“The Conference of Books”

If you are looking here because you read the post on Facebook, you know that I have come across this thoughtful, reflective collections of essays on “Beauty in Islam”. He imagines that the books of Muslim scholars and mystics create an atmosphere in the night, in which their voices come alive in his study in his apartment. They are here to speak to us. Can we listen, he asks. Can we remember how to read?

He describes how in the first centuries of Islam a cultural ethos was created. He says, “The ethos of which I speak, consisted of the belief in the difficulty and elusiveness of knowledge, the belief that the more important the field of knowledge, the greater the demand for exertion, and that the elusiveness and inaccessibility of knowledge served a Divine purpose or plan.

“Integral to this ethos was the conviction that the pursuit of knowledge was a religious and ethical act, and that the pursuit of elusive and difficult knowledge was particularly pleasing to God.” He reports on the numerous traditions emphasizing that “the pursuit of knowledge is an act of permanent worship.” (p. xvi-xvii)

The Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan agrees with this view that the pursuit of knowledge is particularly pleasing to God. One of the five activities is to study and appreciate the diversity of religious views. To tolerate, he says. Tolerate in this sense does not mean that you should agree with or adopt another religious belief or practice. It means that you can hold diverse views in your own mind. Seeing your own point of view, and that of the other. All religions are veils. We cannot satisfactorily clothe the Divine Reality in words. And, at the heart of each religion is the One Being. The path here is to know and follow beauty.

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