|SHAIKH AHMAD KUFTARO|
The founding principle underlying all of Shaikh Ahmad Kuftaro's work is the obligation of every person to pursue in balance and harmony the three kinds of knowledge inherent in the classical Arabic word for thaqafa:
1) Knowledge of the world gained through the scientific method known as ayn al-yaqin, which was the pillar of the classic Islamic civilization of a millenium ago and the principle contribution of Islam to European civilization.
2) Knowlege of the purpose of everything in creation, known as haqq al-yaqin, including the history of mankind, which is gained primarily through the Divine Revelation that has been granted by the Creator through Messengers to all human civilizations, and which was the dynamo of the Islamic civilization flowering in the early Islamic period of global history before reverence for truth and purpose declined,
3) Indirect knowledge gained through the use of the human intellect, largely in the form of the maqasid or universal principles of shari`ah thought, in processing the first two direct sources of knowledge.
This third source of knowledge, known as 'ilm al-yaqin,in turn, is critically important for increasing our knowledge of the universe gained through scientific observation, as well as our understanding of true knowledge at the highest level, which is ultimate meaning and purpose, granted by ALLAH through the 'eye of the heart'.
After leaving this world, every person's knowledge will proceed from intellectual understanding, 'ilm al-yaqin to direct spiritual vision, `ayn al-yaqin of reality and truth, as promised in Surah Al-takathur of the Quran.
In this world, the product of all three kinds of knowledge is akhlaq or the development of virtuous character.
The mission of Shaikh Ahmad Kuftaro in pursuing this primary goal is reflected on his life-long organization activism in the field of education. In 1971, he established the Abu Nour Islamic Foundation which opened the four year Kulliya Da`wa Al-Islamiyya in 1992, with branches in Lebanon (Al-Awzai College of Islamic Studies) and Pakistan (Islamic Studies University), both started in 1989, as well as a branch, granting the M.M. degree, in 1992 at the Omdurman College of the Sudan. In 1992, the foundation also started the four-year Kulliya 'Usul Din in Damascus, Syria, which has more than one hundred students studing for for the M.A. degree and the first ones now studying for a Ph.D in Islamic Law. In 1994, Shaikh Ahmad Kuftaro opened the An Nour Institute for Islamic Studies and Arabic Language in Baltimore, Maryland.
In 1972-74, he lectured at various Islamic conferences in Algeria, Iran, and India, and in 1976 represented Syria in Saudi Arabia at the First Conference for the Message for the Mosque.
IV. INTERFAITH WORK
The major commitment of Shaikh Ahmad Kuftaro throughout his life has been to interfaith understanding and cooperation in purs- uit of peace, even at times when this commitment was not clearly understood or appreciated.
In 1954 he was a member of the Syrian delegation to a Muslim-Christian conference held in Lebanon.
Shaikh Ahmad Kuftaro has lectured widely on interfaith coo- peration as the frame work and engine of peace throughout the world including a speach at Al- Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerus- alem in 1964 and a number of lectures at Vienna and other places at the invitation of Cardinal Koenig of Austria in 1979."One of these talks, 'Islam and Christian: Two Faiths, one God', is produced in this book.
He pursued interfaith cooperation in both east and West.On April 17, 1980, by the invitation of the Vice-President of East Germany, he met with a delegation from the Theology Department of the University of Berlin and produced with them an official Protestant statement that God is One and that Jesus and Muhammad were both Messengers of God.
In 1981, he addressed the Academy of Science in Moscow on "Islam and Peace," and at the Inter-Religious Conference in May 1992 in Moscow he delivered an address on "The Principles of Peace in the World Religions, "designed to increase the awareness among professional clergy of their unique responsibilities to help prevent the development of events that can initiate nuclear war.
In 1983 and 1986, he represented the Association of Syrian Scholars at a similar conference in Prague, Czecholovakia, and in 1984, again in Moscow.
In particular, he has worked with officials of the Roman Catholic Church to develop rapprochment in the pursuit of justice and peace. In December 1985, he lectured at a number of universities throughout Italy, including a lecture in Milno on Islam and Religious Tolerance and visited His Holiness Pope John II prior to giving an address at the Vatican on "The International Prospects of Islam and Christianity." Both of these are presented in this book.
In 1987, His eminence Shaikh Ahmad Kuftaro held a second summit meeting with Pope John Paul II in Malta and gave a lecture, reproduced in this book, entitled "Co-Existence in the Mediterranean."
In June of 1991, he headed the Islamic Delegation in a "Muslim-Christian Dialogue" in Istanbul, where he spoke on "The Role of the Family in Muslim Society". This talk is reproduced in this book. The same year in November he gave
In recent years, Shaikh Ahmad Kuftaro has come to believe strongly that America can recover its religious heritage and share the Islamic heritage in order to renew global civilization in the Twenty-First Century. He acted on this belief in June, 1989, by a two-week visit, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, to lecture and visit many religious centers and leaders in Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Florida.
In August 1990, he attended "The Assembly of World Religions" in San Francisco, where he gave several lectures, including two reproduced books entitled "The Quran Extends its Hand to Mankind" and "Spirituality in the Twenty-First Century" In December 1992, during a visit to New York, he delivered the address reproduced in this book, entitled, "The Conscience of Islam."
In 1993, Shaikh Ahmad Kuftaro's Abu Nour Center opened a branch in Baltimore, Maryland, the An-Nour Institute, under the leader ship of Muhammad Bashar `Arafat, and sent it in a short message, which is produced as a conclusion to this book.
The chronological evolution of Shaikh Ahmad's priorities thoughou his life shows that he first focused inwardly of rebuilding Islam through education, freedom of religion, and da'wa among Muslims, and then shifted his focus outwardly through Islam to rebuild the world through interfaith cooperation, stewardship of the earth,and developing America moral leadership for the twenty-first century.