Friday, 20 May 2011

Why Do Muslims Believe Allah is Merciful?

Peaceful Muslim: Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam
Fr Ray Blake recounts tea with some Muslim friends who are kind to the poor because of their religion. It's an interesting post. I think that, in a way, Islam suffers at the hands of a minority. While the religion itself is tolerated perhaps more confidently in society than is the expression of Christianity, the fact that the United States spent 10 years (if the story is true) hunting down just one particular Islamic extremist, with plenty more happy to fill his shoes does not help the image of Islam, much as a minority of Catholic priests who abused children do not help the image of Catholicism.

There are, actually, plenty of peace-loving Muslims - the vast majority, I would say are. One thing I was wondering, however, is why it is that Muslims believe that Allah is merciful?

For us, we hear some stories of God's mercy in the Old Testament. In His mercy, God spared Abraham's son and instead the Angel of the Lord appears and suggests a ram instead. God spares, in His mercy, Noah, so that the human race may live. God, in His mercy, sends prophets to the People of God warning them of the need for repentance and to seek His face. In His mercy, God spares Lot and some companions from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These are, really, quite feint glimpses of God's mercy.

We have to say, however, that if we were just left with the Old Testament, we would perhaps not believe that mercy is God's most glorious attribute. It is only because of the Lord Jesus, Who shows mercy to the adultress, Who says that "It is mercy I require, not sacrifice", Who shows mercy to lepars, Who shows mercy to the penitent thief, mercy to repentant sinners, as well as the sick, the blind, the lame and Who opens up the Heart of His mercy on the Cross, that we believe that God is merciful.

Because of the Lord's Death and Resurrection, the mission of mercy is now the Church's mission to the World, because the Lord did not come to 'condemn the World, but to save it'. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a visible sign and Sacrament of God's inexhaustible mercy and compassion for us. The Holy Eucharist is Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, He is Who is both Truth and Mercy and Love. The Lord Jesus's Ministry on Earth just shouts "Mercy" to the Church and the World. His Death says "Mercy" and so does His Resurrection.

I admit I have not read the whole of the Koran. I read some and read some passages on mercy. I'm just trying to think whether there is an incident in the life of the prophet Mohammed that says 'Mercy'. Even if Islam promotes peace and mercy and says that Allah is merciful, I am trying to work out in what way Allah is shown to be merciful. The practice of Islam in Brighton is peaceful. We don't have stonings of adulteresses and homosexuals in Churchill Square - but in Iran and Saudi Arabia and other regions of the World, they do. Is Islam in those countries extreme, or is the Islam of Brighton just mild and wishy washy? I'm just wondering why Muslims believe Allah is merciful...


Kushi said...

In Uganda homosexuals are stoned to death. In Medieval England adulteresses were burned at the stake. I suppose a religion is neither inherently peaceful or violent, it depends on the state that justifies its actions in reference to religion. I'd say that the 'peaceful' attitude of Western Christianity (peaceful, that is, within its own borders. Murderous when at war with others) has more to do with concessions that secularisation has forced upon the church. After all, as the Iverleigh quote shows, no prominent catholic can get away with denouncing homosexuality now, even the pope has to couch it in mild terms. This has little to do with the religion itself (since we know the same document, the bible, was used to condemn homosexuals in the most violent and bloody manner earlier in our history), and more to do with the largely secular audience they are speaking to. Put bluntly, the Pope knows he can't get away with saying anything too severe these days, so he doesn't

Cecilia said...

What is your source for the claim that "In Medieval England adulteresses were burned at the stake", please? I don't think this is correct.

Kushi said...

In Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (1485) Guinevere is condemned to be burned at the stake for adultery (though she escapes:

Leviticus 20:10 sanctions this in saying:

"And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death."

genesis is even more explicit here, noting that when "it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt."

OK, I will grant that few of the sentences of burning at the stake were ever executed, and where they were, the convict had probably been hanged already. However, adultery was a capital crime in Christendom, and many women who were caught in flagrante were killed.

There are countless examples of prominent women being executed for this crime in European history. Marie of Brabant was beheaded in 1256 for the crime. She was spared burning only by her husband's 'benevolence'.

Criticism of this system was fiercely suppressed by the Vatican, as when the nun Arcangela Tarabotti was censured for publishing 'Paternal Tyranny' in 1645, a work in which she pointed out (quite reasonably) that it was a bit silly to execute an adulteress while leaving the adulterer to his devices.

Well, perhaps you're right. Burning was never common for that crime (though the punishment was certainly used). However, you must concede the point - adulteresses were murdered (this applied to women who were raped).

georgem said...

Adulteresses burnt at the stake? That's news to me.
Mind you, they did tend to get their heads chopped off a little later on if they moved in the wrong circles.

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