Monday, March 16, 2015

For God is with us

There is an ancient hymn, chanted in the Orthodox Christian Church in the service of Great Compline, whose inspiration and refrain are based on a text of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 8, verses 9 and 10:

Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered!
Listen, all you distant lands.
Prepare for battle, and be shattered!
Prepare for battle, and be shattered!
Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted;
propose your plan, but it will not stand,
for God is with us.

The hymn opens like this,

God is with us, understand, O ye nations, 
and submit yourselves.
    For God is with us.
Hearken ye unto the ends of the earth.
For if ye again strengthen yourselves, 
ye shall again be vanquished.
    For God is with us.
And whatsoever counsel ye shall take, 
the Lord shall bring it to nought.
    For God is with us…

Gradually the hymn evolves into a testimony of personal spiritual transformation, and of the eventual redemption of the whole earth, yet at its end, it repeats what was chanted at first, ‘God is with us, understand, O ye nations, and submit yourselves. For God is with us.’

This is a Christian hymn from a period even earlier than the founding of Islam by Muhammad, and we can be sure that he was familiar with its lyrics, as there was already an Orthodox Christian community in Arabia.

Although the Jews and Christians both used warlike texts from the Old Testament in their prayers and hymns, at least in the Orthodox East they had already shed most of their literal meaning, at least to those inside the Church.

For Muhammad and his followers, however, they retained all their literal meaning and entered the newly revealed and developing Islamic ethos, resulting in a permanent reversion to violence. This is what we are experiencing in the world today.

It has become more and more evident with the passage of time that the restoration of the Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria is different from its near relatives and predecessors in waging jihad, holy war.

Whereas previous orders of mujahideen were tied to local grievances and perceived anti-Islamic westernization, the revived caliphate has as its basis total fidelity to shari‘ah and world conquest.

Moreover, even when it perpetrates what to the rest of the world is the most horrendous catalog of crimes against humanity, the caliphate can justify every act by reference to Islamic law.

This law, called shari‘ah, is based on the literal and strict interpretation and application of what is found written in the Qur’an and in the vast corpus of Hadith, traditions of Muhammad’s life and sayings.

Islam as a faith community includes as many interpretations and practical traditions as any religion, evolved after the last ‘rightly guided’ Caliph, Ali, was assassinated in AD 661, and the sects arose.

What makes the restored caliphate such a tremendous menace to the modern world, and such a compelling movement to many Muslims, is its uncompromising fidelity to primitive Islam.

Religions evolve, despite what many of them maintain. Even my own faith community has evolved. Orthodox Christianity today may be unchanging in theory, but in practice it changes gradually.

This change in revealed religions is to be expected if the deity worshiped is indeed the living God. It’s not that God changes to keep up with us, but that we as a race change to keep up with God.

To take up the cause of religion as it was practiced and promulgated in former times is infidelity to the living God. The caliphate imagines that it follows Allah but, if He is the living God, it uses Him instead.

This movement forces into the light the whole faith of Islam and its history, and places upon every Muslim the necessity of choosing to submit to its decrees or be classified as an infidel.

And so I ask my Muslim brothers, ‘Do you see the world divided into Daru’l-Islam, Daru’s-Sulh, and Daru’l-Harb, Abode of Peace, Abode of Truce, and Abode of War? And which of these are we?’

The revived caliphate exists solely to make war and to subjugate the entire world, forcing everyone into the ‘Abode of Peace’, the nation of Islam, and killing all who will not submit.

It looks upon the Christians who still remain in the ‘lands of Islam’ as the fault of earlier, illegitimate caliphs who did not remain true to their faith, but compromised for a price, the jizyah, the ‘poll tax’.

So now I ask you, my Muslim brothers, ‘Will you join the new world-conquering caliphate out of obligation to the faith of Islam? Or is there a God in heaven who will judge the earth, and us as well?’

For if the new caliphate is with God, then it, along with its vision of Islam, must be victorious, and I shall shed my blood with those already slain, the sooner the better, and there is no world but Daru’l-Islam.

But if the caliphate is, along with the rest of the history of blood beginning in the time of the four successors of Muhammad, a stain on the faith of Islam, it too shall fail. What, then, of Islam?

Can we not continue in brotherhood, nursing not grievances, but nurturing love of God and man, imitating our living God, ‘the Compassionate, the Merciful,’ as we, working for peace, await Him?

… for He comes, He comes to judge the earth, to judge the world with justice and the nations with His truth.
Psalm 96:13 Jerusalem Bible

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