By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
The one who is described as infallible by the Catholic Church, and the one who is considered a representative of God on earth by his followers, finally admitted that he made a mistake in using a 14th century text attributed to a Byzantine ruler who uttered blasphemous slanders against Prophet Muhammad (s).
He fell short of openly apologizing for equating Islam with terror and violence. But the issue is much more than seeking apology or expressing condemnation over such statements. Much of the non-Muslim world still relies on a literature about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (s) produced by people deeply committed to their own religious traditions, i.e. Christianity or Judaism. They refused to see the validity of Muslim sources and when they used the Muslim resources in developing an understanding of Islam and the Prophet (s), they chose only those texts ripped out of context that served their religious or political interests. As long this literature remains an â€œauthenticâ€ source on Islam among non-Muslims, Muslim will continue to confront this problem.
Early Christian and Jewish writers were not as concerned about objectivity or historical truths as many of our contemporary writers are (or claim to be).
They focused on promoting their ideals even at the expense of the truth, and they strived to demote those opposed to them. Much of the literature produced about Islam and Muslims by early scholars falls in this category. Subsequently, the later religious and political leadership used these early sources as a (flawed) foundation on which to build an understanding of Islam and Muslims. Based on this understanding, they devised public policies and political and military expeditions, bringing disasters for millions. The four centuries of the crusades offer one such example of the conceptually flawed and fundamentally misconstrued approach to Islam.
In an age marked by openness, scientific inquiry, empirical truths and historical objectivity, we can certainly make efforts to rise above the prejudices that have been perpetuated over the centuries on the basis of selective reading.
Perhaps Muslims have a bigger duty in producing written words that will provide an objective understanding of their faith and Prophet
Muhammad (s). There is a need to review all the available literature produced by early non-Muslim writers on Prophet
Muhammad (s) and analyze it in the light of objectivity.
Muslims have produced voluminous literature on their religion and the life of the Prophet (s).
It is now time to review and revise writings about Islam by non-Muslims in the light of new research and research methodology.
It is one thing to say that Islam respects all other religions–it is another to show specific examples from the life of the Prophet (s) and his followers that prove that reconciliating words were not merely uttered but were a basis for action as well.