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Islam and West Culture

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Why this rivalry between two civilization taken place as it claimed possessor of God’s final dispensation to mankind, can be observed in different ways. First of all, whether that claimant is previous or subsequent. Form a traditional Christian point of view, since christainty was the end of the process of revelation, anything subsequent was necessarily false and noxious. From Muslim point of view, since Christianity was earlier, christainaity, like Judaism, was an incomplete, somewhat damaged, and now superseded religion, but not in itself false and not in itself noxious. For both christainity and Islam, Judaism is a predecessor, yet there is a fundemantal difference in the attitudes of the two religions toward the jews, alike in the extent, the form, and the manner of toleration. The founders of both religions came into conflict with jews, but in these conflicts one lost, the other won. Jews were lost to Muhammed but they treated them in a more relaxed attitude to subsequent generations of jews. For christains there is a difference in their claims itself. The christain dispensation claims to be fulfilment of promises made to the jews and the accomplishment of jewish prophecies. Jewish survival and still more jewish refulsal were thus seen as somehow impugning the authenticity of the christen dispensation. Muhammad and his successors made no such claim, and the conversion of the jews was therefore a matter of little or no concern to them. There is in medieval and even in modern Christendom a vast literature of polemics writeen by Christian theologians to persuage jews of the truth of the Christian dispensation whereas theologians of Islam felt no such need.

A religious definition of group identity inevitably raises the wuestion of another kind of otherness, which crucial in the history of Christendom, not unimportant in the history of Islam- that of an intermediate status between the believer and the unbeliever: the schismatic, the heretic, the deviant.

Islam’s polemical literature mainly written by Muslims against other Muslims- between sunnis and shi’a , between the different schools and tendencies within each of these, rather than directing against Christians or jews. Therefore there is no such thing as either schism or heresy in Islam, in the Christian sense of these terms. There is no schism in Islam like the split between the Greek and roman churches, since there is no institutional authority- no popes or patriarchs or councils and therefore no questions of jurisdiction or obedience or submission. Heresy means choice, which confronts the church with wrong choices of the people. This again hardly arises inislam becuae there is considerable freedom of choice in matters of belief, within very widely dwawn limits. There was no ecclesiastical authority to formulate, promulgate, and direct belief or to define and denounce incorrect belief- to detect, to enforce, to punish. All this, so characteristic of chirstian churches, has no true equivalent in islmaic history.

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