As a Rabbi, my understanding of people and my perspective on the future are shaped by what I have learned through the process of advocating for peace with Muslim partners. Along with a growing movement of clergy representing the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith communities, I have focused on study of a centuries-old peace model based on historical cultural strategies that are practiced everyday in the Republic of Azerbaijan – a country that is a majority-Muslim nation with an unparalleled history of positive multifaith and multicultural tolerance and peace. On my last mission to Azerbaijan to meet with faith and community leaders in order to discuss how to grow and share this model on a global scale, I was privileged to meet a key leader and expert in this area – Dr. Kamal Abdullayev, Azerbaijan’s State Counselor on Multiculturalism, Interethnic and Interreligious Affairs.
Dr. Abdullayev is also the author of a very clever and illustrating book – The Incomplete Manuscript. In reflecting on how to capture the powerful story of Dr. Abdullayev’s commitment to multiculturalism and the impact on global issues – I realized writing my observations from my recent trip would provide a compelling look at what he and his country are trying to achieve – and that using the analogy of his own words can shed light on this important model for peace.
Part novel, part historical fiction, part religious allegory, The Incomplete Manuscript captures the journey of a young researcher who comes upon an old and apparently incomplete manuscript that may hold secrets related to epic historical events.
Through the lens of the protagonist’s young, inquisitive mind, Dr. Kamal Abdullayev examines the mystery that exists within what is known as history, and takes the reader into his own whimsical questions and ideas about how often stories exist without known beginnings and without ends – such as what was found in the incomplete manuscript. It concerns two Azerbaijani epic stories – the Kitabi Dada Gorgud and Shah Ismail Khatai -, and the novelty of how those stories intersect and how they push both Abdullayev’s researcher and the reader to wonder what else remains unknown, and how what seems like similarity between the stories may hide what is a greater difference between them. Ultimately, with the Incomplete Manuscript, Dr. Abdullayev asks fundamental questions regarding the widespread condition of incompleteness, within each of us, and throughout the world, asking an even deeper question of how that process of investigation and introspection impacts what we know and believe.
The story analyzes how society, throughout history, can evolve through the process of response to fundamental questions: in this case questions of tolerance, peace, and the essential human condition. These specific storytelling elements are often found in Azerbaijani history, and offer an interesting lens by which to examine many modern day societal narratives and concerns. Dr. Abdullayev leaves the reader wondering about the many lessons learned throughout the greater lens of world history and how they can provide roadmaps for solving the deep cultural and faith-based conflicts overwhelming our world today. He pulls many of these points from his real life experiences working in inter-faith issues in a country that since its inception has been a model of interfaith engagement. As a majority-Muslim secular country, Azerbaijan is also an ancient home to thousands of Jews, Christians and other religious minorities. This experience helps shape the story of Dr. Abdullayev’s young researcher who is eager to uncover many truths.
Kamal Abdullayev’s lifetime of scholarship in the study of linguistics, literature and history reinforces what is often missing from public discourse. Through the Incomplete Manuscript and his words of wisdom, Dr. Abdullayev continues to reveal his own cultural context of a national history that has developed on the premise of challenging ideas, taking a different path in the storyline of human history, and exploring a brave, new world of what is possible between people. The outstanding, critical issue with this very important story, is consistent with what I have grown to understand about Dr. Abdullayev – a man of wisdom, faith and understanding. This book, while fictionalized, is a reflection of this man.