COLLOQUIUM Abrahamic Model and the Future of Zionism - Part I

In his article, “How to Think about Zionism,” Gary Anderson discusses in a superb way in the April 2005 issue of First Things, the bottom line for all Jews, as it should or at least could be for all Christians and Muslims, namely, as he puts it, “Is the return to Zion part of God’s providential design and eternal promise to His people Israel?”  This article provoked the following discussion.


The Abrahamic Model and the Future of Zionism:  A Muslim, Christian, Jewish Colloquium

Why Not an Ibrahimic Model? - by Ali Abbas

Bismihi Ta’ala, assalam o alaikum ...

I write to solicit insight and guidance, insha ‘Allah.

  In the words of the Quran, 16:120, Abraham was indeed a model, devoutly obedient to Allah, (and) true in Faith, and he joined not gods with Allah.  He is presented as a “model,” but I wonder why Muslims, in their devotion to Muhammad, who is referred to as an uswah, do not grant Ibrahim his due.

  It seems to me that the focus is on the particularities and not what is universal and reflected in the credo, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His Messenger’.
In some ways, Muhammad, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam, owes more to Ibrahim than Ibrahim does to Muhammad, particularly in reference to the settlement in Mecca.  Why then do Muslims and, even more so the Jews and Christians, give only formal acknowledgement to Ibrahim as a common symbol but without emphasis on him as a model?

  Perhaps my background among the Shi’a biases me toward the personification of Ibrahim as a model because of their reverence toward their imams, in contrast to the non-Shi’as’ regard for the Companions.  Both unite on the basis of the model of the Prophet Muhammad but they seem to slight the Ibrahimic model that was revered by the Jews and for millennia by the Hunafa’a or generic monotheists of no organized religion.

  Furthermore, why, when we do present Prophet Ibrahim, ‘alayhi wa salam, as a
model, do we insist, contrary to the Qur’an, that Muhammad’s sunnah supercedes all others and abrogates the universal shar’ of earlier prophets, des[ite the fact that Muhammad’s placement within the Meccan/Medinan period owes more to Ibrahim and his wife Hajar than to any other Prophet?  The major rites of the hajj, though first demonstrated by the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam, emanate from and focus on the Ibrahimic Model and all lead toward reverence of Ibrahim as our model.

  Why then is there so much insistance by the Jews, Christians, and Muslims on Musa, ‘Isa, and Muhammad in derogation from the Ibrahimic Model.  Shouldn’t we re-emphasize the common Ibrahimic model for engagement in dialogue and trialogue?

Exploring this Further - by Nasir Shamsi

Salam. Your thesis is sound. Abraham (Ibrahim) - the friend of the Almighty - is as crucial and central to our faith as are the rituals of Hajj, which were not ordained but to guide the faithful to that commonality with the other faithfuls. I encourage you to further explore this in order to build bridges both with the *Muslim community *and with other monotheist followers of Prophet Abraham, alayhi as-salam.

One of Two states in the Holy Land?:  That is the Question - by Moin Ansari

  Let’s get down to practicalities.  What does an Abrahamic model mean for Muslims, Jews, and Christians in the Middle East today?  Does it call for one sovereign state, two sovereign states, or no sovereign states, or two autonomous nations in one federation or in one confederation? 

  And what does history teach us in addressing this political question?  As a descendent of an ancient, scholarly family from Muslim India, I suggest that we look at similar proposals in other areas of the world.  After the failure of the Indian mutiny in 1857, most nationalistic Hindus proposed and still want “Akhand Bharat” or United “India.”  Akhand Bharat is like Hitler’s Lebensraum or German Space.  Even in 2005 the RSS oppose the concept of Pakistan (see recent BJP announcement).  Muslims of India on the other hand wanted the pre-British stage of 536 states restored in South Asia.  According to Muslims there was never a country “India.”  Muslims espoused the Two Nation / Two State Theory which was the basis for Pakistan and India.

  Based on the this, in the 1940s, a concept similar to the “Abrahamic Federation,” espoused by Norman Kurland and others today, was espoused by Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in pre-independence India.  The concept proposed Unit A, Unit B and Unit C, which in today’s terms would be India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.  Each unit would be part of the “Greater South Asian CONFEDERATION” and each would have a Muslim or Hindu minority.  This according to Jinnah would guarantee good treatment of the minorities in the other areas.  This is known as the Cabinet Mission Plan.  This was the ideal solution for South Asia.

  The Muslim League accepted the plan.  The plan was accepted at first by Gandhi, Nehru, and the Indian National Congress. Due to the mahasaba, RSS, and Hindu mahasaba (Ultra Hindu Nationalists), however, the plan was rejected by the Indian National Congress.  Akhand Bharat was then expounded by Gandhi, who enlisted the support of other One-India proponents among the Muslims, most notably the Badshah Khan, so that the Muslim block vote could be diluted.  This policy was successful in forming Indian National Congress governments in Muslim majority areas like the Punjab (led by the Zamindara Party of Sir Chutoo Ram).  After this, the Indian National Congress fbuilt on this to form the Home Rule government in India.  Muslims were prosecuted and no important ministry was given to them.  As a result, the Muslims felt very insecure in the post-British era in South Asia and demanded a separate homeland for themselves called Pakistan.

  Which was the better solution. The status of 150 million Muslims in India today shows us that the Cabinet Mission Plan of three areas, each with a major minority, would have led to another Bosnia.  Of course, one can argue that this is true only because the major Muslim area was eliminated by the creation of Pakistan, thereby diluting Muslim influence in India.

  Are Israelis justified in regarding the “Abrhamic Federation” as a cover for an “Arab Palestine,” similar to Akhand Bharat where Jews would be a minority and their rights would not be protected.  Or would the Abrahamic Federation be similar to a Cabinet Mission Plan with a constitutional formula to protect the rights of Jews (who would be a minority in the region) so that they would be balanced with the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, a people that deserve better then what they have gotten in the past 50 years.  A confederation could balance the rights of two nations each with sovereignty similar to that of the American colonies in the original confederation from 1776 to 1789, but with a major minority in each confederal state.  A true federation, as distinct from a loose confederation, would have to have a very powerful senate to balance the rights of Jews and Arabs. But wasn’t this the PLO’s proposal all along?

  Is the Two State Solution dead?  According to Uri Avnery, the point of no return is close. In this sense there seems to be unintentional complicity between the two opposites who espouse a bi-national state in a single state sovereignty.  Both the ultra right wing Jews and the extremist Hamas elements want a single state.  Each wants to throw out the other.

  Islam is actually called “deen al Ibrahimi,” the “religion of Abraham,” because Muhammad never espoused a new religion.  According to many historians, “Muhammad ar-Rasul Allah” was added to the first article of faith, known to Muslims as the ‘shahadah’, by Omar the third caliph.  Muslims have never thought of Islam as a new religion, but both Jews and Christians insist that it is.  Muslims are the only ones who emphasize Abraham, referring to him many times in their daily prayers, but non-Muslims do not take this seriously.  Do we?

Norm wrote:  “Another way of saying the same thing, is that humanity now worships man-made creations, like the nation-state and money, thus subverting the natural hierarchy of the Source of all Creation”

In response to Norms wonderful reply, I need to add the following. The Nation state does not detract from the acceptance of the sovereignty of God. For example the Pakistani constitutions first line clearly says “All sovereignty rests with Allah…........”.

Depending on whether to believe Hobbs, Locke, or Marx, there are various theories on the development of the Nation State. The Nation State is a natural evolution of societys response to civilization demands. Human civilization has progressed from the hunter gatherer, to an agrarian society, to feudalism, to industrialization to the nation state. The dialectic, and the thesis and antithesis of this progression may or may not have anything to do with submission to God.

The Bedouins of Arabia and the Gypsies may still be in the hunter gatherer stage, but may be good Muslims or, good people of faith. Individuals living in the ideal state in Medina may or may not be good Muslims. People living in today’s nation state have choices to follow the direction of God or not.

The super nation state (caliphate) evolved over time as a response to the growth of Islam. The Nation state was enthusiastically supported by the colonialists. The Europeans are now moving towards a super state again and regional groupings may make the Nation State archaic and obsolete again. People of faith exist in all stages of human evolution.

The “conservative Muslim”/Moudoodi argument against the state has been soundly rejected by Muslims all over the world. Alama (Sir Mohammad) Iqbals writing are one example of this rejection. The argument was based on dividing the world into separate compartments called darul harb (land of war) and darul Islam (land of peace). Many Neocons have mistranslated darul Islam as (land of the religion of Islam). In actual fact a ђdarul harb could be under a Muslim leader as in Yazid etc. I am reading Qutubєs writings on this subject or nationality and will respond after I have finished reading his entire book (not excerpts taken from the net). However it seems that Qutub was responding to colonialism and was indeed asking for this spaceғ for the Muslims of Egypt. In other words he was asking for one nation under Godԓ for Egyptians. His writings have of course been hijacked by those who oppose forbidding wrong in Islamԓ.

Why is the demand for a separate space against the word of God? Let us look at it from a historic perspective in British India. The old mantra of Jamaat e Islami in India was “the entire world is a mosque, don’t ask for a state”. The Jamaat e Islami and the Jamiat e ulema Hind were soundly rejected by the Muslim electorate and amazingly enough the demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims came from areas in the Subcontinent where the Muslims were in a minority and did not have any possibility of living in the newly formed state. Pakistan came into being and with all her faults provided a “safe haven” to Muslims. Else their centers of excellence would have been totally destroyed as they were destroyed in a so called secular “India”. After the creation of Pakistan, the Jaamat e Islami accepted the new nation state and is now one of the most enthusiastic supporters of her boundaries.

Accepting a nation state for a people is not going against the word of God. It is actually ensuring the word of God is allowed in that area and there is freedom to worship that particular God. For example if there was no Pakistan, we may have had another Bosnia on our hands and Muslims would not be able to practice their religion. Wasnt Median a nation state established for the persevervation of Islam?

Beyond Politics:  The Spiritual Perspective - by Robert Dickson Crane

  This discussion would benefit from the wisdom of perhaps the twentieth centuryԒs greatest spiritual leader, the Chief Rabbi of Palestine from 1919 to 1935, Rebbe Abraham Isaac Kook, who best represented the perennial wisdom of traditionalist leaders in all three Abrahamic faiths and perhaps best understand what the Abrahamic model should mean.

Both in Palestine and India, the temptation has been to counter violence with violence as part of a conflict of nationalisms, and to manipulate religion for secular, political ends.  Most of the Muslim governments in the world are skilled in this hypocrisy, as are some of the groups and movements that seek their overthrow.  They are exploiting and perverting their own religion.

The traditionalist Jewish mission is perhaps best expressed today by Rabbi Michael Lerner and his magazine, Tikkun.  The word Tikkun in Hebrew means to heal, repair, and transform the world.  He says that all the rest is commentary.  His mission is fourfold: to help overcome American selfishness and materialism; to help heal the inner wounds of the Jewish people, so that they no longer assume that danger lurks everywhere and no longer see the world only through the prism of the Holocaust; to help support peace between the Jews and the Palestinian people in a context of security, social justice, and the full rights of both peoples to self-determination; and to help build a new bottom line of love and caring, ethical, spiritual, and ecological sensitivity, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe.

The only alternative to dark visions of a twenty-first century holocaust is dialogue between Jews and Muslims designed specifically to transform the self-identity of each, as suggested in Dr. Laura Drakes article, ҒReconstructing Identities: The Arab-Israeli Conflict in Theoretical Perspective, Middle East Affairs Journal, Winter/Spring 1998, pp. 39-92.  The goal of the Jews must be to return to the spiritual core of their religion, best exemplified by Rebbe Abraham Isaac Kook, in which Zionism is the return to God, and Israel is the song of God bringing sparks of wisdom, mercy, and love to all peoples.

      The goal of the Muslims must be to return to the spiritual core of their religion.  The spiritual core of Islam includes the centrality of justice and the articulation and implementation of its inner essence of love, which demands respect for all Jews and for the Jewish nation, so that all the peoples of the Holy Land can enjoy justice.

American Muslims must struggle to support the enlightened Jews who understand their own religion, because the extremes of political Zionism have corrupted both the Jewish people and the political process in America.  It has thereby imposed a heavy guilt on Americans for bringing the Jewish people in the Holy Land perhaps eventually to the brink of extinction and exposing tens of millions of Muslims and Christians in the Middle East and America to a fiery death.

      In order to understand the true dynamics of conflict in the world, we must be aware that the suffering in the Holy Land is the result of a conflict between two civilizational paradigms, one the spiritual, which automatically serves as a bridge among cultures, and the other, the secular, which sees material power as the only variable in the world and automatically breeds war. 

      This conflict has been the governing theme throughout the five-thousand-year history of Palestine.  Throughout the five millennia of Palestinian history the historical role of the many peoples that enriched the population of Palestine was to serve as a catalyst for religious and cultural enrichment.  Their location at the intersection of three of the worldӔs five continents, and their Semitic languages, which are best suited of all languages to express the subtleties of divine revelation, may explain why the common message of the revealed religions was given through prophets in this pivotal part of the world.

      Unfortunately, however, the millennia-long history of Palestine reveals that for relatively short and limited periods, Palestine served not as a civilizational conduit but as a block against civilizational interchange and as a source of rivalry and warfare between hostile empires.  The destiny of Palestine has been to accelerate both cooperation and clash among civilizations.  Today it serves both roles simultaneously, and its future will determine the future of humanity.

      Many great spiritual leaders of the world have long perceived that justice in the Holy Land, and especially in the ecumenical capital of the world, Jerusalem, is the pivotal issue for all of humankind.  Their warnings speak universally to all religious communities in all times and places, though their words might be directed in the first instance at their own peoples. 

      Perhaps the greatest such leader was Abraham Isaac Kook, who was Chief Rabbi of Palestine from 1919 until the beginning of the first great Palestinian national-liberation movement in 1935.  He taught that every religion contains the seed of its own perversion, because humans are free to divert their worship from God to themselves.  The greatest evil is always the perversion of the good, and the surest salvation from evil is always the return to prophetic origins.  Rebbe Kooks wisdom has been collected in Abraham Isaac Kook, The Lights of Penitence, The Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters, and Poems, translation and introduction by Ben Zion Bokser (Paulist Press: N.Y., Ramsey, Toronto, 1978), published in The Classics of Western Spirituality: A Library of the Great Spiritual Masters under the supervision of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Fazlur Rahman, Huston Smith, and others. 

      Although the fundamentalist Gush Emunim invoke Rebbe Kook as their mentor, they make the sacrilegious error of turning his spiritual teaching into a call for secular nationalism of the most extreme kind.  Abraham Isaac KookҒs entire life spoke his message that only in the Holy Land of Israel can the genius of Hebraic prophecy be revived and the Jewish people bring the creative power of Gods love in the form of justice and unity to every person and to all mankind.  ҒFor the disposition of the Israelite nation, he asserted, Ӕis the aspiration that the highest measure of justice, the justice of God, shall prevail in the world.  Universally recognized as the leading spokesman of spiritual Zionism, Rebbe Kook went from Poland to Jaffa 1904 to perfect the people and land of Israel by bringing out the Ӕholy sparks in every person, group, and ideology in order to make way for the advent of the Messiah.

      This was the exact opposite of Ӕsecular Zionism, which resulted from the assimilationist movement of 19th century Europe, compounded by the devastating blow of the holocaust to traditionalist Jewish faith.  Thus alienated from their own culture, and vulnerable to modern nationalist demagoguery, a growing portion of the Jewish nation came to elevate control over physical land to an ultimate value and goal, and therefore to transform the land of Israel into a golden calf.

      Rebbe KookӔs wisdom was also the opposite of Orthodox religious Zionism to the extent that Orthodox Jews claimed the physical land of Israel as a divine birthright.  Unlike the secular Jews, however, the Orthodox can understand where Rebbe Kook is coming from, because it is their own tradition.  Some of the religious Jews at the two most recent World Zionist Congresses, influenced by the Conservative Jewish movement, went so far as to compare the Palestinians with the Amelkites, whom the Israelite nation was commanded to exterminate as the light extinguishes the darkness.  This genocidal mentality was precisely what Rebbe Kook spent his life warning against.  It is not ironic to suggest that perhaps the Orthodox Jews and the Palestinian Islamists, as the two most religiously committed groups in the Holy Land, are the only ones capable of jointly rethinking their past, present, and future.

      As a Lurianic Cabbalist, committed to the social renewal that both confirms and transcends halakha, the Jewish law, Rebbe Kook emphasized, first of all, that religious experience is certain knowledge of God, from which all other knowledge can be at best merely a reflection, and that this common experience of total beingғ or unityԓ of all religious people is the only adequate medium for Gods message through the Jewish people, who are the Ԓmicrocosm of humanity.

      ӔIf individuals cannot summon the world to God, proclaimed Rebbe Kook, Ӕthen a people must issue the call.  The people must call out of its inner being, as an individual of great spiritual stature issues the call from his inner being this is found only among the Jewish people Ӗ whose commitment to the Oneness of God is a commitment to the vision of universality in all its far-reaching implications and whose vocation is to help make the world more receptive to the divine light Ņ by bearing witness to the Torah in the world.  This, he taught, is the whole purpose of Israel, which stands for shir el, the Ŕsong of God.  It is schlomo, which means peace or wholeness, SolomonӔs Song of Songs.

      But he warned, again prophetically,ғ that, when an idea needs to acquire a physical base, it tends to descend from its height.  In such an instance it is thrust toward the earthly, and brazen ones come and desecrate its holiness.  Together with this, however, its followers increase, and the physical vitality becomes strikingly visible.ԓ  Each person then suffers: The stubbornness of seeking spiritual satisfaction in the outer aspect of things enfeebles oneԓs powers, fragments the human spirit, and leads the stormy quest in a direction where it will find emptiness and disappointment.  In disillusionment, the quest will continue in another direction.  When degeneration leads one to embrace an outlook on life that negates one҅s higher vision, then one becomes prey to the dark side within.  The spiritual dimension becomes enslaved and darkened in the darkness of life.҅

      Rebbe Kook warns that the irruption of spiritual light from its divine source on uncultivated ground yields the perverse aspect of idolatry. ԓ It is for this reason that we note to our astonishment the decline of religious Judaism in a period of national renaissance.  ŔLove of the nation, he taught, Ӕor more broadly, for humanity, is adorned at its source with the purest ideals, which reflect humanity and nationhood in their noblest light,  but if a person should wish to embrace the nation in its decadent condition, its coarser aspects, without inner illumination from its ancient, higher light, he will soon take into himself filth and lowliness and elements of evil that will turn to bitterness in a short span of history of but a few generations.  This is the narrow state to which the community of Israel will descend prior to an awakening to the true revival.

      ӅBy transgressing the limits, Rebbe Kook prophesied, the leaders of Israel may bring on a holocaust.  But this will merely precede a revival.  ӔAs smoke fades away, so will fade away all the destructive winds that have filled the land, the language, the history, and the literature.  Always following his warning was the reminder of GodӔs covenant.  In all of this is hiding the presence of the living God. ғ It is a fundamental error for us to retreat from our distinctive excellence, to cease recognizing ourselves as chosen for a divine vocation.  We are a great people and we have blundered greatly, and, therefore, we suffered great tribulation; but great also is our consolation. Ņ Our people will be rebuilt and established through the divine dimension of its life.  Then they will call out with a mighty voice to themselves and to their people: ŅLet is go and return to the Lord!  And this return will be a true return.

      At the same time, professed Rebbe Kook, who always sharply defended the validity of both Christianity and Islam as religions in the plan of God, the brotherly love of Esau and Jacob [Christians and Jews], and Isaac and Ishmael [Jews and Muslims], will assert itself above all the confusion є [and turn] the darkness to light.

The Abraham Federation:  A Universal Abrahamic Model - by Norman Kurland

  Nasir, I greatly admire and support your bridge-building perspective.  The Abraham Federation offers a new interfaith win-win framework for transforming existing nation-states, regional federations, as well as for global Peace through Justice initiatives.  Keep up the good work in support of the Just Third Way.  And feel free to send to others our thoughts on using the Abraham Federation to solve seemingly unresolvable problems.

  Moin wants to get down to political specifics.  This can be done only within the framework of economic specifics, because political justice and economic justice feed each other.

Moin, you point out a fatal flaw that is inherent in the modern nation-state system, a system where the nation-state has acquired a higher level of sovereignty that that of the Creator or that of any of the human beings governed by the nation-state.  Another way of saying the same thing, is that humanity now worships man-made creations, like the nation-state and money, thus subverting the natural hierarchy of the Source of all Creation and the Creator’s relationship to each human person and as the ultimate source of universal principles of justice and fundamental human rights.  The evolving nation-state system, having subordinated the Creator and human beings to the unnatural sovereignty of the “collective”, left humanity in a constant struggle with one another, as reflected by wars, revolutions, terrorism, rising crime rates and other manifestations of some trying to dominate others.  Thus, when most people talk about new models of nation-building, even when they use the cover of “Abraham” as the “father of all nations,” their “federation” models remain within the zero-sum framework of the traditional nation-state system, setting group against group, each trying to dominate others in the federation.  None of these federation models put God or Allah on top, the individual human person next, and the nation-state and all other human artifacts (including laws, institutions and money systems) subordinate to the Creator and the inherent sovereignty of each human person.  With the chaos so prevalent in today’s world, we now have an opportunity to restore the natural hierarchy sovereignty that can bring peace through justice to the world.

The Abraham Federation I have proposed for Iraq and other troubled global territories is described at

The system would be structured on a form of sovereignty envisioned by America’s founders, but never fully realized and eventually perverted by scholars ignorant of their original intent and commitment to natural law principles.  This original intent can be found through a careful reading of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, especially the long-ignored Ninth Amendment that reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights [accruing to the States and the three branches of the Federal Government], shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  This provision recognized natural law rights (i.e., rights created by God or Allah) that preceded the invention of any form of governance by human beings.  Such God-given rights were in the words of John Locke “Life, Liberty and Property.”  The Declaration of Independence clearly stated that “unalienable rights” were endowed to humans by “their Creator”, not rights that man gave to man or any government gave to humans, each of whom were “created equal.”  George Mason, the father of the American Bill of Rights, wrote (before Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence) in the Virginia Declaration of Rights that “all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity, namely the enjoyment of life, liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”  If these are expressions of natural law, then it should be clear that the sovereignty of every human person should rest at a higher level than the sovereignty of any form of government, that only the Creator of all human beings has a higher sovereignty than any individual, and that government must exist only with the consent of the governed and should serve only as a human artifact or social prop to enable each person to enjoy his or her God-given rights and to have a direct personal relationship to the Creator independent of any human or institutional intermediary or other social props.

The paper above rejects the artificial two-state solutions and offers an architecture that can unite highly diverse people and groups because it is based on a post-scarcity growth vision in which every man, woman and child (especially women) are afforded equal rights to acquire and possess modern wealth-producing assets to meet their materials needs and to liberate them from the cancer of the global wage slave system.  There’s nothing utopic about the Abraham Federation model.  It can be applied anywhere, even in the United States, or for that matter globally.  All it takes are leaders who are committed to justice for the least of the least and have the courage to do what’s right.