"Is Allah God?" and Neocon Islamophilia
The first translation is 40 times more common at google.com than the second. Despite this, the latter is the accurate one. Bush was right. Several reasons point to this conclusion.
Scriptural: The Koran itself in several places insists that its God is the same as the God of Judaism and Christianity. The most direct statement is one in which Muslims are admonished to tell Jews and Christians “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you; our God and your God is One, and to Him we do submit” (E.H. Palmer translation of Sura 29:46). Of course, the verse can also be rendered “our Allah and your Allah is One” (as it is in the notoriousAbdullah Yusuf Ali translation).
Historical: Chronologically, Islam followed after Judaism and Christianity, but the Koran claims Islam actually preceded the other monotheisms. In Islamic doctrine (Sura 3:67), Abraham was the first Muslim. Moses and Jesus introduced mistakes to the Word of God; Muhammad brought it down perfectly. Islam views Judaism and Christianity as flawed versions of itself, correct on essentials but wrong in important details. This outlook implies that all three faiths share the God of Abraham.
Linguistic: Just as Dieu and Gott are the French and German words for God, so is Allah the Arabic equivalent. In part, this identity of meaning can be seen from cognates: In Hebrew, the word for God is Eloh-im, a cognate of Allah. In Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, God is Allaha. In the Maltese language, which is unique because it is Arabic-based but spoken by a predominantly Catholic people, God is Alla. ~Daniel Pipes
Pipes never ceases to mystify. This is much more laughable than his ludicrous claim that Chiang Kai-shek was a "democratically-minded strongman" (and Stalin was a "liberal in a hurry," right?). What Pipes thinks Bush was "right" about was his claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God--Allah and the God of the Christians is supposedly one and the same. As a firm proponent of the myth (read lie) of an Islamic Golden Age, Pipes is the perfect example of that bizarre mixture of Arabophobia, Islamophilia and crude hegemonism that constitutes its own sort of "new fusionism" among leading neoconservatives. The motto might be: "Crush the Arabs, free the Muslims and give Islam a good spring cleaning." That these positions are mutually contradictory and foolish in themselves do not seem to dissuade their adherents.
He has been a consistent advocate of some fantastical Islamic reformation that will presumably somehow retain all of the pleasant, eccentric and extraneous elements of Islam (the bits that Westerners find so intriguing or attractive--Hallaj, Rumi, ghazals, izzat, calligraphy and impressive architecture) while losing all of its hard, cutting edge of jihad and repression. Now he proposes to educate the West in its own theological heritage and prove to us (philologically, no less!) that because Allah literally means "the god," it must therefore imply the same doctrine and concept of God. Yes, friends, this man is supposed to be (if you believe his PR) educated and an expert on the Islamic world. Scary.
What can one say about this astonishing display of either naivete or dishonesty? Of course the Qur'an claims its god is the same as that of the Jews and the Christians--Muhammad was busily appropriating their salvation history as his own in fragmentary form and making the needed modifications. There was every incentive to attach Islam to established and respected traditions, precisely because it had no significant roots of its own and no real claim to prophetic witness. Heretics will often claim that they have the authentic doctrine, that others have sullied and corrupted the truth with accretions and additions and that they are restoring things to their pristine order (the Baha'is tried the same line with the Muslims, but the latter would have none of it), but their partial and distorted understanding of the traditions from which they are scavenging quickly reveals them as the inventors and innovators.
What matters, of course, is the substance of their doctrine of God, which is uncompromisingly monistic, fervently opposed to any Trinitarian doctrine and openly contemptuous of any claim that Christ is God. There is nothing more insulting and ignorant than to pretend that Allah is the same as the One God in Trinity. Assuming Pipes is dimly aware of the obvious clash of conceptions of God, his shilling for Allah can only be the usual sort of opportunistic abetting of Islam that neocons have pursued for years for the purpose of harming Christians everywhere.
If we reject Arians for their impiety, as all Christians of any serious confession are obliged to do, will we then say that we confess the same God as the Muslims, who hold to a doctrine of Christ very similar to that of the Arians? Can anyone seriously maintain that a religion that replaces Christ the Word with the Qur'an as the unchanging Word of God believes in the same God that Christians adore? George Bush claims to believe this, which is why in my less charitable moments I sometimes refer to him as the Apostate.
One may as well pretend that the Socratic ho theos is the very same, because it, too, means "the god," or that the Vendanta and the Gospel confess the same Lord because both confess one God. If Hindus sometimes address one of their myriad deities as bhagvan, do we really believe that they are worshiping the same God that we Christians are? Of course not, and the fact that one can find Hindus willing to say irenic things or condescend so as to allow Christ to be an avatar of Vishnu changes nothing. Even if other religions could accommodate some distorted vision of Christ (e.g., Christ as Messiah-but-not-God (the Islamic version), Christ as prophet, Christ as nice fellow, etc.), Christians are not free to accommodate the distortions of the gentiles into their Faith.
Ontologically and theologically, of course, there is only One God, so it might seem inevitable that everyone is attempting, however incorrectly, to worship that same God. But quite plainly everyone is not, and even if they were trying in all seriousness the errors in their understanding would impede and prevent the sort of communion needed to foster a real relationship with the living God. Even if many nations confess monotheism, that does not make their god our God. At the very least, if there were to be any possibility of agreement, these nations would have to embrace the Nicene Creed.
It is self-evident that Muslims do not and cannot embrace that Creed without consequently condemning Muhammad as a liar, and this they are not willing to do. The second part of the shahada (wa muhammad rasul'ullah) is no less fundamental for Muslims, and to this no Jew or Christian can subscribe. Entertaining illusory common religious ground between Muslims and non-Muslims while simultaneously endorsing murderous policies in the Near East that only provoke continued political conflict is as close to a perfect recipe for disaster as I can imagine: it is a sure-fire way to misunderstand the nature of the enemy while ensuring that his numbers continue to grow. Finally, on a personal note, as someone who in his younger, much more foolish and ignorant days fell prey for a time to the simplistic, militant appeal of Islam, I can assure everyone that there is perhaps nothing further from Christ God than Allah.
In a more civilised age, Pipes would be penalised for spreading such falsehoods and his writings banned, but such is the sorry state of our civilisation that he and his ilk supposedly represent the 'hard-line' elements in our society opposed to Islam and Islamists. The open secret, of course, that has been known to anyone following neocon attitudes towards wars in the Balkans or the Caucasus is that neocons have long been willing to encourage, enable and support Islamists, provided that said Islamists do not target Israel, do not cross their path and interfere with their proper hegemonist goals.
Daniel Larison | August 19, 2005
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