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   Conferences / The Eleventh General Conference: Towards a Civilized Project for the
                         Renaissance of the Muslim
 
An European Civil Project Of A Documentation Centre On Islam

An European Civil Project
Of A Documentation Centre On Islam
Sheikh `Abd Al Wahid Pallavicini
president CO.RE.IS. (Comunit Religiosa Islamica) Italiana
Islam and the West
We find difficulty in dealing with an issue of increasing importance: the
confrontation between Islam and Europe, Islam and the West, Islam and the
Occident. The difficult lies in the fact that Islam is a divine, Abrahamic, monotheistic
revelation, while Europe is only one of the five continents, the West one of the four
cardinal points and the Occident a geographical expression usually opposed to an ill-
defined Orient.
The fact of being occidental and Muslim poses no personal conflict for us,
since the East can certainly not be equated with Islam nor the West with Christianity.
And though with time Islam has also come to manifest itself in the West, the West is
certainly no more Muslim today, no more than it can be said to be truly Christian yet.
We should treat rather than confront these two latest revelations as divine,
Abrahamic, monotheistic, as we said, but also both universal, or catholic in the
etymological sense of the term, since their message is addressed to all peoples and not
just to certain geographical areas, to certain caste systems or to certain peoples, as
was the case with other previous revelations. This is done, however, without the
pretense at least on the Islamic side, if not the Christian of invalidating their doctrine
or seeking to convert all humanity to the doctrine contained in ones own religion.
At the same time, the Islamic civilization cannot be compared with a presumed
western civilization, since all the traditional civilizations, from the Mayans and
Aztecs, from the Assyro-Babylonians, Hindus and Buddhists, Chinese and Japanese,
whether Taoists or Confucianists, to the Egyptians, Greeks or Romans, orthodox
Jews or medieval Christians, have always been founded on theocentric and theocratic
principles. Only in the presumed modern western civilization are these things not
contemplated, so we do not feel it can qualify it as a true and proper civilization.
We should therefore compare these latest two revealed religions not only as
universal, Abrahamic and monotheistic (this last term certainly not intended in the
sense that each of them has its own god) but also as different revelations of the same
and only God, the God of Abraham, precisely that have originated theocratic
civilizations each corresponding to at least one billion believers in all the countries of
the earth but are also the only ones that contemplate in their doctrine, though in
different forms, the figure of Jesus Christ, seyyiddina `Isa, alayhissalam.
This objective of this confrontation should be mutual recognition of the
redeeming truth of each religion, and particularly of these latest two revelations,
accepting their different theological formulations and respecting their necessarily
different ritual forms, not only as expressions of their respective holy texts, that
confirm their earlier origins, the prophesies contained in them regarding successive
revelations, but especially as recognition of the omnipotence of God that is revealed in
ever new and different forms to different peoples in places, times and manners that
are always providentially different.
But if such recognition seems more likely by Islam, which is based on the
Quranic expressions which in turn recall those traditional writings of the other holy
scriptures in their most orthodox foundations, Christianity seems unwilling to
recognize the prophesies contained in their own holy books, such as announcements
of the future advent of a Paracletic tradition successive to Christianity.
The other objection usually expressed in this regard is the statement that if a
Christian was to recognize the truth contained in Islamic doctrine, he would by this
very deed become Muslim. We feel this concept again derives from the modern
western, typically Christian, tendency to believe that God gave the world a single true
revelation, which is Christianity and certainly not Islam, even if Islam were intended
in its etymological sense of surrender to the will of God.
Islam, on the other hand, is considered today by Christianity as a propedeutica
Christi, a preparation for recognition of the Christ figure, although already present
in another form in the most orthodox Islamic doctrine, or as semina verbi, seeds of a
divine work that will only achieve completion with recognition of the incarnation of
Jesus as the Son of God. This is not contemplated in Islam, where Jesus is regarded,
rather, at spirit of God, born of the Virgin and annunciation of the hour.
This hinders Christians from recognizing the Holy Quran, the Word of God
for Muslims, as another manifestation of the Word, to regard it as a holy book on the
same plane as the inspired texts of the Bible and New Testament, in the same way the
Muslims place the figure of Jesus on the same plane as the other prophets, from
Adam, first man and first Islamic prophet, to Noah, Abraham, Moses, down to
Muhammed, sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam, seal of the prophets, and to the expectation
of the second coming of Jesus on Judgement Day.
Consequently, Christians express the so-called Islamic-Christian dialogue in
terms of almost exclusive humanitarian equivalency, recognizing the good intentions
of the Muslims who, though they believe in a single God and venerate the figure of
Jesus and the Virgin Mary, will end up where only such good intentions can lead.
Muslims, on the other hand, insist on the theological incompatibility of the two
revelations regarding the figure of Jesus. The fact that Jesus is viewed by Muslims as
the Spirit of God, but by Christians as the Son of God and God himself, places in
doubt the very conception of the singleness of God of Abrahamic monotheism, which
the Christians ascribe only to the concepts of incarnation and trinitarianism as
antecedent even to its own manifestation.
In this way they choose to overlook, on the one side, the metaphysical
conception of an absolute principle, which the Fathers of the Church called the Ocean
of Being, and, on the other, the Quranic phrases that say: There is no coercion in
religion; to you your religion and to us ours ; and if God had so wished, He would
have made you one community, but He did not, to test you with what He gave you ;
all of you will return to God and then everything on which you are discordant today
will be clarified to you.
This brings to mind the adage of Orthodox Eastern Christianity that says: If
God became man, it was to make man become God. It is precisely this Deificatio or
Thosis, today denied to the Christian west, that would offer the opportunity to
recognize in life the validity of the other paths, without having to oppose orthodoxy,
this time in the broad sense, whether Christian or Islamic, but only the false modern
conceptions of a monotheism intended in the form of confessional exclusivism: yes, we
believe in one God, but only in ours.
But the greatest dangers of contact between Islam and the West certainly do
not derive just from these conceptions of hegemonic Christian exclusivism towards
other religions, or the leveling of catholic theology to a mere social doctrine of the
Church, but from the secularization and profanation of the West, be it so-called
religious, or rather laic, agnostic or more generally atheistic.
The Christians themselves do not attempt to convert Muslims to their religion,
which for the most part they no longer practice, but only to their way of intending
religion on almost exclusively ethical-social bases. They are therefore resistant to the
efforts of those on the Islamic side who would attempt to show them the truths
contained in the Holy Quran, which Christians certainly do not regard as the word of
God, just as they no longer believe in the truths expressed in the holy books of their
traditions and not even, perhaps, in God Himself. If, in effect, they still believed, this
would require a major change in their lives. They therefore seek by every means to
combat the spirituality that may still be present in Islam, that latest revelation that
came, like the others, from the East, equating it, rather, with backward or
superstitions conceptions or with the expressions of burgeoning fundamentalism, the
real obstacle to the propagation of Islam in the West.
Thus the danger behind the dialogue and confrontation of Islam with the
West, intended here in this sense, is certainly not that the West may be engulfed by a
world regarded as foreign but rather that even Islam may humble itself to demand
what are commonly called human rights rather than maintain its original eastern
sacredness, which reminds us of all of our divine duties. Islam today seems to be the
last and only traditional civilization that can demand those duties.




 
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