Christians – ever wondered if Muslims organise their ‘evangelism’?

I have certainly wondered. in fact, I had been so interested in this topic I wanted to study it for a postgraduate course. I thought  anyone interested in this question too might be interested in my Research Proposal:

Research Proposal: The intellectual religious history of Christian and Muslim apologetics in Britain in the last Century.

Ruth Preston

I present here a preliminary review of my ideas. They are the broad brush stokes from which I later hope to focus on a few key thinkers and issues. My ideas must, after more research and study, be reduced, redefined, and perhaps changed in ways that I cannot as of yet foresee. However, with this in mind, the starting point of a research project should enable the researcher to progress to the point where he/she is able to make necessary adjustments, and adapt to the availability and content of his/her sources. Therefore, presented here is the groundwork from which I hope to develop a more specialised research topic.

When approaching this topic, one has to consider the definition of the terms involved. Firstly, by inserting ‘apologetics’ into the title I have already adopted a Christianised perspective, as ‘apologetics’ is word generally used within the Church to describe a discipline devoted to defending or vindicating the faith. In Greek apologetikos is the word from which apologetics originates, and can be translated as ‘defensible’[1]. Alternatively, Apologia means ‘speech of defence’[2]. The role of apologetics has long been understood in the Christian church, Justin Martyr being a famous Early Church figure who crafted his Apology in defence of Christianity for the emperor Antoninus Pius in 151 A.D[3]. Therefore, apologetics is the means by which one builds a defence against objections to the Christian faith.

Although Muslims must also defend their faith by necessity, as Christians do, ‘apologetics’ as a category does not exist in quite the same form. ‘Da’wah’ is the concept in Islam that might be considered to parallel ‘apologetics’ in Christianity. Da’wah can be translated as ‘invitation’ or ‘summons’. Thus, da’wah is an invitation to submit to A’llah[4]. Defending Islamic faith certainly comes into this, but it could be argued that da’wah has a broader remit. Although the literal meaning of the word is ‘invite’, the shari’a meaning is closer to ‘propagation’. Therefore, da’wah is involved in the entire process of proclaiming, developing and spreading an Islamic worldview. Apologetics within the Christian tradition is generally understood to be justifying one’s faith in respectful argument, and therefore is just one facet of evangelism. Thus, da’wah could possibly be more correctly paralleled with the concept of evangelism.

Although da’wah and apologetics differ in definition, they are not categorically different. I would like to work with both concepts, respective to each religion, and hope to concentrate on the reasoned defence given by both faiths. This discipline is named ‘apologetics’ in the Christian tradition, and which is a part of, although not the entire scope of, da’wah. For this reason I have used the word ‘apologetics’ in the title of this proposal, rather than ‘da’wah’.

Approaches to apologetics and daw’ah can be vastly different when considering the audience to which they are issued. I would like to focus on Britain in the last century, as Britain has changed from being nominally Christian to largely secular. Comparing Christian-Muslim dialogue, within the context of British intellectual sea change, will create an interesting juxtaposition of both faiths that I hope will provide innovative perspectives on the evolution of apologetics.

I would like to study those that are da’at Al-A’llah (inviters to A’llah), who have either lived in Britain or are english-speakers who have had an influence on da’wah in Britain through their contribution to Islamic thought. I am particularly interested in looking at David Benjamin Keldani, an early 20th century convert from Roman Catholicism, who proceeded to proclaim Tawhid though his writing in works such as Muhammed In World Scriptures. Equally, William H. Quilliam contributed significantly to Islamic thought in the late 19th early 20th century, and would have greatly influenced the public image of Islam in Britain at the outset of the 20th century. He was a founder of the Liverpool Mosque and Institute (LMI) of 1891. The LMI presented its views in two publications The Crescent and The Islamic World. The Crescent was an eight-page publication that dealt primarily with Muslims in Britain, which was issued weekly. The Islamic World was issued monthly and it focused on worldwide Islam, though the articles were often on various topics[5].

Likewise, men such as Khwaja Kamaluddin, Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Syed Ameer Ali, who initiated the creation of the Woking Mosque founded in 1912, could be analysed through their journal the Islamic Review. Interestingly, their approach to defending their faith was to accommodate the predominantly Christian culture by highlighting theological similarities[6], an approach that has not always been adopted in recent times. Similarly, Sheikh Abdullah Ali al-Hakimi’s arrival in Britain in 1936 caused the establishment of the Zaouia Islamia Allawouia Religious Society of the United Kingdom, which I may also consider in my study.

In the second half of the 20th century one of the da’at al-A’llah whom I would like to study is Isma’il al Faruqi who wrote Christian Ethics (1968). and Trialogue of the Abrahamis Faiths (1982). He also gave a lecture on da’wah to the 1976 to the World Council of Churches[7]. Also, Khalid Yasin who operates a da’wah organisation in Manchester has contributed considerably to this discipline, and the study of his works will certainly aid my research. Ahmed Deedat has had an enormous influence on recent proclamations of Islamic faith. One particular debate can be highlighted: in 1981 in South Africa he debated with Josh McDowell a well known Christian writer and speaker. Such events as these would have had a lasting effect on the communities of Britain. Other contemporary thinkers could include: Yusuf Estes, Shabir Ally, Jamal Badawi, Zakir Naik, Zais Shakir, Hamza Yusuf and Ehteshaam Gulam.

I could also consider Islamic theological works that have been translated into English within the 20th century, and analyse the effect these texts had upon Muslim, Christian and secular audiences. An essential example would be Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s Kitab Al-Tawhid.    

Similarly, some of the figures within Christianity that I would like to study, progressing from earliest to latest, would be Karl Gottlieb Pfander, Louis Masignon, Wilfred Cantwell Smith and C S Lewis. More recently, Cornelius Van Til, Kenneth Cracknell, Jay Smith, Patrick Sookhdeo, William Lain Craig, John Hick, Colin Chapman, Nick Chatrath, Mary Sharp and Josh McDowell. Although not all of these men and women were or are British, they are likely to have had an affect on the content and methodology of apologetics in Britain.

Again, I would like to focus on the contemporary, but men such as Karl Pfander who lived in the 19th Century hold a fascination because of the legacy and lasting effects of their works. Pfander was born in Germany, and was educated at an evangelical institute in Switzerland. He trained in Arabic and the Qur’an, which equipped him for missionary travel and interfaith encounters. He wrote a book titled Mizan ul Haqq (The Balance of Truth), his chief legacy, which was designed to resemble Muslim theological works so that they might be more accessable for an Islamic audience. It would be an important preliminary study to trace the effect the English translation of this book (1866 – 1867, Revised. 1910) had on British Muslim and Christian apologetics.

Towering apologists in recent Christian history would have to include C S Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. These men did not specifically provide an apologetic for Muslims, but rather to an increasingly secular Britain (or America). Yet, their influence in Christian intellectual circles was remarkable, and therefore an analysis of their perspective on apologetics may highlight certain methods employed by later Christians who sought to present Christianity to a Muslim audience. There is much more contemporary apologetic literature written by Christians for Muslims in the late 20th Century, due to various factors. These include migration, politics and changes in attitudes towards apologetics as a discipline.

I hope to analyse both Christian and Muslim apologetics in terms of their intellectual development. Therefore although I wish to record the landmarks of the last century, while focussing on the contemporary, I also wish to evaluate the context of different styles of apologetics. For example, it would be necessary to understand the influence of Deistic philosophy, Unitarianism and the psychological effects of the First and Second World War to understand how effective Quilliam’s articles were in the early 20th century.

Similarly, moving on to consider the contemporary world, apologetics in Christian circles have been employed more and more frequently in recent times. This is true not only because of the increasing secularisation of society, but also because of the effect of multiculturalism. Christians have been forced to think about why they believe in Christianity as opposed to any other religion. Indeed there is an emerging phenomenon arising, that as a result of multiculturalism and increasing access to different worldviews afforded by the Internet, all theology should be considered a part of a greater and unified theosophy. In other words, all contradictory theological beliefs are considered part of a complex but whole metaphysics. This common belief has various forms and shapes, but has had a great effect on Christian and Muslim apologetics. A leading figure in this type of approach would be John Hick. I would like to examine the affect pluralistic thinking has had on apologetics in both Christian and Muslim camps in the second half of the 20th century. This course of investigation could involve a study of ‘postmodernism’. Apologists emerging from both modernist and traditional institutions could be compared by context, influence and content. ‘Emergent Church’ apologetics could be paralleled with liberal Islamic scholars such as Farid Esack in their approach to defending their faith to a postmodern audience. Likewise, apologists trained by the traditional schools, such as Ravi Zacharius and Khalid Yasin could be analysed together to provide a comparison between the liberal and the conservative.

Consideration should also be given to the recent political/philosophical ideas termed ‘religion and the public square’. This belief system has had an effect on public opinions of shari’a law, and likewise, has prevented any Christian appeals to religious justification of their public policies. Political issues such as these have had a great effect on the public perception of religion, and thus apologetics and daw’ah have developed to accommodate and counteract the prevalent views in society. Consequently, I hope to study the not only content, but also the context and methodology of apologetics in Britain.

Considering my research material, I am expecting to devote most of my time to textual analysis. Because I aim to focus on the intellectual history of apologetics in Britain in the last century, I believe that I will be able to find much of the material in books that were published in that period. I have supplied a preliminary list of books below.

In addition to the books that have been published in the last century, I hope to have access to newspaper and magazine publications such as The Crescent, Islamic Review and The Islamic World from the first half of the 20th century, and more recently Islamic Voice. Journals such as Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations would also be an invaluable study.

In conclusion, I hope to be able to study this topic not only because of my own fascination with it, but also because of the crucial need for genuine interfaith dialogue in the present age. One way this can be achieved is through an understanding of previous interfaith dialogue, so that we can learn and build upon the work of great thinkers that have gone before us.

Bibliography/Source material

Isma’il al Faruqi, Trialogue of the Abrahamic Faiths, (Amana publications, 1982)

Goddard, Hugh. A History of Christian-Muslim Relations, (Edinburgh University Press, 2000)

Ansari, Humayun. The Infidel Within: Muslims in Britain since 1800, (Hurst, London, 2004)

Matthews, Daud. Presenting Islam in the West, UK Islamic Academy

Seyyed Hossein Nasr Traditional Islam in the Modern World, (Kegan Paul, 1987)

Patrick Sookhdeo Islam: The Challenge to the Church, (Isaac Publishing, 2006)  

Gilchrist, John., The True faith of Abraham, (http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/abraham.html), Sharing the Gospel with Muslims, (Life Challenge Africa, 2003, http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/Sharing/index.html)

Carl Gottlieb Pfander The Balance of Truth, (Revised 1910)

Dye, Eric R., The Apologetic Methods of Isma’il R al Faruqi and Cornelius Van Til, Dissertation, (School of Oriental and African Studies, September 2000).

Allamah Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di’s explaination of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s Kitab Al-Tawhid.

Raza, Mohammad S., Islam in Britain: Past Present and Future, (Volcano, 1991)

Deedat, Ahmed., The Choice: Islam and Christianity Volume 1, (1993)

Chapman, Colin., Cross and Crescent: Responding to the Challenge of Islam, (Inter Varsity, 1995)

Geisler, Norman. & Saleeb Abdul. Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross, (Baker Books, 1993)

Esack, Farid., The Qur’an: A User’s Guide, (Oneworld, Oxford, 2005)

Khalidi, Tarif., The Muslim Jesus, (Harvard University Press, 2001)

Maqsood, Ruqaiyyah Waris., The Mysteries of Jesus, (Sakina, Oxford, 2000)

Jukko, Risto., Trinity in Unity in Christain-Muslim relations: The Work of Pontifical Council for interreligious Dialogue   

Siddiqui, Ataullah., Christian-Muslim Dialogue in the Twentieth Century, (Antony Rowe, 1997)

Keldani, D. B., Muhammed in World Scriptures (1928)

 

Newspapers and Journals

Islamic World

The Crescent

Islamic Review

I.D.C.I (Islamic Dawah Centre International)

Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations


[1]  http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=apologetics&searchmode=none

[2]  Boa, Kenneth. ‘What is Apologetics?’, The Apologetics Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, p.xxv 

[3]  Chadwich, Henry. The Early Church, Penguin Books, p.75

[4]  Matthews, Daud. Presenting Islam in the West, UK Islamic Academy, p.7

[5] Ansari, Humayun. The Infidel Within: Muslims in Britain since 1800, (Hurst, London, 2004), p. 123

[6] Ibid. p. 129

[7] Goddard, Hugh. A History of Christian-Muslim Relations, (Edinburgh University Press, 2000), p.161

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  1. #1 by Anonymous on April 23, 2012 - 4:08 pm

    Ehteshaam Gulam????? Are you kidding me??

    • #2 by Emmaus At Twilight on April 23, 2012 - 8:03 pm

      I read that he was good? Is that not the case?

    • #3 by Emmaus At Twilight on April 23, 2012 - 8:13 pm

      Also – regardless of how good he is at debating, because he is well known – he still would be good to mention in my study – but let me know your thoughts. 🙂

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