Picking up from last week’s column, I continue to address key differences between our Faith and Islam, and comment on the concept of jihad and the ISIS interpretation of the Qur’an.
As Christians, we cannot rightfully refer to Mohammed as a prophet. If we obeyed the teachings of Mohammed unconditionally as Islam requires, we would be denying key beliefs of our own faith. Unlike our Catholic faith, Islam is not centrally organized. Therefore, interpretation of the Qur’an may vary widely depending upon the emphasis given by different groups and individuals. Since there is no central authority in Islam, there is a generally accepted plurality of ideas. The Catholic Church, on the other hand believes she cannot err in teaching in matters of faith and morals, and that her teaching has continuity with the teaching passed down from the apostles through the guidance of the Holy Spirit promised the Church by Christ. The Holy Spirit guides the official teaching of the Magisterium (the teaching body of the Church consisting of the Pope and bishops) to pass on the Gospel faithfully and apply it to our own contemporary situations. This notion is supported by the Scriptures.
The Qur’an speaks of the concept of “jihad,” which essentially means “struggle,” as in “struggle on the path of God.” It does not necessarily refer to military fighting. It is the struggle against our own waywardness and against those who spread corruption on the earth. Jihad must be practiced whenever non-believers attack Muslim territories or prevent Muslims from practicing their prescribed acts of worship. In this sense, jihad serves as a defensive act of war. Historically, the political teaching of Islam required that jihad be waged until the whole world would be under Islamic rule. However, this mandate concerned more political rulers than it did individual Muslims. History also shows us that the mandate for aggressive war on non-Muslims was not always put into practice. There have been long periods in history in which states (both Muslim-ruled and non-Muslim-ruled) have lived peacefully with much economic and cultural exchange.
While some might argue that the approach of ISIS (i.e. war and terrorism) is not consistent with true Islam, it cannot be denied that it is rooted in an interpretation of the Qur’an that has been practiced at various times in history. Since Islam has no central authority, and therefore no definitive authority for interpreting the Qur’an, it is difficult to make the case that the approach of ISIS is not truly Islamic, even when perhaps most Muslims throughout the world would not share the same interpretation of the Qur’an.