A Christian-Muslim Comparative Theology of Saints

The Community of God’s Friends


In A Christian-Muslim Comparative Theology of Saints: The Community of God’s Friends, Hans A. Harmakaputra focuses on a question that emerges from today’s multi-faith context: “Is it possible for Christians to recognize non-Christians as saints?” To answer affirmatively, he offers a Christian perspective on an inclusive theology of saints through the lens of comparative theology that is based on the thought of Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim theologians: Karl Rahner, Jean-Luc Marion, Elizabeth Johnson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Paul Tillich, and Ibn Arabī’. As a result of this interreligious comparison, three theological constructs emerge: (1) saints as manifestations and revealers of God’s self-communication, (2) the hiddenness of saints, and (3) saints as companions.
These theological constructs redefine and reconfigure Christian understanding of saints on one hand, and on the other hand provide theological reasoning to include non-Christians in the Christian notion of the communion of saints.

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Hans A. Harmakaputra, Ph.D. (2020), Boston College, is Visiting Assistant Professor in Comparative Theology and Muslim-Christian Relations at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, Connecticut, USA. He has published articles and book chapters, including a chapter in the book Georgetown Companion to Interreligious Studies (Georgetown University Press, 2022). Starting in Fall 2022, he will join Augustana University, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as Assistant Professor of Religion.
“The Community of God’s Friends is an intriguing book not least because of its stated goals, chief among which is an attempt to “enrich” Christian understanding regarding the “communion of saints” by exploring ideas from “across” the religious and denominational divide, but also for its organic style of unpacking the issues involved. Harmakaputra is firmly grounded in the Protestant tradition and here he masterfully facilitates a conversation between perspectives from his own tradition and those from the Roman Catholic and Muslim traditions. By applying the comparative theology lens, the author is able to expand the scope of discourse to include interdisciplinary considerations. In other words, it will be useful for the specialist in religious studies and yet it also off ers ideas for engaging in interfaith dialogue for the general reader.” – Irfan A. Omar, Associate Professor Theology, Marquette University

"Dr. Harmakaputra’s work of comparative theology offers an inclusive theology of saints grounded in the thought of Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim theologians. His scholarship is truly impressive, displaying a great familiarity with and a masterful grasp of Catholic and Protestant theology of sainthood and Islamic theology of prophethood, especially in the Sunni and Sufi traditions. I strongly recommend this book for courses on interreligious dialogue and to those interested in a comparative understanding of Christian and Muslim concepts of sainthood and prophethood." – Peter C. Phan, The Igancio Ellacuria, S.J. Chair of Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University

"The inclusive theology of saints developed by Hans Harmakaputra with the help of Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim sources is comparative theology at its best: it offers an impressive solution for an important problem of contemporary systematic theology with considerable practical effects, it offers a convincing and understandable way of reception of non-Christian sources, and it develops a thought-provoking, stimulating systematic idea in a wide ecumenical horizon.“ – Klaus Von Stosch, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Bonn.

 1 Why Saints?
 2 Reconfiguring Saints and Sainthood: The Quest for an Inclusive Christian Theology of the Saints
 3 Disciplinary Framework: Comparative Systematic Theology
 4 Limits of the Study
 5 Structure

1 Contemporary Catholic Discourse on Theology of Saints
 1 Canonization, Intercessory Roles, and Moral Exemplars:Three Features of the Saints in Catholic Teaching
 2 Saints as Tangible Manifestations of God’s Grace in History:Karl Rahner’s Theology of Saints
 3 Remembering the Saints as Friends of God and Prophets:Elizabeth Johnson’s Feminist Perspective on the Saints
 4 The Invisibility of the Saint According to Jean-Luc Marion

2 Contemporary Protestant Discourse on Theology of Saints
 1 Protestant Reformers’ Criticism of the Veneration of Saints
 2 Contemporary Protestant Churches’ Approach to Saints
 3 Contemporary Theological Approaches to a Theology of Saints
  3.1 A Worldly Saint: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and His Thoughts on Sainthood
  3.2 Saints as Embodiments of Ultimate Reality: Paul Tillich and His Notion of Saintliness and Sanctification

3 Friends of God and Sainthood in Islam: An Introduction
 1 Clarification of the Key Terms Related to Sainthood
 2 Signs of Awliya Allah: A Phenomenological Approach to Muslim Saints
  2.1 Reductionist and Relativistic Approaches to Sainthood
  2.2 Approaching Sainthood as a Tradition in Islam
  2.3 Miraculous Deeds as the Signs of a Wali: The Case of Abdurrahman Wahid
 3 Friends of God in the Qur’an and Hadith: A Textual Approach
 4 Formulation of Sainthood in the Early Period of Sufism:A Theological Approach
  4.1 Al-Junayd: Saints as Models for Believers
  4.2 Hakim al-Tirmidhi: Sainthood and the Seal of the Saints

4 Friends of God and Sainthood According to IBN ‘Arabi
 1 Clarification of Ibn ?Arabi’s Key Concepts
  1.1 Oneness of Being
  1.2 The Human and the Perfect Human
  1.3 The “God Created in Beliefs”
 2 The Realm of the Walaya
  2.1 The Relationship of Sainthood to Prophethood and Messengerhood
  2.2 The Universality of Walaya
 3 The Saints as the Heirs of the Prophets
 4 The “Hiddenness” of Saints

5 Saints as Manifestations and Revealers of God’s Self-Communication
 1 The Universality of God’s Self-Communication
  1.1 Grace as the Self-Communication of God
  1.2 Anonymous Christians
  1.3 From Anonymous Christians to Saints
 2 The Particularity of God’s Self-Communication
  2.1 The Role of Jesus Christ in God’s Universal Self-Communication
  2.2 Hidden Saints as Many Mediations
 3 Towards the Recognition of Hidden Saints
  3.1 Hidden Saints as the Mystics of Everyday Life
  3.2 Universal Paths for Realizing God’s Grace
  3.3 Saints as Revealers of New Modes of God’s Grace

6 The Hiddenness of Saints
 1 Banality and Holiness: Sanctity as Liminal Space
  1.1 “He Who Eats Food and Walks in the Markets”: Saints in the World
  1.2 Worldly Saints: Sanctification as the Journey in the Liminal Space
 2 “Only a Saint Can Recognize Another Saint”: A Phenomenology of Sainthood
  2.1 “The One Who Blames Oneself”: The Malamiyya According to Ibn ?Arabi
  2.2 Hiddenness as a Mark of Sainthood
 3 “He Who Sees You Sees Me”: The Transparency and Mediating Role of a Saint
  3.1 Friends of God as Mediations between God and Human Beings
  3.2 Saints as Icons of the Invisible God

7 Saints as Companions
 1 Reinvigorating the Communion of Saints: The Significance of the Companionship Paradigm
  1.1 The Paradigm of Companionship and Its Significance
  1.2 The Seal of the Muhammadan Saints and the Problem of Hierarchy
 2 Expanding the Boundaries of the Communion of Saints
  2.1 Friends of God and Cloud of Witnesses as Primary Metaphors of the Companionship Paradigm
  2.2 Reconfiguring the Concept of Intermediation of the Saints
 3 Following in the Footsteps of the Friends of God
  3.1 The Intersections of Memory, Hope, and Praxis
  3.2 Multiple Paths of Holiness
  3.3 Encountering the Hidden Christ through Praxis

8 Approaching Saints: An Inclusive Christian Theology of Saints in Practice
 1 An Inclusive Christian Theology of Saints: Three Theological Constructs
 2 The Vox Populi Approach to Sainthood: Weaving Remembrance and Imitation
  2.1 The Vox Populi and the Catholic Canonization of Saints
  2.2 Protestantism and the Vox Populi Approach to the Communion of Saints
 3 Recognizing Saints Interreligiously: Two Case Studies
  3.1 Frans van der Lugt, SJ
  3.2 Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur)
  3.3 Encountering the Hidden Christ through Praxis
 4 Redefining Sainthood: Saints as “Sign-Events”
 5 Remembering Gives Rise to Practice

 1 Three Theological Constructs
 2 Types of Learning in Comparative Theology
 3 Further Directions

Catholic and Protestant theologians, both academics and practitioners, as well as graduate/post-graduate students, with interest in systematic/constructive theology, ecclesiology, interreligious studies and dialogue, and comparative theology. Also, libraries affiliated with seminaries, theological schools, and Catholic universities.
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