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Christian Mission and Islamic Studies: Beyond Antithesis.

For many professionals the combination of Christian mission and Islamic studies is anathema. This essay will argue, however, that missionary scholarship concerning Islam deserves serious attention on four counts. Historically, missionary scholars pioneered the study of Islam. In addition, missionary scholars were the first to examine Islam in the cultural context of Muslim societies. In the sense of the outworking of a theological vision, missionary scholars were also the first to explore the possibility of an ecumenical relationship between Christianity and Islam, bequeathing a more varied legacy of interreligious concern than is generally credited. Finally, in terms of sociopolitical commitment to the transformation of unjust sociopolitical conditions, missionary scholars today are among the leading advocates of Christian-Muslim solidarity in human liberation from oppressions that contradict the reign of God.

From this base it will be concluded that scholarship of Islam, in both its university and missionary manifestations, needs to move beyond schizophrenic antithesis and develop new concepts and methods that befit the oikoumene of the one world, in which Christianity and Islam inhabit shared space.

Eastern Christian Scholarship

The beginnings of Christian scholarship of Islam beckon us to the region where Christians and Muslims first found common space: Palestine in the seventh century A.D. Our story begins a few miles east of Jerusalem (which fell to Islam in 638), in the Judean hills beyond Bethlehem, at the monastery of Mar Saba, clamped to the cliffs of the upper Kidron Valley (wadi al-nahr). (1) Originally a Greek laura, Mar Saba was the place where Arabic replaced Greek as the language of Palestinian Christian theology from the second half of the eighth century. This shift paralleled the transition from Greek to Arabic in the administrative language of the Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus. When John of Damascus (675-749) resigned his position as financial secretary to the early Umayyad caliphs in Damascus, he moved to Mar Saba and devoted his remaining years to writing. He was a bilingual theologian. The references in his theological writing to "the heresy of the Ishmaelites" evidence his command of Arabic, but he wrote his Fount of Knowledge in Greek. (2) His chief successor, Theodore Abu Qurra (ca. 750-ca. 820), hailed from lower Mesopotamia. He joined the monks of Mar Saba and contributed formatively to the development of Christian apologetics, writing in both Greek and Arabic. By the mid-ninth century apologetics had given way to more systematic Arabic Christian theology; the genre of jumla, equivalent, to the Latin summa, embraced the range of Christian theology--biblical exegesis, history, doctrine, liturgy, ethics--formulated consciously within the worldview of Islam. Of this development Sidney Griffith states, "The time was now ripe for a comprehensive presentation of the Christian point of view, taking into account the new socio-political realities of life under the rule of Muslims." (3)

The Mar Saba theologians did not write about Islam; indeed, they adopted a policy of judicious silence about the Qur'an and Muhammad. But they wrote from within the Islamic cultural milieu, and their theology, robustly Christian in content, (4) was expressed in the language characteristically associated with the Qur'an, and in dialectic with the developing traditions of Islamic kalam (theology) and falsafa (philosophy). Eastern Christian scholarship of Islam begins not from the outside looking in but from within a common cultural matrix to which both Muslims and Christians contributed.

Western Christian Scholarship

Turning to the West, it is again in the monasteries that we find the earliest Latin interest in the study of Islam. Cluniac monks from France were probably the first Latin Christians to venture as missionaries to Andalusia. (5) There they encountered Jews and Christians who had been in Spain since the second century, and Muslims who conquered the Visigoths in the seventh. By the eleventh century the abbey of Cluny already housed a library of Islamic literature, and it was the twelfth Abbot, Peter the Venerable (1094-1156), who recruited a group of Cluniac scholar-monks in Toledo to translate a collection of Islamic religious texts, including the Qur'an, from Arabic into Latin. The Toledan collection constituted the primary source of textual knowledge about Islam in medieval Christendom.

Peter the Venerable failed to persuade theologians of his own day to make use of the translations. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) was more interested in supporting the Crusaders than understanding their foes. He refused to write a Christian response to Islam, and eventually Peter wrote his own in two volumes, Summa totius haeresis Saracenorum and Liber contra sectam sive haeresim Saracenorum. (6)

Distinguished for their charitable intent more than scholarly content, (7) these first faltering attempts at a Latin account of Islam were qualitatively surpassed by the work of the Dominicans in the thirteenth century. In the realm of language, Raymond of Penafort (1180-1275) pioneered missionary schools for the study of both Hebrew and Arabic, which were established first in Tunis, where the Dominicans maintained a mission from 1225, and then in Barcelona for Hebrew and Valencia for Arabic. Raymond is credited with persuading his fellow Dominican Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) to write an exposition of Christian doctrine for use among Dominican missionaries to Islam. In contrast to Peter's biblically based approach, Thomas's Summa contra Gentiles (1259-64) used philosophy rather than Scripture to outline the religious principles that Christians and Muslims held in common. According to this Thomist view, if a Muslim could be persuaded to admit the rational basis of Christian faith, the verities of Christian doctr ine could thereafter be received through grace.

Applying these principles, the late thirteenth-century Dominican William of Tripoli (1220-91) was the first to explore the libraries of Syria in search of historical information on Islam--the life of the Prophet, the compilation of the Qur'an, and the history of the caliphate down to his own times. He wrote up his research, together with a review of points of theological agreement and disagreement between Islam and Christianity, in his Tractatus de statu Saracenorum. (8) William's near contemporary the Italian Ricoldo da Montecroce (1243-1320) studied Arabic, Islamic theology, and philosophy for five years at the Mustansiriyya University in Baghdad and included among his writings an Itinerarium that contains reports on the social conditions and mores of the Muslim communities he visited in Palestine, Syria, and Iraq. (9)

To these early Dominican missionary studies of Islamic religion, history, and society must be added the contribution of the Franciscan Ramon Lull (1235-1315), the first medieval theologian to develop a full missionary theology toward Islam. Following in the path of St. Francis (1181-1226), whose First Rule instructed Franciscan missionaries on how to live peacefully among Saracens, Lull pioneered a different theological approach to Islam than that of his Dominican peers. Although he shared Raymond of Penafort's enthusiasm for the Arabic language and Thomas's avocation for philosophy, he was as imaginative as Raymond was rational, as mystical as Thomas was scholastic. His distinction lay in his pioneering interest in Sufism, the spiritual tradition of Islam. (10) He read, translated, and popularized the work of the Persian theologian al-Ghazali (d. 1111), whose integration of Sufi interiority with Islamic religious learning made his Ihya Ulum al-Din (The revivification of religious sciences) one of the master pieces of medieval Islam. AL-Ghazali's thought influenced Lull's great work, the Ars magna. (11) Lull may also have read the Murcian mystic Ibn al-Arabi (11165-1240), whose emanationist theories of the manifestation of divine attributes in the phenomena of nature, and in the personalities of the prophets, are reflected in Lull's own mysticism. (12)

Lull used his several university appointments in France and Italy to include Islam in the curriculum of religious sciences. In the court of James I of Majorca he found patronage for his ambition to create a new study center in the Majorcan town of Miramar. Toward the end of his life he persuaded the Council of Vienne (1312) to approve, though it failed to implement, his plans for the establishment of Arabic and Islamic studies in the universities of Rome, Bologna, Salamanca, Paris, and Oxford.

This brief review of the thirteenth-century Dominican and Franciscan initiatives reveals the scope and intent of early-medieval Latin missionary scholarship of Islam. It was linguistically based in Arabic, marking a qualitative advance upon Peter the Venerable, who was entirely dependent on Latin translations. It broadened the knowledge furnished by Peter's Toledan collection to include Islamic history, qur'anic study, philosophy, and mysticism. In contrast to the Crusading model of Christian-Muslim military confrontation, it presented a vision of ecumenicity between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

This last point is most imaginatively expounded in Lull's Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men, written probably at Miramar about 1275. It tells of a Gentile's search for true religion, which leads him into conversation with three sages, a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim; each commends his religion in the most positive and courteous terms, without a trace of polemical rejection of the others. The Gentile held his own counsel as to which of the faiths he would choose. But the three wise men, reciprocally impressed by each other's explanations of the truth, promised to continue their conversations until, "agreed on one faith, they would go forth into the world, giving glory and praise to the name of our Lord God." (13)

Nineteenth-Century University Studies

The father of modern Islamic studies is generally considered to be Silvestre de Sacy (1758-1838), who held the chair of Arabic in Paris. He pioneered the secularization of university scholarship. Philology rather than theology became the main disciplinary tool of Islamic studies. His two-volume Grammaire-Arabe (1810) established the priority of Arabic studies,(14) to which Turkish was a close second. (15) These were the languages of the Ottoman Empire, identified by Europeans in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as the "Near East"--their closest point of contact with the world of Islam. Beyond the Ottoman empire, Persian civilization and language were a "Middle Eastern" addition of particular importance to Britain and Russia, as Britain expanded its economic, military, and political involvement in India, and Russia sought warm-water access to international trade in the Indian Ocean. The "Far East"--domains beyond Britain's Indian empire--fell within Dutch imperial influence, and the study of Indon esian languages became the specialism of the University of Leidan. (16)

Whereas the medieval scholarship of Islam reflected the interests of the church, the nineteenth-century development of Islamic studies went hand-in-hand with diplomacy and imperialism. But university scholarship also had two areas of religious interest. First was the Semiticists' cultural interest in the Sitz im Leben of biblical texts and their authors. (17) Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) pioneered research in the textual history and background of the Hebrew scriptures, for which purpose he used Arabic as a cognate language and culture. He believed that the study of pre-Islamic Arabia and the early history of Islam revealed typological parallels with the development of Hebrew religion.

A second religious interest among university scholars lay in the philosophy of religion. Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921) admired Islam, viewing it as a naturally Semitic religion that could speak to the needs of its Semitic relative, Judaism. Goldziher, a lifelong member of the reformed synagogue in Budapest, confessed to being drawn to Islam as "the only religion in which superstition and pagan elements were expunged not through rationalism but through orthodox teaching." (18) In his Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law he explained Islam as a human and civilizational exemplification of Schleiermacher's notion of religion as dependence upon Transcendence.

The university discipline of Islamic studies thus embraced both Islamic civilization and religion, but the latter was analyzed under historical-cultural categories that reflected the secularizing instincts of European Enlightenment scholarship. Islamic society and religion were accessed primarily through texts. This approach privileged Cairo and Damascus as the centers of intellectual attention, where manuscripts could be acquired in abundance, and in turn privileged the thinking of urban Muslim reformers. Like them, nineteenth-century European scholars, Jews and Christians, preferred earlier to later texts, the shared methodology being to return to the origins of religion in order to (re)interpret it through the mind of its earliest proponents. As Hodgson points out, Islamic studies from their inception "have tended to be concerned, above all, with high culture, to the neglect of more local or lower-class social conditions; and within high culture, to be preoccupied with religious, literary, and political t hemes, which are most accessible to a philological approach." (19)

Nineteenth--Century Missionary Scholarship

While nineteenth-century missionary scholarship shared certain traits in common with Islamic studies in the university, (20) it is instructive to call attention to dissimilarities. Among Protestant missions, the motivating spirit came directly from eighteenth-century evangelicalism, with its emphasis on personal conversion and salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. Henry Martyn (1781-1812), the first English missionary among Muslims, was a friend of Charles Simeon (1759-1836), the leader of the Evangelical Revival in Cambridge. Martyn represented the rationalistic strand of evangelical debate with Muslim religious thinkers whom he encountered in Northwest India and Persia. Karl Pfander (1803-1865) on the other hand, was nurtured in German pietism. His Balance of Truth provides an apologetic comparison of the doctrines of the Bible and the Qur'an, of Christianity and Islam, based on a precritical acceptance of biblical authority.

Pfander was a self-taught missionary scholar who spent most of his life in Persia, isolated from the contemporary theories of biblical and Islamic studies in the European universities. This background proved a considerable handicap in his public debates with Muslim religious leaders in Agra. Through the influence of Indian Muslims who had studied in Britain, they were aware of the new trends of biblical criticism. They were also aware that some British scholars were writing rather sympathetically about Islam and Islamic civilization. (21) To Pfander's acute discomfort, his Muslim debaters skillfully turned these arguments against his belief in biblical inerrancy and his charges of moral failures in Islam. (22)

Into this missionary crisis stepped two evangelical scholars. The more famous in Islamic studies was William Muir (1819-1905), a Scot who made his career in the Indian civil service, where he rose to become governor of the North West Frontier. There he encountered Islam, and through knowledge of Persian (the administrative language of the Moghul Empire) and Arabic, he devoted his leisure hours to reading the original sources of Islam and Islamic history. On returning to Scotland, he became principal of the University of Edinburgh and a supporter of Islamic studies. Although never a missionary himself, his Life of Muhammad and several other volumes on the early history of Islam were written in support of the missionary cause, specifically to give it a stronger foundation in scholarship so as to avoid further embarrassment of the kind that Pfander had suffered.

Contemporary with Muir, William St. Clair Tisdall (1859-1928) was the first missionary scholar to apply European critical scholarship to the sources of Islam. He concluded that Islamic origins lay in a confluence of Sabean, Jewish, Zoroastrian, and heretical Christian influences. (23) A similar kind of approach was developed by the Scottish emigre to the United States Duncan Black Macdonald (1863-1943), who was appointed first professor of Islamic studies in Hartford Seminary Foundation, home (from 1911) of the Kennedy School of Missions.

If missionary scholars thus borrowed some of the concepts and results of university scholarship, the fit has never been comfortable. Evangelical Christianity is, after all, characteristically concerned with the quality of personal faith, rather than with the origins and textual history of religion. Andrew Walls illustrated this generalization in a comparison between Karl Pfander and Samuel Adjai Crowther (1807-91), both members of the Church Missionary Society (CMS). Crowther was not a trained missionary scholar of Islam, but his posthumous work Experiences with Heathens and Mohammedans in West Africa (1892) observes Muslim practice in ways that contrast with Pfander's reliance on texts. As Pfander pressed the doctrinal polarity between Christianity and Islam, Crowther's reflections on Islam accepted the qur'anic understanding of Jesus (Isa ibn Mariam) without denunciation and built upon it toward a Christian witness of Jesus Christ that avoided the doctrinal formulas that Muslims find provocative. No less b iblical than Pfander, Crowther's use of the Yoruba vernacular commended Christian scripture to the Niger mallams with whom he debated. More important than the profusion of biblical texts with which his Experiences concludes were the sociocultural observations that he offered about the customs of the Muslim communities he visited along the Niger River. Anecdotal and often prejudicial as they are, they provide for the first time in the English language a humane account of Yoruba Muslim life. (24)

As Crowther gave a human face to Islam in West Africa, so it was CMS women missionaries in Qajar Persia who provided the earliest descriptions of the condition of Persian Muslim women, avoiding both the apologetics of Pfander and the romanticism of orientalist scholars of Persian poetry. The most famous of these is Mary Bird, whose Persian Women and Their Creed (1899) is based on years of medical and educational work among Persian women and children in julfa. Friendship rather than text was the source of her information. Her strategic preference for high-born women who were more likely to effect social change among their poorer sisters parallels the university scholars' preference for the literary elite. Both illustrate the European class-based ideology that infused university and missionary scholarship of the day. (25)

In refreshing contrast the letters of Irish-born Isabella Read anticipate what might be termed a postorientalist approach that has no ulterior motive in observing the lives of Persian and Armenian women. Isabella married an Armenian and took an "almost child-like pleasure in Persian and Armenian women for their own sake, without constant need for theological qualification." (26)

Twentieth-Century Protestant Contributions

Twentieth-century developments of missionary scholarship have significantly advanced evangelical interest in the human aspects of Muslim society. Developments can be traced along three main lines that, although here treated separately, in reality often intersect.

The earliest is the anthropological study of Muslim cultures and societies, which was pioneered by the German-American missionary scholar Samuel Zwemer (1867-1952). A convinced Calvinist, he had deep theological misgivings about Islam. His Calvinist polarity between faith and works, grace and law, led him to judge Islam as belonging to the works-law syndrome, its civilizational achievement providing copious evidence of the spiritual and ethical ambiguity, and ultimate hopelessness, of the human search for God. His categorical rejection of theological value in Islam liberated him from the snares of interfaith ambiguity and freed him to explore other reasons for the social strength of Islam. He was fascinated by Muslim cultural and social practices, and particularly the seemingly endless variety of ways in which popular religion manifests itself. He mapped and charted Muslim societies from Africa to China, (27) gathering popular artifacts of all kinds, which he later gathered into a unique collection in Prince ton Theological Seminary. (28) His finds became research data for a new kind of missionary scholarship, which he used to advantage in his Studies in Popular Islam (1939).

The foundations that Zwemer laid in a practical anthropology of Muslim popular religion have been built upon in more recent times by a coterie of evangelical missionary scholars. To Zwemer's stimulating fieldwork, they have added a sometimes-labored theoretical superstructure for a missiology based in social sciences. Encouraged by the 1974 conference on world evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, which included the issue of "cultural contextualization" in its themes, evangelical missionary scholars of Islam met in North America in 1978 in a conference "The Gospel and Islam." The conference volume bears voluminous testimony to the fact that theology was all but displaced by cultural and social analysis. Islam is understood to exist in people, almost to the exclusion of texts. Folk Islam has precedence over formal Islam. (29)

An alternative route to researching the human qualities of Islam has been explored by the British missionary scholars of the Anglican tradition, especially by CMS-related missionaries in Egypt. The young Anglo-Scot William Temple Gairdner (1873-1924) was a CMS missionary in Cairo. With a good command of Arabic, he pursued doctoral studies at Hartford Seminary Foundation under Professor Macdonald. He translated al-Ghazali's Mishkat al Anwar (Niche of lights), which offers a mystical understanding of verses of the Qur' an that liken God toll light. (30) Gairdner later recalled this work as a conversionary experience, in the sense that it turned him from a polemical to a spiritually searching approach to Islam. In his address to the 1928 Jerusalem world mission conference, which was read posthumously after his premature death, he referred to Islam as a preparatio evangelica. (31)

Gairdner's biographer, Constance Padwick (1886-1928), pursued this line of missionary scholarship in her own research into the prayer life of Islam. The lex credendi, she argued, is a surer route to Christian understanding of what lies at the heart of Islam than either Goldziher's study of Muslim creeds or Zwemer's peregrinations around Muslim societies. Her book Muslim Devotions demonstrates the method of missionary scholarship as spiritual exploration rather than sociological reduction. (32) Kenneth Cragg, who has written several appreciations of Constance Padwick, (33) developed this approach in his extensive writings on Islam. With gentle yet persistent reiteration, he argues that missionary scholarship should engage Islam in its interior commitments to the life of the spirit, rather than relying superficially on civilizational or social manifestations. Cragg therefore seeks to respond to Islam's primary witness (shahada) that "there is no god but God" with an interpretation of the New Testament's underst anding of God, who, in condescension, reveals the inner meaning of divine transcendence as immanence with humankind. From his first book, aptly entitled The Call of the Minaret (1956), Cragg seeks to relate the Gospel to the Qur'an in "a community of faith" that respects differences of belief while affirming a communality of inner intention. (34)

Where is the line to be drawn, it is often asked-especially by more secularly inclined university scholarship-between a communicatio in spiritualibus that is arguably legitimate and a Christianizing of Islam that dissolves the distinctive "other" by spiritual co-option? The question has been asked of Kenneth Cragg, as also of Louis Massignon, who is discussed below. Cragg's response that religions need to be in communication with each other, lest they create a culture of religious apartheid, is true; arguably it misses a point that, as we shall see, Massignon very clearly made in his own work, namely, that Islam needs to be valued in its own spiritual and historical specificity, which cannot be abstracted from radical commitment to action for liberation and justice. Judged against these criteria, Cragg's difficulty in dealing with Muhammad, especially when his ministry moves beyond the proclamation of monotheistic principles in Mecca to their political application in Medina, suggests that what he appreciates of Islam is what he sees, actually and potentially, through evangelical perspectives. (35)

This brings us to the third trend of Protestant missionary scholarship of Islam emerging at the present time. It is being advanced most persuasively by Christian scholars who, like the Melkites with whom this paper began, work from within the Islamic sociopolitical experience. They seek to engage the particularity of the Gospel with the sociospirtual wholeness with which both Islam and Christianity are concerned. From an African perspective, Lamin Sanneh rightly insists that it is in the sociopolitical matrix of religion and politics that Islam and Christianity find their effective encounter. (36) Charles Amjad All from Pakistan sees political theology as providing the new basis for a Christian scholarship of Islam that can be relevant to Muslim scholarship itself. (37) From Lebanon the Orthodox Christian Tarek Mitri has focused on the need for new Christian scholarship of Islamic shari'a that takes full account of the diversity of current Muslim scholarship in this area. (38)

Twentieth-Century Catholic Scholarship

By comparison with the character of contemporary Protestant missionary thinking about Islam, Catholics have given much greater attention to the study of Islamic religious doctrine, setting it significantly in the missionary context. The pioneer was the Egyptian Dominican George Anawati, whose Introduction a la thdologie Musulmane: Essai de theologie comparee, published in 1948, broke new ground in the study of comparative doctrine. (39) Anawati had a lifelong association with the Dominican Institute in Cairo. Its sister institute in Baghdad was associated with the work of the American Dominican Richard McCarthy, who studied the theology of the classical Iraqi scholar al-Ash'ari (d. 935), (40) founder of the Ash'ariyya school of Islamic orthodoxy. Louis Gardet, of the Society of Missionaries to Africa, who continued this scholastic research in his study Dieu et la destine de l'homme, (41) was closely associated with the development of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome. While some Protestant scholars have also contributed to this area of scholarship--for example, Duncan Black Macdonald, already mentioned, and William Montgomery Watt of the University of Edinburgh-- their work never enjoyed the influence among Protestant missions as did that of their Catholic counterparts among Catholic missions. (42)

Rather than attempting to deal comprehensively with twentieth-century Catholic scholarship, this article will focus on the contribution of the French Islamicist Louis Massignon (1883-1962), widely regarded as the leading Islamologist of his generation. He held the chair of Islamic sociology in the University of Paris for nearly thirty years, from 1926 to 1954. He was also a leading religious thinker of his generation, and his Christian faith infused his critical scholarship. His reconversion to Catholicism while conducting archaeological research in Iraq (1908) left him with a profound sense of spiritual indebtedness to Islam and a commitment to exploring the relationship between his personal faith and the subject of his scholarly research. In 1931 he became a Franciscan tertiary, adopting the name Abraham. In 1949 he moved from the Roman to the Melkite Catholic rite and in 1950 was ordained a Melkite Catholic priest in Cairo. He committed the last years of his life to active campaigning on behalf of Christi an-Muslim relations, seeking justice for Algerian Muslims in France during the Algerian struggle for independence (1954-62).

Massignon pioneered the modem study of Sufism, the mystical tradition of Islam. In 1922 he presented two doctoral theses. The first, entitled Essais sur les origines du lexique technique de la mystique musulmane, (43) explored the precise nature of Sufi terminology, showing that it is rooted in the Qur'an and early Islamic exegesis. The second and more famous work, La passion d'alHallaj: Martyr mystique de l'Islam, (44) examined the life of this tenth-century Baghdad Sufi (d. 920), exonerating him from the charge of heresy that led to his execution and attesting the miracles that are attributed to him. The implications of these two theses for Christian-Muslim relations are dear: that Islam has an authentic spirituality that should not be subsumed under Christian or other religious categories, and that it has produced real saints who, in the case of al-Hallaj, manifest Christlike qualities.

This was the basis on which Massignon sought to understand the spiritual relationship between Christianity and Islam. He found it in the metaphor of Abraham as the spiritual ancestor of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. (45) He saw Islamas "the only incorruptible fragment of the paternal legacy made to Ishmael, rediscovered at last and venerated with a jealous exclusiveness." (46)

Massignon's spirituality was expressed in radical social engagement. Shaped by the Gandhian social doc e of satyagraha, by which Massignon understood "the civic vindication of truth," (47) he believed that to "vow" oneself to truth in such way as binds both soul and intellect is to become an instrument y which truth transforms the world. He resigned his professor hip and dedicated his final years to nonviolent action for justice and peace during the Franco-Algerian war, visiting Algerian prisoners in jail and leading joint Christian-Muslim pilgrimages to shrines of the Virgin Mary that Christians and Muslims both venerated in the popular piety of their religions.

Professor Massignon died in 1962, the yea in which the Second Vatican Council began. Acquainted with both Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, and a friend of those w o drafted the Nostra aetate, it is widely believed that he had posthumous influence upon the council's thinking about Islam. The council drew attention to a spiritual kinship between Christians and Muslims through Abrahamic monotheism expressed in terms of prayer, charity, and fasting, through Mary as a woman of radical piety who inspires the veneration of Catholic an Muslim alike, and through commitment to social justice.

We have traveled a long way from the Melkites of Palestine to Massignon in France. As with any survey, what as been said is vulnerable to superficiality, though not, I hope, to distortion. If it has been shown that missionary scholarship o Islam merits serious attention as scholarship, our primary object has been achieved. If it has been demonstrated that missionary scholarship has been innovative, one could wish that university scholars were more attentive to what the missionary scholars have been saying.

By way of conclusion, two questions can be extrapolated from Massignon's approach. Of secular university scholarship his legacy asks: Where is religion in Islamic studies? Of missionary scholarship it asks: Can Islam be authentically understood without respecting its specific qualities of religion? Both questions raise epistemological issues that Jacques Waardenburg has begun to explore in terms of the relationship been Islamic studies and the history of religion. (48) He write : "The major epistemological problem in Islamic studies still seems to be the correlation between the scholarly categories of description, analysis, and interpretation, and the adequate translation and conceptualisation of Islamic realities on the basis of the raw data themselves." (49)

Although Waardenburg does not address missionary scholarship, his observations apply, with an important expansion: correlation needs be found between the concepts an categories of scholarship and the raw data of Islamic religious experience, while recognizing that missionary scholarship seeks to infuse both with an ethicospiritual commitment to transforming human and social conditions toward greater affinity th the reign of God.

David A. Kerr is Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, Edinburgh, Scotland. He served as director of the Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Hartford Seminary, Hartford, Connecticut, 1988-1995, and prior to that he directed the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham, England.


(1.) J. Leroy, Monks and Monasteries of the Near East, trans. P. Collin (London: George Harrap, 1963), pp. 75-82.

(2.) Daniel Sahas, John of Damascus on Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1972).

(3.) Sidney Griffiths, "Islam and the Summa Theologiae Arabica: Rabi 1, 264 AH," Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 13 (1990): 238.

(4.) The Summa attacks "hypocrites" (munafiqun), whose accommodations of Islam amounted, in the anonymous author's judgment, to "wavering" (mudhabdhaba) from their Christian faith.

(5.) Al-Andalus in the Arabic sources denotes the whole of the Iberian Peninsula, while in Western usage it refers only to those parts of the peninsula that fell under the Caliphate, the domains of which varied during the Muslim conquests and the Christian reconquests. Toledo was conquered by the Muslims in 712. and reconquered by Alphonse VI of Leon and Castile in 1085, shortly before the arrival of the Cluniac mission.

(6.) James Kritzeck, Peter the Venerable and Islam (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1964).

(7.) Thus Peter wrote, "I do not attack you--Muslims--as our people often do, by arms, but by words; not by force, but by reason; not in hatred, but in love" (quoted in ibid., p. 47).

(8.) Peter Engels, Wilhelm von Tripolis: Notitia de Machometo de statu Saracenorum (Wurzburg: Echter Verlag, 1992).

(9.) Norman Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1960).

(10.) Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1975).

(11.) Mark Johnston, The Spiritual Logic of Ramon Llull (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985).

(12.) Anthony Bonner, ed. and trans., Selected Works of Ramon Llull (1232-1316), 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1985), 2:1217.

(13.) Ibid., 1:303.

(14.) William Wright published the first Arab grammar in English, the two-volume Grammar of the Arabic Language (1859-62), followed by Edward Lane's 8-volume Arabic-English Lexicon (1863-93).

(15.) J. Redhouse, A Turkish and English Lexicon (1890).

(16.) Jacques Waardenburg, "The Study of Islam in Dutch Scholarship," in Mapping Islamic Studies: Genealogy, Continuity, Change, ed. A. Nanji (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1997), pp. 68-94.

(17.) For the history of this term, see Martin Buss, "The Idea of Sitz im Leben--History and Critique," Zeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 90 (1978): 157-70.

(18.) Ignaz Goldziher, Tagebuch, ed. A. Schreiber (Budapest: Schreiber, 1977), p. 59.

(19.) Marshall Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1974), 1:41.

(20.) Jane Smith, "Christian Missionary Views of Islam in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries," Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 9, no. 3 (1998): 357-73.

(21.) Clinton Bennett, Victorian Images of Islam (London: Grey Seal, 1992).

(22.) Avril Powell, Muslims and Missionaries in Pre-Mutiny India (Richmond, Surrey: Curzon, 1993), esp. chaps. 5-9.

(23.) William St. Clair Tisdall, The Sources of Islam (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1901).

(24.) Andrew Walls, "Africa as the Theatre of Christian Engagement with Islam in the Nineteenth Century," Journal of Religion in Africa 29, no. 2 (1999): 155-74.

(25.) Gulnar Francis-Dehqani, "Religious Feminism in an Age of Empire: CMS Women Missionaries in Iran, 1869-1934" (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Bristol, 1999), pp. 111-12. For studies of North American women missionaries in the Gulf, see Eleanor Doumato, "Receiving the Promised Blessing: Missionary Reflections on 'Ishmael's (Mostly Female) Descendants,"' Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 9, no. 3 (1998): 325-37; Fatma Hassan al-Sayegh, "American Women Missionaries in the Gulf," ibid., 339-56. For more general discussion, see Erik Freas, "Muslim Women in the Missionary World," Muslim World 88, no. 2 (1998): 141-64.

(26.) Francis-Dehqani, "Religious Feminism," p. 160.

(27.) Reported in Across the Muslim World (1929), as well as in other volumes: Report on a Visit to Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf, and India (1924), and Report on a Visit to India and Ceylon (1928). In addition, Zwemer contributed numerous regional studies as articles in the Moslem World, which he founded in 1911 and edited in Princeton.

(28.) Lyle Vander Werff, Mission to Muslims: The Record (South Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1977), p. 245.

(29.) Don McCurry, ed., The Gospel and Islam: A 1978 Compendium (Monrovia, Calif.: MARC, 1978); Phil Parshall, New Paths in Muslim Evangelism: Approaches to Contextualization (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980); Dudley Woodberry, ed., Muslims and Christians on the Emma us Road (Monrovia, Calif.: MARC, 1989).

(30.) Sura al-Nur (Chapter of light) 24:35.

(31.) Michael Shelley, "The Life and Thought of W. H. T. Gairdner, 1873-1928: A Critical Evaluation of a Scholar Missionary to Islam" (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Birmingham, 1987).

(32.) Constance Padwick, Muslim Devotions: A Study of the Prayer-Manuals in Common Use (London: SPCK, 1961).

(33.) For example, "Constance E. Padwick," Muslim World 59 (1969): 29-39.

(34.) Christopher Lamb, The Call to Retrieval: Kenneth Cragg's Christian Vocation to Islam (London: Grey Seal, 1997).

(35.) Kenneth Cragg, Muhammad and the Christian: A Question of Response (London: Dalton, Longman & Todd; Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1984). For discussion, see David Kerr, "He Walked in the Path of the Prophets: Toward Christian Theological Recognition of the Prophethood of Muhammad," in Christian-Muslim Encounters, ed. Yvonne Haddad et al. (Gainesville: Univ. of Florida Press, 1995), pp. 435-36.

(36.) Lamin Sanneh, The Crown and the Turban: Muslims and West African Pluralism (Boulder, Colo.: Westward Press, 1997).

(37.) Charles Amjad Ali, "Theological and Historical Rationality Behind Christian-Muslim Relations," in Islam in Asia: Perspectives for Christian-Muslim Encounter, ed. J. P. Rajashekar and H. S. Wilson (Geneva: Lutheran World Federation, 1992), pp. 3-15.

(38.) Tarek Mitri, ed., Religion, Law and Society: A Christian-Muslim Discussion (Geneva: WCC Publications; Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1995).

(39.) George Anawati, Introduction la theologie musulmane: Essaide theologie comparee (Paris: J. Vrin, 1948).

(40.) Richard J. McCarthy, The Theology of Al-Ashari (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1953).

(41.) Louis Gardet, Dieu et la destine de l'homme (Paris: J. Vrin, 1967).

(42.) For Macdonald, see Development of Muslim Theology, Jurisprudence and Constitutional Theory (New York: Scribner & Sons, 1903); for Watt, see Tire Formative Period of Islamic Thought (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1973).

(43.) Louis Massignon, Essais sur les origines du lexique technique de la mystique musulmane (Paris: Geuthner, 1954).

(44.) Louis Massignon, La passion d'al-Hallaj: Martyr mystique de l'Islam (Paris: Geuthner, 1975).

(45.) Sidney Griffith, "Sharing the Faith of Abraham: The 'Credo' of Louis Massignon," Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 8, no. 2(1997): 193-210.

(46.) Neil Robinson, "Massignon, Vatican II, and Islam as an Abrahamic Religion," Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 2, no. 2 (1991): 192.

(47.) Guilio Basetti-Sani, Louis Massignon (1883-1962): Christian Ecumenist-Prophet of Inter-Religious Reconciliation (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1974), p. 134.

(48.) Jacques Waardenburg, "Islamic Studies and the History of Religions: An Evaluation," in Mapping Islamic Studies, ed. Nanjir, pp. 181-219.

(49.) Ibid., pp. 200-202.

RELATED ARTICLE: Centers for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations

The 1906 Cairo conference "Methods of Missionary Work Among Muslims" called for the creation of a center where Christians could study Islam. "Cooperation in Christian-Muslim Studies," an international conference hosted by the University of Balamand in Lebanon in 1997, included representatives of seventeen centers of Christian-Muslim studies around the world. The following synopsis of some of these shows the range of resources for the study of Christian-Muslim relations that now exists.

St. John of Damascus Faculty of Theology. This center is named after the earliest Christian to engage in theological study of Islam. Located near Tripoli, Lebanon, within the Patriarchate of Antioch, it draws on the historic tradition of Arab Christian theology, originally pioneered by Byzantine theologians who wrote in Arabic. The contextual approach of Balamand prioritizes issues of importance to Arab Christians, particularly in the social and political sphere. (

Henry Martyn Institute. Located in Hyderabad, India, the Henry Martyn Institute is the oldest Protestant center for the study of Islam. Originally designed for missionary training, it has extended its work to embrace interreligious reconciliation in India. The Bulletin of the Henry Martyn Institute is a rich source of information on Christian-Muslim encounter in South Asia. (

Christian Study Centre (CSC). This center, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, serving the Church of Pakistan, deals with a broad range of contextual challenges facing the church in an Islamic society. Its serial publication Al-Mushir contains a valuable Urdu section. Developing Christian Theology in the Context of Islam (1996), one of its conference volumes, illustrates its commitment to interpreting Christianity in the Islamic sociocultural milieu.

Project for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA). Resources and training for Christian-Muslim relations in Africa are provided through a network of area programs coordinated through PROCMURA, wit its secretariat in Nairobi, Kenya. An attempt to establish a permanent study center in Ibadan, Nigeria, was unsuccessful. PROCMURA now supports a range of programs on the theological-education-by-extension model (TEE), with effective outreach to churches in both Francophone and Anglophone Africa.

Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI). With their long-time commitment to Africa, the Missionaries of Africa, commonly known as White Fathers, maintain the PISAI in Rome. The institute offers a range of degree programs including doctoral studies that are available to both Catholics and Protestants. PISAI's focus is on the textual study of Islam itself, in its religious, sociopolitical, and cultural manifestations. Its annual journal Islamochristiana has set the standard of scholarship in this field, and its more regular Encounter: Documents for Muslim-Christian Understanding covers a de range of social and religious issues. (

Centre for the Study of Islam and Christianity (CSIC). CSIC, at the University of Birmingham, England, provides academic qualifications in Christian-Muslim relations at master's and doctoral levels. It is built on cooperation between Christian and Muslim scholars at the levels of governance, staffing, and students. Having pioneered the study of Muslim communities in Europe, CSIC also has strong resources on Islam in Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Its journal Studies in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, copublished with the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in Washington (see below), focuses on contemporary issues ( Two other centers with similar sounding names exist in London: Centre for Islamic Studies at the London Bible College (, and the independent International Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, both of which stand in the tradition of evangelical Christian engagement with Islam.

Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. This center, located at Hartford Seminary, Hartford, Connecticut, is the oldest center in the United States for Christian-Muslim studies. With a staff of both Christian and Muslim professors, it offers degree programs at master's and doctoral levels. Its quarterly Muslim World continues the publication founded by Samuel Zwemer at Princeton in 1911. (

Zwemer Institute of Muslim Studies. Situated within the Lausanne Movement, the Zwemer Institute preserves and builds on Samuel Zwemer's missionary legacy. It focuses on the anthropological analysis of "folk Islam" in Muslim societies more than the textual tradition of formal Islam. The institute's offices are located at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission. The Fuller School of World Mission focuses on both folk Islam and formal, textual Islam, as illustrated in its CD ROM Program World of Islam: Resources for Understanding (available from Global Mapping International, Colorado Springs, Colorado). (;

Luther Seminary Global Mission Institute. Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, this center is developing resources for the study of Islam, with support from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. It offers a strong master's program designed for Christian professionals, including missionaries. The program has operative links with the Coptic Evangelical Seminary in Cairo and with the Christian Study Centre, Rawalpindi. (

Center for Muslim Christian Understanding (CMCU). This Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., center has an international staff of Christian and Muslim scholars. CMCU offers undergraduate and master's courses and publishes extensively on the fourteen centuries of cultural, social, political, and theological interaction between Christianity and Islam. It aims to address the business, government, and academic circles in Washington, D.C., and reach a wider public with its focus on Islam in the West. (

David A. Kerr
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Author:Kerr, David A.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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