Father Bob, JULY 2, 2006
“Raid Growth of Islam, Uniqueness of Christianity”
“After that terrible day Sept. 11, 2001, many American Catholics asked themselves the question, What do we know about Islam? Some acknowledged that about all they knew was that it was the religion of Osama bin Laden and the terrorists.
Since then a day has not passed when Islam, a major world religion, has not been in the news. The children in our Catholic schools and in our parish schools of religion and our confirmation candidates, along with their teachers and their parents, are wondering about Islam. The rapid unfolding of events in the world has made it abundantly clear that we need to do much more than wonder. We need to learn.
When I was pastor in a suburb of Chicago, an eighth grader from our parish school whose uncle had converted to Islam had an urgent question. “Is it true that Our Lady of Fatima is an Islamic name?” I said, “Our Lady of Fatima celebrates the 1917 apparition of Mary in a city in Portugal. Because the name of the city is Fatima, Mary became known as ‘Our Lady of Fatima.’” I told him the name Fatima however, does have Islamic origins. It is an Arabic word,
not Portuguese. After the spread of Islam from North Africa to Portugal, the city was named Fatima, honoring the Daughter of Muhammad, the prophet of Allah and the founder of Islam, who was born in Mecca, in present-day Saudi Arabia in 570 A.D.
He said, “I never heard that before!”
Most Catholics may be aware that the Catholic Church is the largest Christian community in the world, with over 1.1 billion members. However, there is a great deal about Islam that they have never heard before. They may not be aware that there are over 1 billion followers of Islam as well. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are sometimes referred to as Abrahamic faith traditions because all three trace their roots to the patriarch Abraham, who worshiped God alone, and not many gods. This monotheism was something radically new in the Middle East.
When we ponder the belief that there is only one God, we realize that Yahweh, the God of Israel, Abba Father, the God of Jesus Christ, and Allah, the God of Islam are the SAME God, since there is only one God. Judaism does not have a god, Christianity another and Islam still another. If the God in whom the three Abrahamic faith traditions believe is God, then the faith traditions do not have God. God has us!
This affirmation does not mean that there are not profound, irreconcilable differences in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, about the divine nature. Differing about how God is God (for example, the Trinity, the incarnation) is not the same as affirming different gods.
The Quran, the holy book of Islam, recounts many narratives featuring Old Testament figures like Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Solomon and David. The Quran also reveres the Virgin Mary and her son, Jesus Christ, acknowledging his miraculous birth and resurrection though not his divinity. Muhammad, unlike some radical extremist Islamic groups today, taught that Muslims must treat Jews and Christians in their countries as guests, not enemies. The followers of Islam believe that God’s revelation did not end in Christianity. They believe Judaism and Christianity are extended and fulfilled in Islam...” (to be continued)