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The Path of Love:  Jesus in Mystical Islam

FOCUS ON AWARENESS
Orville Boyd Jenkins

The twentieth century produced the broadest contact in history between Muslims and the followers of Jesus the Messiah.  Mosques are becoming a common sight in Europe and North America, formerly totally "Christian" regions.

These two religious communities are coming into increasing contact in "new' areas of the world for both on "neutral ground," we might say.  A great theatre of contact between these two faiths is Africa south of the Sahara, where secular governments, in countries such as Kenya, allow freedom of propagation and practice of religion.

Here the followers of each faith come into contact on several fronts.  Freedom of religion and separation of religious and political identities, have allowed contact interchange, awareness even dialogue and understanding and occasionally mutual acceptance.

Stereotypes

Ignorance of other people, their culture and religion fosters fear, misconceptions, suspicion and defensive attitudes.   As individuals and "communities" come to see one another as real human beings rather than as "those people," just a category or name prejudice falls before awareness, fear falls before acceptance, suspicion falls before understanding.

Then people can really begin to communicate, can learn about one another, can overcome prejudices and see people as they are, or at least understand how other people see themselves.

J. Spencer Trimmingham points out that there are two spheres of confrontation for the Christian and the Muslim:
(1) Islam and Christianity as revelation, and
(2) the Christian and the Muslim.1
We often meet one another on the basis of our "religion" and try to speak theologically.  This usually leads only to argumentative confrontation.


Personal Relationship

But if a Muslim and a Christian can meet and accept one another, a personal relationship may develop as one person gets to know another person.  As trust and understanding develops, faith-concepts can be shared without threat.

Many times one of the sources of religious strife is uncertainty brought about by lack of awareness of one's own history and faith.  Many Muslims, for instance, may not be aware that for centuries Muslims have experienced constant and peaceful coexistence with those called Christians in areas such as Lebanon (until only recent years), Syria, Palestine (now known as Israel), Iraq and Iran.  Some may be unaware that the Qur'an calls for acceptance and protection of the "People of the Book" (the followers of Jesus the Messiah and the Jews, through whom the Messiah came).

Muslim Foundations of European Renewal

Likewise, many Christians may not be aware that the revival of Western learning during the Middle Ages, the reintroduction of Greek philosophy and foundations of Western Scholastic theology started with Spanish Muslim scholars such as Averroes (Ibn Rushd) in the 12th century AD.  From these Western Muslims and the Mediterranean Christian scholars the foundations of modern European thought developed there was great interchange of scholarship in those days.

It is interesting that by the 15th century the preferred format for Western Christian theology was the (pre-Christian) Greek philosophy of Aristotle, as applied by Thomas Aquinas, following the Scholastic revival fostered by this Muslim Philosopher Averroes and another Spaniard Ibnul 'Arabi.  It may be a further surprise to find that many Biblical truths are found proclaimed in the Qur'an.

If we are more aware of our own history, faith and heritage, we can better and more confidently dialogue with others of a different history, faith and heritage.  Dialogue can build relationships, foster understanding, overcome stereotypes, diminish fear, correct misconceptions and provide the foundation for "witness."  No true witness can exist outside dialogue, no trust can occur without personal contact and relationship.

This book is meant as a contribution to awareness of some common Christian and Muslim themes, to the positive considerations of what Christians and Muslims actually do claim and can claim, do proclaim and can proclaim to one another.

This book is:

A presentation of points of convergence, areas for possible dialogue

An attempt to recover and represent an interesting era in Muslim history

A reconsideration of a fertile and fervent theme in the theological reflection and mystical experience of a strong Islamic movement

An attempt to inform Christians of the strong representation of themes of their faith in Muslim terms through the Sufi movement

And finally, an attempt to foster a greater interest by Muslims and Christians in positive approaches to one another.

To the One True God, the Gracious, the Merciful, be all Praise.  Hamdulilah (Praise God).

In the name of God, Full of grace, Full of mercy.


1 Trimmingham, p. 44.

OBJ

Originally published in The Path of Love (Nairobi:  Communication Press, 1984.)
This version revised 27 May 2006
Posted on Thoughts and Resources 12 November 2007

Orville Boyd Jenkins, Ed.D., Ph.D.
Copyright © 1984, 2007 by Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.
Email: orville@jenkins.nu

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