Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Friday, December 26, 2008

Al-Fatiha reveals the identity of an authentic Islamic citizen

In a critical review of the work of Sadiq Nayhum (1937-94) the renowned populist literary figure from Libya, Dr. Suha Taji-Farouki offers the following insights on his text Sawt al-nas:

"Nayhum posits al-Fatiha (recited several times a day during the obligatory prayers) as the encapsulation of a hidden expression of the identity of the authentic Islamic citizen, who upholds Islam's collective law. It survives in this 'protected fortress' like 'the soul in the breast of a bird in a cage on a remote island', where it is safe from falsifications dictated by the whims of politicians. The constituent elements of this identity are elucidated through his commentary, translated below, with the Qur'anic text reproduced as it appears in his elaboration:


There is nothing here about the Shi'a, the Sunna (i.e., the Sunnis), the Christians, the Jews or the Communists. This is because the Arab citizen who has been educated by Islam is a world citizen, whose exclusive affiliation is this universal, human doctrine. Such a citizen does not permit himself to be put to the service of partisan or disputatious doctrines. Neither is he legally prepared to serve such doctrines.


The world citizen's doctrine is compassion (rahma), because this is the only doctrine that is directed at the people, and not their institutions. Every slogan - apart from the slogan of compassion - can be put, philosophically speaking, to the service of the interests of institutions, at the expense of the people themselves.


Religion is not politics, and it does not address the state, but the people.


This is a community (jama'a) that openly speaks with the conscience of the community. It is not just a solitary Muslim citizen.


Someone who asks for guidance knows that the decision, first and last, rests with him. He knows that whatever befalls him in his life (and in the lives of his children after him) is not the responsibility of some administrative or ideological agency. Rather, he is himself personally responsible for this: specifically, he is responsible for every atom's weight of it.


The distinguishing feature of this path is that it leads to goodness and happiness, in a society that guarantees the right of the community, encompasses its outward differences, and brings it together in an efficient administrative system, erected on compassion and mutual human understanding, love and respect.


There are many other laws, apart from the collective law, which are also capable of bringing people together. However, these do not show compassion towards the people, because they are not able to protect them from the tyranny of the powerful.


The mark of someone who is astray is that they are a solitary person, far away from their world. For without the collective law, the people are captives in cities, at the mercy of feudalism. Without any administration, they are tribes wandering aimlessly in the desert." (2004, pp. 318-319)

~ Excerpted from "Modern Muslim Intellectuals and the Qur'an", edited by Dr. Suha Taji-Farouki, lecturer in Modern Islam, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Imagining Islam... time for an Imaginal hermeneutic?

Algerian-born, Prof. Mohammed Arkoun is viewed by many students of religious studies as a leading thinker in an effort to articulate the Islamic message in global contemporary terms. This can only mean that he is seeking to imagine a worldcentric perspective on Islam, much as I envisage in my doctoral dissertation. In his book "Re-Thinking Islam - Common Questions, Uncommon Answers," Arkoun is asked:

Can one speak of a scientific understanding of Islam in the West or must one rather talk about the Western way of imagining Islam?

This is a part of Arkoun's response:

"The notion of "imagining" evoked in the question is new; the nonspecialist is not likely to grasp it, for even the experts have not succeeded in mastering the shape, function, and operation of this faculty we call imagination. To be brief, I will say that the "imaginary" of an individual, a social group, or a nation is the collection of images carried by that culture about itself or another culture - once a product of epics, poetry, and religious discourse, today a product primarily of the media and secondarily of schools. In this sense, of course, individuals and societies have their own imaginaries tied to their own common languages. There are thus French, English, and German ways of imagining Islam - imaginaries, as they have come to be called - just as there are Algerian, Egyptian, Iranian, and Indian imaginaries of the West. Since the 1950s the powerful, omnipresent media, drawn daily to report on the violent happenings of the moment - national liberation movements, protests, and revolts in the numerous and diverse countries inhabited by Muslims - have fed the Western imaginary of Islam.

The misperceptions inherent in this imaginary go beyond current events. Although the problems of Muslim societies have indeed become knottier and more numerous since the emergence of national states in the 1950s and 1960s, another serious confusion - one that has contributed directly to the shaping of the Western imaginary of Islam - has also emerged in this short time. That is, all the political, social, economic, and cultural shortcomings of Muslim societies are hitched together and to Islam with a capital "I." Islam then becomes the source and the prime mover of all contemporary history in a world that extends from the Philippines to Morocco and from Scandinavia, if we take account of Muslim minorities in Europe, to South Africa.

It is true that the sort of Islamic discourse common to fundamentalist movements, especially those engaged in the most decisive political battles, proposes the powerful image of a single, eternal Islam, the ideal model for historic action to liberate the world from the Western, imperialist, materialist model. The media in the West seize upon this monolithic, fundamentalist view of Islam that dominates the contemporary Muslim imaginary and transpose it into a discourse suitable to the social imaginary of Western countries without any intermediate critique from the social sciences. The field of perception is open to the confrontation of two imaginaries overheated by accumulated confusions about each other.

This everyday labor of stimulating and amplifying the two imaginaries is complicated by a much older and more serious issue, one that reaches to the most sacred origins of the three monotheistic religions. Ever since the emergence of Islam between 610 to 632, there has been continuous rivalry among three religious communities - Jewish, Christian, and Muslim - all striving to establish a monopoly on the management of symbolic capital linked to what the three traditions call "revelation." The issue is enormous and primordial, yet it has nonetheless been buried by secularized, ideological discourse: the ideologies of nation building, scientific progress, and universal humanism in nineteenth- twentieth-century Europe. Then, beginning with the Nazi catastrophe and the wars of colonial liberation, the question of revelation was buried under the no less deceptive rhetoric of decolonization, of development and underdevelopment (in the 1960s), and of nation building in the Third World countries that had just recovered their political sovereignty.

To this day, no one has studied revelation in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arab manifestations and as a function of the historical and anthropological conditions for the emergence of these three traditions. That constitutes a failure of the comparative history of religions, of social science, and of the human sciences, which have left the task of "managing the goods of salvation" to the theologians of each community. That is to say that they have perpetuated theological discourse in its function of legitimating the drive for power of each community. This fact condemns discourse to the confines of a cultural system that excludes all others who have the sacrilegious pretension to draw upon the same symbolic capital." (1994, pp. 6-7).

~ Excerpted from "Re-Thinking Islam - Common Questions, Uncommon Answers" by Mohammed Arkoun, Ph.D, translated and edited by Robert D. Lee. Prof. Arkoun obtained his doctorate from the Sorbonne in Paris, France, and is one of the most influential scholars in Islamic studies today. In a career of more than 30 years, he has been a critic of the tensions embedded in his field of study, advocating Islamic modernism and humanism.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Carl G. Jung's Alhamdulillah...and Siratal Mustaqim!

Edward Edinger cites a passage from Jung's autobiography to elaborate on the notion of the Psalm on Praise as an affirmation of life:

"Let me conclude with something more sane. This is Jung's affirmation of life in his autobiography. He talks about the illness he had in 1944 and then goes on to say:

'After the illness a fruitful period of work began for me. A good many of my principal works were written only then. The insight I had had, or the vision of the end of all things, gave me the courage to undertake new formulations. I no longer attempted to put across my own opinion, but surrendered myself to the current of my thoughts. Thus one problem after the other revealed itself to me and took shape.
Something else, too, came to me from my illness. I might formulate it as an affirmation of things as they are: an unconditional "yes" to that which is, without subjective protests - acceptance of the conditions of existence as I see them and understand them, acceptance of my own nature, as I happen to be. At the beginning of the illness I had the feeling that there was something wrong with my attitude, and that I was to some extent responsible for the mishap. But when one follows the path of individuation, when one lives one's own life, one must take mistakes into the bargain; life would not be complete without them. There is no guarantee - not for a single moment - that we will not fall into error or stumble into deadly peril. We may think there is a sure road. But that would be the road of death. Then nothing happens any longer - at any rate, not the right things. Anyone who takes the sure road is as good as dead.'
That passage touches most of the themes that have come up during our discussions of the various Psalms. One might see it as a kind of subdued "Praise the Lord." I don't think it quite meets the criteria, however. Not quite. I think this final image of the Psalms - five times underlined - involves an attitude of total affirmation of existence, fully conscious of the opposites and yet to beyond them that the affirmation is unimpaired by that full realization. It involves a total affirmation of the ego and Self and all the tragedy of their interplay. Even though the full reality of evil in all its depth and breadth is completely perceived, the affirmation is of such an order as to be undamaged by that awareness." (2004, pp. 140-141).
~ Excerpted from "The Sacred Psyche" by Edward F. Edinger, M.D.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Alhamdulillah! - Alleluia! in the Hebrew Bible

Dr. Edward Edinger, M.D. (1922-1998) was well known for his lectures and writing on Jungian psychology, including his psychological commentaries on the Bible. In "The Sacred Psyche - A Psychological Approach to the Psalms," Dr. Edinger comments on a number of Psalms which are rich in psychological content including Psalm 150 which is called "Praise the Lord." Here are some excerpts that Muslims and Islamophiles should find illuminating:

"I feel I know something about the Psalms I've talked about so far, but with Psalm 150 I must confess I do not know what I'm talking about experientially. I could have chosen another Psalm to discuss and left this one out, but I didn't feel that was the right thing to do. I started with Psalm 1 and I want to end with Psalm 150. This final Psalm is one of a series of five that have exactly the same content; the final statement of the Psalms is really one line - "Praise ye the Lord" - underscored five times. In view of that, how could I omit it? So I'll read it and give you some thoughts about it - but my thoughts are not based on the same degree of experience as is everything else I have said. Its a brief Psalm so I'm going to read it in both versions:

1. Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

2. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

3. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

4. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

5. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

6. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

And the Jerusalem Bible translation:


Praise God in his Temple on earth,
praise him in his temple in heaven,
praise him for his mighty achievements,
praise him for his transcendent greatness!
Praise him with blasts of the trumpet,
praise him with lyre and harp,
praise him with drums and dancing,
praise him with strings and reeds,
praise him with clashing cymbals,
praise him with clanging cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise Yahweh! Alleluia !

Well, I think you'll agree there's just one idea in this Psalm: the praise of God. Now, all we have to do is determine what "Praise the Lord" means psychologically. I'm not sure I know, but I'll do a little work on it. The first thing to consider is the etymology. My approach to a mystery is to start with the word that is used to express it. So I'm going to read you a passage from Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament; it's a fine book for needs of this sort. Here is what it says about the Hebrew word "to praise":

halal, "to praise, celebrate, glory, sing (praise), boast." The meaning "to praise" is actually the meaning of the intensive form of the Hebrew verb halal, which in its simple active form means "to boast"....The word is found in Ugaritic in the sense of "shouting" and perhaps "jubilation."
Found more than 160 times in the Old Testament, halal is used for the first time in Gen, 12:15, where it's noted that because of Sarah's great beauty, the princes of Pharaoh "praised" (KJV, "commended') her to Pharaoh.

While halal is often used simply to indicate "praise" of people, including the king (2 Chron 23:12) or the beauty of Absalom (2 Sam, 14:25), the word is usually used in reference to the "praise" of God. Indeed, not only all living things but all created things, including the sun and moon, are called upon "to praise" God (Ps. 148:2-5), 13; 150:1). Typically, such "praise" is called for and expressed in the sanctuary, especially in times of special festivals (Isa. 62:9).

The Hebrew name for the Book of Psalms is simply equivalent for the word "praises" and is a bit more appropriate than "Psalms," which comes from the Greek and has to do with the accompaniment of singing with a stringed instrument of some sort...

The word halal is the source of "Hallelujah," a Hebrew expression of "praise" to God which has been taken over into virtually every language of mankind. The Hebrew "Hallelujah" is generally translated "Praise the Lord!" The Hebrew term is more technically translated "Let us praise Yah," the term "Yah" being a shortened form of "Yahweh."

Well, that's the first leg of our journey in trying to understand the psychological meaning of "Praise the Lord." It gives us a bit of data anyway and enlarges the implications of the term "praise" to include celebrating, glorifying, singing - and boasting!" (2004, pp. 134-136).

~ Excerpted from "The Sacred Psyche - A Psychological Approach to the Psalms" by Edward F. Edinger, M.D.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Source of the Sacred Qur'an

Who Wrote the Koran?

New York Times, December 5, 2008

For more than two decades, Abdulkarim Soroush has been Iran’s leading public intellectual. Deeply versed in Islamic theology and mysticism, he was chosen by Ayatollah Khomeini to “Islamicize” Iran’s universities, only to eventually turn against the theocratic state. He paid a price for his dissidence. Vigilantes and other government-supported elements disrupted his widely attended lectures in Iran, beat him and reportedly nearly assassinated him. In a country where intellectuals are often treated like rock stars, Soroush has been venerated and reviled for his outspoken support of religious pluralism and democracy. Now he has taken one crucial step further. Shuttling from university to university in Europe and the U.S., Soroush is sending shock waves through Iran’s clerical establishment.

The recent controversy began about eight months ago, after Soroush spoke with a Dutch reporter about one of Islam’s most sensitive issues: the divine origin of the Koran. Muslims have long believed that their holy book was transmitted word for word by God through the Prophet Muhammad. In the interview, however, Soroush made explicit his alternative belief that the Koran was a “prophetic experience.” He told me that the prophet “was at the same time the receiver and the producer of the Koran or, if you will, the subject and the object of the revelation.” Soroush said that “when you read the Koran, you have to feel that a human being is speaking to you, i.e. the words, images, rules and regulations and the like all are coming from a human mind.” He added, “This mind, of course, is special in the sense that it is imbued with divinity and inspired by God.”

As Soroush’s words spread thanks to the Internet, Iran’s grand ayatollahs entered the battlefield. In their rebuttal, the clerics pointed to the Koranic verses that state “this is a book we have sent down to you (O Muhammad).” They ask, Don’t these verses imply that God is the revealer and Muhammad the receiver? They also point out that there were times when Muhammad waited impatiently for the revelation to come to him and that in more than 300 cases the prophet is commanded to tell his people to do one thing or another. This demonstrates, the argument goes, that the commands are coming from elsewhere rather than from the heart or the mind of the prophet himself.

Soroush, in turn, responds by saying that the prophet was no parrot. Rather, Soroush told me, he was like a bee who produces honey itself, even though the mechanism for making the honey is placed in him by God. This is “the example the Koran itself sets,” says Soroush, citing the Koran: “And your Lord inspired to the bee: take for yourself among the mountains, houses . . . then eat from all the fruits . . . there emerges from their bellies a drink . . . in which there is healing for people.”

Soroush has been described as a Muslim Luther, but unlike the Protestant reformer, he is no literalist about holy books. His work more closely resembles that of the 19th-century German scholars who tried to understand the Bible in its original context. Case in point: when a verse in the Koran or a saying attributed to Muhammad refers to cutting off a thief’s hand or stoning to death for adultery, it only tells us the working rules and regulations of the prophet’s era. Today’s Muslims are not obliged to follow in these footsteps if they have more humane means at their disposal.

Soroush’s latest views have not endeared him to the powerful conservative wing of Iran’s establishment. Some have accused him of heresy, which is punishable by death. There have been demonstrations by clerics in Qom, the religious capital of Iran, against his recent work. But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, unexpectedly warned against feeding the controversy. He said those who are employing “philosophy or pseudo-philosophy” to “pervert the nation’s mind” should not be dealt with “by declaring apostasy and anger” but rather countered with the “religious truths” that will falsify their arguments.

In Iran today, many opponents of the government advocate the creation of a secular state. Soroush himself supports the separation of mosque and state, but for the sake of religion. He seeks freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Thus he speaks for a different — and potentially more effective — agenda. The medieval Islamic mystic Rumi once wrote that “an old love may only be dissolved by a new one.” In a deeply religious society, whose leaders have justified their hold on power as a divine duty, it may take a religious counterargument to push the society toward pluralism and democracy. Soroush challenges those who claim to speak for Islam, and does so on their own terms.

Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar is an adjunct lecturer at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Bibi Miriam Within

As in some of my earlier posts on the significance of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Islam, and her hidden presence in al-Fatiha, I came across a similar vein of expression in a book by Dr. David Richo, ordained priest, licensed marriage and family therapist and Depth Psychologist:

"Mary can be contemplated as the woman described in the Gospels. In this view the importance of Mary is based on her motherhood of Jesus. This is the literal view. Mary can also be viewed as the most recent personification of the great mother goddess, her predecessors being Demeter, Tara, Isis, Astarte, Inanna, Cybele, Kali, and all the goddesses of light and shadow. In this view Mary is important in her own right and the accent is not on her as a person but as an archetype, a living component of the human psyche. This is the perspective of Mary that we will follow in this book. It is not a new approach. In the eighth century St. Andrew of Crete wrote: "Mary is a statue sculpted by God as an image of a divine archetype." No mature religious consciousness in human history has ever been literal in its understanding of stories or persons in scriptures but rather respects them for the spiritual truths they represent.

The name of the mother of Jesus is Miriam, the daughter, traditionally, of Anne and Joachim. Her name hearkens to an archetypal tradition. In the Hebrew Bible, Miriam is the older sister of Moses. She is a major figure in the movement to feminize Judaism today. Miriam placed Moses in a basket and sailed him down the Nile. In Talmudic tradition, she convinced her father to continue building a family when he was frightened by the Egyptian law ordering the death of male Israelite new-borns. Miriam is looked upon as a prophetess since she foretold Moses as the savior of Israel. Reminiscent of Mary and the Magnificat, Miriam sang a song of victory with the Israelite women after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20).

We know hardly anything about Mary's earthly life. The historical Mary, like the historical Jesus is not clearly accessible in the New Testament. They are described in idealized ways as prototypes of the life of faith, exemplars for us. The Mary of the New Testament and of miracles and apparitions is the Mary of the Ave Maria, the Blessed Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Lady. She is the threefold archetypal goddess energy of young virgin, loyal mother, and wise queen. Those three dimensions characterized the great goddess in every tradition throughout history. The mystic philosopher Pythagoras reflected that the threefold goddess represented the phases of a woman's life: virgin, mother, wise old woman. The ancient threefold woman goddess, like Mary, was simultaneously the mistress of the underworld (virgin), the earth (mother), and the heavens (queen). The three dimensions also reflect the phases of the moon: new, waxing, and dying in preparation for renewal.

The excesses of devotion and of theology over the past two millennia regarding Mary become completely intelligible once we apply them to the perennially venerated great goddess and not to the historical Mary. What may seem like idolatry when applied to the woman from Nazareth is entirely appropriate when applied to her archetypal meaning in the life of faith. In fact, no one has yet praised her enough. There can be no excesses for the Source of and guide to the mystery of the divine life in us and in all of nature.

Our exalted titles and beliefs in these past centuries were living indicators of an intuition that survived that survived in us, and were preserved in Catholic tradition particularly. We knew implicitly we were venerating Mary as the divine mother not as a literal physical woman who gave birth to Jesus.If Jesus is the only incarnation of God then the literal/historical Mary is the object of our devotion. But if the incarnation of Jesus is an archetypal metaphor - as opposed to a merely literary metaphor - of our own human destiny to bring divine consciousness into time in our unique lifetime of faith, then the mystical Mary is the one we honor." (2007, pp. 7-8).

~ Excerpted from "Mary Within Us - A Jungian Contemplation of Her Titles and Powers" by David Richo, Ph.D., M.F.T

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Exploring Ecological Hermeneutics

Norman Habel, Professorial Fellow in Biblical Studies at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, has been the driving force behind introducing an ecological hermeneutic to scripture, which resulted in an Earth Bible. As the editor, he identifies six principles in a publication by the Society of Biblical Literature, entitled "Exploring Ecological Hermeneutics" which could well inspire a profoundly ecological exegesis of al-Fatiha. Perhaps we can imagine those who have earned the Displeasure of Allah or those who have gone astray, in a very different way. These six principles

"were refined in consultations and workshops concerned with ecology in general, and ecological concerns linked to theology and the Bible more specifically.

1. The principle of intrinsic worth: The universe, Earth and all its components have intrinsic worth/value.

2. The principle of interconnectedness: Earth is a community of interconnected living things that are mutually dependent on each other for life and survival.

3. The principle of voice: Earth is a subject capable of raising its voice in celebration and against injustice.

4. The principle of purpose: The universe, Earth and all its components are part of a dynamic cosmic design within which each piece has a place in the overall goal of that design.

5. The principle of mutual custodianship: Earth is a balanced and diverse domain where responsible custodians can function as partners with, rather than rulers over, Earth to sustain its balance and a diverse Earth community.

6. The principle of resistance: Earth and its components not only suffer from human injustices but actively resist them in the struggle for justice.

The writers of the Earth Bible project explored a given biblical passage focusing on one or more of the ecojustice principles enunciated above. The five volumes in that series provided the basis for the development of an ecological hermeneutic for reading the Scriptures and interpretative traditions. (2008, p. 2).

What does an Ecological Hermeneutic look like? The Earth Bible

When I reflect on the deepest meaning of Rabbi'l 'Alamin (Lord and Sustainer of all the Worlds), I have to ask myself, as a Depth Psychologist, what aspects of our Human Existence are we unconscious of when we pray al-Fatiha? Surely when we recite "All Praise is due to Allah" that such praise does not originate solely from the human species. Is it not with the entirety of Creation which we join as humans that we surrender in Praise of Allah? Are we not praying on behalf of all species and all beings, and for all species and all beings in the Universe, not just on this planet Earth? The notion that such praise is due only from humans is an anthropocentric bias in the interpretation and understanding of al-Fatiha. An ecological hermeneutic would follow in the footprints of those who are attempting an ecological hermeneutic of the other Scriptures, and this has resulted in the Earth Bible. Here is a template of what an Ecological Hermeneutic looks like in the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu, and a review by Peter Lockwood. My next post will more specifically outline the work of Norman Habel in this field.

Selection from the Foreward by Desmond Tutu

"It is significant that the Earth Bible project has chosen to take the Earth crisis seriously and to re-read our biblical heritage in the light of this crisis. The Earth Bible team has listened closely to ecologists and developed a set of principles to re-read the biblical text from an Ecojustice perspective. The concern of Earth Bible writers is not to defend the biblical text blindly, but to identify those passages which may have contributed to the crisis and to uncover those traditions which have valued Earth but been suppressed.

I commend the Earth Bible team for including representative writers from around the globe, including the Southern hemisphere. I commend the writers for confronting the biblical tradition honestly and openly in dialogue with ecologists. And, in particular, I commend the writers for daring to read the biblical text afresh from the perspective of Earth. Feminists have forced us to confront the patriarchal orientation of much of the biblical text. Earth Bible writers are now confronting us with the anthropocentric nature of much of the biblical text. We now ask: does the text de-value Earth by making the self-interest of humans its dominant concern?

I recommend you read the Earth Bible series with a critical but empathetic eye. As a critical reader you will want to assess whether writers make their case for or against their interpretation of the text in terms of the principles employed. As an empathetic reader, however, you will need to identify with Earth and the suffering Earth community as you read the text."

Selection from Review by Peter Lockwood

"Ecojustice Bible readings cannot come soon enough. It has been argued, implicitly here, explicitly there, that if humans have been made in God’s image with authority to rule, in fact to subdue, the Earth, and if heaven and earth are bound to pass away at the final consummation, surely the Earth stands at the disposal of humans, to be devalued, exploited and oppressed to our heart’s content. Such opinions cannot go unchecked. Environmental degradation has reached crisis proportions, and the future of planet Earth is in serious danger. Has the Bible itself contributed to the crisis, or is it simply misguided interpretations of the Bible? By re-reading the text from the perspective of the oppressed Earth, it is the Earth Bible team’s fervent desire that they will do far more than assist at the birth of an additional method of reading the Bible, destined to take its rightful place in the complete Bible scholar’s exegetical repertoire. In Habel’s words, they are intent on making a contribution to resolving a crisis that affects all members of the Earth community’ (Volume 1:27).

Following a series of consultations between biblical scholars and environmental scientist, six principles were formulated for reading texts from the perspective of Ecojustice. They are the principles of intrinsic worth, interconnectedness, voice, purpose, mutual custodianship, and resistance (Volume 1, chapter 2). Those who embrace Ecojustice principles will no longer regard Earth as an object of human gratification, or a resource for people to exploit, but as living and life-giving, possessed or her own intrinsic value and the right to be regarded as a subject that can celebrate and suffer alike.

Feminism has given rise to feminist readings of the Bible (and The Women’s Bible), sociology and political science have given rise to socio-political readings of the Bible, and the environmental movement has been the driving force behind Earth, or Ecojustice, readings of the text (and now The Earth Bible). Each approach is liberationist in that its exponents read and reflect on biblical texts in the light of questions addressed to it from the perspective of women, the oppressed, and the Earth, whose stories and voices have been silenced, or at best marginalised.

The prime mover behind the Earth Bible project is Norman Habel. With his unflagging imagination, courage and energy, Norm initiated the interdisciplinary conversation between Bible scholars and ecologists, and between students drawn from both disciplines. Norm has kept the discussion alive at successive meetings of the American Society for Biblical Literature and the Australian and New Zealand Society of Theological Studies. With the other contributors, Norm invites us to readjust our angle of vision, address a totally new set of questions to the text, and thereby discover the remarkable new vistas opened up on Earth when viewed through the lens that the Ecojustice readings apply."

~ Excerpted from