Glad for this news passed on from Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili, a friend and Baptist cleric from the Republic of Georgia.
Some months ago I accepted an invitation from the Shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala to give a paper on Imam Sajjad’s Treatise of Rights. What is the Treatise of Rights? You will ask. To be perfectly honest, that was my question as well. As I found out the Treatise was written by the great grandson of prophet Muhammad, – Imam Sajjad (658-713), the fourth Imam of Shia Muslims.
I got hold of the Arabic original of the text and started my research on it. Much to my amasment this document, which is rather unknown among Western scholars, contains fascinating principles of religious ethics. It starts with the right of God and finishes with the right of the non-Muslim. 51 articles all together. So I produced a paper which was a bit longer, than I was asked. In fact it was twice as big. I sent the paper to the organizers and told them that I could shorten the piece. “By no means!” – I got an answer, – you can add a paragraph or two, if like”.
When I arrived to Iraq, three days ago, I had no idea that my paper was to be the first out of two keynote (!) speeches of the conference. And this was not all: I almost fainted when I realized that opening of the conference was to take place not in the conference center but right in the Shrine of Imam Hussain, in front of his tomb. So I delivered my speech infant of most top ranking clerics of Shia world. As I was defending from the platform I saw an elderly Ayatollah walking in my direction. He shook my head and said:
“You seem to be very knowledgable of our culture and religion. We need to work together!” I did not know who that cleric was and I did not know what he meant by working together. So I answered as Muslims do, when they may not necessary would like to commit themselves to anything: “Inshallah!” (God willing). Later on I was told that the cleric actually was Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani’s personal representative and chief cleric of Iraq.
Next day Iraqi media published, so I am told, numerous articles about the speech I gave. I am sending one of the links I got hold of. Please find enclosed a link for an article with a title: “The Priest of Georgia says: ‘The Message of Rights of Imam Sajjad Calls to Establish a Society Based on Justice and Love.’” Find also enclosed a photo taken at Ayatollah Qazvini’s place. I was honored to be invited to his place for lunch. Qazvini is the chief preacher at the Imam Hussain’s Shrine and great Shia scholar (I found this picture rather funny. One should find a proper title for it).
I love East, I love its unexpectedness and unpredictability.