'A common word between us and you': observations on the (mis)uses of Koranic exegesis in interreligious dialogue

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URI: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:21-opus-39408
Dokumentart: Article
Date: 2008
Source: "Ein Wort des Ausgleichs für die monotheistischen Religionen?" in: Rüdiger Lohlker, ed., Haditstudien ... für Tilman Nagel, Hamburg: Kovac; 2009, pp. 163-82
Language: English
Faculty: 5 Philosophische Fakultät
Department: Asien- und Orientwissenschaften
DDC Classifikation: 290 - Other religions
Keywords: Tafsir , Interreligiöse Beziehung , Benedikt <Papst, XVI.>
Other Keywords: Islamisch-Christlicher Dialog , Amman / Royal Aal al-Bayt Foundation
Interreligious dialogue / Islam - Christianity , Amman: Royal Aal al-Bayt Foundation , Ratzinger, Josef
License: http://tobias-lib.uni-tuebingen.de/doku/lic_mit_pod.php?la=de http://tobias-lib.uni-tuebingen.de/doku/lic_mit_pod.php?la=en
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‘A common word between us and you’: observations on the (mis)uses of Koranic exegesis in interreligious dialogue In mid-October 2007, to coincide with the end of Ramadan, the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman (Jordan), published an open letter headed ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’ to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders. The number and standing of its signatories—138 Muslim religious officials and bona fide scholars from the entire world—as well as the circumstances of its publication, including its endorsement by members of Jordan’s ruling Hashemite dynasty, lent it weight and called attention to its professed purpose, the advancement of Muslim-Christian dialogue and amity. Actually, reactions have not ceased coming in, usually—and in keeping with the letter’s tone—politely phrased and well-meaning, even if not uniformly uncritical. Quite apart from the letter’s antecedents (Benedict’s Regensburg speech and the response by 38 Muslims, to name but two) and institutional anchoring, it deserves to be taken seriously in itself as a document of contemporary—mainstream?—Koranic exegesis and beyond that, as an articulation of Muslim ‘Abrahamic’ (albeit virtually excluding Judaism) inter-monotheist dialogic thought. In this paper, the Arabic version of the letter, although secondary to the English, will be scrutinized predominantly in terms of the ‘classical’ and received Tafsîr to which it expressly and repeatedly appeals. It will be shown to subject the scriptural witness to a highly selective and situatively motivated, not to say opportunistic, revisionist reading, while totally neglecting to provide a coherent hermeneutics. In particular, the letter’s exegesis of Q 2: 256 will be demonstrated to fail on two counts, neither honoring received interpretations (cf. Crone, God’s rule, 2004) nor offering a Koranically cogent argument for freedom of religion in terms of current human rights theory (cf. Mohamed Talbi, “Religious liberty”, in: Swidler, 1986). In conclusion, the scriptural evidence marshalled by the signatories invalidates rather than strengthens their plea for Muslim-Christian understanding.

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