Since the inception of 'Confessions,' I have received numerous emails asking me to comment on Islam, muslims, and the Church's relationship to muslims, specifically Vatican II's 'Nostra Aetate.' That being said, I have always felt that when I presented Islam, I wanted to make sure that I would not be accused of being unfair or biased, but instead render a balanced view of Islam celebrating its common points that it shares with Christianity, and then showing where it differs. At this point, I am reminded of a line Pope John Paul II used in his book, 'Crossing the Threshold of Hope.' To paraphrase, he wrote, -In the Qur'an, ninety-nine names are attributed to Allah (God), some of them very beautiful names. Not one of them is Father. He (God) is ultimately a God of majesty, never Emmanuel.- That line, has helped me understand that dialogue with muslims is almost always very difficult.
The following is from Nostra Aetate,...
- The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.-
To begin, Islam. The very word, especially for a Westerner conjures up visions of September 11th 2001. It would seem that every left of center loony toon (probably on the payroll of the New York Times...)rushed to reassure the American public that this attack was in no way representative of Islam as a religion. Commentators came out of the wordwork to tell us quickly assuredly that Islam was a religion of peace, and that Islam meant 'peace.' Hmmm,..well not quite. I feel that definetely a 'primer' on from a purely metaphysical standpoint, the Islamic religion, and subsequently, the Islamic understanding of God,..(or lack thereof...)is needed to fully contextualize the muslim mind, in relationship to the natural law and finally the base philosophical concept of what is 'good.'
As it stands, Islam remains the last great heresy that arose out of Christianity(Aprocryphal)in the Arab world. At its beginning, Muhammed began to experience revelations from who he said was the angel Gabriel commanding him to 'Recite!' The revelations at first were pure and simple, only one God. To the arab mindset prevailing at the time, this was a truly shocking revelation especially in light of the pagan/polytheistic customs that were prevalent. Muhammed sincerely believed that his revelations were confirming the Christian message and later, he saught guidance from a Christian monk,..well a Nestorian one. Only later when the revelations did not square with the Christian dogma of the Trinity(which he misunderstood) the Incarnation(which he misunderstood) and the Redemption through the Cross(which he misunderstood) did tensions begin to arise. For right now this is an introduction, as my next posts will feature more of an academic exercise in showing the muslim view of God, Jesus and salvation through the muslim lenses. I pray to undertake this task with objectivity as well as sensitivity. I will make a case however. As you know I am a Catholic, and my position will be from the Catholic perspective.
Next post: The Islamic view of God.
St Thomas Aquinas.,,,,pray for us!