|Street Light Or Natural Light?|
I'm reading William Watt's book “Muslim-Christian Encounters:Perceptions and Misperceptions” for the second time through (although I've reread certain chapters / portions several times).
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the subject matter, for it speaks to so many other issues besides what the title speaks to.
It mentions the earliest parts of the church and how they differed, according to their cultural backgrounds, in their interpretations of the Mystery of God in Christ; and thus God in you!
It also speaks to the origins of Arab perceptions of Christianity, based on the differing Christian perceptions, and how these gave rise to many misconceptions of Christ (and Christianity) in the Islamic religion.
It's been nearly a year since I first read its contents, and reading it through once again I find it quite refreshing and also detailed in that I am finding some things I either overlooked or wasn't ready to realize the first time through.
I've learned that, in order to speak to other people about their beliefs, perceptions and ideas, one has to learn about them and those ideas.
Watt's approach is quite respectful and as objective as one could be to the discussion.
While holding his personal thoughts, I can see how he does make the effort to address the subject matter in a way that considers the evidence despite his opinions or belief about the evidence or the other side's claims.
I guess only a secular person, or someone who denies God, would do a better job at being objective, but even such a person can still have a bias when discussing their findings and sharing their opinions.
As an example of a secularist or atheist approach to a similar matter, some have theorized that Jesus / Yeshua / Isa never existed.
This opinion, after all historical evidence is considered, is one that is so far from the findings of what the majority of scholars (of varying backgrounds and both religious and non-religious beliefs) have concluded, it is preposterous.
Not that majority opinion or consensus shows the way to truth, but when comparing how the past is understood, and in this case whether or not any single person existed or not, the argument in denying that Jesus existed is a desperate one.
To deny Jesus as simply a mythical figure or something completely made up, is to question all the ancient peoples / characters that have been written about when only a single line in a single source mentions them.
The majority of past persons / characters have been accepted to having existed even with a single source pointing to their existence.
When several ancient secular sources record a reference to Jesus, it is actually a greater proof of solid piece of evidence that such a person existed (despite the beliefs about them, which is a secondary issue to the fact that such a person existed).
It is a similarly extreme claim (like the denial that Jesus existed) which I find reflected in the Islamic perspective on Christ, Christianity, history and knowledge of all things non-Islamic.
This is this a very clear point Watt clarifies in this particular book: Islamic thought has, since the inception of that religion, rejected all things non-Islamic.
Only when / if ideas or concepts were perceived to be compatible with Islam, or the Quran and the religious ideas derived therefrom, were such ideas accepted and weaved into the thought process.
All other concepts, ideas and notions were / have been systematically rejected as nonsense or not valuable.
Part of this attitude derives from the concept that Muhammad was the last prophet of God, and that the call to the world is to submit to Islam.
However, as history paints a clear picture of secular governments encroaching on the archaic methods that religion implies, the effort is anything but submitting to the Islamic mode of life.
Mostly recently, as Watt's points out and contemporary history shows, inroads have been made in providing dialogue between the schools of religion and the cultural disparity.
Islam sprouted in the Arabian peninsula late 7th century.
When one considers the level of advancement (and the lack thereof) in that culture as a whole, its societal development, the similarities or differences in overall development when compared to contemporary civilizations, the effort to reject the idea of novelty (or anything new not evidently reflected in the Quran / Islamic religion) is clearly evident... and has left the regions where that ideology has encroached in a lurch of sorts.
This is not to imply that the modern manner of life is better, efficient or more highly desired, but to point out the lack of development in many areas of life.
Although the Islamic culture can be applauded for a list of certain advancements in ancient times, stagnation was the eventual result of the rejection of all things non-Islamic.
I don't think this is unique to the Islamic culture, but simply a human issue.
The human tendency to reject things not initially perceived to be a part of us, or from ourselves, or resembling what we know and understand, is something we struggle with individually and according to our specific ideology.
To accept a new idea that initially conflicts with our perceptions is to not desire the internal conflict such ideas may conjure in our mind, psyche and heart.
Yet as any of us individually may conclude; it is through internal conflict from challenges (or ideas arriving from outside our spherical perceptions), that give rise to actual development in us and causes us to grow, mature and develop...or in some cases to fail, break down and retreat.
A voice that identifies with Islam, while also growing up to the rest of the world, is the voice of Dhiyaa al-Musawi; a writer, politician, thinker and progressive voice within the Islamic world.
Read some of his insightful quotes here.
When a society is accustomed to developing along with changing times, then such a society is capable of advancing and meeting those challenges in stride.
Such a society doesn't have to reject their customs to find their similarity with the rest of humanity.
When a society is not accustomed to change and adaptation, but is rather accustomed to always holding onto the past (again as many of us may have or do on occasion), the evidence of such resistance is quite obvious.
Such a society seems incapable of breaking down the walls of hostility and indifference, which are walls of ideas and not reality.