What Christians and Muslims have in common is, Mary, the mother of God. And never has there been a greater need for finding common ground and a pathway to peace. The journey toward peace begins in Fatima. I'm sure many of you, Catholic or not, know the story of Our Lady's appearance to three children in Fatima, Portugal. You can find great posts on Fatima at The Rosary Trail. Margo has wonderful insight and information on the Fatima story as well as the Rosary. This post will explore a different aspect of the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Fatima--Mary and Muslims.
The information has been adapted from an essay taken from the book World's First Love, written by America's most prominent Catholic preacher, the beloved Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
Muslims will come to know Christ, not through the direct teachings of Christianity, but through a relationship with the Mother of God. What do the Bible, the Qu'ran, Catholic beliefs and Muslim beliefs have in common? What thread is woven through the tapestry of these two religions? The Qu'ran believes in the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth. In the Qu'ran, Mohammed acknowledged the sacredness of the moment Mary was conceived with words spoken by her mother, St. Anne, "O Lord, I vow and I consecrate to you what is already within me. Accept it from me." Joseph was perplexed that Mary conceived a child without knowing a man. In the Qu'ran, Mary's answer to St. Joseph's question pertaining to this is relayed with these words, "Do you not know that God, when he created the wheat had no need of seed, and that God by his power made the trees grow without the help of rain? All that God had to do was to say, "So be it, and it was done."
In the 19th chapter alone there are 41 verses on Jesus and Mary. There are verses on the Visitation, Nativity and the Annunciation with angels saying, "Oh Mary, God has chosen you and purified you, and elected you above all the women on earth." Needless to say that Mohammed held the Virgin Mary in high esteem to the point that those who slandered Mary was subjected to condemnation!
To the Muslims, Mary is the true, Sayyida, or Lady. Her possible rival? Fatimah, the daughter of Mohammed, his only child to bear children. Yet, upon her death, Mohammed wrote, "Thou shalt be the most blessed of all women in Paradise, after Mary."
Nothing is a coincidence with God....He is in every detail. It was God's perfect plan that the Blessed Mother appeared to three simple, peasant children in, of all places, Fatima, Portugal. Jesus' promise that His name would be known in all four corners of the earth...that all human kind would know He is God and every knee would bend at the sound of His name will be fulfilled.
Jesus loved and respected His mother so much that, although, He was not ready to perform His first miracle, at Mary's request to "do as He says" He transformed water into fine wine. How could He not appreciate and take to heart the respect shown to His mother by Muslims? A sign of this appreciation--Our Lady of Fatima. A name all believers of the Qu'ran hold dear. She has always pointed the way to the Saviour, the true God, and so it will be that she will point the way for Muslims to her Divine Son.
And how did the town of Fatima receive its name? Muslims had occupied Portugal for centuries. The last Muslim chief had a daughter named Fatima who fell in love with a Catholic boy, married him and converted to Catholicism. The name of the town was later changed to Fatima.
How excited are some Muslims about Our Lady of Fatima? So much so that when the pilgrim statue visited Africa, India and elsewhere, Muslims attended the church services, allowed processions and prayers before their mosques! Many were converted. This is unprecedented.
Christians must continue to show Christ to others through their acts of charity in the Muslim world-tending to their sick, building schools and fighting against social injustice. Catholics must plant the seeds of truth by showing Muslims that the 41st chapter of the Qu'ran is taken from the Gospel of Luke. Mary could not be, even in their eyes, the most blessed of all women if she had not also born the Saviour of the world. As Archbishop Sheen stated, "The Muslims should be prepared to acknowledge that, if Fatima must give way in honor to the Blessed Mother, it is because she is different from all the other mothers of the world and that without Christ she would be nothing."
It is on common ground that mutual understanding takes root and it is always best to start with something both sides accept. It seems like an unlikely communion--the joining of Christianity and the Muslim faith. But leave it to a mother, the Blessed Mother, to bridge the gap. Mary is accepted by both....understood by both, a common ground. Through the grace of God, she was used over two thousand years ago to bring the Saviour to human kind. And this pure and simple virgin will be used again so that Muslims will know the true Messiah, Jesus the Christ. Mary will attest...With God everything is possible.
The World's First Love by Archbishop Fulton Sheen first published by Garden City Books in 1952. Available at Ignatius Press. Article adapted from the Catholic World Report, January 2002. Also found in Mindszenty Report. October 2001, vol XLIII-no. 10