The people of The Book, ahl al-kitab: A comparative theological exploration
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This thesis is a comparative theological exploration of the challenges and opportunities presented by the Qur?&#257;nic representation of Christianity as the People of the Book, ahl al-kit&#257;b, in the Qur?&#257;nic and commentary tradition; in its social, cultural and historical background; through the early Arabic Christian response; and in modern discourse for the purpose of improving the quality of interfaith dialogue and understanding of religious plurality. The research is divided into three parts. The first part explores the Qur?&#257;nic understanding of the People of the Book through traditional Islamic exegesis, known as tafs&#299;r, of four respected Islamic scholars whose work spans more than a thousand years. These scholars are Mujahid ibn Jabr (d.722), Muhammad ibn Jarir Al-Tabari (d. 923), Ismail Ibn Kathir (d.1373) and Muhammad Rashid Rida (d.1935). The research demonstrates a wide range of opinions regarding Christians and Christianity. What the Qur?&#257;n has to say is highly contextual. One very interesting feature of the research addresses the question concerning the salvific merits of Christianity after the arrival of Islam. Part two takes a closer look at two important themes developed in the traditional commentary of the Qur?&#257;n. Through the application of a cluster of hermeneutical devices this thesis attempts to create a greater appreciation of the social-cultural landscape leading into the dawn of Islam. The first theme is the historical construct of the pre-Islamic period, the asb?b an-nuz?l, the occasion of revelation, on the Arabia Peninsula and environs. The traditional commentary suggests that this period was a time of lawlessness. Islamic culture refers to the period as al-j&#257;hiliyya, the Time of Ignorance. The research presented, takes a wide angle view of the of the period by examining primary and secondary materials concerning the different social, cultural, religious, economic and political factors effecting the diachronic development of the religions of the People of the Book as it comes faces to face with nascent Islam. Since, understanding the context of the revelation of any verse is critical for interpreting the Qur?&#257;n. The second theme examines the Arabic speaking Christian response to Islam. From earliest times, the extent Christian communities in contact with Muhammad and the generations that followed rejected key Qur?&#257;nic theological criticisms of Christian faith in the Sonship of Jesus, as the Incarnation of God, as well as the Holy Trinity, as religious excesses. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that many Christians, particularly Arabic speaking Christians take issue with the Qur?&#257;nic depiction of Christianity. The research of the post conquest period examines the nuanced social and political changes that take place in the Levant region of the Eastern Mediterranean. These changes facilitate the adoption of Islamic idiom as an apologetic tool of religious and interfaith dialogue of the time, kal&#257;m, a natural progression from the use of Biblical and Greek philosophic reasoning. The scholars examined include Theodore Ab&#363; Qurrah, (d. 820 C.E.), Sulaym&#257;n ibn Hasan al-Ghazz&#299; (b. 940 C.E.) and Paul of Antioch (c. 1200 C.E). Part Three of this thesis explores the modern use of the term People of the Book by several Christian and Muslim scholars in the context of our increasingly interconnected and pluralist societies. Here the focus is on the social, political and theological implications of the concept of the People of the Book. The thesis inquires what if anything has changed over the centuries of dialogue. The Muslim scholars examined include Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Ataullah Siddiqui, Farid Esack, Tariq Ramadan and Nayla Tabbara. The Christian scholars examined include Daniel Madigan, Paolo Dall?Oglio, Fadi Daou. The findings of the research endorse the Islamic hermeneutical science of tafs&#299;r by Christians interested in understanding the Qur?&#257;n. Without a proper understanding of how Muslims form an authoritative understanding of the Qur?&#257;n, Christians are left in a precarious position of attempting to interpret the Qur?&#257;n through personal opinion, ijtih&#257;d, which could stray into the area of heretic interpretation, bid?ah. The science of tafs&#299;r is a formal system of interpreting the Qur?&#257;n based on tradition. However, through sound scholarship and diligence new interpretations are possible provided that sound reasoning the primary import of a verse is understood in its occasion of revelation, asb?b an-nuz?l.
KIMBALL, RICHARD, The people of The Book, ahl al-kitab: A comparative theological exploration, Trinity College Dublin.School of Religions,Theology & Ecumenics.IRISH SCHOOL OF ECUMENICS, 2017