Early Christian-Muslim Debate on the Unity of God

Three Christian Scholars and their Engagement with Islamic Thought (9th Century C.E.)

Series:

Early Christian-Muslim Debate on the Unity of God examines the writings of three of the earliest known Christian theologians to write comprehensive theological works in Arabic. Theodore Abū Qurra, Abū Rā’iṭa and ‘Ammār al-Baṣrī provide valuable insight into early Christian-Muslim debate shortly after the rise of the Islamic empire.
Through close examination of their writings on the doctrine of the Trinity, Sara Husseini demonstrates the creativity of these theologians, who make use of language, style and argumentation characteristic of Islamic theological thought (kalām), in order to help articulate their long-established religious truths. Husseini offers close analysis of the authors individually and comparatively, exploring their engagement with Islamic theology and their role in this fascinating period.
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Biographical Note

Sara Leila Husseini, Ph.D. (2011), University of Birmingham, UK, is currently a Communications Advisor in Palestine. She has previously worked on interfaith projects in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction

Part 1 Three Arabic-Speaking Christian Theologians and Their Writings on the Doctrine of the Trinity (c. 800–850)

1 Historical and Intellectual Environment
Christians in the Islamic Empire: Historical Social and Linguistic Contexts
Historical Context
Social Context
Linguistic Environment
Christian Theologising on the Trinity
Philoxenus of Mabbug (d. 523)
John of Damascus (c. 675–c. 754)
Muslim Theologising on the Nature and Unity of God
Abū al Hudhayl (c. 750–c. 840)
Ibn Kullāb (d.c. 855)
Nature of kalām
Muslim Criticisms of the Doctrine of the Trinity

2 Theodore Abū Qurra (c. 750–c. 830)
Background
Biography
Historical Context
Intellectual Context
Works Relating to the Trinity
Setting the Context
Relationship between Faith and Reason
Christianity as the True Religion
Explanation of the Trinity
Scriptural Proofs
Rational Analogies
Attributes of God
Response to Muslim Questions
Theodore Abū Qurra’s Understanding of the Nature of God

3 Abū Rāʾiṭa Al-Takrītī (c. 755–c. 835)
Background
Biography
Historical Context
Intellectual Context
Works Relating to the Trinity
Setting the Context
Agreement that God is One
Explanation of the Trinity
Types of Oneness
Absolute vs. Relative Names
Response to Muslim Questions
Abū Rāʾiṭa’s Understanding of the Nature of God

4 ʿAmmār al-Baṣrī (d.c. 840)
Background
Biography
Historical Context
Intellectual Context
Works Relating to the Trinity
Setting the Context
What can be Known about God
Criticism of the Teaching that God has no ‘Word’ or ‘Life’
God’s Relationship to His Word and Life
Explanation of the Trinity
Four ‘Categories’
‘One and Three’ is Not a Numerical Issue
Al-uqnūm and the Relationship Between Substance and Hypostases
Biblical Proofs
Response to Muslim Questions
ʿAmmār’s Understanding of the Nature of God

Part 2 The Role and Function of Christian Explanations of the Trinity in Arabic

5 The Tools of Christian Arabic Apologetic and Polemic
Analogy and Metaphor
Scriptural Proofs
Terminology
Rational and Logical Proofs
‘The Unity of Species’
‘A Question for the Muslims’
‘The Headship of God’
‘Three is the Perfect Number’
The “Attribute-Apology”

6 Christian Theologians Employing Muslim Theology
Priorities, Emphases and Engagement with Islamic Thought
Abū Qurra
Abū Rāʾiṭa
ʿAmmār al-Baṣrī
The Role of Christian Arabic Works
Audience and Purpose
The Place of Early Christian Theology in Arabic

Conclusion

Bibliography
Bible of Qur’an Citations
Index of People and Places
Subject Index

Readership

Students of Christian-Muslim relations; all interested in questions surrounding the nature and unity of God; those with an interest in the Middle East and/or Islamic theological thought (kalām).