What has Islam wrought?

What has Islam wrought?

Robert Miller at the First Things blog says Pope Benedict blundered in quoting Manuel II Paleologus, who said, “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” While acknowledging that the Pope himself has said Manuel’s words do not represent his own belief and that the Pope’s aims were good, Miller says the Pope should have known better than to have thought that the Islamic world would allow him to quote like a scholar and not a world religious figure.

Still, Benedict went about this noble business in a very imprudent way. The statement he quoted—that everything new Mohammed brought was “evil and inhuman”—is simply untrue and so obviously hurtful that it will prevent anything else the pope might say from getting a hearing. Given the predictable reactions in the Muslim world, it is patently counterproductive to try to make the legitimate point that Muslims have sometimes used violence to spread their faith by quoting, even without endorsing, the untrue and much more sweeping statement that everything peculiar to Islam is “evil and inhuman.”

But I have to ask the question: Is the statement untrue? I’m not saying Manuel is right, but can we assume that he is wrong? What positive contributions has Islam made? What about it is good?

Again, I’m not saying there isn’t good, but if it exists we should enumerate it, not just assume it.

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  • Mike,

    Thanks for pointing that out. The distinction the quote makes that some people seem to be missing is that between what is new and distinct to Islam and that which Islam inherited from either the Judeo-Christian tradition or the Greco-Roman cultures in the lands they conquored. The assertion is that where Islam has good features, they can be traced as borrowed, what is purely innovative is that which is inhuman.

    So far I haven’t seen an example of a true innovation. Except perhaps the call to prayer, I’m not sure what the roots of that are, whether it is truly unique to Islam.

    Christians go on pilgrimage as well, albeit it is not as stressed as the Hajj.

    And I would argue that Christians treat women much better. They have the dignity of persons made in the image of God. As St Paul said, in the body of Christ there is neither woman nor man, slave nor free.  Christ said there is no divorce, Islam says a man can divorce his wife. How is that better for women?

  • Emperor Paleologus was right—There IS nothing new in Islam which is good.  Since they spread out of the deserts of Arabia, they have brought little but tears, destruction, death, forced conversion, and violent warfare.  What good there is in Islam comes only from the Judeo-Christian heritage they retained from us.

    I really hope that the naive optimism of the 60s is finally dead.  This optimism gave birth to the Vatican II illusion that we Catholics can and should “dialogue” with these barbaric savages.  I’m sorry, I have nothing to say to them except that I will pray—peacefully—for their conversion.  Their conversion is the only way to world peace.

  • Canonical hours grew out of Jewish worship practices.  Definitely pre-dates Islam.

    There are/were 8 they are: