Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Benedict XVI: Diplomat of Religions

Virtually un-noticed by the MSM, and following the (VERY noticed) Regensburg lecture, there has been signficant movement by a large number of prominent Muslim scholars to engage a dialog on Mohammed's teachings. In another venue, it would be called "diplomacy."

With the present-day situation, it may well be critically important to a peaceful world order.

The 38 authoritative Muslims who signed, last October, the “Open Letter to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI” in reply to his lecture on September 12 in Regensburg, have now grown to 100.
Their names and their qualifications are presented at the foot of the “Letter,” in a prominent relaunching of it by “Islamica Magazine,” the quarterly edited in the United States and printed in Jordan that also handled its initial publication.

The 100 belong to dozens of nations and to different currents of Islamic thought, Sunni and Shiite: an extremely rare occurrence. Among these is Aref Ali Nayed, two of whose essays in response to the lecture in Regensburg were previewed on www.chiesa, and who makes another contribution in the dossier dedicated by “Islamica Magazine” to the theses on faith, reason, and violence that Benedict XVI presented in Regensburg.

But then, it's more interesting to talk about war and wave red flags at the bulls, no?

After many years of study of the Koran, a Catholic priest has some interesting observations.

Biblical – and, more broadly, Semitic – rhetoric differs completely from that of the Greeks, which has marked all of our Western culture, and also Arab culture, after this opened itself to the Greek cultural heritage.

This is founded upon a simple principle, that of symmetry, which can take on the form of synonymic, antithetical, or complementary parallelism (or the three types of parallelism that biblical exegesis, with Robert Lowth and his “Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews,” which appeared in 1753, demonstrated within the Psalms), or again the form of chiasm or “inverse parallelism” (AB/B’A’), and finally “concentrism,” when a central element appears between two symmetrical segments of the text (AB/x/B’A’).

...which lends to a more authoritative interpretation of the Koran than is usually given (by both the more radical Muslims AND their more radical opponents.) An example:

Now, when a verse is put back into its context and enclosed within the textual structure of which it is part, its true meaning often seems to have no need for recourse to these “occasions of revelation,” which, it can be conjectured, were often constructed “post eventum” in order to clarify the difficulties of the text.

I’ll give an example. Verse 106 of Sura 2 presents these words of God: “We do not abrogate any verse, or cause it to be forgotten, without giving you a better or equal one.” This verse has been presented by the jurists, the fuqahâ', as the Qur’anic foundation of their theory of abrogation, according to which certain verses of the Qur’an override others. This theory has permitted the resolution of apparent contradictions among verses, especially normative ones. It is considered, therefore, that the more recent verses override the older ones, and in order to determine which are the more recent, it was decided a priori that the tougher and more restrictive verses must be more recent, and that these should override the earlier, more mild or tolerant ones.

Returning to the cited verse, if this is put back into its context, it can be seen that the meaning is absolutely different: it is a reply to some Jews who had protested against Mohammed because he had included modified verses from the Torah in his proclamation of the Qur’an. To this accusation of “falsification,” God replies that he is free to abrogate a preceding revelation by substituting a new and better one in its place. This is a matter, therefore, of the abrogation of the Torah on the part of the Qur’an, and not of the Qur’an within itself.

In spite of the fact that a number of Muslim scholars throughout the twentieth century, and still recently the French Islamologist Geneviève Gobillot, have forcefully denounced this error of interpretation, it continues to enjoy widespread popularity. This is a question of great relevance, because the Islamic extremists make use of this argument to assert that especially the harshest verses of Sura 9 (29 and 73), which incite Muslims to fight against the infidels, override roughly 130 more tolerant verses, which instead open the way to peaceful coexistence between Muslims and the other communities.

Of course, non-Muslims read and/or hear of the extremist interpretations and (frankly) get some mileage out of them.

The link takes you to a long interview which is, frankly, more interesting than most stuff you read.

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