Christianity has had and continues to have elements of physical this worldly majesty, and one can find ample examples of the collusion of the state with faith but, arguably, it is not a polity for power. It is a way that invites people to follow Christ in his redemptive suffering for others. Islam too, has the Meccan phase of powerless witness. Its phase as a polity began in Medina. Muhammad in Mecca was an embodiment of prophetic service, accompanied by suffering. He would have seen himself as a prophet like Moses (and others). This changed with the ensuing battles for the faith and his emergence as a powerful statesman in Medina and beyond. However, it would be facile to characterise Islam as a whole in terms of polity or majesty, just as it would be superficial to portray Christianity merely in terms of servanthood or meekness. Islam has not been devoid of examples of service and sacrifice, just as Christianity is not bereft of power. This special issue of ijac focuses not only on what is arguably essential to both faiths but also provides examples from history and lived experiences and expressions. This issue aims to dwell on a nuanced discourse that contextually connects both faiths.
This paper highlights a context where Christians lived under Muslim rule. Muslim critique of Christianity was widespread, and Christians had to react to Muslim dominance by finding ways of responding to criticisms without incurring punishment for rebellious attitudes to their rulers. In the first two centuries after the Arab conquest of the largely Christian Middle East, Muslims viewed Christians as needing correction for their mistaken beliefs about the oneness of God in their deviant Trinity, about the humanity of Jesus in their insistence on his divine status, about the death of Jesus by crucifixion when this had not happened, and for their failure to recognise the finality of the Prophet Muḥammad in their suppression of testimony to his coming in the Bible. Christians viewed Muslims as heretics who had diverted from the true Christian faith in the Trinity and the divinity and crucifixion of Jesus and who looked for prophecies of Muḥammad in the Bible that did not exist. Muslims and Christians searched each other’s scriptures to persuade the other that their interpretations might need correcting. As the centuries passed in the Middle East, Christians steadily embraced Islam. By the time of the Mongol invasion in the thirteenth century, the vast majority of the population were Muslims.
Christian faith has a long and continuous history in Iran. The period since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 has been particularly stressful, with outbreaks of severe persecution, imprisonment and both judicial and extrajudicial killings. Despite this, record numbers of people have been coming to faith in Christ and meeting mostly in homes. Although the Iranian people remain largely tolerant of difference, the regime has cracked down hard on these new Christians, closing churches, arresting leaders, imprisoning believers and confiscating assets. Some reforming voices have, however, been raised against the suffocating Theocracy of contemporary Iran and the suffering it causes in all sections of the population. It remains to be seen whether these voices will influence the future course of Iranian society and whether they will have any effect on the suffering of Christians and other minorities in Iran.
The question has been asked, what evidence of compassion does one see in the adaptations Asian-Arab Muslims make as minorities in the West? Within certain parameters, Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh) has flexibility built into the processes of determining religious and social practices. This can be understood particularly in the concept of maslaha, defined as public/community interest, welfare, or well-being. The paper examines how Asian/Arab-American Muslims in Jacksonville, Florida, responded to issues of integration. Traditionally, Muslims defined ummah as a world-wide, community of Muslims where their socio-religious, (and fiscal) needs would be met. However, “community” is not a constant, and Muslims living as a minority in the United States have begun to change those models. A contributing factor to that change is the diversity that Muslims experience within both the Islamic networks and in the society surrounding them, after they immigrate to the West. The multiplicity of peoples has created a desire to seek mutual respect and understanding through interfaith initiatives. In order to become a part of the larger society, several mentioned the importance of giving back to the society, being beneficial to those around them. Several projects have been undertaken to be a contributing member of society. A medical center, feeding the homeless, and building homes for the poor are some examples.
Although much scholarly work has been done to present the depth and diversity of Islam around the world, positive encounters between Islam and Christianity in modern democracies continue to merit exploration. Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority nation, includes organizations and thinkers at the forefront of re-examining assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy. This article will present the current activities of Humanitarian Islam and its partnership with Christian organizations to build peace and shared civilizational values. Unique partnerships like this are possible through Muslim reform efforts, which have been underrepresented. These significant efforts are partly conceivable due to two Indonesian thought leaders, Nurcholish Madjid and Abdurrahman Wahid, who made significant contributions to Indonesian expressions of Islam. Two recent events in Indonesia show the progress and challenge for Christian minorities in Muslim majority contexts. While tension remains, Muslim reform efforts in Indonesia suggest possibilities for Islam’s peaceful integration with modern democracy and establishing conditions where Christian minority communities can thrive.
Islam and Christianity share much in common but also much that is different. The evidence of interactions between them go right back to the origins of Islam in the seventh century. In early Muslim traditions, Jesus was largely presented as an ascetic, whereas their prophet Muhammad was presented as a political and military ruler; Christianity as a quietist faith and Islam as conquering faith-polity. These early traditions possibly informed the rather oppositional South Asian debates of the nineteenth century. We know that the Muslim conceptions of Jesus have been changing over time. To what extent has the image of Muhammad among Christians changed over time is also a relevant question. Muhammad and Christ were unquestionably often the focal points of the Christian Muslim debates in the nineteenth and the early twentieth century South Asia. Preliminary enquiry of sources suggest that Christians largely looked at Christ and Muhammad as fundamentally opposing characters belonging to different domains; their Muslim counterparts attempted to argue that Muhammad and Christ had much in common and, that Muhammad was in fact the very fulfilment of Christ’s own prophecy. This paper digs both into Muslim (religious doctors) and Christian (missionaries/converts) sources: i. to bring to light a new context of debates (South Asia) on Christ and Muhammad; ii. To examine how Jesus and Muhammad were portrayed in these debates and; iii. To what extent, this South Asian evidence on how Jesus and Muhammad are seen aligns with what we know from writings about them from the Middle Eastern context?