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After a brief sketch of the career of the Coptic bishop Severus ibn al-Muqaffa', and a survey of his published works in Arabic, the article concentrates on the author's important text called The Lamp of Understanding (Kitāb

In: Medieval Encounters

Evidence for the presence of Christians and currency of Christianity in the Arabian milieu in which Islam was born comes from the Qurʾān itself as well as from reports included in other documents of a similar date and provenance. From these texts it is clear that by the beginning of the first Islamic century, toward the end of the first quarter of the seventh century according to the common reckoning, the number of Christians in the territories frequented by the Arab tribes in the Middle East was on the increase (see tribes and clans ). Evidence of the Christian presence on the periphery of Arabia proper, in Syria/Palestine, in the Syrian desert, in southern Iraq, south Arabia and the coastal areas of the Red SeaRed Sea i, 307b i, 553b ii, 79b ii, 294b ii, 295a ii, 298b ii, 527b ii, 534a ii, 534b iii, 394a iv, 343a iv, 604b v, 4b v, 246b v, 375a v, 562a as well as in Ethiopia (q.v.) is abundant and widely discussed in modern histories of Christianity in the Near East. Increasingly, there is further evidence of an important Christian presence in the first Islamic century within Arabia, in the territories of the central tribal confederations such as the Kinda, in the area of Najrān (q.v.), and even in the Ḥijāz, in Mecca (q.v.) and its surroundings, but the textual references are fragmentary, sometimes obviously legendary and often difficult to interpret. So far the published archaeological record is meager (see archaeology and the qurʾān ).

in Encyclopaedia of the Qur'ān Online

In Christianity, the “ good news” preached about Jesus Christ; in the Qurʾān, part of the divine message given to Jesus (q.v.). Of the twelve times the Gospel (al-injīl) is mentioned in the Qurʾān, in nine of them it occurs in conjunction with the mention of the Torah (q.v.; al-tawrāt), as a scripture sent down by God (see scripture and the qurʾān; book). Together with wisdom (q.v.; al-ḥikma), the Torah and the Gospel appear to comprise the ‘scripture’ (al-kitāb) that the Qurʾān says God taught to Jesus (q 3:48; 5:110). Twice the Qurʾān says explicitly that God brought Jesus the Gospel (q 5:46; 57:27). And once the Qurʾān instructs the ‘People of the Gospel’ to judge in accordance with that which God sent down to them (q 5:47; see christians and christianity ).

in Encyclopaedia of the Qur'ān Online

Building in which public Christian religious services occur. Christian churches, shrines, monasteries and other institutions were common in the territories inhabited by Arabic-speaking peoples in the world in which Islam was born. In the early Islamic period both Muslims and Christians regularly used the word kanīsakanīsa i, 335b v, 567b to mean “church” and sometimes “synagogue.” Although this conventional Arabic word for church does not appear in the Qurʾān, there is one verse that has been interpreted as referring to churches. In q 22:40, churches (biyaʿ) are mentioned along with monasteries (ṣawāmiʿ), synagogues (ṣalawāt, see jews and judaism ) and mosques (masājid, see mosque ) as places “in which God's name is mentioned frequently.” The Arabic noun bīʿa (pl. biyaʿ) that appears in this verse very probably came into the language from Syriac where the cognate word, bīʿtā, means simply “egg.” The egg-shaped dome found on many shrines and churches in the geographical milieu of early Islam is thought by many commentators to explain the appropriation of the word to mean “church” in Arabic already in pre-Islamic times. In the qurʾānic commentary (tafsīr) literature, the word kanīsa is used by the earliest exegetes to gloss the more obscure term bīʿa.

in Encyclopaedia of the Qur'ān Online

An agency of divine action or communication. The Arabic phrase rūḥ al-qudus, as it appears in the Qurʾān, is regularly interpreted by translators to mean the ‘holy spirit,’ or the ‘spirit of holiness.’ The phrase occurs four times in the Qurʾān. In three of the four occurrences the text says that God “strengthened” (ayyadnāhuayyada ii, 442b )Jesus (q.v.), son of Mary (q.v.), by the holy spirit (q 2:87, 253; 5:110); in the fourth instance the holy spirit is identified as the one who has brought down the truth (q.v.) from God to his prophet (q 16:102). This apparent personal identity of the holy spirit in the latter passage has prompted some Muslim commentators to identify the holy spirit by whom God ‘strengthened’ Jesus with Gabriel (q.v.), the traditional, angelic bearer of God's messages in the scriptures (see book; scripture and the qurʾān). For others the holy spirit in these passages is said to be identical with the created spirit from God, identified elsewhere in the Qurʾān as the agency by which God enlivened Adam (e.g. q 15:29; see adam and eve ), made Mary pregnant with Jesus (q 21:91), and inspired the angels (see angel ) and the prophets (e.g. q 17:85; see prophets and prophethood ). To emphasize the created nature of this gift of God's beneficence, and in an effort to avoid theological misunderstanding, some modern interpreters of the Qurʾān prefer to translate the phrase rūḥ al-qudus not with the usual ‘holy spirit,’ but with periphrastic expressions such as ‘God's holy bounty,’ or even ‘the blessed word of God.’

in Encyclopaedia of the Qur'ān Online

From well before the rise of Islam, and then well into the later Middle Ages, monasticism was a distinctive feature of Christian life, both in the milieu in which Islam was born (see christians and christianity; south arabia, religion in pre-islamic), and in the Christian communities subsequently integrated into the world of Islam. Accordingly, from the perspective of its relationship to Islam, one must consider the phenomenon of Christian monasticism under three headings. In the first place, there is its presence in the Arabic-speaking communities before and up to the time of Muḥammad (see arabs; arabic language). Then, there are the passages in the Qurʾān that mention “monks” (three times) and “monasticism” (once). Finally, “monks” and “monasticism” are discussed in the Islamic texts that both interpret the Qurʾān and set the boundaries of Islamic life in later times.

in Encyclopaedia of the Qur'ān Online