A Muslim Princess is linked to the
Blessed Virgin appeared in Portugal in 1917. Long before these
heavenly events, a place near where the apparitions
was named after this Princess named Fatima. In the
unfolding of time, Mary manifested herself on earth, and the place called
Fatima would become attached to her, as Our Lady of Fatima.
Fatima was the favorite daughter of
Muhammad, so we associate the name with Islam. In this way the namesake in
Portugal is connected to the Muslims. But it seems to go deeper than
The name Fatima may be thought of as a
bridge between Christendom to Islam. As such, it's not a bridge to
nowhere, that we hear about today, but a bridge to somewhere: to a much
better world, where we may hope for a better understanding between
Christians and Muslims.
If Muslims know the story about the
Princess taking the path to Christianity, it offers them a precedent to
follow, should any wish to do so. As misunderstandings are, in the
ordinary course of events, I wouldn't look for much to happen in this regard1,
but still, the way is open to welcome them.
Because of the Princess and her
husband Gonzalo, the name of Fatima is associated with
a great effort for peace, and with a Queen whose greatness among women is
unparalleled. Fatima's very name now evokes hope for the world.
Her name from the past, is there to bring people together in the present .
As the past can be linked to the
present, so the present can be linked to the past. Fatima lived
centuries ago in the late 1100's, long before1917. If we hark
back to her time, there was something happening then for us to contemplate.
Fatima's life and conversion to Christianity took place
during the time of the Reconquista, a long period in the Middle Ages
when the Christians took back the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors who were
Muslims. It wasn't too many years after the Islamic conquest on the
peninsula, that a Christian military force defeated the Moors in a narrow valley of the Asturian mountains, in the far north.
Because of this victory, known as the Battle of Covadonga, there was a
Christian stronghold in northern Spain. This battle, likely in the
year 722, is "regarded as the beginning of the Reconquista."
In Portugal the Reconquista would end with
the capture of Faro on the southern coast in 1249. An old account
tells us that Princess Fatima was captured outside the city gates of Alcacer do Sal, south of Lisbon,
as a result of an action
determined upon around 1189, which was well within the time frame of the Reconquista.
If, through her name, we connect to
and learn from what
was going on in her time, it would increase the significance of Fatima.
The Islamic factor looms large in our time, and it is a cause for concern
(See news story in the Addendum).
The Iberian Peninsula had been a Christian Visigothic
kingdom. To those who fought to regain it, they had to consider it
worth it. Is that age in history signaling us, that our faith is worth fighting for today, the true Catholic
faith that the Son of God founded on earth? Circumstances are
different today, and nothing is here being suggested about war or doing battle, but
rather that we should stand up for our faith, using the weapons of truth and
persuasion to enlighten others as to what the faith really is, and seeking the
grace of God to help us.
It might be argued that we'll rock
the boat with the Muslim population. But what about the bark of Peter?
Does it not have the freedom of the seas? If we are
not free to try to bring clarity and to try to persuade people of our way of
thinking, then have we not lost some of our own
To deal with this situation we need
to know about the writings in Islam, and what Muslims think.
It's contained in their Koran or Qu'ran and their other writings.
It's no part of wisdom to be in ignorance of what they think and believe.
Regarding Islam, there is some
common ground between us, like the regard they have for Mary, but there are
differences too. We need to see the whole picture. They do not
recognize Jesus as God, nor the Trinity, and this produces a great gulf
between us. The Koran says, "Remember when the angel said.
"O verily God announceth to thee the word from Him: His name shall be,
Messiah Jesus son of Mary, illustrous in this world, and in the next, and
one of those who have near access to God..." From this we see the
position accorded Jesus...high, but not as high as God.
They regard us as infidels. In Sura V
(the chapters of the Koran are called suras) it states,
"Infidels now are they who say, "Verily God is the
Messiah Ibn Maryam (son of Mary)!"
We're not just dealing just with theology, but also must recognize
that there are also passages of violence in the Koran, trouble if any wish
to go by the book. In Sura IX, the Verse of the Sword says,
"Then, when the sacred
months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them
(captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if
they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way
free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." And toward the end
of Sura IX it says, "Believers! wage war against such
of the infidels as are your neighbours, and let them find you rigorous..."
As recently as March of 2009,
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Muslims accused in the 9-11 attacks,
wrote a response to the government's accusations, and in this "they quote
the Koran to justify their Jihad war against the American infidels."
Osama bin Laden in 1996, in a "Declaration of War against the Americans
Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places," quoted seven verses from the
Koran, including the Verse of the Sword.
The Muslims believe in one God as do we. But there's a paradox here:
The belief in One God that unites us, also divides us. They think we
are polytheists because we believe Jesus is God. If we were
able, with grace from God, to enlighten them on the point of the Three Persons in One God, it would resolve one of the great
misunderstandings that lie between us. We share a belief in One God,
but their concept of Him and our concept of Him are different concepts. You cannot say in
the fullest sense, that we believe the One and same God. We see Him in different ways,
and so much hinges on resolving this matter alone.
realistic, we have to see the totality of Islamic thought, whether all
Muslims subscribe to the violent aspects or not. We have to deal with
what's inscribed in their Koran. We have to see both sides of the Islamic coin,
so to speak.
There are errors and have been illusions out there. We cannot go chasing after an
illusory mirage in the desert, but must see
clearly to the horizon in all directions. There's an oasis with the
well of truth out there. That's the direction we need to head in, as we go across
the sands of time.
1.Under Islamic law, a
convert to another religion may be subject to death, based on statements of
Mohammad and the Koran
( Sura 2:217).
Part of Fatima
originated in the time of the Reconquista, the Reconquering; In light of
that consider this recent news story (Jan. 6, 2010):
archbishop and head of Czech Catholics Miloslav Vlk warned of a looming "islamization"
of Europe in an interview published in Prague on Tuesday.
'Europe has denied its Christian roots from which it has risen and
which could give it the strength to fend off the danger that it will be
conquered by Muslims -- which is actually happening gradually,' Vlk said.
'If Europe doesn't change its relation to its own roots, it will be
islamized," the 77-year-old cardinal,
who was named
Prague archbishop by pope John Paul II in 1991, added on his website
He blamed immigration and Muslims' high birth rate for helping Muslims
to 'easily fill the vacant space created as Europeans systematically empty
the Christian content of their lives'.
'At the end of the Middle Ages and in the early modern age, Islam failed
to conquer Europe with arms. The Christians beat them then,' Vlk said.
'Today, when the fighting is done with spiritual weapons which Europe
lacks while Muslims are perfectly armed, the fall of Europe is looming,'
added the cardinal."