Peace and blessings to the millions of believers in Christ who are choosing to give or sacrifice something they love for the 40 days of Lent. Lent is the 40-day period of preparation for Easter Sunday, the Christian holiday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is believed that Lent is 40 days long for the 40 days Jesus spent wandering the desert fighting off Satan’s temptations. Another reason is the story from the Old Testament when the Israelites were wandering in the desert for 40 years.
As today is Ash Wednesday, ashes will be placed on foreheads in the shape of a cross. The cross is put on believer’s foreheads as a reminder of human mortality. “You are dust and to dust you will return.’”
Source: The Examiner
Note: Akbar the Great, ruler of most of South Asia in the 16th and early 17th century, rejected bigotry and made unprecedented moves to help non-Muslims feel at peace in his Mughal empire. Below is passage from my article Finding Tolerance in Akbar, the Philosopher King, published in April 2013. You can also watch my short documentary on Akbar the Great on my YouTube channel.
Akbar also went to great lengths to integrate non-Muslims into the Mughal empire. After conquering the area of Rajput, he did not forcefully convert Hindus to Islam, but accommodated their religious demands by securing their freedom of public prayer, and allowing Hindus to build and repair their temples. Granting Hindus the ability to freely worship baffled many critics, including his own son Salim, who once asked his father why he had allowed Hindu ministers to spend money on building a temple. Akbar responded to Salim: “My son, I love my own religion… [but] the Hindu [m]inister also loves his religion. If he wants to spend money on his religion, what right do I have to prevent him… Does he not have the right to love the thing that is his very own?”
Ensuring equality for all his subjects was one of Akbar’s paramount concerns. In abolishing the jizya, or poll tax on non-Muslims, and allowing for conversions to and from Islam, Akbar set an example: one did not have to be Muslim to be treated fairly in the Mughal empire. Akbar was especially concerned with the state of Hindus, so he made sure to participate in Hindu religious festivals and order translations of Hindu literature into Persian, the official language of the Mughal state. Akbar’s respect for Hindus is also recorded in his visit to hear the songs of Mirabai, the wife of his rival Prince Bhoka Raj of Chittar. Fearing being identified by Prince Bhoka, Akbar and his court musician Tansen disguised themselves when they entered the temple in which Mirabai was singing. Deeply inspired by Mirabai’s soulful music about God, Akbar went to place a diamond necklace at the feet of Mirabai’s statue of Lord Krishna, a Hindu God, as a sign of respect. Akbar’s tribute to Mirabai is a symbol of his willingness to be open to cross-cultural interaction as a means of building bridges across religious barriers.
Akbar the Great’s tolerance of other religions is also noticeable in his marriages to women of various faiths, most noteably Jodha Bai, a Hindu daughter of the House of Jaipur. Akbar also took a Christian wife, Maria Zamani Begum, who had her own chapel in one of Akbar’s palaces. Akbar’s regard for Christianity is also visible in the Buland Darwaze, a large gate-structure at the city of Fatehpur Sikri, on which he had transcribed the Quranic inscription: “Isa [Jesus], son of Mary, said: This world is a bridge. Pass over it, but build no houses on it. He who hopes for an hour may hope for eternity. The world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen.” In addition, Akbar had his son Murad instructed in the New Testament. According to Akbar’s court companion Abdel Kadir, Murad started his New Testament lesson by stating “In the name of Christ” instead of the usual Islamic gesture “In the name of God.”
One of Akbar’s greatest legacies is the Ibidat Khana, or “House of Worship.” Built in 1575 in the city of Fatehpur Sikri, the Khana originally served as a forum for open debate among Sunni Muslims. Following several petty debates which turned Sunni men against each other, Akbar changed the Khana into an edifice where people of all religions could gather to participate in interfaith dialogue. In the Khana and elsewhere, Akbar “would recognize no difference between [religions], his object being to unite all men in a common bond of peace,” as noted by historian Muhammad Abdul Baki.
Despite his efforts in building an empire based in tolerance, Akbar’s pluralist vision for Mughal society was short-lived. His great-grandson, Aurangzeb, who also reigned as a Mughal emperor, would end religious tolerance altogether by taking measures to reimpose the jizya and demolish Hindu temples. Not long after Aurangzeb’s rule, the Mughals were invaded by the British, who swiftly conquered the divided Indian subcontinent and imposed their traditions and values upon the Mughal population. Ultimately, Akbar the Great’s life shows us that when tolerance reigns, societies flourish, and when tolerance ceases to exist, so do empires.
When I published the article – An Unlikely Connection Between Prophet Muhammad and George Washington – I had little idea of the impact it would have on Muslims and non-Muslims. The responses to my article varied from people being elated about the comparison to others feeling outraged. While some were pleased to see the similarities between Muhammad and Washington, others were angered that I compared their hero to his “moral opposite.” Despite all of this, I am keen to revisit the lives of the Prophet of Islam and the United States’ first president to further strengthen the bond between Muslims and non-Muslims. In this piece I focus on three other character traits and virtues shared by Muhammad and Washington: their interest in knowledge, their ability to avoid anger, and their demonstration of forgiveness.
First, I turn to Muhammad and Washington’s appreciation for knowledge, which is remarkable considering that neither of these men had a “formal” education at any point in their lives. In the case of Muhammad, his thirst for ilm, or knowledge, was amazing in light of the fact that he was unable to read or write. Yet, these inabilities did not hinder him from broadening his intellectual horizon. The Holy Prophet believed that seeking knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim, male and female, because “[i]gnorance is the worst kind of poverty.” In order to acquire knowledge, Muhammad encouraged his fellow Muslims to journey to other lands, even as far as China, and to seek knowledge “from the cradle to the grave.” In Muhammad’s eyes, at the core of being Muslim was a desire to be a life-long devotee of learning and wisdom.
Washington was more specific than Prophet Muhammad in encouraging his peers to seek knowledge. The first American president wanted his fellow citizens to be trained in what he called “the science of government,” in particular, the fields of republicanism and liberty. Doing so, he believed, would make them “future guardians” of American freedom. Washington, moreover, stated that, “There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”
Prophet Muhammad and George Washington understood that to be a true admirer of knowledge, an individual had to cleanse oneself of all traces of anger. Muhammad has several hadiths explaining his position on anger, from which I will draw a few. In a hadith related by Al-Bukhari, a man once said to the Prophet, “Give me advice,” to which the Prophet responded, “Do not get angry.” When the man kept asking him for advice, Muhammad reiterated, “Do not get angry.” Prophet Muhammad encouraged the man to look at anger as a great vice and one of the surest ways to harm oneself or others. In another hadith, the Prophet reiterated his point on avoiding anger. He stated, “The powerful man is not the one who can wrestle, but the powerful man is the one who can control himself at the time of anger.” This passage is significant because it shows how Muhammad believed in “mind over matter,” and that an individual should always use one’s intellect over force and violence.
Prophet Muhammad and George Washington were both military commanders who led their troops to victory in battle. As commanders of their armed forces, Muhammad and Washington certainly had their moments of rage. Yet, in his book Rules of Civility, Washington encouraged people to transcend the urge to take anger out on others. He stated, “Be not angry… whatever happens and if you have reason to be so, show it not; put on a cheerful countenance especially if there be strangers…” Although he was speaking in light of proper behavior and conduct at a dinner table, we can still surmise that Washington believed that anger was a wasted emotion and that individuals should remain poised no matter the gravity of the offense. Similarly, Muhammad stated, “Forgive him who wrongs you, re-unite with him who cuts you off, do good to him who does you harm and speak the truth although it may be to your disadvantage.” In essence, these two great men echoed another great historical figure, Jesus Christ, who encouraged people to “turn the other cheek” to their enemies.
Muhammad’s ultimate lesson in forgiveness came at the moment when a Bedouin urinated in his mosque, at which point several Muslims rushed over to beat the man. The Prophet, upon seeing this, ordered the Muslims to leave the Bedouin alone. Muhammad explained to the man calmly, “This is a place of worship, in it is the worship of God and the reading of Qur’an.” After the Bedouin had left, the Prophet said to his companions, “You have been sent to make things easy (for the people) and you have not been sent to make things difficult for them.” In effect, Muhammad encouraged his fellow Muslims to transcend anger and violence no matter how severe the situation or crime.
George Washington’s forgiveness is displayed in the story of Michael Widman, a convicted traitor of the American Revolutionary War. Widman, who had once been a vocal patriot, surrendered to British General William Howe and provided him with considerable intelligence about Washington’s Continental Army. Despite his betrayal, Washington forgave Widman of his traitorous ways, and allegedly granted Widman pardon with tears in his eyes in front of his men in an ultimate example of charity. Washington also forgave numerous other traitors of the American Revolution after hearing of the desperate pleas of their families.
In addition to the three virtues – seeking knowledge, avoiding anger, and demonstrating forgiveness – Prophet Muhammad and George Washington share countless other values, including gratitude, courtesy, honesty, and reliability. Muhammad’s hadiths and Washington’s Rules of Civility are simply two starting points for those who are interested in further developing the comparison between these two exceptional men. The and Washington’s letters, correspondence, and biographies are also Qur’an excellent sources to gain knowledge on these extraordinary leaders.
Perhaps the most important point of this comparison between Muhammad and Washington is the hope it offers Muslims worldwide and non-Muslim Americans, who increasingly view each other in antagonistic ways. In Muhammad and Washington, we have two men of different faiths, traditions, and times, yet they continue to extol similar messages and moral values. This is a powerful message. All of us – regardless of our backgrounds – should follow in their footsteps in order to make this world a better place for us all.
NOTE: Excerpt from my article Rumi and Emerson: A Bridge Between the West and the Muslim World
Rumi not only respected Christian teachings, but he also greatly admired the life and values shared by Jesus. In essence, for Rumi, all religions were more or less equally beautiful because they all sought the divine truth:
I am neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim
I am not of the East, nor of the West…
I have put duality away, I have seen the two worlds as one;
One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call
(Divan-I Shams-I Tabriz, II)
Rumi did not judge people through a narrow interpretation of God. Instead he emphasized what we would today call pluralism, or the belief that there is not one consistent set of religious truths about the world and that all religions can work in harmony in a single society. Similarly, Rumi emphasized that there are many ways through which people can come into contact with God and that Islam is not the sole path to the hereafter.
Rumi’s fondness for interfaith dialogue between people of different faiths is visible in one of his quatrains, in which he notes that
There is a path from me to you
that I am constantly looking for,
so I try to keep clear and still
as water does with the moon.
This moment this love comes to rest in me,
many beings in one being.
In one wheat grain a thousand sheaf stacks.
Inside the needles eye, a turning night of stars.
Rumi’s appreciation and devotion to interfaith dialogue and to people of non-Muslim backgrounds was also on displayed at his funeral in Konya, Turkey in 1273. Attended by people from all walks of life, it is said that a weeping Muslim man asked a Christian man, “Why are you crying at the funeral of a Muslim poet?” The Christian answered: “We esteemed him as the Moses, the David, the Jesus of the age. We are all his followers and his disciples.” It is the Christian man’s affinity for Rumi’s life work that has made the Sufi poet so revered in most, if not all, religious circles.
“The Enemy of One Religion is the Enemy of All Religions” – An Interview With Muslim Scholar John Andrew Morrow
I recently conducted an interview with Dr. John Andrew Morrow, scholar of Islam and author of the book The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. This interview was a follow-up to my review of his book, which you can read at “New Book Sheds Light on Prophet Muhammad’s Interfaith Views.” The passage below is the answer he provided to my question: “If you could give one piece of advice to Christians and Muslims worldwide, what would that be?” The full interview is here: ”John Andrew Morrow’s Spiritual Journey into Islam and the Life of Prophet Muhammad.”
“Christians need to understand that Islam is not the enemy. Muslims need to understand that Christianity is not the enemy. The enemy of one religion is the enemy of all religions. What we are facing in the world today is a confrontation between Secularism and Religion, between Materialism and Spirituality, between the worship of Mammon and the worship of the Creator, between those who believe in this world and those who believe in the next world. By turning religions against one another, the power elites accomplish two objectives at the same time: to make money and to destroy any future possibility of opposition. As one would expect, the enemies of God cloak their cause in religion. Most so-called Christian and Muslim militants are unwittingly advancing the agenda of atheism. Surely, the prophets are brothers to one another. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad all followed in the footsteps of Abraham. The true believers among the Jews, Christians and Muslims must unite, as followers of Abraham, in order to fight their common enemies. Those who divide us seek to destroy us. The believers in Divine Unity must unite.”
160 years ago, during the Great Famine in Ireland, the Ottoman Empire sent £1,000 sterling (about $1,052,000 today) and 3 shiploads of food to Drogheda, Ireland.
Ireland was ridden with famine and disease between 1845 and 1849. Also known as the Great Hunger, this famine had lasting effects: at least one million people died due to famine-related diseases and more than one million Irish fled, mainly to the United States, England, Canada, and Australia.
The Islamic State (Ottoman) ruler at that time Sultan Khaleefah Abdul-Majid declared his intention to send £10,000 sterling to Irish farmers but Queen Victoria requested that the Sultan send only £1,000 sterling, because she had sent only £2,000 sterling herself. The Sultan sent the £1,000 sterling but also secretly sent 3 ships full of food. The British administration tried to block the ships, but the food arrived secretly at Drogheda harbour.
This generous charity from a Muslim ruler to a Christian nation is also important, particularly in our time when Muslims are often unfairly accused of human rights violations. Likewise, the appreciative plaque and overall reaction of the Irish society in return for this charity deserves to be applauded. We hope that the Turkish-Irish friendship sets a model for peace among different nations.
In commemoration of the Ottoman aid, Drogheda added the Ottoman crescent and star to its coat of arms. Their football club’s emblem retains this design until this day.
This interview with Dr. John Andrew Morrow, Islamic scholar and author of the new book The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World (Angelico Press, 2013), is a follow-up to my review “New Book Sheds Light on Prophet Muhammad’s Interfaith Views.” In his response, Dr. Morrow brings us on his journey to Islam, his research on the life of Prophet Muhammad, and his spiritual quest to find divine unity among the people of the world. My interest in his scholarship arises from my desire to understand Prophet Muhammad’s legacy, which I have recently touched upon in the article “What Studying Muhammad Taught Me About Islam.” I find Dr. Morrow’s words uplifting and inspiring, and I am sure they will be to others as well.
Tell us a little bit about your background and your research. How did you become interested in Islamic studies?
I am a Métis Canadian which means I am of mixed Amerindian and European ancestry. We are known as the Otipemisiwak, the people who own themselves, les gens libres or the Free People. At 500,000, we represent 1.5% of the Canadian population. Although we have European blood, we are indigenous by culture, and famous for being fiercely independent. While most of my ancestors who came from Europe were French, one of them was a Morisco from Portugal who settled in the New France in the 17th century. Genetic analysis demonstrates that he was not European, but Semitic. Not only was he Semitic, he was an Arab. Not only was he an Arab, he was an Arab with origins in the Hijaz. Not only were his ancestors from the Hijaz, they were members of the Household of the Prophet. Research has further shown that the DNA of my ancestor left Arabia during the early days of Islam, spread into North Africa, and entered al-Andalus during the period of Muslim rule. His DNA is the same that is found among the descendants of the Moroccan Idrisids.
So, as a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad through his grandson, Imam al-Hasan, one can say that my interest in Islam, and my attachment to the Household of the Prophet, was innate. I was always drawn to Morocco and consider it my second home. I married a Moroccan woman who is a descendant of the Prophet through both her maternal and paternal lines. Even before I obtained genealogical and genetic evidence of my ancestry, I had written extensively about the Idrisids of Morocco, and had even made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Moulay Idris, the great-grandson of Imam Hasan, the son of Imam ‘Ali and Fatimah al-Zahra, and the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in Zerhoun. It was there that I sent my salaams to the illustrious founder of the Idrisid Dynasty. Little did I know at the time that I was saluting my great grandfather, may the mercy of Almighty Allah be upon him. Evidently, descent from the Prophet does not denote spiritual status in and of itself. If anything, it is a heavy burden. For me, it is something to live up to and something shameful to betray. It serves to remind me of my obligation to adequately present the authentic teachings of Islam. For some, descent from the Prophet is a point of pride; for me, it is humbling and fills me with reverential fear.
Most of my indigenous ancestors were Huron, Algonquin, and Nipissing or belonged to First Nations that formed part of the Wabanaki Confederacy. They were all friends and allies of the French and among the first Native people to embrace the Catholic faith. Most of my European ancestors were Catholic. Some were Protestants who fled persecution in Europe but were quickly assimilated into the Catholic majorities in Acadia and Quebec. Since most of my ancestors were followers of Catholicism, this is the religion in which I was raised and it is a religion that I continue respect despite the fact that I disagree with certain dogmas and doctrines.
For as long as I can remember, and I can remember vividly all the way back to the time I was an infant, I was a strongly spiritual human being. As an infant, a child, a teen, and an adult, I have always felt immersed in the radiance of divine love. I loved God, prayed fervently, and enjoyed attending Church. While I was a Christian, I had never conceived of Jesus as God, and had never prayed to him. I had always believed that Jesus was the “son of God” in a spiritual sense. To me, Jesus had clearly been created. “Son of God” was simply a title like “Spirit of God.” As for the “Holy Spirit,” I always envisaged him as the Angel Gabriel and the Messenger of the Creator. When I learned that many Christians literally believed that Jesus was God and that God was composed of three beings, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all of whom were God, I was dismayed. This sent me off on a spiritual quest.
By the time I was thirteen, I was reading one book per week. To the shock of my family, I read the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments. I read all sorts of apocryphal literature and lost books. I studied all of the world religions along with their sacred scriptures. Eventually, I came across the Qur’an and I was convinced that Islam was the religion that had always resided in my heart. I remember the actual moment that I recognized my primordial nature. It was during a ski trip to Vermont. I had been reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X for weeks. I finished it in the car, closed the book, and said to myself: “I am a Muslim.” I was sixteen years of age. From that moment forward, I would be an observant Muslim known in Islamic circles as Ilyas ‘Abd al-‘Alim Islam.
Since that time, my studies have never stopped. By the time I was an undergraduate student, I was devouring one book per night. By the time I was in graduate school, I had learned how to speed read, and was easily reading a dozen books per day. My desire was always to go to the East to study Islam. However, the clerics I associated with believed that I would be of more value to Islam if I completed my studies in the West. Some told me quite clearly that I would not find true Islam in the East and that I would only find it in books. Fortunately, the University of Toronto has the largest collection of books in Canada. It has the third largest collection in North America. Its collection of Islamic manuscripts easily surpasses those found at the best universities in the Muslim world. I could therefore complete my theological studies in Toronto, which is precisely what I did, learning Islamic Studies both inside and outside of academia. I took religion and philosophy classes at the University of Toronto. I studied the history of Islamic Spain, the Moriscos, and the literature that they produced. I delved into the Arabic and Islamic influence on Spanish and French Literature. I even studied the Muslim presence in the pre-Columbian Americas. At the same time, I learned Islam independently and at the hands of a series of Muslim scholars: Sunnis, Shi‘ites, and Sufis, essentially extracting all the information from them that I could. Eventually, when they could no longer respond to my questions, I sought the guidance of Grand Ayatullahs from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon whenever I stumbled across an issue I could not fully comprehend. While it took decades, it was in this fashion that I completed the three levels of traditional Islamic seminary studies. As a seeker of knowledge, of course, my research has never ceased.
Can you tell us about what The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad is about?
The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad is about Islam; it is about true Islam; it presents Islam as it really is, in essence, in nature, and quite often, in practice. This is not to say that “Islam is peace,” that “Islam turns the other cheek,” that “Islam is passive,” and that “Islam is non-violent.” If someone is raping your wife and killing your kids, you would be an emasculated idiot to remain non-violent. What Islam aims to do is establish a climate of peace. This can be established by diplomacy and dialogue. Sometimes, however, peace can only be achieved by eliminating the enemy. Peace is very much the absence of enemies. So, Islam is primarily a religion of the Word; however, when push comes to shove, it can also be a religion of the Sword. But even when it resorts to violence, it is defensive, as opposed to aggressive violence. It serves the purpose of protection: to counter the attacks of the enemies and to liberate the oppressed. It must also follow a set of clear ethical and moral guidelines.
Obviously, as Muslims, we are not going to wait until someone attacks us before we prepare to defend ourselves. If I know that someone is planning to attack me, to attack my family, or attack my community, I have the obligation to prepare myself, to have specific strategies in place to prevent an attack and to neutralize the enemy in the most definitive manner possible. In other words, if what I desire is justice and its natural consequence, which is peace, I must be prepared militarily. As the saying goes, “If you want peace, prepare yourself for war.” To put it plainly, Islam prefers peace. However, if attacked, Muslims must defend themselves. As such, Islam must prepare itself for any future attack by developing its defensive forces like any other nation in the world.
Not only did the early Islamic State protect Muslims, it even came to the defense of non-Muslims. Muslims went to war in al-Andalus to liberate the Jews and Catholics from the oppression of the Visigoths. Muslims went to war in Armenia to free the Christians from the oppression of the Byzantines. Millions of Muslim men and women fought against the Axis during World War II, not to support British Imperialism, but to oppose a greater evil. Many people cannot see beyond the negative portrayal of Muslims in the mass media. Muslims are very much demonized and de-humanized in the same fashion that Jews were targeted by Nazi propaganda. Muslims commit crimes; there is no doubt. Some Muslims engage in atrocities in the name of Islam. This is true. However, thinking people must distinguish between Islam and actions of misguided Muslims. After all, many Muslims also fought alongside the Nazis during the Second World War as did many Christians. During the Spanish Civil War, Catholics and Muslims both defended, and fought against, fascism.
Millions of indigenous people died as a result of the European invasion of the Americas. 90% of deaths were the result of disease; however, 10% were killed in fighting. Millions upon millions of Aboriginal people were killed in the name of Christ as infidels worthy of death. Slavery, a scourge that killed an equal number of Africans, was also justified in the name of Christ. Between 1882 and 1968, nearly 3,500 African Americans were lynched by white supremacists. This is always portrayed as “political violence.” This terrorism was committed by Christians, in the name of Christ, with crosses burning in the background. The Irish Republican Army used to kill civilians for the greater glory of the Catholic Church. Now, no Muslim in his right mind would ever blame these crimes on Jesus or Christianity. Likewise, Westerners must stop blaming Islam, the Qur’an, and the Prophet for the evil actions of certain pseudo-Muslims. Muslims know that Klansmen are not true Christians. Likewise, Christians should know that Takfiri terrorists are not Muslims.
What inspired you to write The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad?
The choice of the verb, “to inspire,” is most appropriate when speaking about this project. I never planned to write this book. I never intended to write this work. I never set out to write this book. On the contrary, I was inspired to write this work. I did write an article on “Jihad” for a university class in 1990. I expanded upon it in 2012 for inclusion in Islamic Insights: Writings and Reviews. I had cited part of the Prophet’s charter with the monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai; however, I wanted to track down the original Arabic source. This is what put me on the path of the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad.
What was it like actually researching the Prophet Muhammad’s Covenants with the Christians of the world?
In the process of tracing the achtiname, I came across the Testamentum published by Gabriel Sionita in Paris in 1630. This eventually led to the discovery of a previously unpublished covenant of the Prophet which was transcribed in 1538 and the rediscovery of other letters, treaties, and covenants of the Prophet which had been ignored for decades and centuries. As an intellectual adventurer, I engage in academic archeology. I dig, and never quite know what I will come across…
What was the most surprising thing you learned about Prophet Muhammad?
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him and his holy household, was a man of sublime character. He was the embodiment of ethical excellence. Muhammad was the Qur’an and the Qur’an was Muhammad. He was the Pole of Poles, the Universal Axis, and a Perfected Person. This is reality; not hyperbole. This surely sounds insane for people who have been poisoned by hate propaganda. As one who walks the Path of Love, which has been preserved by the true Ahl al-Sunnah, Ahl al-Bayt, and Ahl Allah [the people who follow the Prophet’s practice; the People of the Prophet’s family; the People of God]. I have been swimming in a sea of sacred sayings, the hadith qudsi, the spiritual and literary masterpieces which Almighty Allah shared with the Messenger of Allah. So, for me, I expect the Prophet Muhammad to be the example of justice and morality.
When I read the letters, treaties, and covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with various Jewish and Christian communities, I was not the least bit surprised at his tolerance. What did, however, impress and amaze me the most was not his tolerance: it was the deep and profound love that he expressed towards other Judeo-Christian communities. He did not address them like a ruler; he addressed them as a father. He was paternal; not paternalistic. He combined stern warnings with words of warmth, love, and affection. Not only did he command Muslims to love peaceful Christian friends and allies, he demanded that they love their religion. Truly, the Prophet saw beyond exoteric differences and stressed esoteric unity. He may not have agreed that Jesus was God, but he did appreciate the fact that the name of God was remembered in churches.
How does The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad apply to current events around the world today?
One day, the Prophet was about to witness the sunset. The sun was but a sliver away from setting. Only a thin line divided the sun from the horizon. The Messenger of Allah observed that the time that remained until the Day of Judgment was shorter than the distance between the setting sun and the Earth. On another occasion, he mentioned that the Day of Judgment was as close as the space between two of his fingers. The rediscovery of the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the world is a portent, a sign or warning that something momentous or calamitous is likely to happen. Atheists and unbelievers will object, but most believers, be they Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, will agree that we are operating in the Latter Days. The Prophet Muhammad predicted that righteous rule would be replaced by the rule of iniquity. He foretold that the Muslim world would be colonized by the West. He spoke of a time when believers would adopt the ways of the unbelievers. He described days when religions would fight one another and that various Muslim groups would massacre one another. He also provided vivid and disturbing details of the corruption that currently surrounds us.
When the Monastery of St. Catherine, a place of holy pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims for over one thousand years, is forced to close its doors due to the danger of Salafism/Wahhabism/Takfirism, I am not surprised. In fact, I am well-aware of the intentions of these Satanists. They seek to destroy the achtiname of Muhammad as a symbolic precursor to the extermination of the Christians of Egypt. When the rabid, Saudi-financed pit-bulls burn down churches and monasteries in Syria, I know their intent. A covenant of the Prophet Muhammad is secretly stored in Damascus and they seek to destroy it. When Wahhabi terrorists shoot rockets at Jerusalem, one of the holiest cities in Islam, they show their true nature. The Armenian and Greek Orthodox Christians of Jerusalem are custodians of covenants from the Prophet Muhammad, the Caliph ‘Umar, Imam ‘Ali, and Salah al-Din [Saladin]. I speak not of fantasy; but fact and historical precedent. When the Kurds decided to slaughter the Assyrians in the mid-nineteenth century, they first confiscated the Covenant of the Prophet with the Assyrian Christians. When the Young Turks decided to massacre the Assyrians, the first thing they did was to destroy this covenant. While it is only a theory, the original copy of the achtiname, which was taken to Istanbul by Sultan Selim I in 1517, may have been deliberately destroyed at some point in history, perhaps by the Young Turks, in ritualistic fashion, prior to killing over one million Armenian Christians.
Although the six covenants that I have brought forth pose a different series of problems, and the degree of reliability of these documents may vary, they all agree with the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the Shari‘ah. Many Muslims accept them both in letter and spirit. Others may only accept them in spirit since they confirm what we already know from other authentic sources. These covenants are a test. They may even be a trial and tribulation for some. To obey or disobey, that is the question, and it is a question that was presented to Iblis as well [Iblis is the Muslim Satan]. I cease not to be amazed at the reaction of some Muslims who rely on the opinions of others to determine their own destiny and eternity. “I will see what my shaykh says.” How about seeing what your heart says? “I will only accept it if Muslim scholars accept it as authentic?” Am I not a Muslim scholar myself?
Temporarily setting aside the issue of authenticity, I propose the following in an attempt to make headway: “do you agree with the content?” “I will have to ask Muslim scholars,” one woman responds. I confronted the same problem when tackling the explosive issue of suicide bombings. “Suicide bombings are haram,” I ruled authoritatively. “I will have to ask Maulana,” one Muslim replied. “Do you really need someone to tell you that it is wrong to commit suicide while killing defenseless men, women, and children?” “Seriously, now,” I state, “If your shaykh says that it is halal to slaughter non-combatants, you should find a new shaykh.” Perhaps they should also reconsider their religion because if this is what they truly believe, they are far, far away from the faith of Islam.
Not only will the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World distinguish between believer and unbeliever, it will distinguish between people of faith and hypocrites. Jihadist terrorists will reject it, showing what little regard they have for authentic Islam. Abd el-Krim al-Jaza’iri, the Algerian revolutionary, had no such qualms. He rigorously abided by the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad and treated Christians with chivalry. Salah al-Din respected the covenants. Many Safavid, Ottoman, Moghul, Mamluk, ‘Abbasid, and even ‘Umayyad leaders followed Islam’s highly-developed theory of Just War. So did the first four Caliphs, who emulated the example of the Prophet.
Some scholars, I can confirm, have made a complete volte-face. When suicide bombings were committed against the Israelis, the French, and the Americans, they endorsed them. However, now that they themselves have become targets of the terrorism that they started, endorsed, and encouraged, they rule that suicide bombings are forbidden and that suicide bombers have no religion. When blowing Muslim and non-Muslim civilians to bits serves their cause, they are “martyrdom operations.” When the tables turn, and their politicians and diplomats are targeted, they are “suicide bombings” and “terrorism.” This is sheer hypocrisy. If there are marriages of convenience, these clerics have “morals of convenience.” The enemies of Islam, those career professionals who serve the Empire while pretending to sympathize with Muslims, have also crawled out of the woodwork, not because they believe in the covenants, but because they wish to co-opt them to make Muslims easier to conquer. There is a battle going at the heart of Islam and the Covenants of the Prophet are set to play a major part.
What does the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad mean to you?
The Prophet Muhammad is not dead. He is very much living. He lives in the Qur’an and its correct interpretation. He lives in the authentic Sunnah. He lives in all that is good about Islam. Over the course of the past fourteen hundred years, however, much extraneous material has accumulated around the person of the Prophet. Much of this material was falsified by the enemies of Islam, the usurpers of divine authority, the Umayyads, both past and present. If the Prophet is alive and well so are his enemies. They are those who seek to soil the image of Islam from within. They undermine the Qur’an and Sunnah. They eat away at Islam like termites eat away at wood. They are the Pharisees of Islam and the Uncle Tom ‘ulama. They are the sell-out scholars of Islam; the court-clerics at the service of kings, dictators, and despots. They are modern-day Kharijites like these Takfiri terrorists who have no respect for life and no religion. They are the corporate, capitalist, liberal Muslims at the service of the Empire. The Prophet Muhammad is a pearl. His enemies can toss filth at him, but he will always come out clean. His opponents, however, are made of cloth and they do no nothing but stain their own souls.
If you could give one piece of advice to Christians and Muslims worldwide, what would that be?
If I could give one piece of advice to Christians and Muslims worldwide it would be that peace is possible, although it is not always profitable. Conflicts are caused by socio-economic and political interests. In the absence of conflict, conflicts will be created by the economic elite. On the battle-field opponents appear to be polarized. It seems that both sides are independent. This is merely because we see the puppets, but not the puppet-masters, those who create the conflict, play both parties against one another, and who profit from the death and destruction thus created. This not to say that people, politicians, presidents, and military commanders do not cause wars; but we must realize that bankers are behind all of them. These international bankers and multinational corporations had no loyalty to the Axis powers or to the Allies, to Communism or Capitalism, to Arab nationalism or Islamism. They funded all parties and profited from the blood-shed. The presence of peace is not profitable; not when compared to the billions that are made by war and redevelopment.
Christians need to understand that Islam is not the enemy. Muslims need to understand that Christianity is not the enemy. The enemy of one religion is the enemy of all religions. What we are facing in the world today is a confrontation between Secularism and Religion, between Materialism and Spirituality, between the worship of Mammon and the worship of the Creator, between those who believe in this world and those who believe in the next world. By turning religions against one another, the power elites accomplish two objectives at the same time: to make money and to destroy any future possibility of opposition. As one would expect, the enemies of God cloak their cause in religion. Most so-called Christian and Muslim militants are unwittingly advancing the agenda of atheism. Surely, the prophets are brothers to one another. Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad all followed in the footsteps of Abraham. The true believers among the Jews, Christians, and Muslims must unite, as followers of Abraham, in order to fight their common enemies. Those who divide us seek to destroy us. The believers in Divine Unity must unite.
Pope Francis is not the first pope to win the respect of Muslims – John Paul II was so loved around the Muslim world that even the Taliban mourned his passing – but his outreach to Muslims during the early days of his tenure has struck a deep chord in Muslim communities around the world. Papal traditionalists noticed something was off when Pope Francis washed the feet of a Muslim woman prisoner in one of his earliest acts as the new pontiff. The pope followed this with many more gestures: sending “prayerful good wishes” to Muslims at the conclusion of Ramadan, writing to Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al Tayyeb to express respect for Islam and call for mutual understanding, and calling for Muslim immigrants to Europe to be embraced “with affection and respect.” “Pope Francis is really doing a wonderful job in terms of outreach,” said Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat after visiting the Vatican. “[He] resonates with the Muslim world.”
Additional stories on Pope Francis’ outreach to Muslims in 2013/2014:
On the 26th of January, 2014, I participated in the 4th Annual Mawlid Peace Walk and Conference at the Al Mustafa Islamic Centre in Blanchardstown, Dublin (Ireland). Prior to the start of the conference, in which I was a guest speaker, the Muslim community and other non-Muslims came together to walk peacefully in honor of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him. A text of my speech can be found here: A Catholic American Praises Prophet Muhammad at an Islamic Centre in Dublin, Ireland. The pictures in the video are courtesy of my friend Dr. Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri, head of the Al Mustafa Islamic Centre.
The University College Cork’s Philosophical Society has invited me to speak on the topic: “That This House Would Ban the Burqa.” The debate is scheduled for the 10th of March at 7:30pm. I will be speaking for roughly 15 minutes in opposition to the idea of banning the burqa.
The Philosophical Society is one of Europe’s oldest and largest student societies. Each week it hosts a debate or lecture on an issue of public interest, with guest speakers giving their perspective before a crowd of students.
The Philosophical Society is hoping that the debate will spark a lively discussion on the burqa, and the merits and flaws in banning it in public use. The burqa is a particular sensitive matter in France, but also throughout the European Union.
How would you go about speaking in opposition to the idea of banning the burqa? I welcome and appreciate your insight.
A short documentary on what studying Prophet Muhammad has taught me about Islam. I filmed this footage during Mawlid E Nabi in 2013 at Anwar al Madina, a Sufi mosque in Dublin, Ireland. A special thanks goes out to the Irish Sufi Foundation and to my friend Mia Manan Hameed.
Please make sure to switch the viewing quality to 1080HD on the bottom right side of the video’s YouTube window.
Pictures of this event can also be found in the Madina Mawlid 2013 gallery.
*Note: This is the text of a speech I gave during the 4th Annual Peace Walk and Peace Conference at the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre Ireland in Blanchardstown, Dublin on 26 January 2014. A special thanks to my friend Dr-Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri for inviting me and organizing this beautiful event. A report from Al-Mustafa can be found at Report of Mawlid Interfaith Peace Conference 2014.
Brothers and sisters…
Peace be with you…
My name is Craig Considine. I am a Roman Catholic American and current PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Trinity College Dublin. Today, I want to share with you my experience in studying Islam and, more specifically, what I have learned about this great faith through the life of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him.
Since 2004, I have studied closely with Professor Akbar Ahmed of American University in Washington, DC. In 2008 and 2009, I travelled with him throughout the US to over 100 mosques and 75 cities in order to understand American identity through the lens of Muslims. Professor Ahmed is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on contemporary Islam. He is like a father to me. Although his family is Muslim, they have embraced me as part of their wider family.
Before meeting Professor Ahmed in 2004, I knew practically nothing about Islam. Never once had I met a Muslim while growing up in suburban Boston. My town, Needham, is composed of mostly English Protestants, Irish Catholics and Jews. As a teenager, I understood Islam through the events of 9/11. At that time, Islam was bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and violence as depicted in the media.
This perception of Islam changed when I met Professor Ahmed. On the first day of his class, he shared with the students a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him. The hadith read: “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.”
Muhammad’s (PBUH) thought showed me that the quest for knowledge and learning is more holy than taking up the sword and using violence against one’s opponents. This holy passage not only changed the way I thought about Islam, but it changed how I thought about the purpose of life. It transformed me in ways I could not have imagined.
Since that day in Professor Ahmed’s class, I have devoted much time and effort to improving relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. My aim as a Catholic American researcher is to shed light on Islam in a fresh and new way, all in an effort to build bridges between Muslims worldwide and Americans.
In particular, I have researched the life of Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him. In my readings and experiences, I have learned that Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, had important beliefs on how to treat non-Muslims. His ideas on religious freedom make him a universal champion of human rights, particularly as it pertains to freedom of worship and the right for minorities to be protected during difficult times.
What has struck me most about Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, was his reverence for Christianity and Judaism, the two other faiths of the Abrahamic tradition. For example, the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, made a covenant with Christian Monks at Saint Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai in Egypt, in which he called on Muslims to respect Christian judges and churches, and for no Muslim to fight against his Christian brother or sister.
Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, also cared a great deal for the Jews in his midst. In the Treaty of Maqnah, he stated that Jews “may be in peace… you are in security [under Muhammad’s rule]. Towards you is no wrong and no enmity. After today you will not be subject to oppression or violence.”
By developing these covenants with Christians and Jews, the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, made it clear that a citizen of an Islamic state did not have to be Muslim. He was clearly rejecting elitism and racism and demanded that Muslims see their Abrahamic brothers and sisters as equals before God.
I have also studied Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, in light of what it means to be American. Although Muslims worldwide and Americans are sometimes seen as overwhelming opposites, my research has showed me that Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, and the Founding Fathers of the US shared similar moral beliefs.
For example, Muhammad’s (PBUH) revelations from God directed him to celebrate diversity and cherish it as a staple of Muslim society. His encounter with God would later be recorded in the Quran, which states: “O mankind, We created you from male and a female and made you into tribes and nations that you may get to know each other.”
Additionally, in his final sermon at Mount Arafat, the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, stated that “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab… a white person has no superiority over black nor does black have any superiority over white except by piety in good action.” Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, did not like to judge people based on their religious beliefs or the color of their skin.
In a similar way, the Founding Fathers of America also cared about promoting equality. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence states that Americans are “to hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” In the US Constitution, it also states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” which notes that an individual can be from any religious background and still be an American.
More specifically, Muhammad, Peace and George Washington, the first President of the US, shared similar moral beliefs, especially on the treatment of religious minorities. In the Constitution of Medina, Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, wrote that “strangers” in a Muslim society were to be treated with special consideration and “on the same ground as their protectors.” Over 1,000 years later, Washington would write that “the bosom of America is open to receive… the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom [America] shall welcome to a participation of all [their] rights and privileges.” Washington added: “They may be [Muslims], Jews, or Christians of any sect.”
In essence, Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, and the Founding Fathers had a vision for tolerance and equality. Muslims worldwide and Americans would be wise to remember their approach in finding balance and harmony in their communities.
To me, Islamic values as expressed by Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, and American values as put forth by figures such as George Washington, were not very different from each other. Through their example, we can sow the seeds for understanding and peace in our societies.
In conclusion, I see the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, as a man who fought racism before the days of Nelson Mandela, and as a leader who sought to unite, not divide, people of diverse backgrounds. As a Catholic American, it does not matter to me that Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, is not of my faith. What matters to me is his character and conduct. In the end, that is what he expected of human beings: for them to see through peoples’ religious beliefs and skin colors and inside to their hearts and souls.
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Follow Craig Considine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ToBeCraig
A recent report from the Pew Research Center, a reputable American think tank, revealed some damning findings on the state of religious freedom around the world. According to the report, religious hostilities increased in 2012 in every major region of the world, with Muslims and Christians being oppressed in the largest number of countries. Pakistan, an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country, had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, while Egypt, another predominantly Sunni Muslim country, had the highest level of government restrictions on religion. On the other hand, the US, a largely Christian populated country, was reported as having a “moderate” level of government restrictions on religion, which is troubling considering the country was founded upon the principle of religious freedom.
Developments such as these are worrisome because 55 percent of the world’s population is either Muslim or Christian. It is therefore imperative to restore the spirit of two key documents – the Constitution of Medina and the US Constitution – in order for the “Muslim world” and the US to return to their rightful places as champions of religious tolerance.
Over 1,000 years before the US Constitution, the Prophet Muhammad and his followers devised the Constitution of Medina, a document that created a free and just society for Muslims, Jews, and Pagans. As he made clear in the Constitution, Muhammad believed that all Muslims were to be treated fairly and with dignity. In particular, Article Three of the Constitution states that all the Muslim groups of Medina “shall formulate a Constitutional unity,” even as the community was diverse in its Muslim identities.
In the 7th century, Muhammad envisioned a tribeless, raceless, and classless society based on tolerance and civil rights. His egalitarian vision should not be overlooked today, especially considering that in countries such as Pakistan, Shia Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims are persecuted and even killed for their religious beliefs.
Muhammad also specifically mentioned the Jews of Medina, a community of believers who, according to Article Thirty, were “guaranteed the right of religious freedom along with the Muslims.” Article Twenty of the Constitution of Medina declared that a Jew “enjoys the same right of life protection (as the believers do).” Here the Prophet was echoing the spirit of the Quran (109: 6), which states “To you be your Way, and to me mine.”
Muhammad also recognized the ethnic, cultural, and linguistic differences within the Jewish community. In granting equality to each Jewish tribe, he emphasized that certain Jews were not superior to others and that universal freedom was a pillar of his Muslim society. Safeguarding the religious freedom of Jews was a way for Muhammad to abide by one of the most important messages of the Quran: “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256).
Like the Constitution of Medina, the US Constitution also guarantees religious freedom. The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus officially establishing the separation between religion and state, much like Muhammad had done in the 7th century. As Muhammad had done with the Constitution of Medina, the Founding Fathers of America did not make a single religion the religion of the state. Instead, the Founding Fathers opted for the “wall of separation” between religion and government rule, an idea which can be traced back to Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence.
In 1777, Jefferson authored a bill in the Virginian Legislature which guaranteed freedom of (and from) religion. Jefferson began the bill with the phrase “An Act for establishing religious freedom” and continued by suggesting that people should not impose their religious beliefs on other people. Moreover, he wrote “our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Both Muhammad and Jefferson were not only concerned with protecting the religious freedom of members in the Abrahamic tradition (Jews, Christians, and Muslims), but all individuals and groups in society regardless of whether they believed in God, multiple Gods, or no God.
Moreover, the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution also included a pivotal message on religious freedom, for it guarantees the religious civil rights of American citizens, regardless of their ethnic or racial background. Dealing specifically with the prohibition of religious discrimination on behalf of a state, the Fourteenth Amendment declares: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…” The Founding Fathers intended for the US to be a safe haven for all of humanity, especially for individuals and groups who have been attacked because of their religion. Being impartial in dealing with the complex issue of religion and politics was the only way for them to achieve this goal.
Muslim-majority countries worldwide and the US have the necessary tools to deal with the problem of religious oppression. Muhammad and the Founding Fathers are perfect guides for the restoration of religious freedom if only they heed to the messages of the Constitution of Medina and the US Constitution.
During Mass today in the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reflected on an Old Testament reading from Samuel (1:24). In the passage, David had the chance to kill King Saul, but he chooses, as the Holy Father noted, “a different path: the path of dialogue, to make peace.” Francis’ message encourages Christians to build bridges of dialogue, not walls of resentment. Ultimately, as the Pope notes, dialogue and humility defeat hatred and knock down walls which divide us.
For more reading on Pope Francis and dialogue:
Salam and Salutation to Pope Francis – “From his first foreign policy address in March 2013, Pope Francis made improving Muslim-Catholic relations one of his top priorities. Before an audience of ambassadors from 180 countries, he explained how he wanted to work for peace and bridge-building between peoples. Muslims and Catholics, he claimed, needed to intensify their dialogue. Positive shockwaves were sent into Muslim-Catholic circles, and Muslim scholars and religious institutions around the world welcomed Pope Francis’s election.”
The Pope: Christians and Muslims Must Share Their Belief in God - “Just days after I wrote about Pope Francis’ speech on ending the ‘culture of indifference’ towards Muslim refugees, the Holy Father emerged today with an equally powerful comment on how Christians and Muslims should lean on each other and share their belief in the ‘One God.’”
The Pope: End the Culture of Indifference Towards Muslims – “Vatican Radio reported today on Pope Francis’s appeal for migrants and refugees and an end to ‘the culture of indifference.’ Although he did not explicitly mention them in his address at Saint Peter’s Square, one can be certain that the Holy Father was speaking to Muslims. The Pope stated that migrants and refugees around the world, many of whom have a Muslim background, are friends of the Catholic Church. He encouraged them to ‘not lose hope for a better future’ and expressed his wish that they might be able to live in peace in their new countries.”
Just days after I wrote about Pope Francis’ speech on ending the “culture of indifference” towards Muslim refugees, the Holy Father emerged today with an equally powerful comment on how Christians and Muslims should lean on each other and share their belief in the “One God.”
Pope Francis spoke to the refugees about sharing their suffering, stating “It is important you do this when you meet. Those who are Christians with the Bible and those who are Muslims with the Koran, with the faith you have received from your fathers, a faith that will always help you move forward. Share your faith, because there is one single God, the same God.”
In once again encouraging Christians and Muslims to embrace each other, Francis is letting the world know that he is one of the most active contemporary proponents of Christian-Muslim dialogue.
As a little boy attending elementary school in Needham, Massachusetts, I always borrowed two books from the Mitchell School library. One of those books gave a history of the Boston Celtics, my favorite basketball team, and the other book was a biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, the Civil Rights leaders of the 1950s and 60s.
Even though I was hardly ten years old at that time, I was able to grasp the importance of Dr. King’s great struggle for justice and equality in the US. My admiration for him was also why, as a boy and teenager, I always wanted to become friends with my African-American peers.
More recently, in the summer of 2013, I watched an RTÉ special on Dr. King’s famous “March to Washington.” Without a doubt, he still has an immense power over my heart, mind, and soul. The “I Have a Dream” speech still bring tears to my eyes.
Today, January 20th, is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day in the US. To commemorate this exceptional man, I turn to ten quotes of Dr. King in the hope of inspiring you to follow his noble ways.
“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”
“We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace.”
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscious stupidity.”
“… it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.”
“If you have weapons, take them home; if you do not have them, please do not seek to get them. We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence.”
“Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.”
“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
Vatican Radio reported today on Pope Francis’s appeal for migrants and refugees and an end to “the culture of indifference.” Although he did not explicitly mention them in his address at Saint Peter’s Square, one can be certain that the Holy Father was speaking to Muslims. The Pope stated that migrants and refugees around the world, many of whom have a Muslim background, are friends of the Catholic Church. He encouraged them to ‘not lose hope for a better future’ and expressed his wish that they might be able to live in peace in their new countries.
This is not the first time the Pope has reached out to Muslim migrants and refugees, as Professor Akbar Ahmed and I noted in the Washington Post:
From his first foreign policy address in March 2013, Pope Francis made improving Muslim-Catholic relations one of his top priorities.
Before an audience of ambassadors from 180 countries, he explained how he wanted to work for peace and bridge-building between peoples. Muslims and Catholics, he claimed, needed to intensify their dialogue. Positive shockwaves were sent into Muslim-Catholic circles, and Muslim scholars and religious institutions around the world welcomed Pope Francis’s election.
In September 2013, Pope Francis sent a powerful message to Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the top imam of the University of Al-Azhar, the leading Islamic university of the Muslim world founded a thousand years ago. His message expressed “esteem and respect for Islam and Muslims” and hoped that his effort could improve “understanding among Christians and Muslims in the world, to build peace and justice.”
Pope Francis sent another message to Muslims on Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that ends Ramadan, in which he called for “mutual respect through education.” In his personal note Pope Francis asked Muslims and Catholics “to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values.” Moreover, he explained his reasons for choosing Francis as his own name.“Francis,” is “a very famous saint who loved God and every human being deeply, to the point of being called ‘universal brother.’ He loved, helped and served the needy, the sick and the poor; he also cared greatly for creation.”
Moreover, in July 2013, Pope Francis used his first official papal trip to visit the Italian island of Lampedusa, which is a major transit point for Muslim refugees from Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, and other African countries. During his visit, the Pope stated: ”To the dear, Muslim immigrants who today, this evening, are beginning the fast of Ramadan, with wishes for abundant spiritual fruit. The Church is close to you in the search for a more dignified life for you and your families.” Professor Akbar Ahmed and I also wrote about this visit:
To understand the pope’s approach, method and message, take a look at his visit to the island of Lampedusa. The small island in the Mediterranean has become a battleground of the larger ideas that are in conflict in Europe. It has been visited by rightwing leaders who denounce immigrants in crudely racist and xenophobic terms. The pope’s visit therefore became symbolic of a counter-balancing approach, one that was more welcoming, all-embracing, caring and compassionate.
The pope spoke of the “immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death.” He shared his distress at the “tragedy” which has become like “a painful thorn in my heart.” He felt “shame” at the plight of those who were suffering and the indifference of the world. “The Church” he assured the immigrants, ”is at your side as you seek a more dignified life for yourselves and your families.”
The pope used the plight of the mainly African immigrants to raise larger issues that afflict all humanity in the age of globalization. He condemned what he called “the globalization of indifference.” He berated “the culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others.”
Tackling “the culture of indifference” is one of the major goals of Francis’ mission as Pope. In August 2013, the Holy Father wrote, “A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”
In essence, the Holy Father is calling on Catholics – and indeed all of humanity – to embrace “the other” and to break down walls of misunderstanding. In frequently addressing Muslims, he is also challenging Catholics to fight against stereotypes and to become more familiar with their Muslim brothers and sisters.
Follow Craig Considine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ToBeCraig
Published on Huffington Post Religion
Muslims worldwide have recently joined together to celebrate Mawlid al-Nabi, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. This day is an opportunity for Muslims and non-Muslims, such as myself – a Catholic – to reflect upon the life and legacy of the prophet of Islam. In this short essay, I want to share with you what I have learned about Muhammad and how his legacy informs my understanding of Islam.
Muhammad’s beliefs on how to treat religious minorities make him a universal champion of human rights, particularly as it pertains to freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, and the right for minorities to have protection during times of strife.
Muhammad initiated many legal covenants with Christians and Jews after establishing his Muslim community. For example, in one covenant with the Christian monks at Mount Sinai, Egypt, Muhammad called on Muslims to respect Christian judges and churches, and for no Muslim to fight against his Christian brother or sister. Through this agreement, Muhammad made it clear that Islam, as a political and philosophical way of life, respected and protected Christians.
Similarly, in the Treaty of Maqnah, the Prophet stated Jews “may be in peace… you are in security [under Muhammad’s rule]… Towards you is no wrong and no enmity. After today you will not be subject to oppression or violence.” In the Constitution of Medina, a key document which laid out a societal vision for Muslims, Muhammad also singled out Jews, who, he wrote, “shall maintain their own religion and the Muslim theirs… The close friends of Jews are as themselves.” In safeguarding the rights of Jews, Muhammad made it clear that a citizen of an Islamic state did not have to follow Islam and that Muslims should treat Jews as they would their own friends. In developing these agreements with his fellow Muslims, Christians, and Jews, Muhammad clearly rejected elitism and racism and demanded that Muslims see their Abrahamic brothers and sisters as equals before God.
According to Muhammad, humanity was at the heart of Islam. In my reading and interpretation of his last sermon at Mount Arafat in 632 AD, I learned that the Prophet fought against racism long before the days of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. In the sermon, he argued “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab… a white person has no superiority over a black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” Muhammad’s final sermon informed me that Islam teaches Muslims to be tolerant of difference and welcome to diversity.
My research has also highlighted how Muhammad had similar beliefs to that of George Washington, a key founding father of America. In a January 2013 article for the Huffington Post titled “An Unlikely Connection Between Muhammad and George Washington,” I examined how these two great men virtually shared identical opinions on social conduct, modesty, humility, respect, and even hygiene. In making these connections, it seems to me that Islamic values as expressed by Muhammad, and American values as expressed by Washington, are quite similar. Muslims and non-Muslim Americans can look to the example of Prophet Muhammad and George Washington as a way to build bridges of cross-cultural understanding.
Studying Muhammad has taught me invaluable lessons on the fundamental principles of Islam, but more importantly, principles of life itself. His treatment of religious minorities and his basic moral beliefs have encouraged me to further promote dialogue between Muslims, Christians, and Jews, and to improve my own everyday character and conduct. Without a doubt, my research into the Prophet’s life has showed me that he is a role model for both Muslims and non-Muslims and that humanity can benefit from Islam.
The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World by Dr. John Andrew Morrow claims that although there are theological differences between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, Muslims are nonetheless advised by Muhammad to respect and embrace Christians and Jews. The covenants of the Prophet of Allah, as Morrow notes, paint a clear picture of how Muslims are to treat their minority communities. Morrow’s book reminds us of the possibility that Muslims, Christians, and Jews can live side-by-side in peace and harmony if only they heed the advice of Prophet Muhammad.
Published on Loon Watch
Robert Spencer, the administrator of the blog JihadWatch, is known for painting all Muslims as extremists. In a recent post titled “Akbar Ahmed, advocate of ‘dialogue,’ claims ‘Islamophobes’ are ‘linking Islam to violence, terrorism and intolerance,” Spencer argues that Professor Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, DC, is “disingenuous” in promoting interfaith dialogue and interested in converting non-Muslims to Islam. Spencer also calls him an “Islamic supremacist” and likens him to Sayyid Qutb, the 20th century Muslim extremist.
To refute Spencer’s accusations, I will look to the example of Professor Ahmed and his relationships with non-Muslims, through which he promotes interfaith dialogue. In doing so, I prove that he is a leading Muslim figure in the fight against religious extremism and that not all Muslims are extremists, as Spencer claims.
I am a Roman Catholic student and assistant to Professor Ahmed, who is like a father to me. He does not treat me differently for being Catholic because he sees Christians and Muslims as equal members of the Abrahamic family. In 2008, Professor Ahmed and his wife had dinner at our family home in suburban Boston. Over Italian food, he shared with my mother, a Roman Catholic and Italian American, several stories of his childhood days in Pakistan. He was educated by Christians at Forman Christian College in Lahore and at Burn Hall in Abbottabad, which was run by Roman Catholic priests. Touching upon these experiences in the recent New York Times article “Pakistan’s Persecuted Christians,” Professor Ahmed wrote: “We loved and respected our Christian teachers, and they us. We never doubted that harmony and cooperation between faith groups were not only possible, but also completely normal. It was the reality of our lives.” Religious tolerance was built into Professor Ahmed’s life from his earliest days, which is why he is naturally inclined to speak and write about how Muslims and non-Muslims can coexist.
Professor Ahmed has also risked his own life in trying to build bridges between his Muslim and Christian friends in Pakistan. In December 2013, he gave a lecture at Forman Christian College, despite the police warning that the Pakistani Taliban had dispatched bombers to the city as an act of revenge for the killing of a former Pakistani Taliban leader. Professor Ahmed’s lecture titled “Building Bridges over Troubled Waters” demanded that Muslims be more tolerant of Christianity and other non-Muslim faiths in Pakistan. By supporting the rights of non-Muslims, he advocates for religious freedom and equality in a country which is rife with discrimination and persecution.
Developing friendships with Christian leaders has always been a priority for Professor Ahmed. After the events of September 11th, 2001, he befriended former Bishop John Chane of the Washington National Cathedral, with whom he co-authored an article with him in 2010 titled “Christians senselessly tormented by extremists in Muslim world.” Professor Ahmed and Bishop Chane called for Muslims to “think of Jesus, so highly revered and loved by both Christians and Muslims,” as a way of building respect and harmony among followers of Christianity and Islam. Instead of supporting Muslims who attack Christians, Professor Ahmed challenges them on how persecuting non-Muslims is contrary to Prophet Muhammad’s philosophy on tolerance.
Alongside his relationships with Christian friends, Professor Ahmed has also developed a powerful friendship with Professor Judea Pearl, a Jew and father of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street journalist who was murdered by Muslim extremists in Karachi, Pakistan in 2002. One year later, the American Jewish Committee invited Professors Ahmed and Pearl to lead a nation-wide public dialogue on the divisions between Muslims and Jews. In 2006, they were among the recipients of the first annual Purpose Prize “in recognition of [their] simple, yet innovative approach to solving one of society’s most pressing problems.” Professor Ahmed collaborated with Professor Pearl in order to carve the path for Jewish and Muslim understanding and to promote the dialogue between, and not the clash of, civilizations.
On several occasions, I also personally witnessed Professor Ahmed’s appreciation for Judaism and Jewish leaders in the United States. Upon embarking on “Journey into America,” a fieldwork study we conducted in 2008 and 2009 to understand American identity through the lens of Muslims, he asked Rabbi Susan Talvi of St. Louis, Missouri to bless our project and pray for our safe travels. Rabbi Talvi opened her blessing with one of Professor Ahmed’s favorite Jewish sayings: tikkun olam, or “to heal a fractured world.” He often uses tikkun olam in his lectures around the world as a way to inspire people of all backgrounds to look at Judaism in a more positive light.
Spencer’s accusations of Professor Ahmed are far-fetched conspiracy theories. By ignoring reality, as he so typically does, Spencer once again shows that he is nothing more than a bigot and propagandist.
By Akbar Ahmed and Amineh Hoti
On the 25th of December a few days ago, we, the co-authors, celebrated Christmas with the Christian community in Islamabad. Here we were reminded of the powerful message of peace and love.
Our presence as Muslims was not that unusual though it was a bold step in today’s Pakistan. After all M.A. Jinnah, the founding father and leader of Pakistan, had spent Christmas day with the Christian Community in Karachi in 1947. This year, Nawaz Sharif the Prime Minister of Pakistan and Bilawal Bhutto head of the main opposition party the PPP also celebrated Christmas with Christians.
But this was not New York, London or Rome where the shops and window displays are bursting with spectacular Christmas creations and a spirit of festivity permeates society.
This was Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, and we were in the poorest section of the slums of Islamabad amongst one of the most impoverished Christian communities in South Asia. This was Kachi Abadi F-6/2. In fact, the area was not even graced with its own name: “Kachi Abadi” simply means “non-permanent or make-shift settlement”. Gas, electricity and water are are not supplied by the state but organized by charitable donations.
Source: USA Today
By Ibrahim Hooper
“Behold! The angels said: ‘O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and in (the company of) those nearest to God.’”
Before searching for this quote in the New Testament, you might first ask your Muslim co-worker, friend or neighbor for a copy of the Quran, Islam’s revealed text. The quote is from verse 45 of chapter 3 in the Quran.
It is well known, particularly in this holiday season, that Christians follow the teachings of Jesus. What is less well understood is that Muslims also love and revere Jesus as one of God’s greatest messengers to mankind.
Follow Craig Considine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ToBeCraig
No other leader in world history has been more scrutinized and ridiculed than Prophet Muhammad. Since the founding of Islam in 632 AD, Christians and Jews have described the Prophet of Allah as a blasphemer, bigot, terrorist, and pedophile, among other slurs. However, according to a new book The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World (published by Angelico Press, 2013), these accusations are found to be dishonest, prejudiced, and not based on sound scholarship.
Dr. John Andrew Morrow, author of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, is a scholar who received his PhD from the University of Toronto and completed the full cycle of Islamic seminary studies. He was raised in a multilingual family in Montreal and Toronto, Canada. Morrow is also a Native North American of the Metis nation and proudly identifies himself as an “Aboriginal Person.”
In his book, Morrow applies a documentary analysis of textual and historical research to the covenants created by Muhammad. Notable American poet, Charles Upton, notes in the foreword that these documents — letters, covenants, treaties — which Morrow accesses “have largely been neglected by both traditional Muslim and modern western scholarship, and are practically unknown to the mass of believers.” In reviewing Muslim, Christian, and secular documentary sources, Morrow’s study of the covenants of the Prophet brings “out their light in this period of darkness in which the People of Scripture, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, have strayed from their sacred traditions of tolerance and co-existence.”
The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad provides a detailed account of Muhammad’s character and conduct as seen through his lifelong encounters with Christian hermits, monks, priests, and communities. Morrow states that these experiences confirm that Muhammad had “confidence in his ability to count on the spiritual solidarity of the People of the Book,” or members of the Abrahamic tradition. Morrow also affirmed that Muhammad “had much more in common with the followers of Christ than with the idol-worshippers who surrounded him.”
In 2003, Nelson Mandela visited Ireland when we hosted the Special Olympics.
As part of his visit, he travelled to NUI Galway to receive an honorary degree.
The Corrs played at an event after the ceremony. Nelson Mandela was, quite literally, first on the dancefloor.
He rolled out his trademark dance – known as the Madiba Jive – for those in attendance.
Nelson Mandela, the South African liberator of hearts and minds, has passed away to his Creator. What inspires me most about his life is his capacity to forgive:
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Few human beings in history have embodied this Christian principle of forgiveness better than Nelson Mandela.
May he rest in peace.
News of the beautiful and awe-inspiring Hagia Sophia, or “Holy Wisdom,” turning into an active mosque is a tricky situation for political and cultural reasons, as Religion News Services reports (via Huffington Post).
Christians and other minorities may see the Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque as a challenge to Turkey’s secular-republican origin, whereas Muslims may see the emergence of a space for prayer as an affirmation of the Islamic faith of the majority of Turks.
Personally, I believe it should stay in its current state – a secular museum. However, I am not necessarily opposed to the Hagia Sophia turning into a mosque, so long as it is also turned into a church! That would be a most powerful example of interfaith coexistence – Muslims and Christians standing side-by-side, in the same building, in reverence to the Almighty.
I visited Hagia Sophia in 2011. As you can imagine, it left a lasting impression on me.
A letter recently mailed to mosques throughout Ireland has raised alarm for its racist tone and incitement of violence against Irish Muslims. The letter suggested that Irish people were willing to kill Muslims in order to prevent the “Islamization” of Ireland. The letter also suggested that Irish Muslims have not – and are not interested in – integrating into Irish society.
Academic literature carried out on Islam in Ireland, however, suggests that Irish Muslims have integrated into Irish society. A brief overview of several academic studies can debunk the myth that Irish Muslims are a “threat” to Irish society.
In 2006, Kieran Flynn wrote an article which reported that the experience of Muslims in Ireland has been a largely positive one. In addition to Flynn, Oliver Scharbrodt, currently a lecturer at University College Cork, has produced several articles on Irish Muslims, one of which looked at a particular Shi’a Muslim community in Dublin of largely Pakistani descent. Scharbrodt concluded that this group practices a “moderate Islam” and have integrated themselves into their surrounding neighborhoods.
My own PhD research into the experiences of first- and second-generation Pakistani men in Dublin also supports the claim that Muslims have largely integrated into Ireland. For the last few years I have met and interviewed Pakistanis of all kinds of backgrounds to document how they are negotiating their cultural, religious, and national identities.
One of my participants, who was born and raised in Dublin, can speak the Irish language fluently and attended one of Dublin’s major universities. Several of my immigrant participants have actively taken steps to ensure that they are integrating and not isolating themselves from other communities. Some of these immigrant participants have attended mass at churches with their Catholic colleagues and visited pubs with their friends to watch football or rugby matches.
In one of my interviews, a second-generation Pakistani man, who claims to be a Sufi Muslim, told me about how he admires Irish mysticism, as it closely resembles his own spiritual beliefs as a Muslim. During our interview, he compared Saint Patrick’s spiritual power in uplifting the hearts and minds of the Irish, who were at the time without God, to the Prophet Muhammad, who also enlightened his people – the Arabs – in a similar way.
During a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in March 2013, I attended a zhikr, an Islamic devotional act and form of prayer usually conducted by Sufis. In the middle of the prayer circle was a bright light, and over that bright light was an Irish flag that lit up the room in a faint green and orange color. The combination of the light and the Irish flag was, for me, a symbol of the synthesis between Irish pride and Muslim piety.
Next week I will be traveling to Blanchardstown to meet my friend Sheikh Muhammad Umar al-Qadri, who also encourages Irish Muslims to integrate into Irish society. We are working on some ideas on ways to improve relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Ireland.
The disturbing and threatening letter sent to Irish Muslims is full of baseless claims that have little support in academic literature. Academic studies, and not random letters based in ignorance and racism, should set the standard for the discourse surrounding Islam and Muslims in Ireland.
- Irish Muslims targeted in ‘hate mail’ campaign (muslimireland.wordpress.com)
Here are a few messages which Pope Francis relayed to students from Rome’s universities:
“You must live, not just exist… Please don’t look at life from the sidelines, accept challenges… You must not be spectators but protagonists…
Don’t be mediocre, bored or like everyone else… You can’t live without facing challenges… Don’t stand on the sidelines; fight for dignity and against poverty…
Thoughts are fertile when they are in expression of an open mind that is able to discern, always illuminated by the truth, the good and beauty: if you do not allow yourselves to be conditioned by what everyone else thinks… you will find the courage to go against the current…
Plurality of thought and individuality reflects God’s multifaceted wisdom when it approaches the truth with honesty and intellectual rigour, so that each person can be a gift to others.”
Source: Vatican Insider
Catholic Online, a leading news source for Catholics in the US and abroad, recently created the headline “Obama orders closure of Vatican Embassy.” This headline is misleading, overtly political, and even dangerous as it helps reproduce the myths that President Obama is anti-Catholic and that he is also a Muslim.
Catholic Online forgot this quintessential point in their headline: President Obama has not shut down the US government’s diplomatic connection to the Vatican. The US State Department has decided to simply relocate the Embassy, which will be moved to a US government compound that also holds the US Embassy Rome and the US Mission to UN Agencies in Rome.
Catholic Online’s careless headline, however, led to a ration of outrageous comments on their Facebook page.
Catholic Online users suggest that President Obama is “satan” and thus the “anti-Christ.” Users such as Joan see his move as a “war on Catholicism.” Darla Moser thinks President Obama’s should be impeached. Of course all of these comments have been made by readers who thought that President Obama has completely shut down the US’s diplomatic presence to the Pope.
Other comments on Catholic Online’s Facebook page were equally troubling:
Cynthia Jessup insinuates that President Obama’s decision is grounds for his assassination. Reading her comment makes one wonder if she would have any sympathy if he was indeed murdered. We also see several other Facebook users calling him the “anti-Christ.”
The Facebook comments in the image above continue with the theme that President Obama is “satan like” and thus the “anti-Christ.” However, these comments differ from the comments in the previous two images as they suggest that President Obama has “closed” the US Embassy at the Vatican because he is a Muslim.
Misttina Brownfield claims that President Obama only cares about Muslims. Ray Makusiewicz believes that the President is deliberately acting against Catholics and for Muslims. The on-going myth that President Obama is a Muslim simply will not go away even though he has repeatedly told the world that he is a Christian.
Catholic Online’s careless news headline helps reproduce the myth that Obama is conducting a deliberate war on Christianity. Beyond that, one can argue that the headline is not only careless, but also deliberate and outright lie.
Catholic Online should be a much more responsible news outlet. Fanning the flames of misunderstanding and anti-Obama rhetoric only helps sow more ignorance, division and hatred. One would think that as a Catholic news source, Catholic Online would be more interested in finding ways to ferment knowledge, understanding and peace. It appears that it has a long way to go in behaving in the spirit of Jesus Christ.
Follow Craig Considine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ToBeCraig
Trinity College Dublin‘s (TCD) Sociology Society (SocSoc) has invited me to speak tonight at 7pm in the Graduate Students Union Room on TCD’s campus. The speech will include a discussion on three topics: 1) my research into Islam; 2) my articles for the Huffington Post; and 3) my experience with Journey into America. The key issue running through these three issues is my interest in interfaith activism. I will also include a few words on a forthcoming project for summer 2014. Hope to see you there. The Facebook link can be found here.
By Craig Considine
Today’s far-right parties in Europe, such as the National Front in France and the Party for Freedom in Holland, are surging in popularity and calling for legal bans on veils, mosques, minarets, sha’ria, and even the outright expulsion of Muslims from the continent. In short, the far-right perceives Muslims as “inassimilable” and their religion as “evil” and “backward.”
Ironically, however, Muslims have a rich history of harmony, justice, and compassion for humanity. These historical facts raise the question of whether Europe’s far-right parties should look to Muslim history for direction and guidance in their approach to handling minority communities.
Prophet Muhammad set the precedent for Muslims in regards to tolerance in the Constitution of Medina, one of history’s first legal documents to safeguard human rights. Also called the Medina Charter, Prophet Muhammad’s Constitution provided equal rights to non-Muslims living under an Islamic government around the year 622. According to the Constitution, “Strangers” in Muhammad’s Muslim society were to be treated with special consideration and “on the same ground as [Muslims].”
Six years after creating the Medina Constitution, Muhammad sent a letter to Christian monks at St. Catherine’s in the Sinai, Egypt, to show his desire to protect vulnerable religious communities. In the letter, Muhammad offered the Christians peace and called on his fellow Muslims to “defend [Christians], because Christians are my citizens.” Muhammad’s letter to the Christian monks also includes advice on how Christian judges are not to be removed from their offices, nor are the monks to be forced out of their monasteries. “No one is to destroy a house of their religion,” Muhammad stated, “or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.” He added: “Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.”
On Mount Arafat in 632 AD, Muhammad left another “charter” for human rights. In his “Final Sermon,” he claimed that “an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab… a white person has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” The Final Sermon shows how Muhammad had great care for all people, regardless of their ethnic composition, and that diversity should be celebrated instead of eradicated from society.
Other Muslims leaders, such as Caliph Umar, advised his predecessors “to treat ahl al-dhimmah (Jews and Christians) well, to defend them against their enemies and not burden them with more than they can bear.” Umar also stated: “Treat all people as equal… I advise you not to let yourself or anyone else do wrong to ahl al-dhimmah.” Umar was following in Muhammad’s footsteps in treating Jews and Christians as equal to Muslims.
Abu Bakr, one of Muhammad’s trusted advisors, is also on record stating that “the most important foundation of a truly Muslim country is justice and equality for all. In fact, a country that is bereft of justice and equality, though it may be inhabited by Muslims, is not really a Muslim country at all.”
Another Muslim leader, Akbar the Great of the Mughal Empire, would echo Muhammad, Umar, and Abu Bakr’s message of tolerance and harmony centuries later. Upon assuming power, Akbar ended the jizya, or poll tax, on non-Muslims and invited people of all religious backgrounds to his court to engage in interfaith dialogue.
Moreover, Akbar had tremendous respect for Christianity, visible in the Buland Darwaze, a large gate-structure at the city of Fatehpur Sikri, on which he had transcribed the Qur’anic inscription: “Isa [Jesus], son of Mary, said: This world is a bridge. Pass over it, but build no houses on it. He who hopes for an hour may hope for eternity. The world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen.” Rumi, the famous Sufi poet of the 13th century, also revered Jesus and extended his hand in friendship to non-Muslims. Rumi’s most powerful words echo love and peace to all regardless of ethnic background:
I am neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim
I am not of the East, nor of the West…
I have put duality away, I have seen the two worlds as one;
One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call
(Divan-I Shams-I Tabriz, II)
Members of Europe’s far-right parties can look to these great Muslim leaders for guidance in how to treat Muslims in their societies. However, Europeans today can also look to the example on their continent – Muslim Spain, between the 8th and 15th centuries – when Muslims ruled a diverse society of Jews and Christians in a relative state of harmony, which was utterly unthinkable in other Christian European cities such as London or Paris.
Muslim Spain reached a state of tolerance which has its very own name - convívencía – which can literally be translated as “living with-ness,” or “requiring tolerance.” Perhaps its time for Europeans to adopt a 21st century style convívencía so they can come to grips with what Muslims and Islam can offer to European society.
Follow Craig Considine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ToBeCraig
Scriptural literalism in any religious tradition blatantly denies cold-hard facts such as evolution and encourages naive absolutism in the face of scientific inquiry, among other issues. Interpreting the Bible literally as Gohmert encourages is a major “red flag” and a worrying sign of Christian radicalization in the U.S. Congress.
The founding fathers did not intend for the U.S. to be a Christian theocracy. The First Amendment prohibits the making of any law on establishing a certain religion as the religion of the State.
America is not and never will be a “Christian nation.” The population of the country included Jews and Muslims in the 18th century and today is increasingly diverse and home to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Scientologists, atheists, agnostics, and so on.
The Christian “God” is not written into the U.S. Constitution. Although most of the founding fathers believed in God, they deliberately left this word out of the text due to their suspicion that religious fanatics would try and turn the U.S. into a fundamentalist state.
Gohmert’s request that Americans vote on foreign policy matters through a radical Christian lens also contradicts Emerson v. Board of Education (1947), the Supreme Court case which drew on Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state.”
Gohmert wants to bring Americans back to the 17th century, a period in which radical Christians from Europe invaded and dominated North America and instilled a stifling and ruthless form of Christianity based on a literalist interpretation of the Bible.
Radical Christians of Massachusetts Bay Colony attacked everything in their path, from Native American communities to the environment. They also condoned enslaving blacks and treating women as second-rate human beings. Catholics, Jews, and Muslims were also despised. All of this was based on a literalist interpretation of the Bible.
Are these the kind of thinkers we really want making our laws on Capitol Hill?
Follow Craig Considine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ToBeCraig
Racial harassment, discrimination, and violence against Pakistanis in Dublin has spiraled out of control. Last week, Al-Minnah Foods, a halal food store in Cookstown Industrial Estate, was ransacked at night. Images of the ransacking, which were posted on Facebook, show graffiti, including the words ‘Pakis out’ and ‘Niggrs out’, on white walls in the store. The owner of the store stated that the criminals ‘destroyed everything’, including food, fridges, and fittings. The burglars even stole the hard drive to the CCTV system so they could not be tracked.
This incident in Tallaght is the latest in an on-going string of attacks on Pakistanis in Ireland. In June 2013, for example, a Dublin teenager was spared a criminal conviction for his role in what the Irish Independent described as a ‘vicious attack’ on a Pakistani man, whose face was beaten with a metal pole and a rake (Irish Independent, 14 June 2013). The Dublin Children’s Court, which heard the teenager’s case, suspected the attack was a ‘racially motivated incident’.
In a similar incident in April 2013, a 15-year-old Dublin boy was convicted of a violent robbery of a fast-food delivery Pakistani man. Judge John O’Connor at Dublin Children’s Court described the event as a ‘racially motivated’ crime (Irish Independent, 17 April 2013). According to the Independent, the boy called the Pakistani man a ‘bastard’ and demanded that he hand over his money and phone. The Pakistani man ‘was thinking they were going to kill me if I [did] not’. In a statement to the Gardai, the boy claimed that he did not have anything against ‘foreigners’, but also added that ‘they all look the same to me’.
In January 2012, the Irish Times published an article about Dr Syed Kamra Haider Bukhari, a Pakistani psychologist working in Ireland, who claimed to be racially abused and physically assaulted by a women in a County Louth nightclub (Irish Times, 4 January 2012). Dr Bukhari claimed that security men at the door of the club laughed at him when he complained. Bukhari told the Irish Times: ‘I think and feel like I have no rights in this so-called civilized world, when I am putting my heart and soul into my work and serving this nation’. He added that the incident at the nightclub was not the first time he was racially abused in Ireland.
These are not random, isolated incidents. My own Ph.D. research in the Department of Sociology at Trinity College has uncovered many cases of racism amongst first- and second-generation Pakistani men.
Based in interviews and participant observation, I have found that many of the participants claimed to have been physically abused, harassed, and discriminated against whilst walking down the street, searching for employment, and in acquiring Irish citizenship.
The Irish are known worldwide for their warmth, generosity, and hospitality. I have witnessed this hospitality first hand not only in Dublin, but around the entire island. However, there seems to be a growing trend of racial harassment, discrimination, and violence against Pakistanis. Let us all strive to make these assumptions about the Irish a reality here in Ireland by standing up and putting a stop to racism.
Far-right Eurosceptic politicians Marie Le Pen (French National Front (FNF) and Geert Wilders (Party for Freedom (PVV) – Holland) met yesterday in The Hague to launch what they have described as a “historic alliance” in Europe.
Le Pen and Wilders’s alliance encourages ethno-nationalism, anti-immigration policies, anti-Islam fervor, and rejection of European integration.
The FNF and FP are also likely to join up with other far-right European parties such as Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe), True Finns Party, Italy’s Northern League, Vlaams Beland in Belgium, the Sweden Democrats and the Danish People’s Party.
Le Pena and Wilders are notorious racists. Le Pen has turned her party’s anger toward what she calls the “Islamization” of France. Wilders has called for a halt to building mosques in the Netherlands and for a ban on the Quran.
According to investigators, intruders made their way into the Tallaght property between closing time on 2 November and opening on 3 November. An unknown quantity of items were taken, the place was ransacked and property damaged, a garda spokesperson told TheJournal.ie.
Director of the Al-Minnah Foods outlet, Mohammed Djellal, says food, fridges and fittings were all destroyed in the incident.
Speaking to Niall Boylan on Classic Hits 4FM last night, the young man who is originally from Algeria described the robbery as a “disaster”.
Everything was everywhere. I just can’t understand it. They destroyed everything. Food, fridges and fittings. They also stole the hard drive to the CCTV system.
He said that he dealt with racial abuse being shouted at him previously but never to the level of the words scrawled on the walls of the establishment which he runs with his uncle Abu Abdallah.
Images: Muslimsisterofeire Eire
As a postgraduate student at the University of London – Royal Holloway, I came across a book in 2007 that I would never forget. The book, authored by Samuel Huntington, the former Harvard scholar who helped develop the “clash of civilizations,” is called Who Are We: The Challenge to America’s National Identity (2004).
Huntington’s argument is controversial. American identity, in his mind, stems from Anglo-Protestant culture, with the defining features of the English language, religious commitment, English concepts of rule and law, and the rights of individuals. However, what really caught my attention about Huntington’s book was his singling out of Hispanic immigrants – Mexicans in particular – because, he argued, they have not been assimilating into American culture. Huntington blamed their “dissimilation” on their Spanish language, Catholic practices, and communal lifestyles.
I ended up critiquing Huntington’s ethnocentric argument in my Masters thesis by focusing on the socioeconomic conditions of first- and second-generation Mexicans in the Southwest U.S.
For better or worse, Who Are We? has recently reentered my mind. My Ph.D thesis – “Assisting and Resisting the Racial State – Experiences of Young Pakistani Men in Dublin and Boston” – is exploring how the Irish and American racial states impact the lives of first- and second-generation men of Pakistani descent.
Early in my thesis, I dedicate two sections to the nature of the Irish and American racial states. Ireland’s racial state, ironically, has elements which directly oppose Huntington’s synopsis of American identity. Where Irish identity is often defined by Gaelic culture, Catholicism, and communalism, American identity is often linked to its opposite: Anglo-Saxon culture, Protestantism, and individualism.
My argument is that young men of Pakistani descent are assimilating, but also resisting assimilation, thus creating new expressions of “Irishness” and “Americanness.”
Though I do not agree with Huntington’s ideas behind American identity, I do give him credit for getting me to think about issues pertaining to ethnicity and nationalism, among other subjects.
Source: NCR Editorial Staff
Long overdue in the American church is a reasoned and deep discussion of U.S. militarism, the proper use of force, the state’s responsibility to protect and defend, and the role of people of faith in all of this. To this point, Catholic teaching has had little effect in distinguishing us from any other segment of society when it comes to participation in wars and militarism.
Shouldn’t young Catholics, instead of hearing rousing support for the military from their pulpits and parish bulletins, be told that the nonviolent Christ and his command to love enemies might pose an obstacle to a military career?
By John Feffer
Pope Benedict caused a stir in 2006 when he quoted a Byzantine emperor’s unflattering description of Mohammed’s legacy as “evil and inhuman.” He subsequently apologized, but his views of Islam remained rather medieval. Pope Francis, by contrast, has immediately sought to repair ties with the world of Islam. As Akbar Ahmed and Craig Considine have written in The Washington Post, “Before an audience of ambassadors from 180 countries, he explained how he wanted to work for peace and bridge-building between peoples. Muslims and Catholics, he claimed, needed to intensify their dialogue. Positive shockwaves were sent into Muslim-Catholic circles, and Muslim scholars and religious institutions around the world welcomed Pope Francis’s election.”
Pope Francis has sent letters to major Muslim figures, such as the top imam of the University of Al-Azhar, as well as a message to all Muslims to mark the end of Ramadan. In 1076, Pope Gregory VII sent a similar message to the emir of Mauretania that emphasized the common roots of Islam and Christianity. Twenty years later, that same pope provided the ideological underpinning of the First Crusade.
- On Faith – Salam and salutation to Pope Francis (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
- Pope Francis marks Lampedusa as center of ‘globalization of indifference’ (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
The Basilica of Gethsemane, also known as the Church of All Nations, has been restored back to its original splendor by a group of young Palestinians, five of which are Muslim.
The Custody of the Holy Land, the Franciscan group responsible for the restoration, could have given the project to foreign experts but they chose Palestinians who work at the Mosaic Centre in Jericho.
Gethsemane, which rests on the Mount of Olives, is reputed to be the site where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before his crucifixion and where Jesus was captured by the Roman soldiers on the fateful night of his arrest.
Read more at Vatican Insider
Source: Huffington Post
By Craig Considine
Maimonides did not think it was healthy for the soul to have “unbounded desires” which “is never stated with pursuing passions.” Referencing Jewish Holy Scripture (Koheles 5:9) he argued in The Guide that a person who has a covetous soul “will not be sated with all the wealth of the world.” Maimonides’ thought mirrors Rumi, the Sufi poet who wrote later in the 13th century that those who know “the value of every article of merchandise… don’t know the value of [their] own soul, it’s all foolishness.” Maimonides and Rumi encouraged people to move beyond materialism. Instead they wanted people to live generous and compassionate lives.
Maimonides’ passion for knowledge and his willingness to join ideas from other cultures into his philosophy serves as an important reminder and useful tool in building bridges of intercultural understanding. Instead of focusing on cultural differences, he worked to find areas of common ground. In this light Maimonides’ life is an example of how people living in diverse societies can work together to build stronger communities.
Maimonides’ legacy reminds us of the great Jewish saying of tikkun olam, “to heal a fractured world.” In searching outside the realm of his own cultural tradition for wisdom, Maimonides showed us how we can build on our commonalities through a process of mixing. His life is proof that people of various backgrounds can break down walls which divide us upon our differences.
Source: Electronic Intifada
By Ali Abunimah
Despite the government having fairly clear definitions of what constitutes an act of “terrorism,” the terms “terrorist” or “terrorism” are used not to describe actions but to label people.
It is clear these are racialized terms, applied in a discriminatory way to people perceived as Muslim, Arab or nonwhite. And as such they are terms that stigmatize entire groups of people and to justify the government’s increasingly unaccountable power.
As a proud Catholic American from Boston, Massachusetts, I recently participated in a debate hosted by the University College Dublin Law Society, one of the largest and most prestigious student societies in Europe. The proposition of the debate was “This House Believes That Islam is a Threat to the West.”
Arguing against this proposition, I started my speech in the crowded Gareth Fitzgerald Debating Chamber by sharing some of my own personal experiences with Muslim Americans in the United States. I did so in the hope of showing how real-life experiences can help dispel stereotypes, mainly the claim that Islamic values are antithetical to Western values.
At the core of my speech was Professor Akbar Ahmed’s “Journey into America,” an unprecedented anthropological study I took part in between 2008 and 2009. For one year, we traveled to over 100 cities and 75 mosques across the United States. Our purpose was to understand American identity through the lens of Muslims. Culminating from this study was the documentary feature film “Journey into America” (2009) and book Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam (2010).
As the last of eight speakers, I had a unique angle as a non-Muslim that had conducted extensive fieldwork in Muslim communities. I immediately brought up the audience to our research methods of Journey into America, which were face-to-face human interactions and actual anthropology. I wanted to stress to members of the audience – and to the debaters on the side of the proposition especially – the importance of meeting Muslims in their homes, places of worship, schools, and businesses before rushing to judge their religion.
After introducing Journey into America, I could tell the audience was locked into my words, particularly as I started talking about Colonel Martinez of the United States Army, who in 2009 invited Professor Ahmed and I to Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery, the graveyard of Americans who have died in war. He brought us to the gravestones of several Muslim American soldiers who died during the post-9/11wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Members of the audience – most of whom were non-American Muslims – had shocked looks on their faces. I had the feeling that they had never heard of this kind of story coming from America, a nation who is believed by some Muslims worldwide as conducting a full-out war on Islam.
Emotions were heightened in the Fitzgerald chamber when I explained my own feelings while standing at the final resting place of Muslim Americans whose religion, Islam, is vilified worldwide by non-Muslims. I found, and still find, that this assertion is ironic considering that Muslim Americans have actually given their own lives for my country.
At this point in my speech I deliberately paused to let the story of the Muslim gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery sink into the hearts of the audience. I then posed the following question: How can Islam be a threat to the West if Muslims, who practice Islam, are fighting to protect non-Muslims against the enemies of Western governments?
The crowd was silent. Nobody moved.
This question caught the audience’s attention as it shattered the stereotype that Islam and the West are at odds and inherently incompatible.
Muslim Americans, I added, are not only protecting their fellow Americans abroad, they are also supporting non-Muslim Americans like myself at home.
The second story I discussed in my speech summarized our visit to Los Angeles, in which the Journey into America team attended a film event at a Pakistani American’s home. Before the event started I was speaking to the mayor of a local city. Suddenly, I became very ill. I was not breathing normally. I was nauseous. My throat closed-up and the rest of my body started breaking out in hives.
I was having a severe allergic reaction to peanuts.
Luckily for me, there were numerous Muslim American doctors and physicians at the party. These Muslim men and women immediately rushed to my care. A handful of them sat by my bedside, while others called the medics to rush me to the hospital.
Fortunately, I survived this scary incident.
I explained to the Fitzgerald chamber how I cannot and will not ever forget the care that I had and the security that I felt in the hands of my fellow Muslim American citizens. I shared my feelings with the audience in an effort to humanize Muslims, a portrayal hardly seen in the media, which focuses its coverage of Islam on societal disorder and violence.
At this point in my speech I posed another thought-provoking question to the audience: Are the Muslim Americans that cared for me during this life-threatening incident a threat to the West because they too follow Islam?
Islam, I told the chamber, is not a monolith. A monolith, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, means solid, uniformed, or fixed.
In essence, by carelessly clumping all Muslims into one Islamic group, the proposition of the debate suggested that Rumi, the 13th century Sufi poet who spoke of peace and love and wrote poems about Jesus, is a threat to “the West” because he follows Islam. According to the terminology of our proposition, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist, is also a threat to “the West” because she follows Islam.
Think about how ridiculous that sounds.
Muslims, I suggested, might be Sufis, Shiites, Alawites, Sunnis, Salafis, Wahhabis, and so on, and so forth. There are, indeed, even differences within these groups.
If you look closely, I explained, the idea that Islam is a threat to the West forces us to deal with the term “Islam,” in the singular sense, as a monolith.
“Islam” as a monolith cannot be a threat to “the West” because Islam, as a monolithic entity, does not and cannot ever exist.
My very last words encouraged all those in attendance to go out and meet Muslims in their homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship. I was privileged to participate in Journey into America and look forward to Akbar Ahmed’s forthcoming “Journey into Europe,” but others who do not have these opportunities may form prejudices.
Knowledge and education are the most important elements of understanding each other. What we need is more face-to-face contact and dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims so as to eliminate prejudice and racism.
By Craig Considine
In his recent article, Sam Harris, a popular critic of Islam, referred to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist, as “the best thing to come out of the Muslim world in 1,000 years.” Hidden in this comment is the idea that Malala’s fellow Muslims are backward and that her religion, Islam, is not conducive to change or progress.
Conversely to the beliefs of Harris and others like him, Muslims have actually made enormous contributions to civilization, perhaps due to the heavy emphasis that Islam places on knowledge. People who forget or blatantly ignore major trends or events in world history can be said to suffer from “historical amnesia.” Though this mindset cannot be cured in one short blog post, I hope to dispel some of the stereotypes and misperceptions exacerbated by Harris and other anti-Islam activists by highlighting the contributions that Muslims have made to civilization over the years.
Source: Catholic News Service
By Carol Glatz
Money by itself isn’t a problem, but greed and an attachment to money cause evil and destroy families and relationships, Pope Francis said.
“Money is needed to bring about many good things,” he said in his morning Mass homily Oct. 21, “but when your heart is attached (to money), it destroys you.”
“How many destroyed families have we seen because of money problems, sibling against sibling, father against child,” he said during the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, according to Vatican Radio.
“When a person is attached to money, he destroys himself, destroys the family” and destroys relationships, he said.
Source: Vatican Insider
“I am in awe at everything Francis is doing: I believe his pontificate gives not just the Catholic Church but the entire humanity a chance.” This is according to Polish-born sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, who coined the phrase “liquid modernity”.
In an interview with Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Bauman said “Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s rejection of legalism and the ability he has to touch people’s hearts are reminiscent of John XXIII.” “The current Pope has shown a fearless attitude: I’m thinking of what he did in Lampedusa and what he said about the outcasts of our globalised world,” Bauman said.
“Francis speaks to the spirituality of our times: followers of the “personal God” are not particularly interested in the moral prescriptions given by representatives of religious institutions but want to find a meaning to their fragmented individual existences. They are still awaiting for the Evangel, the original term for “good news””.