Shadaab Rahemtulla

Shadaab Rahemtulla

Dr Shadaab Rahemtulla is Lecturer in Islam & Christian-Muslim Relations at the University of Edinburgh. A Muslim liberation theologian, he is the author of the book: "Qur'an of the Oppressed" (Oxford)

Location United Kingdom

Activity

  • To spur further discussion and reflection, I would like to share a perceptive quote from Prof Penn's video. Referring to the dominant narrative of Christian-Muslim relations as a history of warfare and antagonism, Penn states: "There's nothing factually inaccurate about this narrative. The problem is simply: That's only a small part of a much larger story." I...

  • In light of this video, here is something to think about with regard to Week 2 - what languages were John of Damascus' polemic and Timothy the Patriarch's dialogue recorded in? You guessed it: Greek and Syriac, respectively. So Michael Penn's video helps us contextualise a bit more Timothy's audience with the Caliph al-Mahdi. As Penn notes, Syriac Christians...

  • Tanja, many thanks for flagging up the historic figure of Najashi - the ruler of the Kingdom of Aksum (modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea) who gave sanctuary to an early wave of Muslim refugees from Mecca in 615-616. To connect the content of this week with Week 2, it is interesting to note that the early companion Ja'far al-Tayar - who accompanied the Muslim...

  • Hi all. Here's a concrete example of what we're trying to do in this exercise. If you look at the John of Damascus text, the mistaken notion of Islam as being nothing more than an Arab derivative of Christianity and Judaism is a theme that is often used in modern Christian and Orientalist polemics in the West against Muslims. Here is the quote from John of...

  • This is a perceptive point. Ibn al-Qayyim's poem shows that, while Muslims and Christians worship the same God, how they understand the One God is complex and contested. For Ibn al-Qayyim, and indeed for Muslims in general, it is deeply problematic to conceive of God in anthropomorphic terms, and then, to make matters even more complicated, to try to reconcile...

  • Thank you for your reflective posts. It is certainly true that mothers hold a special place in the Islamic tradition, which teaches that Paradise lies under the mother's feet. That said, in the context of this nativity passage, it would be important to "read" this narrative in the light of the Qur'an's wider discourse on Christology and the Oneness of God: by...

  • This last point is very interesting. It is indeed true that the word "patriarch" is not used in the Qur'an to refer to Abraham, who is presented as a major prophet, and hence the accent on his monotheism (eg: the star, sun, moon story). In terms of titles, Abraham (ibrahim) is referred to as a hanif (a monotheist), an imam (leader), and khalilallah (the Friend...

  • Thanks for your post Dalene. Just to clarify, the Qur'an often uses the royal "we" (nahnu) when presenting God's speech, thereby accenting God's all-powerful nature. Interestingly, in other parts of the Qur'an where God's intimacy and closeness to the believers is being accented, the pronoun switches to the singular first-person "I".

  • Well stated Bill. As we will learn in Week 2, the Qur'an distinguishes Jews and Christians (and monotheistic communities that no longer exist in our time, such as Sabeans) from polytheists, referring to Abrahamic faith traditions as part of Ahl al-Kitab, or the People of the Book. The "book" here refers not to a specific text, but the notion of ongoing...

  • Hi all. My sincere apologies - the link that we posted seems to have recently gone offline. Many thanks to LJ for sharing the new link. Here it is again for anyone who missed it: https://interfaithradio.org/StoryAudio/Linking_the_Qur___an_and_the_Bible

  • Hi everyone! As a member of the teaching team, I would like to welcome you all to the course. I hope you find the various videos, readings, and exercises over the next four weeks engaging and stimulating.

  • We're delighted that you enjoyed the course. Thanks so much for your positive feedback, and for your thoughtful comments and questions in the discussion boards over the past four weeks. If you would like to learn more, the next page ("step") has a recommended reading list of books on Christian-Muslim Relations, as well as some information about our new...

  • @PaulC I thought your comment that "precious tolerance and co-existence can vanish in an instant" was very perceptive. I would add that - conversely - building genuine understanding and trust with the religious Other (be that Other Muslim or Christian) is a slow, incremental process that requires patience and perseverance. It's unsettling how "the...

  • I think this step challenges us to really think about who is the "interlocutor" (the audience / conversation partner) of interfaith engagement? While the meeting between the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar is certainly an important and symbolic one, I myself couldn't help thinking that the intended interlocutor of that meeting was not really *within*...

  • Yes, that is right: at present Qom - which is a city in Iran - is the Shi'a equivalent of Al-Azhar. Note that Qom's ascendance to international fame is rather recent - before the Iranian Revolution, the Shi'a shrine city of Najaf (Iraq) was the place to go for traditional Islamic studies. Despite Qom's ascendance, Najaf remains an important site of learning,...

  • It's important to note that the reasons for shrinking Christian populations in the Middle East is complex and cannot be reduced to "Muslim oppression," even though this is the grand narrative that the media presents. Due to the historic presence of missionary schools, Arab Christians have generally had greater exposure to Western languages such as French and...

  • When engaging these questions, something to think about as well is "secularism." In the contemporary world, religions are often portrayed and stereotyped as being partisan, if not intolerant, and usually in juxtaposition to an enlightened, modern secularism. But are "secular" perspectives neutral? Does secularism also not have ingrained assumptions and...

  • @n'nancocquotchrystellekouassi This is an important point. Thank you for this. Islamic calligraphy, which is centred on the Qur'an, plays a key role in Muslim public religious spaces, precisely because of a general unease with pictorial representations of the divine, angels, the prophets, etc. That said, the history (including aesthetic history) of any...

  • @BruceRalston Yes, I think this is a key take-away of the video. When it comes to representations of Christianity, Islam and, by extension, Christian-Muslim relations, we are not necessarily offered "lies" per se, but a series of half-truths, and these can be as dangerous.

  • @StephenCowley @DerekBond @JanetBrown Yes, in mainstream Islamic law and practice Muslim men can marry Christian and Jewish women (with the understanding that the children will be raised Muslim) but not the other way around. The passage that you quoted above, which seems to be an Islamic scholar's answer in an online question forum, reflects this view. That...

  • @ClaudiaRodrigues Good follow-up question! The fitra (Arabic for nature / natural disposition) of humankind is seen as being inherently good. So sinning is actually viewed as an aberration of humankind's true spirit. People sin, from a Qur'anic perspective, because Satan tempts them to be selfish, greedy, arrogant, and to take the "easy" path (among other...

  • @DerekBond @HaydnBlackey These are excellent points. I think, in terms of interfaith dialogue, this has always been a key challenge: what exactly is monotheism? The key phrase in my previous post, with regard to an Islamic perspective, would be "absolute monotheism" - in which there is no filial association with God (which is regarded as shirk, literally, the...

  • Building on this step's Discussion Question, it's also very important to think about social context. As mentioned in Week 1, religious exchanges do not emerge in a vacuum but are critically shaped by an array of social factors, including global politics, domestic politics, economics, culture, ethnicity, race, gender, language, among other factors. How have...

  • @WilmaP While united in the belief in One God, I would say Muslims are as diverse as Christians. Something I have noticed about both medieval and contemporary polemic exchanges (whether Christian vs Muslim, or Christian vs Christian, or Muslim vs Muslim) is that each side often sets themselves up as the "authoritative representative" of their religion, and...

  • Building on Dr Ralston's post, it's important to think about the different languages that shape John's and Timothy's respective Christian contexts: John was coming from a Greek-speaking Christian background, Timothy was coming from a Syriac-speaking Christian background. As you will see next week, the experience of medieval Syriac Christians was very different...

  • Thanks for your engagements with this text. When exploring Christian-Muslim relations, something to think about is the function of polemic (to basically denounce the "other" side) and also how polemic works: that is, its various "strategies," as it were. A common strategy that I have seen - in both Christian and Muslim polemics - is using the "other's" own...

  • You are right when you state: "I remember an adherent at university telling me that they believed that there was a crucifixion, but God brought Jesus up to heaven and it was someone else who actually died on the cross." This is basically the Qur'anic perspective on the crucifixion, and, as you can see, it is not a full narrative, but a fragmented intervention...

  • Thanks for your reflections on this piece. One of the reasons we chose this medieval poem is because a *critical* study of Christian-Muslim relations should move beyond irenic (overly conciliatory) language and apologetics, and should showcase a variety of perspectives and engagements from each side, and we might not always be comfortable being exposed to...

  • Thanks for your reflections on this piece. One of the reasons we chose this fascinating poem is because a *critical* study of Christian-Muslim relations should move beyond irenic (overly conciliatory) language and apologetics, and should showcase a variety of perspectives and engagements from each side, and we might not always be comfortable being exposed to...

  • @WilmaP I think this is a very concise and effective way to put it. That Ibn al-Qayyim is being confrontational here is clear, but, beneath the polemic, there is also a wider theological problem that transcends Ibn al-Qayyim altogether and is linked to a broader Qur'anic theological challenge: how can an omnipotent (all-powerful) God be crucified? I think, in...

  • You have all done a great job of reflecting on this Qur'anic narrative, especially in terms of connecting Mary's experiences of childbirth with the Qur'an's wider discourse on Jesus' humanity. Here is something to think about: what can the Qur'an's treatment of Mary tell us about the particular forms of Middle Eastern Christianity it was addressing in its own...

  • @ShaheenA Or both: see, for example, Q. 28:5: "It is our will to bestow our grace upon the downtrodden of the Earth, and to make them the leaders, and to make them the inheritors."

  • Good question! While God is indivisibly one in the Qur'an, the royal "We" is often used to underscore divine power and strength. At the other points, when the text emphasizes the close, intimate relationship between God and the believers, the singular "I" is used.

  • Thanks for this thoughtful post. I should point out that while the Qur'an engages the birth of Jesus and various narratives from the Bible, it also departs from them. Childbirth is one example. In the Qur'an, childbirth is not represented as a punishment for women, as the descendants of Eve. This is because there is no concept of original sin in the Qur'an,...

  • @MarikoMI That's a good question. It's important to note the critical difference between sharing affinities / similarities and being "the same." I feel this point is often glossed over in interfaith dialogue. There are manifest ("Abrahamic") similarities between Christianity and Islam, but they are ultimately two different faith traditions. The absolute...

  • I am glad to hear that you are enjoying the quizzes. We wrote the quizzes as a fun and educational - rather than a daunting and evaluative - exercise to kick-start each week, so please don't worry about making mistakes. That's actually where some of the most impactful learning takes place!

  • Thanks for your posts. Just to clarify: of course the Qur'an can be translated, and we are all engaging translations here. Indeed, the function of the Qur'an itself is to provide guidance and insight, and translations allow this to happen. Rather, my point is theological in character - as the Word of God, it cannot be translated and still be "the Qur'an", as...

  • Good question! While God is indivisibly one in the Qur'an, the royal "We" is often used to underscore divine power and strength. At the other points, when the text emphasizes the close, intimate relationship between God and the believers, the singular "I" is used.

  • Thanks for your question Okelloh. Please see my discussion post in the next step.

  • Delighted to hear that you have all been enjoying the course so far. That's a good question: if Christianity and Islam adhere to the same one God, why have different revelations? From an Islamic perspective, what necessitates the Qur'anic revelation? I think you might find some answers to these questions next week.

  • I think silence speaks volumes. Can we "read" textual silence as something that is not passive but active? The fact that the Qur'an doesn't explicitly mention (refuses to explicitly mention?) the son's name may suggest that, for the Qur'an, the identity of the son is not important. It seems that the Qur'an is not really interested in who the son is, but rather...

  • The question of translation is indeed very important. Firstly, let me note that from an Islamic perspective, the Qur'an cannot be translated, as it is the Arabic Qur'an that is considered the Word of God, more specifically, the recited/oral Arabic Qur'an is considered the Word of God. (The written text, in Islamic studies, is actually called a "mushaf",...

  • Good question! While God is indivisibly one in the Qur'an, the royal "We" is often used to underscore divine power and strength. At the other points, when the text emphasizes the close, intimate relationship between God and the believers, the singular "I" is used.

  • Yes, I think that's an apt way to put it. Prophet Muhammad is of course deeply revered by Muslims and seen as a model of Qur'anic teachings, but in Islam there is not a human figure who represents salvation - the authority of the Messengers (the Prophets) comes through the authority of the divine Message: the Oneness of God. I should also clarify that the...

  • That's a good question. A text can have multiple audiences, and the Qur'an was speaking to a number of groups at the same time. Yes, I think there was an expectation, especially during the early revelatory period, that Christians and Jews would be more open to the Qur'anic call, given their shared monotheistic Abrahamic background, and the fact that they...

  • Thanks for your comments and questions. Firstly, just a quick clarification, Ramadan is a holy month in the Islamic calendar, in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, and the month ends with Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast). While there may be some similarities with Lent, Ramadan is not a Muslim version of Lent. But I want to focus on the...

  • Welcome everyone! I'm heartened to see the effort that everyone has put in reflecting on their own social contexts and how they have shaped existing views on Islam and/or Christianity. I would challenge you to keep your social context in mind throughout this course, and to think about how certain tropes, assumptions, and representations of the Other have been...

  • Thanks for your reflection. What's interesting is that the Arabic language, while of course being a defining feature of Arab identity, actually has a more complex role in Muslim identity precisely because the Qur'an was revealed in Arabic. So there is a sacredness that is attached to Qur'anic Arabic (not to be confused with modern standard Arabic or...

  • Welcome Rahmeh!

  • Delighted to have you all on the course and looking forward to your thoughts and reflections.

  • As my colleague Joshua noted, this page is just to give a basic introduction to both faith traditions. We have people from all sorts of different knowledge backgrounds and levels joining us, and so we can't presume prior knowledge. If you would like a more in-depth engagement, jump into the various articles on Christianity and Islam, linked above. They are...

  • Thanks Matt - I also found the Pew Research poll to be fascinating, particularly in terms of relating different countries to each other. It gives you a real global perspective of where Christians and Muslims live.

  • The interview does a good job of teasing out the domestic factors at play behind the emergence of the shari'a as a key signifier within Muslim discourse in the UK (and in the West in general) from the 1970s/80s onwards, shifting from primarily ethnic to primarily religious identity markers. In terms of *global* factors, I would add that, in addition to the...

  • I really appreciate your comment about religion as being a "source of legitimacy." It is important to understand that Islamic feminism is not simply about a deep-seated belief in the justice of the One God - and this belief is, of course, crucial - but Islamic feminism is also a practical social justice project that understands its own cultural context: that...

  • @MogamatAbrahams Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Your point about the importance of historical context is spot on, and is actually how the first Muslims themselves engaged the hudud. For example, during the reign of the Caliph Umar a thief was brought before him for sentencing, but Umar decided not to apply the hudud punishment for theft, taking the...

  • These are interesting responses, and I have enjoyed reading them. It's also important to keep in mind that the Arabic language itself is proof of the Qur'an being "translated" from the sacred realm into human life. That is, while God can certainly speak Arabic, it is not the language of God; for Muslims, after all, God can speak in any tongue and, indeed,...