah again in the 21st century came true on 13th of June, 2014. I was invited to present my paper on one of the most cherished ideologues of Turkish nation “Badiuzzaman Said Nursi” and I proposed to speak on “Dialogue and Religious Pluralism in the Perspective of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi”.

It was an honor to be the only speaker from any of the universities of Indian Subcontinent (Kashmir) who presented the paper while all other speakers came from the universities of Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, USA, UK and Turkey itself. The speakers talked about different dimensions of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi and tried to contextualize and infer insights out of his writings for solving the problems faced by the whole of humanity. The most important aspect of this conference which enriched this gathering is the presence, observations and feedback of internationally reputed scholars like Prof. Ian Markham (Director, Virginia Hartford Seminary, USA), Farid alatas (Prof. of Sociology, University of Singapore), Colin Turner (Prof. University of Durham) Prof. Jones (USA) and American Delegation of professors and civil society members.

For me, this journey does not only connote the intellectual endeavor for knowledge but something I have grown listening to.  One of the famous Prophetic traditions goes like this,  “Muslims are a single body and share the same feeling across the world transcending territorial boundaries”. Living that dream was the primary reason behind attending this conference and the people I met corroborated this notion of oneness in Muslim Ummah.

The journey was full of surprises and moments where I could relate myself to the larger body of Muslim Ummah. I met a Russian Muslim at Kazakhstan airport and his first sentence was “anta muslimun masha allah anta jamilun jiddan wa ana muslimun aizan min al sheeshaan” (Are you a Muslim, Masha allah you are beautiful and I am Muslim too from Chechniyan). He couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Arabic so we tried to talk between the lines from Kazkhstan to Istanbul, he couldn’t sit and after take-off stood by my seat and we started relating ourselves as part of one single Ummah. The moment I landed in Istanbul, I was recollecting the memories of Turkey of late Ottaman Empire and the glorious Caliphate of Sultan Abdul Hamed II (the last caliph).

Even though the blind reception of modernity has transformed the lands of Muslim Ummah from the “sacred manifestation of God” into “hollow meaningless structures of modernity” but the spirit of Islam is still there to which I could easily relate myself. The sense of belonging and sharing the God-centric epistemological glasses of with the scholars and professors of Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) made it more sacrosanct and meaningful.

Not everyone has the opportunity to travel abroad, but everyone has the opportunity to travel within, to deeper spaces within their heart. As Imam Malik used to say “travelling is Knowledge” and “this journey of the heart has not only given me an opportunity to reflect about who I’m and want to be, but also has empowered me to deconstruct the walls that divide, crafting a new found community spirit I have carried back home. The clear overwhelming love of Turkish people for Islam and Muslim Ummah was something really worth remembering and enriching my understanding about people from different traditions, cultures and beliefs. The commitment and comprehensive understanding of Prophetic mission with in-depth realistic approach and its practicability among conscious Turkish Muslims deconstructing this myth that Muslim society cannot produce the like of the “companions of the Prophet”. The pluralistic understanding of Islam and respect for the people of other faiths was worth experiencing in this whole trip. I was trying to re-connect myself with the period when the people of Abrahamic religions could have lived under the same umbrella. Exploring Muslim, Christian and Jewish understanding in the context of modern Turkey has opened me all to the power of engaged dialogue and action among people of diverse religious traditions.

“The learning that happens through travel is not something that can be replicated on campus; travel allows people to break barriers and boundaries. Quran beautifully sums up the diversity of traditions, cultures and beliefs in a verse which states “O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.

The author is a doctoral candidate at Shah-i-Hamadan Institute of Islamic Studies in the University of Kashmir and can be mailed at bhat.mehraj7@gmail.com

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