Saturday, December 09, 2006

Albert Hourani and Western Attitudes to Islam

While searching for books on my dissertation I came a cross a small pamphlet called "Western Attitudes towards Islam". Based on a lecture by Albert Hourani in 1974, it offers a stark look at how Islam has been viewed by the West since it first began to spread till quite recently.

Here is an excerpt from this pamphlet which I thought was quite interesting:

"For orthodox Muslim theologians, the uneasiness springs from the difference between what they believe to be the true Christianity and what actual Christians appear to believe. For Muslims, that 'world-wide theism' of which Montefiore speaks, and which he leaves it to the future to name, already exists and already has a name. It is Islam, the full and final revelation of the religion of the one God, innate in the human mind, sealed by a covenant between God and man, and preached by a succession of prophets, sent by God to reveal His words and recall men to their true selves, and ending in Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets. Both Moses and Jesus are regarded by Muslims as belonging to that succession : both preached the same message, and Jesus is said in the Qur'an to have had special privileges - he was brought into existence, like Adam, by the creative word 'kun'; - 'Be' - he was born of a virgin, worked miracles, and is in some sense in the first phase, Muhammad thought of himself not as founding a new religion but as reviving and completing a perennial one, and it was with some surprise that he and his companions found that their attitude to Jews and Christians was not reciprocated. Christians did not accept him as a prophet, still less as the seal of the prophets; they did not regard the Qur'an as the authentic word of God; if they recognised that Muslims believed in the existence of one God, they acused them of rejecting the Trinity and the Incarnation, and so of misconceiving His nature."

"This sense of shock, this feeling, one might call it, of being rejected by one's family, has always been there [for Muslims]."

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