A Comparative History of Catholic and Aš‘arī Theologies of Truth and Salvation

sInclusive Minorities, Exclusive Majorities


In A Comparative History of Catholic and Aš‘arī Theologies of Truth and Salvation Mohammed Gamal Abdelnour analytically and critically compares the historical development of the Catholic theologies of truth and salvation with those of its Islamic counterpart, Ašʿarism. The monograph moves the discussion from individual theologians to theological schools with a view to helping consolidate the young field of Comparative Theology. It serves two types of readers. First, the specialist who wants to dig deeper into the two traditions parallelly. Second, the generalist who may not have the time to become thoroughly familiar with every aspect of Christian-Muslim theologies. Both readers will come out with a holistic understanding of the development of Christian and Muslim theologies of truth and salvation; a holistic understanding that increases the appetite of the former and quenches that of the latter. Despite the holistic nature of the monograph, attention is duly paid to the specificities of each tradition in a deep and profound manner.

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Mohammed Gamal Abdelnour, Ph.D. (2020), SOAS University of London, is a faculty member at Al-Azhar University (Cairo) and a postdoctoral researcher at SOAS. He has published several articles on Islamic theology and religion, including The Islamic Theology of Interfaith Marriages between Theology, Law and Individual Ijtihad (RSIS, June 2020).
"Abdelnour’s volume is a very welcome contribution to this scholarly genre. As for overall purpose, he considers his work a ‘map for students of Christian-Muslim relations’, and it can play that role admirably. It will make a very useful centre-piece for such a course, providing adequate context and detail to introduce students with at least a general background in religious studies and theology to the book’s complex topic and investigative premises. Abdelnour’s generous bibliography will supply numerous possibilities for additional teaching material useful for both instructor and students." - John Renard, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations (14 July 2021).

"This book is a significant and original piece of research on an important subject. Mohammed Gamal excelled in studying Islamic Theology at al-Azhar University in Cairo, but then had the wider vision and motivation to compare the teachings of Islam with Christianity on one key theme, salvation, the ultimate hope of the faithful in both traditions, though differently expressed. His deep and intelligent historical study of Islamic and Christian sources gives the work a doubly authentic and balanced picture. This book offers a leading example for Muslims, Christians and other scholars of theology and interfaith studies to build on." - Muhammad Abdel Haleem, Professor of Islamic Studies, SOAS, University of London

"This is a most substantial and original contribution to inter-faith conversation - an insightful comparative study of the central issue of how diverse schools of thought within Christianity and Islam understand "salvation", and how they think about the limits of the holy or chosen community. It builds on wide and deep familiarity with primary sources in both traditions, addressing both theological and sociological questions, and offers a particularly vivid and expert account of debates within the Islamic world. It will make a unique contribution to Christian-Muslim understanding and will do much to nurture a more sophisticated grasp of the rich internal variety of both religious discourses."- Rowan Williams, Honorary Professor of Contemporary Christian Thought, University of Cambridge

"Gamal provides an instructive guide to Catholic and Aš‘arī theologies of truth and salvation. His intimate familiarity with both traditions, his sympathetic and intelligent observations throughout, and his tracing of their similarities and differences reveal fascinating structural similarities in the way that the greatest minds and theological schools in each tradition tackle the issues. Gamal, writing from within Islam, also tentatively indicates constructive and faithful steps forward. This is comparative theology at its best." - Gavin D'Costa, Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Bristol

"Examining salvation in the Catholic and Ash’arite traditions, this monograph nuances the major shifts of interpretation that have taken place from their formative periods up to modern times. It dextrously addresses seminal questions as to whether and how someone from without a particular tradition might achieve salvation, simultaneously highlighting how theology responds to the historical contexts in which it is embedded. The author’s singular capacity to appraise authoritatively both the Catholic and Asharite traditions leads to powerful conclusions on issues that are vitally relevant today." - Dr Erica C.D. Hunter, Senior Lecturer Eastern Christianity and Associate Dean of Research, SOAS, University of London
Transliteration and Dating

 1 The Importance of the Subject
 2 The State of the Field
  2.1 Rifat Atay
  2.2 Mohammad H. Khalil
  2.3 Esra A. Dag
 3 Critical Evaluation and Objectives of the Monograph
 4 Methodology (from Theology of Religions to Comparative Theology)
 5 Methodical Concerns
  5.1 Important Qualifications and Limitations
  5.2 Periodization and Structure
  5.3 Overview of the Monograph

1 The Early Catholic Theology of Salvation
 1 The Salvation Epistemology of the Early Church Fathers
  1.1 St. Paul (d. c. 64/67)
  1.2 The Inclusivist School
   1.2.1 Justin Martyr (d. 165)
   1.2.2 Irenaeus (d. c. 180/90)
   1.2.3 Clement of Alexandria (d. c. 215)
   1.2.4 Origen (d. c. 253)
  1.3 The Exclusivist School
   1.3.1 Ignatius (d. c. 117)
   1.3.2 Tertullian (d. c. 240)
   1.3.3 Cyprian (d. 258)
  1.4 Augustine and the Consolidation of Exclusivism
 2 Soteriology of the Early Church Fathers
  2.1 The Apokatastasis
  2.2 Christ’s Descent into Hell

2 Early Aš‘arite Theology of Salvation (Hadith-Based Theology)
 1 Early Aš‘arite Epistemology of Intra-Muslim Salvation
 2 Early Aš‘rite Intra-Muslim Soteriology
 3 Early Aš‘arite Epistemology of Inter-Religious Salvation
 4 Early Aš‘arite Inter-Religious Soteriology
 5 Early Aš‘arites and the Question of Intercession
 6 Conclusion and Comparison

3 St. Thomas Aquinas’ Theology of Salvation
 1 Aquinas’ Epistemology of Salvation
 2 Aquinas’ Soteriology
 3 Thomistic Influence on Later Theologians

4 Abu Hamid al-Gazali’s Theology of Salvation (Sunnah-Based Theology)
 1 Al-Gazali’s Theology of Intra-Muslim Salvation
 2 Al-Gazali’s Theology of Inter-Religious Salvation
  2.1 Al-Gazali and the Question of Intercession
  2.2 Can Non-Muslims be Called Mu’minun “Believers”?
  2.3 Good Deeds vs. Correct Faith
 3 The Aš‘arite Theology of Salvation after al-Gazali
 4 Conclusion and Comparison

5 Salvation in Modern Catholicism (Massignon, Rahner and Vatican II)
 1 The Impact of Massignon’s Theology of Religions on Vatican II
  1.1 Massignon the Person and Islam
  1.2 Massignon the Scholar and Islam
  1.3 Massignon and Vatican II
 2 Karl Rahner and Anonymous Christians
  2.1 Rahner’s Context and Theory
  2.2 Is there an Islamic Parallel to Rahner’s Theory?
   2.2.1 The Receptive Interpretation
   2.2.2 The Proactive Interpretation
   2.2.3 The Conflictive Interpretation
   2.2.4 Critical Evaluation

6 Modern Aš‘arite Theology of Salvation (Al-Azhar and the Quran-Based Theology)
 1 Muhammad ‘Abduh’s Theology of Salvation
  1.1 ‘Abduh’s Theology of Intra-Muslim Salvation
  1.2 ‘Abduh’s Theology of Inter-Religious Salvation
   1.2.1 ‘Abduh and the Question of Intercession
   1.2.2 Concluding Remarks
 2 Sh. Mahmud Šaltut and the Question of Salvation
  2.1 Šaltut’s Theology of Intra and Inter-religious Salvation
 3 Sh. ‘Abd al-Halim Mahmud’s Theology of Salvation
  3.1 Halim’s Theology of Muslim Denominations
  3.2 Halim’s Theology of Religions
  3.3 Comparisons and Conclusions

Conclusions and Recommendations
 The Way Forward

Glossary of Key Terms
Citation Method and Abbreviated Arabic Titles
 Arabic Sources
 English Sources
 Online Sources
The book is interesting for Western scholars and Western countries, but it might also be read in Egypt and other Muslim countries that take the authority of Al-Azhar seriously.
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