A Jesuit’s Reflection on Islam

Q: Fr. Boulad, you were rector of the Jesuit college in Cairo where many Muslims and Christians have studied, a concrete example of coexistence. And yet today the world seems to be under attack by Islam itself.

A: But which Islam are we talking about? This is the point. In the Qur’an there are verses of Mecca and those of Medina. In those written in Mecca, Muhammad presents a very open discourse that speaks of love, the Jews and Christians are our friends, there is no constraint in religion and God is closer to us. The first part of Muhammad’s life therefore transmits a message of spirituality, reconciliation, and openness.

But when Muhammad leaves Mecca to found Medina, there is a change. From being a spiritual leader he becomes a head of state, military and political. Today three fourths of the Qur’an is verses of Medina, and they are an appeal for war, violence, and the struggle against Christians.

The Muslims of the 9th and 10th centuries were aware of this contradiction and got together to try to resolve it, the result being that they made the now famous decision of “abrogating” and “abrogated”: the verses of Medina abrogate those of Mecca. Not only that. Sufism was rejected and whole libraries were burned in Egypt and northern Africa.

So it would be necessary to reclaim the original verses that are the source, and these are precisely the verses of Mecca, but they have been abrogated and that makes the Muslim religion a religion of the sword.