The story of al-jabr

Growing up in Northern Ireland throughout childhood, I’d a sheltered one (for good and for bad).  The “troubles” of the province although slowly coming to an end, still had a grip on many things and meant I’d never heard “al-jabr” from the lips of anyone, because few of other races, cultures or religions were present in “our wee country”.

However al-jabr, the Arabic word from which was thought to derive the English “algebra”, played a big role in my life in school days, as I studied mathematics (or “maz”, as the Norn Iron among us used to say) and further mathematics.

Moving off to the University of Nottingham to study Mathematics and Philosophy (the two connected historically in algebraic logic), I met for the first time those who spoke of “al-jabr”.  Since then, squeezed between western postmodernism and Islamic thought, I’ve enjoyed being bombarded by east and by west.  And moving to (the People’s Republic of) Cork, found myself even torn between north and south!

But more than that, al-jabr (I’m told; my Arabic isn’t good enough yet) is restoration or bringing separated parts back to unity.  And so I turn to it to express the yearnings of my heart for the day when the One who I’ve met in eyewitness accounts of history, I’ve meditated about on my philosophical journeyings and have experienced along life’s path, will restore all things in a wonderfully earthy, eternal reality!

In the meantime, please allow me to express all aspects of this “al-jabr” (don’t worry, it’ll not be boring algebra!), as we travel together.  Perhaps you’ll see glimpses of Him on the road…

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