Why can't Christians tolerate Muslims?

Edited by Martin Affolderbach and Inken Wöhlbrand, 8th revised edition

Edited by Martin Affolderbach and Inken Wöhlbrand, 8th revised edition

3rd part: Islam and Christianity

17. Bible and Koran (pp. 220-228)

If you compare the Bible and the Koran, you come across numerous names, stories and topics that are similar, but also different in some similarities.
Belief in God the Creator is at the core of the message of the Bible as well as the Koran. Adam as the first person as well as the fall of man, the expulsion from paradise, Noah and the building of the tower are mentioned in both scriptures. People like Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon are also common traditions. In addition to the prophets named in the Bible, the Koran also knows others.

The announcement of the birth of Jesus by John the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus are also reported in the Koran. But at the same time the Koran warns against seeing Jesus as more than just a person and denies his death on the cross as well as his resurrection.

Almost all books of the prophets in the Bible have left no traces in the Koran, as have the reports on the early Christian communities and the letters of the apostles.

Some passages of the Koran do not find their forerunners in the Bible, but in the Talmud, the rabbinical Midrashim and early Christian literature.

From a Muslim point of view, the Quran is the final revelation that absorbs, restores, and surpasses all previous revelations. Although in the Koran Jews, Christians and Muslims are referred to as "people of the book" or as "owners of scripts", in Islam the Koran in its linguistic and material form as a book plays a special role, which is expressed above all in the fact that the Arabic text cannot actually be translated. For Christians, on the other hand, Jesus Christ is the center of the Bible, which testifies to him as scripture and book.

From a religious studies point of view, the Koran can be understood as part of the history of the impact of the Bible. Wherever Jewish and Christian traditions are taken up, they are independently accentuated and interpreted.

A great tradition of interpreting the Koran has developed in Islam. Although some methods of interpretation are comparable to those of Jewish and Christian theology, the Koran exegesis has nevertheless taken its own path. The struggle for the correct method of interpretation or hermeneutics of the Koran is an integral part of the discussion in Islamic theology.

18. Abraham and Jesus (pp. 229 - 245)

Abraham and Jesus are central people in the Old and New Testaments, respectively. Both have a prominent meaning in the Koran.

The term “Abrahamic / Abrahamic religions” is often used to express similarities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Because all three religions refer to the ancestor, albeit in different ways

According to the Old Testament tradition, Abraham is the progenitor of Israel and is seen as the archetype of the people of God. He is referred to as the chosen one and the "father of faith" with whom God makes a covenant. He receives God's command and is portrayed as an obedient devotee of God. In the New Testament it stands for the knowledge of justification through faith alone.

In the Koran is Abraham (Ibrahīm) according to Moses (Mūsa) second most frequently named person in the Old Testament. The Koran relocates the Abraham narratives spatially to Mecca, describes him as a champion for monotheism and Muhammad as a prophet in the succession of Abraham.

Although the person of Abraham is traditionally an important link between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it must also be noted that Abraham, from a theological point of view, plays a different role in each case and does not lead to any fundamental commonality.

The figure of Jesus, which is fundamental to Christianity, is venerated by Muslims as one of the great prophets and messengers of God. The birth of Jesus (`Isā) is described differently in the Koran than in the Bible. He is created by a word of creation, not created by the Holy Spirit. The Koran, like the Bible for Jesus, knows the title Messiah (al-Masih), calls him the "word of truth" and tells of his miracles. According to the Koranic view, Jesus did not die on the cross, nor did the Son of God. Therefore, the theology of the cross as well as the doctrine of atonement and the doctrine of the Trinity are incomprehensible to Islam and are therefore rejected. In Islamic mysticism, Jesus is highly valued as a great teacher of prayer, as a god-loving ascetic and as an exemplary, pious, humble, helpful and humble person.

The theological meaning of Jesus is - with simultaneous mutual respect for his person in Islam and Christianity - one of the most important differences between the two religions.

19. Jerusalem - the city of the three religions (pp. 246 - 260)

Nowhere else in the world are Christianity, Judaism and Islam so closely interwoven as in Jerusalem. There is a unique density of holy sites in less than one square kilometer. This has led to disputes throughout history that have continued to the present day.

Around the year 1000 BC King David had conquered the city in which the Canaanite people of the Jebusites had resided until then. The temple became the center of the triennial pilgrimage festivals and the target of Jewish hopes of return and redemption during the periods of exile. In the image of the “New Jerusalem”, the pilgrimage to Mount Zion acquired a universal meaning. The multiple destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem left deep marks on Jewish theology and piety.

For Christianity, Jerusalem is particularly important because Jesus Christ worked, died and rose here. The idea of ​​the "heavenly Jerusalem" was adopted from Judaism. Above all the Orthodox and Oriental churches cultivate the connections to the "holy places" and their spiritual wealth.

As Al-Quds, Jerusalem is also the city of the Muslims. The second caliph Omar took the city in 638 and in a protection treaty guaranteed the Christians the continued use of all churches and pilgrimage sites as well as the freedom to practice their religion. According to Islamic tradition, Omar himself rediscovered the rock from which Muhammad began his ascent into heaven in this area. Even if the name “Jerusalem” is not mentioned in the Koran, this city became the third most important place of pilgrimage for Muslims after Mecca and Medina.

In addition to phases of peaceful coexistence, there were also times of indescribable massacres, especially during the time of the Crusades.

Today's situation in Jerusalem is shaped by the founding of the State of Israel, the war-related division of the city and the occupation of East Jerusalem by Israel since 1967. The proportion of Christians in the city has now fallen to a few percent.

The question of the political future of Jerusalem as a city of two peoples and three religions is a key question for pacifying the Middle East conflict.

20. Islamic-Christian encounter in history (pp. 261 - 278)

Since the emergence of Islam in the 7th century, Christians and Muslims have lived in the immediate vicinity. While the political history between them was largely shaped by opposition, there was always a fruitful exchange on the cultural and religious level despite profound differences.

The Koran shows that the first encounters between Christians and Muslims were friendly despite religious differences. However, the Koran also contains critical tones towards Christians. Theologically, the arguments revolved mainly around the unity of God, the mission of Jesus and the question of the crucifixion. In the course of political developments there were contractual arrangements with Jews and Christians, in which the model of the wards (dhimmīs) Was used.

A period of fruitful cultural exchange in Spain in the 12th century ended with the conquest of Granada in 1492.

The phase of the crusades, the liberation of the Holy Land and the tomb of Christ from the hands of the "infidels", led to the fact that for Muslims the cross became a symbol of Western Christian aggression and barbarism.

Christian theologians of both the Middle Ages and the Reformation were impressed by the spiritual seriousness of Islam, but theologically rejected Islam.
It was not until the Enlightenment that attitudes towards Islam fundamentally changed. Pilgrims, travelers and merchants gave new impressions from the Orient. Conversely, Muslims from the Balkans came to the West. In addition, a new interest in Islam manifested itself in classical literature (in the play "Nathan the Wise" by Lessing or the "West-Eastern Divan" by Goethe).

After the victory over the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the British and French in particular divided the “free” Arab provinces among themselves as “spheres of influence” and thus made a decisive contribution to the emergence of the Middle East conflict that has continued to the present day. The period of western colonial rule left deep wounds in the feelings of Muslims towards the Christians in Europe.

Since the end of the Second World War, the need for a new reflection in Christian-Muslim relations has been recognized (for example in the Second Vatican Council and in the activities of the World Council of Churches).

21. Testimony and Dialogue (pp. 279-293)

Christians and Muslims encounter one another as people who have both been commissioned to bear witness to their faith. The history of Christian-Islamic relations is full of attempts to openly or subtly impose restrictions on the practice and testimony of faith. This still happens today. Only in some of the countries where Christians and Muslims meet is it possible for everyone to practice religion freely; in Germany this is guaranteed by the Basic Law.

In Islam, the Koran demands of all Muslims: "Call to the path of your Lord with wisdom and a beautiful admonition, and argue with them in the best possible way." (Sura 16,125) Based on this formulation, Islamic tradition describes the spontaneous or organized witness to Islam in front of people other than da'wa (call). According to the broad consensus of Islamic teaching, all advertising is only in accordance with God's commandments as long as it is free from the use of force and external pressure; for “there is no compulsion in religion” (Sura 2,256).

In Christianity, the risen Jesus Christ himself gives his disciples the commission and the promise to preach the faith: "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1: 8) Reach people, including Muslims. Under the guiding principle of participating in God's mission into the world, an understanding of Christian mission was rediscovered in the course of the 20th century, which consciously sets itself apart from the wrong paths of Christian missionary history.

It is essential for both Christian and Muslim self-understanding that faith is not only testified in words, but with life as a whole.
An essential place for Christians and Muslims to meet is the everyday life of their lives, wherever they live as neighbors, interact as partners in the world of work or start families together. This is to be distinguished from the Christian-Muslim dialogue at the institutional level. With regard to topics for dialogue, it often makes sense to build on questions and problems that arise from everyday coexistence. It is helpful to consider criteria for a successful dialogue. A sincere dialogue should be conducted with knowledge of one's own point of view and with respect for the other side, which critically and self-critically seeks similarities and differences, does not ignore the question of truth and makes it possible to pursue ethical goals together (see 10 criteria in the book version p . 288-289).

22. Celebrate and pray together? (Pp. 294 - 299)

Since today Muslims and Christians live together as neighbors in many parts of Germany, the question of possible common prayers and celebrations often arises. In addition to everyday coexistence in kindergartens and schools, special occasions such as starting a family, marriage, birth and death must also be considered. In situations of illness and unhappiness, Muslims may ask their Christian friends to intercede before God. This can include Muslims and Christians participating in prayers and worship services in such situations to express their compassion, concern and solidarity.

With regard to participation in prayers or church services, it should be remembered that due to theological differences in the understanding of God (especially with regard to the Trinity) it makes sense to attend the other's prayer or worship service as guests. Active involvement of the participants, for example through a greeting, is desirable.

Both Christians and Muslims cannot give up or undo the special character of their worship services and prayers. But you can attend church services and prayers of each other with interest and respect. In this way, the richness of one's own tradition can be discovered, prejudices against others can be overcome and, despite all the differences, commonalities behind forms that were initially foreign can be noticed.

In crisis situations or in the event of accidents and disasters, the urgent need may arise to pray together for justice and peace or to commemorate people in need or the deceased. In kindergartens and schools there is increasing pressure to hold religious celebrations together at the beginning and end of a year. After all, Christian-Muslim families increasingly wish God's blessing on special occasions in a joint religious celebration.

Praying together and celebrating with different words side by side or one after the other (“multi-religious celebration”) are largely approved; for theological reasons, common prayer (“inter-religious celebration”) is out of the question.

If the desire for joint religious celebrations at marriages, births and funerals is expressed, this should be given serious consideration; both the opportunities and the limitations of such celebrations must be considered.

23. Muslim-Christian coexistence in partnership, marriage and family (Pp. 300 - 312)

Although the complex interrelationship of social, cultural and religious components is different in every religiously different family, many of the challenges do not differ fundamentally from those of other partnerships in which people of different denominational origins, cultural backgrounds or social milieus come together. The difficulties of a Muslim-Christian relationship can turn into opportunities if both everyday questions and fundamental decisions in shaping life and religious practice are consciously used as an opportunity to come to an understanding about common values ​​and hopes or different convictions.

Detailed information about the respective understanding of marriage, the legal provisions in the two religious communities and, if applicable, the marriage and family law provisions in the country of origin of the Muslim partner are therefore indispensable prerequisites in order to identify future problems before the marriage and to secure them as best as possible with the help of private law contracts and personal agreements . The marriage contract, without which a Muslim marriage is not effective, is of particular importance. The religious upbringing of children is an important issue for interfaith marriages.

Whether and how the interreligious and mostly intercultural process of understanding succeeds in a Muslim-Christian family, how well differences and conflicts are overcome with one another, will depend not least on how consciously the partners organize this task from the beginning, how hard they try to help each other to understand them in their otherness and to accept them as equals, and which strategies of understanding and decision-making they develop.

It is important that church and mosque congregations do not treat such partnerships and families with skepticism, but rather accompany them more intensely in preparation for their marriage, that they feel at home as a family and that they perceive and appreciate their contribution to the dialogue between religions. The common conviction that marriage is a good gift from God acts as a connecting element between Christians and Muslims. At the same time, it should be noted that, according to the Christian understanding, marriage should be monogamous and designed for lifelong coexistence. Reference is also made to Chapter 6 “Family and gender roles” on these topics.

24.Minority situation and human rights (pp. 313 - 322)

In its historical beginnings, Islam took a stand against blood feuds between families and tribes in its area of ​​distribution.Muslims pride themselves on the fact that there must be no racial, ethnic or linguistic-cultural differences in their religion, but that all believers belong to a single community (umma) with equal rights. Even though historical reality has often gone other ways, Islam offers a good basis for the acceptance of corresponding human rights norms.

The same applies to gender, sexual orientation and religion. Traditionally, the sexes are accorded equal dignity, but with a firmly established, patriarchal distribution of roles. Only in the present are voices increasingly rising calling for a dynamic interpretation of sources in the sense of granting equal rights for both sexes. Ruthless persecution of homosexuals, sometimes including murder, is largely the order of the day in many Muslim societies.

Islam's position on religious freedom is particularly ambiguous. In numerous Muslim states, freedom of belief is constitutionally guaranteed, but is in fact restricted or overridden by other legal norms or legal traditions. In particular, conversion from Islam to another religion is often not tolerated and sometimes persecuted with great severity. There are radical Muslim groups in a number of Muslim countries who insist on the implementation of conservative interpretations of Sharia law as the sole legal norm, which threatens the rights of non-Muslims.

After all, the human rights situation in large parts of the Islamic world is unsatisfactory. It would be a mistake, however, to hold religion primarily responsible for this. Political, economic and general cultural conditions have a decisive influence on the situation.

Of course, a religion-related human rights debate has developed over the past few decades. Several Islamic or Arab human rights declarations are attempting to develop their “own” concept, which largely reacts to the international human rights concept, which is understood as being exclusively “Western”. However, insofar as they contain a general Sharia reservation, they are largely devalued.

Regardless of this, the conviction is increasingly gaining ground that the commitment to human rights is a common task for Christians and Muslims around the world today.

This short version was approved by the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the church leadership of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD) in July 2011.

Teaching models and didactic materials on the subject of Islam and the relationship between Islam and Christianity can be researched on the Internet at www.rpi-virtuell.net and in the databases of the Comenius Institute.