Father Samir Khalil Samir

PopeWatch: Islam

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In all the furor over the economic passages of Evangelii Gaudium, other sections of that lengthy document have received short shrift.  Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa has the comments of Father Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit, on these passages:

1. Muslims “together with us adore the One, merciful God” (No. 252)

I would advise caution here. It is true Muslims worship one and merciful God. However, this sentence suggests that the two conceptions of God are equal. Yet in Christianity God is the Trinity in its essence, plurality united by love: He is a bit more than just clemency and mercy. We have two quite different conceptions of the Divine One. Muslims characterize God as inaccessible. The Christian vision of the Oneness of the Trinity emphasizes that God is Love which is communicated: Father-Son-Spirit, or Lover-Beloved-Love, as St. Augustine suggested.

Moreover, what does the mercy of the God of Islam mean? He has mercy for whom he wants and not on those whom displease him. “Allah might admit to His mercy whom He willed” (Koran 48:25). These expressions are, almost literally, in the Old Testament (Exodus 33:19). But never arrive at saying that “God is love” (1 John 4:16), like St John.

Mercy in the case of Islam is that of the rich man who stoops over the poor and gives him something. But the Christian God is the one who lowers Himself to the level of the poor man in order to raise him up; He does not show his wealth to be respected (or feared) by the poor: he gives Himself in order the poor should live.

2. “The sacred writings of Islam have retained some Christian teachings” (No. 252)

This is true in a sense, but it is somewhat ambiguous. It is true that Muslims retain words or facts from the canonical gospels, such as the story of the Annunciation which is found almost literally in chapters 3 (The Family of Imr?n) and 19 (Mariam).

But more frequently the Koran is inspired by the pious tales of the apocryphal Gospels, and do not draw from them the theological sense they contain, and do not give these facts or words the meaning that they actually have, not out of malice, but because they do not contain the overall vision of the Christian message.

3. The figure of Christ in the Koran and the Gospel (No. 252)

The Koran refers to “Jesus and Mary [who] are the object of profound veneration”. To tell the truth, Jesus is not an object of veneration in the Muslim tradition. Instead, Mary is venerated, especially by Muslim women, who willingly go to the places of pilgrimage.

The lack of veneration for Jesus Christ is probably explained by the fact that, in the Koran, Jesus is a great prophet, famous for his miracles on behalf of a poor and sick humanity, but he is not the equal of Muhammad. Only mystics have a certain devotion to him, as the sol-called “Spirit of God”.

In fact, all that is said of Jesus in the Koran is the exact opposite of Christian teachings. He is not the Son of God, but a prophet and that’s it. He is not even the last of the prophets, because instead the “seal of the prophets” is Muhammad (Koran 33:40). Christian revelation is only seen as a step towards the ultimate revelation brought by Muhammad, i.e. Islam.

4. The Koran is opposed to all the fundamental Christian dogmas

The figure of Christ as the second person of the Trinity is condemned. In the Koran it says explicitly to Christians: ” O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not ‘Three’ – Cease! (it is) better for you! – Allah is only One God. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that “(Koran 4:171). These verses against the Trinity are very clear and need no interpretation.

The Koran denies the divinity of Christ: “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah?’” (Koran 5:116). And Jesus denies it!

Finally, the Koran negates Redemption. It even says that Jesus Christ did not die on the Cross, but it was a look-alike: “And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them” (Koran 4:157). In this way God saved Jesus from the wickedness of the Jews. But then Christ did not save the world!

In short, the Koran and Muslims deny the essential dogmas of Christianity: the Trinity, the Incarnation and Redemption. It should be added that this is their most absolute right! But you can not then say that “The sacred writings of Islam retain part of Christian teachings”. You simply must speak of the “Jesus of the Koran” which has nothing to do with the Jesus of the Gospels.

The Koran mentions Jesus because it aims to complete the revelation of Christ to exalt Muhammad. Besides, seeing what Jesus and Mary do in the Koran, we notice that it is no more than apply the prayers and fasting according to the Koran. Mary is certainly the most beautiful figure among all those presented in the Koran: she is the Virgin Mother, whom no man has ever touched. But she can not be the Theotokos; instead she is a good Muslim. Continue reading

Is Islam Part of Gods Plan?

Most of us are aware of the Christian exodus from the Middle East where the fundamental problem is Muslim intolerance towards non-Muslims.

Father Samir hopes to change all of that.

In this interview with Father Samir Khalil Samir done by Mirko Testa of Zenit, Father Samir explains the possibility of learning form Lebanon’s coexistence between Christians and Muslims:

The coexistence of Christians and Muslims is good for civil society because their mutual questioning of the other’s faith acts as a stimulus and leads to deeper understanding, says a Jesuit priest who is an expert in Islamic studies.

This is the opinion of Father Samir Khalil Samir, an Islamic scholar and Catholic theologian born in Egypt and based in the Middle East for more than 20 years.

He teaches Catholic theology and Islamic studies at St. Joseph University in Beirut, is founder of the CEDRAC research institute and is author of many articles and books, including “111 Questions on Islam.”

ZENIT spoke with Father Samir regarding the June 21-22 meeting in Lebanon of the Oasis International Foundation, which seeks to promote mutual knowledge among Christians and Muslims.

ZENIT: Why was the subject of education placed at the center of the Oasis meeting this year?

Father Samir: The problem we are experiencing both in the Church as well as in Islam is that we are not always able to transmit the faith easily to the new generation and the generations to come. The question we ask ourselves is: In what way should we rethink the faith for young people, but also in parishes or in mosques, in the talks that religious address to their faithful?

This is what we want: to make a study of the Christian experience in Lebanon, and the Muslim Sunni experience and the Muslim Shiite experience in this ambit. We want to compare, to identify even if it is only the common difficulties, to seek together an answer to them. I think this has been the main objective of our meeting in face of a dialogue of cultures in the Christian and the Muslim faith.

ZENIT: What effect would the disappearance of the Churches of the Middle East have on the Christian and Muslim world?

Father Samir: The disappearance of the Churches of the Middle East would be, first of all, a loss for Christianity, because, as John Paul II said, the Church, as every human being, lives with two lungs: the Eastern and the Western. Now, the Eastern Churches were born here in the land of Jesus, in the territories of the Middle East, where Christ lived. And if this experience, these millennia of tradition are lost, then the loss will be for the whole Church, both of the Christians of the East as well as the Christians of the West.

However, there is more to this: if Christian leave the Middle East, in other words, if the Muslims remain alone, an element of stimulation will be lacking — represented, in fact, by that element of diversity that Christians can contribute. Diversity of faith, because Muslims ask us every day: How is it that you say that God is One and Triune? This is contradictory. And we say: How is it that you say that Mohammed is a prophet? What are, for you, the criteria of prophecy? Does Mohammed answer to these criteria? And what does it mean that the Quran is from God? In what sense do you say that it descended on Mohammed? We say that the Bible is divine, but mediated through human authors, whereas Muslims want to remove Mohammed’s mediation.

These questions that they ask us and that we ask are a stimulus, not only for civilization, but also for civil society. It would be a great loss because the risk exists of wishing to found a society, a state based on the sharia, that is, on something that was established in the seventh century in the region of the Arabian Peninsula, even if for Muslims the sharia is generic and true for all centuries and all cultures.

And this is Islam’s great problem: how can Islam be re-thought today? The absence of Christians would make the problem even more acute.

Continue reading

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