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the Message Continues ... 4/63

 

Newsletter November 2006

Article 1 - Article 2 - Article 3 - Article 4 - Article 5 - Article 6 - Article 7 - Article 8 - Article 9 - Article 10 - Article 11 - Article 12

 

 

 

OPEN LETTER TO HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, and may Peace and Blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

Do not contend with people of the Book except in the fairest way ….

(The Holy Qur’an, al- Ankabut, 29:46).

Your Holiness,

September .12th ...., we thought it appropriate, in the spirit of open exchange, to address your use of a debate

between the Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and a "learned Persian" as the starting point for a discourse on the

relationship between reason and faith. While we applaud your efforts to oppose the dominance of positivism and

materialism in human life, we must point out some errors in the way you mentioned Islam as a counterpoint to the

proper use of reason, as well as some mistakes in the assertions you put forward in support of your argument.

here is no Compulsion in Religion

Youmention that "according to the experts" the verse which begins, here is no compulsion in religion (al-Baqarah

.:...) is from the early period when the Prophet "was still powerless and under threat," but this is incorrect. In fact

this verse is acknowledged to belong to the period of Quranic revelation corresponding to the political and military

ascendance of the young Muslim community. here is no compulsion in religion was not a command to Muslims to

remain steadfast in the face of the desire of their oppressors to force themto renounce their faith, but was a reminder

to Muslims themselves, once they had attained power, that they could not force another’s heart to believe. here is

no compulsion in religion addresses those in a position of strength, not weakness. The earliest commentaries on the

Qur’an (such as that of Al-Tabari) make it clear that some Muslims of Medina wanted to force their children to con-vert

from Judaism or Christianity to Islam, and this verse was precisely an answer to them not to try to force their

children to convert to Islam. Moroever, Muslims are also guided by such verses as Say: he truth is from your Lord;

so whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve. (al-Kahf ..:.) and Say: O disbelievers! I

worship not that which ye worship; Nor worship ye that which I worship. nd I shall not worship that which ye worship.

Nor will ye worship that which I worship. Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion (al-Kafirun: ..:.-.).

God’s ranscendence

Youalso say that "for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent," a simplification which can be misleading.

The Quran states, here is no thing like unto Him (al-Shura ..:..), but it also states, He is the Light of the heavens and

the earth (al-Nur ..:..) and, We are closer to him than his jugular vein (Qaf ..:..) and, He is the First, the Last, the

Inward, and the Outward (al-Hadid ..:.) and, He is with you wherever you are (al-Hadid ..:.) and, Wheresoever you

turn, there is the Face of God (al-Baqarah .:...). Also, let us recall the saying of the Prophet, which states that God

says, "When I love him (the worshipper), I am the hearing by which he hears, the sight by which he sees, the hand

with which he grasps, and the foot with which he walks." (Sahih al-Bukhari no....., Kitab al-Riqaq)

In the Islamic spiritual, theological, and philosophical tradition, the thinker you mention, Ibn Hazm

(d......), is a worthy but very marginal figure, who belonged to the Zahiri school of jurisprudence which is fol-lowed

by no one in the Islamic world today. If one is looking for classical formulations of the doctrine of transcen-dence,

much more important to Muslims are figures such as al-Ghazali (d.......) and manyothers who are far more

influential and more representative of Islamic belief than Ibn Hazm.

You quote an argument that because the emperor is "shaped by Greek philosophy" the idea that "God is not

pleased by blood" is "self-evident" to him, to which the Muslim teaching on God’s Transcendence is put forward

..as a counterexample. To say that for Muslims "God’s Will is not bound up in any of our categories" is also a sim-plification

which may lead to a misunderstanding. God has many Names in Islam, including the Merciful, the Just,

the Seeing, the Hearing, the Knowing, the Loving, and the Gentle. Their utter conviction in God’s Oneness and that

here is none like unto Him (al-Ikhlas ...:.) has not led Muslims to deny God’s attribution of these qualities to Him-self

and to (some of) His creatures, (setting aside for nowthe notion of "categories", a termwhich requires much clar-ification

in this context). As this concerns His Will, to conclude that Muslims believe in a capricious God who might

or might not command us to evil is to forget that God says in the Quran, Lo! God enjoins justice and kindness, and giving

to kinsfolk, and forbids lewdness and abomination and wickedness. He exhorts you in order that ye may take heed (al-Nahl,

..:.). Equally, it is to forget that God says in the Qur’an that He has prescribed for Himself mercy (al- n’am, .:..

see also .:..), and that God says in the Qur’an, My Mercy encompasses everything (al- ‘raf .:...). The word for

mercy, rahmah, can also be translated as love, kindness, and compassion. Fromthis word rahmah comes the sacred

formula Muslims use daily,In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Is it not self-evident that spilling in-nocent

blood goes against mercy and compassion?

he Use of Reason

The Islamic tradition is rich in its explorations of the nature of human intelligence and its relation to God’s Nature

and His Will, including questions of what is self-evident and what is not. However, the dichotomy between "reason"

on one hand and "faith" on the other does not exist in precisely the same form in Islamic thought. ather, Muslims

have come to terms with the power and limits of human intelligence in their own way, acknowledging a hierarchy of

knowledge of which reason is a crucial part. There are two extremes which the Islamic intellectual tradition has gen-erally

managed to avoid: one is to make the analytical mind the ultimate arbiter of truth, and the other is to deny the

power of human understanding to address ultimate questions. More importantly, in their most mature and main-stream

forms the intellectual explorations of Muslims through the ages have maintained a consonance between the

truths of the Quranic revelation and the demands of human intelligence, without sacrificing one for the other. God

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

..:..). eason itself is one among the manysigns within us, which God invites us to contemplate, and to contemplate

with, as a way of knowing the truth.

What is "Holy War"?

We would like to point out that "holy war" is a term that does not exist in Islamic languages. Jihad, it must be em-phasized,

means struggle, and specifically struggle in the way of God. This struggle may take many forms, including

the use of force.Though a jihad may be sacred in the sense of being directed towards a sacred ideal, it is not necessarily

a "war". Moreover, it is noteworthy that Manuel II Paleologus says that "violence" goes against God’s nature, since

Christ himself used violence against the money-changers in the temple, and said "Do not think that I came to bring

peace on the earth I did not come to bring peace, but a sword …" (Matthew......:..-..). When God drownedPharaoh,

was He going against His own Nature? Perhaps the emperor meant to say that cruelty, brutality, and aggression are

against God’s Will, in which case the classical and traditional law of jihad in Islam would bear him out completely.

You say that "naturally the emperor knew the instructions, developedlater and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning

holy war." However, as we pointed out above concerning here is no compulsion in religion, the aforementioned in-structions

were not later at all. Moreover, the emperor’s statements about violent conversion show that he did not

know what those instructions are and have always been.

The authoritative and traditional Islamic rules of war can be summarized in the following principles:

.. Non-combatants are not permitted or legitimate targets. This was emphasized explicitly time and again

by the Prophet, his Companions, and by the learned tradition since then.

.. eligious belief alone does not make anyone the object of attack. The original Muslim community was

fighting against pagans who had also expelled them from their homes, persecuted, tortured, and mur-dered

them. Thereafter, the Islamic conquests were political in nature.

3. Muslims can and should live peacefully with their neighbors. nd if they incline to peace, do thou incline to

it; and put thy trust in God (al- nfal .:..). However, this does not exclude legitimate self-defense and main-tenance

of sovereignty.

Muslims are just as bound to obey these rules as they are to refrain from theft and adultery. If a religion regulates

..war and describes circumstances where it is necessary and just, that does not make that religion war-like, anymore

than regulating sexuality makes a religion prurient. If some have disregarded a long and well-established tradition

in favor of utopian dreams where the end justifies the means, they have done so of their own accord and without the

sanction of God, His Prophet, or the learned tradition. God says in the Holy Qur’an: Let not hatred of any people seduce

you into being unjust. Be just, that is nearer to piety (al-Ma’idah .:.). In this context we must state that the murder

on September ..th of an innocent Catholic nun in Somalia—and any other similar acts of wanton individual

violence—‘in reaction to’ your lecture at the University of egensburg, is completely un-Islamic, and we totally

condemn such acts.

Forced Conversion

The notion that Muslims are commanded to spread their faith "by the sword" or that Islamin 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 con-quered

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. The command

here is no compulsion in religion means now what it meant then. The mere fact of a person being non-Muslim has

never been a legitimate casus belli in Islamic law or belief. As with the rules of war, history shows that some Muslims

have violated Islamic tenets concerning forced conversion and the treatment of other religious communities, but

history also shows that these are by far the exception which proves the rule. We emphaticallyagree that forcing others

to believe—if such a thing be truly possible at all—is not pleasing to God and that God is not pleased by blood. In-deed,

we believe, and Muslims have always believed, that Whoso slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for cor-ruption

done in the land, it shall be as if he had slain mankind altogether (al-Ma’idah .:..).

Something New?

Youmention the emperor’s assertion that "anything new" brought by the Prophet was "evil and inhuman, such as

his alleged command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." What the emperor failed to realize—aside from

the fact (as mentioned above) that no such command has ever existed in Islam—is that the Prophet 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 ..:..), and, Say (Muhammad): I am no new thing among

the messengers (of God), nor know I what will be done with me or with you. I do but follow that what is Revealed to me,

and I am but a plain warner (al- hqaf, ..:). Thus faith in the One God is not the property of any one religious com-munity.

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.

" he Experts"

Yourefer at one point non-specifically to "the experts" (on Islam) and also actually cite two Catholicscholars by name,

Professor (Adel) Theodore Khoury and (Associate Professor) oger Arnaldez. It suffices here to say that whilst many

Muslims consider that there are sympathetic non-Muslims and Catholics who could truly be considered "experts"

on Islam, Muslims have not to our knowledge endorsed the "experts" you referred to, or recognized them as repre-senting

Muslims or their views. On September ..th ....you reiterated your important statement in Cologne on Au-gust

..th ....that, "Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced

to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends." Whilst we fully

concur with you, it seems to us that a great part of the object of inter-religious dialogue is to strive to listen to and

consider the actual voices of those we are dialoguing with, and not merely those of our own persuasion.

* * *

Christianity and Islam

Christianity and Islamare the largest and second largest religions in the world and in history. Christians and Muslims

reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively.Together they make up more than ..%of

the world’s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor

in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. As the leader of over a billion Catholics and moral example

..for many others around the globe, yours is arguably the single most influential voice in continuing to move this re-lationship

forward in the direction of mutual understanding. We share your desire for frank and sincere dialogue, and

recognize its importance in an increasingly interconnected world. Upon this sincere and frank dialogue we hope to

continue to build peaceful and friendly relationships based upon mutual respect, justice, and what is common in

essence in our shared Abrahamic tradition, particularly ‘the two greatest commandments’ in Mark ..:.-..(and,

in varying form, in Matthew ..:..-..), that, the Lord our God is One Lord; / nd thou shalt love the Lord thy God with

all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy understanding, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

/ nd the second commandment is like, namely this, hou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. here is none other com-mandment

greater than these.

Muslims thus appreciate the following words from the SecondVatican Council:

The church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent,

merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to humanity. They endeavor to

submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s

plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate

Jesus as a prophet his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await

the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly

esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting. (Nostra etate,

..October ...)

And equally the words of the late Pope John Paul II, for whom many Muslims had great regard and esteem:

We Christians joyfully recognize the religious values we have in common with Islam. Today I would like to re-peat

what I said to young Muslims some years ago in Casablanca: "We believe in the same God, the one God,

the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection" (Insegnamenti,

VIII/., [.......], p..., quoted during a general audience on May .,.).

Muslims also appreciated your unprecedented personal expression of sorrow, and your clarification and assurance

(on the ..th of September) that your quote does not reflect your own personal opinion, as well as the Cardinal Sec-retary

of State Tarcisio Bertone’s affirmation (on the ..th of September) of the conciliar document Nostra etate.

Finally, Muslims appreciated that (on September ..th) in front of an assembled group of ambassadors fromMuslim

countries you expressed "total and profound respect for all Muslims". We hope that we will all avoid the mistakes

of the past and live together in the future in peace, mutual acceptance and respect.

nd all praise belongs to God, and there is neither power nor strength except through God.

© ....

SIGNED

(listed in alphabetical order)

.. H.E. Allamah Abd Allah bin Mahfuz bin Bayyah

Professor, King bd l- ziz University, Saudi rabia

Former Vice President; Minister of Justice; Minister of Education and Minister of Religious ffairs, Mauritania

.. Professor Dr. Allamah Muhammad Sa‘id Ramadan Al-Buti

Dean of Department of Religion, University of Damascus, Syria

.. Prof. Dr. Mustafa Çagˇ rý ý

Grand Mufti of Istanbul

.. H.E. Shaykh Professor Dr. Mustafa Ceri

Grand Mufti and Head of Ulema of Bosnia and Herzegovina

.... H.E. Shaykh Ravil Gainutdin

Grand Mufti of Russia

.. H.E. Shaykh Nedžad Grabus

Grand Mufti of Slovenia

.. Shaykh Al-Habib Ali Mashhour bin Muhammad bin Salimbin Hafeez

Imamof the arimMosque and Head of Fatwa Council, arim, Yemen

.. Shaykh Al-Habib Umar bin Muhammad bin Salimbin Hafeez

Dean, Dar l-Mustafa, arim, Yemen

. Professor Dr. FarouqHamadah

Professor of the Sciences of radition, Mohammad VUniversity, Morocco

... Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson

Founder and Director, Zaytuna Institute, California, US

... H.E. Shaykh Dr. Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun

Grand Mufti of the Republic of Syria

... Dr. Shaykh Izz Al-Din Ibrahim

dvisor for Cultural ffairs, Prime Ministry, United rab Emirates

... H.E. Professor Dr. Omar ah

Secretary of the MuslimScholars Council, Gambia

Professor of Islamic Civilization and hought, University of Gambia

... Shaykh Al-Habib Ali Zain Al-Abideen Al- ifri

Founder and Director, aba Institute, United rab Emirates

... H.E. Shaykh Professor Dr. Ali umu‘ah

Grand Mufti of the Republic of Egypt

... Professor Dr. Abla Mohammed Kahlawi

Dean of Islamic and rabic Studies, l- zhar University (Women’sCollege), Egypt

... Professor Dr. Mohammad HashimKamali

Dean, International Institute of Islamic hought and Civilization (IS C), Malaysia

Professor of Islamic Law and Jurisprudence, International Islamic University, Malaysia

... Shaykh Nuh Ha MimKeller

Shaykh in the Shadhili Order and Senior Fellowof al al-Bayt Institute for Islamic hought (Jordan), U.S. .

.. H.E. Shaykh Ahmad Al-Khalili

Grand Mufti of the Sultanate of Oman

... Shaykh Dr. Ahmad Kubaisi

Founder of the Ulema Organization, Iraq

... Allamah ShaykhMuhammad bin Muhammad Al-Mansouri

High uthority (Marja’) of Zeidi Muslims, Yemen

..... Shaykh Abu Bakr Ahmad Al-Milibari

Secretary-General of the hl l-Sunna ssociation, India

... H.E. Dr. MoulayAbd Al-Kabir Al-Alawi Al-Mudghari

Director-General of the Bayt Mal l-Qods l-Sharif gency,

Former Minister of Religious ffairs, Morocco

... H.E. Shaykh Ahmad HasyimMuzadi

General Chairman of the Nahdat al-Ulema, Indonesia

... H.E. Professor Dr. SeyyedHossein Nasr

University Professor of Islamic Studies, George Washington University, Washington D.C, U.S. .

... H.E. Shaykh Sevki Omerbasi

Grand Mufti of Croatia

... H.E. Dr. Mohammad Abd Al-Ghaffar Al-Sharif

Secretary-General of the Ministry of Religious ffairs, Kuwait

... Dr. Muhammad Alwani Al-Sharif

Head of the European cademy of Islamic Culture and Sciences, Brussels, Belgium

.. Shaykh M. Iqbal Sullam

Vice General-Secretary, Nahdat al-Ulema, Indonesia

... Shaykh Dr. Tariq Sweidan

Director-General of the Risalah Satellite Channel

... Professor Dr. H.R.H. Prin e Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal

Chairman of the Board of the al al-Bayt Institute for Islamic hought, Jordan

... H.E. Ayotollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri

Secretary General of the World ssembly for Proximity of Islamic Schools of houghts (W PIS ), Iran

... H.E. Shaykh NaimTrnava

Grand Mufti of Kosovo

... H.E. Dr. Abd Al-Aziz Uthman Al-Tweijri

Director-General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Morocco

... H.H. usti e Muf i Muhammad Taqi Uthmani

Vice President, Dar l-Ulum, Karachi, Pakistan

... H.E. Shaykh Muhammad Al-Sadiq MuhammadYusuf

Grand Mufti of Uzbekistan

... Shaykh Abd Al-HakimMurad Winter

Shaykh Zayed Lecturer in Islamic Studies, Divinity School, University of Cambridge, U.K.

Director of the Muslim cademic rust, U.K.

... H.E. Shaykh Muamer Zukorli

Mufti of Sanjak, Bosnia

.

 

 

 

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