1. End of Year Appeal
Dear Friends of Elijah,
We are constantly seeking ways of making the exchange across religions more engaged, authentic and true to who we are as religious personalities, meeting across our differences. The resources that Elijah creates are helpful to individuals, communities and organizations, as they deepen their interreligious exchange. The present issue of Wisdom features our work on “Religious Genius”, the study of outstanding individuals, as a new area of exchange across religious traditions. What we have accomplished thus far is only the beginning of the work. As some of you may know, the death of one of our biggest funders has left us even more vulnerable and in need of your support, in order to advance this project. If you have been inspired by the vision of “Religious Genius”, and if you find Elijah’s work of Scholar to Street important, please include Elijah in your end of year contribution. With your contribution we can move forward in making available to communities globally the witness and inspiration of religious luminaries across traditions. With this, we can help make religion and interreligious relations a force for the good in society.
2. Religious Geniuses as Sources of Contemporary Inspiration
Religious leaders are used to providing guidance and inspiration for their communities but from where do they draw the strength? One of the answers is from lives and teachings of the religious luminaries who have formed and transformed their traditions.
At the recent meeting of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders, a number of important discussions took place on the subject of those personalities who have inspired and transformed religions, whose lives were exemplary and whose teachings transcend their historical contexts. Elijah has chosen to discuss their importance under the heading “Religious Genius,” attempting to find a language to give space for each religion to articulate itself without projecting its specificity onto another tradition. Previously used terminology, including “saints” or “gurus,” suffer from their associations with particular traditions and are culturally loaded.
3. Gregory the Theologian
There are theologians who devoted themselves to explicating the articles of faith within their particular religious traditions. It might seem that they would not be candidates for providing inspiration to those from other faiths. However, we can be inspired by their religious lives and teachings without adopting all their theological positions. When looking at the poetry of Gregory the Theologian, Christians and non-Christians alike were inspired by his assertion that those who have had profound spiritual experiences need to work out how to allow their access to a higher realm to inform their work in the here-and-now. His emphasis on grappling with real issues allowed leaders to reflect on the fact that little of their daily lives is focused on the spiritual endeavours that may have drawn them to religious leadership in the first place. Indeed, they said, gatherings of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders were glimpses into what might be an ideal religious life – sharing wisdom and praying alongside each other.
One of the most celebrated of the scholar-practitioners who shaped Islam was Abū Hāmid al-Ghazālī, (early 12th Century), a renowned scholar of the Shāfi‘ī fiqh (jurisprudence) tradition and the Ash‘arī school of dogmatic theology (kalām). He abandoned his prestigious professorship at the Niẓāmīya college or madrasa in Baghdad in order to live a life of poverty and walk the path of inner purification and experiential knowledge.
5. Sharing Wisdom
Members of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders studied the life and teachings of Gregory the Theologian, a case study in Religious Genius. This extract from one of his orations focuses on the obligation to care for the most needy in society.
We know that you have many options in choosing where to make a contribution, and we are grateful for your faith in us that your contribution will be invested directly in the growth of the Elijah Interfaith Institute.
CLICK HERE to make your contribution. All donations are US tax exempt.
Wisdom enables us to become mindful of the memories and impressions that condition our response to the world. Wisdom enables to respond to the world, not from the dualism of like and dislike, love and hate, but from a vision of the unity of existence and the seeing of the limitless in all beings. Wisdom frees us from responding to the world on the basis of historically formed memories and enables us to do so on the basis of compassion. – Anantanand Rambachan