Filipino Theologian Embraces Islam:

November 6, 2007 at 5:31 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

MANILA, Philippines – When Muslim rebel leader Nur Misuari wanted Mindanao to secede and become an Islamic state, a Mindanao-born theologian and sociologist was among the first to rise and argue that the southern Philippine island is never home to Muslims alone.

Catholic priest Estanislao Soria campaigned against the Moros’ takeover of the whole of Mindanao. “I vehemently disagreed with Mr. Misuari. I campaigned against the Moro movement,” said Soria, who used to be popularly known as “Father Stan.”

Soria did not want to argue without basis as he is an academic and theologian schooled in the Jesuit-run learning institutions.

He embarked on a historical and sociological research to back his arguments. In the back of mind, though, was the thought of the need to convert Muslims to Christianity. This also brought him to read Islamic writings, and, quite surprisingly, lead him to revert to Islam.

“As a linguist well-versed in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, I thought I can learn Arabic that easily. I also wanted to translate Arabic writings into English as well as translate Western ideologies like existentialism into Arabic but I realized it was difficult,” he told

Soria believed that making Western writings available in Arabic would lead Muslims in Mindanao to appreciate Christianity more than Islam. “I wanted to open their minds to Christianity because I had heard a lot of negative things about the Muslims. I told myself they have to be educated.”

But in getting deep into his readings, Soria realized that persons considered as “Church fathers” such as Saint Thomas Aquinas, got their knowledge from Islamic readings and teachings; that many of the so-called Western ideologies and theologies have long been discussed in Islam.

“[My readings] enlightened me that Western civilization’s thoughts sprung from Islamic teachings. After reading more works of Islamic theologians, I strongly changed my views on Islam,” he said.

Soria added, “I even realized that the Gospel of Barnabas is even more credible than the gospels of the four evangelists [included in the Christian Bible].” The Gospel of Barnabas is a work purporting to be a depiction of the life of Jesus by his disciple Barnabas. It is also considered to be pro-Islamic.

He, too, found out through his sociological research that most of the negative things said of the Filipino Muslims were untrue. “They were not what they were stereotyped to be.”

In 2001, Soria, who had served as parish priest in various cities and towns in Metro Manila after taking his college and theology studies at Xavier University and Loyola School of Theology, both of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, reverted to Islam.

He has since been known as Muhammad Soria, but many, including his Muslim friends, still call him “Father Stan.”

The 64-year-old Soria said his decision was met with condemnation and disgust by most of his relatives and former parishioners, an experience similar to what many of the Muslim reverts, locally known as Balik Islam, go through. This, however, did not deter him from leaving the priesthood after 14 years and embracing Islam.

Soria is getting used to Islam, which to him is not only a religion but a way of life.

He has gone on Hajj in Makkah five times already, being a member of the Islamic Da`wah Movement of the Philippines. He also married a 24-year-old woman last year after living a celibate life as a priest.

Soria said that if there is one thing that Muslims should learn from Christians, it is being organized. To him, having a structure would greatly help in spreading Islam as structure helped the Christians.

For example, he said, Muslims should put up universities all over the globe, as Catholic missionaries did with their universities. Also, “why can’t Islamic states produce preachers and do what the Christian missionaries did?” he asked.

He further said there is a need to “intellectualize Islam through rationality” because by doing so the teachings embodied in the Qur’an would be better appreciated by people totally new to it.

He is also ecstatic about the annual fast this Ramadan. He said he is again reminded of the sunrise to sundown fast’s “spiritual value” in contrast to the Christian’s dieting “which is too material or human.”

Soria said, “In Islam, we are taught that if you discipline your body the Creator would grant your wish.” Harmony between Filipino Muslims and Filipino Christians in this largely Christian nation, amid the stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists, is among the wishes he prays to be granted.(Rexcel Sorza)


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