A visiting scholar gave a comparative talk on the Bible and the Quran Thursday night in the Gallery at 6 p.m., sharing personal experience of how Catholicism and Islam view God.
Jacob Imam, a Marshal Scholar of the University of Oxford, converted to Catholicism from Islam three years ago. His talk, entitled “From Devoted Father to Arbitrary Lord,” focused on explaining the Muslim theme that God is arbitrary, meaning he is unbound and there are no laws binding him to act good, as contrasted to the Christian view of God as a devoted father.
According to the Muslim view, God has the power to do what he wills and he is a whimsical being that can do whatever he pleases and operates under no law, said Imam. This means, said Imam, that he is not all good or all bad, but he does as he sees fit and does not wait for human participation.
“Muslim scholars for the past 1,000 years claim that there is in fact no free will,” said Imam.
Imam cited the Quran, which claims that Mary did not willingly say, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” but rather the angel appeared to her and God made her go into labor pains. This is seen, in the Muslim world, as just another woman who submitted to God and had really no choice in the matter.
Imam went on to explain how the telos, or end, of the Christian life is denied 44 times in the Quran. Mary is not seen as the vessel for salvation, according to the Quran, and it would be inappropriate for a woman to bear the son of God.
Imam shared that in the Muslim view, it is unbefitting for God to have a child, and the entire Quran undermines the entire biblical story. Imam explained how in doing this, “Jesus is demoted to just another one of the prophetic children.”
Contrasting this view of God as “arbitrary lord” to the Christian view of God as “devoted father,” Imam explained how a shift in perspective lead to his conversion.
When asked what initiated his journey from Islam to Catholicism, Imam said, “A notion of sacrifice and relationship with God and the complexity of the faith.”
The talk was sponsored by the St. Paul Center.