Hilaire Belloc, in his work on heresy, defines the word not as some ground-shaking problem, but what its Greek roots mean: a taking away of something from a presumably complete whole. Belloc mentions a number of heresies of orthodox Catholic faith, of which some are dead, and some like Islam and modernism, remain. Belloc mentions that the first Byzantine rulers who observed Muslims considered their worship to be a form of greatly-simplified Christianity.
The most religious country on Earth is India; the least, Sweden. The USA is a country of Indians, ruled by Swedes.” I bought into Islamophobia, until Peter Kreeft’s article on culture war gave me this perspective: “Who is our enemy?…Not Protestants. (left that in for Will S.!) …Not Muslims, who are often more loyal to their half-Christ than we are to our whole Christ, who often live more godly lives following their fallible scriptures and their fallible prophet than we do following our infallible scriptures and our infallible prophet.”
So it doesn’t bother me that President Obama hosted a dinner for Ramadan. At least the Muslims will defend aspects of their faith with vociferous denunciations of people who assail it, and the Muslim concept of Allah is at a minimum superior to “Progressive” faith based on the “general will” of Hegel. Someone who fears unending punishment for violating God’s law is less likely to harm me than someone who knows that a failed political system cannot hold him accountable for crimes and misdemeanors.
More fascinating is to pursue the thread of Islam as Christian heresy, a gross oversimplification of dogma, perhaps necessary for uncivilized desert tribesmen. Emmet Scott takes up the cudgel of historical examination. I highly recommend you go read the whole thing. Some choice excerpts:
In his recently published Did Muhammad Exist? Robert Spencer, quoting some of the most eminent contemporary Middle Eastern scholars and archaeologists, presented a wide variety of evidence suggesting that no Arabian prophet named Muhammad ever existed.
That, right there, is a killer first line. Perhaps literally so, for Scott.
Since muhammad means “honored one” or “chosen one” in the Syriac and Arabic languages, it is highly likely that the “Muhammad” shown on these coins was none other than Jesus. This is made all the more likely by other evidence, presented by linguists such as Christoph Luxenberg and Günter Lüling, suggesting that the Qur’an began its existence as a Christian devotional text and that it was originally written in the Syriac rather than the Arabic language. The mistranslation of the book into Arabic resulted, said Luxenberg, in almost one third of the Qur’an making no sense whatsoever and the appearance of such strange teachings as the promise of 72 virgins to Muslims who enter heaven, instead of 72 grapes, as it would read in Syriac.
I had read about the grapes elsewhere.
The evidence of coins, combined with the linguistic clues in the Qur’an, completely undermine the whole of early Islamic historiography, and suggest very strongly that the life of Muhammad, as presented in Islamic tradition, is a complete fiction.
It is no secret of course that the Qur’an is profoundly biblical, and this has only emphasized its Christian origins. Günter Lüling has postulated that it was originally a lectionary of the Ebionites or Nazarites, a Judaizing sect which was declared heretical at the Council of Nicea in 325 and thereafter disappeared from history. Most of its adherents are believed to have migrated into Arabia, and there is no question that Ebionitism was the main, or perhaps the only, Christian group with a wide following in Arabia during the fourth to sixth centuries. Indeed its influence in the Arabian Peninsula during these centuries was profound. The Ebionites accepted Jesus as the Messiah but rejected the notion that he was the son of God. They regarded Jesus as a faithful Jew and follower of the Mosaic Law, and they themselves practised circumcision, as well as the various other rules and regulations stipulated in that Law.
Scott goes on to discuss a theory mentioned in his Mohammed and Charlemagne, Revisited, that the Arabian conquests were in fact done by the Persians.
(T)he invention of an Arabian prophet as the spiritual fountain-head of this empire, was motivated by a desire to justify what was essentially the Arab takeover of an imperial machine that was not theirs.
The two greatest powers in the Middle East at the beginning of the seventh century were Byzantium and Sassanian Persia. In 602 the Persian king Chosroes (Khosrau) II went to war against the Byzantine usurper Phocas, who had earlier murdered Chosroes’ friend and father-in-law the Emperor Maurice. The war did not end with the death of Phocas (610), but continued into the reign of Heraclius, and was to prove ruinous to the Byzantines. Jerusalem was taken by the Persians in 614, a disaster which was quickly followed by the loss of most of Asia Minor between 616 and 618 and Egypt in 619/20. Chosroes II now equalled the achievements of his Persian predecessors in the sixth century BC, with his forces marching across North Africa to annex the Libyan province of Cyrenaea in 621. The story told by the Byzantines of how Heraclius, in the face of this overwhelming calamity, rallied his armies and reconquered all the lost territories – only to lose the same territories again to the Arabs from 632 onwards – has a ring of fantasy about it, and historians have long viewed it with scepticism. Certainly there is no doubting the power and influence of the Persians in this epoch.
The earliest Islam, as revealed by archaeology, is in fact profoundly Persian; and indeed the first trace of Islam recovered in excavation are coins of Sassanian Persian design bearing the image either of Chosroes II (d. 628) or of his grandson Yazdegerd III (d. 651). On one side we find the portrait of the king, on the reverse the picture of a Zoroastrian Fire Temple. The only thing that marks these out as Islamic is the legend besm Allah (in the name of God), written in the Syriac script, beside the Fire Temple.
Scott is no fan of Islam, but does string together some interesting history. Go, take a read, and view his entire archive, which includes parts of the book Mohammed and Charlemagne, Revisited.