The Arab-Islamic word Iqra means to read or recite and is believed to be the first word or aya received by the prophet Muhammad from god hence, it is found in the Quran, the sacred book of Islam. The use of this word as the name of this Islamic journal underpins the significance of reading or reciting which corollarily underscores the significance of knowledge in the life of one who professes Islam as a religion. It becomes even more meaningful given the religious context of the word. Adapted as the name of the journal, the work of putting out this publication may be described as an Islamic undertaking within a Catholic setting.
The maiden issue contains five major articles carefully selected so as to reflect the objectives of the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia, an institute founded only recently by the Ateneo de Davao Unversity. The first article entitled, “Challenges to Muslim Identity was written by the Executive Director of the Al Qalam, Mussolini S. Lidasan. In it he outlined a brief historical background of the identity problem of the Muslims of the Philippines borne of historical circumstances that go back to six hundred years of the Christian era in the country. Although a member of the royal house of Magindanao, Lidasan chose to focus the initial phase of Al Qalam’s work to recognizing the least known Muslim group in Davao City namely, the Kalagan. Lidasan articulated the identity problem of Muslim Filipinos through this little known group.
From a philosophical perspective, Renante D. Pilapil analyzed the grievances of the Moros that over time led to their alienation from the national polity. In this commentary, Pilapil asserted that the social, economic, and political injustices committed against them appeared to pale when compared to the misrecognition of the Moros as a people; a sin of omission and an offense against their identity as a people. It is as if the Christian majority have denied the very existence of the Muslims in their midst. From this vantage point, even the legal remedies such as the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro may not be enough to win their trust. Pilapil calls on every Christian Filipino to make personal efforts towards the goal of solidarity with the Muslim Filipinos; to overcome and transform personal bigotry, biases and prejudices into authentic efforts to ameliorate the differences between them.
Jamil Matalam, one of the two assistant editors of this journal wrote a report on the Al Barka Conference held in the Ateneo de Davao last November 25, 2011. The conference was based on an incident that took place between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the municipality of Al Barka on October 18, 2011. Although the talk given by the Guest Speaker, Vice Governor Al Rashid Sakhalalul failed to resolve issues surrounding the incident what was highlighted was again the image of the Muslim people as slanted by the Philippine media.
From a far-flung Muslim barangay in Magindanao, a province of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Araceli B. Naraga, a professor of the Social Sciences at the Mindanao State University conducted a study of some conceptualizations of environmental security among fifty selected women. For these women environmental security meant an environment which was clean, pollution free, where there were many trees, fresh air and where people lived without any threat from natural calamities such as floods. Ironically, the locality where these women lived was recently devastated by flash floods and although a third of them described their present environment as dirty, the majority still considered their environs as sufficiently clean. Nonetheless, almost all affirmed the very real threat to environmental security in their area.
Acmad Toquero Macarimbang’s article dwells on the political philosophy of Al Farabi who lived during the time of the Samanid Dynasty which considered itself Persian and was well known for its patronage of learning. This essay envisions a “perfect city” and is strongly evocative of the medieval, “City of God…” written by St. Augustine. Al Farabi’s perfect city assumes that outside the framework of political association man cannot attain the perfection that he is destined to attain. This is because human beings by their very nature cannot live alone but need to associate with others. The association is directed towards the attainment of true happiness, i.e. perfection or its opposite. Through this article on a medieval philosopher and his philosophy something very similar and familiar seems to reach out to us from the depths of history. Can it be that deep in the hearts of all of us we yearn for the very same thing?
These articles in the maiden issue of the IQRA provide the Ateneo de Davao community and other readers with a window through which one might take a long, thoughtful look at what is happening in Mindanao, Sulu and the whole of Southeast Asia for the journal is not only limited to the goings-on in the Philippine south. The IQRA encompasses events in the whole Muslim world and other worlds in Southeast Asia knowing that history and geography have formed a tight link that binds us Filipinos with these countries and their peoples. Through informed researches and other studies the IQRA is a promise to broaden the view of Filipinos, Muslims and Christians alike, as a way to mutual understanding and eventually peace. Heidi K. Gloria