Muslim-Christian Dialogue

A History of Christian -Muslim Dialogue 

by Charles Kimball

Intentional, structured encounters between Muslims and Christians are generally termed “Muslim-Christian dialogue.” Interfaith dialogue is a conversation in which two or more parties seek to express their views accurately and to listen respectfully to their counterparts. Since the second half of the twentieth century, organized dialogue meetings have proliferated at the local, regional, and international levels. The meetings vary significantly in their organization, focus, and venue, as well as in the composition of participants.

Several motives have propelled the contemporary dialogue movement. These include desires to foster understanding, to stimulate communication, to correct stereotypes, to work on specific problems of mutual concern, to explore similarities and differences, and to facilitate means of witness and cooperation. The pragmatic need for better understanding and cooperation among adherents in the world’s two largest communities of faith—Christianity and Islam—is particularly acute. Together Christians and Muslims comprise almost half the world’s population, so the way in which they relate is bound to have profound consequences for both communities and for the world.

The dynamics of interfaiThencounter between Muslims and Hindus, Muslims and Jews, and Muslims and Christians differ. Their historic relationships as well as their major theological, social, and political concerns vary markedly. Contemporary initiatives in Muslim-Christian dialogue can be understood best in the larger context which can be established by a brief overview of dominant themes in Muslim-Christian encounter.

Historical Background.

Muslim-Christian dialogue dates back to the rise of Islam in the seventh century. Rooted as both traditions are in the monotheism of the patriarch Abraham, Muslims and Christians share a common heritage. For more than fourteen centuries these communities of faith have been linked by their theological understandings and by geographical proximity. The history of Muslim-Christian interaction includes periods of great tension, hostility, and open war as well as times of uneasy toleration, peaceful coexistence, and cooperation.

Islamic self-understanding incorporates an awareness of and direct link with the biblical tradition. Muḥammad, his companions, and subsequent generations of Muslims have been guided by the Qurʿān, which they have understood as a continuation and completion of God’s revelations to humankind. The Qurʿān speaks of many prophets (anbiyāʿ, singular nabī) and messengers (rusul, sg. rasūl) who functioned as agents of God’s revelation. Particular emphasis is laid on the revelations through Moses (the Torah) and Jesus (the Gospel) and their respective communities of faith or “People of the Book” (ahl al-kitāb). See PEOPLE OF THE BOOK.

The Qurʿān includes positive affirmations for the People of the Book, including the promise that Jews and Christians who have faith, trust in God and the Last Day, and do what is righteous “shall have their reward” (2:62 and 5:69). The different religious communities are explained as a part of God’s plan; if God had so willed, the Qurʿān asserts, humankind would be one community. Diversity among the communities provides a test for people of faith: “Compete with one another in good works. To God you shall all return and He will tell you (the truth) about that which you have been disputing” (5:48).

The Qurʿān states that “there shall be no compulsion in religious matters” (2:256). Peaceful coexistence is affirmed (106:1–6). At the same time, the People of the Book are urged to “come to a common word” on the understanding of the unity of God (tawhīd) and proper worship (e.g., 3:644:1715:82, and 29:46). Christians, in particular, are chided for having distorted the revelation of God. Traditional Christian doctrines of the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity are depicted as compromising the unity and transcendence of God (e.g., 5:72–755:117, and 112:3). There are also verses urging Muslims to fight, under certain circumstances, those who have been given a book but “practice not the religion of truth” (9:29).

FULL ARTICLE FROM OXFORD ISLAMIC STUDIES 

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JOURNEY INTO INTERFAITH DIALOGUE – 1939-2011
Lucy Brydon OSB

Had Allah so willed He would surely have made you one single community.
Instead (He gave each of you a Law and a way of life)
in order to test you by what He gave you.
Vie, then, with one another in good works.
Unto Allah is the return of all of you;
and He will then make you understand the truth
concerning the matters on which you disagreed.
(
Holy Qur’an 5:48)

If God is infinite, nothing can be separate.
(
Sir John Marks Templeton)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I look back over my life I realise that I belonged to a “minority religion”. I was part of a fervent Roman Catholic family in a largely Protestant neighbourhood where ecumenism had hardly been heard of. My childhood was an experience of learning good neighbourliness and friendship with people of “other religions”,  Anglicans, Methodists, and Baptists. It was an excellent preparation for the REAL interfaith dialogue that would take place in later years. Even though in those days we were not allowed to enter another church building, much less take part in “the services or prayers of a false religion” (Penny Catechism), yet we did relate to each other, play with each other, help each other out, and pray for each other—at least, we Catholics prayed for those not of the True Faith! We went to separate schools and churches, but somehow this did not matter so much when playing cowboys and Indians; or keeping house. I don’t remember fighting about religion, or even discussing it, but when we engaged in playful snow fights, it was “Cathy Cats” versus “Proddy Dogs”—all fairly good-natured.

Later, while still young, I remember being shocked to learn that some Christians actually blamed Jews for the death of Jesus. From my earliest days I had known that Jesus was a Jew and that we (sinners) were the ones who caused his suffering and death through our unfaithfulness to Him. My parents, though uneducated, must have had a very open and expansive understanding of who Jesus was for us.

After my primary school years, where I did have contacts at home with other Christians, I then attended a Roman Catholic direct grant Grammar School run by sisters. It had a boarding house for people like me who came from remote areas. From this time onwards, I had little contact with people of other Christian denominations, and none at all with people of other religions. After school I joined the religious community which had educated me, went to university as a young sister, and taught for many years in the same Roman Catholic school during its transformation (?) from direct grant Grammar School to Comprehensive School. There were some ecumenical contacts with other staff members and some parents, but I do not remember ever meeting anyone of another religion.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DIMMID.ORG

****

The Most Beautiful Names of God: Their Meaning for a Christian

by Michael L. Fitzgerald (Catholic priest)

Dialogue and Proclamation, a document produced in 1991 by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue together with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, noted that interreligious dialogue can take on different forms. It distinguished four: the dialogue of life, the dialogue of action, the dialogue of theological exchange and the dialogue of religious experience. [1] It was in fact building on indications given in an earlier document, The Attitude of the Church toward the Followers of Other Religions. Reflection and Orientations on Dialogue and Mission, published in 1984 by the Secretariat for Non Christians (which was later re-named the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue). [2]

Dialogue and Proclamation gives the following description of the dialogue of religious experience: “where persons, rooted in their own religious traditions, share their spiritual riches, for instance with regard to prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God or the Absolute”. [3] The earlier document, Dialogue and Mission, underlined the scope and purpose of such exchanges: “This type of dialogue can be a (source of) mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation for promoting and preserving the highest values and spiritual ideals. It leads naturally to each partner communicating to the other the reasons for his (or her) own faith. The sometimes profound differences between the faiths do not prevent this dialogue. Those differences, rather, must be referred back in humility and confidence to God who ‘is greater than our heart’ (1 Jn 3:20). In this way, also, the Christian has the opportunity of offering to the other the possibility of experimenting in an existential way with the values of the Gospel.” [4]

In order to prepare for this type of dialogue it may be necessary, or at least useful, to examine the riches to be found in another religious tradition, and to see what resonance they may have within one’s own spiritual tradition. This is the purpose of the essay offered here which attempts to see how the Islamic tradition of the Beautiful Names of God can provide inspiration for Christians. [5]

Full Article from Monastic Interfaith Dialogue

____________________

How I Rediscovered Christianity  Through Islam

By Philip Clayton

I always thought that the way to believe more deeply was to surround myself with other Christians. After all, isn’t that the traditional tool for religious socialization? Send the child to Sunday School, surround her with Christian friends and teachers, make it a Christian high school and college if possible … and then her faith will hold for life. Teaching a child to be Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, it was said, works much the same way.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

__________

Muslim-Christian Dialogue Defined

by Charles Kimball

from the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World

Intentional, structured encounters between Muslims and Christians are generally termed “Muslim-Christian dialogue.” Interfaith dialogue is a conversation in which two or more parties seek to express their views accurately and to listen respectfully to their counterparts. Since the second half of the twentieth century, organized dialogue meetings have proliferated at the local, regional, and international levels. The meetings vary significantly in their organization, focus, and venue, as well as in the composition of participants. Several motives have propelled the contemporary dialogue movement. These include desires to foster understanding, to stimulate communication, to correct stereotypes, to work on specific problems of mutual concern, to explore similarities and differences, and to facilitate means of witness and cooperation. The pragmatic need for better understanding and cooperation among adherents in the world’s two largest communities of faith—Christianity and Islam—is particularly acute. Together Christians and Muslims comprise almost half the world’s population, so the way in which they relate is bound to have profound consequences for both communities and for the world.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE OXFORD ISLAMIC STUDIES WEBSITE

______________________

Faith and the Possibility of Christian-Muslim-Jewish Trialogue

Patrick J. Ryan, S.J.
Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society
Fordham University

I have been privileged over several decades to study the scriptural sources and some of the subsequent theological development not only of the Jewish and Christian traditions, but also, at least since 1968, of the Islamic tradition. Here in America I  have learned from Jews, and during many years in Africa I learned from Muslims. I have come to realize over the years that we use many of the same religious categories in ways that are in some sense the same and in some sense different. This evening I want to spell out some of the similarities and differences in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim understandings of faith, and to suggest why those similarities and differences can give us hope for a future of mutual understanding.

Full Document from Creighton University Website 

 

__________

Christian-Muslim Dialogue:  Goals and Obstacles

by Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub
Christianity may have come to Arabia with St. Paul when he retired to the desert east of the Jordan River for several mysterious years. From the Syrian Desert, Christianity was carried into South Arabia, perhaps by wandering monks, where it played a significant role in the rise of a rich civilization. From there, Christianity came to Northern Arabia, where it helped prepare the moral and spiritual grounds for Islam. From its inception, Islam grew in an environment permeated with Eastern Christian spiritual and moral values. It is likely that it was to this spiritual heritage of Eastern Christianity that the Prophet Muhammad referred when he declared: “I sense the breath of the All-merciful (nafas al-rahman) from the Yaman.” The breath of the All-merciful is the divine spirit of holiness which Jesus manifested as the victorious savior over demonic powers. Thus, the Christianity that the Qur’an extols is not the official Christianity of Rome and Byzantium with its elaborate theology, but the popular piety of desert monks who carried on the work of healing and purification that Christ began during his earthly sojourn.

__________

Seeking Muslim, Christian and Jewish Wisdom in the Fifteenth, Twenty-first and Fifty-eighth centuries:

A Muscat Manifesto

By

David F. Ford

Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge
Director, Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme
Lecture at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Muscat, Oman

On Monday 20th April 2009

Seeking the Wisdom of God: A triple dynamic

My theme in this lecture is seeking the wisdom we need for living in our time, which according to the Muslim, Christian and Jewish calendars is the fifteenth, twenty-first and fifty-eighth centuries. There are many rich traditions of wisdom in our world, among which I will focus on these three, whose members together make up around half of the world’s population.

FULL ARTICLE

________________

Growing Ecologies of Peace, Compassion and Blessing: A Muslim Response to ‘A Muscat Manifesto’

byAref Ali Nayed

Lecture at the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, Faculty of Divinity

University of Cambridge

Wednesday 21st October 2009

In the Name of God, Compassionate, Kind. Blessings upon the Prophets of God

In the welcoming setting of Oman’s distinguished theological faculty, and the

sublime beauty of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Professor David Ford of the Cambridge Faculty of Divinity offered Muslim scholars a gift. He named the gift ‘A Muscat Manifesto’, and distilled in it the wisdom of decades of deep theological work and experience.1 The gift consisted of good advice on the features of good theology, the characteristics of good religious leadership, and guidelines for inter-faith relations.

Professor Ford, of course, spoke from the depths of his own Christian wisdom tradition, but his advice, coming from a sincere and loving heart, did transcend inter-faith boundaries, and touched the hearts of many Muslim scholars.2 What comes from the heart enters hearts. I pray that I can respond to ‘A Muscat Manifesto’ from the heart. Of course, the best heart-felt response to a gift is gratitude. So, it is my honour to publicly thank Professor Ford for his wonderful gift, and to elaborate the ‘thank you’ theologically, as best as I can.

‘A Muscat Manifesto’ provides the features or ‘key elements’ for ‘wise theology’. It also provides the characteristics for a more engaging religious leadership. It then goes on to provide guidelines for inter-faith relations. Let us start with the features of a wise theology.

Professor Ford offers four such features:

1. Wise theology is based on wise interpretation and understanding of scripture and tradition.

2. Wise theology is doubly engaged, in the present: with God (in prayer); and with our changing world (in living).

3. Wise theology is intelligent and creative in its understanding of things, divine and worldly.

4. Wise theology communicates itself to others effectively.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CREIGHTON UNIVERSITY WEBSITE

_____________

A Common Word

Last year (2008) a group of prominent international Muslim leaders issued an appeal for dialogue with Christian communities world wide.  Below is a summation of what they called “A Common Word Between Us and You” followed by one of many responses from Christian communities, in this case the response of the National Council of Churches of Christ (USA).

For a full copy of the statement along with responses and discussion please visit  A Common Word website.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
A Common Word between Us and You
(Summary and Abridgement)

Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population.
Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no
meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between
Muslims and Christians.

FULL ARTICLE

———–

Response from ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hansen

“Greetings to you in the name of Almighty God, our Creator and Sustainer.Hanson.desk.2007.200

On October 11, (2007) a copy of a letter was delivered to me from Muslim scholars and religious leaders addressed to Christian religious leaders around the world.  As presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and president of the Lutheran World Federation, I receive this letter in the sincere expression of faithfulness intended by its drafters, and with the hopeful expectation for peace that calls to us from the origins of our sacred texts and professions of faith.  I encourage prayer and planning for communities of justice, peace, and security where Muslims, Jews, and Christians draw from these origins as from essential wells of living water.

The letter attests to both the love of God and our shared heritage of true hospitality to one’s neighbor.  These commandments convey prophetic witness for mutual and vital co-existence that Christians and Muslims must embrace in one another.  The letter further references how the commands to love God and neighbor are linked ‘between the Qur’an, the Torah and the New Testament.’  I encourage everyone everywhere to read the beauty of these passages found in the sacred texts of the Abrahamic faiths, which signify God’s vision for how and whom we love in a broken world.  This common vision for Jews, Muslims, and Christians signifies fidelity and fellowship in a world where conflict offends our common heritage as children of God.

In 2005 I, along with an LWF delegation that included General Secretary Ishmael Noko, met with His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi, personal envoy and special advisor to King Abdullah II of Jordan.  Our delegation was grateful for the sincere hospitality and friendship that were so freely displayed in our conversation.  The delegation spoke at length with Prince Ghazi about the origins of the Abrahamic faiths in that region of the world.  In another meeting, Akel Biltaji, advisor to His Majesty the King, stated, “We are honored to be servants and custodians of the Holy sites.”

I acknowledge this letter in gratitude and recognition of the need for its further study and consideration.  I likewise accept it in the belief that Jews, Muslims, and Christians are called to one another as to a holy site, where God’s living revelation in the world is received in reverence among the faithful and not in fear of our neighbors.

I pray for God’s continued blessings among Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike, and thank God for such displays of wisdom and humility from their leaders.”

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson

Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

President, The Lutheran World Federation

____________

An Ecumenical Response to
“A Common Word Between Us and You”
by the

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA[1]

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.
“Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law?  What do you read there?”
He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

(Luke 10:25-28, NRSV)

Introduction:  An Affirmation of Christian-Muslim Engagement

The churches that comprise the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA welcome with gratitude “A Common Word Between Us and You.”  Addressed to leaders of Christian churches around the world, your letter expresses an intent to engage seriously with Christians in dialogue that is grounded in the authentic religious convictions of our respective communities.  Based upon the love of God and the love of neighbor – the two great commandments central to Islam, Christianity, and Judaism – your letter invites Christians to join with Muslims to forge ties of peace.  This is a bold and timely invitation.  Out of Christian faithfulness, and with respect for Islam, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, whose member churches’ common Christian witness leads them to seek unity with one another and peace with justice for all people, offers this ecumenical response to you, our Muslim friends, as an acceptance of your invitation.

FULL ARTICLE

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One thought on “Muslim-Christian Dialogue

  1. I suppose the question might involve how two parties can learn to disagree. I must admit the rigidity sanctioned under the rubric of religion would not be acceptable in other domains. Perhaps this means there is a larger problem…

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