Muhammad Bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the World Muslim League, with the President of the Meeting Bernhard Scholz (©Archivio Meeting)

At the source of the human

From the September issue of Tracce, excerpts from the dialogue at the Meeting dedicated to Fr. Giussani with Muhammad Bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Islamic World League.

Wael Farouq. In 1990 I was 16 years old and, like any normal Egyptian Muslim boy, I was reading Al-Mutanabbi, a great Arab poet, along with William Shakespeare. I grew up, like most of my peers, with both cultures: the Islamic Arab and the Western. My biggest question at the time was: Europeans do not stop running away from their past, while Muslims do not stop running toward their past, in what present then will they be able to meet? This was the question that most of those of my generation had, who opened their eyes and saw the collapse of a world. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism, we realized how bad it was, but not only that. Iraq invaded Kuwait, with the fall of another great narrative: Arab nationalism. And with the various Gulf Wars, the great narrative of liberalism fell, when they turned the light of freedom into the darkness of oil. (...) Religions also fell in the 1990s, and the wave of terrorism, of bombings, began, in which so many innocent people were killed. Thus the so-called Islamism, the political Islam that uses violence to achieve its goals, also brought down the religious response in the eyes of us young people. (...) In those years, when the masters of ideology were asking me to follow them with my eyes closed, because they were the masters of absolute truth, I read The Religious Sense, in which Giussani asked me to open my eyes, because to follow the truth you have to have your eyes open.
It was a living question, like a wound that does not heal. I no longer had to choose whether to flee from the past or to the past. I just had to open my eyes to the here and now. It is the "come and see" method, the same as in the Islamic tradition, because every invitation to the Islamic faith starts from a call to see and every acceptance of the Islamic faith is called shahada: testimony. This comes from the verb shahida, which means to see. When someone embraces a faith they say, "I have seen." Therefore, each encounter with people who came from Giussani's experience, a new grand narrative has taken shape, a grand narrative of hope, grounded in rationality, realism and elemental experience. In every encounter I have had with a person living the experience born of Fr. Giussani, this hope grows within me. I found the hope I was looking for when I was young in The Religious Sense, I found it in my encounter with you.

Fr. Stefano Alberto, Muhammad Bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa and Wael Farouq at the Meeting (©Archivio Meeting)

Al-Issa. The first step to overcome the problems of thought and of soul that we must all seek to heal – to bring about a world that is more in harmony with itself and with others, a world that is safer and more peaceful and is formed of societies that understand each other and live in peace – begins with the perception of the religious sense, which represents the value of faith in every human being. This is what the creative innovator, the researcher, the great philosopher, the religious man of great humanity who was open to others, Luigi Giussani, who respected reason and respected everyone, talks about. (...)
He was a thinker, a creative person who possessed wisdom and said that the greatest deprivation is the loss of the sense of what the human is. Thus, according to Giussani's logic, we have to perceive the importance and value of our existence, we have to ask what the meaning of life, the deep meaning of existence is, and why are we different, what is the secret of this difference? Is there one truth? Are there many truths? Can we let philosophical speculation and endless debate make truth vanish? These ideas awaken elemental experience and reason, and push them to think with sound logic in order to deal with the nihilistic interpretation of existence, which wants to erase any other logical interpretation of life. For example, the philosopher or scientist traces life back to the cell and does not ask: Who created this cell? How did it structure itself in such an original way, to the point of enclosing a soul, a spirit? (...)
The moral values shared by all, believers and non-believers alike, are actually that religious sense that is in each of us; they are the elementary experience of the faith of every human soul. (...) Man as man necessarily has moral values that represent his high, supreme values, or something sacred to him. If we deprive ourselves of these moral or sacred values, and I mean faith, we would no longer have this source, which represents our true energy. And if we ignore this impulse toward the inner faith that transmits moral values to us and distinguishes us from other creatures ... when we ignore this faith or flee from this faith, we interpret in an uncertain way that man created those values with his reason, and so it results in their absence. (...)
Giussani's The Religious Sense is not a theological book, it is not merely a religious book, although it speaks of values that are firm in all believers. It speaks of man who must rediscover himself and search for the secrets deep within himself; whether he does it alone or with the help of others. Giussani plays this role; he enlightens lost minds that have distorted shared human values. (...) He does not reflect in theological terms, but in intellectual and philosophical terms that appeal to all, believers and non-believers alike; he speaks to them with the logic of wisdom, that wisdom that leads man to fulfill the elementary experience of faith in the Creator, who allowed him to exist and planted within him those values, the elementary experience. Although he was a theologian, we often find texts from Dostoevsky, Kafka, Eliot, Goethe, Shakespeare in his talks... This book leads us to discover ourselves, others, and the spiritual meaning in each person. Giussani does not separate the spirit from the mind, but he draws the mind and binds it to the spirit. He does not support that theory that says: silence your reason so your spirit will speak. Giussani believes in the idea that reason is what makes us properly human, if we learn not to be slaves to it. (...)

This question remains: can we deprive the believer of the sense of faith we have just discussed? Or, can we deprive him of the elemental experience? The answer is: yes, we can, but the sense of faith remains within the person, but it remains dormant. The divine laws, especially those of the heavenly religions, have come to us to awaken that sense of faith, to awaken that natural predisposition to faith. This religious sense, which includes all moral values and so many shared human values, can be in two states: either in deep stillness, and needs to be awakened, or in a state of wakefulness and activity, and needs to find its way back to faith so as not to deviate from the right path.