Upcoming seminars with the Christian-Muslim Studies Network

The Christian-Muslim Studies Network is set to commence a lecture series in Christian-Muslim Studies for 2018.

All lectures are held in the Senate room at the School of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh. Each commences at 14:30 with a reception and light refreshments to follow in Rainy Hall.

  • Thursday, 8th March 2018: Prof Jon Hoover, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Nottingham
    • ‘Ibn Taymiyya’s Theology: God, Time and Space’
  • Thursday, 22nd March 2018: Dr Richard Todd, Lecturer in Islamic Studies the University of Birmingham
    • ‘Theological Approaches to Scriptural Anthropomorphism in Islam and Christianity’
  • Friday, 20th April 2018: Dr Sophia Vasalou, Birmingham Fellow in Philosophical Theology at the University of Birmingham

The Network launched the first seminar in this series on Muslim views of the Bible in 2017.

The School of Divinity offers opportunities for academic engagement and interfaith dialogue for students, staff, and faculty in Edinburgh, in addition to public engagement and academic networking globally. Those interested in applying for a degree program in Islamic law or the history of Christian-Muslim engagement should see the website for the School of Divinity or contact Dr Ralston directly.

Student Profile: Building expertise in Islamic theology in Edinburgh

Note: The Christian-Muslim Studies Network aims to advance academic scholarship and improve public engagement with the scriptural, theological, political, and sociological aspects of Christian-Muslim relations. This post is one of a series that illustrates how postgraduate students are engaging with Christian-Muslim Studies and related fields in Edinburgh. 

Josef Linnhoff began his undergraduate studies in 2009 at the University of Edinburgh, where he has watched increasingly vibrant intellectual engagement with Christian-Muslim studies develop ever since.

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His time at the School of Divinity has seen the growing commitment to Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Studies take shape, especially with the launch of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network, funded by the Luce Fund for Theological Studies.

Mr Linnhoff’s interest in the field began during an introductory course in Islamic Studies that he took as a second-year student in Religious Studies at New College. He had already experienced the School’s extensive expertise in Christian theology, but both the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity fascinated him. For the next three years, he took every relevant course he could find at both the School of Divinity and the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department.

‘I got hooked, I just absolutely found my niche’, he said. ‘My undergrad time had run out, but there was so much more I wanted to learn intellectually’.

He realized that a continuing study of Islam would require knowledge of Arabic. He moved to Oman and settled in a rural, Bedouin region where Arabic was spoken exclusively. For the first few months, he said, communication was incredibly challenging,  but he returned to Edinburgh a year later with the language skills he needed to move forward.

PhD in Islamic Studies

A Masters by Research at New College preceded his current studies as a PhD candidate under the supervision of Prof Mona Siddiqui at the University of Edinburgh. Mr Linnhoff explores shifting interpretations of shirk, the idolatrous transgression of worshiping or associating anything besides God.

His research touches on the debates inspired by the Islamic State group. Early on, the militants advertised their  destruction of ancient sites and shrines in Iraq and Syria as a manifestation of their commitment to avoiding shirk. Other Muslims have disagreed with this interpretation, complaining that the destruction and violence against holy sites is itself a sin.

Mr Linnhoff’s research seeks to demonstrate that Muslim thinkers have clashed over competing definitions of shirk for centuries.

‘What I’m really trying to show is that what it means to commit shirk is contested within Islam itself’, he explained. ‘If Muslims are debating what shirk is today, that’s nothing new’.

Studies of such disagreement has been most prominent in classical historic studies of Islam and in Christian-Muslim engagement, where Muslim thinkers employ shirk in  critiques of the Christian theologies the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Changes at the University of Edinburgh

Mr Linnhoff spoke with excitement of the change and growth he has watched during his time at New College. When he began his studies at the School of Divinity, expertise in Islam could be found in just one staff member, who soon left. Since then, Prof Mona Siddiqui has joined the staff, as well as Dr Joshua Ralston, a lecturer in Muslim-Christian Relations, and Dr Abdul Rahman Mustafa, the Luce Fund for Theological Studies post-doctoral fellow.

‘This has been another reason why I’ve wanted to stay at Edinburgh’, he said. ‘We’re building something right now, and it would be ridiculous to leave now’.

His hopes for the future of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network are simply ‘more of the same’: more seminars like that of Dr Martin Whittingham from the Oxford Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies, more conferences like the September gathering at Edinburgh for ‘Reframing Christian-Muslim Encounters: Theological and Philosophical Perspectives, and more students who come to study from Muslim-majority countries.

Mr Linnhoff noted the importance of the Network’s upcoming conference in Beirut, ‘New Trends in Political Theology: Religion and Secularity’. Located in the Middle East, the conference will provide an opportunity to study Christian-Muslim engagement outside the Western world.

‘It’s very easy to fall into the trap of being in the Western, intellectual world, not aware of the issues most pertinent to Muslim-majority countries’, Mr Linnhoff said.

The Beirut conference will occur in September 2018, just months before Mr Linnhoff is set to graduate from a School whose expertise in Islamic and Christian-Muslim Studies has grown exponentially since his arrival.

The School of Divinity currently offers courses in Islamic law and in the history of Christian-Muslim engagement, as well as two masters programmes and the PhD. Those interested in applying for a degree program in any of these areas should see the website for the School of Divinity or contact Dr Ralston directly.

Student Profile: Peace, Conflict, and Christian-Muslim Relations in Nigeria

Note: The Christian-Muslim Studies Network aims to advance academic scholarship and improve public engagement with the scriptural, theological, political, and sociological aspects of Christian-Muslim relations. This post is one of a series that illustrates how postgraduate students are engaging with the Christian-Muslim Studies Network’s academic opportunities in Edinburgh. 

The Christian-Muslim Studies Network location in Edinburgh, a diverse European capital, allows Emmanuel Ossai, a Nigerian PhD student, to benefit from the scholarship of many traditions.EmmanuelOssai2.3

As a first-year PhD student in Christian-Muslim Relations and Islamic Studies, Mr Ossai is particularly interested in studies of places where Christians and Muslims coexist. His studies center on central and northern Nigeria, where he examines the causes of communal conflict between Muslims and Christians.

He does so through the lens of a ‘zone of peace’, which seeks to understand how certain communities can choose to maintain harmony in the midst of conflict.

Life in Edinburgh

As a scholar in the field of peace and conflict, he has appreciated the tolerant culture of Edinburgh.

‘In Edinburgh, there is a very high level of respect for people regardless of race or colour or creed’, he noted. ‘People are very kind here because they want to help me to pursue my dreams rather than requiring something back’.

He has made adjustments to live in Scotland. The friendly, community-centered attitudes he grew up in are foreign to British society, and the cold, damp weather alarmed him at first.

‘You’ll find it amazing that I’m beginning to like that weather’, Mr Ossai said. ‘I think the secret here is just to wear more layers and a good jacket’.

A path to Christian-Muslim Studies

Although he is a native Nigerian, this is not the first time that Mr Ossai has travelled to the United Kingdom for his studies. He was selected to receive a Commonwealth Scholarship and travelled to Liverpool, where he obtained an MA in Peace Studies from Liverpool Hope University. While in England, he contacted Dr Joshua Ralston, Lecturer in Christian-Muslim Relations at the School of Divinity and Director of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network. Mr Ossai decided to bring his interest in the role that religion can play in conflict to the University of Edinburgh and its focus on Christian-Muslim relations.

This continued an interest that had compelled him from his undergraduate studies. He had graduated from the University of Nigeria in 2014, after studying Religious Studies. His studies brought to him to a new understanding of the multicultural environment he was part of in Nigeria.

‘Nigeria is hugely diverse, and because of my studies in religion I understand that religion is part of this diversity’, he said.

To explore this dynamic, Mr Ossai will travel to Nigeria to conduct fieldwork, with the guidance of Dr Ralston and Rev Dr Leah Robinson, Lecturer in Pastoral and Practical Theology at the School of Divinity. This approach, he said, allows him to benefit from the best scholarship and resources in both Nigeria and the West.

He intends to contribute what he discovers to scholarship at large, and to Nigeria. He has taught already as an assistant lecturer at the University of Nigeria, where he plans to return after he completes his PhD.

‘I can contribute when I get home to Nigeria, perhaps in politics, and I can contribute to the knowledge we have on conflict, politics, inter-religious studies, and peace’, Mr Ossai said. ‘I hope that when I finish this I can go back and see what I can do for my people’.

Students interested in applying for the degree in Christian-Muslim Relations and Islamic Studies, or a similar degree, may see the website for the School of Divinity or contact Dr Ralston directly.

Network launches first seminar: Muslim views of the Bible

The Christian-Muslim Studies Network launched the first in a series of seminars with a presentation from Dr Martin Whittingham of the Oxford Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies.

Dr Whittingham analysed Muslim views of the Bible and Christianity generally, discussing his ongoing research in a presentation titled, ”As it says in the Torah…’ Muslim use and criticism of the Bible in the Hadith literature’. Dr Whittingham specializes in Muslim views of the Bible and engaged with staff and student questions on Christian-Muslim relations  during a seminar at the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. IMG_1963

Dr Joshua Ralston, director of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network and a lecturer in Christian-Muslim relations at New College, noted both the importance and difficulty of exploring Hadith literature.

‘As those of you who have studied Islam know, it takes a brave soul to venture into the intricacies of Hadith literature’, Dr Ralston told staff and students.

The Hadith are carefully compiled sets of saying and stories from the life of Muhammad and the early companions of the Prophet. Individual Hadith are vast in number but vary in length, subject, and authoritative quality. This makes them difficult to study, especially for a scholar interested specifically in Islamic perspectives on Christianity.

Dr Whittingham noted that followers of contemporary Christian-Muslim relations might expect to find regular condemnations of other faiths among the prophetic sayings, but this was not the case. Explanations for this are many and varies, but one current theory suggests that early Islam was more interested in gathering in ‘believers’ from among the many traditions of seventh-century Arabia than in dividing the Abrahamic faiths.

‘There seems to be no outright rejection of [Jewish and Christian scriptural] views’, Dr Whittingham said of his research in the Hadith. ‘Affirmation is much more common’.

Such affirmations include allusions to both the Gospels and the Torah, especially Isaiah 42. Occasionally the Gospels are quoted with minor changes to the current text.

Three Hadith – from a list of thousands – do accuse Christians of corrupting or even lying about their scriptural texts, but such statements are the minority, Dr Whittingham said. One Sunni Hadith, for example, accuses Christians of lying about the their prophets and corrupting their scriptures.

Other Hadith showed Islam embracing the practices of Christianity and Judaism, such as swearing with one hand on the Torah or reading scripture therapeutically.

The seminar was attended by staff from across the university with research interests in Christian-Muslim relations, as well as students from the School of Divinity, for whom the seminar provided an opportunity to engage with their studies through an alternative, still-critical, lens. The seminar was followed a session for questions, with further discussion convened over refreshments.

The School of Divinity currently offers courses in Islamic law and in the history of Christian-Muslim engagement, as well as two masters programmes and the PhD. Offerings continue to expand, as Dr Abdul Rahman Mustafa, the Henry Luce Post-Doctoral Fellow in Islam and Christian-Muslim Studies, is preparing a course that explores controversies in Islamic intellectual thought, beginning with Medieval debates about the nature of God and concluding with modern debates about radical Islam.

Those interested in applying for a degree program in any of these areas should see the website for the School of Divinity or contact Dr Ralston directly.

Student profile: From Ghana to Scotland

Note: The Christian-Muslim Studies Network aims to advance academic scholarship and improve public engagement with the scriptural, theological, political, and sociological aspects of Christian-Muslim relations. This post illustrates some of the opportunities available to postgraduate students who are engaging with the academic facets of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network in Edinburgh. 

Emmanuel Tettey joined the masters cohort at the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity and aims to study Christian-Muslim relations in his own context through an academic lens.

Originally part of the professional ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Ghana, Mr. Tettey aims to return to Ghana after his studies and teach and research political theology.

‘Historically Christians and Muslims in Ghana have had quite a good relationship, albeit with a few skirmishes’, Mr. Tettey said, noting that Christians are usually seen as the majority, although statistics are disputed.

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Photo Credit: Christophe Sagnet

Because of increased migration within Ghana, Christians and Muslims are beginning to encounter one another – and their religious differences – more frequently. As a result, questions have arisen over issues such as interfaith marriage, prayer in church-owned schools, and hijab-wearing.

Mr. Tettey began to encounter these issues personally during his work in ministry. He hoped the church could take a leadership role in helping settle some of these issues in Ghana, but he found many other Christians uninterested in or even suspicious of interfaith dialogue.

‘Even people who are advanced in Christianity still find it difficult to understand Christian-Muslim relations’, Mr. Tettey said, noting the field is still new to Ghana. ‘Learning to relate to someone of another faith can be part of your mission mandate’.

Mr Tettey believed that New College was the best place to develop these ideas because of a recommendation from a professor who had studied Islam and World Christianity, another field available for study at the School of Divinity. He had received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Ghana and worked for six years in ministry before returning to study at the Akrofi-Christaller Institute, where he received a masters in Theology and Missions. He also received a masters in Strategic Planning and Management at the University for Developmental Studies in Ghana.

With his current studies in Edinburgh, Mr. Tettey is preparing to help others in Ghana understand and engage with interfaith dialogue. In this aim, he receives institutional support from the Church of Scotland. He also finds personal support from the academic community of New College, which he described as ‘people who feel like family’.

Mr. Tettey is studying for a Masters by Research degree in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations. Two other degrees are offered within Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at the University of Edinburgh. These include a two-year Master of Philosophy or Doctor of Philosophy degree.

As a Masters by Research student, Mr. Tettey aims to complete three essays exploring the ethics of law, concept of revelation, and exclusivist hermeneutics in Christianity and Islam. His dissertation will focus on Christian-Muslim relations in the Ghanaian context, where the national chief imam has developed unity and cooperation among Muslims despite sectarian difference.

Students interested in applying for this or a similar degree may see the website for the School of Divinity or contact Dr Ralston directly.

Call for Papers: Political Theology and Christian-Muslim Studies

New Trends in Political Theology: Religion & Secularity in Comparative Perspectives
Christian-Muslim Studies Network
8th – 11th September 2018 at the American University of Beirut

 

The highly successful inaugural conference of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network at the University of Edinburgh in September 2017, drew more than 60 academics and faith leaders from over 15 countries. The conference explored emerging trends and conversations in Christian-Muslim studies. The organisers now invite proposals for papers for our second conference on the theme of political theology. The conference is planned for 8-11 September, 2018 in Beirut, Lebanon.

  • The conference title is New Trends in Political Theology: Religion and Secularity. Notwithstanding the Western and Christian origins of the discipline of political theology, Islamic and secular perspectives have significantly shaped its trajectory. Christians, Muslims and secularists can now agree that there is no single history or unitary manifestation of the ways in which religious and theological thought engages with politics. Rather, religious and secular traditions deploy theological constructs in a variety of ways to inform accounts of their own identity and authority. Like all aspects of theology, political theology has shown itself capable of serving different—even contradictory—purposes. We invite papers that explore the ways in which theology constitutes a major source and an inescapable framework of systematic political thought, concepts and practices. We are particularly interested in papers that engage with one or more of the following themes:
  • Historical and contemporary perceptions of political theology within Christian and Muslim religious thought; attempts to accommodate political theology within the overall theological, jurisprudential and political frameworks of Christianity and Islam; comparative readings of Christian and Muslim political theology in their classical and contemporary forms; ongoing transformations in Christianity and Islam as a result of their engagement with contemporary politics with a specific focus on Muslim majority countries and societies.
  • The dialectical engagement between the religious and the secular in politics. This includes the religious and theological genealogies of secularity, the accommodation and regulation of political theology and religion in secular and liberal political space and of secularity in religious spaces.
  • The role of theology in contemporary political practice in local, regional or international contexts. Christian and Muslim challenges to dominant political, economic and social power structures which include global issues of poverty and conflict.  Finally, exploration of theological challenges to the notion of the secular nation state and secular conceptions of political legitimacy.

Abstracts (up to 500 words) should be submitted to ar.mustafa@ed.ac.uk by 19 February 2018. Notification for accepted papers will be circulated by 15th March 2018.

If you have any questions, please contact ar.mustafa@ed.ac.uk.

With support from the Henry Luce Foundation, a select number of grants will be available to some participants (with priority given to those without any institutional support).

Meet the new postdoctoral fellow

Dr Abdul Rahman Mustafa joined staff at the University of Edinburgh in September as the Christian-Muslim Studies Network’s first postdoctoral fellow.

He brings to New College his expertise in both law and Islamic theology, and he contributes to the Network’s commitment to interfaith studies with a critical lens. His appointment was made possible by a grant from the Luce Fund for Theological Education at the Henry Luce Foundation.

Dr Mustafa joined the staff at New College after completing his PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. His PhD dissertation is titled, ‘From God’s Nature to God’s Law: Theology, Law and Legal Theory in Islam’.Mustafa Photo

While studying at Georgetown, Dr Mustafa worked with Professor Daniel Madigan, who he credits with introducing him to Christian-Muslim relations as a scholarly endeavor.

‘It was serious research into interfaith engagement without devolving into platitudes, bringing a critical lens to the discussion’, Dr Mustafa said.

Dr Mustafa applied for the fellowship with the Christian-Muslim Studies Network because he found that same balance in Dr Joshua Ralston, director of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network, and Prof Mona Siddiqui, the Network’s co-founder.

Although he studied for his PhD in the United States, Dr Mustafa is not a newcomer to the United Kingdom. He completed his master’s degree at the University of Oxford and received a law degree from the London School of Economics. He speaks five languages fluently, along with two others: Arabic, Urdu, French, Punjabi, Farsi, and German.

Vision within the Christian-Muslim Studies Network

Dr Mustafa’s projections for the Christian-Muslim Studies Network are far-reaching. He is most interested in its continuous expansion from a network of interested scholars. Further steps will come from faith leaders and faithful laypeople who who, he notes, can often feel excluded from scholarly dialogues of this nature, but whose contributions are also vital to the Network’s mission.

Dr Mustafa is interested in expanding the Network’s ongoing forays into broader public engagement. He sees an opening for interfaith scholarship in other public discussions that seek meaning in a changing world.

As a scholar trained in both law and theology, Dr Mustafa also values what a multi-faceted approach to methods can bring to interfaith dialogue. This means incorporating dialogue from those within theological institutions and outside. This is partly what led him Edinburgh, where he notes a long history of both Christian theology and Islamic studies.

Dr Mustafa will soon contribute to that tradition by teaching Islamic studies courses in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. One of his courses follows the controversies within Islamic intellectual thought from medieval debates about the nature of God to the twentieth-century conflicts about radical Islam. He describes it as a pivotal course for students who come with minimal background experience with Islam, as it requires them to leave their comfort zone.

‘I think there’s something useful in exposing students to a set of ideas that are very different from their own, to confront a different way of looking at the world,’ Dr Mustafa said. ‘With Islamic studies, one is often introducing students who are not Muslims to a way of thinking that is very different from twentieth-century liberalism.’

Current research

For now, however, several projects within Christian-Muslim studies await his attention. In addition to expanding on his doctoral work, Dr Mustafa seeks to contribute to a growing body of research into sensory history in the Islamic context. His project explores the ways in which Islamic law fashions an ideal legal subject through conditioning, regulation, and domination of the senses and sensory experiences of that subject, thereby framing the individual’s engagement with the world and also creating a register of sensory associations with the afterlife.

 

Dr Mustafa is also contributing to research on the application of Islamic law to contemporary issues.  One of his current pieces is a study of a longstanding debate in Islamic law about whether Muslim women wearing nail polish can offer prayers. The key question, and the major point of intersection with his own interests, is how this debate from Islamic ritual law, which appears to be the most unchanging and static area of the law, still raises questions about the purposes of God’s law and whether the law has to meet certain standards of reasonableness and rationality.

Language also plays a role in Dr Mustafa’s work. He currently works as part of a team of researchers creating a translation of the entire canon of Sunni Hadith, complete with ecumenical commentaries on those that draw on multiple interpretive perspectives from within the Islamic tradition.

Thoughts on Edinburgh  

Dr Mustafa expects his trans-Atlantic move will contribute positively to his ongoing research, present and future. He has been charmed by Edinburgh, with its mix of castles and academic life, history and fantasy.

‘I can see why the author of Harry Potter can only have lived here,’ he remarked. ‘Sometimes I feel like I’m walking in a magical place.’

Dr Mustafa’s appointment as a postdoctoral fellow at the Christian-Muslim Studies Network is funded in part by a grant from the Luce Foundation. Those interested in pursuing a degree within this subject area can find more information here.

Middle Eastern Christians in the UK: A tense study in Christian-Muslim-Secular relations

The Middle East’s Christian communities frequently make headlines as they emigrate rapidly from from ancient homelands to Europe and the Americas.  The Christian-Muslim Studies Network and the Centre for the Study of World Christianity co-sponsored a discussion that explored the fate of those whose emigration led them to the United Kingdom.

Dr Fiona McCallum, a lecturer in International Relations at the University of St. Andrews, presented findings from the Humanities in the European Research Area project, ‘Defining and Identifying Middle Eastern Christian Communities in Europe’. IMG_1905

Dr McCallum’s work found an audience of particular interest at the Centre for World Christianity at New College, where two PhD students have launched research in the fledgling field of Arab Christianity.

The first student to express interest in the ancient Christian communities is Elizabeth Marteijn, who is spending the second year of her PhD studies in the West Bank. Working in a Palestinian village where Christianity is part of the landscape, Ms Marteijn is developing a methodology that integrates anthropology and theology. Her contribution to this field will continue to develop the focus on Arab Christianity at New College, where she also received her master’s degree.

Lucy Schouten, a first-year PhD student, also completed her masters degree at New College. Her current research lies in Jordan, where she explores the Christian response to refugee crisis both practically and theologically. Her research, like Dr McCallum’s, melds the burgeoning field of migration studies with her study of contemporary Christianity.

The dynamic for Christian-Muslim relations among the Middle East’s native Christian communities can be particularly complex. The Christian immigrants arrive in the United Kingdom anxious to participate in the cultural milieu of a Christian country – and frustrated to find themselves mistaken for the Muslim Egyptians or Iraqis they left behind.

‘They’re having to constantly explain who they are, that there are Christians in the Middle East, and it usually ends with [their British neighbours saying], ‘But I’m sure you’ll still fast at Ramadan’,’ Dr McCallum explained.

Another source of frustration, said Dr McCallum, accompanies the realization that the United Kingdom is less of a ‘Christian country’ than many had supposed. This frustration becomes disillusionment when the immigrants discover that they have become too British for Egypt or Iraq, but British society may marginalize them because of ethnic, rather than religious boundaries.

These struggles raise questions not only about the nature of belonging and shifting identities post-migration, but also about the definition of religion itself, particularly when migrating from a Middle Eastern to a Western context.

This discussion also produced questions about the efficacy of a worldwide Christian identity, in light of Dr McCallum’s findings. Dr McCallum and her colleagues found advocacy organizations that operated along strict denominational lines, and unified efforts to aid Christians worldwide or even ‘Middle Eastern Christianity’ were rare. These lines, some speculated, may have hardened in response to the stresses of migration.

At the same time, those working toward financial or political advocacy for co-religionists back home believed that whatever poverty, oppression, or violence might be faced by Iraqis or Egyptians generally, a Christian identity would render it more severe.

‘There is an understanding that if Christians in the diaspora don’t help these groups, then who is going to help them’, Dr McCallum said.

For Middle Eastern Christians, as for anyone on the move in a globalized world, the question is one of identity – and home.

‘Is home the Middle East? Is home the UK?’ Dr McCallum noted. ‘Your answer to that is going to determine what you think is important.’

Those interested in applying for a degree program to study Arab Christianity and Christian-Muslim relations may see the website for the School of Divinity or contact Dr Ralston directly.

‘Divine Hospitality’ and Christian-Muslim Relations in Lebanon

The Christian-Muslim Studies Network invites the public to New College, University of Edinburgh for a round table discussion that explores the role that Christian-Muslim conversation and shared action have had in Lebanon and the broader Middle East. The evening discussion will move beyond news headlines and simplistic views of Lebanon and offer first hand accounts  of the millenial old wisdom and recent experiences of inter-religious debate, conflict, and co-existence in the Middle East. Divine Hospitality Invite

The centrepiece of the event, which begins at 17:30, is the book launch for Divine Hospitality: A Christian-Muslim Conversation, published by the World Council of Churches and Alban Books. The book narrates the framework for dialogue, solidarity, and mutual learning developed by the co-authors, Rev Prof Fadi Daou and Dr Nayla Tabbara.

This book is the product of a rich partnership between Prof Daou and Dr Tabbara, a Maronite priest and a Sunni Muslim scholar. Both come from Lebanon, a centuries-old stronghold of Eastern Christianity known for religious diversity. Both watched that diversity dissolve into a decade long civil war. But both believe the answer to the world’s many questions about faithful coexistence lie within the rich traditions of their respective faiths.

“This discussion represents an unusual opportunity for the general public in Edinburgh to learn about what Christian and Muslim communities in Lebanon developed together through centuries of dynamic engagement, debate, conflict, but also mutual learning and co-existence.” said Dr Joshua Ralston, Director of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network at the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity.

With funding from the Luce Foundation, the Christian-Muslim Studies Network seeks to advance critical scholarship of these interfaith dialogues both in Edinburgh and abroad. The Network explores new frameworks for dialogue that enable Muslims and Christians to appreciate one another’s distinct value without diminishing their own.

This event, hosted by the Christian-Muslim Studies Network at New College, brings their experiment off the pages and into public discussion in Edinburgh. Local faith leaders, global scholars of Christian-Muslim studies, and members of the public will listen and contribute to the rich and challenging debate.

“In an age of global tensions surrounding Christian-Muslim relations, often people are unaware of the long and rich tradition of Christian-Muslim engagement in the Arab world.” Dr Ralston said. “This event presents a window into the rich and complex encounter between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon, which remains a dynamic and developing context for political, social, spiritual, and theological encounter.”

In undertaking this project, Dr Tabbara and Rev Prof Daou displayed their confidence in their own faiths’ ability to embrace the stranger as a friend. They have termed this belief a “divine hospitality,” making it the foundation of their own interfaith dialogue in scholarship and in religious life.

The co-authors chair the Adyan Foundation in Beirut, where they have established award-winning social and educational programmes for peace in a country ravaged by recent conflict. Prof Daou is Professor of Christian Theology, Interreligious Dialogue, and Geopolitical Religion, while Dr Tabbara is Professor of Religious Studies and Islamic Studies in Lebanon.

Divine Hospitality: A Christian-Muslim Conversation and other works that examine these same, highly-topical issues from other angles will be on hand for anyone who wishes to further explore further. Authors will also be available to sign their books.

The event will commence with a chaired discussion in Martin Hall at New College, which will be followed with a drink reception and book signing in Rainy Hall .

Further information about ongoing interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians, including past events sponsored by the Christian-Muslim Studies Network, can be found at www.christianmuslim.net.

 

The Christian-Muslim Studies Network hosts Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan

The Christian-Muslim Studies Network welcomed His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad of Jordan to New College at the University of Edinburgh May 22.

As a world leader in promoting interfaith harmony between Muslims and Christians, Prince Ghazi’s lecture discussed the need for civil dialogue that does not ignore differences. His framework rests on the shared commandment of Christianity and Islam to love God and neighbor.

‘Jesus gives you an anthropology of love in the two commandments [to love God and love neighbour]’, Prince Ghazi said, explaining that a believer must understand love in order to direct its power. ‘Love will see you through your pain and your death without pain.’

Prince Ghazi suggested that love can lead to successful interfaith dialogue that reaches mainstream believers, and not only their leaders. He defined such ‘successful’ dialogues as discussions ‘where people learn from each other,’ but said it must reach mainstream believers and not only their leaders.

Dr Joshua Ralston offered a response to Prince Ghazi’s lecture and argued all who want interreligious harmony must be willing to explore both their commonalities and their differences.

‘If we’re going to have a deeper understanding between Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, secularists, and atheists, it isn’t going to come from papering over our differences or pretending they don’t matter, but in finding ways to go deeper into our particularity, but also allowing that particularity to crack open to our neighbour and to others in acts of religious learning,’ Dr Ralston said.

Both discussed the ways in which love provides guidance on the journeys toward God and toward the neighbour.

‘When you are merciful to someone you give them something, but when you love someone you give them you’, Prince Ghazi said.

Dr Ralston added that Christians and Muslims share the need for both love and law, which are ‘mutually reinforcing tools on the journey towards God.’

In addition to his lecture, titled, ‘Between us and you: Reflections on love as the ‘common word’ in Christian-Muslim relations’, the Jordanian prince offered counsel to students of Christian-Muslim relations during a lunchtime discussion.

Prince Ghazi advised students who want to contribute to interfaith harmony to read widely so they are prepared to explore others’ differences with depth and clarity.

Muslim students should ‘know the Quran by heart,’ while Christian students should study the King James Bible, and all should read the collected works of Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare. These classics, the prince insisted, teach the art of language and communication, which is the essence of complex thinking and problem-solving.

‘I found it inspiring to listen to Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad and observe his way of thinking and the way he responded to our questions,’ said Elizabeth Marteijn, a PhD student in World Christianity with an emphasis in Palestinian theology. ‘he is a leading voice in the field of Christian-Muslim dialogue, and it is a privilege to have met him in person.’

Students found the reading assignment intriguing.

‘He’s really inspired me to read more’, said Charlotte Madden, a fourth-year undergraduate in Religious Studies.

Others were intrigued by his model of scholarly engagement in political leadership.

‘He is the closest thing I know to Plato’s philosopher ruler’, said Nathan Hood, a masters student in Theology and History. ‘He is a very thoughtful man, and had a lot of dignity and respect in the way he spoke.’

Professor Paul Foster, Dean of the School of Divinity, who joined the Network in welcoming Prince Ghazi to New College, noted the growing interest in Christian-Muslim studies among both students and the School of Divinity as an institution.