Reader comment on item: Pope Benedict XVI and the Koran
Submitted by Aidan Maconachy (Canada), Jan 18, 2006 at 00:40Interesting post.
I find the following comment by the Pope rather remarkable ...
" ...in the Islamic tradition, God has given His word to Muhammad, but it's an eternal word. It's not Muhammad's word. It's there for eternity the way it is. There's no possibility of adapting it or interpreting it."
How can Allah reveal, if not through the revealer and how is this different in metaphysical terms from the type of revelation that came through the Judeo-Christian prophetic tradition? If we hypothetically ascribe this immutable and transcendant quality to the Koran as "word", then the assumption has to be that it wasn't mediated and interpreted in the usual way.
I really have no idea why the Pope would say such a thing.
In the Kabbalist tradition the essential nature of God in his pristine state is attributed to the top sephiroth on the Tree of Life - that being Ain Soph. The possibility of "knowing" God, in the sense of merging on the level of being, is impossible for mere mortals. The mystics who have experienced intimations of God - signs etc - often speak of the abyss that seperates God from humanity.
The Tree of Life is a glyph that describes how God "works" in the course of revealing him/her self through nature. Creative force/light passes downward from one sephiroth to another until it reaches the base of the Tree, our physical plane, associated in Kabbala with the sphere or sephiroth named Malkuth.
I'm using this Kabbalist glyph to illustrate that God's power and light has to be mediated, even when presented in a meta-cosmic model of this sort.
Doubtless there are remarkable men such as the Hindu seer Ramakrishna, who are capable of living in a condition of cosmic bliss ... called in that tradition samadhi. Such men have often gone through arduous discipline and subjected themselves to intense devotion in order to achieve such a heightened level of consciousness. Yet even with men or women in this highly evolved spiritual state, we still find that "the word" is mediated, rendered in an interpretive mode.
How God is supposed to be able to deliver his word in a manner that renders it immutable is beyond me.I do think that the qu'uran in open to interpretation, just as the bible is open to the same.
Islam is a much younger religion than Christianity. If you were to go back a few centuries you would find a form of Christianity being practiced in europe that would be virtually unrecognizable to Christians of today. Much like the mullahs in many Islamic countries, ecclesiatical dignatories were venerated and often weilded considerable power. There was a highly superstitious aspect to the religion, with many strange and bizarre beliefs concerning relics. One only has to read Chaucer's Tales to get a sense of how strange Christianity was in those times. The inquisition permitted torture in Christ's name. During the witch persecutions many innocent women were murdered in horrible ways and often on little more evidence than a pointed finger or ownership of a black cat.
No religion exists in a vacuum. Religious institutions and values cannot separate themselves entirely fro the influences of the society in which they exist. Even in countries like Turkey we can see examples of Islamic codes and values adopting to secular influences. For example, the hijab has been banned from many universities because it was regarded as a token of radicalism.
I grew up in an Islamic society due to my father's line of work. When I compare Islam as it is practiced her in Canada today, with the Islam I experienced in Africa as a teen, there are definite indications that the religion has adapted.
I recall an incident in Kano, N.Nigeria, when medics were called out to a Muslim village where a pregnant woman had started labor and was having difficulty. The access to the village by car was difficult, and the medics on the scene called for the woman's husband to help her to the waiting vehicle. Even though this woman was in pain and perhaps in danger of hemorrhaging, her husband refused to touch her since he regarded her as unclean. I can't even imagine such a situation today. In fact, I am not even clear if the qu'uran lays down any laws about not touching a woman in this condition.
Christianity has come a very long way since its inception, and I have no doubt that Islam will also go through a similar evolution.
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