The Muslim ummah, death of Queen Elizabeth II and the appreciation of Islam by King Charles III (II)

My dear brothers and sisters! Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the accession of King Charles III to the throne has been dominating airwaves in an unprecedented fashion. This has prompted a race to understand more about the new “Head of the Commonwealth” containing 2.4 billion people across the world, drawing Muslims into the vortex, too.

Among this coverage has been the curious fondness and appreciation he has shown for Islam over the years.

Yes, the new king’s appreciation of Islam is well established for those who have followed his career over the long years of his time as Prince of Wales. His positive attitude towards Islam, is indeed something rare in the governing classes of the United Kingdom and is undoubtedly appreciated by Muslims, particularly considering the overabundance of Islamophobes in the ruling establishment attempting to make daily life more and more difficult for Muslims across the board.

In a speech given at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies—of which he is a patron—King Charles gave a speech entitled ‘Islam and the West’, in which he stated that: “It is odd, in many ways, which misunderstandings between Islam and the West should persist. For that which binds our two worlds together is so much more powerful than that which divides us.

Muslims, Christians – and Jews – are all ‘peoples of the Book.’ Islam and Christianity share a common monotheistic vision: a belief in one divine God, in the transience of our earthly life, in our accountability for our actions, and in the assurance of life to come. We share many key values in common: respect for knowledge, for justice, compassion towards the poor and underprivileged, the importance of family life, respect for parents. ‘Honour your father and your mother’ is a Qur’anic precept too. Our history has been closely bound up together.”
King Charles goes on to say: “If there is much misunderstanding in the West about the nature of Islam, there is also much ignorance about the debt our own culture and civilisation owe to the Islamic world. It is a failure which stems, I think, from the straitjacket of history which we have inherited. The medieval Islamic world, from Central Asia to the shores of the Atlantic, was a world where scholars and men of learning flourished. But because we have tended to see Islam as the enemy of the West, as an alien culture, society and system of belief, we have tended to ignore or erase its great relevance to our own history. For example, we have underestimated the importance of 800 years of Islamic society and culture in Spain between the 8th and 15th centuries. The contribution of Muslim Spain to the preservation of classical learning during the Dark Ages, and to the first flowerings of the Renaissance, has long been recognised. But Islamic Spain was much more than a mere larder where Hellenistic knowledge was kept for later consumption by the emerging modern Western world. Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilisation, it also interpreted and expanded upon that civilisation, and made a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavour – in science, astronomy, mathematics, algebra (itself an Arabic word), law, history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, music. Averroes and Avenzoor, like their counterparts Avicenna and Rhazes in the East, contributed to the study and practice of medicine in ways from which Europe benefited for centuries afterwards. Islam nurtured and preserved the quest for learning. In the words of the tradition, ‘the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.’ Cordoba in the 10th century was by far the most civilised city of Europe. We know of lending libraries in Spain at the time King Alfred was making terrible blunders with the culinary arts in this country. It is said that the 400,000 volumes in its ruler’s library amounted to more books than all the libraries of the rest of Europe put together.

That was made possible because the Muslim world acquired from China the skill of making paper more than 400 years before the rest of non-Muslim Europe. Many of the traits on which modern Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open borders, the techniques of academic research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, various types of medicine, hospitals, all came from this great city of cities.”

It is here King Charles highlights a sentiment rarely appreciated in the Western world: “Medieval Islam was a religion of remarkable tolerance for its time, allowing Jews and Christians the right to practise their inherited beliefs, and setting an example which was not, unfortunately, copied for many centuries in the West. The surprise, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent to which Islam has been a part of Europe for so long…”
King Charles is not only praising what Islam has bought to the Modern European world, but emphasising that Islam is an intrinsic part of European history, and its growth was influenced by Islam: “…first in Spain, then in the Balkans, and the extent to which it has contributed so much towards the civilisation which we all too often think of, wrongly, as entirely Western. Islam is part of our past and our present, in all fields of human endeavour. It has helped to create modern Europe. It is part of our own inheritance, not a thing apart. Islam can teach us today a way of understanding and living in the world which Christianity itself is the poorer for having lost. At the heart of Islam is its preservation of an integral view of the Universe. Islam – like Buddhism and Hinduism – refuses to separate man and nature, religion and science, mind and matter, and has preserved a metaphysical and unified view of ourselves and the world around us.”

He has also praised many Muslim scholars and authors such as Rene Guenon, Seyyed Nasr and Martin Lings. In particular, when Martin Lings’ book “A Return to the Spirit” was published after his death, King Charles wrote a letter of admiration in which he praises a book written by a prominent English convert, about the last Prophet sent to mankind: “One of Martin Lings’ greatest legacies was his remarkable biography of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).”

Kings Charles is not a closet Muslim, but clearly literate in some aspects of Islamic thought probably unparalleled in the history of the British Monarchy, being described as an “Islamophile” by some: Others have been questioning this special pleading for King Charlie’s appreciation of Islam. While he appears to be in little need of such good will, the same cannot be said for other prominent figures in UK public life who have likewise expressed an appreciation for many aspects of Islam but have also been publicly maligned.
Dr Salman Butt, a Journalist, warns that: “It’s good to celebrate positive news, but important not to fall into some traps, such as using events like these as a plaster to cover over a weakness that we might feel: requiring validation from a powerful or famous non-Muslim. If we do feel that, we need to take a step back and build our appreciation for Islam with knowledge and, more importantly, good deeds; since Ibadah (worship) increases our intelligence and reflective capabilities, and strengthens our Iman (Faith) and character.”

All praises and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.

Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State

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