The most recent tragic events in the Muslim world invite us to reflect seriously on Islam as a resurging ‘‘major factor in shaping the 21st-century world.” The quoted phrase appears in Faith,Reason, and the War Against Jihadism (Doubleday, 2007) by one of America’s (and the American Church’s) finest scholars and thinkers, George Weigel. Invited once to address one of our country’s major corporations, Weigel argued for three key points: (1) that history cannot be read solely through the lenses of politics, economics, or technology; (2) that ideas have deep consequences for the dynamics of history; and (3) that the life and morale of one’s culture are key to the success of civilization and influence over the span of decades.
Consider Weigel’s first observation. Where can we find weakness in our view of history? Surely, the answer lies in the Western World’s reluctance (or inability) to grasp the significance of religious and/or philosophical issues. For despite the fact that Islam is monotheistic, it is not (to cite Pope John Paul II) “a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet, who prepares for the last prophet Muhammad…” Hence, “the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.”
In an especially incisive look at Islam, John Paul II granted that although some of the “most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Qur’an,” he is ultimately “only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us.” While the Transcendence of God is emphasized (God as the Eternal Other), his immanence (God revealing himself in Jesus) is not. Again, however, the religiosity of Islam is clearly affirmed and deserves respect.