Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI

A group of 38 Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world responded to Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany on September 12 last year. J. Dudley Woodberry commented in ChristianityToday that their open letter provides Christians am opportunity for much needed dialogue. Prefaced with a verse from the Qur'an
“Do not contend with the people of the Book except in the fairest way…” (Qur’an 24:46)
it went on to address the following, among others:

  1. Reliable Qur'anic commentaries place the saying, "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256), in Muhammad's second period, when Muslims were in a position of strength (what Muslims call "the occasion of revelation") during Muhammad's earlier period, which parallels biblical prophets.
  1. It was acknowledged that political Islam spread partly via conquest but the greatest part of Islam's expansion came from Muslim missionaries.
  1. Jihad, can take many forms besides war and that legal guidelines concerning warfare similar to the historic Christian Just War theory exist.
  1. Muslims do believe in God's immanence, which they said is clearly communicated in the Qur'anic assertion that God is closer to a person "than his jugular vein."
  1. While there are clearly theological differences between Christians and Muslims, theological questions Christians have debated—such as the relationship between faith and works or divine sovereignty and free will—Muslims have debated, too.
  1. The letter acknowledged religious values common to Muslims and Christians and agreed with the pope's statement that “dialogue between Christians and Muslims is………a vital necessity."
The Muslim scholars added: "[I]t seems to us that a great part of the object of inter-religious dialogue is to strive to listen to and consider the actual voices of those we are dialoguing with", quoting the Qur’an that "If they incline toward peace, then you should incline" (Qur'an 8:61) -although they qualified the verse by saying it did not exclude "legitimate self-defence and maintenance of sovereignty."

Full text available at IslamicaMagazine.com.
The Pope's lecture and subsequent fallout.

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