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Trifkovic On Pope Benedict & Islam

Islam has a moral philosophy and a legal code that explicitly denies the possibility of judgment based on natural morality or on the allegiance to any other source of authority but itself. It mandates submission to the letter of revealed law (Kuran) or to the precedent of the Prophet (Hadith). Analogies thus derived stand above reason, conscience, or nature. A Muslim knows that a thing is right simply because Allah says so, or because his prophet has thus said or done. There is no “spirit of the law” and no rationality behind the revealed law for human reason to discover. There is no critical discernment and revelation and tradition must not be questioned. No other standard of good and evil can be invoked. Islam’s denigration of the individual conscience befits the demand for an obedient servant’s prostration before a capricious master whose commands have no rational basis. The political consequences are crucial for societies that derive their concept of authority from this image. Any notion of freedom distinct from that implicit in that complete submission is forbidden and sinful.

It should be added that the Mutazila Islamic sect Mu’tazili in eighth-to-tenth century Baghdad tried to use the categories and methods of Hellenistic philosophy to assert free will and responsibility for one’s actions, and claimed—as per Professor Varisco—that Allah would be unjust if he predestined all human actions; but they were denounced as heretics. In orthodox Islam, any notion of freedom distinct from that implicit in the complete submission to the will of Allah is not an ideal, but a perilous trap. Only Allah creates our acts and enables us to act, while we are but transmission belts with a preordained balance of debit or credit that determines our destiny in the hereafter. Even prayer is a payment of debt, not communication, offered in the hope of placating a capricious and unpredictable Master. ~Srdja Trifkovic

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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