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               Fatima and Islam
       A Muslim Princess is linked to the place where Blessed Virgin appeared in Portugal in 1917.   Long before these heavenly events, a place near where the apparitions would occur, 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 this. 
      
       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.

       Princess 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 freedom?
       
        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.

       To be 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.
                                                                                          ―John Riedell

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).

Addendum:
     Part of Fatima originated in the time of the Reconquista, the Reconquering;  In light of that consider this recent news story (Jan. 6, 2010):
     "The
Outgoing Prague 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 www.kardinal.cz.
     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."


 

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