Mary and the Muslim World: Is She the Key to Evangelization? By: Msgr. Charles Pope
I have often heard that Muslims hold our Blessed Mother Mary in high regard. This reverence may stop short of devotion but there is said to be a respect for her in the Muslim tradition.
Now, I first learned this from the great Archbishop, Fulton Sheen [in whose Sainthood is in progress] in his book, The World’s First Love. I read it 25 years ago and have pondered it ever since. I would like to present excerpts from the chapter entitled “Mary and the Moslems” [sic], reflect on its significance and ask a few questions. Please note that the book was written in 1952 and therefore some of the spellings are not the modern ones. Here are the excerpts:
The Koran, which is the Bible of the Moslems, has many passages concerning the Blessed Virgin. First of all, the Koran believes in her Immaculate Conception, and also, in her Virgin Birth … The Koran also has verses on the Annunciation, Visitation, and Nativity. Angels are pictured as accompanying the Blessed Mother and saying, Oh Mary, God has chosen you and purified you, and elected you above all the women of the earth. In the 19th chapter of the Koran there are 41 verses on Jesus and Mary. There is such a strong defense of the virginity of Mary here that the Koran in the fourth book, attributes the condemnation of the Jews to their monstrous calumny against the Virgin Mary.
Mary, then, is for the Moslems the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Mohammed wrote: Thou shalt be the most blessed of women in Paradise, after Mary. In a variant of the text Fatima is made to say; I surpass all the women, except Mary.
This brings us to our second point; namely, why the Blessed Mother, in this 20th Century should have revealed herself in the significant little village of Fatima, so that to all future generations she would be known as “Our Lady of Fatima.” Since nothing ever happens out of Heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as “Our Lady of Fatima” as pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her divine Son too.
Evidence to support these views is found in the historical fact that the Moslems occupied Portugal for centuries. At the time when they were finally driven out, the last Moslem chief had a beautiful daughter by the name of Fatima. A Catholic boy fell in love with her, and for him she not only stayed behind when the Moslems left, but even embraced the Faith. The young husband was so much in love with her that he changed the name of the town where he lived to Fatima. Thus the very place where our Lady appeared in 1917 bears a historical connection to Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed.
Missionaries, in the future will, more and more, see that their apostolate among the Moslems will be successful in the measure that they preach Our Lady of Fatima. Mary is the advent of Christ, bringing Christ to the people before Christ himself is born. In any apologetic endeavor, it is always best to start with that which the people already accept. Because the Moslems have devotion to Mary, our missionaries should be satisfied merely to expand and develop that devotion, with the full realization that our Blessed Lady will carry the Moslems the rest of the way to her divine Son. She is forever a “traitor,” in the sense that she will not accept any devotion for herself, but will always bring anyone who is devoted to her to her divine Son.
A beautiful reflection by Archbishop Sheen and one we can surely hope will come to pass. Relations are much more tense however between Christians and Muslims today than in 1952.
This leads to my first question.
Do Muslims today still manifest the reverence to Mary that Sheen described in 1952? I have seen a few people in Muslim garb at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception here in D.C., but I was not sure if they came to pay homage to Mary or just tour. I think we Catholics ought to be careful before we presume too much of what Muslims today think of Mary. The lines in the Quran quoted by Sheen are impressive but that does not mean that Muslims either know them well or interpret them as we would wish. Hence, I am merely posing a question here. If any of you know of good sources that answer the question of the Muslim stance on Mary. I would be grateful if you can point it out. The answer to this question has a lot of bearing on my speculations to follow.
Astonishing Fact — I must say, I have always considered it nothing less than astonishing that Mary should appear in a town called, of all things, “Fatima.” Surely this is no mere coincidence and, as Sheen aptly points out, heaven does nothing without purpose. That we are not to merely pass over this detail, is very clear to me. One of the more well known modern titles of Mary is “Our Lady of Fatima.” Fatima is the daughter of Muhammad. This is hugely significant.
*Third Secret of Fatima? For many years, before its revelation, I was sure that the Third Secret of Fatima had something to do with the Muslim question. Frankly I figured it likely described a great conflict with the Muslim world that would arise and lead to great suffering for the Church, even a kind of Babylonian captivity, but that ultimately Mary’s Immaculate Heart would triumph by the power of God. Imagine my chagrin when the third secret was finally revealed with a less than worldwide, apocalyptic content. Granted, the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II was a serious and significant matter but it was less than the worldwide conflict I had expected. It is also true that his would-be assassin was Muslim, but the plot was likely more communist and Russian in origin. In the end my theory was rocked back on its heels and fell flat.
But still we are left with Fatima. Why Fatima? Why a town bearing the namesake of Muhammad’s daughter? It seems clear that Mary will play an important role in the years ahead as the Muslim/Christian conflict likely grows sharper. Perhaps, as Sheen notes, she will be the bridge that connects two vastly different cultures, the common mother who keeps her children talking. Right now this connection seems little pursued, even, as far as I can tell, by the Vatican. But here too allow a question from me. Are there any of you who know if Our Lady of Fatima has any role in Vatican-Muslim dialogue?
The Guadalupe connection — I wonder too if the history of Our Lady of Guadalupe presents some historical parallels to our current struggle with the Muslim world. In the early 16th Century in Mexico, missionaries had made only meager progress in bringing the Aztec people to Christ. It was a combination of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the indigenous people by the Spanish soldiers, and also of the fearful superstition surrounding the Aztec gods. These gods required horrific human sacrifices and kept the people locked in with this fear that, unless they fed these gods, their greatest god, the sun, would no longer shine.
Into this fearful and suspicious setting entered Mother Mary. The miraculous image she left in 1531 was richly symbolic: Her face is a mother’s face, gentle and compassionate, unlike the frightful Aztec gods who wore fierce masks. Her features seem to be both an Aztec and European, two cultures are combined in kindness and peace. Her attitude is one of humble prayer, so she is clearly not a god. She is a merciful mother who consoles and prays for us. She is to be honored but not adored. The black band around her waist means that she is with child and offers Jesus to the people. Her message is about him. The sun was the greatest of the Aztec gods and, by standing in front of the sun, Mary shows that she is greater than all their gods. The moon represented to them the god of darkness and death. That she is standing on the moon is a sign that these powers too have been defeated by the son she bears.
Mary brought the breakthrough. Within ten years over 12 million Mexicans came to Christ and entered the Catholic Church.
This history is paralleled in many ways today in the current tensions with the Muslim World. In many Muslim lands today conversions are few. Part of the reason for this is a strong aversion for the western culture from which Catholicism comes. Another reason includes many alleged grievances that Muslims have of American and Western “mistreatment.” Finally, a large factor is fear. Leaving the Muslim faith is likely to get you killed in many parts of the Muslim world. So, it is a combination of a wide cultural gulf, alleged grievances, and fear, that keep conversions low. All not unlike 16th Century Mexico.
Is Mary key? It took Mary to bridge all these similar gaps between the Aztecs and the Christian Missionaries. Might Mary also be that bridge today when similar gaps divide? Time will tell, but one of her greatest Modern titles is Our Lady of Fatima. And then, there is the crescent moon upon which Mary stands in the image of Guadalupe. In modern times the crescent moon is the symbol of Islam. Mother Mary of Guadalupe, by God’s grace, was victorious and overcame the false religion of the Aztecs with love and humility.
Might this crescent moon on which Our Lady of Guadalupe stands also point to our times, and the crescent moon of Islam? Might it indicate that her victories, by God’s grace, are not at an end. Perhaps we can hope that what our Lady of Guadalupe was to the Aztec people of Mexico, Our Lady of Fatima will be to the Muslim people of the world.
*Third Secret of Fatima
From: The True Story of Fatima by John de Marchi, I.M.C.
The Virgin Mary appeared to Sister Lucia in May 1952 and said
“Make it known to the Holy Father that I am always awaiting the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart. Without the Consecration, Russia will not be able to convert, nor will the world have peace”
Blasphemies against the Blessed Mother
There are five types of offenses and blasphemies committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary: The True Story of Fatima by John de Marchi, I.M.C.
1. Blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception.
2. Blasphemies against Her perpetual virginity
3. Blasphemies against Her Divine Maternity, in refusing at the same time to recognize Her as the Mother of men.
4. The blasphemies of those who publicly seek to sow in the hearts of children indifference or scorn, or even hatred of the Immaculate Mother.
5. The offenses of those who outrage Her directly in Her holy images.
The Conversion of Russia: Our lady of Fatima wanted the Holy Father to consecrate Russia
It depends on the men whom Our Lord referred to as “My Ministers.” It is they—the Pope and bishops of the Catholic Church—who have the power and the duty to heed Our lady’s requests to consecrate Russia and thus avoid the annihilation of various nations. From: The True Story of Fatima by John de Marchi, I.M.C.
The Fatima Message urges us to pray for the Consecration of Russia so that this triumph may come soon, and the annihilation of nations be averted. From: The True Story of Fatima by John de Marchi, I.M.C.
But as you see, the world is turning to material things, Church attendance has declined, the sexual and material revolutions are captivating the minds of the younger generation. Little or no time is spent in prayer and thoughts of why I am here on this earth—this beautiful earth that God has given us.
The Muslim World and Mary the Mother of God Dennis Mallon, OFSWith Source information from: New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia
Just as after the death of Mohammed, Mohammedanism, spurred on by extremists and such sects as the Wahabis, is again aspiring to become a world power. The Muslim world finds itself in a crisis – the inability to adapt to the modern world. The crisis is within the Muslim Brotherhood, and the way they interpret the Koran: Liberal reformists want to absorb elements of Western culture and achieve a harmonious unity between the Islamic world and the Western world. Their position is that Islam’s ailment is within itself. Then there are the extremists who see no need to resort to anything outside Islam and want to embark on a Holy Jihad. Both factions agree however that the time has come for reform in Islam.
Western societies, rejecting their Christian heritage are committing self-annihilation through contraception, abortion, materialism, hedonism, agnosticism, atheism and relativism, while Islam’s prophets, who cursed Israel as a “useless vessel among nations,” is strong and growing stronger.
The decline of morality in the world and in particular the Western World to wit: the derogation of moral attitude; homosexuality dividing the Protestant churches and infiltrating the Catholic Church with demands for equality with the sacred Sacrament of Marriage; the increase of divorce; the fall in attendance at Christian churches (the increase is greater in Europe than here in the United States); the increase and approval, in some areas, of suicide, sex before marriage, infanticide, prostitution; the use of drugs for pleasure in a vastly increasing world of technology; the rise of the “Me Generation” with no regard for family life which results in the decrease of Western Christian populations; and the exploitation and trading of women and children for immoral acts is devastating.
The Muslim world sees this as an opening and a call from Mohammed, who was ruthless in his dealings with the Jews and others who didn’t fall in line. They believe their destination is to follow the letter of the law of the Koran and rid the world of this decadence and asocial behavior by eliminating Christians and Jews and others who are not of their persuasion.
Violent Jihad terrorist attacks are carried out by suicide missions (Islam gives no promise of entry into Paradise except to jihad warriors killed in combat) with no regard to who dies, is now a common occurrence. Their greatest fear, perhaps, is the thought, that if they were killed by a woman combatant they would never enter into Paradise. Enter our Blessed Mother, who will put her foot down on the Crescent Moon.
Since the Koran approves and even sanctions the death of infidels (that’s us), some westerns are led to believe that there is no alternative to eliminating this threat other than to retaliate with force, declare war or cut-and-run in hopes (Obama comes to mind) the extremists will go away. How do you address the radical behavior of the Mullah who throws men in prison because their beards are too short and others who beat women who are not covered completely from head-to-toe.
Some Muslim extremist, whose groups initiation is to kill a Jew, are hell-bent to force the world to convert to Islam. The world is left in a no-man’s-land.
What kind of answer do we have to confront this radical philosophy which isn’t going away anytime in the near future?
The only real solution is in Holy Scripture and the Intercession of Our Lady.
The Prophet Muhammad, as recorded in the Koran:
Claimed he replaced Jesus as the final prophet. So Muhammad declared his revelations [the Koran] replaced the message God delivered through Jesus.
And yet, Muhammad’s revelations about Jesus contained in the Koran should be read by his followers, all Muslims, as the Koran requires.
The Koran contains the following passages:
Observing the Torah [Hebrew] and the Gospel brings nourishment from above (5, 66*).
Allah bestowed the Gospel on Jesus to be a light (5, 46*).
Allah gathered Jesus and caused him to be resurrected and ascended to Allah himself (3, 55*).
Allah taught Jesus his religion and commanded Jesus to establish it (42, 13; 43, 63*).
Jesus would be raised from the dead (19 33,34*).
Allah gave to the world Jesus, exalted him above all others, and supported him with the Holy Spirit as proof of his sovereignty (2, 253*).
Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, believed Jesus was the Messiah, Allah’s anointed messenger. Allah’s people (Muslims) are told to listen to Allah’s messengers (Koran, 4.171; 5. 111*).
Allah took Jesus to heaven where he awaits until the day of judgment when he will return to earth (3,55). Muslim traditions teach that Muhammad died not knowing if he would be judged worthy to enter Paradise – where God has already placed Jesus. Muhammad is dead and buried in Saudi Arabia. Jesus is alive both with God in heaven (paradise) and in Spirit with his followers on Earth. (Koran 3,55; 4, 158, 159)
Allah caused the miracle birth of John the Baptist to the aged Zechariah and his barren wife so John could be the messenger to announce Jesus as the Messiah (3, 33-41*).
Allah appointed Mary to be the virgin mother of Jesus, the Messiah (3, 42-45; 19, 12-22; 21, 90*).
Allah, gathered Jesus and caused him to be resurrected and ascended to Allah himself. (3, 55*)
The Editor: Opinion
It is an indisputable fact that Mohammid read Holy scripture and pick through segments that structured his Koran, i.e., Psalm 149 (First stanza omitted. italics for emphasis)
For the Lord takes delight in his people.
He crowns the poor with salvation.
Let the faithful rejoice in their glory,
shout for joy and take their rest.
Let the praises of God be on their lips
and a two-edge sword in their hand,
to deal out vengeance to the nations
and punishment on all the peoples:
to bind their kings in chains
and their nobles in fetters of iron:
to carry out the sentence pre-ordained;
this honor is for all his faithful.