On Muslims and Christians - 1
The message addressed by Muslims religious scholars to the heads of Christian Churches is supposed to constitute a turning point in Muslim-Christian relations, but I fear that we get lost on the road, as the message has not received what it deserves in terms of interest and promotion in Arab and Western media that I usually follow. The information available to me refers to a news item in the Economist magazine but which is longer and more inferior than what Arab newspapers have published in this regard.
Muslim religious scholars said to the leading Christian clergy, including Pope Benedictus XVI, that Muslims and Christians make up well over half the world’s population, and that without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.
Muslim scholars also said that the basis for peace and understanding really exists. It is part of the very foundations of both faiths: love for the One God, and love for the neighbor.
I hope that conscious and determined efforts are expended in parallel with the important message issued by Muslims religious scholars so to acquaint public opinion with its content and to woo public opinion, both Muslim and Christian, to abide by it. Weighty messages had been earlier issued but they were not met with the interest they deserve and left negligible impact, maybe because clergymen are familiar with religion, not with tutelage and publicity.
In brief, on 6/2/2006 the heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem called on the church leaders the world over to work on putting an end to illegal occupation and on halting the building of settlements and of the separation wall. The Sabeel Center which calls itself The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, released a communiqué entitled ‘Principles for a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel’, which seems to be written by the PLO. The document calls for the refugees’ return, putting an end to illegal occupation and to the building of settlements and the wall, and terminating the violation of human rights in the occupied territories… The heads of the Christian communities in Jerusalem denounced in a statement the alliance between of the Christian Zionists and Israel and said that the latter do not represent genuine Christian thought; they are rather seeking the creation of an empire, colonialism, militarism, and the end of the world instead of calling for peaceful living as Christ had preached.
The message delivered by Muslim religious scholars is a continuation of a dialogue that has to go on and to include the largest possible number of Muslim and Christians.
Muslim scholars referred to love for God and for one’s neighbor. The golden rules for both faiths are similar; for the Muslims it is: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself”, and for the Christians it is: “Do to others what you want them to do to you.”
Monotheistic religions converge in spurring on the good, punishment and reward. For instance, The Table chapter in the Koran, verse 45 says:
‘And therein We prescribed for them:
A life for a life, an eye for an eye,
A nose for a nose, an ear for an ear,
A tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation.’
In the same vein, the Deuteronomy, chapter 19, number 21 says something similar:
A life for a life, an eye for an eye,
A tooth for a tooth, a leg for a leg.’
The above is well-known, but I need to present to the readers something that might be new to them and that I came across by chance.
In the past, if an Arab married man died, his son by another woman or a man related to him would throw his garment on the dead man’s wife and make her his own. If he wishes to marry her, he can do so without paying a dowry, leaving her dependent on the dowry paid by her dead husband. He may also wish to make her marry another man, take her dowry and deprive her of everything, as he may wish to prevent her from marrying and do harm to her so that she pays him a ransom to get back what she inherited from her dead husband, or if she dies he inherits her.
In the Sura al Nisa (Women), verse 19 : “O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may Take away part of the dower ye have given them,-except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity.”
Abou Kayss Bin Al-Aslat Al-Ansari died but his wife Kabisha was still alive. His son by another woman cast his garment on her, so he inherited the right to marry her. Then he left her and did not spend money on her, so Kabisha went to the Prophet and told him her story. He said to her:
She left and when the women of the city heard her story, they went to the Prophet and said, ‘We are in the same situation like Kabisha’s.’ God sent down the following revelation:
The above is mentioned by Al-Wahidi and Al-Naysaburi on the causes of revelations and on the case relative to Ibn Hajr Kabisha and Kabisha, her two names.
I had thought for some time that casting the garment on a woman is a pre-Islamic Arab tradition until I read the Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and that includes in chapters 12 to 26 Jewish laws, which, I must admit, came as a complete surprise to me. Indeed, in chapter 23, it is said that a man does not marry his father’s wife, nor does he take off his father’s gown train. Jesuit fathers interpret these words by saying that casting the gown train on a woman means marrying her whereas removing it indicates the opposite and an infringement on the man’s marital rights. Once again, I need to say that religions converge on loving God, one’s neighbors, and life. Yet, people are different: there are the misled and the misleading in every faith and in every position. Denying this fact is useless and hinders the solution. The same way we have to defeat terrorists operating in the name of Islam and living among us, they have to repress the radicals living among them, including the Israelis exercising neo-Nazism, Christian Zionists, the war advocates and the advocates of an impossible empire.
The Christian Arabs, especially the Palestinians, are the clearest example of religious coexistence. They represent the counter-argument to the clash of civilizations.
To be continued tomorrow.
The issue I am dealing with has been written for three parts and I hope the idea is an integrated one.