I am very proud to be able to publish this inspiring essay exclusively on my blog, by Dr Johannes Reuchlin, a multi-disciplinary intellectual historian who has taught institutional history as well as comparative religion. Dr Johannes examines Islam with the benefit of his specialism in comparative religion and history, and finds it sorely wanting, failing to meet the criteria to call itself a true religion;
“Islam is one of countless historical movements which developed a quasi-religious framework to justify its domination of people, though, completely misrepresenting the dogma, ethics, and history which they claim as their theological source.”
“Daesh (ISIL) has unleashed the hounds of Hell, the realm of demons, as it brutalizes all that should be loved instead in order to stop the flow of everything finite to the divine.”
Dr Johannes Reuchlin, 2015.
At present there is a concern about the proliferation of “radical” Islam (Daesh cutthroats) and the danger it poses to global society. The question that has come to mind is how and why did this happen. It was difficult to come to terms with the violent movement spreading across the Mid-East, Africa, and making itself felt in Europe and sporadically in North America.
For me it was especially difficult to comprehend as years ago I taught a Humanistic Psychology Course where I stated that it was my hope that ultimately the student would come to realize that perfection belongs to and comes forth from spiritual understanding and that all power and reality exist in the Spirit – in the unformed ideas of the one Mind of which we are a part and which exists within each one of us. The truth, one could argue, is that we are inherently and irrevocably spiritual beings. Perfection is innate in man and this must be expressed in our spirit, soul, and body so that we can become that which were created to be and that which we are all the time in the real inner truth of our being. This merely reflects what Theologians and Existential philosophers had been writing about for 2000 years. Still it contradicts what we have experienced from radical ISLAM in the recent past.
As I sought to formulate an answer I came across a notion posted by David C. Pack that “Most people never reflect on WHY they believe what they believe or do what they do. In a world filled with popular customs and traditions, few seek to understand the origin of things. Most generally accept common religious practices without question, choosing to do what everyone else does because it is easy, natural and comfortable—they can be ‘in step.’” This though was not a satisfying answer to what is going on. I then began to ponder the history of Islam, and yes there was a time when Islamic Culture contributed a great deal to the world in the fields of Science, Mathematics, Astronomy, and Literature for example. Ancient literature was translated into Arabic and a good many writings of the ancient world survived through those translations. But that was another time. The Caliphate at Cordoba fostered learning and was tolerant of Christians, and Jews.
This current movement, on the other hand, is intolerant, dark, vengeful, and is guided by individuals who are less motivated by religious dogma than by self-serving objectives. They hide under the cloak of religion to claim legitimacy holding sway over people who are either phychologically flawed or others who can barely read or write and who cannot even begin to comprehend the Qur’an as written.
The only viable explanation I can give is that we have been making a mistake equating Islam with Religion. In its incarnation as a theocratic state it is reminiscent of Greco-Roman and Nordic belief systems which are treated under the rubric of Mythology rather than religion as their Gods demanded obedience and exacted vengeance. It is a far cry from the Hebraic religion it claims to have followed. Indeed I see it as a derivate sect or movement, laying hold to certain fundamental givens to gain acceptability.
Beyond the feint paraphrasing of the Old Testament and borrowing from the New Testament, and placing Mohammed in a line of prophets, incorrectly I may add. There is nothing else. Mohammed cited Abraham and Moses as prophets when they were leaders rather than prophets, and in the case of Moses he was the transmitter of the Ten Commandments. The departure from Hebrew Theology is easy to discern when one looks at Old Testament verses such as Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord, and especially the daily violation of the 10 Commandments. It is certain that in Islam the traditional idea of God died and along with it the system of ethical values on which society is based.
To clarify, Paul Tillich in his interpretation of Nietzche puts it this way “The idea that God in himself is dead would be absurd. The idea is rather that in man the consciousness of an ultimate in the traditional sense has died.” Tillich stated that given this notion “somebody else has to replace God as the bearer of the system of traditional values. This is man.” Before this, Tillich continued, man heard “the ‘thou shalt’ and the ‘thou shalt not’ as that which is derived from God or an objective system of values (10 Commandments). This is now gone, and to apply Nietzschean analysis to Islam, we now have a man named Mohammed who says he will act not because of God, but because he has decided what is good or evil. Mohammed’s steps across the desert as he forced his vision on indigenous people at the point of a sword speaks to this. A radical departure of the traditional Judeo-Christian ideal.
It is important to reiterate that this is a Cult or Sect because in it Fact and Fancy are mixed to create a new ideological framework. The founders take what is accepted lay claim to it and add liberally from their imaginations to give rise to a new movement, though claiming to have a foundational relationship to the religion from which it was derived. That relationship is in name only.
Islam is one of countless historical movements which developed a quasi-religious framework to justify its domination of people, though, completely misrepresenting the dogma, ethics, and history which they claim as their theological source. Equally important, to achieve their goals they have to somehow show that the core religion has somehow failed to achieve for its followers what it should. The bottom line is that Islam as it evolved wallowed in theological uncertainty. Doctrine was imprecisely defined, and this allowed many statements that are not really theological to pass for legitimate.
One also needs to examine the methodology by which the tenets of this belief system were crafted. For this we need to consult the hadiths, specifically Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 1 as told by Aisha:
Al-Harith bin Hisham asked God’s Apostle “O God’s Apostle! How is the Divine Inspiration revealed to you?” God’s Apostle replied, “Sometimes it is (revealed) like the ringing of a bell, this form of Inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes ‘ off after I have grasped what is inspired.
Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp whatever he says.” ‘Aisha added: Verily I saw the Prophet being inspired divinely on a very cold day and noticed the Sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over).
Today if one has auditory hallucinations, one is quickly rushed to the nearest Psychiatrist’s office for thorough evaluation. The diagnosis frequently is schizophrenia. Sweating from the forehead on cold days also known as facial hyperhidrosis causes extreme emotional stress.
Knowledge about Mohammed’s methodology of receiving the divine word, such as it was, came to us through a woman, Aisha. If she was his confidante and the conduit through which we learn about him, then women should be treated with a good deal more respect than they are! Instead women under Islam are second class citizens and not considered persons in their own right in a number of ways.
Ultimately this sect demands self-surrender to militant movements purporting to promote a theological agenda. As far as the adherents who willingly embrace this dogma derived from glaring non sequiturs it amounts to nothing less than an unconscious desire for exploitation. Radical Islam readily takes advantage of psycho-social issues confronting vulnerable members of the world at large. It takes ordinary men and in a very short period of time turns them into remorseless murderers of Men, Women, and children.
Be that as it may, this demand for blind obedience to those who decide what is good or evil presents one of the starkest contradictions between Islam the sect and the Hebraic tradition. It negates the covenantal relationship between God and the individual which grants the inviolable right to free choice. The Hebrew Bible gives the reader an insight into this relationship beginning with the right to free choice in the Garden of Eden. This very concept was violated by Mohammed when he decided not to act act because of God, but because he himself had decided what is good or evil. The tradition continues unabated by adherents of Islam.
Islam also claims to recognize Christian dogma. Yet is diametrically opposed to the understanding of the divine, that of form without matter, and perfect in itself. The violent and exclusive sect called Islam, negates the idea that the divine moves the world not by acting on it from the outside, but by attracting everything finite to itself by means of love. According to Aristotle God was pure actuality and moved everything by being loved by everything. As Paul Tillich put it, “everything has the desire to unite itself with the highest form, to get rid of the lower forms in which it lives, where it is in bondage with matter.”
Islam moves in precisely the opposite direction striving for bondage with matter and into the demonic realm of power in opposition to God. Daesh (ISIL) has unleashed the hounds of Hell, the realm of demons, as it brutalizes all that should be loved instead in order to stop the flow of everything finite to the divine. One can seek to rehabilitate Islam, the fact, though, remains that in juxtaposition to Christianity which grew out of love for humanity, and others before self, it developed at the point of the sword. Where Christ shed his blood for the redemption of the world, Islam shed the blood of multitudes to aggregate power onto itself. The answer to the question I posed at the outset is that we have become too accommodating, too eager to be all inclusive, too eager to please when instead we should courageously make the distinction between what is divine and what is not. Islam is not divine, nor divinely inspired!
Dr Johannes Reuchlin, 2015.
First published on marthavanderpol.com