On Moslems and Gentiles [Archives:2003/53/Focus]
By Hassan Al-Haifi
Notwithstanding the ill feelings brought on by the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent war “on terror” that arose thereafter, as we pass through the Christmas holidays, it might be worth it to reflect on the relationships between Islam and Christianity. There is much misunderstanding that has prevailed in determining the directions that relations between these two very important religions of the world. It is regretful to say this misunderstanding has caused the needless loss of untold millions of lives, with the Moslems suffering the most from Inquisitions and other misguided spiritual cleansing approaches of some of the self acclaimed leaders of Christianity. Needless to say, that some extraordinary behavior and also misguided fanaticism by some Moslem regimes has not helped either in bringing these two dynamic religions together to the right level of mutual respect and tolerance. Incidentally, this is what adherents of both religions are obliged to adhere to, by virtue of their Divine ordained doctrines. Mind you, this is not an effort to lay blame on any side or faction for the historical hostility that existed between the two faiths, but an attempt to underlie the fact that any animosity between these two religions is neither called for in the religious doctrine of both Christianity and Islam, nor even warranted. History is history and there is really nothing that can be done to reform the actions of those who were a part of it. However, with the progress that mankind has reached, to which adherents of both religions have contributed significantly, it is imperative that religious and political leaders in both sides of the religious equation start to find avenues of cohesion and cooperation between the adherents of both faiths, so that the world can truly become a safe haven for all of mankind.
The misconceptions that many Christians have about Islam began in the early years of the Middle Ages, just as Christianity began setting its feet in Europe, and when Islam simultaneously rose as a rapidly rising spiritual force in the international arena. It is worth mentioning that many of the Christian clerics that the Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) made contact with in his life, even before Mohammed had been officially delivered his Heaven sent mission to all of mankind, had predicted that Mohammed had an important spiritual undertaking to fulfill, from all the signs they could see in him. On the other hand, Christian rulers like the King of Abyssinia, saw Islam as a continued manifestation of Christian ideals and beliefs, and even granted protection to Moslems who fled to their domains from the persecution of their polytheistic relatives and kinsmen in the Peninsula. However, the Christian Churches in Rome and in Byzantium saw Islam as a threat to the recently evolved political and temporal power that these two Churches acquired in the European continent. Islam was rapidly gaining converts throughout the world, not by compulsion but by voluntary attachment to the moral dictates of Islam and by the living examples set by very conscientious behavior of the early Moslems that followed the banner of Islam at the time of the life of the Prophet Mohammed and thereafter. Moreover, Islam did not sanction any clerical order, as it saw religion as a one to one relationship with the Creator and did not require any human intermediaries, who gave themselves extraordinary sway over the lives and deeds of the worshippers. Thus, the Church in the Middle Ages sought to alienate most Christians from Islam and persisted in regarding war against Islam as holy and Heavenly ordained. On the other hand, Christians living in Islamic domains found most of the Moslem rulers, who prevailed, as tolerant and permissive, in allowing the Christians to maintain their religious affiliation and their Churches, as is part and parcel of Islamic religious beliefs. Moslems were also taught in the Koran to look upon Christians favorably as “followers of heavenly ordained scriptures”, who have “kindness in their heart”. In addition, Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, are really manifestations of a long chain of heavenly deliverances to mankind, and Islam sees the prophets of the Old and the New Testament as really being missionaries of the same one faith, with Mohammed only coming in, as ordered, to refine the corruptions and distortions that were instilled over time by ecclesiastical orders that wanted to grant themselves more authority than true faith in God would allow. The Quran makes this point on a number of occasions and gives mention to all those prophets and messengers and grants them special honors.
The point of all this is to obviate the fact that if the misconceptions that exist among worshippers of both Islam and Christianity can be clarified among the faithful of both faiths, this can go a long way towards eliminating a new era of conflict, that seems to be looming in the horizons, between these two faiths. Again, such hostility would be anathema and uncalled for by the doctrines of both faiths. Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all believers of Allah, or God (He is One and the Same), regardless of their faith, for Jesus Christ is also one of the highly revered apostles of Islam.