Monday, February 7, 2011

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: To Rule as a Father and Servant VI

“Since nothing ever happens out of Heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as "Our Lady of Fatima" as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Muslim people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her divine Son too.”

Bishop Fulton Sheen, The World’s First Love

The God of the Koran assumes a different character than the God of the New Testament. For Muslims, to identify God as Father is too closely associated with human fatherhood. According to them, Allah is a Supreme Being who transcends any human imagery. Perhaps, this is why God’s love is not emphasized as much as his power. And as far as man and woman are concerned, they are not considered to be the image of God. Again, it is too anthropological for Islamic theology. Or to put it another way, Muslims resist any kind of “incarnational” theology whereby God is believed to communicate himself through people and through creation itself. And as for the nature of Jesus Christ, God becoming man in is a stumbling block for the followers of Mohammad.

When interpreting Mohammad’s teachings, one can surmise that God’s rule over mankind does not operate through humanity, as it does in Catholic theology; rather, it is imposed on humanity. But according to the Catholic Church, cooperation with God and submission to him are both necessary. With Islam, the emphasis is put on man’s submission while mention of cooperation with God is virtually non-existent. Furthermore, natural law, that is, the moral theology which holds that actions are intrinsically good or intrinsically evil, finds no place in the Koran. As for the purpose or “why” of God’s law, the God of Islam might respond to our questions with something like, “Because I told you so.” Whereas with the God of Christianity, he is believed to justify his laws on rational grounds; there is a reason why God does what he does. In the bible, the universe has its laws of nature; and as such, we can discover those laws and use creation to our advantage. This is why science flourished in Christian civilizations. But for Muslims, the notion that God respects the laws of nature and the natural law (i.e., moral law) puts limitations on his omnipotence. For them, any human behavior can be justified if God is believed to will it.

In the book of Genesis, the seeds of representative government were planted when God delegated the responsibility of naming the animals to Adam. The God of Muslims, on the other hand, would probably name the animals himself. Indeed, according to Islamic theology men do not participate in Divine Authority; it is only imitated, not delegated. But as for the Christian view, Pope Leo XIII reminds us that parental authority not only finds its origin in God, but it also borrows its binding force from God; especially when a father and a mother is loving and just. In other words, God communicates his fatherly love through good parenting. What is more, a mother and father not only cooperate with God in procreation but also in their “governance” over their children. And this leads us back to the proper role of the State.

A father’s power and authority is principally motivated by his love for the child; and his desire to see his child’s welfare realized. When Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, he not only set in motion a standard for Church authority; he also set a standard for political leaders. He asked, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13: 12-15) This ceremony had monumental significance for how people were to be ruled in Christian civilization. It was a model of leadership to be emulated by all: parents, clergy, teachers, and civil authority alike.

During the same ceremony, the Last Supper, the following words would change would change the political landscape forever. Jesus summoned them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28) “Not to be served but to serve” was a novel idea in ancient paganism; and it is a political principle which does not sit well in the Islamic political world. Keep in mind, Islamic theology is the basis for Islamic politics. And Allah, to be sure, is an omnipotent God whose full power and authority is brought to bear on his subjects. This, in part, is why governments in Muslims nations tend to favor dictatorships more than democracies.

Our third and last consideration in the next blog-