Showing posts from April, 2011

Part XXIII: The myth of Islamic religious tolerance through the ages

Part XXIII: The myth of Islamic religious tolerance through the ages by Abu Daoud A reader of the blog asked this good question: Abu Daoud, I've heard various Western historians say that Islam has historically been more tolerant than Christianity. They point out the treatment of non-Christians, particularly the Jews, in Europe and compare that with the treatment of Christians in the Middle East. It is true that even after the Arab conquests, there was a substantial Christian population in the Middle East for many centuries. The Muslim overlords needed the jizya, so Christians were tolerated. I believe it was only after the Crusades and Mongol conquests, when Christians sided with the Mongols, life for Christians got tougher. Now, of course, with the rise in Muslim fundamentalism things have got a lot tougher. What do you say? Has Islam been historically tolerant, more tolerant than Christianity? Or has Christians always had it tough since the days Muhammad blazed on the scene?

Horatio Southgate of Constantinople--accused of being an anglo-catholic!

One of the interesting events of Southgate's life was a rather intense dispute he had with some Congregationalist and Presby missionasries from the ABCFM , which is the grand-daddy of all American mission boards. Southgate was sent out by the Episcopal Mission Board in the 1840's, and eventually got into deep trouble because he read some sensitive material written by an ABCFM missionary to an Armenian Christian. It was about how a division in the Armenian Catholic Church (non-Chalcedonian Orthodox, for all you church history nerds out there) would be desirable. Obviously, this caused a big stir. In a very obscure article which I wanted to bring to light in this post, a detailed description of the entire ordeal is giving. The article on the whole is very critical of Southgate. He did make a big mistake reading that material to an Armenian Christian in the Ottoman Empire, I suspect, but in the end the article's author finds fault with him for being high church Episcopalian.

What was the first Protestant family to permanently live in Jerusalem?

What was the first Protestant family to permanently live in Jerusalem? John (or Hans) Nicolayson. Originally a Lutheran employed by the venerable Church Missionary Society (CMS), was later ordained by the Anglicans and was the driving force behind the strenuous effort (the Arabic word jihad comes to mind!) it took to get the Ottomans to allow for the construction of what is now Christ Church . The original CMS effort was actually directed at Jews, at least there in Jerusalem. More details can be found here . p 494.

Muhammad and the Jews of Medina (Yathrib)

Muhammad before his move from Mecca to Medina (the beginning of the Islamic calendar) expected the Jews of Medina to accept him as a prophet, but, of course, they did not. Whereupon he launched a series of efforts (utimately successful) to the three Jewish tribes of the oasis killed, enslaved, or exiled. Here is a good hadith giving us a picture of the tense relation: "It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira who said: We were (sitting) in the mosque when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) came to us and said: (Let us) go to the Jews. We went out with him until we came to them. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) stood up and called out to them (saying): O ye assembly of Jews, accept Islam (and) you will be safe. They said: Abu'l-Qasim, you have communicated (God's Message to us). The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: I want this (i.e. you should admit that God's Message has been communicated to you), accept Islam and

A warm welcome to readers of From the Pew

Thank you Steve for your kind and encouraging words, and pointing some of your readers to my blog. I recommend that new readers start by checking out some of my series on Islam, which you can see all in a row to the right hand side in a menu. Please do let me know if you have any questions. Salam! Abu Daoud

Translations of the Qur'an and Islamic Apologetics

Another ploy employed by these people is to blame the translators of the Koran, Hadiths and Sunnah. Even the eminent translator like A. Yusuf Ali is not considered as authentic translator. These bigots will never say which one is the authentic English version of the Koran, Hadiths, Sunnah, etc. They will simply say that one must be very good in Arabic to interpret Koran. This is akin to saying that one must be very good in Aramaic and Hebrew languages to understand the Bible and the Talmud. Or that you must be very good in Greek, Latin and Dutch languages to understand Aristotle, Roman laws, Copernicus' 'laws of heavenly bodies,' etc. These are absolutely illogical ideas. Strangely though, you will notice that these bigots will use the English translation of the Koran when it suits their purposes. From Abul Kasem , an ex-Muslim (and not a convert to Christianity, incidentally). I think he has really hit the nail on the head here with this critique of how some Musli

Amazing resource on Anglican/Episcopal Mission in the Middle East

Hats off to They have a whole section of documents related to Anglican-Episcopal missions to the Middle East . Very cool...

American Evangelicalism is Gnostic?

I was re-reading an old article of mine from my three-part Mission and Sacrament series, which was published over at St Francis Magazine. Here is one paragraph about the importance of sacrament, and how sacramentality helps us resist Gnostic temptations inherent in American Christianity: Without a robust sense ofmeaningful ritual, ritual that changes people and touches the deepest aspects of our beings and bodies inscribing the Gospel of Hope on our very flesh and blood, then we have half a Gospel: we have a one-sided coin, we have a message that so easily tends towards fads and seeking after the next, big thing (gnosis) which will finally bring us up “to the next level” (profoundly Gnostic language). Page 2. If you have not read it before, do feel free to check it out HERE .

Islam: A mono-lingual religious empire

At the police registries where Moroccans go to officially designate their childrens' names, non-Arab names like Jurgurtha and Messina -- the names of ancient Berber kings -- are blacklisted. Only Arabic names like Hassan and Ahmed are allowed. "To Berber militants, this is a case of trying to completely eradicate any Berber heritage," Jalali Saib, a leading activist who teaches at Rabat University, told the BBC earlier this year. The first language of most Moroccans is some form of Berber, generally called Tamazight, though there are a number of variants. But the constitution recognizes only Arabic as the official language. Check it all out here .

Horatio Southgate, Episcopal missionary to the Ottoman Empire

The Church of England sent out many a missionary to the Muslim world over the years, but less known (and less active) is the Episcopal Church in the USA. Horatio Southgate was one such missionary, he did two tours in what was then the Ottoman Empire. At one point, he got in trouble with some of his fellow missionaries, who wrote back to the USA about him, and he had to write a letter in his defense. You can read it here . Note here one of the issues of complaint, and his defense of himself: Never so much as once did I receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion from the [non-Episcopal] missionaries at Constantinople; never so much as once take any part with them in the administration of it. They may, perhaps, refer to a single instance in which I did receive it, from other Congregational missionaries, in another place. If so, why do they speak of sitting down "with us," "receiving from our hands," and "taking part with us? Those who write are the missionaries at

New issue of St Francis Magazine

Well, issue two of volume seven of St Francis Magazine has now come out. I'm not surprised it took a while longer than usual, given the tumult in the Middle East where several of the editors are. But that having been said, I'm really excited about several of the articles. Here they are, and let me share why I think they are worth your scrutiny. (Though let me admit that I have not yet read all of these, though I have read some of them.) John Damascene in context: An Examination of “The Heresy of the Ishmaelites” with special consideration given to the Religious, Political, and Social Contexts during the Seventh and Eighth Century Arab Conquests , by D. Bryan Rhodes I'm a big fan of church history, as long-time readers will know. I am looking forward to detailed analysis of the first documented commentary of a Christian on Islam. What is the Qur’an? A Moroccan intellectual’s critique of the Qur’an’s ethical teachings , by Bassam M. Madany Madany is a great source for