The following is the continuation of the discussion with Andrew C. McCarthy on the distinction between Islam and radical Jihadist terrorist “Islam.” It is based on only the beginning of a reading of the Quran, though we are sure all who can read will see immediately that to merely scratch the surface is enough to refute the arguments of Abdul Rahman and Andrew C. McCarthy, if these are held to pertain not just to the doctrines of ISIS and Al-Quaeda, but also to the true teachings of Islam.
While Mr. McCarthy, like the average Muslim, does not wish to argue Muslim theology with a “doctor of Islamic jurisprudence” whose area of expertise is Sharia law, we, of course, are not frightened off by such a challenge, here on this day we call Holy Saturday, the celebration of the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection, during which Jesus is held to have addressed the souls that had died previous to his advent.
The main question is the truth of the teaching of Rahman that “Allah enjoined all Muslims to wage jihad until Islamic law was established throughout the world.” Without quoting the Quran, McCarthy writes: “The scriptures backed him up.” And “when he said Islam directed Muslims not to take Jews and Christians as their friends, the scriptures backed him up.” I am reminded of the strange teaching in the Twelfth Book of Plato’s Laws, that seems to say: “Everyone is to consider the same person a friend or enemy as the city does, and if someone should make peace or war with certain parties in private, apart from the community, the penalty is to be death in this case too” (955b-c). But there are many teachings in Plato’s Laws that are a bit strange, perhaps, to Jeffersonian modernity. But let this be as it is, a related question is whether the adherents of Islam are willing to allow the Jews and Christians, if not even the faithless, to continue to exist. For, as we think, even these and worse might one day live long enough to become faithful. If Islam will allow the Christians and the Jews to exist and admit the Jews as neighbors, Islam may be admitted to a free society, and some Islamic nations might be admitted to the free society of nations. If not: if Islam follows the teaching of Rahman about its own character or nature; if it insists upon subjecting and forbidding all others, Islam may of course not be admitted into the free society. Peace will be impossible if the leaders- as for example the elected Hamas leadership of the Palestinians- insist upon and choose war. Apparently, one cannot always choose peace, because another may choose war, and one then has apparently no alternative but to beat them in the contest. At present, the preaching of New Testament Christianity is forbidden in nations governed by any version of Islamic law, so that one suspects that persecution and martyrdom would follow any Islamic conquest.
But Let us begin a reading of the Quran, as is still possible, if occasionally risky, here in the free West. We have just begin the study, and so have just the first few chapters in any context. Still, we can assume that the rest must cohere, as blatant contradiction is not usually allowed in a holy text. We treat the text itself as well as the physical book and the translation with the respect due to a holy scripture, again at least out of respect and gratitude for the folks who provided this free, authoritative translation.
Mohammed himself would not blame us if we reject the teaching of Mr. Rahman. At 2.256, the text reads:
Let there be no force (compulsion) in religion: Sturdy truth stands clear from error; Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has held the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks.
Is it possible that the first teaching of the freedom of religion is Islamic? This reminds one of the John Stewart Mill teaching that truth can fend for itself. We also have Constantine, in the quickly obscurred edict of toleration, Roger Williams and the early Baptist teaching, but this is astonishing for the Seventh Century.
From a brief reading of the first and second chapters of the Quran, it soon becomes clear that there is a bit of irony in the saying that “there is no God but Allah.” “Allah” is the God of Abraham, the very same as the God of Israel, the God of the Jews and Christians. 2.139 reads :
He is our Lord, and your Lord: That we are responsible for our doings, and you for yours.
Indeed, as we have said, Mohammed brought the belief in one God to the Arabs, who prior to this were “pagan.” Ancient polytheism was often conjoined with human sacrifice and many strange and pointless sexual practices. It is for us a relique of a more ancient people, and spread even to America, though the wheel did not- and so we can guess that it is much older than 3000 B.C., or 5000 years ago. Plato’s Socrates, in the dialogue called Euthyphro, refutes the Greek poetic polytheism, as piety cannot be what is dear to the gods nor obedience to the will of the gods if there are many gods and these disagree, especially about fundamental matters. What is dear to or what is intended for us by Zeus may well be different from what is dear to or is intended by Hera. When Abraham “came forth from Ur of the Chaldeans,” he may well have emigrated because he had seen through the Sumerian polytheism. At any rate, it is likely that Abraham and not Ikhnaton was the world’s first monotheist, though we would have to work on these dates, beginning from Manetho and attempting the cross chronology between the Egyptian, the Sumerian and the Abrahimic. It is possible that Abraham picked up the belief in one God from Egypt during his sojourn there, or even, especially, from Melchizedek, King of Salem, who did the sacrament of bread and wine at Jerusalem before there were either Jews, Muslims or Christians, honoring “God Most High,” right there near Mount Moriah. He may have been a Shem-ite, and the teaching brought through the flood by Noah, who also taught that the reason for the law against murder is “…for God created man in his own image.” Hence the reason against worshiping statues, who are in fact lesser beings than the men who produced the artifacts, or even against many Gods, as the image of God in man is a single thing, male and female (Genesis 1:26). The Creation is not a begetting in the Bible. There is, however, a mystery of the bridal chamber, and the scripture, New Testament scripture, ends with the divine wedding. The begetting of the sons of God though the only begotten son is in the New Testament a begetting and not a creating (John 1:13-17, 3:4-10; Romans 6). Hence, we say that Nous, the eye of the soul, the light in the eyes or spark of the divine is distinct from the created faculty of reason, especially when this is serving the ends of the body. Monotheism, then, is Shem-etic, and Socrates too, discovering that nous is begotten (Republic 490) and looking to the image of God in man in legislation (Republic 501b), has an overwhelming tendency to speak of “the God” in the singular (Plato, Apology ), whenever he thinks he can get away with it.
“Islam” means simply “surrender to God and find peace,” though Mr. McCarthy did not get around to mentioning this in the confines of a brief Imprimis essay. Mr. McCarthy rather uses his one citation of the Quran in order to demonstrate that Islam is not a religion of peace. McCarthy writes:
“Fight those who believe not in Allah,” and fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war” are not peaceful injunctions, no matter how one contextualizes when he writes this.
Mr McCarthy depends upon the obvious misreading that “pagans” refers also to Jews and Christians. Again, the Abrahamic legislators are indeed quite violent in their opposition to both paganism and atheism, nor do we understand Moses in this regard. Any person characterized by any one of these epithets might in the future be one who finds the truth or is to find the true God. And so again we incline to the vow of Jefferson and the recognition that “it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket…” if another believes in this or that. An old professor, though, has suggested or indicated that the purpose of Moses and indeed of the Book of Genesis, whoever wrote this, or composed it orally, is to oppose, and then for Moses to wipe out idolatry. Ancient idolatry is again a thing involving the worship of statues and graven images, as an outside observer might even attribute to the Roman and Greek Christians when they house and even pray before statues of Jesus, Mary and the saints, though it is clear as day to us that no one is ever worshiping the statue. Perhaps, though it might appear this way to outsiders who do not follow the especially Greek and Biblical distinction between image and object. Ancient idolatry involved the abomination of human sacrifice, and where the ancient men who first devised this disadvantageous and superstitious practice is indeed a mystery, lost in the mists of time. But like the wheel, it is not something mankind is likely to have thought of twice. And so we can reason, for example, that the Aztecs and this practice came to the new world from Asia, quite some time before 3000 B.C. Modern paganism, too, is different, as this involves the explicit rejection of Christianity and the Biblical teaching, and so is tinged with the revenge of a defeated cult that is quite foreign to the innocent Homeric paganism simply followed by mortals lacking the genius of an Abraham or Socrates, required to think these things through and follow what is then revealed.
The difference, as Islam presents itself, is not in the identity of the Deity, but in the adherence to the God of Abraham as distinct from certain additions made by the Jews and especially the Christians, rather than additions made by Jesus. Abraham, it is said, “joined not Gods with Allah.” Hence, the appearance to Abraham as three men cannot be a prefiguration of the trinity of God as Father, God as Spirit, and the Son. To speak of the word of God or the Spirit of God cannot be both the same and yet different from God Himself.
Abraham was, of course, neither a Jew, an Israelite nor a Christian. Nor, we must add, was he an Ismaelite nor a Muslim in the sense of a follower of the Quran and accepter of Mohammed as the prophet of the Most High God. The beginning of the Quran presents Islam as pure Abraham, without certain later additions. But we too hold that Abraham and Moses are “saved,” though to account for this is a bit of a mystery, given certain other teachings. Melchizedek too, the King of Salem,, who did the sacrament of bread and wine with Abraham near Mount Moriah, if not on the very spot, may not have had the Eucharist, if he did not somehow receive baptism, as through the flood, when “eight persons were saved through water.” This, then, is a second argument for the equation of Melchizedek and Shem. That these are saved may mean indeed that “He laid down his life from the beginning of the creation,” and not only in about 0 B.C. / A.D. The way through death is always there for man in every age, though it would be a bit less manifest, more rare and more difficult to find for those like Abraham, Socrates, Melchizedek, Shem and Noah and Enoch, and perhaps Joseph, Job, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and so forth, Hosea, Zechariah.
It can surely be said, though, that according to the primary meaning of “Muslim,” Jews and Christians are “Muslims,” or followers of the faith. 2.143 reads that it is “righteousness:
To believe in Allah, and the last day, and the Book, and the messengers; to spend from your own wealth in spite of your love for it, for your kin, for orphans, for the weak, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves, to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity, to fulfill contracts which you have made; and to be firm and patient in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and through periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, those who fear Allah.
But it is in the belief or emphasis upon the Last Day that the Christians are especially to be considered to be followers of the faith, in contrast with the secular world and the atheistic political movements. One wonders how Islam could even consider Christians as such to be fundamental opponents, except that Mohammed rejects our subtle teaching regarding the divinity of Jesus. But the Quran even teaches that he- Jesus- will return, and in a way not usual for any other man. And so one might beg pardon for our difficulty in stating this paradoxical divinity in order to account for these trans-human characteristics of the messiah, not to mention that he is worshiped by the apostles, in the scripture, and this too is not fitting for any other man, Moses or Mohammed or anyone. Indeed, to kill for satirizing a man or abusing a physical, particular book may be idolatry. Notoriously, Moses was denied entry into the promised land because of an error regarding giving to God the credit for the water flowing out of the rock, apparently in a moment when the lightening was not permanently on for him as Maimonides says, but must have flashed just a bit. 2.62 reads:
Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who are Jews, and the Christians and the Sabeans- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and with righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; On them there shall be no fear, and they shall not grieve-
And again, at 3.52, it is clear that Mohammed himself considers Christians, namely the Apostles themselves, to be Muslims:
When Isa (jesus) found disbelief on their part, he said: Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?” The disciples said, “We are Allah’s helpers: we believe in Allah, and do you bear witness that we are Muslims.
Again, a Muslim is what? A follower of the faith, and Mohammed had not yet been born when the disciples were Muslims.
And so indeed it can be said that Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Rahman are simply in error to collapse the distinction between the terrorists radical Islam, Islamic jihad and such on one hand and traditional Islam on the other. The teaching of Mohammed is (2.190):
Fight in Allah’s causes, but do not transgress the limits: Allah does not love those who exceed the rightful limits.
Islamic jihad or holy war as we now have it is simply contrary to Islam, and forbidden as a form of murder. This is so, we dare to say, despite anything Mr. Dr. Rahman might say to the contrary. Islam in fact does mean “surrender to God and find peace,” as we hope will be the case for those influenced by these false teachings to strike the Christians and the Jews as though they were pagans and infidels, or those who believe there is no God. Any Muslim in true submission and following the way of Islam, then, will join decent persons everywhere is stopping and dissolving the strange new form of Western totalitarianism that has usurped true Islam, and as George Bush even said, “hijacked the faith.”