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Christian Lives Given to the Study of Islam

Christian W. Troll

Publication Year: 2012

This book captures the autobiographical reflections of twenty-eight Christian men and women who, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, committed their lives to the study of Islam and to practical Christian-Muslim relations in new and irenic ways. Their contributions come from across the spectrum of the Western church and record what drew them into the study of Islam. Their accounts take us to twenty-five countries and into all the branches of Islamic studies: Qur'an, Hadith, Shari'a, Sufism, philology, theology, and philosophy. They give fascinating insights into personal encounters with Islam and Muslims, speak of the ways in which their Christian traditions of spiritual training formed and nourished them, and deal with some of the misunderstandings and opposition they have faced along the way.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-2

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lk. 6:31). Seek to understand others as you would have them seek to understand you. Teach about others as you would have them teach about you. This might be seen as the underlying principle of the articles in this collection. This book represents a half-century: the...

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The Tents of Kedar

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pp. 3-12

They are pitched in the Book of Common Prayer version of Psalm 120, “Woe is me that I am constrained to dwell with Mesech and to have my habitation among the tents of Kedar.” That opening “woe” will have to have a sense, not of unhappiness or regret but, quite the contrary, of something strenuous and taxing...

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Following a Path of Dialogue

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pp. 13-21

It was in November 1945 that I discovered North Africa. At age twenty, I was there to complete my spiritual and theological formation at Maison- Carrée (Algeria) and at Thibar (Tunisia). I had decided to join the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) to fulfill an ideal first glimpsed thanks to the Christian...

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pp. 22-30

When I enrolled in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Uppsala one of the requirements was a course in Comparative Religion. For me African Traditional Religion would have been a natural choice. Unfortunately this was not on the syllabus at the time. Religion of Israel was part of “Old Testament” studies...

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Called from My Mother’s Womb

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pp. 31-41

As I look back over what has been a long life, I can say it is the encounter with Muslim believers that has been the constant thread running through my whole existence, from the day of my birth, right up until today, especially in my work as a Missionary Sister of Africa (MSOLA, commonly called the White...

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A Life between Church and Islam: Seeking True Discernment

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pp. 42-52

The following essay is the result of an effort to describe how I have become a missionary, a Christian student of Islam, and a dialogue partner for Muslim friends and counterparts. My tale contains personal, ecumenical, apologetic, cultural, political, and theological dimensions. Not every dimension gets equal...

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A Philosophical-Theologian’s Journey

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pp. 53-62

Jung reminds us how the story of our lives will always be the story of our times as well. As a Catholic, I was reared ecumenically by an English Catholic mother and a Scottish Presbyterian father, baptized an Anglican by his mother in Montana. So my life would be tracked by ecclesial realities in a different key from many...

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A Pilgrimage amongst the Treasures of Islamic Traditions

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pp. 63-70

It began with Arabic studies. It was intended by my superiors that I should prepare myself to succeed Fr. J. Houben, S.J., as professor of Islamic studies at the University of Nijmegen. I had always felt an attraction to Asian cultures, Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but of Islam I had no more than a vague idea. As...

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Seeking a Theological Encounter

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pp. 71-80

Devoting my life to the encounter with Islam was not an early vocation. In fact my first contacts with Islam go back to my military service in Algeria, where, like all young French men at the time, I was posted during the Algerian war. I was appointed as officer for “Algerian affairs,” as a member of the corps known as...

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Engaging in Christian–Muslim Relations: A Personal Journey

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pp. 81-93

I have already written about the origins of my involvement in relations with Muslims, but in a word I could say that I owe everything to the missionary society to which I belong, the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers). It is true, though, that when as a boy I left home to start training for the missionary priesthood...

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All Over the World, the Spirit Is Moving

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pp. 94-102

For as long as I can remember, I have lived and moved in an atmosphere of faith. Both my parents came from a traditional Roman Catholic milieu and had gone through an experience of conversion to deeper, personal faith in Christ. I received from them a real thirst for a personal relationship with him, from which I knew...

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Synchronized Spiritualities

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pp. 103-114

A feature of life at Marist College Ashgrove, in Brisbane, Australia, was an annual retreat. In the final year, this was done in a Carmelite monastery. Apart from talks by the priest conducting the retreat, a generous supply of pamphlets on various religious topics was made available to read. The writings of an American Jesuit priest...

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On Being a Servant of Reconciliation

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pp. 115-127

My commitment to pursue a deeper understanding of Muslims and Islam, their culture and religion, developed gradually during the years 1957 to 1961 when I was studying Christian theology at the universities of Bonn and Tübingen. From 1959 I worked under the guidance of the church historian Hubert Jedin...

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A Man of Dialogue

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pp. 128-134

It was in 1955 that I entered religious life, with the express wish to be sent on the missions. During my second year of the novitiate (spring 1957), a Dutch confrère, who was a professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, came to talk to us about our order’s work in Muslim regions. I do not...

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A Boy from God’s Country

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pp. 135-145

Kerala is often called “God’s own country.” Rightly so because of her natural beauty: backwater rivers, coconut and banana groves, emerald paddy fields, spice gardens, the undulating mountain regions and the plains often surrounded by wide expanses of blue water. In a similar fashion Mangalore, too, should be named...

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Teaching the Religion of Others

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pp. 146-152

Many missionary lives, my own included, start with a confrontational attitude, or rather, apostolic zeal, with all the impetuosity and unworthiness this can entail, as does anything indicative of conquest. “Woe is me, if I do not proclaim the Gospel!” Yes, indeed, but after forty years of experience, my concept of evangelization...

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An Engagement with Islam

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pp. 153-162

I was born in 1939 and grew up in the city of Bristol, in the west of England. This should have given me a sense of the wider world, since Bristol was a significant port for centuries. “All ship-shape and Bristol fashion” is an expression still used with pride by Bristolians to mean something tidy and organized. But it was only...

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Liminality: Living on Borders

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pp. 163-176

I turned seventy in August 2009, fifty-two years after I entered the Society of Jesus. I have spent half of my life as a Jesuit in Africa and half elsewhere, mainly in New York City. I have always felt that I lived on the borders of any country or community. In a sense, as the anthropologist Victor Turner maintained, religious men...

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Growing in Love and Truth with Muslims

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pp. 177-187

Until I was 28 I had never met a Muslim. The world in which I was raised was pretty much circumscribed by our Catholic parish in St. Louis County in the Midwest of the United States. The people we prayed with on Sundays and feasts, and at novenas and Perpetual Help devotions, were the same people whose children...

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An Interfaith Experience of Dialogue as Lovein Action, Silence, and Harmony

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pp. 188-199

Dreams often have guided me beyond the “normal way.” The first dream that touched my life was the fruit of the prayers of my parents when, in 1950, at the foot of the grotto of Lourdes in France, they asked God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, for the grace of a priestly vocation for me. My parents...

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Spiritual Paths as Ways of Dialogue

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pp. 200-210

When in July 1969, a year after my priestly ordination, I disembarked at Beirut harbor, I had a very vague idea about the purpose of my trip. I went there to learn Arabic. Then, according to my superiors’ plan, I was to proceed to the Sudan to be installed in one of our schools to teach there until the end of my days. This had...

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A Dominican Friar in a Land of Immigration and in a Land of Islam

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pp. 211-218

My father, Giuseppe, being an Italian immigrant, would talk to me in the dialect of Bergamo. From my mother and grandparents, being Flemish, I would hear the gentle tones of Dutch in Flemish pronunciation. But to preserve harmony between everyone, we spoke French at home. I was certainly immersed in a multilingual...

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How Did You End Up in Islamic Studies?

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pp. 219-228

If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked that question, I would be a wealthy woman. Of course, it is a perfectly reasonable inquiry. The number of American Catholic women of my generation who became scholars of Islam and the Qur'an could probably be counted in single digits. It was not a common career...

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A Call to Muslim–Christian Dialogue

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pp. 229-238

I was brought up in a family that was open to dialogue and promoted respect for others, with a strong sense of values. My father was a strenuous freedom fighter against Nazi fascism, a real Christian, strong in his faith and faithful to the Church. His life and personality instilled in my heart a deep faithfulness to the truth...

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Grace Builds on Nature

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pp. 239-246

The maxim “grace builds on nature” applies. For the Christian who would go the solitary path of the study of Islam and actively promoting Christian–Muslim relations, it helps to have been born into an English recusant family, which retained its traditional allegiance during the times of the Penal Laws in England. Such...

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A Lenten Journey

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pp. 247-257

Lent was just beginning as I started out on this journey that has taken me to places, both geographical and theological, of which I would never have dreamed. It was in Delhi, the day before Ash Wednesday 1984, that I first met Christian Troll, who would introduce me to this new world. Looking back now, I see that the themes...

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Journeying toward God

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pp. 258-267

The Maltese Islands are strategically situated right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea at the crossroads between two continents (Europe and Africa), as well as between two different worlds and two different cultures. In the past the country was considered a bastion of Christianity against the marauding Barbary corsairs...

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“From the brook by the path”: Formation and Transformation in Meeting Muslims

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pp. 268-277

Reviews, especially those on one’s own life, are rather hypothetical in their attempts to point out reasons, threads, and meaning. Why and how did I come to be a Jesuit in dialogue with Muslims and a theologian of witness? What influenced me, what drove me, what helped me? These are good questions. My answers, however...

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Intelligence, Humility and Confidence: An Agenda for Christian Engagement with Islam

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pp. 278-286

I first studied Islam as an undergraduate reading theology at Oxford University in the mid-1980s. From where we are now it is striking to recall how marginal the study of Islam (or any other non-Christian religion) was in the Oxford theology faculty at that time. The syllabus was almost entirely focused on the Bible and the...

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So What Have We Learned?

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pp. 287-295

When the disciples of John saw Jesus, they asked him “Teacher, where do you live?” and he replied “Come and see” (John 1:38–30). The importance of place, institution and teacher as the loci for engagement in the study by Christians of Islam shines out from these articles. If one were to trace the circles of influence of men...

List of Contributors

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pp. 297-303

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246403
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823243198
Print-ISBN-10: 0823243192

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Middle East specialists -- Biography.
  • Islam -- Study and teaching.
  • Islam -- Relations -- Christianity.
  • Christianity and other religions -- Islam.
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