The Christian who understood Muhammad

The Christian who understood Muhammad
Egyptian Christian thinker Nazmi Luqa understood that religions shared common truths, and respected all religious traditions.
4 min read
03 Jan, 2015
Translation: Happy New Year!
Authoritarian regimes and counter-revolutions stir sectarian animosity to ensure control over all parts of society by making sure each is kept occupied with carefully manufactured tension. The aim is for each group to be afraid of the other, and for those in power to utilise the state of fear to further exert their control and consolidate their authority.

In Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya you will find that sectarian killing was the operating practice of many regimes and non-state groups over this past year, and even before that. Even al-Qaeda has said "if you want to defeat a revolution, use the arsenal of sectarianism".

A joint celebration
To the travellers in the darkness, to those who can see a new dawn within themselves...
- Introduction to Nazmi Luqa's book

This year Christmas celebrations coincided with the celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, and may God's peace and blessings be upon both Muhammad and Jesus. The fleeting joy of Muslim and Christian celebrations overlapped in an environment filled with blood, death and repression.

One week united two celebrations with the tenth anniversary of the tragic tsunami that claimed the lives of at least 300,000 people in Indonesia and other countries. Death itself, which claimed all those lives, is not sectarian. But will anyone notice this fact?

Someone did, and did so more than 50 years ago. He was the Egyptian Christian thinker Nazmi Luqa, who wrote one of history's greatest Arabic-language books on the relationship between Islam and Christianity.

He prefaced his book Muhammad al-risala wal rasul ["Muhammad the Message and the Messenger"] with a dedication to humankind: "To the travellers in the darkness, to those who can see a new dawn within themselves... and also to the great spirit the Mahatma Gandhi who used to pray with pages of the Brahmanas and verse from the Torah, Bible and Quran, and who died at the hands of an extremist Hindu, martyred for his sincere and glorious defence of the freedom of worship of the followers of Muhammad."

The first edition of his book was published in the 1950s. When its second edition was published in 1959, the Ministry of Education decided to teach the book in the two provinces of the United Arab Republic (now Egypt and Syria). The second edition had three praise-filled introductions, written by then-Education Minister Kamal al-Din Hussein, the thinker Amin al-Khouli and then-Culture Minister Fathi Radwan.

In his introduction, Amin al-Khouli wrote that the book was "for the strong minds and the large hearts that understand the highest meanings and most noble causes of religiousness".

"The reader of this book feels that humanity can transcend its inherited legacy and build upon the actions of thousands of generations... and its violent tendencies."

The first thing those people should be tried for is creating a society of human beasts.

The book itself is a journey in a more clean, sophisticated and developed world that overflows with amazing philosophical thought and beautiful sensitivity.

The world needs more Luqas

We are in dire need of such books in a world crowded with merchants of death and creators of hatred, who work under the auspices of rulers whose mere existence in our lives is a grave crime against humanity.

The first thing those people should be tried for is creating a society of human beasts. They have succeeded in increasing wickedness to the point that people are elated by killing and rejoice at the smell of blood.

At the start of a new year this book should be given as a gift to the Egyptian singer Ali el-Haggar who sings the beautiful song "we're a people and we're another people... we have a God and you have another God". Haggar can perhaps then lend the book to the religious scholars co-opted by Egypt's rulers, who encouraged soldiers to kill fellow humans as if they were on a duck hunting trip.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.