Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Death of interfaith leader, Sheikh Bukhari

Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari died on 31 May at the age of 61. Co-director of the
Jerusalem Peacemakers and founding member of the Abrahamic Reunion group of religious leaders, the Sheikh was invited on two occasions to participate at the Fez Encounters, part of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music. He was a unique spiritual leader who dedicated his life promoting peace, harmony and unity in Jerusalem, in the Middle East and the world.

The Sheikh's first visit to Fez in 2005 was with Eliyahu McClean (pictured above, left). The two first met in the 1990s at interreligious conference in Uzbekistan, and launched Jerusalem Peacemakers, a non-profit partnership of interfaith religious leaders and grassroots activists, from Muslim, Druse, Christian and Jewish communities.

Sheikh Bukhari was head of the mystical Naqshabandi Sufi Order of the Holy Land. A longtime proponent of nonviolence and interfaith unity, Bukhari found his inspiration in Islamic law and tradition, as well as in the writings of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Sheikh Bukhari, who also headed the Holy Land Uzbek community, was a direct descendent of the Sunni scholar Imam Muhammad Ismail al-Bukhari of Bukhara, the ninth-century author of the Hadith al-Bukhari, a collected oral tradition that contains guidance about Islamic tradition and religious law and practice.

The Bukhari family migrated from Bukhara to Jerusalem in 1616 and built their home on the Via Dolorosa in the Old City, where they have lived and taught until now. The family home also serves as a library of ancient, hand-written Islamic manuscripts and as the Uzbek cultural center for the estimated 3,000-4,000 Palestinians of Uzbek heritage in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Bukhari’s family played a role in the political history of Jerusalem during the Ottoman era, when they were charged with overseeing the Islamic holy places in the Holy Land, including in Lebanon.
“The stronger one is the one who can absorb the violence and anger from the other and change it to love and understanding. It is not easy; it is a lot of work. But this is the real jihad,” the Sheikh once told the Globaloneness Project in an interview.
photo: Lynn Evans Davidson

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