The Vicar and the Koran: 27 September

Like a legal television, I am now Licensed and Installed as Priest in Charge of Burton Joyce with Bulcote and Stoke Bardolph. I feel good to be properly plugged in to a local church.

The Bishop had to bring his be-wigged lawyer for me to swear loyalty to the Church of England, the Queen, and to him. The Bishop formally assured himself of my willingness to fulfil the position, prayed for me with laying-on of hands, and gave me the ‘cure of souls’ – responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the people of the parish. With this spiritual responsibility, recorded in a legal document, I was then able to take on part ownership of parish property, including the church building, and to take my rightful place in the vicar’s chair or stall. The Bishop had the Archdeacon present to make sure this in-stalling happened properly. Maybe the Archdeacon should have worn overalls like a technical TV installer? All then checked that the connection was working by asking me to lead prayer! See for pictures.

It was a happy and positive evening, with visitors commenting on how friendly the locals are and how God’s presence was felt (as well as how uncomfortable the pews are.) Having Bishop, Lawyer and Archdeacon all present for the Licensing seemed excessive and uncharacteristic. From now on we are very much on our own. Although the Bishop said, as always, that the ‘cure’ is both mine and his, my experience is that he will never be in touch unless there is a problem. From the end of January, all clergy in my position will have new terms of office which should mean more back-up from Bishops etc. We’ll see.

Having written a little about the Koran and people’s attitudes to it, I have decided it is high time I read it fully. As I read slowly over many months I intend to share my reflections here.

My ‘explanatory translation’, by Pickthall, in an edition published by the UK Islamic Mission Dawah Centre, begins with an historical introduction to the life and career of Mohammed. I was surprised by the extent of his military involvement. In the last 10 years of his life Mohammed sent out 65 military expeditions, leading many of them himself. This must have been the chief focus of his attention and energy.

The introduction explained that this military action was in obedience to a call to ‘fight against the persecutors until persecution is no more and religion is for Allah only.’ (Surah 8, 39 and, it says, other places too.) Here is a poles-apart difference with Christianity and a substantial difference, with Judaism. Jesus told his followers to bless, love and pray for those who persecute them, and practised what he preached when he was arrested and crucified. (Christians have often spectacularly failed to obey this teaching, but that does not change Jesus words.) Moses told people to respond to violence in a measured and equivalent way, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ a nasty comment for a nasty comment etc. But Mohammed taught his followers to fight all who persecute them, whether in deed or word, until they change their ways. The fighting is not proportional to the level of persecution, but according to the achieving the aim of changing or silencing people completely.

For Mohammed, persecution was the basis of his fighting. This included perceived or threatened persecution. Twice, the introduction explains, Mohammed heard rumours of an attack against him from the Christian Byzantine Empire and set out with an army to attack them first. Both times he was defeated. But the precedent had been set. When Moslems hear rumours of wars against them, they are told to be dismayed and to fight.

I hope to read more peaceable things as I start the Koran proper.

Roger Harper

One Response to “The Vicar and the Koran: 27 September”

  1. Di Says:

    Thank you, Roger. Will send to your friends here in Bilston.




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