Jesuit interreligious Dialogue & Relations  >  Events & Reports  >  Jesuits Studying Islam

Jesuits Discuss Islam in Istambul

“Young Jesuits in Islamic Studies Meet in Istanbul”,

Thomas Michel, S.J.


“Jesuits in Istanbul”

Thomas Michel, S.J.


“The Origins of a Vocation”,

Jean‑Marc Balhan, S.J.


“L’image que les jésuites avaient de l’Islam”

Vincent Calliger, S.J.


“Dialogue in the Land of the Mystics”

Jaime Flaquer, S.J.


“The Problem of the Theory of Abrogation”

J.B. Heru Prakosa, S.J.


“Islam and Human Rights”

Felix Körner, S.J.


“The Kitab of Which There Is No Doubt”

Daniel Madigan, S.J.


“The Kitab al‑kharaj of Abu Yusuf”,

Aloysius Mowe, S.J.


“My Experience of Muslims and Islam”

David Neuhaus, S.J.


“Life in the Tablighi Jamaat Mission”

Desiderio Pinto, S.J.


“Political and Religious Authorities in Islam”

Salah Abu‑Jawdeh, S.J.


“Dialogue in the Context of Chad”

Souk Allag Waayna, S.J.



Sebastian Vempeny, S.J.


Young Jesuits in Islamic Studies

Meet in Istanbul

Thomas Michel, S.J.


In September 1998, 15 young Jesuits in various stages of Islamic studies came together at the Dominican Convent in Istanbul. They exchanged information concerning their work, their past and present involvement with Muslims, and their spiritual and academic goals.


This was not the first meeting of Jesuit Islamicists. In 1980, Fr. Pedro Arrupe called a meeting in Rome of Jesuits involved in what is often called “the Islamic apostolate.” The need was expressed for Jesuits in this apostolate to meet and share experiences, to exchange information about their particular regions, and to encourage one another in this aspect of our mission. Such frater­nal interaction is important for all Jesuits, but especially so in the Islamic aposto­late, where there is usually not more than one Islamic “expert” in any given country. Since 1980, “Jesuits among Muslims” have been meeting every several years.


A unique feature of the Istanbul meeting was that it focused on the experiences of “young” Jesuits. The median age was 35, and only three were over 40. They came from 11 countries (Australia, Belgium, Chad, England, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia, Spain), representing 6 Assistan­cies.


The “missioning” of these young Jesuits, and several who were not able to take part in the Istanbul meeting, to work in Islamic studies indicates the impact of the GC34 document, “Our Mission and Interreligious Dialogue.” In the years previous to the last General Congregation, not so many were sent to pursue this apostolate. In affirming interreli­gious dialogue as an integral part of the Society’s mission, the Congregation has encouraged provinces to prepare men for this task.


The Dominicans, who have recently set up a new Documentation and Dialogue Center in Istanbul, hosted the group. The Italian priests have recently been joined by three Iraqi Dominican sisters. The warm and cheerful welcome they extended created a friendly environment for the encounter.


An important aim of the meeting was to create a sense of ‘corporate mission,’ a con­scious­ness of being friends in the Lord who want to work together to accom­plish great things for God in the encounter between Christians and Muslims.


Here we present the 2-3 page summaries of the views, perspectives, and studies on Islam that were delivered at the meeting.


Jesuits in Istanbul

Thomas Michel, S.J.


Why hold a meeting in Istanbul, a city with no Jesuits? Aside from the import­ance of Istanbul as a political, intellectual, and artistic center of the Islamic world for over 600 years, the city also plays a key role in the history of Jesuit presence in the Islamic world. Perhaps inspired by the First Formula that the members of the new Society should be ready to go “even among the Turks,” the first Jesuit house was established in the Ottoman capital in 1583. From there came the initiative for Jesuit works in Aleppo, Beirut, and Cairo. Until the house was closed in 1983, Jesuits were a constant presence in the city, with the college, established in 1609, and missions on the Aegean islands. Even during the Suppression, which was not promulgated in the Ottoman state, Jesuits from Chios were placed under the Provincial in Russia and continued their work in the islands.


Istanbul was also the site of pioneering ecumenical activity among Jesuits. The Istanbul Jesuits main­tained good relations with Orthodox monks and laity that endured despite the continual conflicts between the Churches of the East and the West. Many monks of Mount Athos studied at the College and often resided at the Jesuit house on their visits to Istanbul. More than once the Jesuits were invited to open a house on the Holy Mountain. The invita­tions never bore fruit, sometimes because of the lack of Jesuit personnel, at other times because the project was deemed inconven­ient by authorities in Rome.

The Origins of a Vocation

Jean-Marc Balhan, S.J.


Having been to Zaire just before entering the Society and having left there a part of' my heart, I asked to do my regency in that part of the world in order to find a way of becoming involved in the so-called North-South relationships. But circumstances dictated otherwise... and I was asked whether I would like to go to Egypt! Since I already had much interest in Islam through the presence in Belgium of Muslim immigrants, I accepted my Provincial's proposal and went to Cairo to teach French in the College of the Holy Family from 1993 to 1995.


There I began obviously to breathe Islam at every moment. The calls to prayer, the Muslim calendar and feasts, invitations by some of my pupils, especially during Ramadan... All that made me more sensitive to another way of being in the world. Then many readings and discussions, visits to different parts of the Middle East and an introductory course in Arabic and in Islam helped me go deeper in the understanding of the Islamic tradition.


But my discovery of Islam did not remain at a purely external level. Being in that time in a stage of faith crisis, I felt personally deeply touched by Islam and challenged in my faith. Moreover, living in a country whose democratic character one may question, I could not remain insensitive to the political struggles present in it and to the role of Islam in the political debate. The analysis of this debate helped me become more critical of the naive “anti-Islamist” discourse present in the West and make me distinguish between Islamism and terrorism...


As I said, my encounter with Islam did not leave my Christian faith untouched, and during my theological studies in Dublin between 1995-19'99, I started to think a bit more seriously about some questions. My main area of reflection was the theology of revelation and, linked to it, hermeneutical theory: What does it mean to say that God reveals himself or that God speaks? What are the means of that revelation? What is the role of an interpretative community of believers in this process: how does this community do its work and according to which criteria?


Incarnation and the Trinity were other areas that I started to explore: What does it mean that Jesus is God ? Doesn’t God’s image in Christianity and Islam correct one another? A fully relational God and therefore a democratic one, but who may become incarnate in an autocratic king, on the one hand, or a monarchical one, who may seem to provide us with a dictatorial image, but who is an inexhaustible source for the critique of every idol, on the other hand... Moreover I also read a bit around the theory of interreligious dialogue (J. Dupuis), the history of Christian-Muslim relationships (John of Damascus, Norman Daniel's Islam and the West) political Islam, the controversies about whether it is possible for Islam to be secular (al-­Ashmawy) , and the history of the Middle East. But I had not really the time to go very deeply into any of these areas.


Thinking as well, during that time, about quid agendum, about what to do in the future, I explored two possible ways: work at the service of refugees in Africa (I had been made more sensitive to that problem in Egypt through the encounter of the Sudanese community and through work with Zairean refugees in Dublin) or work related in one way or another for Christian-Muslim dialogue. I explored these two potential fields of action during two summers. During one of them, I went back to Belgium, working in youth camps for teenagers from a Moroccan origin, and during the other I went to Sarajevo working with a team of JRS.


In Belgium, I realized that a very important problem among the immigrants, was the social one. This struck me when I met, in these camps, some teenagers unable to read even the title of' a newspaper. In another case, the story of a young person studying electricity in a professional school and unable to remove a socket from a wall... The social needs are huge and probably mainly in the field of education: without it they will never find a job and will always remain marginalized.


However, in Belgium I met as well people working in the intercultural and interreligious field. They talked to me about the need for people who would know Islam well enough to be able to understand what is happening at the moment in the development of Islamic thought and movements in Belgium and in Europe, and who would therefore be able to play a role of interpreter. People do not know really how to understand the presence and development or Islam in Europe and therefore do it through their imagination, and the light of what they hear in the media about what is happening in Algeria or in Afghanistan. If, however, we intend to live together in Europe, in the same society, we need to be able to enter into a real conversation, based on deep mutual knowledge of each other, rather than on stereotypes and shallow judgements! It is in that work of interpretation that I feel I could be involved in the future.


Having met my provincial last April, it was decided that I would begin to study Islam so as to enter more deeply into that environment created in Belgium by the presence of people from Muslim origin coming mainly from Maghreb (±200.000), especially from Morocco, and from Turkey (±100.000).



Reflection on Islam is not much present in my country. At the academic level, what strikes me is the work of Felice Dassetto (University of Louvain-La-Neuve), who concentrates on a sociological approach to Islam in Belgium and in Europe. At the level of Christian-Muslim relations, the GRIC (Groupe de Recherches Islamo-Chrétiennes) has a team in Belgium, which has however reduced its activities recently. The archbishopric of Malines-Bruxelles has set up a center for reflection and dialogue (“Centre El Kalima”, similar to the French “Secrétariat pour les Relations avec l’Islam”).


At the juridical and political level there is more reflection at the moment on the institution­ali­sa­tion of Islam in Belgium, given the particular kind of relationship existing between Church and state in this country, Indeed, when a “cult” is recognized by the state, it may, under certain conditions, receive subsides for its buildings and ministers and its doctrine may be taught in state schools. Belgium was the first country in Europe to give official recognition to Islam as early as 1974 (for ambiguous reasons, however - the petrol crisis helped a bit..) The government, in the absence of a central Muslim organization, recognized the Islamic Cultural Center (Brussels) as the representative. Since this Center depended on the embassies, the decision was disputed by a number of Muslims. After different controversies about whether or not there should be elections (there was finally one which, however, was not recognized by the government), the government eventually created a “Constitutive Council” which elected an executive body of 17 members. This Committee can appoint teachers of religion, and also spiritual assistants for hospitals and prisons. However, in order to get salaries for imams and subventions for mosques, a “chief of cult” should be recognized, which is not the case at the moment. So, once again we hear about the organization of future elections in the Muslim community. But the question was, once again: “who will organize them?” It was decided that it would be the Belgian government (and Felice Dasseto speaks already about the Turkisation of Belgium, since, as it is in Turkey, the government organizes Islam).


This summer the “Zidane effect” on the occasion of the World Cup helped French society have another look at their compatriots whose ancestors came from the Maghreb. In Belgium, it was the arrest of Dutroux, a pedophile, followed by the discovery of his victims which, two summers ago, played that role. Among the victims was a young girl, Loubna ben Aissa, born of Moroccan parents, whose sister, 18 years old, wearing the “veil”, spoke courageously many times on TV. Moreover, the girl’s funeral, attended by a huge crowd at the mosque, was shown on TV and considered almost as a national funeral. This helped change the way Belgians look on immigrants from Northern Africa.


L’image que les jésuites avaient de l’Islam

Vincent Calliger, S.J.


1. Le lieu: les jésuites

Le sujet de ma présentation de la maîtrise d’histoire à l’Université de Paris est “La représentation de l’Islam des jésuites de la province de Lyon entre 1926 et 1937”, c’est-à-dire l’image que les jésuites avaient de l’Islam, l’image qu’ils se faisaient, ont élaboré de l’islam. Je travaille sur les jésuites de la province de Lyon, érigée de nouveau en 1836. Suite à la croissance des effectifs l’ancienne province de France a été divisée en 4 provinces indépendantes : Champagne (nord et est), Toulouse (sud ouest), Lyon (sud est) et France (Paris et ouest). J’ai retenu la province de Lyon puisque c’est à elle qu’ont été attribués les territoires de mission qui nous intéressent.


Les jésuites en terre d’Islam :

Algérie avec 3 communautés (Alger, Oran et Constantine) : conjonction entre un apostolat réel qui se distingue très peu de celui pratiqué par les jésuites en métropole et la nostalgie de la “Missio Arabica”. Histoire d’un désir contrarié qui s’exprime souvent (ex de la mission en Kabylie).

Proche Orient : Égypte, Syrie/Liban. Un ensemble différent : existence d’une minorité chrétienne (ce sont les évêques locaux qui ont appelés les jésuites) ; favorisés par le gouvernement français ; présence de jésuites autochtones. Grande diversité des modes de présence : lourdeur mais efficacité institutionnelle à l’Université Saint Joseph qui concerne les élites, surtout chrétiennes ; petites postes aux succès fragiles, sans cesse remis en cause dans la montagne alaouite ou avec les bédouins du désert de Palmyre.


Se pose le problème de l’unité de cette présence par delà ou à travers cette diversité. L’unité des jésuites n’est pas seulement conjoncturelle: elle ne se limite pas à une commune disponibilité. Aussi quel est le coeur de la mission qu’ils ont reçue ou se sont donnés ? Autrement dit, quel est leur projet en fonction de quelle expérience ? Et, passage du théorique au pratique, quels moyens entendent-ils mettre en oeuvre pour la réalisation de quelle visée?


2. La revue En Terre d’islam :

La revue (1926-1948) : fondée à Alger, en 1926 par L’abbé Declercq, ancien scolastique de la province de Belgique, elle est d’abord un bulletin de liaison des missionnaires s’intéressant à l’islam : à ce titre, y participent déjà quelques jésuites. Peu à peu, Declercq débordé fait appel aux théologiens de Fourvière qui se destinent eux-mêmes aux missions en Terre d’islam. La révision de la revue est alors assurée par un professeur du scolasticat. Bientôt la rédaction passa entièrement à Fourvière (oct. 1933), puis l’administration et l’édition, la revue devenant propriété de la Compagnie. La Compagnie suspend la revue en 1948.

3 raisons du choix de cette revue comme support de la maîtrise, outre la cohérence documentaire qu’elle offre:

1) elle situe la représentation des jésuites dans un spectre plus large même s’il se spécifie, dans l’Eglise catholique : les premiers temps de la revue se caractérisent par une participation importante des Pères Blancs (qui assurent la révision) d’Algérie ou de Tunisie mais aussi les Franciscains du Maroc et de manière marginale les dominicains américains d’Irak et des assomptionnistes de Turquie ; dans le monde colonial : parrainage de Lyautey puis de Weygand, abonnements pris par les Affaires Étrangères et les Affaires Indigènes et par des officiers : dans le monde des orientalistes universitaires : Massignon fait partie du comité de soutien -, mais relations aussi avec Robert Montagne (Institut français de Damas) et Ricard (Hautes Études marocaines).

2) dans la formation d’une représentation, elle éclaire le processus “de l’apostolat au scolasticat”. Elle illustre la place de plus en plus grande accordée au savoir, alors que les premiers numéros comportent plus de partages d’expérience. L’objet Islam est transformé.

3) plus qu’une revue, elle est un milieu d’études et d’expériences : on ne peut la séparer de l’Académie d’Islamologie de Fourvière ou des initiatives missionnaires sur le terrain ; elle sera un label pour la Compagnie après la lettre de Ledochowsky en 1937. Autour de la revue se nouent aussi plusieurs crises qui ont des répercussions à Rome (note du Père Général sur les déviations des islamisants de Fourvière ; crise avec les Pères Blancs autour de la spiritualité musulmane).


3. Périodisation : 1926-1937

D’abord on ne peut ignorer que la période est comprise entre les deux guerres. Après la première : crise de la conscience européenne et en même temps au moins en France intransigeance et manifestation de puissance (la France sûre de son bon droit). Avant la deuxième : on sent un montée des périls qui préoccupe Eglise et démocraties à la fin de cette période.


- le temps de l’Eglise

1) une période de mobilisation, d’ouverture. Après l’avoir ignoré ou refusé, intérêt vif de l’Eglise pour le monde moderne qui ne semble plus condamné d’avance. Cela ne concerne pas que l’Europe : Pie XI dont le pontificat couvre l’ensemble de la période étudiée est traditionnellement appelé, “Le pape des missions”.

2) ambiguïté cependant : devise de Pie XI, “instaurare omnia in Christo”. “Nulle part, chez aucun peuple ou nation, l’Eglise ne se présente en étrangère. l’Eglise de Dieu est catholique” (Maximum Illud, 1919). Alors 1925, instauration de la fête du Christ-Roi (instauration d’un ordre social chrétien) : le redéploiement de l’Eglise est il au service d’une volonté de domination politique des sociétés ?

3) Il faut mentionner ici une autre date qui constitue une des bornes chronologiques de notre travail, la condamnation de l’Action Française en 1926. Très fort retentissement dans l’Eglise de France : ainsi beaucoup de jésuites y étaient abonnés et défendaient ses thèses. Cela n’équivaut pas à la condamnation de toute intervention politique des catholiques en tant que tels dans les sociétés auxquelles ils appartiennent. De plus, toute ambiguïté n’est pas dissipée : une volonté de puissance de l’Eglise cherchera encore à s’imposer. Mais pour reprendre, à la suite d’E. Fouilloux, les formulations de deux intellectuels français, au “Politique d’abord” de Maurras est clairement opposé le “Primauté du spirituel” de Maritain.


- le temps colonial

du point de vue de l’histoire des pays d’Islam où sont présent les jésuites. La périodisation a l’avantage d’inclure de manière presque centrale, 1930/1931. Berque parle du “faux apogée de 1930”, Coquery-Vidrovitch de l’apogée de 1931. Révélation d’un dépérissement déjà ancien ou basculement par les prises de conscience nouvelles qui s’opèrent, les années 1930/1931 constituent un pivot, une charnière. Une seuil est franchi avec le caractère d’inéluctable qui spécifie toute cristallisation.


D’autre part, Berque intitule le chapitre consacré aux années 1936/1937 (dans le Maghreb entre les deux guerres), “dernières sommations” (échec du projet Blum-Violette, émeutes de 1936 au Maroc, victoire définitive du Néo-Destour sur les anciens) ; sans oublier l’échec au Levant (abandon des deux traités d’indépendance avec le Liban et la Syrie avec la fin du Front Populaire).


- autres temps

temps de la Compagnie : en 1937, est institué la mission du Proche-Orient, prélude à l’érection de la vice-province puis de la province du Proche Orient ; en 1937 aussi lettre du supérieur général au sujet de la conversion des musulmans, qui donne bilan et perspectives, faisant d’ailleurs référence à En Terre d’islam.


En Terre d’islam, fondée en 1926, la deuxième série s’achève avec l’année 1937. Avec la troisième série, les “chroniques brèves” sont détachées et constituent un supplément : un certain rapport entre théorie et pratique est rompu.


Comment les différentes temps s’entrecroisent, se complètent ou se contredisent ? L’un domine-t-il les autres au point de les annuler ? Quelle conscience de leur temps ont les jésuites ?


4. La problématique de la représentation

La distinction qu’opère Ricoeur a donné consistance à ce choix méthodologique. Pour lui, “nos images sont parlées avant d’être vues”. L’image n’est pas d’abord vue c’est à dire, elle “n’est pas d’abord et par essence une scène déployée sur quelque théâtre mental devant le regard d’un spectateur intérieur.” C’est en retenant comme cas paradigmatique l’image poétique que Ricoeur déclare nos images parlées avant d’être vues. Il insiste sur ce que permet la représentation : comme le poème, elle a un effet de retentissement. La représentation, dans certaines circonstances et selon certaines procédures, se déploie et recompose un champ sémantique, un ensemble de sens. Aussi met-il d’abord l’accent sur “l’impertinence prédicative” première lors du choc entre deux champs sémantiques.

La réflexion de Ricoeur nous permet ainsi de rejoindre le désarroi et la préoccupation des jésuites dans leur rencontre de l’Islam.

“Aujourd’hui encore, [l’Islam] reste terrible. Ce qu’il a pris, il peut bien le perdre militaire­ment, mais son influence religieuse demeure, tenace, indestructible, envahissante. Maintenant que nous avons remis au fourreau l’épée chrétienne, nous nous regardons, mon Dieu, nous, vos disciples et eux, les vieux “Sarrasins”, et malgré dix siècles de corps à corps nous n’arrivons pas à nous comprendre. Contre cet Islam étrange, nous restons sans tactique d’apostolat. Nous ne savons même pas où réside le secret de sa force ni par quels moyens il poursuit sa propagande.” H. CHARLES, “Propter honorem nominis Tui”, En Terre d’islam, mai 1928.

“On est plus mai renseigné sur l’Islam ici à dix mètres d’une mosquée dont le muezzin nous assourdit les oreilles qu’à Paris. Tout cela oblige à une prudence stérilisante. Vraiment le mur entre les deux sociétés, chrétienne et musulmane, est encore bien solide.” Lettre de V.Pruvot à H. Charles (16/12/1932).


Ce qui s’éclaire dans le rapprochement entre la problématique de la représentation selon Ricoeur et ces deux citations, c’est l’enjeu de ce travail : identifier la formation d’une représentation de l’islam à la recherche d’une médiation pour le rencontrer aujourd’hui (aujourd’hui, c’est à dire dans les années 1920/1930). Comme le schème kantien, le travail de la représentation - que Ricoeur nomme “l’attribution métaphorique” - donne une image à une signification émergente. “Avant d’être une perception évanouissante, l’image est une signification émergente”.


Je donne l’exemple de deux métaphores qui, quoique faibles, peuvent préciser l’enjeu d’un tel basculement. A l’instar d’autres chrétiens, les jésuites voient les musulmans comme des samaritains ou comme des pharisiens. Ils emploient dans un nouveau contexte des catégories issues de la Bible et enrichies par la tradition chrétienne pour situer les musulmans et déterminer l’attitude requise à leur encontre (figures typiques). Les samaritains occupent à l’époque de Jésus un territoire situé entre la Galilée et la Judée. Pour se rendre de Nazareth où il a grandi à Jérusalem, lieu ultime de sa mission, Jésus doit traverser la Samarie ou faire un long détour s’il choisit d’ignorer les samaritains. Les Evangiles rapportent les deux attitudes. Les chrétiens face aux musulmans sont placés devant la même alternative : affronter l’obstacle ou le contourner mais ignorer alors ce qui constitue l’environnement immédiat du coeur de la mission.


Plus encore, la Samarie est en fait un schisme du peuple juif, intervenu à la mort du roi Salomon. Les Samaritains ont conservé la religion de leurs pères mais y ont ajouté des dieux étrangers ; ils ne retiennent par ailleurs, des Ecritures juives que le Pentateuque. Des musulmans assimilés métaphoriquement aux samaritains, on identifiera leur religion à un syncrétisme religieux (on insistera sur l’influence de nestoriens avec lesquels Mahomet aurait été en contact) et on y discernera un monothéisme d’origine chrétienne adapté aux Arabes du désert (leur Coran reposant d’autre part sur un usage tronqué des Ecritures chrétiennes).


Enfin, on notera l’attitude bienveillante de Jésus à l’égard des Samaritains qui tranche avec le mépris, voire la haine que leur vouaient les Juifs de son époque. Jésus choisit pour sa part de pri­vi­légier la parenté, la proximité historique et doctrinale, pour les amener au culte “en esprit et en vérité”. On voit l’intérêt d’une telle métaphore de l’Islam pour les chrétiens : elle se prononce sur la signification que revêt l’Islam pour les chrétiens et esquisse une stratégie missionnaire possible.


Je pourrais exposer en contrepoint le discours qui voit les musulmans comme des pharisiens - refus viscéral de l’Incarnation qui trouve sa source dans un attachement à la lettre qui est rigorisme éthique ou ritualisme stérile. Je préfère revenir à la distinction “les images sont parlées avant d’être vues” et voir comment elle permet de reprendre à frais nouveaux les questions précédemment posées.


5. Reprise des questions posées à la lumière de cette problématique

Nous avons vu que les jésuites s’interrogeaient sur l’unité de leur présence en terre d’Islam. Nous pouvons désormais formuler leur question de manière plus serrée, moins autocentrée : “Où est la terre d’Islam ?” La réponse n’est pas évidente comme l’exprime le témoignage déjà cité de Pruvot. La perception est défaillante soit qu’elle soit saturée (image du “muezzin qui assourdit les oreilles”) ou interdite (image du “mur encore bien solide”). La représentation n’est pas la trace déformée de l’expérience mais ce qui la constitue en lui prêtant une forme d’intelligibilité. C’est pourquoi la question - “où est la terre d’islam?” - recoupe celle de l’unité d’une présence, c’est-à­-dire la mise à jour d’un projet qui articule une certaine schématisation des buts et des moyens. Comme le dit Ricoeur, la représentation redécrit la réalité et permet d’y essayer un jeu des nouveaux possibles.


Un autre jésuite, Théolier, confirme notre conception de la question qu’il porte “jusqu’à l’irritation”: “Pourquoi ce monde nous est-il fermé ? Comment trouver le point de raccord par où le comprendre et nous faire comprendre de lui ? Comment, sur ce grand arbre sauvage, trouver le point d’insertion où greffer la Révélation et la grâce du Christ ?” Confirmation mais aussi avertissement : il nous est rappelé que si la représentation n’est pas à rechercher du côté d’une perception évanouissante, elle ne relève pas plus d’une invention arbitraire. L’étude de la représentation nous invite plutôt à l’histoire d’un ajustement, à la recherche d’une médiation.


Par là se trouve reprise la 2ème série de questions envisagées car nous voyons mieux comment le travail de la représentation ‘est justement une tentative d’unification des différents temps de l’expérience. L’enjeu n’est pas seulement interne à l’histoire des jésuites - comment ils assument ensemble leur appartenance ecclésiale, leur inscription sociale... - comme le souligne J. Berque. Dans “le conflit de la chose et du signe” qu’il observe au Maghreb entre les 2 guerres, il rapporte:

“Aujourd’hui on reproche à une telle époque l’égoïsme et l’injustice. Non sans raison. Mais ce qu’il faut lui reprocher surtout, c’est la défaillance de sa problématique; son injustesse, si je puis me permettre ce néologisme.”


Le pouvoir colonial était à contretemps par rapport aux évolutions qui se faisaient jour au Maghreb. Il n’était pas contemporain de la réalité. (voir l’analyse par Berque de l’année 1930 avec la conjonction du dahir berbère au Maroc, de la célébration du centenaire en Algérie et du congrès eucharistique de Carthage). Les jésuites partagent-ils cette injustesse ?


6. L’idéologie et l’utopie pour évaluer l’ajustement ou l’injustesse

A ces deux questions - où est la terre d’Islam ? Quel temps vivons nous ? - les jésuites tentent d’apporter une réponse par un jeu de représentations. La difficulté est redoublée par leur situation particulière. Il nous faut prendre en compte l’identité missionnaire des jésuites. Ils sont présents en terre d’islam pour accomplir une mission d’évangélisation. Il convient ici de distinguer évangélisation et conversion. Or, comme le note X de Montclos,


“Le message que [le missionnaire] apporte et le communauté dans laquelle il invite à vivre ce message sont intimement mêlés à une culture déterminée, la sienne. C’est la condition commune : l’Evangile n’a jamais existé indépendamment d’une culture, et les missionnaires du XVIème ou du XIXème siècle ne sont pas différents à cet égard de ceux des premiers temps. Exposés à alourdir leur enseignement d’éléments secondaires et caduques, ils se seraient trompés eux-mêmes s’ils avaient cru pouvoir le réduire à quelque transmission essentielle, hors du temps et de l’espace, (...) Constamment le problème du rapport de la religion à la civilisation est posé, et, qu’il ait conscience ou non de ses propres choix, l’apôtre choisit d’agir, de parler, de se comporter en fonction d’une certaine idée de ce rapport. L’évangélisation se fait donc par acculturation , à partir d’ensembles parfois très éloignés. Si le missionnaire a traversé des océans ou des déserts pour aborder une contrée, restée jusqu’alors sans contact historique avec les cultures porteuses du christianisme, il n’y a guère, entre lui et les peuples auxquels il veut s’adresser, qu’un minimum de points communs, à peine davantage que ce que l’on a coutume d’appeler la nature humaine.”


Cet extrait de Montclos attire notre attention sur deux éléments. D’une part, la présence missionnaire des jésuites en terre d’Islam ne peut faire l’économie d’une interrogation sur leur propre identité. Toute représentation de l’islam sera aussi une représentation du christianisme et du rapport que ce dernier entretient avec les cultures. D’autre part, “le minimum de points communs” qu’évoque Montclos n’est lui même accessible qu’à travers une pratique imaginative, à partir d’un lieu a ‘ ui est “nulle part”. De cette exterritorialité spatiale peut être contesté ce qui est et repensé ce qui, à travers cultures et religions, peut constituer un terreau commun d’humanité.


C’est la Méditerranée rêvée par Ch. de Bonneville, jésuite, provincial de Lyon jusau’en 1936 puis supérieur de la mission du Proche Orient : la Méditerranée comme le lieu possible d’une unité, d’un rassemblement autour d’un projet social et historique commun. C’est le lieu de la charité re­cherché par Massignon, qui influença beaucoup de jeunes jésuites : lieu où s’opère la substi­tu­tion (baladiya) par la compassion, “pourvu que le masque de substitués nous fasse réellement de­ve­nir leurs par la compassion, le transfert des souffrances et ajoutons hardiment des espérances.”


Ainsi la pertinence de la représentation de l’Islam - son ajustement ou son injustesse - sera évaluée d’après la tension entre deux pratiques imaginatives que sont l’idéologie - “une certaine idée du rapport” - et l’utopie - une vision à partir d’un “nulle part” -. Je me référerai encore à Paul Ricoeur pour l’étude des ces deux composantes de l’imaginaire social. Je retiens ici seulement deux définitions qui rendent compte du parcours de sa réflexion - la première en est le point de départ, il aboutit à la seconde

“L’idéologie et l’utopie ont pour caractéristiques générales de se définir comme mutuellement antagonistes et d’être vouées chacune à une pathologie spécifique qui rend presque méconnaissable sa fonction positive, c’est à dire sa contribution à la constitution du lien analogique entre moi et l’homme mon semblable.”

“Nous ne prenons possession du pouvoir créateur de l’imagination que dans un rapport critique avec ces deux figures de la conscience fausse. Comme si, pour guérir la folie de l’utopie, il fallait en appeler à la fonction “saine” de l’idéologie, et comme si la critique des idéologies ne pouvait être conduite que par une conscience susceptible de se regarder elle-même à partir de ‘nulle part’ ”.


7. Conclusion et prise de position

Un jugement sans appel contre les attitudes et les représentations des missionnaires de l’époque coloniale est facile. Jacques Berque peine à y résister et les tenants de “l’histoire anticoloniale” ne s’en privent pas (“les spécialistes de l’évangélisation peuvent, malgré la République laïque, être rangés dans l’encadrement colonial”, G.Meynier, Histoire de la France coloniale). Mais il aurait été stérile de vouloir faire oeuvre apologétique, de prendre la défense des jésuites qui n’en ont pas besoin, Il me fallait donc déplacer la question pour éclairer sa pertinence et éviter les pièges de ce débat.


Le thème de la représentation est aujourd’hui en vogue (voir les ouvrages de Corbin). Suffisamment pour irriter certains chercheurs. Conscients des limites de “l’histoire anti­coloniale”, ces derniers refusent la thématique de la représentation lorsqu’elle est instrumentalisée par ce qu’ils appellent “l’histoire post-coloniale”. Cette dernière prétend tourner le dos aux af­fronte­ments idéologiques entre “histoire coloniale” et “histoire anticoloniale” et s’en tenir à une po­si­tion de stricte neutralité. L’étude des représentations et des mentalités concourent alors à re­lati­viser et les attitudes des acteurs de l’époque et les jugements que l’on pourrait être tenté de formuler.


Telle n’est pas ma démarche. Mon intérêt pour la revue En Terre d’islam et pour les archives jésuites conservées à Vanves réside d’ailleurs dans la pluralité des positionnements et des opinions qui s’y expriment. Cette pluralité n’annule pas les choix et n’empêche pas de se prononcer à leur encontre. Mais elle permet de rendre compte des processus qui aboutissent à des décisions et surtout - d’où la nécessité de considérer un milieu vivant - de révéler les évolutions, les débats, la conversion peut-être des jésuites dans leur rapport à l’islam. La critique n’est possible que parce qu’elle était déjà présente dans la démarche des jésuites de l’époque. Aussi elle s’appuie - à rebours d’une travail trop superficiel de la représentation - sur un examen de la matière de l’expérience, de son lieu, de son temps, sur une histoire qui pour être crédible est aussi positive.


Dialogue in the Land of the Mystics

Jaime Flaquer, S.J.


First of all I want to say that I am very happy to be here. I was looking forward to this meeting during the summer because my presence here means that the Society takes seriously my desire to study Islam and to begin to have a specific mission. I hope that this group might help me to clarify where to study about this subject better.


I joined the Society ten years ago and I am studying Theology at the moment. I'm in the third year so I will be ordained, in sha' Allah, in two years. I have a degree in Philosophy in Barcelona (Spain) and I am still studying there. Probably, next year I will go abroad to finish my theological studies. I don't know where I will go but my provincial wants me to inform him of the different possibilities. I would like to get a degree in Theology but I wouldn't like to delay the beginning of my Islamic studies. So I'm looking for a course that could combine both. Maybe this would be possible if I focus it on the interreligious dialogue.


Why am I interested in Islam? In fact, I am interested in everything that is related to God and religion: Spirituality, Spiritual Exercises, the common field between Theology and Philosophy... I'm interested in non Christian religions because they have also been a way to reach God for mankind. Therefore, knowing religions deeply is another way to know (a little more of) God.


But why Islam? Spain cannot be understood if its Muslim background is ignored. It was dominated by the Muslims for centuries. From the beginning of the 8th century until the 13th century, the greater part of Spain was governed by North African people and a Muslim kingdom in Granada continued alive up to 1492. The Christian Spanish kings tried to eliminate all the Islamic roots in our culture but it was impossible to do that in some areas, language, for example. After five centuries we still use many Arabic words: ojalá (related to in sha’ allah), berenjena (badunjana), arroz (arruz), alcalde (al-qaid), etc... Moreover many villages and rivers keep their ancient Arabic name: Guadalquivir (al-wadi ‘l-kabir).


In the 16th century, nearly all the Muslims had to emigrate to Africa, but they are coming back now, looking for jobs and a new life. The number of African immigrants is not so high as it is in France: we have only about 300.000. Nevertheless this number will be doubled in a few years and some people have begun to fear it.


So, the number of immigrant Muslims in Spain, the historical relationship with Muslims, the proximity of Morocco and Algeria, and the importance of the Arab countries in today's world, make me feel an attraction for Islam. I'm specially interested in Muslim mysticism and its relationship with Christian mysticism. I like reading about this subject very much. If I dream about the thesis that I will probably have to write, I dream about studying the Christian roots in the Sufis or the Sufi influence over the Spanish mysticism. In Spain, there were many mystics between the 12th and the 16th centuries, both Christians and Muslims. We all remember names like Ibn Arabi of Murcia or Ibn Hazm of Córdoba. Why do we find in this same land so many mystic Muslims and such great men as St. Ignatius of Loyola, St Teresa of Ávila or St. John of the Cross? Last year I very much enjoyed studying the Muslim influence on a Catalan Christian mystic who wrote some of his works in Arabic, Raymond Lull (13-14th centuries).


Unfortunately I don't have enough time to study Islam as I would like. My principal duty is to study Theology, which I also like. As the Arabic language is absolutely necessary for those who are interested in the dialogue with Islam, I began to study it some years ago. I find this language so difficult! I'm not able to hold a conversation yet because I can study only few hours per week and because I can hardly practice Arabic with the immigrants from Morocco. Most come from the north of that country, which means they are Berbers and they speak a very particular dialect, far from the Standard Arabic. Since most of them are illiterate, they can hardly speak Standard Arabic. I think I won't speak this language fluently unless I live for quite a long period of time in an Arabic country. Nevertheless I'm improving my Arabic year by year.


As I don't want to study Islam just from books, I'm in touch with the Muslim community in Barcelona. I teach Spanish in a centre for immigrants. Most of them are in an illegal situation waiting for a permit to be allowed to live in Spain. I find this work very pleasant because they are very grateful.


The last thing to be said here is that in Spain the Jesuits committed to the dialogue with Islam want to work in common. Last year we formed a group of four young Jesuits from different provinces to begin to think about the future. We have three meetings per year where we share our experiences and knowledge about this issue. During the first part of the meeting we talk about a book or article of writing that we have all read. During the second part we share experiences, feelings and projects.


That's all. Thank you for your attention.


The Problem of the Theory of Abrogation

J.B. Heru Prakosa, S.J.


Many incidents have recently happened in Indonesia, some of which have deeply affected the lives of believers. Many places of worship, especially churches, have been burnt or destroyed. Critical comments were made afterwards, such as: “In official dialogues, nice verses are quoted, but among themselves they quote the harsh ones.” For Muslims, the Qur’an is the Word of God (kalam Allah). The fact that there are some ‘ruling verses” in the Qur’an which clash with one another, or go in different directions, is an important point for reflection. One of the topics related to this problem is what Muslims call ‘the theory of abrogation (naskh).


1. The theory of abrogation according to Fakhr al-Din al-Razi as described in al-Tafsir al-Kabir and al-Mahshul fi-‘ilm usul al-fiqh


Al-Razi distinguished two meanings of ‘abrogation’. The first is ‘cancellation’ (ibtal) or ‘removal’ (raf’’), following the etymology of the Arabic word naskh; and the second is ‘transfer’ (naql) or ‘transformation’ (tahwil). To support his opinion, al-Razi gave examples taken from the sacred texts of the Qur’an and profane passages. With regard to the first meaning, he pointed to Qr 22: 52 (“but God annuls what Satan casts”), and to the second meaning Qr 45: 29 (“We have been registering all that you were doing”) as well as other expressions, such as ‘transcription of the book’, ‘transmigration of souls’, and ‘transfer of inheritance’.


According to al-Razi, ‘cancellation’ is the real meaning (ma’na haqiqi)of abrogation. He said that ‘transfer’ or ‘transformation’ is more particular than ‘cancellation’. It is said in the principles of exegesis: “If the expression moves around the particular and the general, it is better to find a real meaning within the general”. As a technical term, the word ‘abrogation’ is applied by the religious scholars to the legal process. In the process of abrogation, a prior legal decision will be replaced by a later one. The term ‘legal decision’ itself means the decree (qadr) laid down in the words and deeds of God and the Prophet, that is, the Qur’an and the Sunna. In al-Tafsir al-Kabir al-Razi noted certain principles concerning the legal process of abrogation.


With regard to the occurrence of ‘abrogation’, al-Razi discussed two questions. The first is the abrogation of the revelations sent down by God before Muhammad. Al-Razi said that there are varying positions and opinions on this problem. The Jews denied it because it seems to call into question the wisdom of God by attributing a change of mind to the eternal Divine Will. Some Muslims questioned the term ‘abrogation’ as applicable in this case. According to them, the coming of the Prophet Muhammad was already mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel so it is not abrogation which occurred, but fulfillment. The majority of the Muslims, however, viewed that the revelation given to Muhammad truly canceled the Torah and the Gospel, so ‘abrogation’ truly occurred. Following the position and opinion of the Ash’arites, al-Razi held that abrogation really occurred. He based his argument on Qr 13: 39 (“God blots out, and He establishes whatsoever He will) and Qr 16: 101-103 (“And when We exchange a verse in place of another verse...”).


The second thing al-Razi discussed with regard to the occurrence of abrogation is the abrogation of some verses in the Qur’an. He said that Qr 2: 142 (“The fools among the people will say: What has turned them from the direction they were facing in their prayers in former times?”) is abrogated by Qr 2: 150 (“Turn thy face towards the Holy Mosque”) and Qr 8: 65 (If there be of you twenty patient men, they will overcome two hundred”) is abrogated by Qr 8: 66 (“If there be a hundred of you, patient men, they will overcome two hundred”).


Al-Razi also said about the abrogation of Qr 58: 12 (“0 believers, when you conspire with the Messenger, before your conspiring advance a freewill offering”) and the abrogation of the verse on the waiting period (‘idda), Qr 2: 240 (“And those of you who die leaving wives, let them make testament for their wives provision for a year without expulsion”) is abrogated by Qr 2: 234 (“And those of you who die, leaving wives, they shall wait by themselves for four months and ten nights”).


With regard to abrogation in the Qur’an, al-Razi gave some notes on abrogated (mansukh) and abrogating (nasikh) verses. There are 3 types of abrogated verse: a) a verse abrogated in the ruling (hukm) without the wording (tilawa), b) a verse abrogated in the wording without the ruling, and c) a verse abrogated in both ruling and wording. Qur’anic verses 58:12, 2:142, 8:65, and 2:240 are examples of verses abrogated in the ruling without the wording. The tradition reported by ‘Umar concerning ‘the stoning of fornicators’ and “the power of money for the son of Adam” are examples of verses abrogated in wording without the ruling. As examples of verses abrogated in both wording and ruling, al-Razi pointed to the tradition reported by ‘A’isha concerning “the amount of the suckling in the fosterage” and the length of the Surat al-Ahzab in the Qur’an.


With regard to the abrogating verse, al-Razi said that it can be a) ‘lighter’ in the sense of less restrictive than the abrogated one, b) ‘heavier’ in the sense of harsher than the abrogated one, or c) ‘similar’ to the abrogated one. Concerning a ‘lighter’ abrogating verse, he pointed to the abrogation of Qr 2:240 by Qr 2:234 and the abrogation of Qr 73:1-4 (“0 thou enwrapped in thy robes, keep vigil the night”) by Qr 73:20 (“So recite of it so much as is feasible”). Concerning a “heavier” abrogation, he gave 3 examples: the verse on detaining in the house (Qr 4:15) and the verse on the scourging of fornicators (Qr 24:2) are abrogated by the tradition on stoning; the fasting of Ashura is abrogated by the fasting of Ramadan; and the two rak’as prayer is abrogated by that of four. Concerning a ‘similar’ abrogation, al-Razi pointed to the abrogation of Qr 2:142 by Qr 2:150.


2. Reflection on what al-Razi said with regard to the theory of abrogation

In explaining the meaning of ‘abrogation’, al-Razi, unlike other Muslim scholars such as Qurtubi, Hamadhani, and al-Suyuti (d. 1505), did not distinguish between ‘total removal’ and ‘removal followed by a replacement. Also, he put ‘transcription of the book’ in the same category with ‘transmigration of souls’ or ‘transfer of the inheritance’. For a proper understanding of the meaning of ‘abrogation’, Burton suggests that we distinguish three aspects: i) total removal, ii) transfer followed by a replacement, and iii) duplication or transcription.


We can see from al-Razi’s explanation that the technical term ‘abrogation’ is closely related to the first attempt of the jurisprudential scholars to extract and codify the rules laid down in the twin sources of the Qur’an and Sunna. When they found conflicts between one verse of the Qur’an and another, or between a verse of the Qur’an and a Tradition, or between one Tradition and another, they reconciled or harmonized the conflicts by ascertaining the relative dates. Perhaps one could say that abrogation as a harmonizing technique was applied to fulfil the belief that there is no contradiction in the Qur’an (Qr 4:82).


Al-Razi presented the position and opinion of the Jews and Muslims, but he mentioned nothing concerning the Christians. Why? What is the position and opinion of Christians with regard to ‘abrogation’?


It is also very interesting to note that al-Razi did not present ‘the sword verse’ (Q. 9, 5) as an example of the existence of abrogation in the Qur’an. What is the reason? As a matter of fact, ‘the sword verse’ is considered to be ‘the mother of abrogation’ since it abrogates no less than 124 other verses of the Qur’an.


There are at least two things we can note with regard to al-Razi’s examples of abrogation in the Qur’an. The first concerns the abrogation of Qr 58:12. This verse is abrogated without any replacement. We must ask what is the underlying principle being applied. The second concerns the abrogation of the verses on ‘idda. It is also worth noting that part of Qr 2:240 is considered to have been abrogated by a verse which is recited or written earlier in the same chapter. Is this really an abrogation or just a phenomenon of the order or arrangement (tartib)? Moreover, based on the category of the abrogation, we also realize that the Qur’an as the collected text (mushaf) is not as complete as the Qur’an as the Book of God (kitab Allah).


3. Understanding the message for Muslims today


In discussing the abrogation of Qr 58:12, al-Razi said: “Denying the ruling and dropping the observance of a command is considered better than establishing it at the time of that command. The first command is more proper than the second in relation to the time of the first command.” Could it not be possible, then, to think that God might abrogate a certain ruling of a Qur’anic verse today? God would not give the same command for Muslims today as He gave over 1400 years ago, would He? For modern Islamic scholars such as Mahmud Taha (d. 1985) and Fazlur Rahman (d. 1988), the theory of abrogation inspires them to take a new kind of Qur’anic approach. They understand the Qur’an in the light of the occasions of its revelation (asbab al-nuzul)and relate the Qur’anic passages to contemporary contexts.


Islam and Human Rights

Felix Körner, S.J.


Catholic and Protestant churches have not been the first fighters for human rights. Ordo was the predominant Catholic social idea. In the world order intended by God, every human being had his or her position, but not everyone had an equal position. Religious liberty was still being argued against by pope Leo XIII (d. 1903). Greater contributions to the establish­ment and development of human rights were made by what are called 'Reformation's step-children', persecuted Christian groups in Europe. As late as 1941, reacting against Nazi Germany, Pius XIII was the first pope to use 'human rights' in a positive sense. This in mind, we see more clearly that a full realization of human rights, for which we urge people also in the Islamic world, is a long process in any society.


For this process to move on we want to avoid human rights being seen by Muslims as a western import. Human rights must, per definitionem, be justifiable without a particular religious or philosophical tradition. But just as it is naturally and fruitfully possible to argue for human rights out of our own religious traditions (e.g., human beings created to be God's image (or other renderings of b_ in Gen 1:27), so it is crucial to find Islamic arguments for human rights.


This is not to be confused with what has been attempted so far in so-called Islamic declarations of human rights.


But are there Islamic thinkers who take human rights seriously (rather than re-define them in unacceptable ways or misunderstand their basic concepts) and confront them with Islamic traditions? Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'imhas some interesting things to say. In his hermeneutics he depends on his fellow Sudanese, ust_d (as he calls him) Mahmoud Muhamed Taha.


An-Na'im, following Taha, divides the message revealed through Muhammad, Qur'_n and Hadith into two phases: the Meccan and the Medinan periods. The Meccan material, he says, contains "Islam's best words". It excludes coercion, appeals to people's free decision, and is congruent with human rights. It is the Medinan messages which are more restrictive, coercive, regulative. They were revealed when the Meccan passages proved to be unrealistic: the umma was in danger; people were not ready for it. Because of the different atmosphere of the phases, contradictions between Meccan and Medinan passages were bound to be seen and to cause problems for the jurists, who wished to build a systematic law out of the revealed material. They developed the concept of naskh to mean: later (i.e. Medinan) verses 'abrogate' (declare to be legally non-valid) earlier verses on the same subject. Thus, the shari’a became more inhumane than much of what the texts said.


An-Na'im (with Taha) criticises this concept of naskh and asks, why did God reveal the Meccan material in the first place, if it was to be proven unrealistic in due course? His solution is: Meccan revelations, though not meant for Muhammad's own times, were intended for later application. With the changes of history, people and the political situation have become ready for the Meccan rules to be applied. Today, the older text abrogates the later one! The realization of the Meccan ideas was meant to be 'postponed' until after the first days of Islam.


Taha can even adduce Qur'_nic proof for this to be the hermeneutics intended by God. Q 2:106 is known as: "Whenever we abrogate any verse or make (you) forget it (nunsiha (nasiya IV)), We bring a better verse or a similar one." Taha, however, quotes an old reading of the passage, having instead: nunsi'ha (nasa'a IV: postpone), which makes it: The eternally valid ruling of the Qur'_n is sometimes postponed, and for Muhammad's own time a "better" verse is revealed, that is: a more fitting one for this very situation and (badly prepared) people.


Evaluation: One need not go along with all of Taha's and An-Na'im's justifications why the Meccan and Medinan verses were revealed in exactly this sequence. Nor must one share their view of what is Meccan and what is Medinan. In fact their theory does not depend on a certain position about textual chronology. Rather, it re-opens the doors of ijtih_d by discussing anew what counts as "text". And the relevant criterion for a text to be part of the basis for a new shari'a is not “is it Meccan rather than Medinan?” but “is it of timeless value, rather than bound to a specific situation in history?”


The Kitab of Which There Is No Doubt

Daniel A. Madigan , S.J.


Although it has long been recognized that the parallel in Islam to the Jesus of Christianity is not Muhammad but rather the Qur’an, it is only relatively recently that the recognition has become widespread in scholarly circles. It is still far from generally recognized among a general audience, but there is good reason to hope that it may gradually take hold.


While this insight solves some of the theological difficulties one meets in Christian-Muslim relations, it also creates others. We can end up being dismissive of a mere text that sets itself up against the Word Incarnate and lays claim to being the fulness of God's word to his people. What lay behind the question I posed in my dissertation is precisely the issue: how does the Qur’an understand itself as a text; what does it mean when it calls itself kitab? Is kitab some­thing richer than a 'book', a codified text? What follows is an abstract of my work: "The kitab of which there is no doubt": books, writing and canon in the Qur’ân’s understanding of itself.


The undisputed morality of the Qur'an both in its origins and in the life of the Muslim community raises substantial questions about the meaning of the dominant description of the Qur'an as kitab Allah - usuallytranslated as 'the book of God.' This study begins with a critique of the claims by Western and Muslim scholars that the term kitab signified the intended writtenness of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is seen specifically to reject certain common notions about books, while at the same time placing the notion of kitab at the very heart of its understanding of itself and of God's dealings with humanity throughout history. It refuses to behave as an already closed canon but rather insists on remaining responsive to the current situation. It behaves more like a process of writing than as a completed book.


By attending carefully to the Qur'an's own use of the noun kitab and of the verbs from the root k-t-b, two primary elements in its semantic field are identified: hukm 'authority' and ‘ilm 'knowledge'. The clearly metaphorical intent of almost all the verbal uses of k-t-b suggests that the noun too is functioning primarily as a metaphor and a symbol for the processes of divine engagement with the world, rather than as the simple description of the form of God's revelation that it is often taken to be.


The hypothesis that the term kitab functions as a symbol for the divine knowledge and authority is tested against two other elements. The first is the ahl al-kitab, the peoples whose language and practice had, on the Qur’an's own admission, provided the paradigm for the original under­standing of the kitab. The second is the evolving tradition within which the kitab continued to function after the closure of the canon . The way in which the Islamic tradition treats the Qur’an indicates that it has not lost the sense that the text meant to be responsive and was willing to develop. As kitab it showed that it understood itself to be not so much the entirety of God's addressasthe locus of continuing divine guidance.


The Kitab al-kharaj of Abu Yusuf

The Kitab of Which There Is No Doubt

Islam and Human Rights

Aloysious Mowe, S.J.


The question of the private ownership of land and the limits of the authority of the Islamic state over land has always been one of the most important issues in Islamic law and history. Most lands within Muslim territories after the Islamic Conquests in the 7th century were regarded as state domain or common estate for all Muslims. Those who held this category of land were regarded as tenants and paid a land tax known as kharaj, the rate of which sometimes exceeded half the revenue. The government had the authority to take away kharaj land from a tenant and give it to another. It also had the right to decide the rate and use of this tax as it saw fit, unlike other taxes which were clearly defined in Islamic law. The tax from kharaj land was the main source of the Islamic empire's legal revenue from the time of the Umayyads (661-749 CE) onwards, and its collection and administration were the main tasks of the sophisticated bureaucratic system of the 'Abbasid dynasty (749-1258 CE).


In the past few decades, as the idea of the establishment of the Islamic state has been growing in the Islamic world, kharaj as a major financial source has once again attracted much attention. The idea of the common ownership of land under the administration of the state is also favoured by many scholars reacting against the perceived social injustices in many parts of the Muslim world.


One of the most important works dealing with the kharaj tax is the Kitab al-kharaj of Abu Yusuf Ya'qub b. Ibrahim al-Ansari (d.798 CE). This book, an administrative manual as well as a compendium of laws, is thought to be the oldest surviving treatise on Islamic positive law, while its putative author, within the text itself, seems to claim for the book the distinction of being the first work to propose a reformed method of tax-assessment, the muqasama, in the Sawad region of Iraq, the richest source of revenue for the empire. Its chapters are frequently mined by historians for historical information about the period, and its legal pronouncements are cited today in proposals for an 'Islamic' economic system, both because of its antiquity as well as the authority of Abu Yusuf, who was the chief judge in Baghdad in the reign of Harun al-Rashid and one of the founders of the Hanafite school of law.


There are problems in taking the book as a source for Islamic law and economic administration that has the warrant of antiquity and the prestige of Harun and his chief judge attached to it. The arrangement of the topics within the text, their lack of coherent order, their frequent repetition, all present a problem that leads us to wonder if the book is an authored text as such.


The impression given is rather that of something cobbled together over a period of time. Also, given the authority of Abu Yusuf and the internal claims made for the importance of the text, it is not at all evident that subsequent works in the genre were aware of the work or, if they were, that they gave it any kind of privileged position. While subsequent works on the kharaj seem to share some general similarities in content and language, there are significant divergences that raise questions about the dating and provenance of the text.


Abu Yusuf himself seems to have been a controversial figure While his book seems to have acquired a quasi-canonical status, derogatory reports about him in the biographical literature far outnumber reports that praise him. He was regarded generally as someone who was unscrupulous in his pursuit of power and influence at court, and who therefore gave judgments and opinions that suited the caliph and his entourage, even if it meant falsifying precedents and employing questionable reasoning.


I wish to argue that the Kitab al-kharaj represents a radical revision of the norms governing taxation in the Islamic lands, and that the work as we know it is the result of a long period of redaction. The redactors, working in the service of the state, presented a new version of the taxation norms as being continuous with past practice, when in fact they were not, and carefully transformed earlier material, which contradicted their aims, to sanction the changes. The state, in the person of the caliph, was given full discretion in the matter of control of the land, and in deciding the rates and uses of the taxes exacted from it. Many of the problems of coherence and structure encountered in the text result from this revisionist activity.


While a core section of the book may indeed go back to the time, and even the hand, of Abu Yusuf, it is likely that the book as we now have it is the result of a long period of redaction by scholars of the Hanafite school that reflected the administrative practice of the Abbasid state between 50-100 years after the death of its putative author. The text should therefore demonstrate not just the typical elements of Hanafite juristic thought but also reveal the evolution of Hanafite thought in the 9th century in the light of the consensus in Islamic jurisprudence brought about by Shafi'i and his school. The history of the ambiguous relationship between the state and the 'ulama who saw themselves as the guardians of the shari'a should also find resonances within this text.


What does the law mean in the context of the text, and what can the text tell us about the development of law-making and associated notions such as 'sunna'? How is the text related to the other works in the genre and indeed to other genres such as the 'Mirror for Princes' literature?


My Experience of Muslims and Islam

David Neuhaus, S.J.


A first meeting : My first meeting with Muslims dates to my move from South Africa to Jerusalem in 1977, at the age of fifteen. In fact, arriving so young in Jerusalem and being without family, I was adopted into a family of Palestinian Muslims with whom I spent all my free time. This was my first immersion in Islamic culture and my first exposure to the daily piety of Muslims. It was within this context that I began to study colloquial Arabic and began reading the Qur’an with one of the brothers of the family, Oussama, who has remained my closest friend. In fact, this friendship would be the foundational experience for an attitude towards Islam and Muslims which has oriented my understanding of our dialogue with Muslims.


Studies: During my B.A. studies in psychology at Hebrew University I completed the three years of Arabic language offered to students in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. On completing my B.A., I began an M.A. in Political Philosophy during which I prepared a thesis on the transmission and transformation of Plato's political philosophy in the thought of Muhammad al-Farabi and (his disciple) Musa bin Maimun (Maimonides). A few years later I completed my doctoral dissertation in Political Science which was based on a number of years of field and library research.


Entitled "Between Quiescence and Arousal - The Political Functions of Religion: A Case Study of the Arab Minority in Israel 1948-1990", the dissertation analyzed "how religion integrates and also disrupts society". As almost 75% of the Arab minority in Israel is made up of Muslims, a great part of my research was based on the reading and analysis of texts on Islam as well as on interviews with Muslims throughout Israel and Palestine. The dissertation analyzes the functioning of Islamic institutions in Israel (the shari'a courts, the waqf committees, etc), Muslim adaptation to minority status, trends of secularization, new forms of charismatic leadership and the particularly vibrant and rather unique Islamic Movement in Israel. Likewise, the dissertation focused on the experience of the Druze in Galilee. Although regarded elsewhere in the Arab world (in Lebanon and Syria) as part of heterodox Islam, in Israel the history of this group is particularly fascinating as its religious leadership developed a rather complex attitude towards the Israeli Jewish authorities and its Muslim neighbors. Another central issue in the research was, of course, dialogue among the various confessions that make up the Palestinian Arab national minority in Israel.


During this same period I continued my studies in Arabic, reading the Qur’an in Arabic with a Muslim once a week.


Since entering the Society of Jesus in 1992 I have had certain limited occasions to continue this interest. During the year and a half that I lived in Cairo I explored various aspects of Egyptian Islam and had the experience of teaching mixed classes of Muslims and Christians in the Jesuit college in Cairo. I benefitted greatly from the conversations I regularly had with Father Christian van Nispen. During my theology studies in Paris, I made a point of seeking out Muslims and tried to learn as much as possible about the Muslim minority situation in France and in Europe. I also took a few courses taught by Father Louis Pouzet in Paris.


Other activities: From 1980 until 1991 I was active in a number of' programs promoting inter-religious dialogue in Jerusalem. For many years I was involved with a group of Jews, Muslims and Christians who met once a week to read the Bible and the Qur’an together. Rather than debating theological points, these encounters were based upon reading texts together. I found this approach very rich and hope to continue this one day (in Jerusalem perhaps).


In 1991, Kathy Bergen, Ghassan Rubeiz and I published a book of interviews for the World Council of Churches. The book, entitled "Justice and the Intifada : Palestinians and Israelis speak out", included a series of interviews with important Israeli and Palestinian leaders including the present Mufti of Jerusalem, Shaykh Ikrimah Sabri and the present spokesperson of HAMAS, Dr. Mahmoud az-Zahar. The preparation of the book involved research regarding the values of peace and justice in Islam (as well as in Judaism and Christianity).


Future orientation : At present, after completing my first cycle of theology studies in Paris, I am in Rome to begin the license in Bible at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. I am hoping that this will be a step in the direction of furthering my interest in the dialogue with Jews and Muslims, especially in the Middle East. I must say that the social, political and cultural dimensions of this dialogue interest me more than the theological aspects. It seems to me that the importance of the "text" for this dialogue cannot be underestimated. I am particularly interested in the cultural, linguistic and political importance of the "text" and its sacred status in Middle Eastern societies.


Life in the Tablighi Jamaat Mission

My Experience of Muslims and Islam

Desiderio Pinto, S.J.



Just now I am involved in some field research at the Banglawala mosque in Delhi, which is modified to serve as the central headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat. This is not the first time that I go there on a regular basis. I have gone there many times In the past, giving up after sometime because of the difficulties involved. One problem is that most of the people at the mosque stay there for only 24 hours before they are sent out in groups returning only after 3 weeks, some after 4 months, for another 24 hours before leaving again for their respective homes. A few may stay for 3 or 4 days until they can get train or bus tickets to reach particular destinations. Hence, it is as if one is beginning anew each day, or every three or four days, with very different sets of people, some welcoming and accommodating, others distant and insulting.


However, there are some who live at the mosque for a period of 2 months or several terms of 2 months duration in a given year. But these people are normally too busy with daily low level administrative work to speak to visitors like myself or more that a few minutes, and they too disappear after two months. Despite this appearance of transitoriness, however, there is obviously some abiding structure whereby individuals hold relatively permanent leadership, administrative, and teaching positions at this center of the worldwide Tablighi Jamaat network.

This is obvious because all Tablighi Jamaat missions to and from abroad have to be routed through this mosque. Organizational and other decisions are made in a closed room each morning at a meeting from 9.00 to 11.00 am. The mosque accommodates and feeds more than a thousand people twice each day free of charge. The daily busy schedule of the mosque is strictly regulated and observed even when massive building work carries on within the mosque - two underground stories have been built with huge sleeping halls without disturbing the busy daily schedule, and there are plans to build a third one.


Even though no one is willing to point out those in charge of the mosque, these people are somehow distinguishable by the respect and deference the visitors accord them whenever they happen to be present in the common hall. And when one is finally able to meet with one of them, then one finds that he keeps silent most of the time refusing to give even his name, or calling himself Muhammad. Since many people in the mosque have Muhammad as their first name, it is virtually impossible to meet such a person again. But if one is lucky then this illusive Muhammad may send one to one of the two month residents who then feels constrained to attend to one every time one visits.


Another major problem concerns the way in which many people living in the mosque treat non-Muslims. At the first meeting they may be very friendly explaining what they understand about the rationale and goals of the movement. It is difficult for many of them to accept at this meeting that the visitor is not a Muslim. However, when, at a subsequent visit, they finally do come to accept the visitor as a non-Muslim, they immediately undertake to convert him. If he does not convert, they ostracize him. And if he continues to visit while remaining a non-Muslim then others too are encouraged to ostracize him. Such behavior may be seen by them as help given to bring a visitor onto the path of salvation. But it does make further visiting difficult.


The daily routine at the mosque begins with namaz at 5.00 am followed by a talk that gets over at 8.00am. At this talk the listeners are told of the necessity of purifying their own following of Islam from all non-Islamic practices, and also of the necessity of visiting Muslim communities in order to spread true Islam among them through an example that emulates the way of Muhammad and his first companions. From 8.00 to 11.00am the visitors are slowly divided into groups of roughly ten people each, and asked to choose a leader from among themselves, preferably an elderly person. Then they are given a destination depending on how much money the individual members of the group have been able to bring along for this purpose. At 11.00am. there is another talk lasting until the noon namaz that tells them what exactly they must do when they reach their determined destinations.


After namaz there is lunch and the groups leave. From 3.00 to 5.00pm there is a talk on some aspect of Islam for newcomers, who started arriving after 10.00am. After the 7.00pm. namaz there is some reading from the Qur’an, and from the life of the Prophet and his companions with explanations and exhortations. After supper and the 9.30pm. namaz there are meetings in language based groups, where individuals recall the events of the day, their attitudes at those times, and subject themselves to correction. At around 10.30pm. all go to sleep.


The final aim of the Jamaat seems to be to present the world with such a beautiful living image of Islam that all peoples being wondrously attracted to it eventually convert to Islam. Since no Muslim community can convincingly make such a presentation at this moment in time, all current striving at the mosque entails transforming Muslims into people who think and act only in terms of otherworldly concerns. This is achievable, the Jamaat believes, only when Muslims are made to see this life as transitory, gifted by God only for a fixed time span in order to prepare for a perpetually fully satisfying reward, or for a never ending unbearable punishment in an everlasting afterlife.


The first visible sign of progress on this path is the faithful fulfillment of the 5 pillars, specially the recitation of the kalima, and the performance of the namaz 5 times a day. This is considered as honoring the rights of God, the first duty of every Muslim. Second comes the honoring of the rights of fellow Muslims by giving them their rightful share, and if possible going beyond this to give them more than that share, counting them as more important than oneself. The third duty concerns the pursuance of religious knowledge. The fourth is recalling the graces of God re­ceived during the day and in one's lifetime. The fifth is inviting through one's example and words fellow Muslims to follow this path, first in one's own locality, and then in distant places initially for a period of 3 weeks, and later for longer periods of 4 months at one's own expense.


The faith, the dedication, and the constant manifest awareness of divine presence among these Muslims who volunteer to come to this mosque and then go out on tabligh is awe inspiring. However, while it is also true that some of them go out on tabligh in order to run away from an unsolvable problem in their own homes, it does not seem strange for them to find on their return that the unsolvable problem has disappeared. This is inevitably attributed to the activity of God who rewards generosity with blessing, and, thus, encourages them and others to go out regularly on tabligh.


In conclusion it may be said that dialogue in the Banglawala masjid is difficult because these people are more interested in strengthening and purifying their own following of Islam from the accretions accumulated from other faiths over the centuries. The only type of conversation with another faith that they seem to be interested in is polemics. However, despite this attitude they do not mind people of other faiths entering the mosque at any time and learning of their faith, aspiration and activities. And this in itself is praiseworthy.


Political and Religious Authorities in Islam

Salah Abu-Jawdeh, S.J.


Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, the Islamic countries in the Near East have been living in a state of political and social instability. Several modern analyses trace the reasons to the "difficult adaptation" of the Modernity model of government in Islamic countries. This observation, in my opinion, is correct, but not sufficient to explain the actual social and political crisis. Other than the question of Modernity, there is, as I shall try to show briefly, in Islam itself a serious ambiguity and a continuous conflict with respect to the exercise of authority and the notion of "state."


The difficulty consists in that, for specifically Muslim thought, Islam is considered as a community which assumes both religion (din) and life on earth (dunya). From this comes, for example, the famous slogan of the Muslim Brothers: “Islam is religion and government” (din wa-dawla).


In order to give a general view of this problematic, I will treat successively two questions: 1) Islam as religion and state and 2) religion and society in Islam.


I. Islam as Religion and State

The understanding of the first Muslims of their authority, conquests and legitimacy was founded on the fact that they formed the umma (the nation) of the Prophet. In fact, they saw themselves as God's vicars on Earth, and the leader they chose to carry out God's plan was the Caliph. However, the questions of the Caliphate (khilafa) and the conquests were exterior and did not touch the umma’s organization nor its transformation into a political society. The debating point since the beginning of this century was and is still about a fundamental question: did Mohammed found a state? Was there, at his time, a political society? Were the worldly actions he performed required by the Islamic vocation or merely by the beginning of the institutional organizations in a political society about to be formed? The opinions of historians have been very divided on this issue.


What is obvious is that the divisions between Sunnis and Shi’ites had been of a political nature, particularly with regard to the place the political leadership should have occupied in the general project of the umma. The Shi’ites, at the end of the first century of Hegira, considered that the “Direction” or the imamat was one of the religion's requisites, in the sense that religion demands a governing authority. On the contrary, the Imam, for the Sunnis, remained, in the best of cases, protector of the Islamic Law, but not one of its requisites. In fact, neither of the two visions included the state, that is to say, the political community or society.


However, the sources mention that Imam Ali had seen the necessity of the state, not Religion, to manage the daily affairs of men. According to this Imam, authority is needed in order to prevent subversion, settle conflicts, assure justice in distributing the revenue of the city (fai’) and defend the world of Islam. In fact, this tendency to handle worldly affairs occurred at a time when the sociopolitical powers had taken purely political names and not tribal nor regional ones. Thus we have to do with Shi’ites (followers of Ali), the ‘Uthmanis (followers of ‘Uthman, the third Caliph who was assassinated), the "Outlaws" (Khawarij, who were worried about the State's repression), and finally the Mu’tazila (who preferred to stay neutral in front of the divisions). In any case, the principal problem, from the political point of view, concerned the legitimacy of the Imam Ali and the limits of his powers.


A) The sources of legitimacy of the authority

The question of the legitimacy of the authority and the means that should be adopted to accede to it have always taken on a religious dimension since they were posed in the setting of three terms: the concerted policy or consultation (shura), the headmen of the people (awalu 'amr), and the community (jama’a). The first two terms are purely Qur’anic (Qur’an 3, 159; 42, 38), and the third refers to the Qur’an. The interpretations of these three terms have been a source of dissension all through history. However, till the fifth century of the Hegira, the right of the community to choose the authority and the Caliph had never been practised, but remained merely theoretical.


B) The Umayyads and the Abbasids

With the arrival of the Umayad dynasty to power (661-750), the crisis of the relation between authority and legitimacy grew worse. One need not linger over the stories of the tragic events which were multiplied since the murder of Ali and the capture of power by Mu'awiya in Damascus. Rather, it is worth underlining the fact that the major reason for the struggles was authority, its legitimacy and its limits in society. The Umayyads organized themselves in a dynasty according to a hereditary principal that no positive text justified. It was at that time also that a double hierarchy appeared and developed: the hierarchy of the worldly administration, which was put into the hands of non-Muslims at the beginning, and the hierarchy of the religious jurisdiction under the theologian jurists (fuqaha’). But the Umayads provoked violent opposition which ended when the Abbasids won the struggle. The Empire of the latter lasted from 750 until 1258.


Under the rule of the Abbasids (followers of Abbas, Muhammad's uncle), the theologian jurists concentrated their efforts on solving a new problematic: the relation between the Law (Shari’a) and politics. The Abbasids tried to unite temporal and religious affairs in the hands of the Caliph. Al-Ma'mun (813-833) even obliged the religious judges and the whole of the Muslim people to profess his theological doctrine which was mu’tazilism. But the people refused that constraint in religious matters and revolted. Al-Ma'mun's successors consequently had to reconsider his position.


A new debate began when the Caliph Al-Mansur tried to impose a manual of Maliki law as the official code of the Empire. After that, many juridical rites or theological schools were favored by turns by the holders of power. The dissolution of the Empire into several entities prevented any kind of uniformity and continuity in these attempts to elaborate an Islamic state doctrine.


C) The constant problematic of the relation between state and religion

In the light of this brief historical view, we can conclude that the relation between state and religion in Islam has been always problematic. This same problematic is still occupying the consciousness of contemporary Islamic groups. The only difference is that they find several titles for the question due to the different circumstances in the Muslim world.


The problematic which bore on the legitimacy of authority and on the relation between the Islamic Law and the state in the past became radicalized during the colonial era. According to the theologian jurists, it was impossible for a non-Muslim to govern a Muslim. That was not only because Muslims were the overwhelming majority in their countries, but also because the Islamic Law should have been applied. While today the question is posed in face of the call of modernity to secularize the state.


Contemporary views attempt thus to reconcile the principles of modernity with the Islamic Law. This is, in my opinion, the actual state of the question. An example is Mohammed Nour Farhat, an Egyptian, who tried to prove that the Islamic Law can be applied on two levels. The first is the level of the explicit texts in the Qur’an and hadith, which are few and general with the exception of some subjects like marriage, divorce and inheritance. The second is that of Islamic Law which is a personal effort of research on scriptural bases (ijtihad), exercised all through history and whose texts are differentiated from each other according to the different ways of thinking and the diverse interests of men. For this reason, the solution would be to found the Law (shari’a) on the general interest, thus leaving the door open for possible changes, since the interests vary according to time and place.


As a conclusion to this part, I would say that Islamic political history is marked by a double conflict which is still alive: the relation between Muslim authority and the Law and its representatives (a relationship full of conflicts and confusion), and the relation between the civil state and religion, never brought seriously into question, not even by secular ideologies.


II. Religion and Society in Islam


This brings me to consider the interaction between Religion and Society in Islam. Two positions theoretically divergent seem to resume actually the functions and the rule of religion in society. I would call the first "the Muslim position” and the second “the Islamic position".


1. The Muslim position

The Qur’an, as a book come down from heaven (in Arabic, tanzil, which means the coming down of the Book),has imposed a vertical look on history and the world. God acts in all creation, including society and its history. Nothing in personal or collective history can escape from the vigilance and judgment of the One who knows neither sleepiness nor sleep (Qur’an 2, 255).


The realities revealed by the Holy Books, accomplished by the Qur’an, allow every faithful of the umma to approach Paradise where God holds the Archetypal Book (Umm al-kitab) which contains the Eternal and Impenetrable Realities (Qur’an 43, 38-39). What is revealed to men is not limited to heavenly realities but includes human knowledge in all fields. Thus, we can understand why the prephilosophic and prescientific instructions mentioned in the Qur’an are usually an epistemological obstacle.


Five oppositions which command Muslim thought

We can speak of five axial oppositions which command action and thought in Muslim societies:

1. The opposition between the sacred and the unholy, under which a whole series of oppositions are gathered to organize life: good and evil, true and false, salvation and damnation, the Islamic space (dar al-Islam) and the opposite space (dar el-harb).


2. The opposition between Islamic Law (Shari’a) and those who are lost (daleen). The Law informs personal and collective life so it will be in accord with the Qur’anic prescriptions. The part the theoretical science (fiqh) played in this field has been prominent. In particular, it has strengthened the idea that the society does not determine anything by itself concerning the individual conscience and behaviour; and that the history which is produced outside the limits fixed by God causes the degradation of the ideal City founded by the Prophet. Consequently, aberration (dalal) means negligence of the realities taught and applied by God and Muhammad.


3. The opposition between the legitimate authority based on the Qur’an and evil forces. Once again, we face the problem that I have already presented about the relation between religious and civil authorities.


4. The opposition between the internal meaning or hidden meaning and the external or literal one. This opposition came to a conflict of political-religious nature between Sunnis and Shi’ites. Their points of view with regard to leadership, knowledge and spiritual life are very divergent.


5. The opposition between the "subject of right", that is, one who acts according to the Law (shari’a) and the subject of the opposed perverted society (jahiliyya). This opposition imposes enormous difficulties in social relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.


All these oppositions are based on the postulate according to which society and its history are produced by the Religion taught by God, and not the contrary.


2. The Islamic position

Following the modernity which, since the 10th Century, influenced Muslim societies and intellectuals, we can note four major tendencies commanding to a great extent the functions of Religion in actual societies:

1. The overdetermination of the religious factor by several authors. That helps to generalize some schemes, especially Sunnis of an Islamic "City" unvaried in space and time.

2. The analyses of the social forces done by many researchers are still profoundly marked by a confusion between temporal and spiritual in Islam and by the primacy of religious inspiration.

3. The application of the modern schemes and methods to study societies are very weak. These methods find a sort of self-censorship in Muslim societies. The failure of the Marxist and Baathist schemes are contemporary examples.

4. The schemes of the classical Islamology continue to command the recent reflexions.


Conclusion: Since the production of society and its history are done by the Religion, Muslim countries which were founded on the principle of modernity (i.e. the separation between religion and State, basing this latter on the notion of nation state), are expected to live in continuous social and political tension in a state of uncertainty. This poses the question of how Muslim countries can develop a clear vision of society and the state?


Dialogue in the Context of Chad

Political and Religious Authorities in Islam:

Continuous Conflict!

Souk Allag Waayna , S.J.


A. Why did I study Islam ?

Iwas born in a milieu in Chad where for long time, our villages and those of Arabs lived on the same land without mutual hostility. Fanaticism and religious aggressivity were unknown. There was no religious or racial discrimination between us. They respected our traditions as we respected their religion.


After 1979, things began to change in the light of the civil war. The political errors of our leaders led each group to take a position on the basis of his specificity. In this war, everybody was called to situate his confessional belonging. Many people lost their life in the name of a political conflict which was presented as a confessional conflict. For this reason, many Muslims believed that they were fighting for the glory and the triumph of their religion.


However the most important enemy to mutual understanding is not only the result of bad political management of common and social life, but it comes from the marabouts (after 7 years of Qur'anic studies,the student becomes a marabout) or the ignorance of faqihs who often belong to sectarian movements. They often present to their disciples a deformed and pejorative image of Christianity and of Jesus Christ. In this way, they arouse in people’s minds a negative and hostile reaction towards Christians. It seems to me that many Chadian Muslims who don't know how to read and write maintain a terrible confusion when they talk about “Jesus, the Mesiah, the son of Mary,” as he is called in the Qur’an.


Being the only Christian in my family and having grown up in a milieu deeply marked by traditional religion and Islamic culture, I asked to the Society to do Islamic studies in order to help Christians and Muslims to understand one another and to work together for the welfare of all in reciprocal esteem and respect. I'm particularly interested in mutations and evolution of or­d­i­nary Muslims who often are perplexed by contemporary developments of new theological ideas. Considering this, I oriented my Islamic studies in two directions which seem to me essen­tial to help, however little, Christians and Muslims of my country to understand one another.

At PISAI, I mainly tried to understand for myself the link between Law and society in Islam. That led me to write my licentiate thesis on temporal power and religious power in Islam according to Ali Abdel-Radziq and Husayn Ahmad Amin. When I began my theological studies, I focused my interest on Christology in order to understand Muslim thinking about Jesus Christ in the face of Christian kerygma. That is why in my fourth year of theology, I opted for missiology and I wrote my licentiate thesis on the theses developed by Abd-Allah Yusuf,a Sudanese Sufi who converted with all his group to Christianity. These theses are developed in his teaching and are not yet published. I worked on manuscripts which were smuggled out of the Sudan. I believe it is worthwhile because that man said many interesting things to say.


B. Pastoral experience and the state of my research


The Church in Chad, particularly, in the Diocese of N’Djamena, in its organisms of social development, chose to collaborate with Muslims. The Church leaders thought that this collaboration could favor dialogue, reciprocal esteem and understanding between Christians and Muslims. However, after few years, it appeared evident that:


1. Christians as a whole of the diocese are extremely hostile to this policy of collaboration with Muslims, because - they say - Muslims don't want to assume Christians in their organisations and social centers.


2. Muslims who collaborate or effectively work in our social development projects do not understand anything about the fundamental orientations which constitute the basis of the Church's social projects. For them, their job is an employment like any other to which they believe they have complete rights.


3. Most, though not all, Muslims who collaborate with us do not respect Christianity, considering it a religion of error and Christians with a certain contempt.


4. The uncertainties of government policy and its present tendency to favor the Muslims community put us in a difficult situation. Whereas in the cities tensions are less perceptible, in the rural areas tensions between animist or Christian farmers and Muslim cattle-raisers are intense and break out regularly into bloody clashes.


5. At the present time, we notice that there are two levels of justice. Whatever one’s degree of innocence, the Christian or animist is always unjustly condemned, but the crimes and other acts of flagrant injustice coming from Muslims are not punished.


All of this magnifies the social and psychological split between Muslims and the other national communities. According to my pastoral experience and observations, the present government's policy is making the situation more and more difficult and dangerous. The relation between Muslim community and other national communities is very conflictual. In such a climate, many animists have come to place themselves alongside Christians. The real dialogue at the level of the grassroots is not for tomorrow because at the present moment we can witness on the side of Muslims a hardening of attitudes towards Christians. Every true dialogue supposes mutual respect, esteem, trust and acknowledging each other in equality. But at the present time, relations between Christians as well as animist and Muslims are deeply marked by a relation of power which is favourable to Muslims of the North who live in fear that the political power will return to the South. In fact, the people of the South are mainly Christians and the perspective of the return of political power to the South causes Muslims to fear an eventual search for revenge and the end of their political and economic advantages.


C. The state of my research and my present work


At the moment, I'm working in the South as a parish priest where I take care of the spiritual and social animation of 26 villages. However, I also give talks to various groups on Islam which consists in: a brief introduction to the history of Islam and its prophet, its diffusion in the world, in Africa and particularly in Chad, the changes in Chadian Islam since the 1979 civil war, the birth of integrist movements and what they want and finally, relations between Muslims and Christians in the South of the country. To some groups, I also give a brief introduction to the Qur’an, underlining the figures of Mary and Jesus in the Qur’an.


The second aspect of my research consists in collecting documents which are published by Muslims and those published in the local press which deal with problems of the secular nature of the state. In its constitution, Chad is a secular state, but in the reality of daily life, we can see what I call a rampant Islamisation of state structures and of the fabric of social life. I use these documents in the sessions I give, but I will also use them in a deeper research which I'm beginning to do, taking as my reference point the countries of Niger, Chad and Sudan.


The third aspect of my research consists in observing what is happening in the daily life of the people in order to see how in the social fabric, Muslims try to outflank the lay nature of the state and to impose implicitly or explicitly their views and way of life on society as a whole. This kind of work is very demanding and requires much time.


Here I take as reference points rites such as those of birth, funerals, mourning, marriage, the period of Ramadan fast, clothes, women’s fashions, traditions and rules to be observed in current life, the problem of the prohibition of alcohol in some city neighborhoods, the implantation of large and small mosques in neighborhoods and public markets in the cities, public or private announcements on stores and other buildings, the attitude of Muslims in their places of work, the erection of Qur’anic and Arabic schools, etc.


When I notice the persistence and repetition of facts and deeds, I write them down. This is useful in my work with catechists, as they are the primary spiritual animators of their Christian communities. They need to be informed of these things so that they can make them known to other Christians. This is briefly what I am doing at the present time. I also am in charge of the justice and peace commission in our church.



Sebastian Vempeny, S.J.


I belong to the Gujarat province in India of the Society of Jesus. During the formation period the province always supported me in my pursuit of understanding Islam and Muslims in India. As a result during regency I began to get in contact with Muslims. I came in close contact with some Muslim Madrassas and soon I became a regular visitor in two of the largest Madrassas in Gujarat. A pious Maulana in one of them became a regular Arabic and Urdu tutor to me.


During my theology studies I continued my interest in Islam, stayed with the Muslims and kept in contact with many Muslim religious centres. Besides these while in the regional theologate, I took the theology students for a week-long stay and study in four different Madrassas. From then onwards I helped to arrange similar exposure programs for Jesuit scholastics.


After my pastoral year as a priest in the Jesuit mission station at Cambay - which is one of the earliest Muslim trading centres on the western cost of India - I came to do my post graduate in Islamic Studies in New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia. I came to this university at the request of the then Jesuit Provincial of India (POI) Fr. Varkey Parekkat, and since then my study expenses are met by the POI office.


HARMONY: It was during my studies last year that together with Fr. Desiderio Pinto I managed to build a modest centre for Christian -Muslim dialogue called HARMONY. I was interested in having a centre promoting communal harmony. Working for Christian-Muslim relations was my special interest. I felt the need for starting a small office, with a separate location and place. Having an address and a place to contact Muslims exclusively on matters regarding Christian-­Muslim interaction is more effective than having a dialogue wing attached to one of our established Jesuit institutions.


After many discussions with Fr. Varkey Parekkat, we had decided to purchase a house for the Muslim Apostolate, but due to various difficulties it did not materialize. Meanwhile the land once bought by Fr. Christian Troll near Jamia Millia for the same purpose was being considered. But due technical difficulties proposals were made for the sale of the land.


Fr Varkey Perekkat agreed to my suggestions of keeping the land and preparing a small structure to get the centre going. Though it was a risky affair we managed to construct a three-room structure.


Fr. Desiderio Pinto managed to get the finance for it with the help of Fr. Hengi, SJ We named it, HARMONY - House for interreligious fellowship.


Harmony has not yet been formally inaugurated but we have frequent meetings of Christians and Muslims, separately and also together on various agendas. At present I am busy setting up the necessary requirements for the centre and trying to make contacts and publicize the purpose and goals of Harmony. Though the centre is located in one of the unauthorized colonies in Delhi, we have managed to get a ration card, telephone, a separate post box and a temporary electric connection. But still, without regular electricity, without drinking water facilities, drainage and proper roads it is not yet suitable for permanent residence. In spite of this situation, I spend three to four days of a week at the centre so as to establish relationships with the people around, who are all Muslims.


MY DOCTORATE PROGRAMME: Since July this year I have been trying to register for my doctoral studies in the same University but so far even after several meetings with the professors of the department, I am not in a position to know who will be my supervisor or when will I get registered. Even after a few meetings (after repeated postponements) with the head of the department, he has not told me anything definite. He has not agreed to be my supervisor, nor has he told to find some one else.


After discussing my proposed research plans, i.e., a study of the Umma/community, and even adapting my plans to suit the professor, we agreed on preparing a synopsis: “The changing cosmological and socio-religious attitudes among the Muslims and Christians in India from medieval to modem times: A comparative study”. When I presented this to the head of the department, he said it was totally not agreeable to him and he told me to meet him later but after four unsuccessful attempts I am still waiting. It is important to note that only a couple of other universities offer a Ph.D. program in Islamic studies.

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