Do Muslims worship God? This question has long troubled me and I can never settle it in my head. I am not talking about supernatural and acceptable worship. Clearly, they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity so are unable to offer acceptable worship to God. Nor am I talking about the natural virtue of religion. Strictly speaking there are no true moral virtues apart from Charity. I am talking about material acts of religion that would be formal acts of the acquired virtue of religion in a state of pure nature. Do Muslims perform such acts. Do they worship God?

I have come across three basic views on this:

  1. No. Islam is Deist, a form of monotheistic paganism. Unlike the Jews their worship is not even naturally directed at the same entity as the true God adored by the Catholic faithful. They are idolaters.
  2. Yes. Muslims know God through natural reason (see: Romans 1 & Vatican I) they direct their material acts of religion to Him. They ascribe to God incorrect attributes (e.g. having revealed himself to Mohammed) but they know Him as creator and worship Him as such.
  3. Yes and no. The being who revealed himself to Mohammed is not God and acts of worship specified in this way are idolatrous. In the other hand Muslims are men like everyone else able to know the Creator by the light of human reason and when they worship the creator as such their incidental errors about His interventions in history do not transform their acts of worship into acts of idolatry.

There are good argument for all three. In regard to 1. this seems to be the testimony of a good many Muslim converts. They do not believe they worshiped God before they converted to Christianity. The Council of Florence seems to assume Muslims are to be placed in the ‘pagan’ column. Leo XIII and Pius XI in their formulae of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart seem to make the same assumption. In defence of 2. this seems to be the doctrine of Lumen Gentium 16 (although what theological note that has is obscure) and the opinion of at least some popes (including even St Gregory VII). Of course 3. seems easiest to defend and in some sense is probably the position of most adherents of 1. and 2. Unfortunately, in a way, it only bumps the problem down the road. For what would be the key factor determining whether one is worshiping the being who revealed himself to Mohammed or the Creator of the universe? This is the central enigma and the answer to it would seem to resolve the entire question. I find it hard to believe that Muslims if they discovered that the two were not one and the same would chose the former. If it were a marriage that would be enough to make the consent valid. I’m pretty sure the Mormons and the Gnostics don’t worship God. I’m not at all sure William Lane Craig does. The Muslims it seems to me ought to get the benefit of the doubt… but I ‘m not sure.

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