“How consoling it is for me to know that, all over the world there are millions of people who, five times a day, bow down before God.” Pope Pius XII
What Does Islam Mean in Today’s World: Religion, Politics, Spirituality By William Stoddart is an examination of Islam and a comparison to other religions. Stoddart was born in southern Scotland in 1925. He studied language and later earned a medical degree. He has translated many works into English and was assistant editor to the British journal Studies in Comparative Religion. Soddart is considered one of the most important writers on Perennial Philosophy.
In What Does Islam Mean Soddart attempts give an unbiased opinion of Islam. He shows that Islam historically had made exceptions for “people of the book” – Christians and Jews and to some extent Hinduism. In 1097 when the crusaders took Jerusalem they killed all the people in the city, Jews, Muslims, Non-Catholic Christians: men women and children. When Saladin’s troops entered Jerusalem no one was killed. Catholics were given safe passage out of the city and Jews ans Eastern Catholics stayed. Hindus, Buddhists, Native Americans all had their episodes of violence. Christianity has changed in modern times. It has become more humanist and its growing indifference had lead to the toleration of other religions.
The indifference has spread to the treatment of women. The Bible, Old and New Testament, allow for rather harsh treatment women, even when compared to Islam today. Polygamy in Islam is brought by Christians while ignoring King David, King Solomon, and prophets had more, some many more than one wife.
What does religion mean. Many say Christianity means, democracy, all men are created equal, free press, modern science (except for evolution and the Big Bang), and peace. All are incorrect. “I come not to bring peace but the sword.” are words attributed to Jesus and not Mohamed (Mathew 34:10). Islam is not a monolithic religion. It has it zealots like the Wahhabists of Saudi Arabia, revolutionaries of Iran, Secularist in Iraq and what can be called ordinary Muslims like the former King of Jordan or the worshipers of the mosque on the corner of my street.
Soddart tries to explain Islam from a neutral point. I think he succeeds, but many Christians and Muslims will disagree. Just like Catholics and Pentecostals or Sunni and Shiite won’t agree. For those with an open mind and a willingness to listen (or read), this short book provides much insight. The author attempts to provide some neutral information in the wake of September 11th and help set the record straight.