What is Islam Part 4: The Mother of God in Islam

The Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne

The Second Vatican Council in its declaration on the relationship of the Catholic Church with non-Christian religions Nostra Aetate declared that “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems… (who) also honor Mary, His (Jesus’) Virgin Mother, and at times they also call on her with devotion.”  That is true, as far as it goes, but incomplete.  There are very important differences in the understanding of the Virgin Mary’s role in human history which reflect on the entirely different worldview that the Catholic has regarding his Creator, his relationship with that Creator, and his destiny.

The Qur’an relates the story of the Annunciation twice, both in sura 3 (The Family of Imran) and in sura 19 (Maryam).  Both of these episodes reveal a strong familiarity with Saint Luke’s account (they both begin with the message of the angel to Zechariah concerning John the Baptist and an altered version of his subsequent dumbness) of the same event, but both are also a manipulation and a strategic mutilation of this event and its significance for the human race.

The accounts in sura 3 and sura 19 are slightly different but for our purposes in this brief post they serve the same function.

Here is the account given in the Qur’an in sura 19, Maryam (16-22):

وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مَرْيَمَ إِذِ انتَبَذَتْ مِنْ أَهْلِهَا مَكَانًا شَرْقِيًّا ﴿١٦فَاتَّخَذَتْ مِن دُونِهِمْ حِجَابًا فَأَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهَا رُوحَنَا فَتَمَثَّلَ لَهَا بَشَرًا سَوِيًّا ﴿١٧ قَالَتْ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِالرَّحْمَـٰنِ مِنكَ إِن كُنتَ تَقِيًّا ﴿١٨قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَنَا رَسُولُ رَبِّكِ لِأَهَبَ لَكِ غُلَامًا زَكِيًّا ﴿١٩ قَالَتْ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي غُلَامٌ وَلَمْ يَمْسَسْنِي بَشَرٌ وَلَمْ أَكُ بَغِيًّا ﴿٢٠ قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ قَالَ رَبُّكِ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ ۖ وَلِنَجْعَلَهُ آيَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَرَحْمَةً مِّنَّا ۚ وَكَانَ أَمْرًا مَّقْضِيًّا ﴿٢١ فَحَمَلَتْهُ فَانتَبَذَتْ بِهِ مَكَانًا قَصِيًّ

English translation by Maulana Muhammad Ali

And mention Mary in the Book.  When she drew aside from her family to an eastern place.  So she screened herself from them.  Then We sent Our spirit and it appeared to her as a well-made man.

 She said: I flee for refuge from thee to the Beneficent, if thou art one guarding against evil.

 He said I am only bearer of a message of the Lord: That I will give thee a pure boy.

 She said: How can I have a son and no mortal has yet touched me nor have I been unchaste?

 He said: So (it will be).  Thy Lord says: It is easy to Me; and that We may make him a sign to men and a mercy from Us.  And it is a matter decreed.

 Then she conceived him; and withdrew with him to a remote place.

Notice anything missing there?  Let’s take a look at Saint Luke’s (1: 26-38) account of the same event written more than half a millennium before in the Douay-Rheims Challoner translation:

 And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And the angle being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

 Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.

 And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.  Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever.  And of his kingdom there shall be no end.

 And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?

 And the angel answering, said to her: the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee.  And therefore also the Holy which shall  be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.  And behold they cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with here that is called barren:  because no word shall be impossible with God.

 And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.

Just looking at these two passages alone, one from the Qur’an and the other from the Gospel of Luke, one can see immediately the depth and richness of the Catholic Faith compared to the paltriness of Islam.  In Saint Luke’s account of the Annunciation the depth of the human being’s relationship with God that comes to its fullness in the person of Jesus Christ is in full view while in the Qur’an things happen in a strange and nonsensical way: the spirit of Allah appearing to Mary in some eastern place as a well made man?  What is that?  But we are getting beyond my point here.

What is missing from the account in the Qur’an?  Many things, but one thing in particular: the Blessed Mother’s fiat, the most significant event in human history.  Because here it was that a choice was made.  By the Virgin Mother of God’s yes to God she reversed the choice of Adam and of Eve and made it possible for each one of us to make the same choice each day of our lives.  Her yes brought a new world into being and made all of us sons of God by adoption through her son our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Angelus prayer reminds us that the Blessed Mother’s fiat brought about the Incarnation of God in human flesh and the Redemption of mankind.  And it is a reminder to all of us that our way of participating in our own salvation and that of mankind is to issue our own fiat to the will of God each day of our lives.

This is what the Qur’an denies.  In the Qur’an the answer of the angel to the virgin’s question is simply something along the lines of “Allah can do whatever he wants.”  She neither accepts nor rejects this scenario but conceives and withdraws to a desert place.

And this is Islam’s view of the universe.  Allah is an arbitrary god, giving and taking away often for no particular reason.  Human beings must follow the law as revealed to them in the Qur’an but there is zero sense of any cooperation with the divine will.  Just as they reject the divine Nature of Jesus Christ, in fact because they do this, there is no possibility of a human being sharing in the life of the Holy Trinity because for them there is no Trinity.  For Catholics God is relationship.  For Muslims Allah is necessarily solitary and alone, all powerful, aloof and distant.  In truth Allah must be a dead god, because he has not the life of relationship in him.  Muslims hope to achieve some worldly paradise after death at the whim of Allah but can never hope to share in his life because, in the end, he has none.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

 

 

The slow but steady advance of the Islamic State

The Feast of Saint James the Apostle

Last week while the world was focused on Israel’s high profile invasion of the Gaza Strip other things were happening in the Middle East that may hold far more significance for the region’s future.  The Syrian civil war produced its bloodiest week in the three year long history of that conflict that has killed nearly 200,000 people now.

The vast majority of the casualties were caused when militants fighting for the Islamic State seized a gas field in the southeastern desert and executed large numbers of government soldiers defending it while throwing back the government counter attack.

Now the Islamic State has launched an offensive against the remaining Assad regime presence in eastern Syria near the Iraq border.  The militants of this group seem to have made it a priority to remove the Syrian government entirely from the east near the border as a prelude to officially wiping that border off the map rather than launching any assault on Baghdad in the near future.

They seem also to be securing communication links between the territory they hold in Iraq and in Syria.  If neither the Syrian or Iraqi government can push them out of this territory or prevent its permanent link up sometime in the near future the Islamic State looks like being a permanent feature of the new Middle East that is being created as a result of the carnage in Syria which has now already lasted longer than the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, and the destruction of Iraq.  We shall see what comes of this.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

She from whom He cast out seven devils

The Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene

The Gospels tell us that early in the morning of the first day of the week, during that hour of the day that is the bridge between darkness and light, a group of women went to visit a tomb in a garden outside Jerusalem.

They came to anoint the body of one who had been insulted, mocked, betrayed by his own, and handed over to godless men to die an ignominious death hung naked on a cross.  He did die there and because of the haste needed to get on with the feast he was hastily placed in a tomb without even the respects due to the dead.  So these women marked the place of his burial and came early that first day of the week.  The were led by a woman named Mary Magdalene, from whom the man in the tomb Jesus of Nazareth, had cast out seven devils.

Seven is the number of perfection or completion in the ancient world and to say that our Lord cast out seven devils from Mary Magdalene is St. Luke’s way of telling us that Jesus Christ delivered her from complete slavery to the demonic.  This woman had been delivered from the terror of slavery to the devil and because of that her devotion to our Lord was such that she would not abandon Him even in death.

We should remember this, most importantly because He was of course not dead and He remains very much alive.  We must stay devoted to Him and to his Church in this confused and distraught age.  We must do this because He is not dead and neither is his Church and better days are coming for us all.  And if we do not then what we have may be taken from us and given to others who are now enslaved by devils who will be cast out of them.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity.

Little by little

July 17, 2014

The self declared caliphate known as the Islamic State continued its advance in Syria seizing a natural gas field from Syrian government forces in the desert regions of Homs province near the ancient ruins of Palmyra, once the seat of power of the rebel queen Zenobia during the latter days of pagan Rome.

After its lightning advance through northern and western Iraq that captured the cities of Mosul and Tikrit and functionally erased the Iraq/Syria border in June the forces of the Islamic State have of late concentrated on seizing territory in Syria while holding on to their conquests in Iraq.  The Iraqi government has failed in each of its numerous attempts to take back the city of Tikrit over the past month.  The Islamic State has showed a disturbing ability to hold its ground on one front (Iraq) while continuing to advance up the Euphrates Valley in Syria and to seize oil fields and other economic targets both from other rebel groups and the Syrian government.

In other news the Syrian Kurds, who have established a functionally autonomous region in the far northeast corner of Syria over the last three years, have instituted compulsory military service for all Kurdish males in the region to defend against the jihadi onslaught.

Little by little the Islamic State is establishing itself as an entity that will become increasingly difficult to dislodge.  Not impossible but difficult and it will get more difficult with every week that passes.  A revolution is happening in the Middle East and we shall see what is to come.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Today is the great feast of the Carmelite order which was founded by a group of hermits on Mount Carmel in Palestine during the era of the Crusades in the twelfth century, and brought back into Europe during the succeeding centuries.  Mount Carmel is the battle between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al during the reign of the apostate king Ahab in the eighth century before Christ, and the Carmelite order has always had a special devotion both to the Blessed Mother and to the prophet Elijah as the supreme examples of the mendicant contemplative life.

At the present moment there are anti-missile batteries on Mount Carmel placed there by the Israeli government to protect the nearby city of Haifa from rocket attacks coming either from Lebanon or the Gaza Strip.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel pray for us!

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.

The strange unwillingness to act

The Feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (United States)

After its lightning assault on Iraq in June that put the city of Mosul in its grip and destroyed the Iraq/Syria border and its declaration of a caliphate on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul the Islamic State seems to be in a holding pattern at the moment.  That is in fact a sign of strength for this entity.

The goal of these jihadist movements has always been to capture territory in the heart of the Arab Middle East and to hold it.  The Islamic State appears to be doing this and in fact is continuing its advance up the Euphrates Valley into Syria from what used to be the Iraq border and are now on the outskirts of the city of Deir az-Zour, the last government controlled city in Syria’s east on the Euphrates River.  Their obvious goal here is to dominate the Euphrates valley all the way from their stronghold of Raqqah, Syria to Haditha in Iraq.  They have wisely chosen to hold off launching a direct assault on Baghdad in order to strengthen their hold elsewhere.  Iraqi politics seems to be aiding them in this effort with the Kurds, Shia, and Sunni all doing their best to aid in the dissolution of Iraq.

 

 

The troubling thing about all of this is the utter lack of willingness on the part of the great powers in the world who are entrusted with maintaining its geopolitical stability to do anything about it.  Michael Young wrote an excellent column a few days ago comparing the Islamic State to the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917.  It should be remembered that the Bolsheviks started as a small group of committed ideologues under a determined and ruthless leadership who were injected by the stupid policy of the German Empire into the chaos of Russia after the downfall of the Tsar in early 1917.  Even after seizing power in Petrograd during the October Revolution that year there were still one of many groups competing for power in Russia and they were not the one everyone thought would win.  It took them a couple of years to win the Russian civil war, but when they did they turned the Soviet Union into a superpower whose armies would reach the heart of Europe in 1945 and was able to constantly threaten the world order for three quarters of a century.  And it also should be noted that seeing this small group of radicals take over a great country like Russia gave Mussolini and eventually Hitler the confidence to believe that they too could do it in their own lands.  No one stopped them in the beginning when they were small and weak, and the world paid (and is still paying because the ideas of the Bolsheviks haven’t disappeared but are now only wearing a different mask and in many ways dominate the thinking of the formerly Catholic world) a dear price for that failure.  Will the Islamic State fizzle out, or are we making the same mistake again?

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.

Another small step toward the end of Iraq…

The Feast of Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his Companions

Another small yet not insignificant step toward the dissolution of that grand creation of a now long dead empire: the Republic of Iraq.  The President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani today withdrew (in Arabic here) all Kurdish ministers from the cabinet of Iraq’s central government headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad.  This comes a day after Maliki accused the Kurdish regional government of harboring terrorists from the Islamic State in its domains.

Turnarounds are always possible, but Iraq seems unlikely to keep on existing in the form we have known it.  I suppose that Iran could throw an immense weight of forces into fighting the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq and make a supreme national effort to destroy the wannabe caliphate led by its remarkably uncharismatic khalifa before it gets a real head of steam going.  Possible, always possible but unlikely.  Or Russia could decide that they don’t want a jihadi empire rising up to their south and decide to give serious backing to Maliki, but after his lightning annexation of Crimea Vladimir Putin no longer seems able to get out of his own way in Ukraine so I would be dubious on that.

Or there could always be a good old fashioned divine miracle, but one really does wonder at this point why the Lord of history would be interested in saving the Iraq that we have known.  In any case those things are beyond my comprehension.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity.