Latin Christian theological and historical perceptions of Islam : 1100-2000

Allison, Anthony (2008) Latin Christian theological and historical perceptions of Islam : 1100-2000. MTh(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Europeans have always exhibited the tendency to judge Islam by Catholic criteria

Throughout history the Roman Catholic Church has perennially wrestled with Islam both politically and theologically. This ‘wrestling’ has ranged from polemical and military warfare to theological study and interreligious dialogue. In all instances the methodology of engagement created and reinforced particular perceptions of Islam. Moreover, the methodology of engagement was frequently, as this study shows, predicated upon the various political priorities of the Church which changed through the centuries. The aim of this study is to provide a brief historical and theological overview concerning the formative instances in Christian-Muslim engagement from a specifically Roman Catholic perspective. While it is primarily concerned with the period 1100-2000, a brief historical exposition of the European horizon prior to 1100 will also be required in order to provide the political context.

Chapter one investigates the Latin European horizon prior to 1100 to illustrate the fractured nature of a Latin Europe that was too preoccupied with its own internal affairs to engage with Islam. It further elucidates the relationship between Christendom and Islam prior to, during and after the First Crusade which, at its conclusion, saw Latin Europe’s interest in Islam increase.

Chapter two is chronologically simultaneous with the first but specifically investigates Christian-Muslim engagement in the Iberian Peninsula. This area is significant because the Iberian Peninsula was the only area of Latin Europe continuously inhabited by Muslims for some 700 years following its invasion in 711. In such a milieu, Christians and Jews lived as dhimmis under Muslim rule. Two responses were illustrated by the Cordoban Christian community to Islamic rule –acculturation or aggressive refutation. Both are explored in this chapter.

Chapter three explores Church engagement with Islam in the early medieval period (c.1050-1179). This is explored through a threefold methodology of investigating: a mid-eleventh letter motivated by the desire to proselytize; the Chanson de Roland epic to appreciate popular perceptions; and finally, through an exposition of Church Council declarations up to the year 1179.

Chapter four primarily focuses on the translation efforts of Peter the Venerable (1092-1156). Peter set about translating source documents from Arabic into Latin which included a copy of the Qur’an in order that it may be refuted and converts won to Christ. Peter’s efforts here mark a serious shift in Latin Christian engagement with Islam.

Chapter five covers a period of some 250 years between 1215-1458 and explores Church Council declaration in relation to Islam alongside three contemporaneous alternative voices that all abhorred warfare. These alternative voices are: Roger Bacon (c.1214-1294) who advocated the learning of non-Latin languages; John Wycliffe (c. 1330-1384) who blurred the distinctions between Islam and Christianity in his critique of the Church; and John of Sevogia (c.1400-1458) who felt that the classic missionary paradigm should be dropped in favour of a contraferentia (‘conference’) between Christian and Muslims representatives.

Chapter six concerns itself with the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and particularly looks at the Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions otherwise known as Nostra Aetate. This chapter marks a methodological shift in my research. This shift, due to the different historical situation of the Church, involves more emphasis on theology and is therefore more concerned with textual expositions. As such, Christian theological positions in relation to Islam both at the level of commonality and at a more fundamental level in relation to revelation and prophecy are explored.

Chapter seven continues the textual analysis through a concern with the post-conciliar period (1965-2000) in which the generic principles put forth at Vatican II were further elaborated. In particular this chapter investigates the impact of Guidelines for Dialogue between Christians and Muslims (1981); Dialogue and Mission (1984); Dialogue and Proclamation (1991) and finally Dominus Iesus (2000) upon Latin Christian perception and engagement with Islam.

Through identifying and exploring the above mentioned historic events which have defined Roman Catholic engagement with Islam, this study hopes to better understand, from a Christian perspective, the nature of Christian-Muslim dialogical exchange. For, as the Jesuit priest, Joseph Ng Swee-Chun, states: The wounded memory of the past is irrepressible, but it can be harnessed to provide historical insights for a more precise grasp of the nature of those elements of theory, practice and attitude which presently exist in the relation between Islam and Christianity.

Item Type: Thesis (MTh(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Siddiqui, Prof. Mona
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-562
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:19

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