Important though such correspondences undoubtedly are for historical purposes, and there are many of them, there is a deeper level of definition, the linguistic one, where the analysis of concepts brings a flavour of the Muslim feeling for Islam and surrender and the possibility of the contemporary Christian understanding what this meant to the Muslim, so that he could compare it with his own conceptions. It is, of course, widely known that the name of the religion of the Muslims is Islam, or al-Islam, ‘al’ being the definite article in Arabic. Islam literally means ‘submission, yielding, surrender’ – to the will of God. ‘Muslim’ means one who is so surrendered. This etymology is important, because it is not just a name, it is a meaning. If you ask many an Arab, ‘Are you a Muslim?’ he will often reply, ‘If God wills’, which is roughly equivalent in colloquial speech to ‘I hope so’.

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Important though such correspondences undoubtedly are for historical purposes, and there are many of them, there is a deeper level of definition, the linguistic one, where the analysis of concepts brings a flavour of the Muslim feeling for Islam and surrender and the possibility of the contemporary Christian understanding what this meant to the Muslim, so that he could compare it with his own conceptions.It is, of course, widely known that the name of the religion of the Muslims is Islam, or al-Islam, ‘al’ being the definite article in Arabic. Islam literally means ‘submission, yielding, surrender’ – to the will of God. ‘Muslim’ means one who is so surrendered. This etymology is important, because it is not just a name, it is a meaning. If you ask many an Arab, ‘Are you a Muslim?’ he will often reply, ‘If God wills’, which is roughly equivalent in colloquial speech to ‘I hope so’. His attitude is that submission to the will of God is a matter of constant endeavour. Now we must also remember that there is a whole group of words derived from the radical SLM, which is the Arabic concept of ‘surrender’, any and all of which, almost, are associated with, regarded as inherently bound up with, each other and hence with Islam. By observing these words, we gain an idea as to the sense in which Islam has been understood by the people among whom it appeared, in their holy tongue, Arabic.Surrender, then, is ‘Islam’. Associated with this is the word Salama(t), which means ‘safety’, ‘security’. This fact is inextricably bound up in thinking with the direct relationship between submission to God and ‘safety’, that is, salvation. And Salama also stands for ‘wholeness, soundness, faultlessness’, to be made whole, safe, through submission. ‘Heaven’ is rendered by the term ‘Dar as-Salam’, the Abode of Peace, safety for man. To ‘Salaam’ a person is to wish him peace and wholeness. Salim, having been made whole, or sound, is another word from this root, like all the others an integral part of the vocabulary and daily speech of Arabic.Now that Islam is regarded as a means, a method, of arriving at peace and heaven is not in doubt either in the exegesis or in the occurrence of the word Sullam, again from the same root, which stands for an instrument or means, and including such things as a ladder or a stairway, and a tool. Finally, though this by no means exhausts our vocabulary of associated terms, there is Istilaam, which means receiving, and musaalim, one who is peaceful, lenient, clement.It is impossible to exaggerate the significance of this constellation of terms and meanings: for the Arab-speaker they constitute the constant reminder of the diverse aspects of the religion and its meanings, and a permanent facility for confirming these concepts without having to rely only upon interpretation by later ideologists.It has even been said by Muslim theoreticians that ‘Islam is a word which denotes submission to the will of God; therefore it is not a noun like the name of a thing, but a conception which is the name of a thing as well.’It is for this reason that, in the Quran, in the passage from Chapter 2, verse 136 which I quoted earlier, the sequence ends with the words which can be translated either as ‘and to God we are resigned’, or ‘we are Muslims’. Islam, as is well known, speaks of the true religious leaders, submitted to the will of God before the time of the Prophet Muhammad, as ‘Muslims’. This is not only found in the Quran; I have heard my Afghan coreligionists say, often: ‘Chi khub adam ast in Nasrani – Muslim ast.’ This means, ‘What a good man this Christian is – he is a Muslim.’ Even though these words are in Persian and not in Arabic, the sense is preserved absolutely, having been transferred successfully to an Aryan language from a Semitic one, each having very little similarity one to the other.The Quran itself cannot be translated, for this very reason: a part of the meaning will be rendered into the other language, but of course unless that language has (and this seems most unlikely) a constellation of concepts which exactly coincides with those of Arabic, the inbuilt pattern of concepts will inevitably be disturbed. I remember my own father using this very same illustration, employing the example of the radical SLM and its associations, to explain to me when I had just celebrated my eighth birthday in June, 1932. He was verifying passages from the rendition of the Quran by Muhammad Ali, and informing me why he was at that moment calling his selection ‘from the Quran’.

The Elephant in the Dark

Important though such correspondences undoubtedly are for historical purposes


Hemos visto cómo los cristianos y los musulmanes han pensado de forma similar y trabajado juntos, cómo han respetado la espiritualidad y el servicio del otro, y cómo cada uno ha apreciado el concepto de entrega que es inherente a la tradición que los une.

Antes de profundizar en la sociología, la psicología o la historia de las dos religiones, quiero contarles algo sobre un enfoque musulmán típico. Aquí están las palabras de uno de nuestros más grandes místicos, al-Ghazzali (1058-1111), cuyas obras fueron tan estimadas en la Edad Media de la cristiandad que, así como está registrado en Occidente, los clérigos sostenían la creencia de que en realidad era un escritor cristiano, “versado en la doctrina”; mientras que Ghazzali era, por supuesto, no solo un místico Sufi experiencial sino también un exprofesor de teología islámica del Nizamia en Bagdad.

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Fue casi tres décadas después, en la ocasión más importante de la vida de Muhammad, que otro cristiano – un árabe – devoto y bien versado en las Escrituras, un hombre que había buscado el camino Hanifita, entró en su vida. Esto fue en el año 610 d.c, cuando Muhammad recibió en la Cueva en el Monte Hira su primera experiencia espiritual y temió haberse vuelto loco; o – tal como dijo – transformado en poeta. Cuando la voz se dirigió a él, fue temblando de miedo a ver a su esposa en La Meca diciendo: “¡Ay de mí, poeta o poseído!”. Incluso había pensado en arrojarse desde lo alto de las rocas para suicidarse. Muhammad pensó que la gente nunca creería lo que tenía para decir, pero ella le recordó que tenía un carácter impecable y que era conocido por el título de al-Amin, el veraz.
De inmediato ella llevó a su esposo a lo de su primo Waraqah, hijo de Nofal, el devoto cristiano, para pedir su consejo. Waraqah escuchó el relato de la voz y lo que había dicho, y exclamó:

“¡Por el Dios santísimo! Si lo que has dicho es verdad, esta es la voz del Ángel que se le apareció a Moisés… No lo dudes Khadija, tu marido es el Profeta que ha surgido de la tribu de los Quraish…” Y él le dijo a Muhammad: “Si yo fuese a estar en el mundo de los vivos cuando tus parientes te envíen al exilio… quienquiera que traiga lo que tú traes caerá víctima de una persecución de lo más ruin.”

La voz había dicho, conservada en el Corán (74, 1 s.): “¡Oh Tú, envuelto en tu manto! Levántate y advierte.”

Fue casi tres décadas después


Cuando se le pidió al profeta Muhammad que maldijese a los infieles, él contestó, según la tradición acreditada: “Yo no fui enviado para esto, sino que fui enviado como una misericordia para la humanidad”. Además dijo: “Es indigno herir la reputación de la gente; y es indigno maldecir a cualquiera; y es indigno abusar de cualquiera; y es indigno para los creyentes el hablar en vano.”


¿Qué piensan los musulmanes de Jesús y por qué piensan de cierta manera acerca de su misión, su entrega y su gente? Un distinguido clérigo y trabajador cristiano en el campo de la religión comparada ha recordado recientemente a sus lectores ingleses que Jesús es conocido como al-Sayyed, el Príncipe o “el Señor”, lo cual es una señal de honor. “El título al-Sayyid”, continúa, “se usa particularmente para Muhammad y sus descendientes, pero también para otras grandes personas. En City of Wrong, un estudio de Jerusalén durante un Viernes Santo desde el punto de vista de la ortodoxia musulmana, el título ‘el Señor Cristo’ se usa asiduamente.”

El importante lugar que ocupó Jesús entre los seiscientos millones de musulmanes del mundo , diseminados desde las costas atlánticas de Marruecos en el oeste hasta la China, Filipinas e Indonesia en Oriente, y el consenso de ambas religiones sobre la necesidad de entregarse a Dios como medio de salvación, hacen que sea relativamente fácil para un musulmán dirigirse a los cristianos: la simpatía y la historia ya están allí.

 

El Elefante en la Oscuridad (da click para leer el libro en Español, English y Portugués)