“To tell the truth, Jesus is not an object of veneration in the Muslim tradition[…] in the Koran, Jesus is a great prophet, famous for his miracles on behalf of a poor and sick humanity, but he is not the equal of Muhammad.”
So says one of the most outstanding Catholic scholars on Islam, Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J., born in Cairo. It is found in his analysis of Pope Francis’ references to Islam in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG).
The Jesuit scholar begins by emphasizing the points of the document which he agrees with. Later, he deals with “points that require clarification.” This part of his study is particularly remarkable for its intellectual rigor, and his frankness in disagreeing with some of EG’s statements.
Muslims Do Not Accept the Trinity
On EG’s affirmation (No. 252) that Muslims “together with us adore the One, merciful God,” Father Samir ponders: “[T]his sentence suggests that the two conceptions of God are equal.” However, “in Christianity, God is the Trinity in its essence, plurality united by love: He is a bit more than just clemency and mercy.” And he accentuates that the two religions teach “two quite different conceptions of the Divine One.” The Christian conception “of the Oneness of the Trinity emphasizes that God is Love which is communicated: Father-Son-Spirit, or Lover – Beloved – Love, as St. Augustine suggested.”
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The Koran Does Not Retain the Spirit of the Gospels
“Another sensitive point in the document,” the Jesuit scholar continues, “is the assertion that ‘the sacred writings of Islam have retained some Christian teachings’ (No. 252).” He notes that although “Muslims retain words or facts from the canonical gospels,” they “do not draw from them the theological sense they contain, and do not give these facts or words the meaning that they actually have.” Furthermore, the Koran draws more inspiration from Apocrypha and pious tales than from the Four Gospels.
Jesus Was Only a Prophet… Lesser Than Mohammed
Later on, the EG states that in the Koran, “Jesus and Mary are the object of profound veneration.” Father Samir replies: “To tell the truth, Jesus is not an object of veneration in the Muslim tradition.” And this is because “in the Koran, Jesus is a great prophet, famous for his miracles on behalf of a poor and sick humanity, but he is not the equal of Muhammad.”
“In fact,” he continues, “all that is said of Jesus in the Koran is the exact opposite of Christian teachings.” And he exemplifies: “He [Jesus] is not the Son of God, but a prophet and that’s it.” “He is not even the last of the prophets, because instead the ‘seal of the prophets’ is Muhammad (Koran 33:40).” “Christian revelation is only seen as a step towards the ultimate revelation brought by Muhammad, i.e. Islam.”
“The Koran Is Opposed to All the Fundamental Christian Dogmas”
“All the Christian dogmas are rejected by the Koran and Islam,” Fr. Samir Khalil Samir writes. After quoting passages from that book that proves his statement, he concludes: “In short, the Koran and Muslims deny the essential dogmas of Christianity: the Trinity, the Incarnation and Redemption. It should be added that this is their most absolute right! But you cannot then say that ‘The sacred writings of Islam retain part of Christian teachings’ [as EG does, No. 252]. You simply must speak of the ‘Jesus of the Koran’ which has nothing to do with the Jesus of the Gospels.”
“Fundamentalism on Both Sides?”
EG (No. 250) states: “An attitude of openness in truth and in love must characterize the dialogue with the followers of non-Christian religions, in spite of various obstacles and difficulties, especially forms of fundamentalism on both sides.”
About this phrase, Father Samir makes this reservation:
“Personally, I would not put the two fundamentalisms on the same level: Christian fundamentalists do not carry weapons; Islamic fundamentalism is criticized, first of all, by Muslims themselves precisely because this armed fundamentalism seeks to replicate the Mohammedan model. In his life, Muhammad waged more than 60 wars, and now if Muhammad is the supreme model (as the Koran claims 33:21), it is not surprising that some Muslims also use their violence in imitation of the founder of Islam.”
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“Violence in the Koran and the Life of Muhammad”
Commenting on EG’s statement (No. 253) that the true interpretation of Islam and the Koran is opposed to violence, Father Samir writes:
“This phrase is beautiful and expresses a very benevolent attitude on the Pope’s part towards Islam. However, in my humble opinion, it expresses more a wish than a reality. The fact that the majority of Muslims are opposed to violence, may well be true. But to say that ‘the true Islam is against any violence,’ does not seem true: there is violence in the Koran.” And he mentions his study Violence and Non-violence in the Koran and Islam.1
Stick to the Truth of Events
The clarification of a renowned specialist such as Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. helps us better understand the complexity of the problem we face regarding Islam. Even the best of intentions is not enough to change Islamic doctrine, historical facts and present reality, evident for all to see.
We need to examine Islamic doctrine objectively and stick to the truth of events so we don’t lose touch with reality. Otherwise, albeit with the best of intentions, we risk falling into the realm of utopia and unreality. Only then, with the help of Divine Providence, can we seek real solutions to one of the most pressing problems of our time: the resurgence of political Islam and its expansionism in the West, with the brutal persecution of Christians in the Middle East.