July 13, 2010

Christianity and Islam - Two Related, Yet Different Religions

By Photios Kontoglou

“Eastern peoples are more religious”, an ancient writes, wishing to say that Easterners are more religious than people in the West, in Europe. Note that East is also the Balkans together with Russia.

To an Easterner feeling is more intense than reasoning, while the opposite happens with a European; and since faith regards heart and not reasoning, Easterners are more religious than Europeans, and thus religions were born in the East, none of them in the West.

Westerners are rationalists, which is why they were devoted to positive knowledge, to sciences, and made a progress there, today leading the whole world to their way. Those among them that make a difference and they don’t believe only in their senses, turn to the East, because they discover there a spring to drink, who are thirsty for mysteries beyond the investigation of reasoning.

How intensely the western man is tied with rationalism, is evident by the distortion Christianity suffered in Europe, where she became little by little a system of worldly knowledge, having as a purpose earthly happiness and not salvation of the soul, which the Christ taught. In the West even theology was subdued to rationalism, and became herself a science like all sciences.

In the East religion remained religion. Even Mohammedanism, what is called Islam, an inferior perception of religion, with some crude commands, yet kept pure its religious character, away from innovations and adaptations to each epoch, that is, away from rationalization. The material means by which the religion of Koran is expressing herself, the mosque, the hodga, chanting, decoration, vestments of the clergy, ceremonies, all remained totally unchanged, as they were when Islam started.

At a time when the Christian religion was distorted by innovations dictated by a rationalistic worldly spirit, where from the Papacy was born, and also Protestantism and the rest of their branches, something that did not happen with Orthodoxy, which remained unchanged, being the Christianity of the East, Mohammedanism stands always as it was from the start, that is, it remained a “religion”.

From this aspect our Orthodox Church is partly closer to Mohammedanism than to the so-called Christians in the West, because Mohammedanism did not cease to be a religion and remained unspoiled by the spirit of the world, the utilitarian spirit. This explains why we see Arabs kissing in deep reverence the cloth or the beard of our priests, and Mohammedans to be baptised Christian Orthodox and some times to become martyrs for Christ, while none, not one, Papist or Protestant is among the new martyrs that were beheaded or hanged at the times when Turks reigned over us. Christians who were tortured and became martyrs for the name of Christ in Persia are countless.

I heard a priest from Damascus saying that the king Abdullah told the Patriarch of Antioch these words: “You, Orthodox, the way you look, make us Muslims respect you as men of religion, while those western priests seem like agents of suspect affairs.”

Western Christianity lost its ecumenical, global, character, because, as we said, it was reduced to a worldly system by the wish to be adapted every time to every epoch, so that nothing remained there immovable, nothing of “religion”, while Mohammedanism, although Koran is a crude variation of the Gospel, kept until today its ecumenical character.

Everywhere a hodga has the look that reminds him of his prophet, while the priests and pastors of the West have no external resemblance with the leader of their religion, and sometimes, you think that they aim not to be like Him at all, but to resemble their pagan ancestors. As an example I mention the two leaders of Eastern and the Western Christianity, Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul, who met with each other in Jerusalem.

Look at the photographs and you will see that these two persons are different in everything, despite they say that they are archpriests of the same religion. Observe their appearance and you will know how true this is: the one, the Patriarch, has a priestly look, with beard and long hair, as the Christ had, he wears wide cloth, eastern, as were, more or less, the clothes that they had at the places where Christ appeared, while the Pope is shaved like the ancient Romans and wears a tiny scull-cap and his clothes are made-up, in a word, nothing of his exterior is such, that when you see him you remember the Christ or the holy Apostles - and yet these two priests say they are archpriests of the same religion.

It is true that we Orthodox Christians suffered much from Muslims, especially Turks. This happened because their religion too was distorted by racial passions, although even Mohammed started to spread Koran by war. Note that Arabs, the patriots of Mohammed, do not recognise the Turks, who took religion from them, as genuine Muslims, and they don’t like them. ...

Mohammed, the founder of the new religion in the East, was an illiterate camel driver. At his years, as before, his country Arabia had for religion a mixture of idolatrous superstitions about a big black rock they called Kaaba, which the patriots of Mohammed worshipped and still worship.

At that time in Arabia, Jewish merchants dominated, but also Christians existed even in Mecca. Mohammed realised that his race was far below these religions, the Jewish and the Christian, and wanted to help her, to open her eyes, because, although illiterate and unhewn, he was clever. He was greatly impressed by the life of Christians, especially in monasteries, he admired the monks, that they were devoted to God paying no care to the vanities of the world, and besides their denial of property, that they held fast, they prayed, they were hospitable, they loved the other people. This is why he had many relations with Christian monks.

He also had a close relation with some Jewish woman, very wealthy, Chatitze, with whom in the end he was married. Chatitze was very learned, and she had always learned people in her company, among them a wise astrologer named Varakas, who had been baptised Christian and had translated to Arabic numerous fragments of the Old Testament. Mohammed was very much helped by his wife, because with her he was talking about all he had learned on the religious situation of the East during his trips from Mecca to Damascus, when he was a driver to caravans. His name and his knowledge spread to Mecca and the rest of Arabia. Despite his admiration for Christians, he saw that they were divided by heresies and weakened by that. Along with this, he saw that the weakness of the Christian religion was that it was teaching virginity, or no more than monogamy, while these races were from the creation of the world used to polygamy.

Therefore, after he had thought on all these, at the age of forty he presented himself as a Prophet sent by God, saying he was seeing the Angel Gabriel, who told him the will of God in order to preach it to the world. Some of these he put and wrote in the Koran.

In his country, Chentza, lying near the Red Sea, people were in a semi-wild condition. Christians there were not. By his preaching he didn’t manage to gather more than a few faithful followers. But when he urged Arabs to holy war, allegedly to spread the Koran, his patriots obeyed and followed him with fanaticism and thus the new religion was spread, yet, as we’ll see, this was accomplished less by Arabs and more by other peoples of the East, more clever, as Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians, Persians, and others.

The greatest part of the Koran was written after Mohammed died, who didn’t know how to write or read. The Koran was written by others, more literate, and maybe not Arabs.

Mohammed and the others, who completed the Koran, were building upon the Christian religion and their admiration for Christianity is not hidden. Yet their holy book is full of undigested and crude elements of the Old and the New Testament, which is why the Koran was accepted more easily than the Gospel by those barbaric peoples.

The Koran praises the Church of Christ, “where unceasingly the name of God is honored”, and this Church is the Orthodox Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, which is why Mohammed gave to his religion the name “Islam”, that means “Orthodoxy” in Arabic.

Besides these [elements belonging to Christianity] there are in the Koran the most diverse things, in a way that in it a great hiatus reigns, not felt by the simple and unhewn followers of the Koran. It is full of incomprehensible things, of flashy words with no meaning. It says again and again many times the same things, it speaks vaguely about prophecies in a manner extempore and disorderly.

There are in this book the most contradictory things. God is here “merciful and compassionate”, elsewhere “cruel and vengeful”. The same happens with all that Mohammed says about himself: here he praises himself, elevating himself to the peak, and elsewhere he calls himself a sinner. And in his life, where he is a saint and sees Angels and visions, there he is abandoned to women and pleasures.

As he understood that his preaching was not enough, he grasped the sword, which is more effective. This is why he wrote: “Whoever preach my faith, let them not lose time with preaching. Let them kill”. When he felt himself strong, he started war and bloodshed. While in the start he flattered the Jews, in order to gain their support, later, when he had no need of them, he chased and killed them. The same happened later on with Christians, by his heirs. He gives his word, he signs with his hand inked, and afterwards he doesn’t keep his word, when his interest demands so. He is becoming a politician and a diplomat.

Arabs had no writing to write in their language, and Mohammed himself says in the Koran that he doesn’t know how to write or read. Until today, the inhabitants of Arabia are (almost all of them) illiterate. How then, one thousand and three hundred years from then, did they manage to make the so-called Arabic culture, Islam? How did they become suddenly philosophers, mathematicians, poets, artists, astronomers, geographers, historians, - people who were drifting around like gypsies on their camels in a waste land?

This phenomenon can not be explained by any other way, but only if we admit that those who practiced the sciences and the arts were not the people of the wild Arabia, but men from other nations of the East, who had embraced the new religion, that is, Mohammedans of Syria, Egypt, Persia, Asia Minor, and most of all Greeks... Most of the Muslims came from races which changed their own faith, as are those that we said and also others…

That Islam was created not by Arabs but by ancient peoples of the East, having from before a spiritual growth dating back to the times of Alexander the Great, was supported with erudition by a wise French scholar named Rimbaud, who lived for many years in Arabia and the East and studied well and in place the Arabs. To the preface of his book “Hellenism In the First Ages of Islam” he writes:

“It seems to be verified and proved true by the facts, that all those various works the spirit of the East produced at the dawn of the medieval times, were the last gleam of the ancient civilizations before they were darkened by Islam… The works of art and thinking of that important epoch, when Mohammedanism culminated, are works made by the Greeks”.

Truly, how could they reach Spain, on the one hand, and on the other Persia, India, Sumatra and Java, even China, people like the indigenous of Arabia, who never traveled and didn’t know what the sea is? Persons from other races, and especially Greek sea-men or land travelers and merchants were going to those far places, and by them there were written also the imaginary traveling stories, as is Halima, which is the Arabic Odyssey. Sebah the sea-man is the new Ulysses. During this time there was a bloom of learning in Persia, Syria and Egypt, while Arabia was sunk in ignorance and superstition, having no idea of Aristotle and algebra. Rimbaud writes that “when Romans conquered Syria and Egypt, stayed very little in these countries and their influence was insignificant. The basis of the population of Asia Minor and Egypt remained Hellenic. Sciences, arts and merchandise stayed in the sure hands of the Greek race.”

Source: Photis Kontoglou, Works, v. 6 (Mystical Flowers), Athens 1992, 4th edition, pp. 31-42.