Tag Archive | church

The Pope and the Threat of a New Evangelism

The Pope and the Threat of a New Evangelism

By Hwaa Irfan

I thought it was getting a little bit too quiet. Probably overwhelmed by the countless cases of pedophilia against Catholic priests around the world, but Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Alois Ratzinger (Latin: Iosephus Ratzinger) after all is no ordinary man. An active intellectual at the age of 83, Pope Benedict XVI, apparently an accomplished pianist, spends every day playing a classical piece by Schubert, Schumann or Brahms – hmm, an interesting combination. One may wonder what goes through his mind of such a conservative Christian who was:

• A member of Hitler Youth at 14
• Professor at the University of Bonn (1959 – 1963)
• Dean and vice-president of University of Regensburg
• Chief theological expert of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965)
• Co-founder of the theological journal Communio in 1972, now an important journal in Catholic thought
• Archbishop of Munich and Freising
• Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ( the Holy Office of the Inquisition)
• Cardinal-bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993,
• Vice-dean of the College of Cardinals in 1998, Dean in 2002,
• Titular bishop of Ostia.
• Close friend of former Pope John Paul II

As his fingers ripple over the keys of the piano, does he take strength from Johannes Brahms infamous sharp tongue, being well known for his own forthright speech. Is there a parallel between Pope Benedict XVI’s recent declaration: “a grave crisis in the sense of the Christian faith and the role of the Church,” and Brahms attitude towards his contemporaries when he declared “everything is in a state of ruin… Learning nothing is to blame… Neither Schumann, nor Wagner, nor I had a proper education. Talent, however, was decisive…” Both Brahms and Pope Benedict XVI were dissatisfied, and Pope Benedict XVI has repeated often his concerns with the Christendom. Unlike many Muslims who compromise and give into the notions espoused by various wings of secularism Pope Benedict XVI as Ratzinger declared at a religious gathering in St. Peter’s Basilica that:

    “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”

But as an intellectual is Pope Benedict XVI in touch with his flock, most of whom who do not attend church, that some of the reasons are to do with the Catholic Church itself? Where are the noble pure role models in the Catholic Church, noble and pure being the adjectives Schumann used after the death of Schubert. There are many pure and devout Christians outside of the Church who take their faith so seriously so as to explore it further through other means as in the many forms of modern day Gnosticism. Because they do not attend Church does it mean they do not take their faith any less seriously? The Church as in the Mosque represents a communality, an imperative in Islam that strenghthens the social fabric of the faithful, but whereas Islam in more inclusive of the kaleidescope of different levels of faith, and knowledge of that faith, can the same be said of Catholicism which imposes a a particular view of the world, becuase when Muslims take on that same narrow vision, it tends to alienate rather than enjoin.

Schubert, Schumann and Brahms turned to each other for musical inspiration and composition, and this is the nature of all those who seek excellence in their field. But seeking excellence which may have more to do with the institution of the Church as power on earth has less to do with faith and more to do with the problem that is plaguing most countries today, which are governments whose concern is for maintaining power and position, and not the needs of the people — the voters whom they are supposed to serve. Austria, the vanguard of Catholicism is pushing for a more liberal Church. With 6, 000.000 Catholics, Britain has a weekly church attendance of approximately a million. While Islam has been the battering ram with which to squelch any idea of faith and practice in favor of “…one’s own ego and one’s own desires,” relativism has indeed become the scourge that governments and international bodies like the U.N. have schemed to make manifest because it serves in their interests to do so. The people believing that this is what freedom is about are not going to uphold the tenants of Catholicism or Islam until they realize the mess they have gotten themselves and the rest of the world into. Prince Charles of Wales contextualized the problem so well that there is a clear dismembering of man from nature ignoring the fact that man is an intrinsic part of nature. This schism has been coming for a long time it is not new, even renowned psychotherapist, Carl Jung, recognized this at the turn of the 20th century when he said:

    “The individual who is not anchored in God can offer no resistance on his own resources to the physical and moral blandishments of the world. For this he needs the evidence of inner transcendent experience which alone can protect him from the otherwise inevitable submersion in the mass. Merely intellectual or even moral insight into the stultification and moral irresponsibility of the mass man is a negative recognition only and amounts to not much more than a wavering on the road to the atomization of the individual.”

Evangelism and the New Agenda

So here we are worse off than we were at the time Carl Jung said the above. American Catholics had hoped for more conservative action from Pope Benedict XVI when he first became Pope. He certainly seemed to live up to his nickname “God’s Rottweiler” when he disparaged liberalism within the Church, argued against Turkey being allowed into the E.U., Islam and Buddhism with the one exception being his relationship with Judaism:

    “I have expressed my own firm determination to walk in the footsteps traced by my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II. The Jewish-Christian dialogue must continue to enrich and deepen the bonds of friendship which have developed.”

In the “The Jewish People and the Holy Scriptures,” prepared by the Pontifical Biblical Commission approved by Pope Benedict XVI it states:

    “…the Jewish messianic wait is not in vain” and that Jews and Christians share their wait for the Messiah, although Jews are waiting for the first coming and Christians for the second”.

These same sentiments were expressed by the scholars of the religious right who formed the Fundamentalism Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences who sort to counter the same fears of Pope Benedict XVI, that of the growing secularism through a militarism that aimed to stem the tidal loss of religious identity. Militant white Protestants in the South met their criteria as well as the radicals amongst Israeli Jews joining with George W. Bush in 2000 as the political vanguard of the Religious Right. George W. Bush won the election because of the evangelical vote, and the rest we know culminating in the so-called war on terrorism. Of those voters 71% were evangelical Protestants who believed in Armageddon, and approximately 55% of those who voted for Bush believed in Armageddon. Author of The End of Days:
Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount,
Gershom Gorenburg who moved to Israel wrote:

    “If there is any place in the world where belief in the End is a powerful force in real-life events, it’s the Holy Land. The territory today shared and contested by Jews and Palestinians is the stage of myth in Christianity, Judaism and even Islam… The impact of such belief on a complex national and religious struggle had received too little attention. It underlies the apocalyptic foreign policy promoted by many on the American religious right: support for Israel based on certainty that the Jewish state plays a crucial role in a fundamentalist Christian script for the End. In Israel, belief in final redemption has driven the most dedicated opponents of peace agreements. Among Muslims, expectation of the final Hour feed exaggerated fears about Israel’s actions in Jerusalem. Belief in the approaching End has influenced crucial events in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Time and again, it has been the rationale behind apparently irrational bloodshed.”

So when Pope Benedict XVI speaks of:

    “… creating a new body with the aim of promoting a renewed evangelism,” in countries that are going through “progressive secularization of society”

It is with trepidation given the level of insecurity that exists in the world currently, given the steps that Israel and the U.S. are taking to provoke Iran, and the region in general, I ask what kind of evangelism. The Catholic Church still has a legacy in massacres like the one which took place in Rwanda in their evangelical zeal, and I doubt very much that this is the best way to increase faith and devotion.

We all have dreams, but when they concern other people, and those dreams do not have the conditions to make those well intended dreams manifest, that it is best to remember that both Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Issa (Jesus) began with a handful of believers, and left the faith to do the rest; but no:

In the 2007 Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization laid down by the body Pope Benedict VII was responsible for prior to becoming Pope (the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it states:

“Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to proclaim the Gospel, calling all people to conversion and faith (cf. Mk 1:14-15). After his resurrection, he entrusted the continuation of his mission of evangelization to the Apostles (cf. Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15; Lk 24:4-7; Acts 1:3): “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21, cf. 17:18). By means of the Church, Christ wants to be present in every historical epoch, every place on earth and every sector of society, in order to reach every person, so that there may be one flock and one shepherd (cf. Jn 10:16): “Go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:15-16)”.

Pope Boniface VIII – Unum Sanctum
November 18, 1302

This Papal Bull brought forth by Boniface VIII stated the Papal Throne’s power over all men and the Divine origins of that very same power. It was somewhat a response to Philip le Bel’s refusal to accept Boniface VIII Papal supremecy.

Unam Sanctam

Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins, as the Spouse in the Canticles proclaims: “One is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only one, the chosen of her who bore her,” and she represents one sole mystical body whose Head is Christ and the head of Christ is God.

In her then is one Lord, one faith, one baptism . There had been at the time of the deluge only one ark of Noah, prefiguring the one Church, which ark, having been finished to a single cubit, had only one pilot and guide, i.e., Noah, and we read that, outside of this ark, all that subsisted on the earth was destroyed.

We venerate this Church as one, the Lord having said by the mouth of the prophet: “Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword and my only one from the hand of the dog.” He has prayed for his soul, that is for himself, heart and body; and this body, that is to say, the Church, He has called one because of the unity of the Spouse, of the faith, of the sacraments, and of the charity of the Church.

This is the tunic of the Lord, the seamless tunic, which was not rent but which was cast by lot . Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: “Feed my sheep” [Jn 21:17], meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him . Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not bei ng the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John “there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.”

We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles say: “Behold, here are two swords” that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: “Put up thy sword into thy scabbard”. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered for the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power. For since the Apostle said: “There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God”, but they would not be ordained if one sword were not subordinated to the other and if the inferior one, as it were, were not led upwards by the other.

For, according to the Blessed Dionysius, it is a law of the divinity that the lowest things reach the highest place by intermediaries. Then, according to the order of the universe, all things are not led back to order equally and immediately, but the lowest by the intermediary, and the inferior by the superior. Hence we must recognize the more clearly that spiritual power surpasses in dignity and in nobility any temporal power whatever, as spiritual things surpass the temporal.

This we see very clearly also by the payment, benediction, and consecration of the tithes, but the acceptance of power itself and by the government even of things. For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgment if it has not been good. Thus is accomplished the prophecy of Jeremias concerning the Church and the ecclesiastical power: “Behold today I have placed you over nations, and over kingdoms” and the rest.

Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: “The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man”.

This authority, however, (though it has been given to man and is exercised by man), is not human but rather divine, granted to Peter by a divine word and reaffirmed to him (Peter) and his successors by the One Whom Peter confessed, the Lord saying to Peter himself, “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven” etc., [Mt 16:19]. Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God, unless he invent like Manicheus two beginnings, which is false and judged by us heretical, since according to the testimony of Moses, it is not in the beginnings but in the beginning that God created heaven and earth.

Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

Sources:
Farndale, B. What Happened to God’s Rottweiler
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3639210/What-happened-to-Gods-rottweiler.html

Phillips, K. “American Dynasty“. Penguin Books, U.S. 2004

Pope Launches Team to ‘Re-Evangelize’ the West
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/the-pope/7861377/Pope-launches-team-to-re-evangelise-the-West.html

Pope Benedict XVI
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/va-pope-benedict-xvi.htm

Vatican. Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20071203_nota-evangelizzazione_en.html

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Muslim Cordoba Going for a Song 

Muslim Cordoba Going for a Song

By Hwaa Irfan

It is more out of an attraction for the out of the ordinary that I find myself bemused by the auctioneer’s skill to sell lumber. Even more curious, when Christies of London, (the auctioneer house) aimed to sell these five 10th century wooden beams from the Great Mosque of Cordoba (The Mezquita) in Spain.

As someone who struggles with the onslaught of materialism and technology, the question that immediately comes to mind is who would sell (let alone keep) a set of wooden beams that are 11 centuries old for US$1.75 million (UPI), let alone something from a religion that seems a little too inconvenient to some. Then to add to it all, the sale was stopped by the Spanish authorities and the lawyer of the Cathedral of Cordoba. What is so important about those wooden beams to attract such attention?

Jonathan Wheeler, a lawyer, told Agence France Presse that the beams held “great cultural and religious importance” for Spain. Curious and more curious, considering it was in 2004, when a request to the Vatican by Spanish Muslims to pray in the cathedral was not open to dialogue on the idea. Muslims are not a part of the equation here, at least not on the surface, so what is all the fuss?

The Invasion

The wooden beams must have been some kind of structural support for what stands as the only monument left of the Muslim medieval past in Cordoba. Today’s Islamophobes would have us look at our past as an invasion into Europe territory, ignoring that there were dark-age “crusades” previous to the dawn of Islam in Europe. But when the Umayyad Emir Abd Al-Rahman was fleeing from Abbasid rule in Baghdad in the 8th century CE, there was no Muslim invasion on Spanish soil.

Emir Abd Al-Rahman was the only surviving member of his family. Being half Syrian and half Berber-Andalusian, the prince fled to live in exile in his mother’s country. Like all men before and since, Muslim outlanders and frontiersmen sought their equivalent of the “Wild West” in Spain since 711 CE (the historical date given for the invasion of Muslims) in seclusion. If there was an invasion in our sense of the word, how come it took 800 years for Europe to muster up an army? And how come such beautiful art was created and not destroyed as we see in Iraq under the American banners of “liberation”?

The Mezquita

It was not until 756 CE when Abd al-Rahman moved to Cordoba. Against the wishes of Baghdad, ‘Abd-ar Rahman sought to reestablish the Umayyad legacy with the building of the Great Mosque of Cordoba in 785 CE and much more. The original great Mosque of Cordoba was built on the strong geometrical principles of the square-circle on top of the place where the pagan Roman temple of Janus and the Christian Visigoth church of St. Vincent once stood.

To build the original mosque, it was not only finances that had to be mobilized, but also technical skills and craftsmanship. Even the Roman Emperor Constantine was solicited for a cargo of colored glass cubes and a master mosaicist. Old Roman columns (previously razed by the Visigoths) were reused in the building of the mosque. Having been improved and expanded upon five times, the eventual 23,400 square meter prayer hall and 500 columns are reflective of the size of the mosque, its place in the western Islamic empire and the growing Muslim ‘Ummah.

The forest of columns allowed sunlight through the hall, which had since been filled in by the builders of the cathedral inside the Mosque. With four entrances, the Gate of the Viziers (Bab Al-Wuzara), now called the Stephen Gate, stands as a memory to the important officials who would arrive in response to the call for prayer through this gate. In the Patio de los Naranjos (courtyard of the orange trees), which has survived to this day, Muslims would carry out their ablutions before entering the mosque.

For 300 hundred years, the great mosque had Christian worshippers; it was consecrated by King Ferdinand III when he conquered Cordoba. It wasn’t until the 16th century when the bishop of the cathedral decided to demolish the mosque in order to build a church on top of it. Sixty-three pillars were removed from the center of the mosque to allow for the cathedral’s structure.

Whereas the original mosque was built within the lifetime of ‘Abd-ar Rahman II (833-52 CE), it took over three centuries to complete the cathedral. Workers often dropped down their tools, not because they weren’t being paid, but because of frequent disputes that took place regarding building works spurred by a local attachment to the beauty of the mosque.

It was not until Roman Emperor Charles V gave a clear mandate in 16th century, when work on the cathedral progressed by consecrating the mosque as a Christian place of worship. When the emperor finally visited Cordoba, it was documented that he said, “Had I known what was here, I would never have dared touch the old structure. You have destroyed something that was unique in the world and added something one can see anywhere.”

In 1931, Allama Muhammad Iqbal prayed in the Great Mosque of Cordoba. In I980, Muslims were able to get permission to pray `Eid Al-Adha in the mosque from a local priest. In 2004, the Islamic Council of Spain made a formal request to the Vatican to pray in the mosque, but this was denied according to Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The Legacy of Cordoba

The Great Mosque of Cordoba stands as a symbolic testament of Muslim Cordoba (or Qurtuba in Arabic) which once contained 250,000 buildings and 3,000 mosques, palaces, and baths. Cordoba was the birthplace of the Roman stoic Seneca, the Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes), and the Jewish physician and philosopher Maimonides (Abu ‘Imran Musa ibn Maymun ibn ‘Ubayd Allah).

Andalusia gave birth to others like Ibn Sina (Avicenna). Gerbert of Aurillac (955–1003 CE), who later became Pope Sylvester II, was sent to Catalunya to study mathematics, he benefited from close contact with Cordoba’s fountain of knowledge that contained over 400,000 books. In Europe, books were mainly kept in private collections and the Church had forbidden any investigation that was deemed to go against the Bible.
Cordoba’s fame for its knowledge of the sciences, arts, and commerce led to communication and dialogue between the Catholic Church and Muslim Cordoba. All the works of Aristotle, Archimedes, Apollonius, Euclid, Hippocrates, and Galen survived through Arabic translation into Latin to become valuable tools that led to the reanimation of civilization in Europe through the Renaissance. Through the medium of the Arabic language, Europe was reintroduced to part of its heritage.

Cordoba’s prosperity between the 9th and 10th centuries was nurtured by the introduction of irrigation systems designs brought from Damascus which assigned water to each cultivator in proportion to land size and Yemeni irrigation techniques were employed in the distribution of water over a fixed time period. The sahib al-saqiya (the person who was responsible for irrigation) managed the distribution of water that led to a cultivation of cherries, apples, pears, almonds, pomegranates, figs, dates, sugarcane, bananas, cotton, flax, and much more. Providing what seemed like exotic fruits and finery to Europe, economic reform was aided and abetted by access to international trade.

Spanish poetry, albeit originally based on Arabic models, evolved into a new form, its rhythm and rhyme came under the influence of Romanesque poetry. Under the patronage of the caliphate, literature flourished with scholars from the east emigrating to Spain. Grammar and philology came from Iraq, Aristotle’s philosophy was introduced and the medical standard was set by Galen’s books.

It was under the dictatorship of Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Amir when Cordoba fell, splintering into smaller states, namely Seville, Badajoz, Toledo, Saragossa, Albarrac’n, Valencia, Almer’a, and Granada which all bickered among themselves. Their disputes left them weak, vulnerable, and ripe for attack by ensuing armies from the Christian north and the impending Crusades.

A Symbol of Prosperity, Diversity, and Tolerance

On Cordoba, Earl Bertrand Russell, a philosopher and a recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature (1872-1970) wrote the following:

    “Throughout the Middle Ages, Jews had no part in the culture of Christian countries, and were too severely persecuted to be able to make contributions to civilization, beyond supplying capital for the building of cathedrals and such enterprises. It was only among the Mohammedans, at that period, that Jews were treated humanely, and were able to pursue philosophy and enlightened speculation. The Mohammedans were more civilized and more humane than the Christians. Christians persecuted Jews, especially at times of religious excitement; the Crusades were associated with appalling pogroms. In Mohammedan countries, on the contrary, Jews at most times were not in any way ill-treated. Especially in Moorish Spain they contributed to learning; Maimonides, who was born in Cordoba, is recorded by some as the source of much of Spinoza’s philosophy”.

The Christian Visigoths who ruled Spain prior to Muslim’s took control of Andalusia, made the following dictates on Jews in their code (constitution) as follows:

• Jews shall not celebrate the Passover according to their Custom.

• Jews shall not contract marriage according to their custom.

• Jews shall not perform the rite of circumcision.

• Jews shall not divide their food into clean and unclean according to their custom.

• No Jew shall subject a Christian to torture.

• No Jew shall testify against a Christian.

• The descendants of Jews may testify.

• No Jew shall circumcise a Christian slave

• Under no circumstances shall Christian slaves attach themselves to Jews, or be admitted into their sect.
• All Christians are forbidden to defend or protect a Jew, by either force or favor.

And much more…

Spain and Palestine had become the centers of Judaic literature development during a period that Jews referred to as “The Golden Age.” Even the Jewish Virtual Library acknowledges that Cordoba
was “the seat of Jewish learning, scholarship, and culture, gradually eclipsing the Babylonian academies of Sura and Pumbeditha.” Albeit, they attribute these facts to a Cordoban Jew. Jews were not second-class citizens, nor were they maltreated, rather, they participated in all levels of Cordoban society.
Not everyone accepts the “either/or” paradigm of history. One such person is Maria Rosa Menocal, philologist, professor of Spanish and Portuguese, and director of the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University. Echoing Betrand Russell, Menocal illustrated:

    “Throughout medieval Europe, Arabic had a far more powerful impact on the transformation and shaping of culture than most narratives of our history reveal.”

In response to someone’s desire to live in a place “where the religions of the children of Abraham all tolerate each other and where, in the peace of that tolerance, and in the shade and fragrance of orange trees,” Menocal stated that such a place did exist and pointed out the following facts:

• The first generation of Muslims were immigrant Berbers from North Africa. Within a few generations, the majority of the Muslims, in part or in whole, were ethnically no different from those who remained Christian, such as the Celto-Iberians, Romans, and Visigoths.

• The unconverted Christians and Jews, called the dhimmis, of al-Andalus, were not very ethnically different from their brothers and neighbors who did convert; and soon enough they were not very different in other crucial ways, since Christians and Jews took to Arab culture. A ninth-century churchman of Cordoba once complained that young Christian men could barely write decent letters in Latin, yet they were so in love with Arabic poetry that they could recite it better than the Muslims themselves.

• Ibn Khaldun, a descendant of an old Andalusian family, was offered the restoration of his ancestral lands by Peter the Venerable if he would stay on as his vizier.

• In 1360, Samuel Halevi Abulafia had built for himself and his community a synagogue in the extravagant new Nasrid style. Writings on the wall were in Hebrew and Arabic (with verses from the Qur’an).

• Arabic poetry was central to the lives of all educated men in Andalus. This meant that the educated Jewish community came to know it, write it, and covet it. For hundreds of years, Hebrew was used only for liturgy. Pious Muslims could recite the Qur’an in God’s own sacred language, but for the Muslims, God did not hoard His language or keep it locked up in His temples, and so those same Muslims could also do a thousand different things in Arabic.

• New Hebrew poetry was born not out of “translation” in any conventional way, but out of that intimate understanding, gleaned directly from the use of Arabic as a religious and a secular poetic language, and born not in the comfort of Jewish society of Umayyad caliphate but rather in the exile of theTaifas.

• Maimonides, a Jew and a “Greek,” wrote “The Guide for the Perplexed in Arabic’.

• The translation movement from Arabic to Latin led to the translations of so much of the imperial culture of adab (the vast genre in Arabic traditionally translated as “belles lettres” but perhaps better understood as “humanistic study”) into the Castilian language at the end of the 13th century CE.

• The Abbot of Cluny was responsible for the translation of al-Khawarizmi’s great work on algebra (al-jabr). He was a key player in the introduction of the number system that would revolutionize computation in the west and make all modern calculations possible, using what we call Arabic numerals in English.

• In the courts of Languedoc, the jewelry boxes of the women who could afford them were engraved in Arabic. The style was introduced to Europe a form of luxury. Thus the first great songs of the vernaculars of Europe, those songs which Nietzsche composed defined the very essence of our culture, were sung in courts also graced with exquisitely carved ivory boxes, perfectly executed and engraved astrolabes, and of course new musical instruments upon which love songs were sung. And they were all part of a very Arabic world.

It shouldn’t be ironic that a seminar entitled Peace and Human Rights in Europe and the Middle East should take place in Cordoba. In Ken Coates’ summary of the goals of the seminar he wrote:

    “All the known works of Aristotle had survived in the Arabic language, but not in Europe, so that Cordoba could be said to have provided a vital link not only between the monotheistic faiths, but also between the ancient world and the dawning of modern times.”

The Beginning or the End?

I may not have found out who kept the five wooden beams in their barn or why; what the importance of the five wooden beams that led Christies of London to believe that they could be sold for US$1.75 million; or why the Catholic Church of Cordoba deemed them to be of such importance that they should not be sold, but a least, here, the beams served to remind us that Islam was brought to mankind as a mercy and that we as Muslims have helped to shape this world. For those of us who want a more harmonious life, this cannot be done in seclusion, with intolerance, or by being passive or blind to the 360 degrees that is Islam.

Cordoba

Shrine of the lovers of art! Visible power of the Faith!
Sacred as Mecca you made, once, Andalusia’s soil.
If there is under these skies loveliness equal to yours,
Only in Muslim hearts, nowhere else can it be.
Ah, those proud cavaliers, champions Arabia sent forth
Pledged to the splendid Way, knights of the truth and the creed!
Through their empire a strange secret was understood:
Friends of mankind hold sway not to command but to serve.
Europe and Asia from them gathered instruction: the West
Lay in darkness, and their wisdom discovered the path.
Even to-day in its breeze fragrance of Yemen still floats,
Even to-day in its songs echoes live on of Hejaz.

(from Menocal. M. R. ” The Literature of Al-Andalus.”)

Sources:
AFP. ” Controversial London Sale of Spanish Mosque Beams Withdrawn ‘

Coates, Ken. ” The Cordoba Seminar on Peace and Human Rights in Europe and the Middle East”

Gedal, Najib. ” The Great Mosque of Cordoba: A Geometrical Analysis.”

Guichard,P. ” Cordoba the Magnificent.”

Kubisch,N. ” The Great Mosque of Cordoba.”

Menocal. M. R. ” Culture in the Time of Tolerance.”

Menocal. M. R. ” The Culture of Translation.”

Menocal. M. R. ” The Literature of Al-Andalus.”

Phyun5. ” The Middle Ages.”

Scott, S.P. “The Visigoth Code”

Sills, Ben. ” Cathedral May See Return of Muslims .” Apr. 19, 2004.

United Press International (UPI). ” Rare Mosque Beams Pulled from Auction .” Apr. 4, 2006.

Wikipedia ” Cordoba, Spain ”

Wikipedia ” Mezquita”
http://mdarik.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1158658413798&pagename=Zone-English-ArtCulture%2FACELayout

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