Cousins: Immortal Enemies?

A sibling rivalry between half-brothers began when the youngest received his father’s birth-right and the eldest went off to a foreign land with a different blessing to prosper as well.

Generations later great religions would wage holy wars claiming true authenticity to a covenant with God.  To put it another way, 3.6 billion people (54% of the world’s population) belong to one of three Abrahamic religions:  Christianity (33%), Islam (16%), and Judaism (.2%).[i]

Abrahamic religions are religions that derive their lineage from the original covenant God had with Abraham.  There were covenants before with Adam and Eve, with Noah, and later with Moses.  However, Abraham had a formal unwavering Covenant from God.  The Old Testament mentions the word covenant 280 times!  The Covenant with Abraham was a lasting promise where God promised land and success to all of Abraham’s descendants.

Much of our law and our societies are based on agreed covenants between people, states, and nations that it is worth defining the term here:

Definition of covenant

  1. 1: a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement :  compact… international law, which depends upon the sanctity of covenants between rulers. — George H. Sabine
  2. 2a:  a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action the deed conveying the land contained restrictive covenantsb :  the common-law action to recover damages for breach of such a contract[ii]

These three religions all believe in one God but have very different and clashing views.  The half-sibling connection?   Abraham had two sons:  Ismael the first son and Isaac the second.  Ismael went off to a land that would become Muslim and predominately Arab.  Islam claims lineage from Ismael while Judaism and Christianity from Isaac.  It is not as simple as I have stated here – but this enough detail for the purpose of this writing.

Portions of the nation of Islam are at war with non-Muslims today.   The Koran and other teachings of Islam have plenty of Holy Scripture references from their prophet Muhammad that legitimize violence in the name of God.  You either live within the “Abode of Islam” or “Abode of War.”  Mohammed’s early years in Mecca and later years in Medina saw a military shift in both his actions and his revelations (114 Suras) that were not written down until about 118 years after his death in 750 Common Era (CE)!   His prominent preaching occurred from 610 CE until his death in 632 CE.  The move to Medina marks the end of “The Era of Ignorance” in 622 CE and is called the Year of the Hegirae!

Death to the Pope

Christianity, a little bit older than Islam had its periods of violence as well.  However, it is difficult to attribute Christianity’s Crusades with the writing and teaching of Jesus Christ.   Their folly into violence I place squarely on human beings misusing scripture and being all too human.

Crusades

Judaism is the oldest and is accepted by both Christianity and Islam!   However, Judaism does not accept the Prophets Jesus Christ or Mohammad.  Christians do not accept Mohamad!  Both believe their Prophets were the last messengers from God.  The Old Testament has many different references to violence and war.  To be fair, most of the references are from the Jewish people seeking relief  from oppression or slavery.

violence

All three religions have roots in helping the poor and being oppressed in different epochs of time.  By sheer numbers alone, and if one is not a Holocaust denier, the Jewish people have endured the brunt of religious oppression.

To put this time period into perspective let’s look at time along a continuum with the Creation of the World being the year 1 and today being the year 5777 if time were linear without the B.C. and C.E.

Day 1:  Creation of the World

Day 6:  Adam and Eve – Garden of Eden (say 3500 – 3900 BC)

Year 1656:  Noah and the Great Flood

Year 1812:   Abraham (The Covenant)

Year 2240:  Moses

Year 2494:  David unites the Israelites!

Year 2594:  Israel finds itself in-between Egypt and Assyria – two great powers that would overrun them many times.

Year 3490:  Jesus Christ is born.

Year 3525:  Jesus is crucified at age 34 (say 30 CE).

Year 3565:  Earliest writings begin somewhere from 40 to 60 years after Christ death.

Year 3815:  Emperor Constantine adopts/converts to Christianity.  This is troublesome in the long run.  The church that started out as non-political gets wedded to the state.  Pope Urban the II and Pope Innocent the IVth would condone force for converting non-believers down the line.   Nowhere is this in the writings and preaching of Jesus Christ or in his actions.

Year 4100:  Mohammad is Born (say 610 CE).

Year 4132:  Mohammad Dies (say 632 CE).

Year 4236:  Koran written capturing Mohamad’s revelations (Suras).

Year 5777:  The actual year is now 2017.

If each generation passed every 40 years on average we have only been around 144 generations.  How far back does your family tree go?  How far back does your oral tradition go?  How knowledgeable are your kids regarding the history of your family, your nation, your faith?

There is plenty room for error in almost 6000 years of human existence.

The three religions

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam:  The Monotheists Course Guide by F.E. Peters, PHD (A Modern Scholars Course) attempted to provide an objective viewpoint of the similarities and differences between these three religions.  I enjoyed his detailed views on Abraham, Jesus Christ, and Mohammad and the traditions and sacred writings that later formed the three great religions.   I am Catholic and hence a subjective reader.   The history of Islam here and the life and times of Mohammad were very troubling in this course.

The degree to which Jihad is ingrained in the prophet’s actions and the religions sacred writings is utilized today to justify ISIS and other violence.

The history of Judaism has war and violence as well both in actions and in scripture.  However, their beliefs and practices have had many reformations over the last 6000 years and they account for only .2 percent of the world population.

Christianity does not have the scriptural or the prophet example to justify violence accept it does accept the Old Testament.  However, Jesus Christ is a redeemer who gave us a new covenant that for all practical purposes abolished many old ways.

If you are a Muslim reading my post please reply and explain how the “Abode of War” and Muhammad’s violent history is not applicable today?  If you are Jewish, please explain to me where and when the second coming will be here and how a God is only here for the “Chosen People.”  If you are a Christian, it has been a longtime since Christ death.  When exactly is the end of the world?   There are too many questions!

E Peters covered an excellent review on how people pursue an understanding and achieving a proximity to God: Direct revelation (thru no effort on our part – as revealed to our ancestors and given to us in scripture), Theology (formal study and pursuit of knowledge), Asceticism (self-denial of worldly things and pursuit of God’s way), and Mysticism.   The latter is the most intriguing and dangerous.  We have very few true mystics in our history.  How many of us have truly heard the voice of God talk to us? Too often men of this world purport to be mystics for evil purposes or believe they are mystics without having a true relationship with the God of Abraham.

I raise these avenues of pursuit of a higher understanding of a spiritual transcendence as religion as it is today cannot be static.   People of the word of God, of the Abrahamic line, are not acting and promoting a lifestyle that portrays a transcendent God.

To be Holy in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is to aspire to live a holy life.    If F.E Peter’s description of our religions being cousins is at all close to reality, we have in 6000 years destroyed our sense of kinship.   In the name of man alone each has claimed moral authority without legitimate sanction over the other.

As a member of the Christian faith, I am saddened by the lack of evidence and historical verification that is present for Islam and its founder.  Much of what is written cannot be verified by other sources.  My inclination is Islam cannot be an extenuation of the Abrahamic line.  The Jews feel about Jesus Christ.

Yet, I know many Muslims that are peaceful people and follow a reformed set of Islamic principles.   But they cannot define for me the justification for deviation from the Koran and the more orthodox Islamic scholars.  There is a bridge between me and Muslim beliefs that escapes my yearning for ecumenical thinking and bridging our faiths on our commonalities.   I know the orthodox Jews may feel the same way about Christians – but at least I can understand their disbelief in Jesus Christ and my church.

I am living in a glass house as well.  I cannot throw rocks at my cousin religions as my own house is in a state of disrepair in many ways.

Are we Immortal Enemies?  Have we created a hatred and suspicion so deep that we cannot possibly approach a transcendent God?

Let us assume, that tomorrow was the day of reckoning.  And we were called to be accountable for our actions in threes.   Together, three cousins we are with Three faiths o facing a transcendent God together.   And we are asked to explain just how is it that the three of us, cousins by descendants, linked by the covenant, stand before God without working out our differences before this day?

Or even without the messianic end of the world coming in our time, how are we living up to being holy, to striving to create heaven on earth, to preparing ourselves and our brothers to live in harmony now?

If the age of Ignorance was truly over as proclaimed by Islam would we not be farther along at this time in our history?

transcendent

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrahamic_religions

[ii] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/covenant

Are we keeping our part of our covenant with God as we understand him, whether we be Jewish, Catholic or Muslim?

broken

“Odi ergo sum. I hate therefore I am” : The two sides of Islamic belief

“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.

[i] http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/upload/2013-Understanding-Islam-Guide-for-Catholic-Educators-Final-Version-09112013.pdf

[ii] Review by ReemK10 @ good reads

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7w4TH-giaps

[iv] https://www.al-islam.org/articles/battle-badr

[v] http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/upload/2013-Understanding-Islam-Guide-for-Catholic-Educators-Final-Version-09112013.pdf

[vi] http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html

[vii] http://rissc.jo/docs/20-acw/20-ACW-5.pdf

[viii] https://www.jihadwatch.org/2016/05/hugh-fitzgerald-pope-francis-islam-and-christianity-share-the-idea-of-conquest

[ix] http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx