Interview: William Montgomery Watt

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“The whole house of Islam, and we Christians with them...”

 

 

An interview with “the Last Orientalist” - the Rev Prof William Montgomery Watt

 

by Bashir Maan & Alastair McIntosh

 

Now available also in PDF of the original - click here

 

Also, Translation now available in Turkish (below) - “Son Oryantalist ile Roportaj”

 

 

The Reverend Professor William Montgomery Watt has written over 30 books including Islamic Political Thought (1968) and Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misconceptions (1991). In Scotland he has been a member of the ecumenical Iona Community since 1960. Amongst Islamic scholars he has been held in an esteem described as “most reverential.” The Muslim press have called him “the Last Orientalist.” This interview was conducted in 1999, his ninetieth year, at his home in Dalkeith near Edinburgh. With Professor Watt’s approval and careful agreement of the final text, it uses both spoken material and statements drawn from some of his most important articles of recent years. It is, in a sense, a distillation of his life’s work and that is why Bashir and I have come to see it as his valedictory interview - we are not aware of any that have been published since this one.

 

This interview was published in The Coracle, the Iona Community, summer 2000, issue 3:51, pp. 8-11. For other material on this website relevant to the theme of "combating Islamophobia" please see [GulfWatch],  [The Politics of Holy Place] and [History of Usury Prohibition]. 

 

I have received many requests for further information about Prof Watt, who is now very elderly and infirm. As a service to scholars I have, as of 27 May 2005, scanned-in and posted to this website an important paper that he gave me in 1991: Women in the Earliest Islam. Ps. Prof Watt has now passed away - in 2006 at the age of 97. See here for the Guardian's obituary.

 

Dr Bashir Maan is Scottish Representative on the Executive of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, was for 8 years chair of the Glasgow Central Mosque Committee and, as an elected Glasgow city councillor, chairs the Strathclyde Joint Police Board - Britain’s second-largest police force. [Click this link for further note on this page.]

 

Alastair McIntosh’s work on “combating Islamophobia” is part of the Edinburgh-based Centre for Human Ecology’s Action for Transformation work, supported by the Quaker Concerns programme of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. He is an Associate of the Iona Community and from 1986-1990 was its Business Advisor.

 

 

Professor Watt, how did you become interested in Islam and Christianity?

 

Well, I had studied Classics at Edinburgh University and “Greats” - philosophy and ancient history - at Oxford. From 1934 to 1938 I taught moral philosophy at Edinburgh University. In 1937 when my mother died, I asked an Indian (later Pakistani) Muslim to come as a paying guest to help me pay for a housekeeper. Khwaja Abdul Mannan was a student of veterinary medicine and at that time, aged about 20, a member of the Ahmadiyya Community - something he would have had to give up later when he became a Colonel in the Pakistani army. Mannan, as he called himself, was an argumentative Muslim, and our many discussions over breakfast and evening meals raised my interest in the world of Islam. I believe that he is still alive in Lahore.

 

When I heard that the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem wanted someone to work on Muslim-Christian relations I applied for the post. After studying theology and being ordained priest, I began to learn Arabic in London. Between 1941 and 1943 I completed my PhD at Edinburgh on freewill and predestination in early Islam. That was with Richard Bell, famous for translation of the Qur’an (Koran). Between 1944 and 1946 I worked in Palestine under the Bishop of Jerusalem. I had hoped to have discussions with Muslims, but Jerusalem proved not to be a good place to get in contact with intellectual Muslims. In 1946 things became difficult. I lost a friend when they blew up the King David Hotel. After leave I decided not to return to Jerusalem. In 1947 I became head of the department of Arabic & Islamic Studies at Edinburgh University and continued there until my retirement in 1979 at the age of 70. In 1964 I received the title of Professor. I remain a priest in the Scottish Episcopalian Church and am presently writing another book about a Christian faith for today.

 

 

Your life’s work has been devoted to dialogue between Islam and Christianity. Why is this important?

 

In the outburst of missionary activity round about the year 1800 the ideal was to go into the non-Christian parts of the world and convert everyone to Christianity; and this is still the ideal of some Christians. From Islam, however, there were very few converts. I have now come to doubt the appropriateness of conversion in many cases. The nineteenth-century missionaries did not appreciate the positive achievements of the great religions in giving their communities a tolerable and meaningful form of life. In the course of the years I have made many Muslim friends, some of them in influential positions. These persons are deeply rooted in their religion and are doing excellent work not only for their fellow-Muslims but also for wider circles. I would indeed admit that sometimes conversion may be necessary for an individual’s spiritual health and growth; but this is exceptional. For such reasons I hold that the Christian aim for the foreseeable future should be to bring the religions together in friendly dialogue and, where possible, in cooperation, for there is a sense in which all are threatened by the rising tide of secularism and materialism.

 

 

Many Westerners would question the value of dialogue with Islam because, for example, they see the Sharia as being cruel. Do you think this is true?

 

Well, similar punishments are found in the Old Testament - including, for example, the cutting off of women’s hands in Deuteronomy 25. In Islamic teaching, such penalties may have been suitable for the age in which Muhammad lived. However, as societies have since progressed and become more peaceful and ordered, they are not suitable any longer.

 

If we demonise one another we cannot even debate such things. Dialogue is therefore imperative. It helps us to discern not just the meaning of the Holy Scriptures, but also the relevance that God wants them to have in our times.

 

 

What about the attitude of Muhammad (peace be upon him) towards women?

 

It is true that Islam is still, in many ways, a man’s religion. But I think I’ve found evidence in some of the early sources that seems to show that Muhammad made things better for women. It appears that in some parts of Arabia, notably in Mecca, a matrilineal system was in the process of being replaced by a patrilineal one at the time of Muhammad. Growing prosperity caused by a shifting of trade routes was accompanied by a growth in individualism. Men were amassing considerable personal wealth and wanted to be sure that this would be inherited by their own actual sons, and not simply by an extended family of their sisters’ sons. This led to a deterioration in the rights of women. At the time Islam began, the conditions of women were terrible - they had no right to own property, were supposed to be the property of the man, and if the man died everything went to his sons. Muhammad improved things quite a lot. By instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce, he gave women certain basic safeguards. Set in such historical context the Prophet can be seen as a figure who testified on behalf of women’s rights.

 

A lot also depends on what sort of Muslim society you look at. Many Westerners today think that Islam holds women in the heaviest oppression. That may be so in some cases, but only because they look at certain parts of the Islamic world. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey have all had women heads of state. I therefore don’t think the perception of Westerners is entirely correct.

 

 

What about war - Jihad versus Crusade? Terrorism, for example, can be considered both unislamic and unchristian, yet we see it justified by extremists whether in Egypt or Northern Ireland. Do you think violence can be part of faith?

 

Well, I think fundamentalists of any religion go beyond what their religion is about. But let me take an example from our Old Testament. I’m becoming very worried about the Old Testament because so much of it is unchristian.  I read a passage every day and find it more and more so. There is a serious matter which is not clear from some translations. The New Jerusalem Bible that I read uses the phrase “curse of destruction,” and this was applied to towns when the Hebrews were coming into Palestine. They killed everyone in a town - men, women, children and sometimes also animals. This happened in Jericho as we see in Joshua 6, and in about a dozen other places; and there are also later instances. This is definitely unchristian.

 

I think on the whole Christianity is against war, though in the past Christians have supported wars. I don’t think Islam is basically anti-Christian, but some extremists might take such a view.

 

There was a formal gathering of Scottish Christians and Muslims at the national service of reconciliation in Edinburgh following the Gulf War a few years ago. Scottish church leaders had refused the government’s wish to make it a service of “thanksgiving.” They called it, instead, one of “reconciliation.” The time of day coincided with the Muslim’s evening call to prayer. At first the Muslims thought this would prevent them from attending. But then, to avoid any problem, they were allowed to say their prayers in St Giles Cathedral in front of the Christian altar while the Christian congregation kept silent. The following week Christians prayed in the community centre of the Glasgow Mosque. This would mirror the tradition that Muhammad allowed Christian delegations visiting him to pray in the Mosque. Such a happening in modern Scotland, even after a war, suggests that religion can bridge the wounds of war.

 

I therefore certainly don’t think the West is locked into Jihad with Islam, though I suppose if the fundamentalists go too far they’ll have to be opposed. Iran’s comments about the “Great Satan” were aimed mostly at the United States: they were not made because the West was Christian. I think the West should try to overcome these strains between different religious groups. I do, however, think that the US is following a very dangerous policy in relation to the Middle East. The root of this trouble is that the US gives too much support to Israel. They allow them to have nuclear weapons and to do all sorts of things, some of which are contrary even to Jewish law. Jewish families occupy Arab houses without payment. That is stealing. I think that the US should be much firmer with Israel and put a lot of pressure on them, though this is difficult because of the strong Jewish lobby. Unless something is done there’ll be dangerous conflict in the Middle East. Such danger would be less likely to arise if all three Abrahamic faiths - Jews, Christians and Muslims - paid greater respect to what God teaches us about living together.

 

 

Do you think that the newly re-established Scottish Parliament should take any position on the Middle East?

 

The Scots Parliament should keep to a middle course and certainly not join the anti-Islamic side. I’m sure it would like to see some balance of Jews and Muslims in the Middle East, and of course, fair treatment for the Palestinian Arabs, some of whom are Christian. The Scottish Parliament might try and help them to come to terms with one another.

 

Within Scotland, the parliament should work for some harmony between religions as there are Muslims and Jews, as well as Christians, in Scotland. With luck there’ll be one or two Muslim MSPs. The big question is whether the Nationalists will win and go on to demand independence which I think might be a good thing, though I’m neither strongly for or against independence.

 

 

Islam maintains that the word of God is final and we can’t change it. Christianity, with its understanding of the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit. is in constant flux. Where do you stand on this difference?

 

I would be inclined to say that the Qur’an is the word of God for a particular time and place and will not therefore necessarily suit other times and places. The prohibition on usury may have been good for a certain time and place but that doesn’t mean it will always be good.

 

You see, I think that Muslims need help in reaching a fresh understanding of the Qur’an as God’s word, but comparison with the Bible does not help much. The Qur’an came to Muhammad in a period of less than 25 years, whereas from Moses to Paul is about 1300 years. Christians could perhaps show from the Bible that there is a development in God’s relation to the human race. For example, Moses was told to order the death penalty by stoning for anyone who broke the Sabbath by gathering firewood on it. Joshua was told to exterminate the whole population of various towns, men women and children. Could the loving God taught by Jesus have given such barbaric and bloodthirsty orders? To say “No,” as one would like to do, throws doubt on the inspiration of the Bible. We seem to have to say that the precise commands which God gives to believers depend on the form of society in which they are living. Traditionally Muslims have argued from God’s eternity that the commands he gives are unalterable, and they have not admitted that social forms can change.

 

I therefore do not believe that either the Bible or the Qur’an is infallibly true in the sense that all their commands are valid for all time. The commands given in both books were true and valid for the societies to which the revelations were primarily addressed; but when the form of society changes in important respects some commands cease to be appropriate, though many others continue to be valid. I do, however, believe that Muhammad, like the earlier prophets, had genuine religious experiences. I believe that he really did receive something directly from God. As such, I believe that the Qur’an came from God, that it is Divinely inspired. Muhammad could not have caused the great upsurge in religion that he did without God’s blessing.

 

The diagnosis of the Meccan situation by the Qur’an is that the troubles of the time were primarily religious, despite their economic, social and moral undercurrents, and as such capable of being remedied only by means that are primarily religious. In view of Muhammad’s effectiveness in addressing this, he would be a bold man who would question the wisdom of the Qur’an.

 

 

What do you think of the Qur’anic statement that the Old Testament has been changed, thus accounting for some of the differences between the Abrahamic faiths?

 

Well, I think that the later writers sometimes changed earlier things to make them more suitable for their contemporaries. I think there was a lot of rewriting of the Old Testament, though the form in which we have it hasn’t been changed since the Christian era. I see the Old Testament as the record of a developing religion. As a religion develops some of the earlier stages may have to be abandoned completely. An example might be Islamic teachings on usury. I don’t see how it is possible completely to get rid of usury. We’ll have to see how Islamic attempts to get rid of usury work. Undoubtedly capitalism has got to be restricted in various ways. The world is certainly in a mess at the moment, but how we can get out of it, I don’t know. All I can say is that there are things that Christianity can learn from Islam, especially on its spiritual side, and Islam can perhaps learn from Christian understanding of God in relation to the universe and human life. I think Muslims would find that this might give a slightly greater emphasis to something in their own faith.

 

I think another thing is that we have all got to come to terms with the scientific outlook of today. That is very critical of the Old Testament. Old Testament says a lot about God’s anger which I think is based on some of the false ideas that the Old Testament people had. They thought, you see, that God could interfere with the laws of nature. They thought that God made the sun stand still for a whole day so that Joshua could get a great victory. Well, that’s impossible. They thought that God could intervene with his own natural laws and punish people. Well, I think there is a sense in which wrongdoing is punished, but even in the Bible it is recognised that the wicked sometimes flourish. There are different strands of thinking in the Bible.

 

 

Islam requires belief in God as revealed in “the books” - not just the one book. This arguably incorporates Christian and Jewish scriptures. What, then, do you think Judeo-Christian understandings might have to teach Islam?

 

I think Muslims will have to take the work of Christ more seriously, even if they simply regard him as a prophet. The view I take, in accordance with the creeds, is that he was truly human. He wasn’t a superman. That leaves you with the question of how he was also divine, but I think we have to look much more at his humanity. I also don’t think he was able to work miracles except for those that other saints could also do - such as curing the sick. I don’t think some of the other miracles really happened. For instance, one of the outstanding things was the supposed changing of water into wine at a marriage feast. This is given in the 4th gospel and is said to be the first of the signs of Jesus’ achievement. Clearly, this was meant to be understood symbolically, because making a lot of wine has nothing to do with the Gospel. It was meant to symbolise changing something ordinary into something precious, which is what Jesus had achieved. It was not meant to be taken literally - there was a tremendous amount of wine involved - the equivalent of about 900 bottles - and I don’t think Jesus was an alcoholic.

 

In the Qur’an there is very little knowledge of Judaism and almost none of Christianity except about such points as the virgin birth. There are references to Moses and Abraham and so forth, but nothing about, for example, the settlement of Israel in Palestine and the achievements of the later prophets with their important emphasis on justice. I cannot believe that God would not bless the development of greater awareness amongst Muslims of these things.

 

 

And what can Islam teach Christianity?

 

Speaking personally, it has taught me to think more deeply about the oneness of God. I am not happy with the traditional Trinitarian Christian formulation of God comprising three “persons” - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The word “person” has changed since it was first used in English four centuries ago. It was a translation of the Latin persona - a face or mask, such as that used by actors. Now the English word means an individual, which is different. Christianity is not trying to say that God comprises three individuals. Islam, with its many different names for the qualities of God, can help the Christian see a more true meaning of Trinitarian doctrine. The Trinity is different faces or roles of the same one God. For me, that insight has been a direct result of my study of Islam.

 

 

There is a prayer that you have long used that brings together the Judeo-Christian with the Islamic before the God of us all. Might we close our interview with that?

 

O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, grant that the whole house of Islam, and we Christians with them, may come to know you more clearly, serve you more nearly, and love you more dearly. Amen.

 

 

Professor Watt, thank you, so very much.

 

 

 

 

Additional Item - Dr Bashir Maan

 

Following the London bombings of 7-7-05, I thought it might be useful to append to this item a letter to The Herald newspaper by Bashir Maan, addressing the question of differing interpretations of the Holy Quran.  Note also that as of 2004, Dr Maan has retired from being a Glasgow City Councillor with its attendant role in the Strathclyde Police - A.I.M.

 

 

I admire Mr Brian D Finch's knowledge of the Holy Quran, but I cannot agree with his translation and especially the interpretation of the verses he has quoted (Letters, July 14). Arabic is a very sophisticated and broad language. As the revelation of most of the Quranic verses relates to certain particular situations and circumstances, a word used in one verse can some times convey a totally different meaning and interpretation in another. Therefore, unless the whole circumstances in which a certain verse was revealed are understood, the correct interpretation of that verse cannot be arrived at. That is why, right from the time of the Prophet and the revelation of the Quran, many Muslim theologians have been busy collecting and recording all the material pertaining to the revelations and writing the Tafsirs, or the exegesis, of the meanings of the Holy Book.


Regarding Mr Finch's comments on "accidental collateral damage", it was the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, who received the Divine revelations – the Quran – and knew their interpretations better than any other human being. In the light of those revelations he made it categorically clear in his rules of engagement that no harm must come to non-combatants, women and children, the aged and infirm, etc. He forbade even the killing of animals, destruction of habitations, places of worship, crops and trees, thus ensuring that there is no "collateral damage" in a war. All this makes the despicable actions of the terrorists who bombed and killed in London utterly unIslamic.


All that said, I would be the first to concede to Mr Finch that there are many different schools of Islamic thought, just as Jews and Christians each find ways of drawing radically different interpretations from their scriptures. Where does this leave modern Muslims at a time when some of them have been marginalised and alienated – first by colonialism, then by racism, and now by political intervention by western interests such as those that first put Saddam Hussein into power and then removed him at catastrophic humanitarian cost?


The vast majority of Muslims for whom I have often served as a spokesman would, I believe, take their bearings from the opening chapter of the Quran. This translates into English as: "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent. Praise be to God, the Lord of all the worlds. The Compassionate, the Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment. You alone do we worship and to You alone we turn for help. Guide us on the straight path. The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your favours, not those who have incurred Your wrath, nor those who have gone astray."


All interpretations of the truths that follow in the Quran should be made through the fundamental understanding of this prayer to which the values of compassion are absolutely central.


Bashir Maan, 8 Riverview Gardens, Glasgow.

 

 

 

Translation of above interview with Professor Montgomery Watt into Turkish,

kindly sent by Huzeyfe Demirtas

 

Sayin Alastair McIntosh’un internet sayfasindan temin ettigimiz Prof. Montgomery Watt’in bir makalesini daha once kendilerinden izin alarak tercume etme imkanimiz olmustu; ve kendileri bu metni yayinlamislardi, [arzu edenler bu linkten o tercumemize de erisebilirler http://www.alastairmcintosh.com/general/2005-montgomery-watt.htm ]. Bu metin ise Sayin Alastair McIntosh’un bizden ricasi uzerine; kendisi ve arkadasi Sayin Bashir Maan’in Prof. M. Watt ile 1999 yilinda gerceklestirdikleri ve “Son Oryantalist ile Roportaj” [An Interview with “The Last Orientalist”] basligi altinda yayinladiklari roportajin tercumesidir. Metnin aslinda yer alan parantezli ifadeleri “()” isaretiyle, tercume sirasinda eklediklerimizi ise “[]” isaretiyle metne dahil ettik. Yine metne sadik kalmak adina metin icinde gecen peygamber isimlerini ve hitap sekillerini metnin aslindaki sekilleriyle cevirip her hangi bir ekleme yapmadik. Saygisizlik olarak telakki edilmemesini istirham ederiz…

** Icinde bulundugum imkanlarin kisitliligindan dolayi bu tercumedeki metinde Turkce karakterleri kullanma imkanim olmadi; yalnizca bazi kritik kelimelerde bu mudaheleyi yapabildim.Affola…

 

Profesor Watt, Islam ve Hristiyanlik ile ilkin nasil alakadar oldunuz?

[Daha once] Edinburgh Universitesi’nde “Klasikler” ve Oxford’da Felsefe ve Kadim Tarih [“Greats”] okumustum.  [Sonra,] 1934’ten 1938’e kadar, Edinburgh Universitesi’nde ahlak felsefesi okuttum.1937’de annem vefat ettiginde, Hindistanli (sonradan Pakistanli) bir Musluman’a pansiyoner olarak eve gelip bana evin idaresinde de yardimci olmasini rica ettim.Veteriner hekimlik ogrencsi olan Khwaja Abdul Mannan o zaman 20’li yaslarda, Ahmediyye Cemaati [Kadiyanilik] uyesiydi –sonradan Pakistan Ordusu’nda albay olunca bu [uyeligini] birakmak zorunda kalacakti-. Mannan, kendini [kisaca] boyle isimlendirirdi, tartismayi seven bir Musluman’di ve kahvalti ve aksam yemeklerindeki bir cok munazaramiz Islam dunyasina ilgimi uyandirdi.O, kanaatimce su an hala hayatta [ve] Lahor’dadir.

Kudus’teki Anglikan Piskoposu’nun [oradaki] Musluman-Hristiyan iliskileri uzerine calisacak birini aradigini duyunca bu gorev icin basvurdum.Ilahiyat okuyup resmi  rahip [ordained priest] olduktan sonra, Londra’da Arapca ogrenmeye basladim.1941 ve 1943 [yillari] arasinda, “Islam’in ilk donemlerinde ozgur irade ve kader” [freewill and predestination in early Islam] uzerine doktorami Edinburgh Universitesi’nde tamamladim. Bu [doktora calismasi], Kur’an tercumesiyle meshur Richard Bell ile [birlikte] idi. 1944 ve 1946 [yillari] arasinda, Kudus Piskoposu’na bagli [olarak] Filistin’de calistim. Muslumanlar ile munazaralara girmek istemistim fakat Kudus’un entellektuel Musluman’lar ile irtibat kurmak icin iyi bir yer olmadigi ortaya cikti.1946’da isler zorlasti. Kral Davut otelini patlattiklarinda bir arkadasimi kaybettim.[Oradan] ayrildiktan sonra, Kudus’e donmeme karari aldim.1947’de Edinburgh Universitesi’nde Arabi & Islami Incelemeler bolum baskani oldum ve 1979’da, 70 yasinda emekli oluncaya kadar orada devam ettim.1964’te profesor unvanini aldim.Hala bir “Iskoc Episkopalian Kilisesi” rahibiyim ve su sira “gunumuz icin bir Hristiyan inanci” [a Christian faith for today] hakkinda diger bir kitap yaziyorum.

 

Hayatinizin [tum] calismasi Islam ve Hristiyanlik arasi munazaraya adandi.Bu neden onemli?

 

1800 yili civarinda misyonerlik calismasi patlak verdiginde ideal, dunyanin Hristiyan olmayan bolgelerine gitmek ve herkesi Hristiyanlik’a dondurmekti; ve bu hala bazi Hristiyan’larin idealidir.Bununla birlikte, Islam’dan cok az sayida [Hristiyanlik’a] donen oldu.Ben, bir cok durumda, [Hristiyanlik’a] donuslerin yakisik alirligindan suphe etmeye basladim. 19. y.y. misyonerleri, buyuk dinlerin kendi topluluklarina vasat [tolerable] ve anlamli bir yasam bicimi verislerini takdir etmediler.Yillar boyu, bazilari etkili mevkilerde olan bir cok Musluman arkadasim oldu. Bu sahislar dinlerine derinden baglilar ve sadece kendi Musluman kardesleri icin degil, daha genis dairede de harika isler yapiyorlar.Irtidadin bireyin manevi  [spiritual] sihhati ve gelisimi icin bazen gerekli olabilecegini elbette kabul ederdim; fakat bu istisnaidir. Bu sebeplerden oturu, Hristiyanlar’in, ongorulebilir [beklenen] gelecek icin, dinleri dostane bir munazaraya ve mumkun olan noktalarda isbirligine razi etmeleri taraftariyim, cunku yukselen sekulerizm ve materyalizm dalgasinda hepsinin tehdit edildigi anlami vardir.

 

Bir cok Batili, Islam ile munazaranin degerini sorgulayacaktir, cunku, misalen, Seriat’i acimasiz  goruyorlar. Bunun dogru oldugunu dusunuyor musunuz?

 

[Aslinda], misalen, Tesniye 25. [bolum]de kadinlarin ellerinin kesilmesi de dahil benzer cezalar Eski Ahit’te bulunur. Islami ogretide, boylesi cezalar Muhammed’in yasadigi donem icin uygun olmus olabilir. Bununla birlikte, toplumlar [o zamanlardan] bu yana ilerleyip daha barissever ve duzenli olmusken, bu [cezalar] artik uygun degildirler.

 

Eger birbirimizi seytan gibi gosterirsek bu tur seyleri muzakere dahi edemeyiz.Bu yuzden, [bu] munazara mecburidir.Bu sadece Kutsal Kitaplar’in manasini degil, ayni zamanda cagimizda, Tanri’nin onlarin sahip olmasini istedigi alakayi da kavramamiza yardimci olur.

 

Peki ya Muhammed’in (s.a.v) kadinlara yonelik tutumu?

 

Islam’in hala, bir cok yonden, bir erkek dini oldugu dogrudur.Fakat bazi ilk [donem] kaynaklarda Muhammed’in kadinlar icin kosullari iyilestirdigine [dair] kanit buldugumu dusunuyorum.Gorunen o ki Muhammed’in zamaninda Arabistan’in bazi bolgelerinde, bilhassa Mekke’de, anaerkil bir sistem yerini ataerkil bir [sisteme] birakma surecindeydi.Ticaret yollarinin kaymasiyla artan zenglinlik [ve refah]a buyuyen bir bireyselcilik [individualism] eslik etti. Erkekler kayda deger olcude kisisel servet biriktiriyorlardi ve bunun kendi oz ogullari tarafindan tevarus edileceginden emin olmak istiyorlardi, alelade kendi kiz kardeslerinin ogullarinin genis aileleri tarafindan degil.Bu [durum] kadinlarin haklarinin fesadina yol acti. Islam’in bidayeti zamaninda kadinlarin kosullari berbatti; mulk edinme haklari yoktu, [kadinlar] erkegin mali olarak goruluyorlardi ve erkek olunce her sey ogullarina geciyordu.Muhammed kosullari bir hayli gelistirdi. Mulk sahipligi, miras, egitim ve bosanma haklarini tayin ederek kadinlara belli temel teminatlari verdi. Bu tarihi baglam icirisinde [ele alindikta], Peygamber’in kadin haklari adina taniklik eden eden bir sahsiyyet oldugu gorulebilir.

 

Bir cok [sey de] ne tur bir Musluman topluma baktiginiza baglidir.Bir cok Batili bugun Islam’in kadinlari en agir bir zulum altinda tuttugunu dusunuyor.Bazi durumlarda bu boyle olabilir, fakat bu sadece onlarin Islam Dunyasi’nin belli bolgelerine bakmalarindan kaynaklaniyor.Pakistan, Banglades ve Turkiye; [bunlarin] hepsinde de kadinlar devlet baskanlari oldular.

 

Peki ya savas – Cihad ve [versus] Hacli[lar]? Misalen, terorizm hem Islam hem de Hristiyanlik disi olarak gorulebilir, ama bunun Misir ve Kuzey Irlanda’daki asiri uclar tarafindan aklandigini goruyoruz. Siddetin inancin bir parcasi olabilecegini dusunuyor musunuz?

 

[Aslinda], her dinin radikallerinin kendi dinlerinin maksadinin otesine gittigini dusunuyorum.Fakat, Eski Ahit’imizden bir misal vereyim.Eski Ahit hakkinda cok endiselenmeye basliyorum, cunku onun [Eski Ahit’tekilerin] bir cogu hristiyani degil.Her gun bir bolum okuyorum ve giderek daha fazla boyle buluyorum. Bazi tercumelerden apacik [belli] olmayan boyle ciddi bir mevzu var.Okudugum Yeni Kudus Incil’i [The New Jerusalem Bible] “yikim laneti” [curse of destruction] ifadesini kullaniyor ve bu, Ibrani’ler Filistin’e dogru gelirken [yol uzerindeki] sehirleri iceriyor. Bir sehirdeki herkesi oldurduler; erkekler, kadinlar, cocuklar ve hatta bazen hayvanlar.Yeşu - 6’da gordugumuz gibi bu, Eriha’da oldu ve asagi yukari bir duzine diger yerde; kaldi ki sonraki ornekler de var.Bu kesinlikle hristiyani degil.

 

Her ne kadar gecmiste Hristiyan’lar savaslari desteklemislerse de Hristiyanlik’in butunuyle savas karsiti oldugunu dusunuyorum. Islam’in temel olarak Hristiyanlik karsiti oldugunu dusunmuyorum, fakat asiri uclar boyle bir bakisa sahip olabilirler.

 

 Bir kac yil once, Korfez Savasi’ni muteakiben, Edinburgh’daki milli uzlasma ayininde Iskoc Hristiyanlari ve Muslumanlar[i]’nin resmi bir toplantisi vardi.Iskoc kilise liderleri, hukumetin bunu “sukran gunu” ayini yapma istemlerini reddettiler.Onlar, bunun yerine, [toplantiyi] 1. “uzlasma” diye isimlendirdiler.Vakit Musluman’larin aksam namazi vaktine [de] denk geldi.Muslumanlar once bunun katilmalarina engel teskil edecegini dusunduler. Fakat sonra, her hangi bir problemi onlemek icin, Hristiyan cemaati sessizliklerini muhafaza ederken, St. Giles Katedrali’ndeki kilise mihrabi onunde onlarin ibadetlerini yapmalarina izin verildi.Sonraki hafta Hristiyanlar Glasgow Camii cemaat merkezinde ibadet ettiler.Bu, Muhammed’in Hristiyan delegelerin ziyaretlerine ve Mescid[-i Nebevi]’de ibadet etmelerine izin verdigi gelenegin bir yansimasiydi. Modern Iskocya’da boylesi bir vakia, bir savastan sonra bile, dinin savasin yaralarini [sarmada] bir kopru olabilecegini ortaya koyuyor.

 

Ben, bu nedenle, Bati’nin Islam [yollu]  bir Cihad ile cikmaza girdigini dusunmuyorum, tabii zannederim eger radikaller cok ileri giderlerse onlara karsi olunmak zorundadir. Iran’in “Buyuk Seytan” hakkindaki yorumlari ekseriyyetle [Amerika] Birlesik Devletler’ini hedef aliyordu: onlar [bu yorumlar] Bati’nin Hristiyan olmasindan dolayi degildi. Bati’nin farkli dini guruplar arasindaki bu gerinimleri asmasi gerektigini dusunuyorum.Ben, bununla birlikte, Amerika’nin Orta Dogu [ile] iliskisinde tehlikeli bir siyaset izledigini dusunuyorum.Bu rahatsizligin kokeni de Amerika’nin Israil’e cok fazla destek vermesidir.Onlar [Amerika] onlarin [Israil’in] nukleer silahlara sahip olmasina ve her tur isi yapmalarina izin veriyorlar ki bunlarin bazilari Yahudi kanunlariyla dahi celisir. Yahudi aileler Arap’lar[in] evlerinde odeme yapmaksizin oturuyorlar [/evlerini isgal ediyorlar -occupy-].Bu hirsizliktir. Amerika’nin Israil’e karsi daha katı olmasi ve onlara cokca baski yapmasi gerektigini dusunuyorum.Bir seyler yapilmadikca Orta Dogu’da tehlikeli [bir] catisma olmaya [devam] edecektir.Uc Ibrahimi inancin –Yahudiler, Hristiyanlar ve Muslumanlar- hepsi Tanri’nin berbaber yasamamiz hususunda bize ogrettigine daha fazla saygi duysaydi boylesi tehlikelerin ortaya cikmasi daha az muhtemel olurdu.

 

Henuz tekrardan kurulmus olan Iskoc Meclisi’nin Orta Dogu konusunda her hangi bir pozisyon almasi gerektigini dusunuyor musunuz?

 

Iskoc Meclis’i vasat bir yol tutmali ve kesinlikle Islam karsiti tarafa katilmamali. [Meclis’in] Orta Dogu’da Yahudi ve Musluman dengesini, bazilari [da] Hristiyan olan Filistinli Araplara adil muamele edilmesini istediginden eminim. Iskoc Meclis’i onlarin birbirleriyle anlasmaya varmasi icin calisip [buna] yardim etmeyi deneyebilir.

 

Iskocya’da Hristiyanlar ile birlikte Yahudi ve Muslumalar da olmasi hasebiyle, meclis Iskocya icerisinde dinler arasinda biraz ahenk olmasi icin calismali.Baht[in da yardimi] ile bir veya iki Musluman Meclis Uyesi olur. Buyuk soru ise Milliyetci’ler kazanir da gidip bagimsizlik talep ederler mi, ki bana gore bu iyi olur, fakat ben bagimsizligin ne siddetle lehindeyim ne de aleyhinde.

 

Islam Tanri sozunun tamamlandigini ve onu degistiremeyecegimizi iddia ediyor. Hristiyanlik, Kutsal Ruh’un dinamik varligi anlayisi[ndan oturu] daimi bir akış halinde.Bu farklilikta siz nerede duruyorsunuz?

 

Ben Kur’an’in Tanri’nin muayyen bir zaman ve mekana [hitap eden] sozu oldugunu ve bu nedenle diger zaman ve mekanlara zaruri olarak uygun olmayacagini soyleme temayulundeyim. Ribanin [faiz] yasaklanmasi muayyen bir zaman ve mekan icin iyi olmus olabilir, fakat bu, bu [yasagin] her zaman iyi oldugu anlamina gelmez.

 

Yani, Musluman’larin, Tanri sozu olarak Kur’anin taze [fresh] bir anlayisina ulasmada yardima ihtiyaclari oldugunu dusunuyorum, fakat Kitab-i Mukaddes ile mukayesenin pek yardimi olmaz.Kur’an Muhammed’e 25 yildan az bir surede geldi, oysa Musa’dan Pavlus’a [kadar] asagi yukari 1300 yil var.Hristiyanlar belki Kitab-i Mukaddes’ten Tanri ile insan irki iliskisinde bir gelisme oldugunu gosterebilirler.Ornegin, Musa’ya Sebt gununu yakacak odun toplayarak ihlal edenleri taslayarak oldurme emir vermesi soylendi. Yeşu’ya muhtelif sehirlerin tum nufusunu yok etmesi soylendi; erkekler, kadinlar ve cocuklar. Isa tarafindan ogretilen Tanri boylesi barbarca ve hunharca emirler vermis olabilir mi? Insanin icinden geldigi uzere “Hayir” demek Kitab-i Mukaddes’in vahyi uzerine suphe biraktirir. Tanri’nin inananlara verdigi belirli emirlerin onlarin icinde yasadiklari toplum formuna bagli oldugunu soylemek zorundayiz gibi gorunuyor.Geleneksel olarak Musluman’lar , Tanri’nin ebedi [ve ezeli] olusundan O’nun emirlerinin degistirilemezligini savundular ve sosyal formlarin degisebilecegini kabul etmediler.

 

Ben, bu nedenle, Kitab-i Mukaddes ve Kur’an’in tum emirlerinin tum zamanlar icin gecerli oldugu manasindaki hatasizliklarina inanmiyorum. Her iki kitapta da verilen emirler vahiylerin muhatabi olan birincil toplumlar icin dogru ve gecerliydi; fakat toplumun formu onemli yonlerden degistiginde, her ne kadar bir cogu gecerli olmaya devam etseler de, bazi emirlerin uygunlugu inkitaa ugrar.Bununla birlikte, ben Muhammed’in onceki peygamberler gibi hakiki dini deneyimler edindigine inaniyorum.Onun direk olarak Tanri’dan birseyler telakki ettigine inaniyorum. Boylece, Kur’an’in Tanri’dan geldigine , yani ilahi vahiy olduguna inaniyorum.Muhammed dinde yapmis oldugu ani ve hizli yukselise Tanri’nin lutfu olmadan yol acamazdi. 

 

Kur’an’in Mekke’nin durumunu teshisine gore zamanin sikintilari, onlarin iktisadi, sosyal ve ahlaki dip akintilarina ragmen, oncelikle dini idi, ve bu gibiler de ancak oncelikle dini yollardan islah edilebilme kabiliyetinde idiler. Muhammed’in bunu muhatap alisindaki etkinligine nazar-i itibarla; o, Kur’an’in hikmetini sorgulayacak gozupek bir adam olurdu.

 

Eski Ahit’in degistirildigi ve bunun da Ibrahimi inanclar arasindaki farkliliklarin sebebi oldugu [yonundeki] Kur’ani ifade hakkinda ne dusunuyorsunuz ?

 

Ben, aslinda, sonradan [kayda gecen] katiplerin bazen onceki seyleri kendi muasirlari icin daha uygun hale getirmek adina degistirdiklerini dusunuyorum. Eski Ahit’te cok defa yeniden yazmalar [rewriting] oldugunu dusunuyorum, tabii elimizdeki formu miladi tarihten [Christian era] itibaren degistirilmedi. Bir din gelistikce onceki bazi safahat tamamen terk edilmek zorunda kalinabilir.Riba hususundaki Islami ogretiler bir missal olabilir. Ribadan tamamen kutrulmanin nasil mumkun olacagini anlamiyorum [I don’t see how…]. Suphesiz, kapitalizm farkli yonlerden kisitlanmali. Dunya su anda kesinlikle batakta, fakat bundan nasil kurtulabiliriz, bilmiyorum. Diyecegim o ki, Hristiyanlik’in Islam’dan ogrenecegi seyler var, ozellikle onun [Islam’in] manevi yonunden ve Islam da belki Tanri’nin evren ve insan yasami ile iliskisinin Hristiyan anlayisindan [bir seyler] ogrenebilir.  Musluman’larin bunun kendi inanclarina, nisbeten daha buyukce bir ehemmiyet saglayabilmesini muhtemel bulacaklarini dusunuyorum.       

 

Diger bir hususun da hepimizin gunumuz biliminin bakis acisiyla mutabik olmak zorunlulugumuz oldugunu dusunuyorum. Eski Ahit icin bu cok kritik. Eski Ahit Tanri’nin ofkesi hakkinda cok sey soyluyor ki bunlarin Eski Ahit halklarinin bazi yanlis dusuncelerine dayandigini dusunuyorum.Isbu [hususta misalen], Tanri’nin tabiat kanunlarina mudahele edebilecegini dusunuyorlardi. Yeşu’nun buyuk bir zafer kazanabilmesi icin Tanri’nin gunesi tum gun sabit tuttugunu dusunuyorlardi.Imdi, bu imkansiz.Tanri’nin kendi tabii kanunlarina mudahele edip insanlari cezalandirabilecegini dusunuyorlardi.Imdi, gunahin [wrongdoing] cezalandirilmasinin bir mantigi var, fakat Kitab-i Mukaddes dahi gunahkarlarin bazen nesvunema ettiklerini teshis eder. Kitab-i Mukaddes’de farkli dusunce tutumlari var. 

 

Islam Tanri inancinin, sadece tek kitapta [oldugu gibi] degil, “[kutsal] kitaplar”da vahyolundugu gibi olmasini elzem kiliyor.Bu, ihtilafli bir bicimde Hristiyan ve Yahudi kutsal kitaplarini da kapsiyor.Hal boyleyken, Yahudi-Hristiyan anlayislarinin Islam’a ne ogretmek durumunda oldugunu dusunuyorsunuz?

 

Musluman’larin [Isa] Mesih’in eserini daha ciddiye almalari gerektigini dusunuyorum; onu sirf bir peygamber olarak telakki ediyorlarsa bile. Benim inanclar muvacehesinde benimsedigim gorus onun gercekten insan oldugudur.Insan ustu degildi.Bu onun ayni zamanda nasil ilahi [bir varlik] oldugu sorusunu birakiyor size, fakat ben daha cok onun insaniyetine bakmamiz gerektigini dusunuyorum. Onun hastalari iyilestirmek gibi diger azizlerin de gosterebildikleri mucizeler disinda [bir mucize] gostermeye kabil oldugunu da dusunmuyorum. Diger mucizelerin bazilarinin gercekten [vaki] oldugunu da dusunmuyorum. Mesela, goze carpanlardan bir tanesi bir dugun merasiminde [Isa’nin] suyu sarab donusturdugu kabuludur. Bu, 4. Incil’de [Yuhanna] sunulur ve bunun Isa’nin muvaffakiyetinin isaretlerinden ilki oldugu soylenir.Acikca[si], bunun sembolik olarak anlasilmasi gerekirdi, cunku cokca sarap yapmanin Incil [mujde] ile hic alakasi yok. Bu siradan bir seyi degerli bir seye dondurme manasini sembolize ediyordu ki bu [da] Isa’nin muvaffak oldugu seydi. Bu, literal manada alinmak durumda degildi; muazzam bir olcude sarap soz konusu – 900 sise esdegerinde – [oysa] ben Isa’nin alkolik oldugunu zannetmiyorum.

 

Kur’an’da Yahudilik hakkinda cok az bilgi var ve Hristiyanlik hakkinda, bakireden dogum disinda, neredeyse hic yok.Musa ve Ibrahim ve digerlerine referanslar var, fakar ornegin Israil[ogullarinin] Filistin’e yerlesmeleri ve sonraki peygamberlerin ehemmiyetli  adalet vurgulari ile muvaffakiyetleri hakkinda hic bir sey yok.Tanri’nin Musluman’lar arasinda bu [mevzu bahis] durumlardan daha fazla haberdar olunmasina razi olmayacagina inanamam.

 

Peki, Islam Hristiyanlik’a ne ogretebilir?

 

Kendim icin konusacak [olursam], [Islam] bana Tanri’nin birligi hususunda daha derin dusunmeyi ogretti. Tanri’nin uclu “teşahhüs”unden [persons] - Baba, Ogul ve Kutsal Ruh- olusan geleneksel Teslisi Hristiyan formulasyonundan memnun degilim. “Person” [sahis] kelimesi dort yuz yil once Ingilizce’de ilk kullanildigindan beri degisti. Latince “persona”nin –yuz [vech] veya aktorlerin kullandigi gibi bir maske- bir tercumesiydi.Simdi bu Ingilizce kelime farkli bir mana olarak “birey” anlamina geliyor.Hristiyanlik Tanri’nin uc bireyden meydana geldigini soylemeye calismiyor. Islam, Tanri’nin sifatlarinin farkli isimle[ndirmeler]iyle Teslis doktrininin daha dogru bir manasini gormelerini [konusunda]Hristiyan’lara yardim edebilir.Teslil bir [ve] ayni Tanri’nin farkli vecheleri veya rolleridir.Benim icin, bu kavrama Islami incelemelerimin direk bir sonucu oldu.

 

Sizin uzun [zamandir] kullandiginiz ve bizi, Yahudi-Hristiyan ve Islami [gelenekler olarak] hepimizin Tanri’si onunde biraraya getiren bir dua var. [Musaadenizle] gorusmemizi onunla kapata bilir miyiz?

 

Ey Baba, Ogul ve Kutsal Ruh, tek Tanri, tum Islam alemine ve onlarla [birlikte] biz Hristiyanlara seni daha vazıh bilmeyi, sana [birbirimize]daha kenetlenmis [bir bicimde] hizmet edebilmeyi, ve seni daha candan sevebilmeyi nasip et. Amin.

 

Profesor Watt, cok cok tesekkur ederiz.

 

 

[Nb. Huzeyfe Demirtas' translation of Prof Montgomery Watt's paper, Women in Earliest Islam, can be found at this link.]

 

 

 

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31/07/13

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