Shariah’s Winding Path Into Modernity

14akyol-inyt-master768-v2In June, Americans in about two dozen cities joined a “March Against Sharia.” For these protesters, the Arabic term is a code word for the oppression of women and men in the name of God — horrors like stoning and beheading. Since such brutalities do indeed happen in the name of Shariah, they may have had a point. But there were also points that they missed.

In Arabic, “Shariah” literally means “the way.” More specifically, it refers to the body of Islamic rules that Muslims see as God’s will — based either on the Quran or on the Prophet Muhammad’s reported words and deeds. It is conceptually impossible, therefore, for a Muslim who is serious about his faith to condemn Shariah. But the implementation of Shariah, which is called “fiqh,” or jurisprudence, is open to interpretation and discussion.

Much of Shariah is about personal observance: A good Muslim should pray five times a day while turned toward Mecca, for example, or should fast daily throughout Ramadan. Of course, there is no problem with these acts of personal piety — unless they are coerced. They should be welcome in any society with religious liberty.

However, a part of Shariah is about public law, including the penal code. And there are clear conflicts here with modern standards of human rights. First, Shariah lays out corporal punishments, such as chopping off hands, stoning, flogging and beheading. The Islamic legal code also proscribes crimes like apostasy, blasphemy and extramarital sex — none of which can be a crime at all in any liberal society.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

ISIL violence against Christians dishonors Islam’s earliest history

Women gather near flowers and candles at the city hall in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray to pay tribute to Father Jacques Hamel, who was killed in an attack on a church

Women gather near flowers and candles at the town hall in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen in Normandy, France, to pay tribute to French priest, Father Jacques Hamel, who was killed with a knife and another hostage seriously wounded in an attack on a church that was carried out by assailants linked to Islamic State, July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol – RTSJS29

. . . [I]n the northwest of France, two Muslim terrorists attacked a Catholic church, taking nuns hostage and killing an elderly priest, before they themselves were shot dead by police. It certainly fits the pattern of ISIL violence: vile, shocking, made for media, and—something we talk about less—standing in stark opposition to the very religious tradition they claim to represent.

 Violence against Christians isn’t just un-Islamic: It dishonors the earliest history of Islam.
The Prophet and the King

When he first started preaching Islam in the year 610, Muhammad attracted very few followers. One was his close friend, Abu Bakr, another was his young cousin, Ali, and the first Muslim was his wife, Khadija. By and large, the new faith attracted lowborn and the marginal people who belonged to minor tribes or, worse, had no tribal affiliation. When the predictable backlash began, these newly minted Muslims were especially vulnerable. Most had no patrons to protect them.

 Desperate to find his followers a safe haven, Muhammad dispatched the most vulnerable Muslims across the Red Sea to what is now Ethiopia, where he promised they would find refuge under a just and Christian king. He believed that because Islam and Christianity emerged out of the same Prophetic tradition, the king would show mercy. And he was correct.
  History has shown that Islam and Christianity can exist in harmony. The king’s act of accepting the Muslim refugees provoked a minor diplomatic incident among wary Meccan elites. The upper class feared that Islam and Christianity had much in common. Now Islam had a head of state as a potential patron, making it potentially even more influential. But despite the best attempts of the Meccan establishment, the Ethiopian king refused to hand over the refugees.

The resonance of this historical anecdote should not be lost on us today. Irrespective of the propaganda produced by a political ideology masquerading as a religion, history has shown that Islam and Christianity can exist in harmony. The Prophet Muhammad believed that fairness and decency weren’t the property of any one community, and several of the Prophet’s companions are still buried on Ethiopia’s Christian land.

FULL ARTICLE FROM QUARTZ 

What Prophet Muhammad’s covenants with Christians say about IS

أقباط-مصريون-في-مظاهرة-3Picture this. A Muslim leader reaches out to a group of Christians and invites them to his country. The Christians happily accept the invitation, while the Muslim leader prepares his people for their arrival. This is the first time the two communities have met in an official delegation. Matters of state, politics and religion are the topics of discussion. The two groups see eye-to-eye on most issues, but also agree to disagree on theological issues. If one phrase can best describe their meeting, it is “mutual respect”.

At the end of their talks, the Christians tell the Muslims, “It is time for us to pray”. The problem for the Christians is that there is no church nearby to worship. Instead of letting the Christians pray on the dirty street, the Muslim leader tells the Christians, “You are followers of the one true God, so please come pray inside my mosque. We are all brothers in humanity.” The Christians agree to use the “Islamic space” as their own. A bridge between these religious communities is made in the name of peace and goodwill.

This story is not some fairytale. It is a historical fact (I did, however, make-up quotes based on how the interaction might have played out). The Muslim leader of the story is Prophet Muhammad and the Christians are from Najran, or modern-day Yemen. The event happened in Medina in 631 AD. This moment in time represents one of the first examples of Muslim-Christian dialogue, but more importantly, one of the first acts of religious pluralism in Islamic history.

Now fast forward to 2016 in Damascus, Syria. The city – and much of the Middle East – has plunged into darkness. Pastor Edward Awabdeh leads a prayer in a Church despite threats on his life by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) militant group. Pastor Awabdeh maintains the Christian faith, although many of his religion have fled a country which is now ranked the fifth most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian.

The militant group regularly persecutes religious minorities in the large swathes of Syrian territory it has taken, and its ultimate aim is to destroy all traces of Christianity in the Middle East.

But to put it bluntly, the daily abductions, murders, beheadings and destruction perpetrated by IS fanatics on the vulnerable Christians of the Middle East directly contradict Prophet Muhammad’s vision of an Islamic state.

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Muslim pilgrims walk outside the Prophet Mohammed Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Medina on December 13, 2008. Statistics put the total number of pilgrims who attended this year’s annual hajj pilgrimage last week at more than 2.4 million, almost 1.73 million from abroad and 679,000 from within the kingdom, according to the official SPA news agency. AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI / AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI

FULL ARTICLE FROM MIDDLE EAST EYE

Is ISIS a truly Islamic State? According to Mohammed’s covenants with Christians, no.

isis-memberContrary to the brutal treatment Christians face under ISIS, the Muslim Prophet Mohammed described his ideal Islamic State as a community with religious pluralism and civil rights, where Christians and the ability to worship were protected.

ISIS’ treatment of Christians goes against the teaching of the prophet they purport to follow.

Says who?

Dr Craig Considine, a research professor from Rice University, who has written a paper exploring the covenants Mohammed made with Christians.

Based on what?

A collection of newly translated covenants written by Prophet Mohammed between 622 and 632 AD that he made with different Christian groups, including the monks of mount Sinai, the Christians of Najran, the Christians of Persia and the Christians of the World.

These covenants reveal the Prophet’s desire to work with – not against – Christians in the area, in order to build his ummah (Arabic community).

Right, what do these covenants say?

These covenants revealed the thinking behind and practical implications of Mohammed’s desire to ensure religious freedom.

“Prophet Mohammed made it clear that freedom of religion is an inherent right for Christians living in a Muslim nation,” Considine said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY 

Nancy Pelosi Invokes Prophet Muhammad at National Prayer Breakfast, Compares Islam and Christianity

12102015_obama-kennedy-center-hon-268201_c0-211-5010-3129_s400x233House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., invoked the Islamic prophet Muhammad at Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., and compared aspects of the Christian and Islamic faiths.

Pelosi, a Roman Catholic, was one of the number of political and faith leaders to speak at the annual prayer breakfast, and mentioned in her speech some of the similarities she sees between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

“In the Gospel of John we see the golden rule that stands at the heart of the gospel, and as we hear these words from John 13, 15, and 17, we know that this message, this command of love is not confined to the New Testament,” Pelosi said, according to The Daily Caller.

“The same message stands at the center of the Torah and the teachings of the prophet Muhammad too. In the Torah it says, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ and from Muhammad, ‘none of you has faith until he loves for his neighbor or brother what he loves for himself.'”

Comparisons between Islam and Christianity have stirred notable controversy in evangelical circles in recent months, particularly with the ongoing case of a Wheaton College professor who is facing termination for suggesting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN POST 

Faith and Values: Gentleness and mercy are teachings of Islam

muslim aidFrom the horrific attacks against schoolchildren in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Dec. 16, 2014, the Jan. 7 brutal attacks in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo offices, the bombing of an Islamic Center during Friday prayers in Shikarpur, Pakistan, on Jan. 30, 2015, the vicious and unthinkable killing of the Jordanian pilot, and all the barbaric beheadings, along with every brutality that has been committed by ISIL/ISIS, our deepest heartfelt condolences to the families and to humanity. Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims and their families.

Time again and again, horrendous killings of innocent people are committed by those who profess an Islamic identity. Yet there is absolutely nothing Islamic exhibited in their actions, though the perpetrators themselves may believe so. From them comes the self-proclaimed title “Islamic State.”

The Paris attack was committed earlier this year over the magazine satirizing the personality of the Holy Prophet. Extremists felt justified in carrying out their crime; however the horrible crime committed is, in itself, contradictory. Prophet Muhammad during his life never avenged any personal attacks against him; rather he prayed for those who mocked and harassed him.

We are often reminded about the incident of the lady who threw garbage on the Prophet as he passed by her home every day in hopes of humiliating and angering him. She never gained the desired reaction, so she persisted each day. One day, she wasn’t by her window, so Prophet Muhammad inquired about her, found out she was ill and then visited her and asked her if he could be of any assistance.

She initially thought he had come to seek revenge. Instead, he assisted in giving her food and cleaned her house until she was well. The lady was remorseful and asked for forgiveness. She found in him the mercy and gentleness that had brought hundreds into the folds of Islam. Still today, these teachings have moved a billion Muslims to profess the faith as propagated by Prophet Muhammad.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MCALL.COM

How Does Islam Relate to Christianity and Judaism?

26stone-blog480-v3This is the 11th in a series of interviews about religion that I am conducting for The Stone. The interviewee for this installment is Sajjad Rizvi, a professor of Arab and Islamic studies at the University of Exeter and the author of “Mulla Sadra and the Later Islamic Philosophical Tradition.”

Gary Gutting: How do you see Islam in relation to the other major Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Judaism? Should we think of them as (for example) rivals, or as complementary developments of monotheism, or as different cultural expressions of an essentially similar religious experience?

Sajjad Rizvi: The very notion of Abrahamic religions is arguably Islamic. The Quran presents Abraham as an adherent of Islam, but here “Islam” means the primordial faith that connects humanity to one God and leads in turn to Judaism, Christianity and then historical Islam as proclaimed by Muhammad. There are some who view Islam as a faith that supersedes the two earlier monotheistic religions. But I think it’s more useful to understand Islam as a religion that is self-conscious about its relationship to Judaism and Christianity and explicitly takes account of their scriptures and traditions. Almost all the prophets of the Quran will be familiar to those who know the Bible, and the Quran explicitly refers to parables, ideas and stories from the Bible.

The common roots — and inheritances — of the three faiths make it useful for us to think seriously in terms of a Judeo-Christian-Islamic civilization and heritage that we all share. The development of philosophy in Islam also shows a common tradition of rationality. Anyone with a basic understanding of the categories of Aristotle’s thought employed by Christian and Jewish thinkers would find many of the arguments of Islamic philosophers and theologians familiar. The great Islamic philosopher Avicenna (10th-11th century) developed a metaphysical notion of God that had a tremendous impact on the Latin west: the idea that God is the necessary being required to explain the existence of every contingent being.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES