In Reply to the Pope
In the Name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
The subject of our discussion today is the lecture delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to the academic audience at the University of Regensburg on Thursday, September 12, 2006, in which he stated: “Not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature.” And: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find only things bad and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
Facts before starting the reply:
Before studying the words of the Pope from the Islamic point of view, I would like to present the following facts to you:
1. In Islam the argument is to be carried out in a way that is best:
The Islamic teachings, derived from the Noble Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, prevent us from arguing with the People of the Scripture except in the best manner. Therefore, I shall adhere to the excellent conduct of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, demonstrated, for example, in his message to Caesar, the king of Rome, in which he said:
From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, to the great king of the Romans…
2. I never intend to vilify, but to clarify:
In a khutbah from the Great Umayyad Mosque I should never intend to vilify or defame a religious figure of the Western world, but to clarify and illustrate (the truth) because this is the task scholars are entrusted with. Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:
(“[Allah praises] those who convey the messages of Allah and fear Him and do not fear anyone but Allah. And sufficient is Allah as Accountant)
3. In our country Muslims and Christians coexist in peace and understanding:
In our country, Muslims and Christians live together in unparalleled understanding, coexistence and cooperation. Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:
(So as long as they are upright toward you, be upright toward them. Indeed, Allah loves the righteous [who fear Him])
4. Syrian Christians have expressed their great sorrow:
The Christians in our country have expressed their profound regret and their strong disapproval of the statements of the Head of the Vatican. Obviously, no-one can be blamed for others people’s mistakes and generalization indicates lack of insight. Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:
(And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another)
5. The Pope has regretted the repercussions of his words:
Many of the world’s media reported the official announcement by the Pope that he did not intend to offend Muslims and that he greatly regretted the severe repercussions of his words.
6. We completely reject any resort to violence:
In our country we utterly reject all resort to violence, because the emotional reaction (to such an insult) is as adverse as the action itself. Rather, an idea should be refuted by another idea, and a statement by another statement, a declaration by another declaration, a lecture by lecture, and a dialogue by a dialogue.
The source of Pope’s quotation:
Pope Benedict XVI quoted his statement from a book by the Byzantine emperor Manuel II, published in the nineteenth century. These words were false and unfair; not based on an objective study, but rather on an emotional personal impression, despite the fact that His Holiness holds a PhD in comparative religions and is surely acquainted with the reality of the Religion of Islam.
The seriousness of the papal speech:
The seriousness of the Pope’s speech lies in its being unconventional and unprecedented, in his having violated the principles of discourse and dialogue, in its incompatibility with the truth, the reality, and with the policy of his predecessor Pope John Paul II. Before this speech, we were of the opinion that the Supreme Pontiff is an authority, which refrains, more than any other in the West, from politicizing religion for the benefit of the powerful. We also thought that the highest religious authority would not provide religious justification for the brutal aggression led by the West against the Muslim world. Such statements can hardly be said to enhance peace in the world, nor the dialogue of civilizations, nor peaceful co-existence between religions.
It is not permissible:
We, Muslims, find it unacceptable that the person who holds the highest degree of religious leadership and enjoys the topmost religious position should lack the knowledge of the simplest academic facts about other religions, which would enable him to argue about them in the best possible manner.
As usual, the reaction in the Muslim world was that of condemnation, disapproval and demand for apology. I think that this attitude is not appropriate for the Muslim nation, more than one billion and five hundred million, who will be the witness over the people on the Judgment Day. Such claims should be insufficient for us. I consider that they rather diminish our value and lower the sanctity of our religion. Naturally, this does not mean resorting to violence. It implies taking upon ourselves refutation of an argument by an argument and of a piece of evidence by another piece of evidence, because it is not only our right, but also our duty. In fact, we have got used to hearing such unjust accusations of Islam –of its violence, extremism, fascism, terrorism– from minor writers and journalists, and we are bored with them, because whoever knows their real value will not be affected by what people say. Nevertheless, it is inconceivable that such an unfair charge should be made by the top political authority in the Western world and its highest religious reference.
Are the things brought by the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, bad?
The Pope quoted from an ignorant spiteful king who claimed that the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had brought only what is bad and inhumane. Is what follows, and what was brought by him, indeed bad and inhumane?
1. The marvelous notification of the virgin birth of ‘Isa (Jesus Christ), peace be upon him:
Are we to consider as a bad thing the news brought by Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, about the miraculous virgin birth of ‘Isa? Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:
(“Then she brought him (the baby) to her people, carrying him. They said: “O Mary! Indeed you have brought a thing Fariya (an unheard mighty thing)* “O sister (i.e. the like) of Harun (Aaron) [not the brother of Musa (Moses), but he was another pious man at the time of Maryam (Mary)]! Your father was not a man who used to commit adultery, nor was your mother an unchaste woman.”* Then she pointed to him. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?”* “He ['Isa (Jesus)] said: Verily! I am a slave of Allah, He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet;”* “And He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me Salat (prayer), and Zakat, as long as I live.”* “And dutiful to my mother, and made me not arrogant, unblest.*”And Salam (peace) be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!”)
2. The noble notification of ‘Isa’s outstanding personality:
Are we to consider as a bad thing the noble and friendly news brought by Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, concerning the great personality of ‘Isa? Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:
(“(Remember) when the angels said: “O Maryam (Mary)! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word ["Be!" - and he was! i.e. 'Iesa (Jesus) the son of Maryam (Mary)] from Him, his name will be the Messiah ‘Iesa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), held in honour in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah.”)
3. The notification of the miraculous Prophecy of ‘Isa and his Message:
Are we to consider as a bad thing the news brought by Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, concerning the miraculous nature of ‘Isa’s Prophecy and Message? Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:
(“(Remember) when Allah will say (on the Day of Resurrection).”O ‘Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary)! Remember My Favour to you and to your mother when I supported you with Ruh-ul-Qudus [Jibrael (Gabriel)] so that you spoke to the people in the cradle and in maturity; and when I taught you writing, Al-Hikmah (the power of understanding), the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel); and when you made out of the clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My Permission, and you breathed into it, and it became a bird by My Permission, and you healed those born blind, and the lepers by My Permission”)
4. The notification of the Gospel revealed by Allah to ‘Isa:
Are we to consider as a bad thing the notification of the Gospel which Allah revealed to ‘Isa? Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:
(“And in their footsteps, We sent ‘Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary) , confirming the Taurat (Torah) that had come before him, and We gave him the Injeel (Gospel), in which was guidance and light and confirmation of the Taurat (Torah) that had come before it, a guidance and an admonition for Al-Muttaqun (the pious)”)
5. Glorification of Mariam (Mary), the Mother of ‘Isa:
Are we to consider as bad things the glorification, in the Noble Qur’an, of Mariam, the Mother of ‘Isa, the defence of her reputation, the exaltation of her name and the firm declaration of her virginity? Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:
(“And (remember) when the angels said: “O Maryam (Mary)! Verily, Allah has chosen you, purified you (from polytheism and disbelief), and chosen you above the women of the ‘Alamin (mankind and jinns) (of her lifetime).”)
6. His description of some of the People of the Scripture as pious and righteous.
Are we to consider as a bad thing brought by Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, his description of some of the People of the Scripture as pious and righteous? Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:
(“Not all of them are alike; a party of the people of the Scripture stand for the right, they recite the Verses of Allah during the hours of the night, prostrating themselves in prayer * They believe in Allah and the Last Day; they enjoin Al-Ma’ruf (Islamic Monotheism, and following Prophet Muhammad) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and opposing Prophet Muhammad); and they hasten in (all) good works; and they are among the righteous”)
7. His declaration that the belief in ‘Isa, peace be upon him, is one of the pillars of Islam:
Are we to consider as a bad thing brought by Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, his statement that the belief in the Prophecy of ‘Isa, the son of Mariam, is one of the pillars of faith in Islam and a gateway to Paradise? The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said:
“Whoever bears witness that there is no god but Allah and that He has no partners; and that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger; and that ‘Isa, the son of Mariam, Allah’s female servant, is Allah’s Messenger, His Word and a Mercy from Him; and that Paradise is true and Hell is true, will enter Paradise from any of its eight gates.”
He also said:
“I am the supplication of my father Ibrahim (Abraham), the glad tidings of ‘Isa and the dream of my mother.”
8. Describing the relationship between the scholars of Islam and the clergy in Christianity as based on affection and appreciation.
Are we to consider as a bad thing brought by Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, his description of the relationship between the scholars of Islam and the clergy in Christianity, as based on affection and appreciation? Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:
(“And you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: “We are Christians.” That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.”)
Thus, what evil is to be found in justice, equity, perfection, beauty, and everything else brought by Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace? What a perverted mind and a fuzzy logic it must be that turns good into bad, perfection into defect, and glorifying ‘Isa, his mother and his religion into inhuman abuses!
What we wish that the Pope should have done:
We, Muslims, wish that the Pope, before quoting the words of a Byzantine emperor who was entirely ignorant of the status of the Prophets, should have done the following:
1. He should have looked into the book of the One Hundred Outstanding Men:
He should have looked into the book of the One Hundred Outstanding Men in human history, written in 1978 by the catholic astronomer and researcher Michael Hart. Hart was well-read in biographies of the great historical figures and he chose several thousand from the East and the West, from the past and the present. He then limited their number, choosing one hundred from among them, and he put the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, at the top of the list, according to the following requisites that he had established: the power of influence, the type of effect, the expansion of influence, and the continuation of the effect’s duration. Needless to say, he applied all of them to the one hundred great men he had elected, and it turned out that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was at the top of the list.
2. He should have looked into what was written by the Russian philosopher Tolstoy:
He should have looked into what was written by the Russian philosopher Tolstoy, who was deeply touched by the character of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, the fact fairly obvious in his work. In one of his articles he said:
“Muhammad is the founder and the Messenger, and is among the great men who have done a tremendous service to mankind. Suffice it to say that he guided the entire nation to the light of truth, and inclined them to tranquility and peace. He prevented them from shedding blood and showed them the way to sophistication and civility. The achievements of this magnitude are not possible unless the person has sufficient strength. A man like him is worthy of respect and reverence as has done, by carrying out his mission, a great service to mankind by laying the foundations of peace, stability, and prosperity, and by opening the road of civilization and progress for generations to come. No doubt that someone like him deserves the highest honor, appreciation and respect.”
3. He should have looked into what was written by the researcher Kamal al-Din after he had embraced Islam:
He should have looked into what was written by the researcher Kamal al-Din after he had embraced Islam:
“Muhammad gave the greatest call on earth, the call which secured for man perfect existence and permeated man’s entire being. People saw all the virtuous qualities represented in the Noble Prophet’s character, so they believed in what he had brought. They did not read about them in a book, but saw them manifested in a human being and, therefore, were more profoundly influenced. Thus, the Prophet was the greatest example for humanity in its long history, a guide and an educator, teaching with his personal behavior before doing so by means of the good words he uttered.”
4. He should have looked into what was written by one of the Western thinkers:
We, Muslims, wish that the Pope, before quoting the words of the Byzantine emperor who was entirely ignorant of the status of the Prophets, should have looked into what was written by one of the major Western thinkers, who wrote:
“The fact that Muhammad was a messenger cannot be denied. The message he brought is the summary of the earlier messages, being above them. Based on this, his message to the world is an ever-valid Constitution, and his statement is consistent with the human inclination and understanding in this era.”
5. He should have looked into what was written by the British author Miller:
He should have looked into what was written by the British author Miller, who said:
“The emergence of the mission of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the brightness of the sun of Islam, prove that the Noble Prophet’s call is directed to all the worlds, and that this holy religion suits every age, every element, every nation; and that being consistent with the teachings of the human thought, it is indispensable to all human beings, whatever their environment and culture.”
6. He should have looked into what was written by the French author Coursier:
He should have looked into what was written by the French author Coursier, who said:
“Muhammad was a brave and magnanimous as a young man, and he remained such all throughout his mission. His ideas had always been superior to those prevailing in his society, and thanks to his excellent morals he was able to guide the pre-Islamic, fanatic, idol-worshipping Arabs to the worship of Allah the Only One. In his United Democratic state, he managed to eliminate all forms of chaos, differences, and fighting, so common in the Arabian Peninsula, establishing the foundations of morality and turning the pre-Islamic Arabs into a refined and civilized society.”
7. He should have looked into what was written by Thomas Carrel:
He should have looked into what was written by Thomas Carrel, who entitled one of the chapters of his book, the one about the Prophet of Islam, “The Hero in the Form of a Messenger”. He considered the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, one of the seven greatest men in history. By Allah, the heart of this great man, whose soul was equally great, was full of mercy, goodness, compassion, righteousness and wisdom.
8. He should have got familiar with the Prophet on the basis of what was written by Muslims, not by their enemies:
He should have got acquainted with the reality of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, by reading what was written about him by Muslims, not by their malicious enemies. Actually, this is one of the first principles of objective research, and it is wholly compatible with his university standing. Some of the Prophet’s biographers described his gentle handling of people in these terms:
“The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was humble. His manner was exquisitely polite; he was always the first to greet another and would not withdraw his hand from a handshake till the other man withdrew his. He waited on himself, and used to go to the market and carry his shopping, saying that he was the one most entitled to carry it. He would always respond to the need of every man, whether free or slave or poor. He accepted the excuse and was entirely like any other human being. He would wash and mend his clothes, milk the goat, repair his shoes, clean his house, serve his family, eat with his servants. He helped the weak and the needy; he walked in a humble way, lowering his gaze, and showed continuous grief. He was always reflecting and would not speak about what was unnecessary. In fact, he was silent most of the time, but when he did speak, his words were concise. He was gentle; neither ungrateful, nor offending others, he expressed his gratefulness no matter how small the issue was, he never dispraised any of them. He neither praised nor dispraised the food; he did not get angry for the sake of this world nor of himself. When he did get angry, he would turn away his face, and when he was pleased, he would lower his gaze. He liked to bring people together, not to separate them; he showed respect to the noble men among people; he inquired about the well-being of his companions, he praised what was good and condemned what was wrong; he never neglected a right nor trampled on it; he often smiled and was gentle, never rude nor rough. He never raised his voice, not even in the marketplace, never insulted others. He did not speak except what was useful; he laughed at and was astonished by the same thing his companions laughed at and were astonished by. He showed patience with the stranger and never interrupted somebody’s speech, waiting till it was finished.”
In fact, talking about the remarkable virtues of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, would require entire volumes and long khutbah speeches over several years. Yet, Allah the Almighty has summed them up in a few words in the Noble Qur’an, where He says:
(“And verily, you (O Muhammad SAW) are on an exalted standard of character.”)
9. He should have followed the method of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II:
Finally we, as Muslims, wish that the His Holiness had followed the method of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who:
1. Urged peaceful coexistence between religions.
2. Announced his recognition of Islam as a Divine Religion.
3. Stopped Christian missionary action in the Muslim world.
4. Announced that whoever believes is the Message of Muhammad will survive on the Judgment Day, even if he does not believe in the Savior.
5. Sent official greetings to some of the leaders of the Arab and Islamic world on Eid Al Adha.
6. Received a delegation of Muslim senior scholars, most of whom were from our country, Syria, and was most respectful with them.
We also wish that the Pope had paid attention to these facts:
1. Muslims did not build their glory at the expense of others
They did not cover themselves in glory at the expense of others; they did not obtain their wealth while impoverishing others; they did not procure their own security while intimidating others; they did not build up their worth while humiliating others. They do not try to misguide others, nor to corrupt their morals, nor to plunder their wealth, nor to exterminate them.
2. There have been no cases of destruction of civilizations and genocide in Muslim history:
Muslim history is not full of atrocious cases of destruction of civilizations, genocide, exploitation of people’s wealth, and plundering of their resources. Furthermore, it was not Muslims who established the Spanish Inquisition, nor did they wipe out the American Indians, nor did they enslave the Negroes, nor did not colonize other people’s lands. The strongest proof of that is the Frankish invasion of the Muslim world in the past called the Crusades, carried out nowadays in the name of freedom and democracy.
3. Islam was not the reason for the outbreak of two World Wars:
We wish that the Pope had paid attention to the fact that Islam was not the reason for the outbreak of two World Wars in which at least eighty million people were killed and several million were left disabled.
4. It was not Muslims who bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
Muslims are not the ones who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, killing three hundred thousand people in a few seconds. It was not Muslims who used weapons of mass destruction, internationally recognized as such, namely smart grenades, cluster and phosphorous bombs, and dyed uranium hydride bombs, in order to kill women, children and the elderly, in order to destroy bridges, facilities, and infrastructure of defenceless people. It was not Muslims who tortured patriotic prisoners, who resisted the occupation of Iraq, in a way shocking in the extreme.
5. Muslims, unlike the West, do not believe in ethnic cleansing:
It is not Islam that was the creed of those who migrated to distant lands and talked a lot about freedom after having exterminated millions of its indigenous population. Thus, Muslims do not know what ethnic cleansing is. It was, however, recognized by the West when they said:
“When we have eradicated the Indians in America, and when the English have eradicated the Aboriginal Australians, we will have won the battle.”
Clearly, the powerful western countries have no principles, values, or human feelings. They only have an exact or inexact scenario, and a big or small deal.
6. Muslims do not damage agricultural crops in order to preserve their high prices:
We wish that His Holiness had paid attention to the fact that Muslims do not throw thousands of tons of grain and all kinds of food into the sea, nor do they damage agricultural crops in order to preserve their high prices, nor do they poison them fearing that poor people may eat them for free, which would necessarily decrease the demand for purchasing them. Also, Muslims do not burn twenty million sheep and bury them under the ground in order to preserve their high prices at a time when some people die of starvation or are in desperate need of meat, milk products and crops in general.
7. Muslims do not send their nuclear waste to weak peoples’ territories:
Muslims do not send their nuclear waste to (be buried in the land of) the weak peoples, decimated by famine and civil wars, the waste which will be the cause of cancer for thousands of years.
8. Muslims do not permit testing drugs on the underdeveloped countries:
We wished that the Pope had paid attention to the fact that Muslims do not allow testing drugs on the weak, underdeveloped people as if they were guinea pigs, protecting, in this way, their own citizens from the risk of taking drugs whose safety has not been proved yet.
The timing of this abuse:
It is obvious that the timing of this abuse came at the stage when it could have caused a large-scale explosion in terms of the conflict of religions or the clash of civilizations, or at least cause another doctrinal problem which could be added to the previous doctrinal, humanitarian and political problems. Thus, this abuse can be classed as a deadly missile which could foil the attempts to bridge the civilization gap on account of their having received too many blows from too many sides.
The Pope’s words are not a slip of the tongue:
We cannot accept that the words of His Holiness were a slip of the tongue or that they have been misunderstood. One cannot expect it from His Holiness since he holds a PhD in theology. Nor was his discourse an improvisation. Rather, he delivered his lecture from a written text which must have been revised and edited as any scientific presentation of any university professor, let alone the head of the Church and of the Vatican State.
The purpose of His Holiness’ words:
The intention behind the words of His Holiness may have been, and I do hope I am wrong, to drive Muslims to extremism, because extremism and the international organized terrorism of the West are in need of a continuous Islamic extremism in order to justify their plans which cannot be openly declared. How else could they do that? Therefore, their political and spiritual leaders are driving Muslims to extremism, or else are its authors but attribute it to Muslims in one way or another.
This analysis was clarified by one of the speakers at an international conference held recently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He said:
In the 80s, the West used to support Islamic extremism, not Islam, but nowadays they are fighting Islam, not Islamic extremism. We might wonder why those fanatics are fighting Islam –the religion of justice, love and tolerance. The obvious answer is: Because real Islam, being the religion of moderation, prevents extremism, and those fanatics wish and work in opposition to what they declare, making use of the violation of the law, imposition of economic embargoes, cultural invasion, and secret funding of certain organizations in order to ensure the continuation and expansion of Islamic radicalism, or any other extremism, because this is the justification of their extremism and of holding the positions of control in many areas of this world. Thus, extremism is in need of extremism, whereas it fades away in an atmosphere of moderation.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds
Translation : Rana Saraqbi
Auditing : Nayat Roszko
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