Christian Lives Given to the Study of Islam

Christian Lives Given to the Study of Islam

Christian W. Troll
C. T. R. Hewer
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 320
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    Christian Lives Given to the Study of Islam
    Book Description:

    This book captures the autobiographical reflections of twenty-eight Christian men and women who, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, committed their lives to the study of Islam and to practical Christian-Muslim relations in new and irenic ways. Their contributions come from across the spectrum of the Western church and record what drew them into the study of Islam. Their accounts take us to twenty-five countries and into all the branches of Islamic studies: Qur'an, Hadith, Shari'a, Sufism, philology, theology, and philosophy. They give fascinating insights into personal encounters with Islam and Muslims, speak of the ways in which their Christian traditions of spiritual training formed and nourished them, and deal with some of the misunderstandings and opposition they have faced along the way.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4640-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)
    Christian W. Troll and C. T. R. Hewer

    “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lk. 6:31). Seek to understand others as you would have them seek to understand you. Teach about others as you would have them teach about you. This might be seen as the underlying principle of the articles in this collection. This book represents a half-century: the half-century that saw the biggest change in Christian attitudes to Islam in history, the half-century between the youngest and the oldest of our contributors, and the half-century of their lives that many of these writers have committed as Christian students of Islam and...

  4. The Tents of Kedar
    (pp. 3-12)
    Kenneth Cragg

    They are pitched in the Book of Common Prayer version of Psalm 120, “Woe is me that I am constrained to dwell with Mesech and to have my habitation among the tents of Kedar.” That opening “woe” will have to have a sense, not of unhappiness or regret but, quite the contrary, of something strenuous and taxing. Mesech seems to have been a region bordering the Black Sea. Kedar, far to the south, is the region of Arabia Petraea, whither Paul sought a soul retreat after his conversion on the Damascus road.

    But if these “tents of Kedar” are to...

  5. Following a Path of Dialogue
    (pp. 13-21)
    Maurice Borrmans

    It was in November 1945 that I discovered North Africa. At age twenty, I was there to complete my spiritual and theological formation at Maison-Carrèe (Algeria) and at Thibar (Tunisia). I had decided to join the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) to fulfill an ideal first glimpsed thanks to the Christian Scouts and Catholic Students movements during my adolescence and secondary studies. I had been strongly attracted by the North African projects of Cardinal Lavigerie, Archbishop of Algiers, by the remarkable witness of Fr. de Foucauld, the hermit of Tamanrasset, and the writings of Ernest Psichari, grandson of Renan. Had...

  6. God-Consciousness
    (pp. 22-30)
    Sigvard von Sicard

    Having grown up in Africa, I had been influenced by the African setting where you imbibed respect for the view, opinions, and ways of others. Likewise my father’s dedication to the study of the traditions of the Shona and the Lemba deepened my appreciation of the African heritage.¹ During my studies at the University of Rhodes in South Africa, I had had an opportunity to study social anthropology under Monica Hunter-Wilson which widened my horizons further.²

    When I enrolled in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Uppsala one of the requirements was a course in Comparative Religion. For...

  7. Called from My Mother’s Womb
    (pp. 31-41)
    Lucie Pruvost

    As I look back over what has been a long life, I can say it is the encounter with Muslim believers that has been the constant thread running through my whole existence, from the day of my birth, right up until today, especially in my work as a Missionary Sister of Africa (MSOLA, commonly called the White Sisters). All this makes me think that I must have been called to it even from my mother’s womb. As the Constitutions of our institute foresee, “Faithful to its origins, the Congregation pays particular attention to Muslim believers.”¹ This was indeed an essential...

  8. A Life between Church and Islam: Seeking True Discernment
    (pp. 42-52)
    Jan Slomp

    The following essay is the result of an effort to describe how I have become a missionary, a Christian student of Islam, and a dialogue partner for Muslim friends and counterparts. My tale contains personal, ecumenical, apologetic, cultural, political, and theological dimensions. Not every dimension gets equal emphasis. I will not repeat what I have written elsewhere or if need be only briefly in order to avoid incoherence. It is not a story only about me, because being a Christian implies being part of the Church, as a worldwide community, with a history and a future, a household of faith...

  9. A Philosophical-Theologian’s Journey
    (pp. 53-62)
    David B. Burrell

    Jung reminds us how the story of our lives will always be the story of our times as well. As a Catholic, I was reared ecumenically by an English Catholic mother and a Scottish Presbyterian father, baptized an Anglican by his mother in Montana. So my life would be tracked by ecclesial realities in a different key from many American Catholics, yet arriving in Rome to study theology at twenty-three (1956). I would realize how Protestant my sensibilities were. I had been fortified at the University of Notre Dame by a rich “great books” education in the Western classics, and...

  10. A Pilgrimage amongst the Treasures of Islamic Traditions
    (pp. 63-70)
    Arij Roest Crollius

    It began with Arabic studies. It was intended by my superiors that I should prepare myself to succeed Fr. J. Houben, S.J., as professor of Islamic studies at the University of Nijmegen. I had always felt an attraction to Asian cultures, Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but of Islam I had no more than a vague idea. As a Jesuit one obeys.

    First I spent three years in Lebanon: at the language school in Bikfaya, at St. Joseph’s University in Beirut, and also teaching English at a Jesuit High School. For reasons that may or may not be relevant here, the...

  11. Seeking a Theological Encounter
    (pp. 71-80)
    Etienne Renaud

    Devoting my life to the encounter with Islam was not an early vocation. In fact my first contacts with Islam go back to my military service in Algeria, where, like all young French men at the time, I was posted during the Algerian war. I was appointed as officer for “Algerian affairs,” as a member of the corps known as the Blue Kepis. Their task was to administer the villages in war-affected zones, a task that the civilian administration was unable to undertake. This first contact with North Africa encouraged me to acquire the first rudiments of the Algerian dialect....

  12. Engaging in Christian—Muslim Relations: A Personal Journey
    (pp. 81-93)
    Michael L. Fitzgerald

    I have already written about the origins of my involvement in relations with Muslims,¹ but in a word I could say that I owe everything to the missionary society to which I belong, the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers). It is true, though, that when as a boy I left home to start training for the missionary priesthood, I was not thinking about the Islamic world. The attention of the White Fathers in the United Kingdom was focused on Black Africa. The imagination of the young minor seminarians was nourished by stories about Ghana and Nigeria, Tanzania (Tanganyika as it...

  13. All Over the World, the Spirit Is Moving
    (pp. 94-102)
    Jean-Marie Gaudeul

    For as long as I can remember, I have lived and moved in an atmosphere of faith. Both my parents came from a traditional Roman Catholic milieu and had gone through an experience of conversion to deeper, personal faith in Christ. I received from them a real thirst for a personal relationship with him, from which I knew with certainty, at the age of six or seven, that he was calling me to be a missionary in Africa, a “White Father.” By inclination, I would rather have chosen to become a medical doctor following my father’s footsteps. I cannot say...

  14. Synchronized Spiritualities
    (pp. 103-114)
    Paul Jackson

    A feature of life at Marist College Ashgrove, in Brisbane, Australia, was an annual retreat. In the final year, this was done in a Carmelite monastery. Apart from talks by the priest conducting the retreat, a generous supply of pamphlets on various religious topics was made available to read. The writings of an American Jesuit priest, Daniel A. Lord, struck a chord within me. He was writing for teenagers. What he wrote came across to me as being “deep and meaningful.” A desire to write something “deep and meaningful” was kindled within me and eventually led to a desire to...

  15. On Being a Servant of Reconciliation
    (pp. 115-127)
    Christian W. Troll

    My commitment to pursue a deeper understanding of Muslims and Islam, their culture and religion, developed gradually during the years 1957 to 1961 when I was studying Christian theology at the universities of Bonn and Tübingen. From 1959 I worked under the guidance of the church historian Hubert Jedin on an extended paper entitled “The China Missions in the Middle Ages.” One day by chance I came across the essay “The Need for Islamic Studies” by the Dutch Jesuit J. J. Houben, then professor of Islamology at Nijmegen (Holland) and Beirut (Lebanon). The following statement, made in the context of...

  16. A Man of Dialogue
    (pp. 128-134)
    Christiaan van Nispen tot Sevenaer

    I do not think I had ever met any Muslims before the sea voyage that took me, as a young Jesuit with three other Dutch confrères, from Venice to Beirut, in August 1960, on our way to help the Near East Province of the Society of Jesus. Islam was at that time a distant and rather exotic phenomenon, known only through books, which spoke of the lands of Africa and Asia. We did not even realize that there were Muslims in Eastern Europe (the Balkans and Russia).

    It was in 1955 that I entered religious life, with the express wish...

  17. A Boy from God’s Country
    (pp. 135-145)
    Andreas D’Souza

    Kerala is often called “God’s own country.” Rightly so because of her natural beauty: backwater rivers, coconut and banana groves, emerald paddy fields, spice gardens, the undulating mountain regions and the plains often surrounded by wide expanses of blue water. In a similar fashion Mangalore, too, should be named “God’s country” because it is very similar to Kerala in landscape, water sources, and vegetation. I was born in Negiguri, a small village in Mangalore, which literally means “paddy hole.” It is a veritable hole (guri) surrounded by hills on all sides. A small river irrigates the fertile land. During the...

  18. Teaching the Religion of Others
    (pp. 146-152)
    Michel Lagarde

    Many missionary lives, my own included,¹ start with a confrontational attitude, or rather, apostolic zeal, with all the impetuosity and unworthiness this can entail, as does anything indicative of conquest.² “Woe is me, if I do not proclaim the Gospel!” Yes, indeed, but after forty years of experience, my concept of evangelization has perceptibly changed. In a letter to a friend, Ernest Renan wrote: “where usefulness ends, beauty begins. God, the Infinite, and the pure air coming from there; that is life.”³ In a certain sense, this is in a small way the summing-up of my spiritual journey in the...

  19. An Engagement with Islam
    (pp. 153-162)
    Christopher Lamb

    I was born in 1939 and grew up in the city of Bristol, in the west of England. This should have given me a sense of the wider world, since Bristol was a significant port for centuries. “All ship-shape and Bristol fashion” is an expression still used with pride by Bristolians to mean something tidy and organized. But it was only at university that I met a Nigerian student for the first time and began to register the darker side of my home city’s story. Bristol was instantly familiar to him from the slave trade, in a way that his...

  20. Liminality: Living on Borders
    (pp. 163-176)
    Patrick Ryan

    I turned seventy in August 2009, fifty-two years after I entered the Society of Jesus. I have spent half of my life as a Jesuit in Africa and half elsewhere, mainly in New York City. I have always felt that I lived on the borders of any country or community. In a sense, as the anthropologist Victor Turner maintained, religious men and women are called to liminality, living on borders.

    Many who hear me speak wonder where I come from. My accent is not typical of New York City. I grew up Irish in New York, most of my relatives...

  21. Growing in Love and Truth with Muslims
    (pp. 177-187)
    Thomas Michel

    Until I was 28 I had never met a Muslim. The world in which I was raised was pretty much circumscribed by our Catholic parish in St. Louis County in the Midwest of the United States. The people we prayed with on Sundays and feasts, and at novenas and Perpetual Help devotions, were the same people whose children I went to parochial school with, that my brothers and sisters dated, that my parents played cards with, and at whose house they square-danced (the fad in the 1950s) on Saturday evenings. The parish provided not only our place of worship, but...

  22. An Interfaith Experience of Dialogue as Love in Action, Silence, and Harmony
    (pp. 188-199)
    Sebastiano D’Ambra

    Dreams often have guided me beyond the “normal way.” The first dream that touched my life was the fruit of the prayers of my parents when, in 1950, at the foot of the grotto of Lourdes in France, they asked God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, for the grace of a priestly vocation for me. My parents told me about their dream and prayer when I was already in the diocesan seminary. The same dream inspired me to leave the diocesan seminary when a missionary visited us one day and his words remained in my heart: “We have...

  23. Spiritual Paths as Ways of Dialogue
    (pp. 200-210)
    Giuseppe Scattolin

    When in July 1969, a year after my priestly ordination, I disembarked at Beirut harbor, I had a very vague idea about the purpose of my trip. I went there to learn Arabic. Then, according to my superiors’ plan, I was to proceed to the Sudan to be installed in one of our schools to teach there until the end of my days. This had been the way of many others before me, and this was supposed to be my way of life too. My congregation, the Comboni Missionaries, has been engaged in the work of evangelization for more than...

  24. A Dominican Friar in a Land of Immigration and in a Land of Islam
    (pp. 211-218)
    Emilio Platti

    My father, Giuseppe, being an Italian immigrant, would talk to me in the dialect of Bergamo. From my mother and grandparents, being Flemish, I would hear the gentle tones of Dutch in Flemish pronunciation. But to preserve harmony between everyone, we spoke French at home. I was certainly immersed in a multilingual environment, but nothing to signal my later study of Arabic. In this Catholic milieu, in a Catholic Flemish region, nevertheless an implicit theology of welcome and openness prevailed. A terrible tragedy occurred to our neighbors, who were the only Protestants in the street. Their small daughter was burnt...

  25. How Did You End Up in Islamic Studies?
    (pp. 219-228)
    Jane McAuliffe

    If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked that question, I would be a wealthy woman. Of course, it is a perfectly reasonable inquiry. The number of American Catholic women of my generation who became scholars of Islam and the Qur’an could probably be counted in single digits. It was not a common career path when I was a child nor can I recall any role models at all. Like many of us, however, I find that life’s surprising journey does make sense—when glimpsed through a rearview mirror. With a backward glance, I can see the...

  26. A Call to Muslim–Christian Dialogue
    (pp. 229-238)
    Francesco Zannini

    My deep desire to implement Muslim–Christian dialogue through my life experiences and serious Islamic studies is rooted in a call that has connected all of the events in my life—even in the changing of places and personal situations.

    I was brought up in a family that was open to dialogue and promoted respect for others, with a strong sense of values. My father was a strenuous freedom fighter against Nazi fascism, a real Christian, strong in his faith and faithful to the Church. His life and personality instilled in my heart a deep faithfulness to the truth and...

  27. Grace Builds on Nature
    (pp. 239-246)
    C. T. R. Hewer

    The maxim “grace builds on nature” applies. For the Christian who would go the solitary path of the study of Islam and actively promoting Christian–Muslim relations, it helps to have been born into an English recusant family, which retained its traditional allegiance during the times of the Penal Laws in England. Such breeding brings forth a nature that is independent, self-affirming, and dogged in regards to matters of faith, combined with the natural English yeoman character.

    After an education that promoted independent thinking, specializing in the natural sciences, I commenced the study philosophy and theology in the spirit of...

  28. A Lenten Journey
    (pp. 247-257)
    Daniel Madigan

    Lent was just beginning as I started out on this journey that has taken me to places, both geographical and theological, of which I would never have dreamed. It was in Delhi, the day before Ash Wednesday 1984, that I first met Christian Troll, who would introduce me to this new world. Looking back now, I see that the themes of Lent have marked these last twenty-five years and can help give some shape to these reflections.

    Yet the journey did not exactly begin there. What really launched me on it was the question put to me by one of...

  29. Journeying toward God
    (pp. 258-267)
    Joseph Ellul

    Before referring to my own experiences in the field of Christian–Muslim dialogue I believe that, for the benefit of the reader, a brief historical-cultural overview of Maltese society would help to situate my reflections within their proper context.

    The Maltese Islands are strategically situated right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea at the crossroads between two continents (Europe and Africa), as well as between two different worlds and two different cultures. In the past the country was considered a bastion of Christianity against the marauding Barbary corsairs and the encroaching military and naval might of the Ottoman Empire....

  30. “From the brook by the path”: Formation and Transformation in Meeting Muslims
    (pp. 268-277)
    Felix Körner

    Reviews, especially those on one’s own life, are rather hypothetical in their attempts to point out reasons, threads, and meaning. Why and how did I come to be a Jesuit in dialogue with Muslims and a theologian of witness? What influenced me, what drove me, what helped me? These are good questions. My answers, however, are an attempt only to discover consistency.

    “How can a church possibly claim to be the only saving community?” Questions like this were usual topics around our family table in Offenbach, Germany. Our home was shaped by the encounter of our father’s legal culture and...

  31. Intelligence, Humility and Confidence: An Agenda for Christian Engagement with Islam
    (pp. 278-286)
    David Marshall

    I first studied Islam as an undergraduate reading theology at Oxford University in the mid-1980s. From where we are now it is striking to recall how marginal the study of Islam (or any other non-Christian religion) was in the Oxford theology faculty at that time. The syllabus was almost entirely focused on the Bible and the development of Christian doctrine, a grounding for which I am very grateful. There was, however, one Finals paper that presented a wider range of options. I originally intended to choose further Old Testament studies but was prompted by a television program on Muslims in...

  32. So What Have We Learned?
    (pp. 287-296)
    Christian W. Troll and C. T. R. Hewer

    When the disciples of John saw Jesus, they asked him “Teacher, where do you live?” and he replied “Come and see” (John 1:38–30). The importance of place, institution and teacher as thelocifor engagement in the study by Christians of Islam shines out from these articles. If one were to trace the circles of influence of men like Georges Anawati, Maurice Borrmans, Robert Caspar, Kenneth Cragg, Jacques Jomier, David Kerr, and Christian Troll as they run through the lives of the authors, then one would see that so many lives have been influenced by “sitting at the feet...

  33. List of Contributors
    (pp. 297-308)