Russia TLIG Magazine

T R U E L I F E I N G O D 68 Sheikh Muhammad Ben Mustafa Valsan Director of the magazine “Sacred Science” Given the theme of the day which deals with peace and the means of establishing it by communicating, I will begin by conveying my greetings to you by using two expressions which, by a fortunate coinci- dence, rhyme with one another: Es-Salâmu ‘alaykum and Pax vobiscum . This greeting normally constitutes a pledge of peace and the guarantee of complete se- curity against any form of possible aggression. It also offers the advantage of contributing to the happiness of those who address it as well as those who return it, since it is said: Blessed are the “peacemakers” ( makarioi oi éirénopoloi ): for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5: 9) I can not help recalling in this respect that the word Islâm itself is taken from the salama root expressing the idea of “peace” that we hear in Es-Salâmu ‘alaykum . One can preach profitably in two ways: by good speech and by example. To illustrate this point, I will summarize briefly what may explain why I am ho- nored to be among you today. Based on a Tariqa , in other words a Fraternity, founded in the 13th century by Sheikh Abu l-Hasan ash-Shadili, the Sufi commu- nity, which I run since 1990, was established by my father in Paris in 1951. As the community expanded, particularly because of the birth of children, it soon needed a larger setting and a healthier environment. My status as a professional beekeeper enabled me to acquire, in 1994, an estate in the countryside, in the south of the city of Dijon, the capital of Burgundy known worldwide for its mustard and its fine wines. The site that was expected to allow me to develop my professional activity included many buildings, most of them old, which had to be rehabilitated, to create dwellings and a place of worship called a zawiya . I discovered at the signing of the purchase contract that this place was historic. This was the place where Ro- bert de Molesme (1029-1111) had founded the great monastic Order of the Cistercians in 1098. I thus found myself on the primitively unhealthy,marshy and woodland, which the first monks cleared and made hospitable to establish their abbey, “oratory” as much as “laboratory”, in accordance with the Benedictine motto orare et laborare (“to pray and to work”). The original well of the founding Father is still there. As at that time the place was covered with reeds, the new monastery took the name of Abbey of Cîteaux (a cistel designating a “reed”). Two years after their arrival, the monks moved their general center of activity two kilo- meters to the south to benefit from the abundant wa- ters of a river and they assigned the original location, the clay of which was rich in iron, to the work of forging and tiling: the place is still called today La Forgeotte . Shortly thereafter, while the few aging and healthless monks suggested that the new Order was doomed to disappear and that it would have been only an episodic return to strict observance of the Monastic Rule of Saint Benedict, arrived a providential savior. With about thirty companions, the one who was later to be called Saint Bernard gave the necessary and decisive impe- tus to ensure the survival and then the expansion of the Cistercian Order. The latter soon covered Europe and in a few decades included hundreds of monaste- ries to reach more than 1500 in 1250. Our arrival in July 1994, which quickly affected more than 150 people, could not go unnoticed. We were no longer in the context of the anonymity of the cities, and very quickly some natives would consider us as Saracens who have returned. Luckily, the monks were our closest neighbors, and since good neighborly rela- tions were of major importance in Islam, this was one of our primary concerns. So I went, with a group of brothers, to knock at the door of the Abbey in order to establish the best possible relationship. Wearing our woolen robes, we were welcomed by Father-Ab- bot Dom Olivier, who was in the first year of his ab- batial office. We thus got acquainted with the monks who themselves were in their usual white uniform. The moment was solemn and it was then that I as- ked for the protection of the Father-Abbot for our community, evoking the prophetic precedent in this respect. It must be remembered that the apostolic function of the Prophet Muhammad was first attested by Christian monks. On two occasions, and well be- How to bridge our divisions and bring peace to the world