“Odi ergo su.” is a quote from Umberto Eco, author of The Prague Cemetery (I book and author I do not know). It is easy to see how extremist in our society and around the world thrive on hatred. Below is a critical and biased view of Islam based on several readings I have read the last two days. It summarizes I believe why and how non-muslims fear (and sometimes hate) Muslims. It is biased and raises questions that when raised people accuse the questioner of being prejudicial. I accept that risk and ask that if you respond please do so with kindness, compassion, and information that can help all readers understand Islam. I also request that non-muslims reading this not use it to promote hatred as well. It is an amatuer review. A starting place. Is Islam a religion of peace or of violence?
The Story of Mohammed Islam Unveiled by Harry Richardson is a 99 cents purchase that I bought by error while attempting to buy another book (The Sealed Nectar | Biography of Prophet Muhammad) which is only 3.99. Unfortunately the latter book is quite long and may take me awhile to review. Perhaps the easiest review of Muhammad and Catholics is “Understanding Islam: A guide For Catholic Educators[i]. Obviously not an unbiased source but I am obligated to provide it given my own faith.
Richardson’s book is a compilation of attacks on the origins of the Prophet Muhammad. He provides a two prong attack that is quite successful despite a somewhat amateurish presentation (that also can entice unprepared readers to accept his positions uncritically). His premise is if the world was educated on Muhammad’s true biography they would understand better the threat Islam presents to society and freedom. Prong one looks at Muhammad’s use of warfare and Jihad. Prong two looks at present day Islam and it’s conundrum of moderates being silenced by the actual scripture of the Koran and other books and the Prophets teaching. I do not recommend this book, however, it has ignited my interest in how society in general and Muslims in particular, can explain and detail the life of the Prophet Muhammad. The book also cites multiple examples of how Islam and the Prophets name are utilized to promote conquest, violence, oppression and other atrocities. If I were looking to be anti-muslim this is the book. One reviewer put it this way:
“Now, if you are however an Islamophobe, you will LOVE this book, because it will give you what you want to believe, even though the information in it is contrary to the truth of what Islam is and Muslims are. This book succeeds in making Islam the enemy, and for people who need an enemy to reinforce their identity, this book will make Muslims as morally repugnant as is Islamophobically possible. Odi ergo sum- I hate therefore I am – really sums up this book.”[ii]
For a counter check I watched a 42 minute video on Muhammad that treats him as a Prophet. This film is clearly an apologist pro-Islam film. Angel Gabriel visited Muhammad and gave a new message of hope and serenity.[iii] Born in 570 0f the Common Era according to history channel video on Muhammad? Note the dropping of 570 AD. He was raised as an orphan within a culture of Arab spiritual beliefs that honored many Gods. He officially became God’s messenger in the year of 610 as a father of 5 daughters. He received several revelations from God. From his received revelations came the Koran – God’s Holy Book. Armed with the Koran and Muhammad, the poetry of the Koran began to win followers from other tribes. The words became music. Muhammad claims return to one true God – Allah, the God of Abraham, of the Jews, the God of Jesus Christ. The video describes him a mild mannered merchant! Monotheism is back. Islam as an act of surrender to God’s will.
Muhammad faced criticism from the clerics of the day. Violence and torture ensued. Arabs were divided. His wife and uncle died. His followers were being persecuted. On a night in 620 he received another vision of all previous prophets (a unifying vision) that led him to leave Mecca. He fled just as the other sects agreed to assassinate him. Medina is born. A community bound together by a faith and by agreement. The Torah and the gospels have become distorted. Pray towards Mecca not Jerusalem.
Now, the new prophet, Muhammad, serves as messenger of God for Islam and as head of state. The video at 24 minutes in gently prepares why and how Muhammad became to lead an army for the defense of Islam. Jihad is born. Justice and armed defense is now back. It is used as a struggle for the survival of Islam – to establish peace. Respond as necessary with financial, military, whatever is needed to defend Islam. For Muhammad, having left Mecca with his followers and going to a new land without resources, he (by decree of Allah), turned to Jihad of attacking and raiding other tribes as a “defense” of Islam! The battle of Badr Muhammad shows both military strength compassion at the same time! Muhammad reportedly prayed:
“God this is Quraish. It has come with all its arrogance and boastfulness, trying to discredit Thy Apostle. God, I ask Thee to humiliate them tomorrow. God, if this Muslim band will perish today, Thou shall not be worshipped.[iv]
Islam uses this battle today as part of their foundation of being predestined, being the truth, the one way. It seems to sidestep the idea that they were not being attacked but were attacking a caravan with intent to plunder and steal resources. Medina and Mecca would war for a few more years – and the video presents this as Medina struggling for its survival. Again it ducks the issue that it is Medina that was the aggressor against Muhammad’s former home. In the year of 630 Islam marched on Mecca. He destroyed 365 Idols and vanquished falsehoods. He brought peace to Arabia. Islamic enlightenment and the word of Islam spread and blossomed! Muhammad’s life remains the ideal for Islam. The video ends with how extremist misuse verses of the Koran for violence and leave out Muhammad’s message for compassion and forgiveness. However, the video ducks the question of a vision of Islam that only allows for compassion and forgiveness for those that accept Islam?
“If they were polytheists they could resist and be executed or enslaved, or they could accept the message of monotheism and recognize Muhammad as the prophet of God. Jews and Christians, since they were monotheists whose prophets were recognized as forerunners of Muhammad, were given the possibility of submitting to Muhammad’s authority and paying a special tax, the jizyah, based on the qur’anic verse in Surah 9:29, in return for the freedom to practice their religions within certain limits. This became the practice of Muslim conquerors in the centuries following Muhammad’s death.”[v]
That being said:
“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.[vi]
And Muslim leaders have responded in kind with a “Common Word. “[vii]
Despite these overtures of our leadership in both theological paradigms, there remains the conflict of Islam’s actions and development as a nation of peace and compassion. Our own Pope is limited between the olive branch and the reality of Islam today.[viii] At the root of Islam is a drive to conquer and establish Islamic rules that promote a just and peaceful society as defined by Islam. The ends justify the means. While Christians made the same error at times thru the Crusades and other acts – they did not have justification from the Gospels. Islam has justification built into the Koran and the life of Muhammad.
As for it being the religion of peace “The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule. Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding. Muslims who do not join the fight are called ‘hypocrites’ and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.[ix] And its early growth was based on armed conquest.
Islam does not have one leader or one body and cannot address this conflict of presentation. I believe most Muslims are peaceful and compassionate people and are taught the fundamental peaceful aspects of Islam – but lurking underneath is this fundamental oppressive theology that drives belief on repression, conquest, and limiting freedom. Non-Muslims are treated as the enemy.
Perhaps “The Sealed Nectar” will provide me greater insight into Islam. Perhaps educated theologians or Muslim believers will provide response that enlightens this contradiction.
[ii] Review by ReemK10 @ good reads