Whatever else Pope Francis holds dear, vague notions of brotherhood and humanism—severed from any specifically Christian foundation—hold a certain pride of place. Pursuing those ideals apparently means sometimes it is necessary to overlook the stubborn fact that others do not share those same ideals, or view them in the same way.
So, even though Islam explicitly teaches that brotherhood and peace can only exist among the believers—followers of Muhammad, not mankind as a whole—Francis joined one of the most prominent Imams in the Muslim world in signing the 2019 “Abu Dhabi Declaration,” ostensibly a shared commitment to “Human Fraternity.”
When you get right down to it, the point of such initiatives is not to examine what Christianity and Islam mean by brotherhood, peace, innocence, and so forth, or how they view any number of other things, including the role of biblical figures. The point, rather, is that irreconcilable differences should be ignored—or at least decreed a thing of the past, because today everyone knows that everyone values distinctively Christian concepts in pretty much the same way. Besides it’s what the “great religions” have in common that is important.
In that vein, the Vatican is in the midst of hosting a series of webinars focused upon the figure of Mary, whom the organizers have chosen to describe as “a model for faith and life for Christianity and Islam.” It’s a ten-week program set to end, naturally, during Ramadan.
Whatever the duration of any such discourse, it is a pretense to suppose the figures of Jesus and Mary are depicted (e.g., as “models”) in the Quran in a similar way as they are in the Gospels. That is simply preposterous.
It is also part of a larger misconception: that Islam has a lot in common with Christianity, since both take oppositional stances vis-à-vis the secular mores of the postmodern West. In other words, they can both be tagged as traditional or conservative.
At first glance, this seems to make some sense. Both religions do have issues with our secular mores. Looking deeper, though, cracks appear. Then chasms.
Islam explicitly devalues women, whereas Christianity was revolutionary in its esteem for women, though that scarcely registers in most minds today. It is hard to fathom that a religion earnestly touted as “great” formally permits wife beating, not to mention the outright rape of infidels and the taking of sex slaves.
This is permitted because Muhammad approved of or did these kinds of things himself. Since forsaking the example of Muhammad is not an option for practicing Muslims, searching for “common ground” is bound to be a fool’s errand.
Another example: Adoption is not permitted in Islam because Muhammad once adopted a son but later on desired his son’s wife, whom his son wound up divorcing, whereupon Muhammad promptly married her. Retroactively forbidding adoption was the means by which Muhammad sought to “legally” justify copulating with his former daughter-in-law. Things like that are not as widely known as the Islamic belief that homicidal jihadists will be greeted with 72 virgins in the hereafter.
Which brings us to another lesser-known Islamic belief, one involving Mary and the hereafter, that will certainly be off-limits during the ongoing Vatican proceedings about her. As reported a couple of years ago by the highly informative Raymond Ibrahim, a “moderate” government official in Egypt publicly boasted (in Arabic) that “our prophet Muhammad—prayers and peace be upon him—will be married to Mary in paradise.” Wait, what? Where did that come from? Muhammad himself: In a hadith that was deemed reliable enough to be included in the renowned Ibn Kathir’s corpus, Muhammad declared that “Allah will wed me in paradise to Mary.”
Even if most Christians and most Muslims are unaware of this hadith (sayings of Muhammad that constitute a canonical source of guidance for Muslims), Ibrahim notes that other records of this particular taunt can be found as far back as 9th century Andalusia. What’s more, it happens to be perfectly consistent with the sense of entitled licentiousness, and the disdain for non-Muslims and women, that so indelibly characterizes Islam.
Remember when Pope Francis, following an Islamic attack on the Parisian magazine Charlie Hebdo on account of cartoons they had published, declared: “If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, then a punch awaits him. It’s normal. One cannot provoke. One cannot insult the faith of others.” I suspect, however, not even a rhetorical haymaker in response to this insulting Islamic misappropriation of our Blessed Mother—whom Catholics regard as the Mother of God and the Mother of all mankind—will be forthcoming from Francis or his subordinates at this conference, or any other time for that matter.
Catholics believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, who was assumed body and soul into heaven—a sublime source of hope for humanity—and crowned Queen of Heaven by her Divine Son. That’s a bit different than harem member.
It would be far more illuminating and beneficial for everyone, including Muslims, to honestly explore irreconcilable differences between Christianity and Islam generally, and why they have such profound implications on both individual lives and entire civilizations. People would then be better positioned to evaluate which has the better claim.
One rather big difference between Islam and Christianity elicits little interest in the Muslim world and, curiously, wherever “humanitarianism” has displaced Christianity: Only one of these religions claims that God actually loves the human race.
That concept is alien to Islam, which, incidentally, has 99 names for God, none of which are “Father.” Yet the concept of brotherhood, of which Francis is so fond, implies a common father; with neither a mother or a father in common, brotherhood is simply impossible.
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