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Mary and the Moslems | Bishop Fulton J. Sheen | From The World's First Love | Ignatius Insight
Mary 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 all the women in Paradise, after Mary." In a
variant of the text, Fatima is made to say: "I surpass all the women,
Moslemism is the only great post-Christian religion of the
world. Because it had its origin in the seventh century under Mohammed, it was
possible to unite within it some elements of Christianity and of Judaism, along
with particular customs of Arabia. Moslemism takes the doctrine of the unity of
God, His Majesty and His Creative Power, and uses it, in part, as a basis for
the repudiation of Christ, the Son of God. Misunderstanding the notion of the
Trinity, Mohammed made Christ a prophet, announcing him, just as, to
Christians, Isaias and John the Baptist are prophets announcing Christ.
The Christian European West barely escaped destruction at
the hands of the Moslems. At one point they were stopped near Tours and at
another point, later on in time, outside the gates of Vienna. The Church
throughout northern Africa was practically destroyed by Moslem power, and at
the present hour, the Moslems are beginning to rise again.
If Moslemism is a heresy, as Hilaire Belloc believes it to
be, it is the only heresy that has never declined. Others have had a moment of
vigor, then gone into doctrinal decay at the death of the leader, and finally
evaporated in a vague social movement. Moslemism, on the contrary, has only had
its first phase. There was never a time in which it declined, either in
numbers, or in the devotion of its followers.
The missionary effort of the Church toward this group has
been, at least on the surface, a failure, for the Moslems are so far almost
unconvertible. The reason is that for a follower of Mohammed to become a
Christian is much like a Christian becoming a Jew. The Moslems believe that they
have the final and definitive revelation of God to the world and that Christ
was only a prophet announcing Mohammed, the last of God's real prophets.
At the present time, the hatred of the Moslem countries
against the West is becoming a hatred against Christianity itself. Although the
statesmen have not yet taken it into account, there is still grave danger that
the temporal power of Islam may return and, with it, the menace that it may
shake off a West which has ceased to be Christian, and affirm itself as a great
anti-Christian world power. Moslem writers say, "When the locust swarms
darken vast countries, they bear on their wings these Arabic words: 'We are
God's host, each of us has ninety-nine eggs, and if we had a hundred, we should
lay waste the world with all that is in it.'"
The problem is, how shall we prevent the hatching of the
hundredth egg? It is our firm belief that, the fears some entertain concerning
the Moslems are not to be realized, but that Moslemism, instead, will
eventually be converted to Christianity — and in a way that even some of
our missionaries never suspect. It is our belief that this will happen not
through the direct teaching of Christianity, but through a summoning of the
Moslems to a veneration of the Mother of God. This is the line of argument:
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 third chapter of the
Koran places the history of Mary's family in a genealogy which goes back
through Abraham, Noah, and Adam. When one compares the Koran's description of
the birth of Mary with the apocryphal Gospel of the birth of Mary, one is
tempted to believe that Mohammed very much depended upon the latter. Both books
describe the old age and the definite sterility of the mother of Mary. When,
however, she conceives, the mother of Mary is made to say in the Koran: "O
Lord, I vow and I consecrate to you what is already within me. Accept it from
When Mary is born, the mother says: "And I consecrate
her with all of her posterity under thy protection, O Lord against Satan!"
The Koran passes over Joseph in the life of Mary, but the
Moslem tradition knows his name and has some familiarity with him. In this
tradition, Joseph is made to speak to Mary, who is a virgin. As he inquired how
she conceived Jesus without a father, Mary answered: "Do you not know that
God, when He created the wheat had no need of seed, and that God by His Power
made the trees grow without the help of rain? All that God had to do was to
say. 'So be it, and it was done.'"
The Koran has also 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 nineteenth chapter of the Koran
there are forty-one 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 all
the 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 twentieth century, should have revealed herself in the
insignificant 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 a 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.
The final evidence of the relationship of Fatima to the
Moslems is the enthusiastic reception which the Moslems in Africa and India and
elsewhere gave to the Pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima, as mentioned
earlier. Moslems attended the Church services in honor of Our Lady; they
allowed religious processions and even prayers before their mosques; and in
Mozambique the Moslems, who were unconverted, began to be Christian as soon as
the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was erected.
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 people already accept. Because the Moslems have a
devotion to Mary, our missionaries should be satisfied merely to expand and to
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.
As those who lose devotion to her lose belief in the Divinity of Christ, so
those who intensify devotion to her gradually acquire that belief.
Many of our great missionaries in Africa have already broken
down the bitter hatred and prejudices of the Moslems against the Christians
through their acts of charity, their schools and hospitals. It now remains to
use another approach, namely, that of taking the forty-first chapter of the
Koran and showing them that it was taken out of the Gospel of Luke, that Mary
could not be, even in their own eyes, the most blessed of all the women of
heaven if she had not also borne One Who was the Saviour of the world. If
Judith and Esther of the Old Testament were prefigures of Mary, then it may
very well be that Fatima herself was a postfigure of Mary! The Moslems should
be prepared to acknowledge that, if Fatima must give way in honor to the Blessed
Mother, it is because she is different from all the other mothers of the world
and that without Christ she would be nothing.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles and Excerpts:
The Virtually Venerable Fulton J. Sheen | Charles F. Harvey
Mary in Byzantine Doctrine and Devotion |
Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.
Fairest Daughter of the Father: On the Solemnity
of the Assumption | Rev. Charles M. Mangan
The Blessed Virgin in the History of
Christianity | John A. Hardon, S.J.
"Hail, Full of Grace": Mary, the Mother of Believers |
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Mary in Feminist Theology: Mother of God or Domesticated Goddess? |
Fr. Manfred Hauke
Excerpts from The Rosary: Chain of Hope | Fr.
Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.
The Past Her Prelude: Marian Imagery in the Old
Testament | Sandra Miesel
Mary, Matchless in Grace | John Saward
Mary | The Introduction to Mary in the Middle Ages | by Luigi Gambero
Mary | Dr. James Hitchcock
Born of the Virgin Mary | Paul Claudel
Assumed Into Mother's
Arms | Carl E. Olson
Contemplates the Mother | Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis
Fulton Sheen (1895-1979) is considered by many to be the most influential
Catholic of the 20th century in America. Millions of people watched his
incredibly popular television series every week, "Life is Worth Living",
and millions more listened to his radio program, "The Catholic Hour".
Wherever he preached in public, standing-room-only crowds packed churches
and halls to hear him. He had the same kind of charisma and holiness that
attracts so many people to Pope John Paul II, who called Sheen "a loyal
son of the Church." Learn more about Archbishop Sheen by reading his
In Clay, or visiting the Archbishop
Fulton J. Sheen Foundation website.
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