I like your Christ.
I do not like your Christians.
They are so unlike your Christ.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Recently Pope BENEDICT XVI: Joseph Ratzinger made some ill-commnets, quoting an obscure Medieval text that wrongly claim that the teachings of Islam's founder as "evil and inhuman" and unjustly in the speech he implicitly linked Islam and violence. He quoted from a medieval text which said "Show me just what Muhammad 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". (full text of pope's address) The comment generated tremendous protest and condemnation from all over the world not only by Muslims but also by Christian leaders.
Following the event in the media i was sad for two reasons. One is the lack of education and respect about another faith from the part of an important figure like Pope and also the media depiction of the response by the protestors. i was saddened to see, there are no media coverage of scholarly, moderate voices from islamic world. all we see is that angry, fanatics are protesting in some concentration camps (made by israel) in occupied palestinian city. This again reflects how gross mis-conception and mis-representation is out there when it comes to understand another faith.
Not the first time
This is not the first time Pope Benedict has been at the centre of criticism for his views on Islam. Before becoming Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger, as he was known, was considered a theological conservative. He appeared to be uncomfortable with Pope John Paul II's attempts to improve dialogue with the Islamic world. (credit)
Pope's Nazi Background
Now what i find more disturbing is the irresponsible comment from the part of a person who should have the best knowledge and who will be leading humanity to unite in understanding each other's faith in a time as ours. Unlike Christ who came to unite humanity in the love of God, this is a man who from his dress to his speech is very unlike our Beloved Christ.
No wonder the current Pope Ratzinger was criticized for his role in the Hitler's Military. Ratzinger’s past includes brief membership of the Hitler Youth movement and wartime service with a German army anti- aircraft unit. details1, details2, details3
Center of the debate
The part of the quote that triggered most of the protest by Muslims was "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman ..."
That is total mis-representation of a personality in the human history whom Michael H. Hart's book "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History" it was the Prophet Muhammad who was ranked 1 because of his tremendous character, ability to transform a nation and take them out from age of darkness to become one of the greatest civilization that human race has ever witnessed.
Reverend Bosworth Smith in 'Muhammad and Muhammadanism,' London, 1874. remarked about The Prophet,
"Head of the State as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without the Pope's pretensions, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar, without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a police force, without a fixed revenue. If ever a man ruled by a right divine, it was Muhammad, for he had all the powers without their supports. He cared not for the dressings of power. The simplicity of his private life was in keeping with his public life."
"In Mohammadanism every thing is different here. Instead of the shadowy and the mysterious, we have history....We know of the external history of Muhammad....while for his internal history after his mission had been proclaimed, we have a book absolutely unique in its origin, in its preservation....on the Substantial authority of which no one has ever been able to cast a serious doubt." (credit)
Now it shows that Pope Benedict XVI do need more education about the Prophet (see a video of Prophecies about Prophet Muhammad in Bible)
Show me what Muhammad brought that was new
As Jesus Christ says, You shall know by the fruits (Matthew 7:16)... so lets see the what fruits did Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him brought new to human race. Perhaps Pope will understand the fruits better, since Jesus asked us to know by the fruits (by the contribution, the transformations), rather than biased preconceived notions.
:: Muhammad the reformer
Bernard Lewis believes the advent of Islam in a sense was a revolution which only partially succeeded after long struggles due to tensions between the new religion and very old societies in the countries that the Muslims conquered. He thinks that one such area of tension was a consequence of what he sees as the egalitarian nature of Islamic doctrine. Lewis believes that "the equality of Islam is limited to free adult male Muslims," but according to him "even this represented a very considerable advance on the practice of both the Greco-Roman and the ancient Iranian world. Islam from the first denounced aristocratic privilege, rejected hierarchy, and adopted a formula of the career open to the talents."
John Esposito sees Muhammad as a reformer who did away with many of the terrible practices of the pagan Arabs. He states that Muhammad's "insistence that each person was personally accountable not to tribal customary law but to an overriding divine law shook the very foundations of Arabian society... Muhammad proclaimed a sweeping program of religious and social reform that affected religious belief and practices, business contracts and practices, male-female and family relations.". Esposito holds that the Qur'an's reforms consists of 'regulations or moral guidance that limit or redefine rather than prohibit or replace existing practices.' He cites slavery and women's status as two examples.
:: Social security and Family structure
According to scholars such as William Montgomery Watt, Muhammad was both a social and moral reformer in his day and generation. He claims Muhammad created a "new system of social security and a new family structure, both of which were a vast improvement on what went before. By taking what was best in the morality of the nomad and adapting it for settled communities, he established a religious and social framework for the life of many races of men."
Slavery existed in all the ancient civilizations of Asia, Africa, Europe, and pre-Columbian America and had been accepted and even endorsed by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as other religions of the world, Lewis states. Lewis however states that Islam brought two major changes to ancient slavery 'which were to have far-reaching effects. One of these was the presumption of freedom; the other, the ban on the enslavement of free persons except in strictly defined circumstances.' The position of the Arabian slave was "enormously improved": The Arabian slave 'was now no longer merely a chattel but was also a human being with a certain religious and hence a social status and with certain quasi-legal rights.' The practice of slavery in the Islamic empire represented a 'vast improvement on that inherited from antiquity, from Rome, and from Byzantium.'
Although slavery was not abolished, but Schimmel asserts that as the reforms seriously limited the supply of new slaves, slavery would be theoretically abolished with the expansion of Islam.
:: Women rights
John Esposito states that the reforms affected marriage, divorce, and inheritance. "Marriage was a contract, with women entitled to their dower (4:4). Polygamy was restricted (4:3), men were commanded to treat their wives fairly and equally (4:129). Women were given inheritance rights in a patriarchal society that had previously restricted inheritance to male relatives."
Watt believes that Islam is still, in many ways, a man’s religion however states that Muhammad, in the historical context of his time, can be seen as a figure who testified on behalf of women’s rights and improved things quite a lot. ... Muhammad however by "instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce, gave women certain basic safeguards." And this was happenning all at a time when Christian Europe was in dark age, never heard of woman rights what so ever. Rather Catholics were burning women in the name of religion accusing them witches.
In the next post, God willing i would like to focus how scholars and historians judge the fruits of Muhammad in the historical context. May God bless Prophet Muhammad and his holy bloodline as God has blessed Abraham and his holy bloodline.
- Pope gets it wrong - Informed Comment by Juan Cole
- Wikipedia Article on Prophet Muhammad and References
- Prophet Muhammad in Bible
- Prophet Muhammad in Bible in details
- Christian Science Monitor's Article
- ‘Pope’s comments on Islam as against Christ’s teachings
- What pope was thinking? Newsweek Cover
- The First Casualty of Pope's Islam Speech - Time Article
- Profile: Pope Benedict XVI
- Timeline of Pope's past
- Pope's Hitler Youth Past