WASHINGTON (June 19, 2007)--The West Coast Dialogue of Muslims and Catholics held its yearly meeting on May 21-23, 2007 at the Mary and Joseph Retreat Center, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.
This year's dialogue brought together twenty-two Muslims and Catholics from various parts of the west coast states. The meeting was designed along the lines of a spiritual retreat, with time set aside for prayer and for attending one another's prayers. Continuing work on comparing narratives from the Quran and the Bible, the participants discussed the Joseph/Yusuf stories in the book of Genesis chapters 37-50 and in Quran Surah 12. The dialogue was co-chaired by: the Most Reverend Carlos A. Sevilla, S.J., Bishop of Yakima, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, and Imam Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini, director of the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County.
Rev. Rafael Luévano's paper, Joseph, presented the historical critical material on sources for this narrative. He noted that the impact of the Joseph stories on subsequent history and literature has been significant. The Joseph narrative is a profile of the virtues prized by the ancient Israelite community and has influenced modern literature (e.g. Thomas Mann) and psychology (Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams). Fr. Luévano took note of the connection between the fatherly love of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, and the importance of dreams in his guidance of the Holy Family, linking him to Joseph in the book of Genesis.
Imam Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini spoke on the Quranic texts concerning the Prophet Yusef, as a model of those who are completely loyal to God and stand as a perfect exemplar of the true believer. Sayed Qazwini noted that, for a Muslim reading of this narrative, the theme of the impeccability of a prophet is crucial. Even so, the prophet must resist temptation with God's help.
Further interpretation on the ethical aspects of the Joseph/Yusuf narratives was provided by Professor June O' Connor, Christian Virtue Ethics in Narrative Context, and by Dr. Karim T. Abdullah, Muslim Virtue Ethics in Narrative Context. The discussion allowed both sides to clarify their traditional teachings on a number of controversial subjects, such as the infallibility, or more precisely, the impeccability of prophets. The participants agreed that the presentations clarified Muslim and Catholic differences in understanding scriptural narratives about prophets as role models. The conversation about sinlessness allowed an examination of the use of the term infallibility in Catholic and Muslim theology. In addition, the group explored distinctions between Shia and Sunni views of prophets and the infallible Imams. Participants also identified common ground in the virtues exemplified in the story of Joseph such as fidelity, forgiveness, family relationships, integrity, loyalty, perseverance, patience rooted in trust in God, astuteness, compassionate, and wisdom.
The presentation of Dr. Karim T. Abdullah argued strongly that, in Islam, faith and intelligence are not opposed. For Muslims, the Quran is the written book of God; nature, created by God, is the visible book of God. Dr. Abdullah reminded the participants that Muslims believe that the Quran is a living miracle; its revelation in Arabic is a unique phenomenon. Nevertheless, in order to live an authentic religious life, one still has to nurture the intellect. Intelligent reflection on the contents of scripture should lead one to moral thinking and acting. Dr. Abdullah pointed out that people are protected by their grasp of correct knowledge from authentic sources; properly trained in critical thinking, they cannot be exploited or misled. The dialogue group noted that sharing a reading of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Quran gives a new motivation for approaching these ancient texts in a fresh light.
Future plans: The dialogue will take up Ibrahim/Abraham in the Quran and the Hebrew Scriptures. Presenters on the narratives will be Fr. Francis Tiso and Hussam Ayloush (or Imam Taha Hassane). Saide Khan and Fr. Paul Wolkovits were given the assignment to focus on the theme of leadership in the Abraham narratives. The next meeting will be on May 27-28, 2008, following a tighter daily program at the Mary and Joseph Retreat Center, Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
Participants: Imam Sayed Mostafa Al-qazwini, Islamic Education Center of Orange County; Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, The Islamic Society of Orange County; Most Reverend Carlos A. Sevilla, S.J., Bishop of the Diocese of Yakima, WA; Iftekhar Hai, United Muslims of America; Dr. Karim T. Abdullah; Imam Sadiq Safir; Professor June O'Connor, University of California at Riverside; Mrs. Saide Khan; Mrs. Sherrel Johnson, CAIR; Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith, Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer, Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Kalim Farooki, Shura Council of Southern California; Rev. José Antonio Rubio, Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer, Diocese of San José; Rev. Msgr. Dennis L. Mikulanis, S.T.D., Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer, Diocese of San Diego; Dr. Maryam Kim Kieu, M.D., M.P.H.; Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director, CAIR Los Angeles; Rev. Paul D. Wolkovits, D.Min., Office of the Synod, Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Imam Taha Hassane, Islamic Center of San Diego; Rev. Canon Francis V. Tiso, Ph.D., Associate Director, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, USCCB; Rev. Rafael Luévano, Ph.D., Diocese of Orange; Khalil Momand, Islamic Center of South Bay, L.A.; and three observers.