Islam and the West: Some Differences

EDITORIAL, 29 Nov 2010

#140 | Johan Galtung, 29 Nov 2010 - TRANSCEND Media Service

The three abrahamic religions judaism-christianity-islam are similar in being revealed truths 4,000, 2,000, 1,400 years ago; and different by being revealed into different contexts, and by the latter building on the former.  These 16 debatable points are based on themes frequently coming up in dialogues.

[1]  “Islam = christianity without christology” removes redemption on the cross by the father sacrificing his son.  But Jesus appears in the Qur’an as Isa and Moses as Musa, as nabi, announcers, not as razul, prophet.  Islam incorporates the other two, like the Old Testament in the christian Bible covers much of judaism, which, being the first, stands alone.

[2]  To islam the others both believe in that kitab, the book the abrahamic religions share, making them second (1 1/2) class citizens, not to be expelled, and making muslims more knowledgeable of the other two than vice versa.  When asked in christian-muslim dialogues what good they find in the other muslims bring up points like christian pluralism; christians bring up nothing also because of ignorance, like about jihad.

[3]  Jihad means four exertions for the faith; the first, major jihad, jihad akbar, is inside, against the devil, for not observing Allah’s commands; the second spreading the Qur’an by the word not the sword; the third honest trading, as sacrament and the fourth, the minor jihad, is defending islam by the sword when trampled on (by crusades, zionism, in Afghanistan).

[4]  Stoning to death girls not bleeding on the wedding night is judeo-christian (Deuteronomy 22:21), like dashing the little ones of the enemy against the stones (Psalm 137); but beating wives when disobedient is Qur’anic (4:34).  Care has to be exercised; and there may be customs antedating islam.

[5]  The Qur’an teaches “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:256), “Repel the evil deed with one which is better” (41:34) and “And if they /the enemy/ incline to peace then incline to it and trust in Allah” (8:61).

[6] The five pillars of islam shahada (confession)-salat (prayer)-zakat (sharing)-ramadan (fasting month)-hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) add up to togetherness in Alla’h and sharing, as opposed to individualism and competition in the christian and secular West.  This is a development model.

[7]  Unlike Jesus, Mohammed ruled a city-state (Medina) as patriarch from 622 till his death in 632, making it a model. Jesus preached but his practice was not a model in this world.  Solidarity, restraining individualism, makes islam attractive, now.

[8]  That New Reality, Medina, was brought about by the 622 Mecca-Medina hegira, migration, the narrative in islam, like the chosen people-promised land (CPPL) for jews, and the passion story for christians.  The difference is that hegira established an inclusive utopia here and now, the CPPL is too exclusive of their religious successors and others, and the passion story invokes an inner utopia and in the afterlife.

[9]  Wahhabism, national religion of Saudi Arabia, sees the good life as the Medina of the prophet.  The Roosevelt-Ibn Saud 1945 “oil for protection of the royal house” and the Bush use of Saudi Arabia for attacks on a muslim country was a sin against a sacred country.  Was 9/11 execution for sinfulness?

[10] Give to Caesar that of Caesar and to God that of God (Matt:22:15-22) opens christianity to secularism (Luther’s Zwei Regimente, Rom:13:1ff), but is not Qur’anic.  To demand secularization of islam is to demand the end of islam. But some Western institutions can be accepted if serving islam.

[11]  For muslims the ummah, the community of believers, is stronger than the state system, and, as the state borders are often drawn by infidels they are illegitimate, not only irrelevant.  For the West, christian or secular, the post- Westphalia state system is often stronger than their faiths.

[12]  The ummah has a political expression in the OIC, Organization of the Islamic Conference, with 1,560 million muslims in 57 countries from Morocco to Mindanao, including India as the second largest muslim country (after Indonesia).

[13]  Muslims have the same right to a khalifat overarching the ummah as catholic christians to a Vatican.

[14]  Like the christian and secular West, islam sees itself as an abode of peace, a dar-al-islam (peace) and non-islam as an abode of war, dar-al-harb, with a third in-between for peaceful co-existence, dar-al-ahd.  The West tends to be dualist, seeing a different Other as inferior or dangerous, something to dominate or to protect oneself against.

[15]  All three come in soft versions like Spinoza-Buber, the Quakers, the sufis, and many others.

[16]  Abrahamic West and islam–universalist, for the whole world, singularist, the only true faith–are counter-cyclical: the West goes down when islam goes up (622-1492), islam goes down when the West goes up (the next 500 years), and now?  Islam goes up and West down?  So it looks, indeed.

Will islam treat the West the Western way, invading, colonizing, exploiting, ruling by dictators, learning nothing?  No; there is kitab protection, and the softer forms of islam.

But the West has to respect what is different, dialogue, engage in mutual, two-way learning, and build dar-al-ahd and conflict resolution in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 29 Nov 2010.

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6 Responses to “Islam and the West: Some Differences”

  1. Mr. Galtung,

    I like when you talk about the soft version. As I understood during my researches that Sufi thought, coming originally from India region, exist in all three Abrahamic religions like a spirit in different bodies.
    I remember a speech from big Rabin Guedj in Geneva. I could really document many of his thoughts also with Persian written Shia or/and Sufi texts.

    Thanks for your efforts

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by alienInfix, Alltough Mak. Alltough Mak said: Father of Peace Studies, Johan Galtung, on 'Islam and the West: Some Differences' #interfaith […]

  3. eric says:

    Actually, with all due respect, Nabi means prophet and Rasul means messenger.

  4. I feel the importance of talks between Fumiaki.

  5. Poka Laenui says:

    This is a wonderful collection of information to share with my radio audience as we bring in the new year, one with greater understanding of our friends and neighbors across the world.
    Mahalo Johan for this collection of information and Transcend for the work over the years.

    Poka: Host, Hawaiian Potpourri, Sunday 6-8AM, KWAI 1080AM, Honolulu, Hawaii