print Print
send Send to friends
What impedes understanding of Mohammad in the West?

I intend to talk about what may complicate understanding of Mohammad in the west and I would like to approach it from a historical and a theoretical perspective. In line with cold propaganda warfare against Mohammad in the west and talking about him with hatred and away from a just and neutral attention to his words and manner, there is a theoretical complex here concerning the western perception of religion as a whole.

Many theologians and religion sociologists say that the religion in the west no longer gives knowledge and legitimacy. Religion is not awareness and calmness giver anymore and brings no more responsibilities and rights. It is not even regarded a plan for life or a responsibility for the state, let alone be a foundation for today's civilization. Even the Jesus and the Christianity is a personal formality in the western life of the day. It is changed into a fantasy and show, something like a poem or an art and is placed at the margins of western civilization and society.
 
Today the western thinkers talk about religion in past tense. Such a religion is in need of dissection and it is first and foremost the forensic pathologists who are entitled to explore it and then philosophers. As Ernest Renan put it ‘how they expect me to build my life on the basis of some sermons, a cross and some inconsistent texts?' Perhaps the Renan's expression is the way the west understands religion.
Mohammad defines religion as being comprehensive and multidimensional that brings about responsibility. Mohammad's religion is claimant of the right interpretation of life and death and is entitled to give a list of human rights and responsibilities. Furthermore, it puts God at the center of life not in the archives and draws ethics from the margin into the core. Mohammad tried to define politics, economy, law, educational system and state in a spiritual and religious framework.
 
He didn't leave Caesar and Cesar to themselves. Made Caesar obey the law and serve the people. He expanded the concept of religion to encompass all aspects of human social and individual life. He connected spirituality to justice and rationality so that Jihad for social equality is equal to worship of God. Mohammad accepts no secular or non-religious institution in the society. He accepts no immoral institution. Islam does not approve a social life whose politics and economy are separate from spirituality and moralities.

A problem we are having in the conferences held in the west is either we are facing a Christian or a secular addressee. We don't know if we have to talk in a religious or irreligious language. On one hand we see ourselves in a same family with Christians and Jews as these religions have the same root as Islam but on the other hand we have to face a west that no longer claims being religious, is dissociated from its Christian identity and calls the era of Christianity‘ the dark ages of Europe'.

The religion is marginalized in the west but Mohammad's religion does not fragment human personality to be satisfied with a part of that. It captures the whole human existences as what love does. It is like hope in activating human mind and pushing him for action and like an atmosphere that covers all human individual and social dimensions. Mohammad does not reduce religion to spirituality and at the same time does not marginalize spirituality. He does not separate the spiritual and rational dimensions of matters and materials from religious. He individualizes the essence of faith but never restricts the religion to the private sphere for the non-religious to capture the public sphere.
 
Mohammad's religion was neither human rationality nor human experience and it does not know the human instinct a rival or enemy. It does not suppress reason, experience and instinct but rather recognizes them, makes a balance between them and directs them towards spirituality and evolutionary life. Therefore Mohammad's spirituality is neither individual nor in contradiction with reason.
 
However the Europeans perceive religion a social institution alongside others at best. While in the teachings of Mohammad it is religion that directs all social institutions in the path to morality and spiritual evolution and is a combination of justice and rationality based on sacred divine rules, the European social and spiritual institutions are independent and have to remain independent. This explains why Mohammad is the leader of both religious and political societies.
 
Power, wealth, knowledge and virtue which are subjects for politics, economy, philosophy and ethics respectively, are all defined within Mohammad's religion and tie to sacred concepts. But in the European and western interpretation of religion they are all defined out of religion and are secular. It is despite of the fact that the prophet's spiritual movements from Abraham to Jesus and Mohammad are economic and political revolutions too.

It is perhaps hard for the west to understand this ethics. They have started from catholic ethics then moved to materialistic-protestant and finally ended up with secular ethics and the separation between ethics and religion based on either contract or utility. In both, the connection between ethics and rationality is cut. Mohammad did not forbid material pleasure for humanity. Did not contrast sexual needs with spirituality but rather talked about moderation in instincts satisfaction. Rather than suppressing passion invited to its management. He saw beauty and adores it but wanted people to pass over the limited and temporary ones to see the absolute and eternal beauty. He didn't regard happiness sinful or laughter a cause for the anger of God. He said it satisfies Allah to see the one who makes people cheerful. Mohammad did not deny nature but negated naturalism. He legitimized knowing nature and taking its possession alongside holding the faith to super-nature and fought naturalist and materialist views.

He warned against humiliation of man. Talked about human dignity but attributed it to belief in God and monotheism. In his logic, the infidel humanism turns into theist humanism as he fought both human worship and human antagonism.

Unlike Buddhism, Mohammad did not refuse matter for protecting sole and unlike the secular-capitalist west did not refuse sole for matter. He neither sacrificed meaning for matter nor forgot matter in the name of meaning. He wants both material and spiritual aspects of human life respected.

Islamic rules are either permanent or provisional. This gives a good space for reasoning and inference. Mohammad did not abandon freedom and individual's responsibility in the name of destiny determined by God nor did he deny God's governance of the universe in the name of human and his freedom and right to choose. He interpreted human's freedom in parallel with his responsibility and the right to choose in shadow of divine authority. He arranged the relation of the world and futurity in a way not to sacrifice the concept of asceticism for capitalism and not like catholic Puritanism and in the name of sacred concepts deny the most apparent human needs in a way that leads to eruption of these material needs that after a while translated to triumph of secularism over Christianity.
 
In this manner and for the said reasons, religion as defined by Mohammad cannot be an institution in the same level as other social institutions. Therefore this religion cannot be subject to separation of powers or separate from state, economy or culture. In Mohammad's logic, religion has internal and individual implications but is not confined to this internal-individual dimension and is related to the public sphere. The religious values cannot be separated from public culture.

I tend to finish my discussion by posing some questions. These questions have both philosophical and historical aspects and I invite those colleagues who have specialized on these fields to think about these questions in order to create an opportunity for further dialogues with the west. All the upcoming questions are posed based on the assumption that almost all ideologies and new schools in the west are built on the ruins of Christianity.

These are the questions: the individuals whose names will be subsequently brought have all created new secular ideologies in denial of Christianity. We want to question their relation to Islam. If Spinoza, Walter, jean Jacque Rousseau, Hume and Diderot had seen Quran would not they revise their definition of religion? If Nietzsche, Wolters and Ratsel who are against Christ had seen Mohammad would they question religion in a way they did based on their understanding of church Christianity? It is not irrelevant when Dante in Divine comedy calls Mohammad's followers like Booali (Avicenna) and Ibne-roshd fathers of rationalism in Europe and the west. Our question is wasn't it an effort to defend Christian divinity when Kant posed the thesis of separation between faith and reason? Wasn't Wittgenstein entangled in the infallible gap between human understanding and Christian teachings when he was obliged to call the religious language nonsense and then to pose the theory of language games? Would the theory of division between ethics and religion and the secular ethics be posed if Mohammad's ethics and Quran would be known and would Kant be obliged to pose the idea of ethical religion instead of religious ethics?
 
If Quran epistemology was known in the Europe of Descartes era was he obliged to pose the idea of distance between body and soul? If Europe understood the concept of faith as Mohammad did, would Schleiermacher be compelled to reduce the whole divinity to a personal experience? And would Kierkegaard be compelled to resort to fideism with the aim to defend faith? And if Marquez had heard about the justice-seeking teachings of Mohammad would he call religion opium of the people and a justification instrument for class cruelties and a theory for laundering the ruling class which serves capitalism? And if Bentham, Stuart Mill and Hobbes understood Mohammad would they pose the human benefit and utility independent of divine values and against ethics? If Nietzsche had understood Mohammad would he humiliate ethics?
My intention from all the said matters was to state that they all did so because they were not aware of Mohammad's teachings. To finish this lecture I would like to say if positivists had seen Mohammad's care for science instead of what Europe experienced from church's anti-science measures, would they be trapped in denial of reason, ethics, divinity and mysticism? If the nationalists had seen Mohammad's defense of reason would they negate religion and spirituality in the name of rationalism? If the humanists had seen human dignity, human rights and human freedom in the teachings of Mohammad they would never accept negating existence of God and worshiping humanity with the aim to restore human independence and glory.
 
If the nationalists had seen social integration and human unity in Mohammad's Ummah they would never be trapped in racism. If the liberals were aware of human material and spiritual, individual and social rights in Mohammad's traditions would they resort to relativism, denial of absolute fact, instrumentalization of spirituality, individualization of religion and finally utilitarianism? And if the feminists had seen the woman dignity in Mohammad's words and intentions would they be compelled to deny woman in order to prove woman's humanity? And last but not least, if Muslims had known Mohammad truly and thoroughly and if they had understood Quran correctly would they be affected by today's unawareness and be so retrograded? These questions can be a beginning for the future dialogue between Islam and the west to see the similarities and differences of Islam and Christianity. Thank you.