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The death of Pope John Paul II

The death of Pope John Paul II

In the Name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful

The death of Pope John Paul II

Comment by khalid hasan
Monday 4 April 2005

Amid all of the extensive coverage afforded to the Pope’s obituary and eulogy in the wake of his death, a significant minority of liberals have been attempting to seize the opportunity afforded by this event to advance their own set of ideas against that of his soon to be announced successor, and the Church more generally. These liberals have sounded out their views via most media outlets. The main thrust of their rhetoric has been to call for the election of a more ‘modern and progressive pontiff’ as his successor.

In order to try and offset this liberal sneering lest it prompt liberal elements within the Church establishment from mounting a concerted effort to see the next Pope having a distinctively ‘liberal’ leaning, the Church has sought to try and preserve Pope John Paul’s conservative legacy, partly through trying to elevate him to the position of a Saint, in addition to Cardinal Angelo Sodano referring to him as ‘John Paul the Great’ at his requiem mass.

Liberals have sought to highlight the late pontiff’s (as well as the Catholic Church’s stance more broadly) conservative stance upon the issues of homosexuality, abortion, contraception and to a lesser extent, the ordination of women priests. The liberal position is founded upon the premise that on these issues, the pontiff and the Church were out of sync with the norms in modern democratic pluralistic society. Liberals have argued that the Church with a new liberal-minded pontiff needs to ‘modernise’ in light of the changes within present society. Conservatives within the Vatican and the Catholic Church are aware of this and realise its implications: the alteration of key Catholic religious tenets and principles, in favour of contemporary liberal doctrines and attitudes.

What interests us in this event and intriguing debate, is the ideas and campaign of this liberal minority, for in it contains a very significant lesson and stark remainder of the implications of what they are arguing for.

In essence, liberals in the West have been engaged in a struggle against the Church for the last 400 years. This latest snipping is an attempt to further weaken what they view as religious infringement and intransigence in the face of secular modernity. Not content with separating the Church and religion from the state, liberals have recognised that religion occupies a space in public life that they find abhorrent and wish to see the Church’s religious teachings and tenets systematically changed to reflect their own secular values.

While it can be convincingly argued that Christianity as a whole has largely succumbed to the pressure of liberalism and disregarded many of its basic principles, there are a number of key tenets that the Catholic Church under the late pontiff still adhered to, such as those mentioned above, that liberals wish to see challenged.

Unfortunately many Muslims still poke fun at the plight of the Church and Christianity, without fully appreciating the brevity of what liberalism wishes to achieve. On this occasion the liberal’s target is Christianity, but more often than not, it is Islam. For example, Lawrence Korb, a former US government official and presently a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress wrote:

“As Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion and the dominant religion in large portions of the developing world, the United States has a strong interest in encouraging the formulation and dissemination of moderate interpretations of Islam that are consistent with democratic, gender-egalitarian, mixed-market societies.”1

Unfortunately for Mr Korb and many more like him, Islam is not open to wholesale challenge under the guise of ‘reinterpretation,’ unlike Christianity. The Anglican Church is still reeling as a result of ‘‘reinterpretation’ that has led to the ordainment of gay priests and the abandonment of the text of the Bible condemning homosexuality.

Examining the pitiful plight of the Church and Christianity generally, through reference to the Qur’an and Sunnah provides a telling warning for the believers not to make the same mistakes as the Christians have done; mistakes which we can all now see have led the religion becoming a source of mockery, and the revealed texts disregarded.

In numerous verses of the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) has clearly explained to us the mistakes that the Christians (and the Jews) made. Each explanation provides a telling warning to us, if only we look carefully and seek to apply it. For example, in Surah at-Taubah, Allah has stated:

They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah and (they also took as their Lord) Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), while they were commanded to worship none but One Ilâh (God - Allah) Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). Praise and glory be to Him, (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).2

Regarding this verse, Imam Ahmed, at-Tirmidhi, and Imam at-Tabari recorded a hadith from Adi bin Hatim, in which the Prophet (SAW) recieted this ayah. Adi bin Hatim replied: “They did not worship them.” Upon which the Prophet (SAW) said:

‘Yes they did. They (the rabbis and priests) prohibited the permissible for them (i.e. the Jews & Christians) and allowed the prohibited, and they obeyed them. This is how they worshiped them.’ 3

Even more pertinently, we ask Allah to be guided to the straight path and not be like the previous generations each time we pray and recite al-Fatihah. As regards the following verses of Fatihah:

You (Alone) do we worship, and You (Alone) do we ask for help. Guide us to the Straight Way / Straight Path. The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger, nor of those who went astray. 4

Imam Ahmed and Imam at-Tirmidhi recorded that Adi bin Hatim reported that he heard the Prophet (SAW) say:

‘Those you have earned the anger are the Jews and those who are led astray are the Christians.’ 5

And in another narration:

‘Verily, the Jews have earned the anger (of Allah) and the Christians are misguided.’ 6

Our position as believers in all the revelations that Allah sent to man (which is clearly stated in Surah al-Baqarah, verses 4 – 5) comes with great responsibility. If we are true believers, then not only are we a custodian of Allah’s message; continuing the legacy of all the Prophets (AS), but we are also tasked with defending and propagating this message in its original unaltered format.

Let the plight of the Church be a lesson to us.


1. Lawrence Korb, (2004), “The Gulf and US National Security Strategy”, Center for Defense Information (CDI), Emirates Lecture Series No. 58, 8 October,, p. 7

2. Surah at-Taubah, verse 31

3. Cited in: Tafsir Ibn Kathir, (2000), Vol. 4, abridged 1st English edition, (Riyadh: Dar-us-Salam Publishers), p. 409

4. Surah al-Fatihah, verses 5- 7

5. Cited in: Tafsir Ibn Kathir, (2000), Vol. 1, p. 88

6. Cited in: Tafsir Ibn Kathir, (2000), Vol. 4, p. 410

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