Islam

Chapter 966 Theology

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Islam and Christianity and Social Justice

 

Theology

Prayer

Devotional Prayer

Catholic-Muslim Statement on Dialogue

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

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Bibliography

Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, Karen Armstrong, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 1993ISBN#: 0-06-250886-5

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Theology

Thus when Muhammad asked the Quraysh to accept his revelation as coming from God, he did not demand that they assent to a creed or to a set of theological opinions.  As in Judaism, there is no cult of orthodoxy in Islam, where ideas and concepts about God are essentially private matters.  In fact the Qur'an is highly suspicious of theological speculation, which it sees as mere human projection and wish-fulfillment.  Such doctrinal thinking, applied to the transcendent reality of al-Llah, can only be 'guesswork' (zanna): this habit of idle conjecture about ineffable matters had divided the People of the Book in to warring sects.  Instead of promoting orthodoxy or right teaching, Islam and Judaism both insist upon orthopraxy, a common customal observance.  In the Qur'an, therefore, a 'believer' is not one who has made an assent to a list of propositions, like the various Creeds or the Thirty-Nine Articles.  He had acquired an immediate, heart shaking apprehension of the divine reality to which he had surrendered, expressing his Islam in the twin practices of prayer (salat) and almsgiving (zakat).  (Karen Armstrong, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, pg. 100)

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Allah:  A Christian Response By: Miroslav Volf.  Harper One (An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers)  326 pages.  $25.99.   A book review by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D., Professor of Liturgy and Sacramental Theology at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana where, in addition courses on Catholic Sacraments, he also teaches courses on Islam.

Miroslav Volf, Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School, is a Christian with a vast experience of Islam and Muslim-Christian relations. His purpose in writing this book is to demonstrate to Christians that Allah, the God of Islam, is the same God as the God that we (Christians) worship.

For many American Christians I believe this will be a rather "radical" assertion. From my own (very limited) experience in giving talks on Islam in Catholic parishes, I find that some in the audience are unaware that Muslims worship any God at all! Perhaps because their only knowledge of Islam is taken from news reports or talk radio, they think of Islam as a terrorist group rather than one of the three great religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) which consider Abraham the "Father of our faith."

It one sense it is easy to affirm that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. One could appeal to the authority of the Pope: "[Together with Muslims, we Christians] believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection." (John Paul II, during a general audience on May 5, 1999, quoted in Volf p. 27) Or one could simply explain that "Allah" is simply Arabic for the English word "God" -- as "Deus" is "God" in Latin, "Dieu" in French, "Gott" in German, etc. "Arab Christians and Arabic-speaking Jews since long before the time of Muhammad have used the name 'Allah' to refer to God." (Volf, 82) When I was studying Arabic in Cairo and praying with the Friars in Arabic, the prayers at Mass were addressed to Allah.

But Volf takes us much deeper that these surface issues. By comparing texts from our Bible and the Qur'an (the Muslims' sacred book), Volf carefully demonstrates that each book reveals a God with the same "characteristics" and both books reveal a God who calls us to similar practices, a God who calls us to a life of compassion.

The main objection to the assertion that we worship the same God is that we Christians worship a Trinitarian God and the Muslims do not (as they do not believe Jesus to be the Son of God). Volf carefully examines this objection, and in language that the non-theologian can understand, explains how the doctrine of the trinity is not incompatible with the Muslim belief that there is only one God.

Do we worship the same God? It may seem to some that this is a rather "theoretical" or even "pointless" discussion. On the contrary, Volf demonstrates in the final chapters of the book the immense importance of this question. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States and Christians and Muslims are going to have to live together! Hence the importance of this book: "For Muslims and Christians, belief in a common God maps a common moral universe, a space in which it makes sense to purse the common good and in which it is possible to carry on public debates as to what that common good is." (Pg. 249)

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Islam and Christianity and Social Justice

See "Was Jesus a Religious Figure? By Linda Thayer, Al Jumuah 25:12, p. 42-45.

"I argue that we consider viewing Islam not as a religion but as a type of social justice movement. By highlighting the political dimension of Islam, I do not mean to reduce Islam simply to the level of political ideology--as so often happens in contemporary neoconservative discourse--for Islam is much more than a political ideology."

In the Gospels Jesus was a true Muslim--one who submits totally to the will of God. -- His message, like that of Mohammed, is the definitive model of brotherhood and mutual cooperation.

It is due to the writings of St. Paul that Christians see Jesus as a God who founded a religion. Jesus in the Gospels was a prophet announcing a new political system with justice for all, a community whose individual's aim to live up to what God requires of them, a society based upon divinely revealed principles which motivate an inherently political movement designated to promote just an egalitarian communities -- a brotherhood. Where the individual being is concerned for the welfare of all his immediately community--ultimately for the larger world--and with the richer individual being oriented to meeting the needs of those lacking minimum provisions.

The Christian has the same concept as we do that Allah will reward the believer who helps those in need.

"I was hungry and you fed me...

"Son of Adam, I was sick and you did not visit Me. The person will say, "How could I have visited You in Your sickness when You are the Lord of the worlds?" Allah will say, "Did you not know that my servant so-and-so was sick, but you did not visit him? Did you not know that had you visited him, you would have found me there?"

Jesus was not experienced by his contemporaries as a religious figure. He was a prophet of the Islamic message of justice. He has become into many cases the central figure in a de-politicized religious tradition that has into many cases acquiesced to systems of global domination and injustice. It may be that Christianity has lost the spirit of Jesus by allowing itself to become "religionized."

The historical Jesus was a pure monotheist. Christianity has made Jesus divine; consequently, God--for the Christian--is but one-third of the Trinity.

Question: how do you think of the divinity of Jesus? How do you think that the "Catholic in the pew" thinks of the Trinity. How do we understand that Jesus of Nazareth is divine without becoming a second God?

In your subconscious do you have one God or three? It is my impression that some Catholics imagine the divinity in this way: you get God the father in baptism when you become a child of God, you get Jesus in Holy Communion, and you get the third God, the Holy Spirit, in confirmation.

How would you explain the effects of confirmation in such a way that you preserve Orthodox belief in monotheism, one God.

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Theology

For both the Christian and the Muslim, faith is a gift from God: 10:100 "No soul can believe, except by the will of Allah."

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KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE

The Quran strictly forbids killing innocent people.  Killing an innocent person is an equivalent evil to killing to a whole nation.

On that account: We ordained
For the Children of Israel
That if anyone slew
A person
- unless it be
For Murder or for spreading
Mischief in the land --
It would be as if
He slew the whole people

And if anyone saved a life,
It would be as if he saved
The life of the whole people. ( Quran, 5:32)

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Prayer

4.  The Five Pillars [or five essential duties] of Islam.  (Islam is more about "right actions" than about "right beliefs".)  One who surrenders to God is one who practices the following divinely ordained acts:

#2. Salat    the ritual prayers, or worship services, performed daily during five specified intervals, facing Mecca, at (1) dawn, (2) midday, (3) mid-afternoon, (4) dusk, and (5) after dark.

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Devotional Prayer

The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God    You may see Muslims "praying the rosary" -- The string of beads -- 99 in number often shortened to 33, much for the same reasons that our 150 beads are often shortened to 50 -- are an aid to reciting (and meditating on) The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God

59:24 "He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: Whatever is in the heavens and on earth, declares His praises and Glory; He is Exalted in might, the Wise."

And God's alone are the attributes of perfection; invoke Him, then, by these, and stand aloof from all who distort the meaning of His attributes. Al A'Raf 7:180, tr. Asad

A list of The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names and links to their source in the Holy Qur'an (which I find can be a beautiful and rich source of meditation and prayer) can be found at http://www.sufism.org/society/asma/index.html  For a musical video  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFh6gXmWdIo

The following attempt to render into English the 99 names of God is taken from Jacques Jomier, How to Understand Islam. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1991, p 42.

The Merciful
The Compassionate
The Sovereign
The Holy
The Consummate
The Guardian
The Masterful
The Almighty
The Compeller
The Proud
The Creator
The Evolver
The Fashioner
The Oft-Forgiving
The Vanquisher
The Bestower
The Giver of Livelihood
The Revealer
The All-Knowing
The Constraining
The Munificent
The Degrading
The Enhancing
The Exalting
The Abasing
The All-Hearing
The All-Seeing
The Judge
The Just
The Subtle
The All-Cognizant
The Clement
The Supreme
The Remitter
The Prodigal
The Sublime
The Great
The Maintainer
The Sustainer
The Sufficer
The Majestical
The Bounteous
The Vigilant
The Responder
The All-Embracing
The All-Wise
The Benevolent
The Glorious
The Resurrecter
The Witness
The Verity
The Champion
The All-Powerful
The Puissant
The Protector
The Laudable
The Reckoner
The Originator
The Restorer
The Life-Giver
The Life-Taker
The Omniscient
The Dominating
The Entire
The Illustrious
The One
The Sanctuary
The Potent
The Omnipotent
The Advancer
The Retarder
The First
The Last
The Evident
The Immanent
The Lord
The Transcendent
The Benefactor
The Accepter of Repentance
The Avenger
The Oft-Pardoning
The Most Kind
The Owner of Sovereignty
The Lord of All Glory & Honor
The Equitable
The Congregator
The Absolute
The Endower
The Averter
The Harming
The Useful
The Enricher
The Splendid
The Guide
The Superb
The Sempiternal
The Heir
The All-Wise
The Infinitely Patient

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Catholic-Muslim Statement on Dialogue

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (Vatican) and the Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (Tehran, Iran) held their sixth Colloquium in Rome from 28 - 30 April 2008 under the joint presidency of His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Louis TAURAN, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and His Excellency Dr. Mahdi MOSTAFAVI, President of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization.

The delegation of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was composed as follows:

- His Excellency Archbishop Pier Luigi CELATA
- His Excellency Archbishop Ramzi GARMOU
- Reverend Monsignor Khaled AKASHEH
- Reverend Monsignor Prof. Piero CODA
- Reverend Father Prof. Michel FÉDOU, S.J.
- Prof. Vittorio POSSENTI
- Dr. Ilaria MORALI

The delegation of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization was composed as follows:

- Hojjat al-Islam Dr. Mohammad Jafar ELMI
- Hojjat al-Islam Dr. Mohammad MASJEDJAMEI
- Dr. Abdolrahim GAVAHI
- Hojjat al-Islam Dr. Seyyed Mahdi KHAMOUSHI
- Hojjat al-Islam Dr. Hamid PARSANIA
- Dr. Rasoul RASOULIPOUR
- Mr. Mohsen DANESHMAND

The participants, with the help of six papers presented by three scholars from each side, examined the theme Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam, which was developed through three subthemes from the point of view of Catholics and Shi'a Muslims: 1) Faith and reason: Which relation? 2) Theology/Kalam as inquiry into the rationality of faith; 3) Faith and reason confronted with the phenomenon of violence.

And the end of the meeting the participants agreed upon the following:

1. Faith and reason are both gifts of God to humankind.

2. Faith and reason do not contradict each other, but faith might in some cases be above reason, but never against it.

3. Faith and reason are intrinsically non-violent. Neither reason nor faith should be used for violence; unfortunately, both of them have been sometimes misused to perpetrate violence. In any case, these events cannot question either reason or faith.4. Both sides agreed to further co-operate in order to promote genuine religiosity, in particular spirituality, to encourage respect for symbols considered to be sacred and to promote moral values.

5. Christians and Muslims should go beyond tolerance, accepting differences, while remaining aware of commonalities and thanking God for them. They are called to mutual respect, thereby condemning derision of religious beliefs.

6. Generalization should be avoided when speaking of religions. Differences of confessions within Christianity and Islam, diversity of historical contexts are important factors to be considered.

7. Religious traditions cannot be judged on the basis of a single verse or a passage present in their respective holy Books. A holistic vision as well as an adequate hermeneutical method is necessary for a fair understanding of them.

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To Think About

 

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 12/05/13 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org