Ittra miftuħa lill-Insara u l-Musulmani fl-okkażżjoni tas-Sena Marjana


Is-Sibt, 1 ta’ Ġunju 2019: Ittra miftuħa lill-Insara u l-Musulmani fl-okkażżjoni tas-Sena Marjana mill-Isqof ta’ Għawdex Mario Grech.

Aktar ma jgħaddi ż-żmien aktar wieħed sar jilmaħ l-għadd kbir ta’ barranin li qed jgħixu u jaħdmu fostna. Inkunu tassew boloh jekk lil dawn it-talin inqisuhom bħala xi theddida jew sempliċi riżorsa ekonomika. Hija ħasra li fostna hawn min huwa ttentat iħares lejhom bħala xi kategorija inferjuri u għalhekk jiddisprezzahom anke b’atti vjolenti u japprofitta mill-vulnerabbilità tagħhom – bħal min qed jisfruttahom billi jħaddimhom bi ftit flus u mingħajr ma joffrilhom is-sigurtà soċjali kif titlob il-liġi, jew bħal min joffrilhom fejn idaħħlu rashom b’rati ta’ kera għolja iktar min-normal.

Din il-preżenza ma toffrix biss sfidi soċjali u kulturali imma wkoll għandha l-aspett reliġjuż tagħha. Infatti, fost dawn in-nies għandna preżenza mdaqqsa ta’ Musulmani, kemm dawk ġejjin minn pajjiżi Afrikani kif ukoll dawk ġejjin mill-Ewropa tal-Lvant.

Fil-kuntest tad-djalogu interreliġjuż, inħoss li f’dan il-mument tal-istorja, ikkaratterizzat bil-fenomenu tal-immigrazzjoni, ma jistax ikun li lill-Knisja tagħna l-Ispirtu ta’ Alla mhu qed jgħid xejn! L-istess djalogu bejn ir-reliġjonijiet jgħin biex tinkiseb ċerta armonija soċjali. Meta wieħed iqis in-nuqqas ta’ għarfien korrett u l-preġudizzji li hawn dwar x’inhu l-Iżlam, filwaqt li ma niċħdu xejn mill-identità Nisranija, għandna bżonn infittxu d-djalogu mad-dinja Musulmana.

Għaddew tmien mitt sena minn meta f’Ġunju tal-1219, waqt li kienet għaddejja l-Ħames Kruċjata – u allura f’kuntest ta’ attakki vjolenti reċiproċi, – San Franġisk ta’ Assisi telaq lejn l-Art Imqaddsa bil-għan li jiltaqa’ mad-dinja Musulmana rrappreżentata mis-Sultan tal-Eġittu Malek al-Kamel. Dik il-laqgħa, li seħħet fil-port ta’ Damjetta, kellha effetti pożittivi. Ħalliet effett fuq il-mistika u l-lingwaġġ Franġiskan, tant li d-disgħa u disgħin attribwit li l-Musulmani jagħtu lil Alla ispiraw it-tifħir li Franġisku jagħti lil Alla l-Għoli. Dakinhar, l-Insara u l-Musulmani ltaqgħu bil-ħsieb li “jikkonvertu” lil xulxin għar-reliġjon tagħhom, imma r-rizultat kien li Franġisku u s-Sultan baqgħu milquta bil-qawwa tal-fidi ta’ xulxin! Ħielsa minn kull preġudizzju, huma għarfu lil xulxin mhux biss bħala ħlejjaq ta’ Alla imma bħala bnedmin ta’ fidi. It-tnejn kienu bnedmin spiritwali u intelligenti, imma fil-laqgħat ta’ bejniethom ipprevala l-lingwaġġ tal-Ispirtu . Frott dan id-djalogu li seħħ fi spirtu profond ta’ rispett reċiproku, il-patrijiet Franġiskani għadhom sal-lum attivi fl-Art Imqaddsa.

Ftit tax-xhur ilu f’Abu Dhabi, fl-Emirati Għarab Magħquda, seħħet laqgħa simili bejn il-Papa Franġisku u Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, l-Imam il-Kbir ta’ Al-Azhar (wieħed miċ-ċentri l-iktar awtorevoli tal-Iżlam) u dawn iffirmaw flimkien dikjarazzjoni dwar “il-fratellanza umana għall-paċi u l-konvivenza komuni”. Huma jistqarru li “il-fidi twassal lil min jemmen biex jara lill-persuna l-oħra bħala ħuh jew oħtu li għandu jwieżen u jħobb. Bil-fidi f’Alla, li ħalaq l-univers, il-kreaturi u l-bnedmin kollha (li huma lkoll indaqs minħabba l-Ħniena Tiegħu), min jemmen hu msejjaħ biex jesprimi dil-fratellanza umana billi jindokra l-maħluq u l-univers kollu u jwieżen lil kull persuna, speċjalment lil dawk li huma l-aktar fil-bżonn u foqra”. Jistqarru wkoll li “[din id-dikjarazzjoni] hija kitba li saret bi ħsieb serju u onest biex tkun dokument komuni ta’ xewqat tajba u ħierġa mill-qalb. Huwa dokument li jistieden lill-bnedmin kollha li jemmnu f’Alla u jemmnu fil-fratellanza umana biex jingħaqdu u jaħdmu flimkien ħalli dan ikun gwida għall-ġenerazzjonijiet tal-ġejjieni biex iġibu ’l quddiem kultura ta’ rispett reċiproku, konxji mill-grazzja divina kbira li tagħmel lill-bnedmin kollha aħwa.” Dawn is-siltiet huma biżżejjed biex jindikawlna x’benefiċċji hemm jekk nissieħbu f’dan id-djalogu, mhux tant bejn l-“istituzzjonijiet” reliġjużi imma bejnietna li nemmnu. Għalhekk, dan għandu jkun mhux djalogu bejn il-Kristjaneżmu u l-Iżlam, imma bejnietna, l-Insara u l-Musulmani, li naħbtu minkeb ma’ minkeb fit-toroq, fil-ħwienet, fuq ix-xogħol, fl-iskola, fl-isptar u f’tant postijiet oħra tal-ħajja.

Billi f’din is-Sena Marjana li qegħdin niċċelebraw, ir-Ramadan tal-Musulmani (mis-6 ta’ Mejju sal-4 ta’ Ġunju) ħabat eżatt max-xahar ta’ Mejju – xahar li għalina huwa ddedikat lil Marija, – nixtieq nipproponi din ir-riflessjoni dwar Marija fl-Iżlam peress li Marija, Omm Ġesù, tista’ tkun mezz tajjeb ħafna għad-djalogu bejna l-Insara u l-Musulmani li lkoll nemmnu f’Alla wieħed. Marija hija t-triq li tista’ twassalna biex ninfetħu għal xulxin u nifhmu aktar lil xulxin. Jekk l-atteġġjament fid-djalogu huwa wieħed ta’ smigħ attent u mhux ta’ gudizzju jew ta’ kundanna, Marija hija l-mudell tal-bniedem li jisma’!

Huwa fatt ukoll li, f’rabta mar-Ramadan, il-Musulmani għandhom rakkont kurjuż dwar Marija, liema rakkont jinsab ukoll fit-tradizzjoni Nisranija. Infatti, fil-Koran insibu li meta Ġesù twieled taħt palma, l-anġlu qal lil Marija biex iċċaqlaq il-palma u tiekol it-tamal li jaqa’. Skont it-tradizzjoni Iżlamika, it-tamal jiftaħ biss matul ir-Ramadan. Din l-istorja ħelwa tinsab ukoll b’xi differenzi żgħar fil-vanġelu apokrifu ta’ Mattew.

Il-Marjoloġija li hemm fil-Koran tant hija interessanti li hemm min iżomm li, f’ċerti aspetti, dan il-Ktieb huwa l-unika riżorsa apokrifa tat-tradizzjonijiet Insara li llum intilfu. Infatti, għalkemm qatt ma jagħraf lil Marija bħala “Omm Alla” għax ma jammettix id-divinità ta’ Kristu, il-Koran fih tagħrif dwarha aktar minn dak kollu li nsibu fl-erba’ Vanġeli kanoniċi flimkien . Marija hija l-unika mara li fil-Koran tissemma b’isimha – Maryam. Hija magħrufa bħala persuna li tgħid is-sewwa, li temmen u li hi qaddisa. Għaliha biss il-Koran jgħid li hija “magħżula minn Alla” u li Alla ppreferieha min-nisa kollha tal-art. Hija kienet ikkonsagrata sa minn ħdan ommha qabel ma twieldet (III, 35). Il-Profeta Muħammed stess jgħid li, filwaqt li kull tarbija li titwieled “tintmess” mix-xitan, Marija u binha Ġesù huma l-eċċezzjoni. Il-Koran jgħid li Marija hija “l-iktar safja” għax kien Alla nnifsu li għamilha nadifa. Fl-Iżlam, il-verġinità ta’ Marija hija kundizzjoni importanti biex setgħet tkun dik il-mara li permezz tagħha Alla ta sinjal speċjali lill-bnedmin. Hija din il-purezza tal-verġinità li għamlitha possibbli għal Marija li tilqa’ l-Ispirtu ta’ Alla (III, 42). F’żewġ passaġġi fil-Koran insibu li dakinhar tat-tħabbira tal-Anġlu, Marija staqsiet kif kien ser ikollha tifel jekk ma kellhiex raġel. Għalhekk il-Koran isejjaħ lil Ġesù bħala “iben Marija”. Issa fid-dinja Għarbija ħadd ma jissejjaħ “iben mara” imma dejjem “iben ir-raġel”. Għalhekk, peress li Marija nisslet lil Ġesù mingħajr is-sehem tar-raġel, huwa qatt ma jissejjaħ “iben Ġużeppi”. Tagħrif bijografiku dwar Marija li nsibu fil-Koran huwa: it-twelid tagħha (III, 33-37); iż-żjara tagħha bħala tifla fit-Tempju (III, 37); hija xempju tal-mara li temmen (LXVI, 12); il-verġinità (IV, 156-7); it-tħabbira tal-Anġlu Gabrijel (III, 42-48); Omm Ġesù (XIX, 16-21); il-qaddisa (V, 75); il-mara mogħtija għat-talb interjuri biex tqiegħed lilha nnifisha taħt il-ħarsa ta’ Alla (III, 43).

Barra l-Koran, hemm ukoll dak li huwa magħruf bħala l-Hadith, li fih damma ta’ tagħlim orali tal-Profeta. Fatt kurjuż li nsibu f’din il-kollezzjoni huwa li kull meta t-tfajjel Ġesù kien jagħmel xi miraklu, dejjem kien iwettqu bil-medjazzjoni ta’ ommu Marija, tant li diversi intellettwali Iżlamiċi jgħidu li Marija rċeviet il-privileġġ tal-profeżija li normalment kien riservat għall-irġiel.

Imbagħad l-Musulmani għandhom il-ktieb magħruf bħala “il-Vanġelu Għarbi tat-tfulija ta’ Ġesù”, li jinkludi ġabra ta’ tradizzjonijiet mil-Lvant Nisrani. Hawnhekk ukoll Marija hija ppreżentata bħala medjatriċi u kollaboratriċi attiva fil-mirakli li kien jagħmel it-tfajjel Ġesù, bħal fil-każ tal-“miraklu tal-faxxa” li biha jfieq tfajjel li kellu fih xitan jew meta l-Madonna fejqet tfajjel marid bl-ilma li ħadet mill-banju fejn kienet taħsel lil Ġesù.

Il-qima lejn Marija hija mifruxa sew fost il-Misilmin. Huwa normali li fl-Eġittu (ġewwa Matariya), fit-Turkija (ġewwa Efesu), fil-Ġordanja, fil-Libanu u fis-Sirja, il-Musulmani jagħmlu pellegrinaġġi lejn santwarji ddedikati lill-Madonna u jingħaqdu mal-Insara fil-qima tagħhom lil Marija. Fil-katidral Ortodoss ta’ Sednaya, fis-Sirja, hemm xbieha ta’ Marija li jingħad li hija mpittra minn San Luqa, u n-nisa Musulmani jemmnu li jekk jgħaddu lejl fit-talb quddiem din ix-xbieha, huma jaqilgħu d-don tal-maternità. Minħabba din id-devozzjoni, din il-belt hija l-aktar belt li tirċievi pellegrini wara Ġerusalemm. Il-valur ta’ dawn il-pellegrinaġġi jidher mill-fatt li għal ħafna Musulmani l-uniku pellegrinaġġ li għandu jsir huwa dak lejn Mekka – il-pellegrinaġġi l-oħra huma speċi ta’ idolatrija! Minkejja dan, hemm dawn il-pellegrinaġġi kollha lejn is-santwarji Marjani! Ix-xbieha ta’ Marija kienet għal qalb l-Għarab żmien qabel il-wasla tal-Iżlam. Jingħad li meta l-Musulmani ħadu l-belt ta’ Mekka, fis-santwarju li mbagħad sar magħruf bħala l-Kaaba, sabu diversi xbihat, fosthom dik ta’ Marija bil-Bambin f’idejha. Il-Profeta ordna li jinqerdu x-xbihat kollha ħlief dik ta’ Marija, u jingħad li pproteġieha b’idejh stess biex ma tinqeridx!

Dan kollu huwa konferma li Marija hija patrimonju komuni għalina l-Insara u l-Musulmani, u għaldaqstant id-devozzjoni Marjana tgħin biex ikun hemm sintonija spiritwali bejnietna . Jekk inħallu barra l-fanatiżmu reliġjuż, li minnu fl-istorja hemm fiż-żewġ tradizzjonijiet reliġjużi, il-Musulman, bħal kull bniedem li jemmen, għandu qalbu miftuħa għal dak li huwa soprannaturali u spiritwali. Għalhekk, id-djalogu jgħin biex bejnietna jkun hawn aktar sens ta’ rispett, tolleranza u ħbiberija. Ħa tkun din is-Sena Marjana opportunità ta’ grazzja biex, filwaqt li ngħinu lil sħabna l-Musulmani jikkuraw il-ħajja spiritwali tagħhom – partikularment l-għożża tagħhom lejn Marija, – inkomplu nibnu bejnietna relazzjonijiet sinifikattivi. Il-fatt li aħna l-Kattoliċi nħaddnu ċerti veritajiet dwar Marija li mhumiex fit-twemmin Musulman, ma għandux igerrixna milli nibnu l-pontijiet bejnietna. Kif jgħallem San Tumas ta’ Akwinu, il-fidi tagħna ma għandhiex bħala mira aħħarija l-formuli imma l-istess realtà: fil-każ tagħna, il-persuna ta’ Marija. Huwa għalhekk li l-pjetà popolari Marjana, Kattolika u Iżlamika, tista’ tkun għodda providenzjali biex kollna tama noħolmu flimkien ġejjieni sabiħ.

Mogħtija mill-Kurja tal-Isqof, ir-Rabat, Għawdex, illum, 31 ta’ Mejju 2019, festa taż-Żjara tal-Imqaddsa Verġni Marija.

 Mario Grech
Isqof ta’ Għawdex

OPEN LETTER TO CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS ON THE OCCASION OF THE MARIAN YEAR

As time goes by we are progressively seeing an ever increasing number of foreigners living and working among us. It would be really silly of us to think of them as a threat or as a purely economic resource. It is a real pity that there are those among us who are tempted to regard them as some kind of inferior class of people and so they despise them even with violent acts or they take advantage of their vulnerability. This is the case when they are exploited by being made to work for a pittance without the benefit of social security as required by law, or when they are offered shelter at rental rates far higher than is normally the case.
Their presence among us does not constitute simply a social and cultural challenge, but it has also a religious dimension. Indeed among these foreigners there is a sizeable presence of Muslims, both those coming from African countries and those from Eastern Europe.
Given the context of interreligious dialogue, I feel that at this moment of our history, characterised by the phenomenon of migration, it cannot be that God’s Spirit is not telling our Church anything! This dialogue helps to achieve a certain social harmony. When one considers the lack of accurate knowledge about Islam and the prejudice against it, one sees the need to dialogue with the Muslim world without denying anything of our Christian identity.
It is now eight hundred years since June 1219, when in the context of the violent and reciprocal acts of war in the course of the Fifth Crusade, St Francis of Assisi went to the Holy Land in order to encounter the Muslim world in the person of the Sultan of Egypt, Malek al-Kamel. This meeting took place in the port of Damietta and it had several positive results. It had an effect on Franciscan mysticism and language, so much so that the 99 titles which Muslims attribute to God, served as inspiration for the praise which Francis offers to God on high. On that occasion Christians and Muslims met with the idea of “converting” each other to their respective faiths: instead Francis and the Sultan were impresed with the strength of each other’s faith! Free from prejudice, they recognised each other not only as God’s creatures but also as men of faith. They were both spiritual and intelligent men but it was the language of the Spirit which prevailed in their meetings . And as a result of of this dialogue, carried out with a profound sense of reciprocal respect, the Franciscan fathers are still active in the Holy Land today.
A few months ago a similar meeting took place in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, between Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the Great Imam of Al-Azhar (one of the most authoritative centres of Islam). There they signed a declaration on “Human Fraternity for world peace and living together”. After asserting that “faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures and all human beings (equal on account of his mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need”. They continue by saying that this “is a text that has been given honest and serious thought so as to be a joint declaration of good and heartfelt aspirations. It is a document that invites all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters”.
These extracts are enough to show us the benefits accruing if we were to engage in this dialogue, not so much between religious “institutions” but among us believers: a dialogue not between Christianity and Islam but between us Christians and Muslims, we who mix together in our streets, in shops, at work, at school, in hospital and in so many other contexts.
Since in this Marian year, the Muslim month of Ramadan (between the 6th May and the 4th June) coincided with the month of May (which for us is dedicated to Mary), I would like to present this reflection about Mary in Islam, since, as the Mother of Jesus, she can be a very good means of dialogue among us believers in one God, Christians and Muslims. Mary is the road which can lead us to open out to each other and understand each other much better. If in dialogue one’s attitude should be that of attentive listening and not of judgement or condemnation, then Mary is the model of the one who always listens!
Actually in connection with Ramadan, Muslims have a curious story about Mary which we also find in the Christian tradition. In fact in the Qoran we find that when Jesus was born beneath a palm tree, the angel told Mary to shake the tree and obtain nourishment from the dates which fell off. According to Muslim tradition, the palm tree blossoms only during Ramadan. This little story is also to be found, with some differences, in the apocryphal Gospel according to Matthew.
Qoranic Mariology is so interesting that there are those who think that, within certain limits, this book is the only apocryphal source of lost Christian traditions. Indeed although the Qoran does not recognise Mary as the “Mother of God” since it does not accept the divinity of Christ, still it contains information about Mary which is more plentiful than what we find in the four canonical Gospels put together .
In addition, Muslims also have the book known as “The Arabic Gospel regarding the childhood of Jesus” which includes a number of traditions from the Christian East. Here too Mary is presented as a mediator and collaborator in the miracles worked by the boy Jesus. One such case is the “miracle of the bandage” with which Jesus heals a boy possessed by a devil; or the case when Our Lady healed a sick boy with some of the water with which she used to bathe Jesus.
Devotion to Mary is quite widespread among Muslims. It is normal in Egypt (Matariya), Turkey (Efesus), Jordan, Lebanon and Syria for Muslims to go in pilgrimage to sanctuaries dedicated to Our Lady and to join Christians in their devotions to Mary. In the orthodox cathedral of Sednaya in Syria there is an image of Mary which is said to have been painted by St Luke: Muslim women believe that if they spend the night in prayer before this image, they will obtain the gift of motherhood. Because of this devotion, this city receives the greatest number of pilgrims after Jerusalem. One can appreciate the importance of these pilgrimages if one considers that the only obligatory pilgrimage is the one to Mecca – other pilgrimages are practically considered idolatrous! And yet there are all these pilgrimages directed towards Marian sanctuaries!
Images of Mary were dear to Arab peoples long before the arrival of Islam. It is said that when the Muslims took the city of Mecca, they found many images in the sanctuary which later became the Kaaba. Among these images there was one of Mary with the Child Jesus in her arms. The Prophet ordered all the images to be destroyed except the one of Mary, and it is said he protected it with his own hands to save it from destruction!
All this goes to show that Mary is the common heritage of Christians and Muslims and so devotion to her helps to foster a spiritual harmony between us . If we discard the fanaticism which historically we find in both religious traditions, we will find that the Muslim, like every believer, is open to the supernatural and the spiritual. That is why dialogue helps to foster among us greater respect, tolerance and friendship. May this Marian year provide an opportunity for grace so that while helping our Muslim friends to take care of their spiritual life, and in particular their devotion to Mary, we will continue building significant relationships with them. The fact that we Catholics embrace certain truths about Mary which are not found in Muslim belief, should not scare us from building bridges between us. As St Thomas Aquinas teaches, as its final goal our faith has reality itself and not abstract formulae. And in our case this is the person of Mary herself. That is why popular piety addressed to Mary, both Catholic and Muslim, can be a providential tool so that together, and full of hope, we may sustain our dream for a better future.
Given today, from the Bishop’s Curia, Victoria, Gozo, on the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Mary, 31st May 2019.

 Mario Grech
Bishop of Gozo