Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"For a believing Muslim, to create is a rash and dangerous act."

So wrote Daniel Boorstin, author of the powerful three volumes titled The Discoverers, The Seekers and The Creators. The title of this post comes from the end of one of The Creators’ short chapters. In a few pages Boorstin sought the heart of the difference between Islamic and Judeo-Christian culture. At the risk of mutilating the chapter in question, here are some choice excerpts:
…the Muslim God, though a kind of Creator, had a character quite different from the God of the Hebrews and the Christians...[I]n the Koran the role of the Creator is transformed. The familiar words of Genesis record that God spent six days on the Creation.
[Genesis 2:2] 'And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day...'
In the Koran God never rests, for he can never be tired.
'[Koran, Chapter 50, verse] 38: We created the heavens and the earth and all between them in Six Days. Nor did any sense of weariness touch Us.'
It is no wonder that the Koranic God was not wearied. For He created not by making but by ordering, not by work but by command. The creation of anything occurs when He decrees it into being.
'[Koran, Chapter 2, verse] 117: To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth; when He decreeth a matter, He saith to it: "Be," and it is.'
Again and again the Koran describes God's fiat...

There are some similar expressions in Genesis of God creating by fiat...But there is a vast difference in emphasis between the acts of Creation in the Bible and in the Koran. And between the character of the Hebrew-Christian God the Maker, and the Muslim God of Fiat...

The Muslim Creator-God is notable not only, nor even mainly, for His work in the Beginning, but as an orderer, a commander, of life and death in our present. The Judeo-Christian God is awesome for the uniqueness of His work in the Beginning. Then He may intervene by divine providence...

After...the six days of fiat, the God of the Koran, having no reason to rest, simply mounted the throne of authority. From there he continued to rule by decree over life and death and every earthly act.

The relation of the Muslim God to his creature man, then, is quite unbiblical. The uniqueness of the biblical Creator-God was in his powers of making; the uniqueness of man and woman too would be in their power to imitate their God and after their fashion to exercise the power of creation. After God created the species in the Beginning, he blessed them to be fruitful and multiply...

Why did God create man? The God of the Bible would judge man by his fulfillment of his godlike image. Not so in Islam.
'[Koran, Chapter 51, verse] 56: I have only created jinns and men, that they may serve Me. I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship me.'
...The People of the Koran prefer to call themselves Muslims, from 'Islam,' the Arabic word for submission or obedience. The Koran repeatedly reminds us that Allah's creatures are also his 'servants' or 'slaves'. What clearer warning against reaching for the new? For a believing Muslim, to create is a rash and dangerous act.
(Boorstin, 1992, pp.63-69.)

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