Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Malicious or Ignorant?

Last night on "The Message" TV I watched the PBS 2002 documentary Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet. It was very slick (not one of my favorite words, but one that fits). Many others have reviewed it critically so I won't do that, but one thing caught my attention. Karen Armstrong described the angel Gabriel squeezing Muhammad in the cave as he prepared to give him Allah's message with such passion one would think she had been there herself personally sharing the experience.

As far as I know, Karen Armstrong is not a Muslim. That's what has me confused. Muslims believe Allah gave those words to Muhammad. That's what makes one a Muslim. Infidels (non-Muslims) do not. If Allah was not talking to Muhammad, Muhammad either imagined it or made it up. So Karen either believes Allah was speaking to Muhammad (in which case by definition she would be a Muslim- or muslimah since she is female), or she doesn't believe it and is an infidel like the rest of us. Am I missing something?

My former Islamics professor Sayyed Hossein Nasr also featured prominently in the documentary. He obviously is still as devoted to the Prophet as he was at Temple University almost 30 years ago. I can appreciate that; he's a believer. What I don't understand are people who idolize the prophet but who are unbelievers, from the Muslim point of view.

My other Islamics professor at Temple, the late Dr. Ismail Al-Faruqi who was never one to mince around with words, used to put it this way, "To persuade someone of the truth of Islam, you present them with evidence. If they refuse to believe, you give them more evidence. If they still refuse, you conclude they are either ignorant or malicious." I wonder what he would say about Karen Armstrong.

1 comment:

aemish said...

I cannot say for certainty, but perhaps Karen Armstrong, former nun and author of The History of God, intentionally describes the event from the perspective of the faithful for the same scholarly purposes plainly provided in her book. There is no need for the reader to feel offended, as opportunity to experience each among the variety of relgions from the inside as well as outside is rather the point, and all -- regardless whatever their own religion is or isn't -- are taken on the journey together. I didn't see the clip, but I would imagine anyone familiar with her book might wonder if your conclusions regarding in this matter aren't a tad premature. It would be unfortunate if the exceedingly thorough inclusion of all perspectives painstakingly contained in her book wound up on the cutting room floor of PBS' editing department. Surely presenting viewers only the easy opportunity to mistake the severely incomplete position contained in a single scene of this documentary for an objective assessment of the body of work one is handily provided in the pages of her book was not their intent.