Monday, July 28, 2008

The Challenge of Islam

Mordechai Nisan

Islam, as a later and last monotheistic faith appearing in Arabia in the seventh-century, never considered itself just another religion, but the last and final religion totally complete in doctrine and superior in rule.1 The Muslim believers sought power for Islam as the supra-successor faith to Judaism and Christianity, and the ultimately universal faith for all of mankind. The frenzy of religious struggles in history would, from that moment on, set Islam on an ineluctable course to conquer the world. The Qur`an elucidated the religion’s warring spirit by praising those Muslims “who fight for the cause of Allah” (4:95-96) rather than those who avoid the battle and prefer to stay at home. In distinction from Judaism and Christianity, the Muslim community considers that “the holy war is a religious duty because of the universalism of the mission and the obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force”; and this, added the classical 14th century historian Ibn Khaldun, is because “Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.”2

Islam cannot be compared with any other religion or understood by analogy. It bears a unique militant ethic from its origins. This cannot be said of ascetic Buddhism or otherworldly Hinduism. Judaism, though equipped with “commandments for war”, did not promote conquest or experience power in any exceptional way. Christianity was born beset with sin, preaching poverty and practicing withdrawalism by fasting and virginity, pining for martyrdom through persecution.3

Islam evoked a far different collective sensibility. It brandished the sword, yelled Allah Akbar (God is Great) – as at Qadisiyya in southern Mesopotamia/Iraq in 637 – charged into battle, and plundering its spoils with delight.

We live at the beginning of the 21st century when the “return of Islam” has raised the challenge against the Jewish state of Israel, Christianity world-wide, Buddhism, and virtually all and any other belief systems and faith communities. . . .

Continued at . . .

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