Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fatwa against terrorism in New Delhi (India)

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Muslims gathered in New Delhi on Saturday to denounce terrorism, with leading Islamic seminary Darul Uloom issuing a fatwa declaring it as the "most inhuman crime".

"In its (Islam) eyes, on any part over the surface of the earth spreading mischief, rioting, breach of peace, bloodshed, killing of innocent persons and plundering are the most inhuman crime," read the fatwa, issued here at an Anti-Terrorism Conference.

The conference, organised by Jamiat-Ulma-I-Hind, saw the participation of clerics, scholars and religious leaders of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs besides 70,000 people from across the country.

Reading out the fatwa, Deoband's cleric Riyasat Ali Bijnouri, quoted Holy Koran as saying: "Do not mischief on the earth after it has been set in order. [...] Islam loves peace. Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence... and does not allow it in any form," the fatwa said.

The fatwa further read: "the religion of Islam has come to wipe out all kinds of terrorism and to spread the message of global peace."

The conference, however, expressed deep concern and agony on the present global condition in which most of the nations are adopting an adverse attitude towards Muslims. "It is a matter of greater concern that the internal and external policies of a country are getting heavily influenced by these forces," MP and Jamiat leader Maulana Mahmood Asad Madani said.

The gathering also condemned attempts to implicate Muslims and particularly religious institutions for terrorist acts.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Remarkable: Bahrain appoints Jewish Ambassador, and a woman

Bahrain has appointed a Jewish woman as an ambassador to the United States. Ms. Nonoo is believed to be the Arab world's first Jewish envoy, according to al-Jazeera's english news service. Nonoo, 43, said she would undertake the role "first of all as a Bahraini" and that she was not chosen because of her religion.

Bahraini media had speculated over Nonoo's selection for the past few months. Nonoo, a businesswoman and mother of two children, has served as a legislator in Bahrain's all-appointed 40-member Shura Council for three years. She lives in both Bahrain and London and is the first Jewish woman to head a local rights organisation, the Bahrain Human Rights Watch.

She is Bahrain's third woman ambassador – the first being appointed to France in 2000 and the second to China. Bahrain is a predominately Shia Muslim state but has Sunni rulers who are allied to the US. About 40 Jews live in Bahrain, where there is one synagogue.

The authorities in Bahrain are currently planning to grant full citizenship rights to Jewish returnees, according to local reports.

What makes someone a kaafir or murtadd?

I came across this helpful list on a website; it helps us understand when Islam considers someone a kaafir or an apostate. The writer, Muhammed A. Hafeez, warns that the list is not intended to be comprehensive, however 'it is general and every person should be forewarned against the matters mentioned therein. Kufr should be recognised and acknowledged by the Muslims in general so that they know how to protect themselves from its dangers.'

We must however remember never to be hasty in labelling one who claims to be Muslim as a kaafir (disbeliever) or murtadd (apostate) without clear and irrefutable evidence. An assignation or specific ruling of kufr (disbelief) for such a person should generally be left to the scholars of Islam. Kufr (disbelief) is of two types: action ('amaly) and belief ('itiqaady ), some of which may be termed "kufr doona kufr" that is, a degree of kufr less than the total kufr which does not necessarily put one outside of Islam although such a person's Islam may be doubtful or in grave danger. This is the explanation of Qur'an 5:44 by the companion Ibn Abbaas (radiallaahu 'anhu) collected by Ibn Jareer and quoted by Ibn Katheer on the authority of 'Ataa.

Ibn Umar (radiallaahu 'anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said "Any person who called his brother 'O Unbeliever' (has in fact done an act by which this kufr) would return to one of them. If it were so as he (the accuser) asserted, (the kufr of the accused would be confirmed, but if the kufr was not true) then it returned to him (the man who called his brother Muslim a kaafir)." Muslim.

There are matters which may indeed indicate or even necessitate that a person be a disbeliever (kaafir) such as defiling the Qur'an or cursing the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) regardless of what the person espouses and it is only Allah who knows the unseen. As humans we can only judge or make determinations from what is outwardly evident.

1. To disavow Allah's Lordship (Ruboobiyah) or Deity and singular right to be worshipped (Uloohiyah) [Qur'an 4:48 & 116, 5:72, 39:2-3, 51:56] or the message of any of the Messengers of Allah (Tawheed) [Qur'an 10:35, 16:36] or to claim that any Messenger or Prophet (Rasool or Nabiy) came after the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam). [Qur'an 6:93, 6:21, 7:37, 11:18-19, 18:15, 29:68, 33:40, 39:32, 61:8]

2. To deny or reject any of Allah's Attributes or Names (Asmaa was Sifaat) i.e. Living, Knowing, Hearing, Seeing, Merciful, having a face and hands (though we know not in what manner yet certainly not like His creation), or to add to them that which is not mentioned in the Qur'an or authentic Sunnah. i.e. Belief that Allah is not above His creation and that He is everywhere or in everything or to attribute any quality that is Allah's alone to man [Qur'an 4:48, 6:18 & 61, 10:3, 68 - 69, 20:5, 35:10, 42:11, 72:26 - 27, Ch. 112]

3. Setting up intermediaries between oneself and Allah, making supplication to them, asking their intercession, and placing one's trust in them. Calling upon the dead, asking them for help, or offering them gifts or sacrifices is all shirk. [Qur'an 2:165 & 255, 5:72, 30:52, 39:44]. To give any of the creation that which is due to Allah alone or to be pleased with being given worship besides Allah in any manner [Qur'an 21:29] thus making or becoming a taaghoot (pl. tawaagheet).

4. To curse, abuse the Name of Allah, to deny or to revile Him or any of His Messengers or Prophets or Angels. [Qur'an 2:285, 4:136, 6:10, 57:19]

5. To deny, stop, or reject any Fard (obligatory) duty of the Sharia (Divine Law) i.e. Salaah, Zakaah, Saum, Hajj, Kindness to parents, or Jihad. [Qur'an 4:50, 64-65, 80] or to turn away from the religion by not learning or practising its precepts. [Qur'an 32:22]

6. To deem or to make permissible (halaal) what is clearly forbidden (haraam) - ie adultery, fornication, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, theft, murder, sorcery, magic; or to make what is halaal haraam - ie to eat meat or seafood, marry plural wives, women to veil, etc. [Qur'an 2:102, 174-176,4:69, 6:157]

7. To deny or reject any chapter, verse, or letter from the Book of Allah (Al-Qur'an) or to purposely give it deviant interpretations [Qur'an 3:7, 6:21] i.e. not derived from the Qur'an itself, the authentic Sunnah of Muhammad (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) [Qur'an 6:153, 16:64] or according to established methods of tafseer. Abu Hurairah (radiallaahu 'anhu) reported that the Rasool (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, "Don't pursue that which you have no knowledge of." Ahmed. [Qur'an 4:59, 10:68-70].

8. To openly show disdain, scorn, contempt for, or treat with levity the Deen of Islam or its tenets, obligatory injunctions or it's traditions. [Qur'an 4:140] To ridicule and deride them or to treat the Qur'an as a piece of garbage or to trample or abuse it as an insult. [Qur'an 4:83, 140, 6:4-5, 7:50-51, 9:63-66, 20:124, 41:26 27]

9. To disbelieve in the Resurrection, Punishment, or Goodly reward on the Day of Reckoning or that punishment and reward are only abstract, symbolic or spiritual. [Qur'an , 56:1-2, 67:8-10, 69]

10. To say that the Righteous (Awliyaa') are above the Prophets ('alaihimus salaam) or that some of the Righteous are exempt from acts of worship prescribed by Islam according to the Sunnah of Muhammad (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam). [Qur'an 3:85, 8:34, 10:62-63]

11. To rule or judge by other than that which Allah revealed. This is of different types and the ruling differs depending on the beliefs and actions. Whoever rules by other than what Allah has revealed viewing it or believing it to be superior or better than Allah's sharia is considered a disbeliever by all the Muslims.

Likewise, the one who substitutes the sharia with man-made laws and views that as permissible, even if he says that to rule by the sharia is better, is a disbeliever because he has made halaal what Allah has made haraam. If one rules as described following whims or in opposition to someone (i.e. not viewing it as equal, a substitute or superior as described above) he is considered a major sinner. [2:120, 3:85, 4:115, 5:3, 44, 49, 50, 33:36, 45:18, 58:22]. [explained in detail in Fataawa Ibn Baz, Vol. 1 Rulings on 'Aqeedah, pg. 991]

12. To support or aid the polytheists (mushrikoon) against the Muslims. [3:28. 118, 4:51, 5:57]

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Persecution of Christians in Algeria

Two years after Algeria enacted a troubling religious law, Christians in the North African nation are facing an unprecedented clampdown, with churches being closed, suspected missionaries put on trial, and Muslim figures warning of devious plans to lure Algerians away from Islam. Read here more about the present situation.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Please Lord, keep the comboys away from the Arab World

People like Rick Warren scare me stiff. He has a new plan, and we are his target. His goal is the whole world. Already established as perhaps the most important voice in contemporary American Evangelical Christianity, Rick Warren last week pressed the button that he hopes will take his "brand" to the ends of the earth.

TIME Magazine calls it 'the Evangelical equivalent of a long-awaited IPO of a tech start-up whose brand the cognoscenti have predicted will become a global juggernaut: The PEACE coalition is a plan of epic ambition, to turn at least half of the world's tens of millions of Christian churches into a giant "network of networks" dedicated to relieving the poverty and misery of the developing world. O Lord come soon... The hubris of some western churches... Read and pray...

Radical Islam fills void in Great Britain

The decline of Christian values is destroying Britishness and has created a 'moral vacuum' which radical Islam is filling, says the Church of England's bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali in a new English conservative political magazine Standpoint. He faced death threats earlier this year after he said some parts of Britain had become 'no-go areas' for non-Muslims

Michael Nazir-Ali, claimed the 'social and sexual' revolution of the 1960s had led to a steep decline in the influence of Christianity over society which church leaders had failed to resist.
He said that in its place, Britain had become gripped by the doctrine of 'endless self-indulgence' which had led to the destruction of family life, rising levels of drug abuse and drunkenness and mindless violence on the streets.

The bishop warns that the modern politicians' catchphrases of respect and tolerance will not be strong enough to prevent this collapse of traditional virtues, and said radical Islam is now moving in to fill the void created by the decline of Christianity. More of this interesting article can be read in the The Telegraph.

In The Guardian the views of Nazir-Ali are attacked; that newspaper suggests that Archbishop Rowan Williams, should let the the nation hear another sounds as well, but it suspects he has too many headaches already.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Doing Mission in the Arab World

Interserve has just published a book that was created on the basis of articles that appeared on our St Francis Magazine website. Lyn Weaich, Berys Nixon and I edited the book (but I take the blame, in the end...) and am quite happy with the result. Have a look for more information on Doing Mission in the Arab World.

Monday, May 26, 2008

New Magazine Uploaded

As of today, the 13th issue of St Francis Magazine (Nr 1, Vol IV) is on the web. Have a look! It contains 7 good articles on Mission, Church and Islam in the Arab World.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Saudi Arabia and more religious dialogue

On 4 June, a three-day international Islamic conference wil be held on religious dialogue in Mekka. 500 Islamic scholars are expected to attend. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, who has called for interfaith dialogues to promote world peace and communal harmony, is expected to open the conference. See Arab News.

According to the organizer of the conference, Dr. Al-Turki, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, Islamic scholars across the globe have welcomed King Abdullah's call for dialogue, saying it is the best way to silence those who launch smear campaigns against Islam and Muslims, and stop attacks on Islam.

I guess (not more than that) that by involving his own scholars in international dialogue with other religions (read: Christianity), King Abdullah wants to stimulate Saudi's religious scholars to moderation in their own views about Islam and other religions. The royal house of Saudi Arabia needs to get rid of extremists like the Mutaawa, it is open to having a Roman Catholic Church build in its land, it wants the country to be more open to the world, but for doing so it needs to defeat extremist views in Saudi Arabia. So the King needs to do much internal work for creating a more peaceful sort of Islam. Am I rambling now?

Signs of the Day of Judgment

It is always good to be forewarned of doom to come. I came across this helpful lists of future things that will precede the Day of Judgment, straight form the words of Allah and His Messenger. These points are from Dr. Suhaib Hasan, from a lecture at Cambridge University
Islamic Society, Shawwal 1420 / January 2000.

1. The number of men will decrease, whilst the number of women will increase, until for every man there are 50 women.

2. The Euphrates will reveal a treasure of gold, and many will die fighting over it, each one hoping to be the one who gains the treasure.

3. The Romans (Europeans) will come to a place called A’maq or Wabiq, and an army of the best people will go forth from Madinah to face them.

4. The Muslim conquest of Rome.

5. The Mahdi (guided one) will appear, and be the Imam of the Muslims.

6. Jesus Christ will descend in Damascus, and pray behind the Mahdi.

7. Jesus will break the cross and kill the swine, i.e. destroy the false christianity.

8. The Antichrist (al-masih al-dajjal, the false christ) will appear, with all his tools of deception, and be an immense trial. He will be followed by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan (present-day Iran).

9. The appearance of Ya’juj and Ma’juj (Gog and Magog), and the associated tribulations.

10. The emergence of the Beast from the Earth, carrying the Staff of Moses and the Seal of Solomon, who will speak to the people, telling them they did not believe with certainty in the Divine Signs.

11. A major war between the Muslims (including Jews and Christians who truly believe in Jesus after his return) led by the Imam Mahdi, and the Jews plus other non-Muslims led by the Antichrist.

12. Jesus will kill the Antichrist at the gate of Ludd (Lod in present-day Israel, site of an airport and a major Israeli military base).

13. A time of great peace and serenity during and after the remaining lifetime of Jesus.

14. Wealth will come so abundant that it will become difficult to find someone to accept charity.

15. Arabia will become a land of gardens and rivers.

16. Society will then decay.

17. The buttocks of the women of the tribe of Daws will again sway in circumambulation (tawaf) around the idol Dhul-Khulsah.

18. A great fire in the Hijaz, seen by the inhabitants of Busra.

19. Three major armies will sink into the earth: one in the east, one in the west, one in Arabia.

20. An Abyssinian leader with thin shins will destroy the Ka’bah.

21. The huge cloud of smoke.

22. The sun will rise from the west (its place of setting).

23. A gentle wind which will take the souls of the believers.

24. There is no-one left on the earth saying, "Allah, Allah" or "There is no god except Allah."

25. Eventually the Day of Judgment is established upon the worst of the people, who copulate like donkeys in public.

26. The blowing in the Trumpet by the Angel Israfil, upon which everyone will faint except as Allah wills.

27. The second blowing in the Trumpet, upon which everyone will be resurrected.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Convert wounded by his own explosive

When one is a new Christian, one does not always behave wisely. We become radical and do no know how to balance our work and study with helping granny's cross the street, or we give too much away for helping the poor and needy, or we rave on and on to family members that are not interested.

Nick Reilly (22), a recent convert to Islam from Plymouth, yesterday took a few bombs to a shopping center in Exeter, and injured himself in the face. The man seems to have a history of mental illness. BBC gives more details.

One explosive device went off at lunchtime in a family restaurant; another device was defused by bomb disposal teams. Tony Melville, Devon and Cornwall’s Deputy Chief Constable, said last night that Mr Reilly had been 'preyed upon, radicalised and taken advantage of''. Mr Reilly’s neighbours said that he had been brainwashed.

What would a new Christian with a history of mental illness do, after being 'preyed upon and brainwashed' by those who led him to Christ?

Why the Islamists are so wrong about Islam

Asma Afsaruddin (see photo), professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana (USA), in her book The First Muslims: History and Memory argues that the Islamist depiction of the early history of Islam is dead wrong. It is not 'the real Islam', and she has excellent arguments.

She concludes: "It is quite clear that those whom we call 'modernists' today are in fact much closer to the salaf as-salih in their world view, as reflected in the early sources." In fact, she goes on to call the modernists "the true salafis". In other words, under the standards that Islamists themselves set, they fall short.

In the area of women's rights, she shows that the Islamist view of women isn't based on how the salaf women actually lived, but on how 13th-15th century Islamic scholars misleadingly depicted the first generation of Muslim women. E.g., the 15th century scholar Ibn Hajar "editorialised" and engaged in a "reconstruction" of a number of the Muslim women from the 7th century, so they would come off as passive, docile and submissive as opposed to how they were really: active, involved in the public sphere, and independent.

For a good book review, see Ali Eteraz in the Guardian.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why did Muhammad have so many wives?

The Pakistan Daily answers a question about the insatiable interest of the prophet of Islam for acquiring women. The question, from what I guess is a kafir who likes to tarnish the image of the prophet, is this:

Why is it that, if Islam only permits up to four wives, and even then does not encourage it, Muhammad took nine wives? Also, one of his wives was only seven years old when he married her, and nine when he consummated the marriage, according to some Websites. This seems to me akin to child molestation!

Also, one of his children was not from one of his wives, but from one of his "right-hand possessions" to quote your own Web site. Why is a woman called a possession? Is this a concubine? Why did he have intercourse outside of wedlock? Weren't nine women enough for him? Muhammad's own lifestyle seems to contradict the very teachings Islam claims regarding marriage and women.

The answer is interesting because here you have all rationalizations for Muhammad's harem together. Not very convincing for me, but then, I am biased. Laughable is the quote from the Mormons. Would any serious person in the Western world take their view on wives seriously?

The importance of our Trinitarian faith

William G. Witt has a great article on his website about the importance of a correct understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, as it directly impacts on the issue of salvation through Jesus Christ. Cyril of Alexandria had it right! (see picture)

For those of you ministering in the Arab World, a great article to read. In order to reach Muslims with the Gospel, you can never give up on our most precious faith in the Holy Trinity in order to make it easier for Muslims...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Qatari Fatwa in favor of the church

Although most traditional schools of Islamic jurisprudence believe that building new churches in Islamic lands is not acceptable, Qatar is allowing some major construction projects for churches in Doha. Earlier this year, the rather massive St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral was opened. (see photo)

The Qatari government argued the permissibility of this project in a report that quotes a fatwa of Qatar’s Islamic scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi: since Christian expatriates have come to this country in increasingly large numbers it is but natural that they should be allowed to have the facility to fulfil their spiritual needs.

“Such an accommodation is in keeping with the principles of the Islamic Shari’ah which lays great stress on the overall good and the public interest in a Muslim country which includes a sizeable number of non-Muslims,” accordig to al-Qaradawi. He admitted that the position taken by him is not in line with the majority of the traditional schools of thought on Islamic jurisprudence. “It is only Imam Abu Hanifa of the 10th century who had espoused such a view,” he said.

Qaradawi has issued the edict in response to a query from an expatriate living in Qatar on the Shari’ah point of view on participating in a tender to build a non-Islamic place of worship – a church.

Source: Qatar's Gulf Times

Please Rt Rev Rowan Williams, no Shari'a!

This week in London the Islamic scholar Abdullahi Ahmed Al-Na’im rebutted Archbishop Rowan Williams' strange remarks about the need for 'some aspects of Sharia law' to be included in British law. Al-Na’im advocates secularism in his book Islam and the Secular State. He spoke at Temple Church, saying there is no basis for Shari’a law in a secular society such as Great Britain’s. He considers the idea of an 'Islamic state' unviable and dangerous.

This US review gives a good idea of al-Na'im's ideas. He explains the historic anomaly which created the notion of 'Islamic states' and says that 'a secular country is not one that forbids any expression of religion in public life, but rather one that mandates the neutrality of the state in religious affairs. ... expressions of religious belief in politics are part of a free society, but that we must draw the line at expressions of religious preference by the state... Believers must justify their political arguments in terms of the common good, not just by invoking texts and creeds.'

Islamic Reform in Turkey

Mehmet Görmez is the director of the project in Turkey to review the ahadith and come up with a more modern reading of Islam. He says: 'We will make a new compilation of the hadith and re-interpret them if necessary... The project takes its inspiration from the interpretations of the modernist vein of Islam. … We want to bring out the positive side of Islam that promotes personal honor, human rights, justice, morality, women's rights, respect for the other.'

Daniel Pipes on FrontPageMagazine writes on these efforts of a thorough revision of the ahadith. His article is worthwhile reading, not in the least because of the links to interviews with Turks involved in the project - and some who are critical about it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Two blogs to watch

Today I came across a blog by J. Shaw, on matters related to Islam. I noticed that he discussed an article by our own writer, Rev. Bassam Madany. Have a look here how he discussed Madany's article on the The Church Facing the Global Challenge of Islam, published on StFrancisMagazine. By the way, Shaw is a double masters student at the University of Texas at Austin (USA). He is on staff at his local church, The Austin Stone Community Church.

Interesting to see one other contributor to StFrancisMagazine, Abu Daoud, interact with Shaw on his criticism. A small world indeed :-) If you have not looked at Abu Daoud's blog Islam and Christianity, do so now. Looking at the number of postings of Abu Daoud, you would think he has a full time blogging ministry. The man is married and has kids. Does his wife never complain? Can you teach me the trick?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

British Muslims for a milder Islam

In England, the Quilliam Foundation publishes books and organizes lectures for convincing Muslims in the UK that Islamism is a wrong interpretation of Islam. It says of itself that it is 'a counter extremism think tank. Created by former activists of radical Islamist organisations, our founders are familiar with the mindset and methods of extremist groups. Now under the guidance of mainstream Muslim scholars, we believe that Western Muslims should revive Western Islam, our Andalusian heritage of pluralism and respect, and thereby find harmony in West-Islam relations.'

It is interesting to see whether organizations of this sort will be able to influence the millions of subcontintental Muslims in the UK. Also, in their opposition to Islamism, will they simply return to conservative Islam, or will they create an Islam that is mostly 'for the heart'?

Understanding the Trinity

I just read a small book by J.P. Arendzen, Understanding the Trinity (Sophia Institute Press, Manchester, NH, USA, 2004, 1937) with some helpful comments about understanding God as a Trinity:
Had God never created the world nor ever chosen Israel, He would still be God, dwelling in inaccessible heights of His own divine life. God was not bestirring Himself after an eternity of inactivity when He created the world. God is always life and therefore is always acting (p. 9)
God is life; God is power in ceaseless activity. Now, life and acts are to us men incomprehensible unless linked to some kind of duality or multiplicity, a going out and a reaching an end; if you like, a striving and an obtaining, a tending toward another and a grasping and embracing it. (p. 10)

How is thought conceivable without some duality, under some aspect at least, of the thinker and the thought. How is will conceivable without some duality under some aspect of Him who wills and the object of His will? Yet God is one! But it is a unity that lives – a life that involves no change and yet is life. (pp. 10-11)

Thinking is an act of knowledge, but is knowledge possible without some duality between knower and known? God wills. That means He loves, yet how is love possible without some duality between lover and beloved? (p. 11)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hesham Hasaballa's blog

Today I came across the blog of Hesham Hassaballa, called God, Faith and a Pen. This Muslim is a medical doctor who lives in Chicago (Ill), USA. He writes extensively about Islam, and he does that mostly in order for 'taking back Islam' from the hands of extremists. Hassaballa writes of a milder, more loving Islam; more for the heart, less with the sword.

Should we call him a revisionist? A dreamer? Or is he presenting 'true Islam' to us? Most Muslim scholars disagree with him (surely, he did not study fiqh, he is not one of them) and some gentlemen have sent him death threats.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Follow News on Sudan

For some of you hardline web-surfers, this online newspaper on Sudan may be an old friend, but for me it was new. The Sudan Tribune offers a lot of news about the ins and outs of what is happening in the devastated country.

I am very worried about the situation in Sudan; the idea that the South will vote to become independent seems a sure way to more bloodshed on a grand scale; war with Chad seems a possibility; Turabi arrested and released again...

In the Arab World, the support for the government in Khartoum seems 100%. The dictators maintain closed ranks - would they have a domino-theory that if one falls, more will go?

Pope John Paul II on contextualization

I am a bit slow, 17 years too slow actually. In 1991 Pope John Paul II published an important Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris Missio, on the permanent validity of the Church's Missionary Mandate. I read it this week with great interest. You find it HERE but I have also given you hereunder the parts on inculturation, or contextualization. Reading this made me realize hom Catholic I am :-)

52. […] The process of the Church's insertion into peoples' cultures is a lengthy one. It is not a matter of purely external adaptation, for inculturation "means the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures." The process is thus a profound and all-embracing one, which involves the Christian message and also the Church's reflection and practice. But at the same time it is a difficult process, for it must in no way compromise the distinctiveness and integrity of the Christian faith.

Through inculturation the Church makes the Gospel incarnate in different cultures and at the same time introduces peoples, together with their cultures, into her own community. She transmits to them her own values, at the same time taking the good elements that already exist in them and renewing them from within. Through inculturation the Church, for her part, becomes a more intelligible sign of what she is, and a more effective instrument of mission.

Thanks to this action within the local churches, the universal Church herself is enriched with forms of expression and values in the various sectors of Christian life, such as evangelization, worship, theology and charitable works. She comes to know and to express better the mystery of Christ, all the while being motivated to continual renewal. […]

53. Missionaries, who come from other churches and countries, must immerse themselves in the cultural milieu of those to whom they are sent, moving beyond their own cultural limitations. Hence they must learn the language of the place in which they work, become familiar with the most important expressions of the local culture, and discover its values through direct experience. Only if they have this kind of awareness will they be able to bring to people the knowledge of the hidden mystery (cf. Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:5) in a credible and fruitful way. It is not of course a matter of missionaries renouncing their own cultural identity, but of understanding, appreciating, fostering and evangelizing the culture of the environment in which they are working, and therefore of equipping themselves to communicate effectively with it, adopting a manner of living which is a sign of gospel witness and of solidarity with the people.

Developing ecclesial communities, inspired by the Gospel, will gradually be able to express their Christian experience in original ways and forms that are consonant with their own cultural traditions, provided that those traditions are in harmony with the objective requirements of the faith itself. To this end, especially in the more delicate areas of inculturation, particular churches of the same region should work in communion with each other and with the whole Church, convinced that only through attention both to the universal Church and to the particular churches will they be capable of translating the treasure of faith into a legitimate variety of expressions. Groups which have been evangelized will thus provide the elements for a "translation" of the gospel message, keeping in mind the positive elements acquired down the centuries from Christianity's contact with different cultures and not forgetting the dangers of alterations which have sometimes occurred.

54. In this regard, certain guidelines remain basic. Properly applied, inculturation must be guided by two principles: "compatibility with the gospel and communion with the universal Church." Bishops, as guardians of the "deposit of faith," will take care to ensure fidelity and, in particular, to provide discernment, for which a deeply balanced approach is required. In fact there is a risk of passing uncritically from a form of alienation from culture to an overestimation of culture. Since culture is a human creation and is therefore marked by sin, it too needs to be "healed, ennobled and perfected."

[…] Inculturation must involve the whole people of God, and not just a few experts, since the people reflect the authentic sensus fidei which must never be lost sight of Inculturation needs to be guided and encouraged, but not forced, lest it give rise to negative reactions among Christians. It must be an expression of the community's life, one which must mature within the community itself, and not be exclusively the result of erudite research. The safeguarding of traditional values is the work of a mature faith.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

No proper councelling

A religious court in Malaysia has allowed a Muslim convert to leave the Islamic faith.

The arguments used are quite interesting. If only more religous judges in the Arab World would follow this wisdom! Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah was free to return to Buddhism, following the collapse of her marriage to a Muslim man. It was decided she had not had 'proper counselling' during her conversion.

Malaysians are rarely allowed to renounce the faith - those who do can be prosecuted under stringent laws. Religious rights are a sensitive issue in Malaysia - which is 60% Muslim.

Ms Siti, an ethnic Chinese, converted to Islam when she married an Iranian Muslim man.
When their marriage collapsed, she filed a case with the Penang court asking to be allowed to revert to being a Buddhist.

The judge found in her favour, saying it was clear she had never practised Islam after her conversion and continued to pray as a Buddhist. 'The court has no choice but to declare that Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah is no longer a Muslim as she has never practised the teachings of Islam," said Judge Othman Ibrahim. He instead blamed the state Islamic council for not fulfilling its responsibility of counselling and guiding new converts.

I like that term 'proper counselling'. How many converts to Islam had proper counselling? If the family of some Muslims in Jordan converted three generation ago to Islam, did they have 'proper counselling'? Should their families, three generations later, be allowed to return to their Christian faith because they were never 'properly counselled' and because they never actually 'practiced' Islam?

Let us hope and pray for more freedom for all Muslims to change their religion., with or without proper counselling, and irrespective of whether they ever practiced their religion or not.