Comprehensive response to Pope Benedict's speech

Many Islamic leaders accepted Pope Benedict XVI's regret over the offensive speech he delivered in Germany last month, but tried to explain why the radical remarks offended Muslims all over the world.

Comprehensive response to Pope Benedict's speech

In his speech on Sept. 12, 2006, the Pope cited quotes from Emperor Manual II Paleologos of Byzantine (the Orthodox Christian empire which had its capital in what is now the city of Istanbul), who claimed that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) spread the Islamic religion by the sword.

The quotation from the Byzantine emperor ran: "Show me just what Muhammad (PBUH) brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The Pope's remarks were condemned by Muslim scholars who stressed that history is hard evidence that Islam wasn't spread by violence. Many clerics also favored a non-confrontational approach to reduce the impact of the anti-Islamic comments and stress the tolerant nature of the Islamic religion which acknowledges the other two heavenly religions; Judaism and Christianity.

In response to the offensive remarks, 38 Muslim clerics representing various Islamic states sent a letter to the Pope in which they stressed that "the notion that Muslims are commanded to spread their faith "by the sword" or that Islam in fact was largely spread "by the sword" does not hold up to scrutiny. Indeed, as a political entity Islam spread partly as a result of conquest, but the greater part of its expansion came as a result of preaching and missionary activity. Islamic teaching did not prescribe that the conquered populations be forced or coerced into converting. Indeed, many of the first areas conquered by the Muslims remained predominantly non-Muslim for centuries. Had Muslims desired to convert all others by force, there would not be a single church or synagogue left anywhere in the Islamic world."

Commenting on the emperor's claim that "anything new" brought by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was "evil and inhuman", the clerics said that "the Prophet (PBUH) never claimed to be bringing anything fundamentally new."

"God says in the Holy Qur'an, "Naught is said to thee (Muhammad) but what already was said to the Messengers before thee" (Fussilat __41:43__).

According to Islamic belief, all the true prophets preached the same truth to different peoples at different times. The laws may be different, but the truth is unchanging," the clerics' letter stressed.

"Blending faith with reason"

On The Christian Science Monitor, an editorial in response to the Pope's lecture by Asma Afsaruddin, a professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame, cites the views of a 10th-century Muslim historian by the name of al-Masudi.

In a famous historical work on the relationship between faith and reason, al-Masudi wrote that Byzantine Christians of his time were suffering what he described as "civilizational decline" because they dismissed the pagan Greek sciences as incompatible with Christianity. On the other hand, he wrote that the Islamic civilization was booming because it developed ancient learning.

In Islam, reason is one of the many signs that Allah (SWT) invites people to contemplate as a way of knowing the truth. In the Holy Qur'an, Allah (SWT) says: "We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in themselves until it is clear to them that it is the truth" (Fussilat 41:53).

More importantly, the intellectual explorations of Muslims through the ages have maintained a consonance between the truths of the Qur'anic revelation and the demands of human intelligence, without sacrificing one for the other.

Moreover, most of the top philosophers of the medieval period - Avicenna, Averroes, al-Farabi - were Muslims, and their work influenced medieval Europe, too. This intellectual and cultural legacy largely contributed to the European Renaissance, which couldn't have existed without them.

Simply put, it was the Muslims who succeeded in blending faith with reason - and the Christians were lagging behind.

Given this fact, it's highly ironic that the Pope quoted the ignorant remarks of a 14th century Byzantine emperor to level the same old accusations at Muslims in the 21st century.

Therefore, one cannot simply portray Islam as favoring faith over reason or vice versa. Nor can anyone portray Christianity, or perhaps any other religion, in the same manner, Afsaruddin wrote in the article.

The Pope's remarks were also not conductive to interfaith dialogue and the respect of other religions, Afsaruddin said, arguing that there is danger when people claim that their own faith and civilization have a monopoly on reason.

Claiming superiority over others cannot lead to dialogue, which could better be served through acknowledging commonalities, she said, stressing that the key to dialogue is to learn the truth about one another and avoid trading in pernicious stereotypes.

In the editorial, Afsaruddin also referred to the "Islamo-Christian civilization", a term recently coined by Prof. Richard Bulliet of Columbia University to describe Muslims and Christian's shared heritage, and stressed that this concept should gain wider attention

Source: Islamonline Magazine

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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