Letters to My Children
Comments on Pope Benedict
So, Pope Benedict, speaking on the subject of Faith and Reason, asserted that compulsion in religious belief was NOT A GOOD THING. As he did this, he mentioned a statement by a 14th Century Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, delivered to an Persian/Islamic philosopher, to the effect that some upstart named Mohamet had gone back on his earlier "Direct Word from Allah, which must never be changed" to encourage his followers to conquer, and to murder the men they conquered, to put to the sword all non-believers, or to force them into the "dhimmi" status where they had to pay tribute, and submit to beatings when they paid said tax.
I think it is rarely disputed that historically Islam was promulgated by the sword during the later life of Mohamet, and later that example was followed by his early followers. There are some "liberals" who assert that Mohamet was an entire fiction, invented by some Caliph or another, to provide religious justification for his agressive wars. That puts the authoring of the Qu-ran somewhat later, which explains well its lack of what would be expected variation. During the putative time of Mahomet, there was NO written Arabic. The later Arabic script was written using the Syrio-Aramaic script, just as English is normally written with Roman script.l
My silly question is that if Mohamet went back on the "Direct Word of Allah, which can never be changed" was he an apostate? Or just a liar who made it all up? Or a fiction, who some other liar made up?
Well, the Pope, being the Pope (aka Pontifex Maximus relating to the pagan Roman position who was responsible for the college of priests, as well as for upkeep on a particular bridge across the Tiber) has Muslim trouble makers who routinely go through his every word with a fine tooth comb. They found that he quoted said Byzantine Emperor, and rather than find fault with what he said, (aka, assert that Mahomet was opposed to extending Islam by fire and sword), they asserted that Mahomet, being dead now for 1400 years, was somehow insulted by said comment.
"How dare anyone assert Islam is not tolerant. We must behead any infidel who is not so oppressed that he would speak the truth!"
The Pope asserted that logic and reason was a basis for understanding between different faiths. That any faith which did not begin with respect for reason could not gain G-ds approval, or humanity's approval. (In Greek, Logos, is reason, or Word, or Meaning, per the first phase of the Gospel of John "In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with G-d, and the Logos was G-d")
If the "liberal" Muslim scholars are correct, that Mahomet was a fictional invention to justify the Caliph's agression, there are some interesting consequences. Christianity was an odd little religion in the shadows until the Council of Nicea. Said council, convened by Constantine the Great, had each of the books of the Bible expounded, and a decision was made to keep the book as part of the new official Christian faith, or to reject it. Rejected were the Gospels of Thomas and Peter among other books. After the Council, the books that were rejected were sought out and destroyed, with all the thouroughness that a new convert could muster, if the new convert happened to be the Emperor. We only recently found what what those rejected gospels said (a copy being found in Ethiopia in 1948, written in a Coptic script). The books are available to non-scholars now in an English translation called "The Gnostic Gospels". I have seen it in Barnes and Noble.
Islam moved out of the Desert, and was stopped cold by the Roman Empire. Mere aggression was not enough to defeat the resources of a large nation, and where conquered, the established Roman church provided a locus for opposition to the despotic Arabic rulers.
The Islamic solution was to create a religion, with a prophet safely in the past, and to prevent any new prophets by asserting he was the last prophet, the "Seal of the Prophets" or even, by some translations, the "Witness of the Prophets". This did several things:
1. It gave a reason for the Caliph's own religion to steal all Christian Churches. The Al-Asqua mosque in Jerusalem was one of the most famous churchs built by the Byzantines, and stealing it removed the reproach of having the competition with finer architecture.
2. It gave a reason for the Caliph's own religion to ban all competing religions.
3. It gave a reason for a tax on the conquered people, that would not be levyed on the Caliph's soldiers and supporters.
4. Wiggle room written into the Quran to permit soldiers to rape, pillage, and enslave. Since rich and powerful men had many wives, the only chance that the poor man had to find a woman of his own was to join the Caliph's army, and as a fighter, take what he could. Wiggle room is also written in to permit homosexual rape.
The funny thing is the sites of Pilgrimmage were rich, and powerful, with their own soldiery to protect that wealth. Their bone was the continuation of local pagan pilgrimmage practices, initiated when the Sindoo/Hindus conquered Arabia. Mecca still has Hindu Idols inside the smallish square building that is the center of Haj/Pilgrimmage.