CS Lewis is Muslim

I’ve been sitting on this idea for a little bit; when I work with Muslim kids I often explain to them that The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is not a Christian allegory, so much as it is a Muslim one, specifically a Shi’ah Muslim allegory. Let me walk you through my ill-thought thinking.

First, we know Lewis was opposed to a live-action version of the Chronicles, calling the representation of Aslan “blasphemy,” strong words from a religious person. The presence of an anti-iconic can be felt in such a statement.

Second, we know that the lion is named Aslan, from Persian for the word for “lion.” (Haroon, shame on you for not picking that up in your linguistic analysis.) Now, one of the other Persian words for “lion” is sher (pronounced like “share”), and one of the names for the first Shi’ah Imam, Ali ibn Abi Talib, is sher-e khuda, The Lion of God (asadullah in Arabic). Most Persian speaking places have large Shi’ah populations, and of course Iran is mostly Shi’ah. So this is our first clue that Lewis is writing a Shi’ah Muslim allegory.

Now, the obvious question is what about Aslan’s death and resurrection, does that not scream the death and resurrection of Jesus? Possibly. Remember that while Jesus’ death was witnessed by many, his resurrection was seen by few. In the case of Aslan, the reverse seems to be true; his death was seen by few, but his re-appearance was seen by many. Along the lines of symbolic reading, imagine if you will that it is not Aslan that re-appears, but the essence of Aslan. This essence is like the nur-e khuda (Light of God) present in the Imams. One physical form may pass, but the light is made apparent in a new form (mazhar). From a perspective of continual guidance, nothing has changed. To call on Ali is to call on all the Imams. Aslan is a warrior, guide, and leader; Jesus was not a lion, but lamb (not in a pejorative sense), who taught a deep spiritual message. The war that Jesus fought was not in the way that Aslan fights his war; Aslan’s battles are the battles of Imam Ali, the Lion of God. His re-appearance is the appearance of the next Imam, the re-appearance of the nur.

So, I submit to you that Lewis was writing a Shi’ah Muslim allegory in his work, not a Christian one.

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4 thoughts on “CS Lewis is Muslim

  1. Salaams,
    An interesting reading.
    Not to be a stick in the mud, fellow Muslim Yankee (born & bred in Beantown), but you haven’t addressed the message of Vicarious Atonement (i.e., Aslan/Christ’s taking on the sins of Edmund/Mankind) and there’s the advent of the New Dispensation (i.e., Aslan/Christ releasing the world from the obligations of the Deep Magic/Jewish Law). Those strike me as highly prominent and uber-Christian themes.
    You got me thinking, though. Are there any mystcial or figurative parallels in Shiah thought? For example, is it felt that the world changed fundamentally after Imam Hussein’s matyrdom? I don’t mean this in a derogatory way–it’s hard to express this succinctly–but had he not died the way he did, would the universe have remained basically the same? Is there a notion of this tragedy forging a new reality or spiritual context? Or is it “just” a great tragedy and lesson for Shiahs?
    Speaking of Islamicate re-readings of popular fiction, I think I need to blog about my theory that the Bajorans on Star Trek Deep Space Nine are not only Muslim, but Shiah.
    And then there’s my belief that the Grinch was actually a tragic hero of American multi-culturalism, but that’s neither here nor there.

  2. A deeper analysis might dig into the similarities between Shi’a theology and Christian theology. Mahmoud Ayoub has done a good job at finding common ground there. Perhaps the reason this appears to be a Shi’a allegory is that the emphasis on “suffering” is so very important in both Christianity and Shi’ism, something absent from Sunni theology.
    Your post did get me thinking…

  3. Star Trek Deep Space Nine:
    you said Khan ‘Noonien Singh’ is a shia’ muslim?..fucking kidding me??…there is more sikh name in that than muslim. and you narrowed it down to shia’..do some research before acting a prophet and think less.

  4. In CS Lewis’ landmark book “The Abolition of Man,” he assembled examples of what he called the Tao, or the Natural Law: principles held by people in a wide variety of cultures and civilizations. These principles include “Duties to Parents, Elders, Ancestors”; “Duties to Children and Posterity”; “The Law of Good Faith and Veracity”; “The Law of Magnanimity”; and more. He illustrates the universality of these principles by quotations from sources as diverse as the Old Testament, the New testament, Virgil’s Aeneid, the Bhagavad Gita, Confucius’ Analects, the writings of Australian aborigines, and many others. Completely missing are any quotations from the Qur’an or other Muslim sources. In “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment,” CS Lewis described Islam as “a Christian heresy.” The reason is that Islam simply does not uphold what he calls “The Law of General Beneficence”: One is not to be charitable except to fellow believers. The unpleasant fact is that Islam simply does not teach the Golden Rule. Jesus’ dictum that “whatever you wish that men do to you, do so to them” (Matthew 7:12) appears in virtually every religious tradition on the planet — except Islam. The Qur’an and Hadith make such a sharp distinction between believers and unbelievers that there is no room for any commandment of general beneficence.

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