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Billy posts on 12/23/2006 7:11:12 PM Karen Armstrong discusses the Islamic "tradition of pluralism and appreciation of other religions" In "The Muslim prophet born in Bethlehem" in The Guardian (thanks to all who sent this in), predictably enough, lauds Muslims for their alleged openness to Christianity, and scolds Christians for not being similarly open to Islam. In 632, after five years of fearful warfare, the city of Mecca in the Arabian Hijaz voluntarily opened its gates to the Muslim army. No blood was shed and nobody was forced to convert to Islam, but the Prophet Muhammad ordered the destruction of all idols and icons of the Divine. There were a number of frescoes painted on the inner walls of the Kabah, the ancient granite shrine in the centre of Mecca, and one of them, it is said, depicted Mary and the infant Jesus. Immediately Muhammad covered it reverently with his cloak, ordering all the other pictures to be destroyed except that one. This story may surprise people in the west, who have regarded Islam as the implacable enemy of Christianity ever since the crusades, but it is salutary to recall it during the Christmas season when we are surrounded by similar images of the Virgin and Child. It will come as no surprise to anyone in the West who reads my book The Truth About Muhammad, as I mention this incident on p. 149. But there is a great deal more about Islam's view of Christianity and Jesus that will surprise many in the West, because they are getting their information about Islam from Karen Armstrong, and she doesn't tell them about it, either in this article or anywhere else. For some specifics, read on. It reminds us that the so-called clash of civilisations was by no means inevitable. Right. It wasn't at all inevitable -- as long as Christians acquiesced in their delegitimization and appropriation of their identity by Muslims, which Armstrong slyly endorses here. Again, read on. For centuries Muslims cherished the figure of Jesus, who is honoured in the Qur'an as one of the greatest of the prophets and, in the formative years of Islam, became a constituent part of the emergent Muslim identity. There are important lessons here for both Christians and Muslims - especially, perhaps, at Christmas. The Qur'an does not believe that Jesus is divine but it devotes more space to the story of his virginal conception and birth than does the New Testament, presenting it as richly symbolic of the birth of the Spirit in all human beings (Qur'an 19:17-29; 21:91). Like the great prophets, Mary receives this Spirit and bears Jesus, who will, in his turn, become an ayah, a revelation of peace, gentleness and compassion to the world. The Qur'an is horrified by Christian claims that Jesus was the "son of God", and depicts Jesus ardently denying his divinity in an attempt to "cleanse" himself of these blasphemous projections. Time and again the Qur'an insists that, like Muhammad himself, Jesus was a perfectly ordinary human being and that the Christians have entirely misunderstood their own scriptures. But it concedes that the most learned and faithful Christians - especially monks and priests - did not believe that Jesus was divine; of all God's worshippers, they were closest to the Muslims (5:85-86). Here is the heart of the matter: the Qur'an radically redefines Jesus, and then declares its redefinition to be the genuine article. It is an act of religious imperialism, of religious colonialism: Jesus is expropriated as a Muslim prophet, and a central element of the Christian understanding of him -- that he is the Son of God -- is declared illegitimate. Armstrong doesn't mention the harshness of this operation, which culminates with Christians who believe in Christ's divinity being called "unbelievers" (Qur'an 5:17), and those who call him the "Son of God" being placed under Allah's curse (Qur'an 9:30). The result is that orthodox Christianity has always been considered by the Islamic mainstream as being not an object of respect, as Armstrong suggests, but as a renegade entity of which the true version was Islam. For Armstrong's statement that the Qur'an "concedes that the most learned and faithful Christians - especially monks and priests - did not believe that Jesus was divine" is true as regards the Qur'an, but false as regards fact -- unless one posits, as she may, that "the most learned and faithful Christians" were never found within the pale of orthodox Christology.
Reaz posts on 12/22/2006 10:31:27 PM Dear Karen Armstrong, I have recently written an article centered on prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) uncle Abu Talib. Abu Talib didn't accept Islam, but he protected the prophet during the first 7-8 years of the prophet's life. During this time Islam peacefully coexisted with pagan religion. It is only after the death of Abu Talib that prophet Muhammad was forced to leave Mecca. As the Quran states in sura 22 verse 39 Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged. Based on this I try to understand the reason for the war with the pagan Meccans. I try to point out that contrary to popular understanding, the war was not against disbelief but against intolerance. I would greatly appreciate if you read and comment on this article. I am not sure how this website works but I have provided my email. If you are interested in the article and I will email it to you. With best regards
said posts on 11/15/2006 6:24:29 PM Dear Mrs. Armstrong i am reading your above mentioned book in Dutch translation. There is in the introduction a sentence which catched my extra attention, this is about the subject that there is nothing known about the Prophet's childhood and youth. He waa even an obscure figure with whom nobody had contact, I would like to know whether this corresponds with the original english text or is it a translation error? If you can answer me via my personal mail, I would be very glad. I am involved at the Islamic University of Rotterdam where an enormous interest grows for inviting you for a lecture or conference. How can we get in contact about this? Thank You very much.



Andrea Lawrence-Stuart posts on 10/20/2006 8:32:13 PM Dear Ms. Armstrong, "To be in possession of absolute truth is to have a net of familiarity spread over the whole of eternity. There are no surprises and no unknowns. All questions have already been answered, all decisions made, all eventualities foreseen. The true believer is without wonder and hesitation. 'Who knows Jesus knows the reason of all things.' The true doctrine is a master key to all the world's problems. With it the world can be taken apart and put together." Eric Hoffer's words from The True Believer. My question is who started arbitrary absolutism? I cannot accept that any benevolent god could. Surely even before the biblical ten commandments, murder, theft and deceit were obviously antisocial, therefore these were human tenets put to a rule of law. With all due respect to you--not the religion--that you said that during grand mal seizures you experience what you can only call God is not at all surprising. The mind that is inundated with dogma and faith is also in the subconscious. We don't use about two-thirds of our brains. There are some people who can hypnotize, who are psychic (and some hired by police and the courts) and some seem not to even welcome psychic powers. This is a very dangerous but curious power that only a small portion of us have. I am not one of them. It does not mean that a god gave you this. Who is in back of a god in intelligent design, the latest euphemism for moderate fundamentalism? My problem with a god is that 1) coincidentally a male; 2) He (for all intents and purposes here) is giving an ultimatum based on an ostensible love for us: you either abjectly turn your life over to him or you will be cast into a lake of fire for all eternity. In fact, in the Catholic Church one only need deliberately miss Mass to be committing a "mortal sin" and be cast into eternal hellfire for that alone. Can any sensible person refute that? If one dares refute it, if they have the guts, they live in agony the rest of their lives for fear of fire. Even the worst of men don't do such awful things. No matter how agonizing their pain, at least they feel nothing after merciful death. I feel orthodox beliefs instilled and putting the fear of a god is the worst cruelty one can instill into a little child's questing and impressionable and vulnerable mind. To me it is as violative of that precious mind as rape is to the body. "All dogma--Religion along with those of the Nazis and Communists, are even worse than the old systems but they could never have acquired a hold over men's minds if orthodox dogmatic habits had not been instilled in youth. What the world needs is not dogma but an attitude of scientific inquiry combined with a belief that the torture of millions is not desirable, whether inflicted by Stalin or by a deity imagined in the likeness of the believer." I am in accord with what Bertrand Russell said.
posts on 10/8/2006 3:11:57 AM miss armstrong, i do hope you get this message. i am a minister in the united states who is currently going through a crisis of faith. my cousin recomended i read your book "through the narrow gate" back in july. i read your book and was amused by your writing style so i then began to read "the spiral staircase." last week i resigned from my church because i no longer believe what i teach. i will be leaveing in december. i have been so stressed about what to do with my life {my only training has been for ministry.} tonight, half drunk, i finished reading chapter six of "the spiral staircase: The Usual Reign" It inspired me to tears. So even though i normally dont do this kind of thing i felt it was important to contact you and let you know my thoughts...thank you for what you do, you have greatly improved my understanding of life.
posts on 9/13/2006 8:23:11 PM I really enjoyed reading "the Spiral Staircase" and decided to read another book or two by Karen Armstrong. I thought I should read "Muhammad" to better my understanding of Islam. However, I note that she also has a new book due out shortly (already released in the UK) titled "Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time". Is this going to be different? Updated?
posts on 9/2/2006 8:58:04 AM Dear Ms. Armstrong, I felt called to be a minister/ director of Christian education in 1962 at age 14. I did not follow that path, but ended up in education as an English teacher. In 1995, I left teaching to get an MDiv at Duke University in Durham, NC. I achieved that but did not achieve ordination. My story is complex, but I hoped to contact you as I have found in your story, different as it is from mine, a common cord. I have asked questions and thought for myself about the meaning of God. This is not always acceptable in the "church." I would very much like to share my connections. This morning I will find The History of God at the library to start reading. Reading your journey has been redeeming for me. Thank You.
posts on 7/12/2006 6:38:38 AM Dear SR karen, asalaam aleikum wa rahmatullah. You may not have heard of me, but I am certaiknly a great admirer of your work. I particularly enjoyed your article in the Guardian, and look forward to reading your book v. fundamentalism. I would love to have your contact email if you would trust me with it. I know that CCTV is trying to get in touch with you at the moment. God bless, wasalaam, Ruqaiyyay.
posts on 5/16/2006 8:04:42 AM Dear Ms Karen Armstrong, I do hope you could read this message soon. IĄŻm Cassie Wang, a doctoral student from University Zhejiang , China. You have impressed me deeply for more than three years since I read your book The history of God in Chinese in 2003. Now in mainland China, your two books of The history of God and A Short History of Myth have been translated into Chinese. In my opinion, your ideas are very important and I do hope to focus on studying you and write my doctoral dissertation. My Professor recommends me to study your ideas. He knows you well and tried his best to contact you when he was in University Cambridge. Although he couldnĄŻt find you, he has written some articles to introduce you on his BLOG.. My Professor has bought more than eight books written by you when he was in England, including the newest one The Great Transformation and we eager to translate it into Chinese.We feel very interested in your ideas and do hope to invite you visit China sometime in order to promote the dialogue and peace among religions. Here we have the Center for Christianity and Cross-cultural Studies and my professor hope to have some academic connections with you very much. You will be highly appreciated when you have time to read this message and response me. Thank you in advance!
posts on 5/15/2006 9:10:57 AM I"m wondering if Mrs. Armstrong ever studied the science of Christianity? Furthermore, perhaps it would be in her better interest to study such a work as "Systematic Theology." While I am not a practicing Christian, it is very relevant to me that the book, "A History of God" is so full of error and ridiculous nonsense that I have read better work written from second grade children! Perhaps there are those that will (in ignorance) hail you as a literary genius, or your works as scholarly masterpieces. It is apparent that you are neither, but instead a woman in which anger and fear propel her to write in such a manner as hoping to "debunk" Christianity. Your task at hand is not a hard one; this is, after all, the age of skepticism. Why don't you try your hand at something a bit more challenging or intelligent? Is this possible with you; or do you much prefer writing on topics of which you obviously just have a generalized sense of study?
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