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The movie “Argo” is the true story of six Americans who escaped from the U.S. embassy in Iran when it was taken by the supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1978. All of the American personnel, except these six, were held hostage. The six who escaped from the embassy hid in the residence of the Canadian ambassador until a C.I.A. agent came to get them. The C.I.A. agent taught the six Americans to pretend that they were a Canadian film crew making a movie in Iran. The plan worked well, and they all flew out of Iran safely.

This web page is almost entirely about the Middle Ages in Europe, but there was a Middle Ages in the Middle East also, and it is very interesting. I invite anyone who knows much about the medieval Islam to write a comment here.

I recently read an interesting book about two groups of Muslim Theologians who debated the nature of GOD during the Middle Ages. One group was called the Mu’tazilites. They emphasized the goodness of GOD, and the fact that HE would never do anything bad. The other group was the Ash’arim. They emphasized the omnipotence of GOD. According to them, the Mu’tazilites were guilty of blasphemy because they taught that GOD is limited. If HE cannot do evil, then there is a limit to His power, there is something that HE cannot do, which is impossible because GOD is omnipotent and therefore there is nothing HE cannot do. We mere human beings cannot presume to know what GOD can or will do. HE can do anything, and HIS actions are completely unpredictable, so we human beings should simply obey GOD without trying to understand what we cannot possibly understand no matter how hard we try. The Ash’arim were thus anti-intellectual, whereas the Mu’tazilites taught that we human beings should seek wisdom and try to understand GOD as much as we can. There were moments during the Middle Ages when the Mu’tazilites were dominant in Islam. By the end of the Middle Ages, however, the Ash’arim had taken control and dominated Islam, which is why the Muslim culture, which had some splendid intellectual and artistic achievements during the Middle Ages, declined in the early modern period relative to the rapidly progressing West.

These two elements still exist in Islam today. There are still some Muslims who emphasize GOD’s power, and want blind, unthinking obedience. There are other Muslims who emphasize GOD’s goodness, and want truth and love throughout the world. Not all Muslims are alike, and Americans would do well to understand that.