Aaron Perry


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Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 06 - Safi Kaskas - Author, "Qur'an with References to the Bible"

Episode 06 – Interview with Safi Kaskas.

Featured on the Y on Earth Community Podcast – Stewardship & Sustainability Series.

Safi Kaskas, internationally renown author, speaker and spiritual leader, speaks about the essential importance of love and understanding among and between religious and spiritual people. As the author of “The Qur’an with References to the Bible: A Contemporary Understanding,” Mr. Kaskas works tirelessly to help heal the rifts between Islam and Christianity, specifically, and the cultures of the Middle East and the West.


(Automatically generated transcript for search engine optimization and reference purposes – grammatical and spelling errors may exist.)

Hi friends, welcome to another edition of the YonEarth Communities Stewardship and

Sustainability Series.

I’m so excited to have the opportunity today to speak with Dr. Safi Kaskas who joins

us from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Dr. Kaskas travels all over the world speaking with

political leaders, business leaders, and religious and spiritual leaders about a variety of

essential topics to our times.

In particular, he is doing work in the arena of cultural reconciliation, of focusing

on healing and love between and among different peoples and cultures.

And Sathi, it is such an honor and a pleasure to have this time with you today.

Thank you so much for joining us.

Thank you.

I’m very happy to be able to speak to you.

Thank you.

Well, this is wonderful.

I thought as a way to kick things off, I might mention to our viewers that Sathi co-authored

a translation of the Quran with David Hungerford, and in it, they, in their dedication, share

a message I think that is so important to our times.

I’m just going to read this really fast.

It says, this translation of the Quran is dedicated to our grandchildren, half of them

Muslim, half of them Christian.

Which we as their adults do not learn how to live, love, and respect each other, and

to pass this on to them and their parents, we will have allowed them to learn all the

hate and fear that is so dominant in the world today.

It is said that people fear what they don’t understand.

We pray that this translation of the Quran with references to the Bible will enable our

grandchildren to share our understanding of the peaceful and inclusive holy books of

the religions claimed by more than half the people on the planet, both of which promote

God’s love and mercy to all human beings.

So Sathi, with that, perhaps you could give us a bit of an introduction to the work that

you’re doing right now around the world and why it’s so important.

Well, I like to tell you a little bit about the translation to start with because that’s

the foundation of the work that I do.

Actually, I spent six years working on the translation of the Quran.

The reason I work on a new translation, there are over 200 translations you can find in

any bookstore.

The reason I did a new translation is simply because I didn’t recognize the verses they

are quoting on TV when they say, this is the Quran.

They talk about hateful things, they talk about how we’re asked to kill all the infidels.

The Quran doesn’t ask me to do this, that’s not the Quran I grew up with.

So I decided, enough is enough.

I better do a translation in simple, easy to read, easy to understand English.

So my translation is not directed, it’s not targeting academic people.

It’s targeting my grandchildren and their friends.

I really wanted them to understand the faith I have.

I wanted them to be proud of the faith I have rather than be ashamed of it.

If my faith was something to be ashamed of, I would have left it myself.

My faith includes believing in Jesus, my faith includes believing in Moses, believing

in Abraham, their faith is my faith.

I don’t have any faith coming from a different planet.

I have a faith made for people who live on planet earth and this faith calls us to build bridges

rather than build walls around us.

So I go around the work talking about what I found in those six years in the Quran.

I thought I know the Quran very well.

After six years working, trying to understand every word in Arabic, then finding an equivalent

of that word in English, I think I know pretty well what the Quran’s message is.

The essence of the Quran is freedom.

The essence is God telling us, you come to me with your free will, or I don’t want you.

Come to me freely, submit your will to mine freely.

Love each other freely.

Do good work on earth freely.

Only this word that you do with your free will, that come.

And then at the end, you come back to me.

And I’m going to hold you responsible for whether you loved each other, whether you loved

your neighbors, whether you loved your enemies, whether you lived in peace or whether you

worked for peace.

It’s not always possible for us to live in peace, but at least we can work for peace.

So this is basically what I go around that we’re talking about.

It’s a message of bringing people together, reconciling, everybody talking about love

rather than hate it.

It’s so important.

It’s so important in these times, in particular, Safi, and I’m struck following your posts

on Facebook, and you are so good at documenting your journeys, your travels, your

encounters with different people all around the world.

And I remember, I think this was earlier this year, maybe last year, a few months ago,

seeing that one part of the week you were meeting with some spiritual leaders in the

Middle East.

And then later, a few days later, you were meeting with some of the elders of the Mormon

Church, probably I’m assuming out in Utah, I think it was.


The Young University and other places.

Yes, and I was just so struck by when you mentioned bridge building, that you are helping

to plant the seeds of these conversations of love and peace in so many communities all

over, and that when we get down to it, love and peace seem to be so central to these

rich, religious, and spiritual traditions that we have the opportunity to draw from.

And I’m curious when you’re bringing that message to different communities, Safi, how

does that receive?

How are people responding to that?

People listen to me attentively.

I’ve never had anybody violently oppose what I’m saying.

I’m talking about basically loving God and loving neighbor.

That’s the essential message that I bring to others, especially in the United States.

We need that message.

We need to implement that message.

I mean, at one time, I heard love God and love neighbor so much from my neighbors.

So I went and did a little survey knocked on the door of every neighbor I have on a short

street that I live on in the Washington DC area.

And I said, do you love your neighbor?

Say yes.

How do you love your neighbor?

They didn’t know how to answer.

What do you do?

How do you express this love?

Most people didn’t know how to answer that question.

So talking about loving neighbor is one thing.

Practicing loving our neighbor is another thing.

Let alone loving our enemies.

We are far away from loving our enemies.

We are so scared in the Western world, in general, not just in the United States of the


We’re scared of the other.

There is an industry that keeps feeding fear into us.

One day I was speaking at a church in Noon, in Georgia.

And this old lady said, you said you live in Saudi Arabia, I said yes.

She said, would you tell me that truth?

I said yes.

She said, is it true they’re building boats and distributing weapons and they’re going

to come to our shores and shoot us?

I said, man, the Saudi people are really just like us.

They have families.

They have children.

They don’t have time to think about us.

They spend their time taking the children to school, going to the doctor, trying to make

a living, buying groceries from the grocery store.

They don’t think much about us.

You need to go and visit them.

She said, is it safe to go there?

I said yes, it is safe.

I mean thousands of Americans come and visit and then go back safely.

It’s very safe.

So anyway, the message that I take to people is a message of love.

The message they receive from some network, TV networks and from radios, especially on

the radio in the afternoon, those talk shows their message of fears.

They try to make people feel so fearful of the other.

So now in the mind of some Americans, all Muslims are terrorists.

Every Muslim is a suspect.

Anybody speaking a language other than English is a suspect.

This is not the way the United States used to be.

I came to United States in 1968.

I’m a bicentennial citizen.

I became a citizen in 1976.

So I am very proud to say this and to repeat it.

The United States I lived in at that time is not the same as the United States we live

in today.

Most likely people had racism, but it wasn’t open.

It wasn’t obvious.

They didn’t share it openly.

Now the atmosphere is kind of poison and I don’t like this.

I don’t like to see this.

I don’t know what kind of place is going to be for my grandchildren to grow in.

I mean, we live there, you know, I’m here today, but my home is not here.

It is in the Washington DC area.

This is where I live.

So, you know, it’s just I care about what happens there.

I want it to be a pluralistic country, not a diverse country.

I know a street in Maryland where you have a Jewish synagogue, a Catholic church, a Baptist

church and a Hindu temple.

But those guys don’t know each other, that street has diversity, but doesn’t have pluralism.

People don’t talk to each other.

I want Americans to sit together with each other and say, this is what I believe in and

I have the Constitution to protect me.

So let me explain to you my beliefs, regardless whether you agree with them or not.

No way in the Constitution that says we have to have uniformity.

pluralism is very important.

This is what made the United States grow and be number one in scientists in the research.

We drew all the brains from the work of the United States to build a great society.

And this is what we should have again.

This is beautiful, Safi, and I want to reference something you said a couple of minutes ago.

This notion of loving our neighbor really is something that’s calling us to act.

It’s something that’s calling us to be outward in our service, really.

What might you share with folks, regular folks, in terms of things we can do in our day-to-day

lives to connect more with our neighbors and to show love more with our neighbors?

You know, the United States I knew in many places, it still is the same.

People say good morning when they see you in the street in the morning.

I love this.

If we start our day by saying good morning to our neighbor, that’s a good start.

In some other places in the world, people stop saying good morning to their neighbors.

If we smile when we see our neighbor, it’s a great start.

If we put ourselves in the shoes of our immediate neighbors, that will be very good.

If we feel with them, if we visit them when they’re sick, if we take some soup to them

when we have fresh soup done.

If we have an older neighbor, if we visit her all the time, we’re talking about loving

the widows and the orphans and trying to free the oppressed.

This is what Jesus talked about.

This is what the Quran talks about.

We have the same message.

Look, I challenge everybody.

If those messages are from God, then the message should be the same.

If the message is the same, then go and eat your Bible and treat me as if I was just

another Christian.

And I would love it.

And I will treat you like you were another Muslim.

And you would love it too.

We’re not that weird really.

You don’t have to pray the way I pray.

You don’t have to fast the way I fast.

You don’t have to.

But we have to treat each other as a human being with people with dignity.

We need to treat each other with respect.

As co-citizen, we’re both citizens of a great country.

We can build that country together.

If we are united, if we are divided, we’re allowing enemies of the United States to come

in between us.

We need to seal those gaps that exist, hatred should not exist.

We should replace them with love.

If we claim to follow Jesus, Jesus talked about love, not alienation, reconciliation.

That’s what we need to do.


Thank you.

That’s so beautiful.

And I just want to mention for our listeners who might be tuning in through the podcast.

If you’d like, you can go to yonearth.org and check out our community page.

We also are running some special deals on our audio books.

If you use the word podcast as your code, you’ll get some discounts.

So just want to be sure to mention that.

And Safi, I am struck by your connection between this notion of human responsibilities

accompanying human rights and also between notions of classical understanding in our Abrahamic

religious traditions, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and classical understandings of the cultural

infrastructure that exists in the United States.

That is part of the deliberate founding of this country.

And perhaps you could connect some of those dots together for us.


You know, I was born in Lebanon.

I moved to the United States in 1969.

I moved permanent to the United States in 1969.

The reason I moved to the United States is because I read somewhere that it’s a country

of neighbors.

That might be a silly reason for some people.

But for me, it was something very important.

I wanted to live somewhere where my neighbors care about me and I care for them.

Sure enough, when I first came in, I moved to Birmingham, Alabama.

My neighbors were great.

They were exactly what I was dreaming to have.

They treated me like I’m one of the family.

The door was always open.

I was always welcome.

Coffee was always warm.

And they shared with me their life.

I shared my life with them.

They gave me opportunities to succeed.

Without my neighbors, I would never succeed.

Then I moved from there to New Orleans.

New Orleans, Louisiana, of course.

And I lived there for 18 years.

And people of New Orleans were fantastic.

They were great.

They were loving.

They were neighborly.

We all cared about each other.

The TV, the radio stations, the newspapers.

We’re always talking to me.

Asked me about things they don’t understand about them at least.

Trying to have a conversation about who are the Arabs?

Who are the Israelis?

Why do you have a conflict?

Who are the Muslims?

Who are the Christians that are there?

So we had a conversation.

We can build a strong community if we sit down and talk to each other.

We gain nothing by hating the other, fearing the other, and hiding away from the other.

We need to sit together, get to know each other.

Look each other in the eyes, love each other, care about each other.

This is how we can build a strong nation.

And United States, I tell you, although we have a separation of church and state in the

United States.

But our constitution is built, it’s based on encouraging people to have faith.

The government need to stay away from my personal beliefs.

But it need to protect my personal beliefs.

And that makes United States a very unique place.

The American constitution is something that I and my children and my grandchildren is

something that we are ready to die for.

It’s worth living for and dying for.

It’s a unique document.

None like it exists in the world.

Nobody else has a constitution like the American constitution.

So United States really as a whole, as a country, can offer the world two things.

The evangelical can go to the rest of the world and talk about Jesus.

And we can go and offer the constitution of the United States to help other people build

democracies like ours.

Not that our democracy is so perfect.

It’s looking less perfect every day now.

But we need to fight again to make it perfect.

We have the opportunity to fight, to have the democracy, the republic, actually.

We don’t.

Our founding father fought to build a republic.

That’s what we need to rebuild again.

In a republic, minorities count as well as majority.

In a democracy, only that, the majority come.

Not the minority, but in United States, we need to build a republic.

Our founding father intended to build.

And this is how I see my faith.

I see my faith and love in my neighbor, but by providing my neighbors with the same freedoms

I like to have for myself.

I love for my neighbor what I love for myself.

And the essence of all this is freedoms.

If we don’t have those freedoms, my love for my neighbor is limited, is not potent.

It doesn’t lead to anything positive and good.

So we need those freedoms in order to give meaning to loving our neighbors.

It’s so beautiful, Sophia.

It reminds me of a story, a place that I read about when I was researching Y on Earth.

And in many parts of our world right now, we’re experiencing political conflict, cultural


And of course, increasingly in some areas we are seeing environmental challenges emerging

as well.

And all these things are colliding and creating conflicts and very difficult situations for

many of our brothers and sisters on the planet right now.

And I was struck coming across this example of a place, a simple place in Israel called

the Araba Institute where they are bringing together Palestinian youth and young adults,

Israeli youth and young adults, others, Jews, Christians, Muslims.

And not only are they doing cultural healing and reconciliation, they are also working with

the land, with the soil, healing the land and the soil in a region of the world where

there is a whole lot of healing to be done.

And I’m just curious from your perspective, seeing love as being so central, seeing freedom

as being so central, when we’re talking in the context of stewardship and sustainability,

what do you think are some of the opportunities that people and communities all over have

to do more in this respect?

Well, a whole lot need to be done everywhere in the world.

You mentioned work that’s done in Israel.

I think this kind of work that you’re talking about is well needed.

For years, I work with many Israeli friends who are peace loving people about bringing

peace into the holy land.

After all, it is the holy land, you know, it should be blessed with peace.

So far, we haven’t been able to do anything substantial that we can show to the rest

of the world.

At this time, politics is taking away the best that we can promise, we can offer.

Believe me, peace can be at hand, if the will for peace, especially on the Israeli side,

because this is the strong side.

You cannot ask the weak, the oppressed, the dominated, the conquered to come and sit

with you and be on equal footage with you.

If Israel want to give their Palestinian their independent state, they can do that overnight.

They don’t need to ask permission from anybody.

They can do it, and I usually use to put on the table a plan, an independent Palestinian

state that go into affiliation with Israel the next day.

To become independent, have an identity, goal, and Palestinian, and then go into affiliation

with Israel, because Palestine alone, the West Bank and Gaza alone cannot make a living,

cannot survive.

They can only survive if their economy is attached to Israel.

Israel will continue to exert lots of influence on its neighbor, but give them a promise,

give them hope, give them something to live for, so they don’t be as desperate as they

are today.

I mean, we’re seeing people dying at the fence, at a barbed wire fence, in Gaza every


Why are they doing this?

They’re young people.

They’re dying because they’re tired of being imprisoned without any hope, without any

promise or anything good to happen to them.

So please take them back, hug them, adapt them, show them a good life, show them some hope

for a good life, and then they’ll be your neighbor, they’ll be your friends forever.

But to keep them like this imprisoned, two million of them in a place where they cannot

leave, nobody can come and visit them, they cannot even buy enough medication for their


That’s not human.

That’s not good.

I like for Israel to take the responsibility of putting together, without negotiating, we

don’t need to negotiate, they’re the strong party that can create facts on the ground like

they used to be proud to say all the time.

For 70 years, they used to say to us, we create facts on the ground, go ahead and do it.

There is this final fact you need to create, create an independent Palestinian state that

will join you later in a federation.

So you can all be a model for peace, for prosperity.

The Bible says Israel should be a blessing to its neighbors.

Be that blessing, forgot say, we want you in the neighborhood now.

We accepted you, the days when we used to think that Israelis are not wanted over there,

are over with.

Now you’re part of them at least.

You’re part of us.

We want you as our neighbors, but you need to feel like we do.

You need to be a part of the neighborhood, accept your Palestinian neighbors, give them

their own dignity, treat them like normal human beings, with the right for self-determination.

They’re under occupation now for how long?

How long are they going to be under occupation forever?

You cannot keep occupying another people forever.

You know, this is basically where this work you talked about, love, cooperation, working

together, building values is so important.

We can promote values.

If we promote values, everybody will have a better life.

We’re getting away from that in the United States, slowly but surely.

Even evangelicals who talk about following Jesus, they’re talking about the idea but

losing the essence, which is the values.

The value is to love your neighbor.

The value is to sacrifice for your neighbor.

We forgot to say, even rejecting refugees.

We’re rejecting people coming to us in peace, want our protection and want to work in

the United States because we have values.

So allow them to come in, but anyway, this is, the point you are is needed all over the


Thank you, Sophie.

You know, it’s so wonderful to hear from you and hear your perspective, which I think

for a lot of our listeners is a perspective that they’re probably not exposed to or experiencing

every day.

And so it’s such a joy, a privilege and an honor to be able to share this with folks.

And I think we’re going to wrap up here in just a minute before wrapping up.

I just want to tease out again this focus, this emphasis on love, on our freedom, on cultivating

our will and service to the brotherhood, the sisterhood of humanity.

And we have so much we can do in our own neighborhoods and more broadly to help relieve suffering

and cultivate love with people.

And I just, I want to thank you again, Sophie, for joining us.

And if you have any closing message for the audience at the YonEarth Community, it

would be wonderful if you could share that with us.

Only few words, love will win at the end.

This, this, the essence of life on Earth is love.

But love alone without us feeling it and sharing it and spreading it around is meaningless.

Love is to be shared.

So let’s share love instead of hatred.

Thank you.


Thank you, Sophie.

Have a wonderful day, my friend, and I look forward to talking with you soon.

Thank you.

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