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Mona Siddiqui - Jesus, Islam and interfaith humbleness

Mona Siddiqui

Mona Siddiqui is a highly respected Pakistani-British theologian. She's Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Siddiqui is also a patron of The Feast, a pioneering youthwork charity which is focussed on community cohesion between Christian and Muslim teenagers, and a regular contributor to BBC, The Times, The Scotsman, The Guardian and the Sunday Herald.

As her expertise encompasses both classical Islamic law (and the interface with contemporary ethical issues) as well as the theological history of Christian-Muslim relations, her works include books like 'The good Muslim: reflections on classical Islamic law and theology' as well as 'Christians, Muslims and Jesus'.

The highly respected Pakistani-British academic Mona Siddiqui focusses on two distinct fields of research. As a professor at Edinburgh University, her primary area of interest is classical Islamic law, juristic arguments and the interface with contemporary ethical issues. Her second focus, however, is the theological history of Christian-Muslim relations. Her concern for the subject grew through her involvement in a series of international seminars convened by the former archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams but it became more than just some sideline interest. In 2011 Siddiqui was eventually appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her services to inter-faith relations. 

In 2013 prof. Siddiqui wrote the interesting book 'Christians, Muslims and Jesus', which delves deeper into the various views Muslims held of Jesus throughout history and the ways in which these views determined the relation between the two faiths. Since an Islamic view on Jesus obviously intrigues a Christian theologian like myself, I met Mona Siddiqui at the Tilburg University where she was going to give a lecture about that particular topic.

What brought you to study Jesus in Islam?

Someone once asked me to write a book to in which I could ‘sell’ Jesus to a Muslim public. “Sorry, I can't sell Jesus ” was my simple answer, but through my encounters with many Christians, I realized how Jesus could be the focus of so many theological questions between the two faiths. So I gradually felt the subject needed more attention.

Of course, the Qur’an has a particular theme which is that  Mohammed is walking the same path as Old Testament prophets such as Abraham, Moses as well as Jesus. The Qur’an relates that Jesus was born to a virgin called Mary, preached God’s word, gathered disciples and performed miracles. Jesus will even return to Earth, according to Islamic tradition, as al-Masih – the Messiah. The crucial difference from the Christian narrative lies in the essence of prophetic revelation, however. For Muslims, Jesus cannot be acknowledged as ‘the Son of God’. Within Islam, revelation appears but divine distance is maintained while for Christians God is revealed in Christ and as such, distance is overcome.

I find this theological difference in the modes of God’s disclosure quite fascinating.

This quite poignantly summarizes the traditional Islamic and Qur’anic view on Jesus as well as the very theological essence that makes this view crucially different from Christianity. But how would you describe the symbolic or spiritual meaning of Jesus in the lives of Muslims – if there is any at all?

I could of course refer to a statement like Rumi’s that Jesus is a prophet in who the attributes of God became manifest, but eventually the Muslim community holds Muhammad in ultimate veneration. Even though Muslims revere Jesus as God's prophet and messenger, there is no understanding of Jesus as God incarnate. It’s only in scholarly debates you’ll find Muslims talking about Jesus from a variety of perspectives. On a daily level people will simply say He’s one of the prophets. But he has little ‘devotional value’.

On a daily level Muslims will simply say Jesus is one of the prophets. But he has little ‘devotional value’.

So although Jesus could be a perfect bridge figure between Christianity and Islam, because he doesn’t feature in the daily life of Muslims and because, theologically speaking, He will also always be the quintessential element on which ‘the twain shall never meet’, there is little chance of Him becoming such a bridge figure.

The two don’t have to meet anyway. Dialogue isn’t necessarily about bridging anything. It’s about understanding themes, persons and ways of looking at how God expresses Himself in different religions. So the interest in Jesus isn’t to say: “Oh, now we’ve reached some good compromise.” Certainly for me personally, it’s more about trying to understand another way of looking at God and about wondering how I can make sense of it as a Muslim.

That reminds me of something that happened at an interreligious dialogue group which I recently attended. The group reads and discusses certain passage of both the Qur’an and the Bible that focus on similar topics. Suddenly however, the tone of the conversation became quite tense when it got to a very crucial difference between the two traditions: some of the Christians said that God was in need of humans in order to relate to them. For Muslims of course, this is quite unthinkable. In their view, God doesn’t need anyone. The Qur’an often emphasis the ultimate self-sufficiency of the divine. Christianity, on the other hand, stems from the very idea that God became human. That was one of the many moments that increasingly convinced me that efforts of interfaith dialogue shouldn't be too obsessively trying to find common ground. Perhaps more than that, they should in fact focus on learning to accept the difference.

It shouldn’t even be about that necessarily. It’s simply about exploring the fact that you noticed a fundamental difference. It might make you wonder how the God of Christians and Muslims can be one and the same if they have such different understandings of God. And it might make you dig deeper into your own tradition as well. There are ways of talking about God in relation to sin and repentance, mercy and compassion which open up all kinds of dialogue. There are hadiths that recount how someone went to the Prophet and asked him to give him a prayer that would prevent him from sinning ever again, yet God told him: “Don’t give him such a prayer, for if my servant does not sin, upon whom will I bestow my mercy?” So does God need us after all, if He wants us to turn to him for repentance?

I remember using such hadiths in a talk once  and asked the question, “does God want us to sin?”. There were Muslims in the audience who said: you can’t say such thing. But I can say whatever I want. It’s just exploring the idea. It doesn’t mean I know anything more about God. It’s a theological exercise to see what we can make of such texts and traditions. Constructive dialogue does not reduce one’s faith, it rather enlarges it.

A Muslim could therefore say: God has no need. Full stop. But simply hearing Christians talk about the ‘humanization’ of God, in many ways, can make you reassess the manner in which you think about God as a Muslim.

But if dialogue does not have a specific goal and is only an exploration, don’t we then deny it’s capacity to dispel certain prejudices and conflicts?

One of the pitfalls of efforts of dialogue is the idea that we should reach some kind of goal with which we should all be happy

Of course, if people are getting together in community groups to get to know each other, that’s great. Because at the community level, people might have misconceptions about many things that can easily be clarified by simply talking to each other. But if you do scholarly work, you have to be open to the possibility that there might be no definitive outcome at all.

Actually, one of the pitfalls of efforts of dialogue is the idea that we should reach some kind of goal with which we should all be happy. I’m opposed to a ‘dialogue on the surface’ as well. We need to go deeper. But how do you know you’ve gone deep enough? It makes no sense to say: “oh this is deep enough.” It’s just about trying to understand how people talk about the things that matter to us in life. And once you start to look at it like that, you don’t go into any dialogue setting with some sort of intended goal. You’re just there to learn. You’re not there because you have to defend your viewpoint but to listen how somebody else is expressing something that you’re interested in.

Which implies you learned a lot through your own interaction with the Christian theological tradition.

Absolutely. And we actually touched on it already: there is a vulnerability in talking about God that Christians have and that Muslims don’t. Muslims are very certain about God. Christians might be very certain about their convictions but the way they talk about God and His vulnerability is not something that we have in our vocabulary. And that’s quite intriguing. It makes me wonder: most of our convictions about God, are they convictions because that’s really what we believe or are they convictions because that’s what we derive out of centuries of theological thinking? I already mentioned some hadiths but I could just well refer to someone like Ibn Arabi who said that God created creation so that creation would love Him. There is vulnerability there. But on the whole these questions weren’t always the central questions asked by Muslim theologians because they were concerned more with human worship, adoration and love for God as opposed to God’s love for us.

It’s interesting you mention the vulnerability as something you’ve learned because during my own journey through Islam the certainty and conviction of Muslims and the way they put God so strongly at the forefront, has been some sort of ‘mirror’ for me. Even something as basic as the fact that many Muslims pray five times a day continuously challenges me.

A good friend of mine, who’s an American scholar, spent a long time in Jerusalem and has recently gone back to the States. When he gives lectures – often for a Christian public – he sometimes says: “When I hear the adhan, the call to prayer, it always touches me. I’ve been listening to it five times a day for years in a row but I’m still so moved by the ‘come to prayer, come to prayer’ and when it resounds, I feel like I want to go and pray with the Muslims. But then I stop because in so many inscriptions in mosques it reads: ‘He didn’t begat neither was he begotten.’ (a Qur’anic sentence that often places itself within the theological discussion about the nature of Christ and the question whether He is the son of God or not.) And that stops me in my tracks because I realize they still deny what is fundamental to my belief.”

I think that’s quite beautiful. He’s not saying he rejects anything but he’s saying that there is always a certain truth in somebody’s beliefs – whatever you mean by truth – and it has a way of inviting all of us to believe in God. We may not, in the end, respond to it the way a believer would, but the very fact that we’re pulled in that direction is really quite moving.

There’s a sense that God is always present in our own nature as human beings. And that sense makes it possible to relate to one another.

When we speak of encounters with other religions, ‘being moved’ indeed seems far more important, than being convinced.

You know, when we are looking for a bridge, we have to realize that there’s emotional and intellectual common ground. And often the intellectual common ground offers no basis at all in the lived lives of people. In the lived lives it’s mostly the sense of love for God that moves Christians and the sense of compassion of God that moves Muslims. There’s a lot more common ground there.

Which is why, in some of your writings, you have made a plea for a theology of compassion rather than a theology of salvation, is it not?

Indeed. It has changed a little, but I think that for too long traditional dialogue was about whether someone would be ‘saved’. But how do we talk about people in terms of salvation? You get nowhere with that. In strict Muslim theology, I don’t even know whether I’ll be saved myself – whatever that may be – so how am I making pronouncements about anyone else? In a way, therefore, that’s almost a futile exercise for me. I would never stand up and say: Jews and Christians can’t be saved because the Qur’an has an ambivalent relationship with them. The truth is that I don’t know what the truth is. But there’s a sense that God is always present in our own nature as human beings. And that sense makes it possible to relate to one another. So being in a certain way, just being humble for example, is a theological exercise as well.

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I missed seeing your name,


I missed seeing your name, for a while and I always looked forward to seeing Halal Monk. Tonight when I opened your mail and read your interview with Mona Siddiqui,at the same time delving through layers of information, that lay within the post. I was struck with such a sense of deja vu that I held my breath for a while, as I read. The words were profound, the interview was almost as if I was sitting in on the discussion, as it was as if I was with family. Thank you so much for taking so much care to make sure the message, you so carefully sent, was received, it was!! , I saw the 'eye' that I once bought in a craft show in Qatar, from a Palestinian lady, who told me when I asked her what the painting on the tile represented ..her words…."The eye of Allah, who surrounds the worlds" I was only just introduced to Islam, at that moment, 2004. A culmination of experiences followed and I loved hearing the call to prayer first thing in the morning and during the day.I have never looked back, as I combine my faith within all that I have had privilege to belong, through birth, through conversion and lastly through complete love. Thank you, with love Charlotte 10x+2x

Mona......Being brought up


Mona......Being brought up with the Christ of the Bible I got quite excited to learn of several (25?) references to him in the Qu'ran.This excitement was short lived when I realised that to my eyes it says virtually nothing of his life or teachings.So my question is the Jesus of the Qu'ran referencing the Gospels? Thanks

Just like the Torah is

Jonas Yunus

Just like the Torah is implied in the Gospel, Torah and Gospels are implied in the Qur'an. So yes, the Jesus the Qur'an refers to is the same. At least 'historically'. Theologically, however, one will of course always bump against the question of Jesus' particular messianic status and what that specifically implies on a spiritual level. But that's exactly what Mona talks about throughout the conversation.

No that's not what I meant


No that's not what I meant Jonas........what is Jesus's message in the Qur'an. If our knowledge of him was left to the tiny bit in there we would no nothing of the man.What is the point in sending down a prophet if no-one is going to record what he said?

But in an Islamic view our

Jonas Yunus

But in an Islamic view our knowledge of him isn't left to the tiny bit in the Qur'an. Again, the Gospels are implied as a given. That means that the Qur'an and the tradition of Islam presuposes that one would need to take a look at the Gospels or listen to Christians to know what Christ has said. It didn't have to be repeated in the Qur'an. (Just like the Ten Commandments, for example, did not need to be repeated in the gospels.)

So from an Islamic view, the question seems a bit redundant. Asking what's the point of sending down Jesus as a prophet if no-one recorded what he said, is not very relevant since it has in fact been recorded - namely in the gospels.

On top of it, even if it wasn't recorded, that wouldn't be much of an issue. From a Muslim perspective God sends prophets because a certain people need them. Whether what they said and did was recorded or not is not that is important. Whether they did whatever they had to do, is. 

Dear Jonas Yunus This is a


Dear Jonas Yunus

This is a great honor for me to write to you regarding your marvelous book the 'Halal Monk A Christian On A Journey through Islam'. I am an Mphil student in Forman Christian college Lahore. I am writing my thesis on interfaith Dialogue.I would request you to please share the electronic version of your book if possible. I have seen your book on the internet and I can't wait to read it. I look forward to hear from you.

Best Regards,
Naseer John

"Bismillah hir Rahman nir


"Bismillah hir Rahman nir Raheem".

"A statement of 'TRUTH' in which they are in vain dispute".
(click on link)

It is mankind' duty to establish the truth about the Messiah, Jesus, and to prove that he was really the son of a man.
That God The Almighty is One, the only One worthy of being worshipped. He has no associates,
He has no Begotten son and nothing is like the likeness of The Creator and Lord of the Universe.
Through the years, man has held the concept that there is a superior being and has sought knowledge of that being and even
ascribed partners and associates to Him. Mostly it was to establish dominance over their surroundings and the people around.
We have accepted what is called Revelations and compiled them into books which we read. It is from some of these books that we intend to produce evidence of the fact that:

•There Is Only One God, The Almighty
•His methods of dealing with his creation is Consistent
•Man Begets Man and The Almighty God has no Begotten Son
•The Messiah Jesus (Isa, Yeshuah) was the descendant of David
•The Messiah Jesus (Isa, Yeshuah) was Begotten of a Woman and a Man
•The Bible and The Qur'an points out that the fact that Jesus (Isa) had a father who is known as John (Yahya, Yochanan, Hanna, Yuhannaa).
•Before you let your belief and emotions cloud your reasoning and judgment, I would urge you to look at the evidence presented and judge for yourself with your intellect which your Lord has given to you. You are responsible for your belief. God, The Almighty has said that You shall not ascribe to him any partners or craven image and that might as well the heavens and the earth crumble than He should have a son.

Mari'am' birth.

Her Name---------Mar-i-am Imran(Imran her maiden surname)
Father's Name---Joachim Fakudh:Imran in Arabic.A Levite by tribe
Mother's Name---Hannah Anne in English. A Levite by tribe
Date of Birth------Year 39 B.C.E.
Birthplace--------- City of Nazareth in Galilee Province
Race-----------------Semitic people--offspring of Abraham,Isaac,Jacob
Country-------------Palestine.The Holy Land.Formerly,Land of Canaan
Nationality---------Israelite (a Levite not a Jew)
Citizenship---------Palestinian by birth.
Kinsfolk------------A woman of Imran by birth
Ancestry------------Aaron and Moses--- Levite sons of Amran & Joshebed.

Mari'am' birth place is marked by
three significant events.

1.Rome's 2nd invasion,capture of Jerusalem,execution of Antigonus 11 ending the reign
of Jewish Kings and High Priests over Palestine.

2.The crowning of Herod the Great as Rome's client King over the Holy Land-Palestine.
King Herod's reign was from 40 B.C. to 4 B.C. the time-span marking the births of
Mariam,Yahya and Isa.

3.Induction of the Jewish nation under the yoke of Roman Foreign Rule and Rome's
imposition on Jews having to pay tribute to Emperor Caesar's as 'Augustus' meaning God.

Yah'ya' Birth.

Name------------------John,Yahya in Arabic,Yuhannah in Hebrew.
Father's Name------Zachariah.Offspring of A-bi-ah of King David's descent
Mother's Name-----Elizabeth.She & Mariam were grand-daughters of Mat-than.
Date of birth--------Year 22 B.C.E.
Place of Birth-------Ain Karem,Jerusalem's municipality,Judea Province
Race------------------Semitic people--descendant of Abraham,Isaac,Jacob
Nationality----------Israelite--of the Holy Land,Palestine
Tribe-----------------Jew of the tribe of Judah
Descent--------------offspring of David of the course of A-bi-ah (Luke 1:5)
Genealogy-----------from Abraham to King David (14 generations)
from King David to Babylon (14 generations)
from Babylon unto Christ (14 generations)
(Matthew 1:17.)
Ancestry---------------And King David beget Solomon,Solomon beget Ro-bo-am.
He beget A-bi-ah,the forefather of Zachar-i-ah(Matthew 1:67)

Yah'ya' Birth is marked by two significant events.

1.Rebuilding of Jerusalem's Holy Temple by king Herod,in year 20 B.C.
King Salomon's Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C.

2.Rome's Senate crowned Octavian 'Augustus' (God--the Exalted),the Supreme Ruler
of the Roman Empire.
He reigned from 44 B.C. to 14 A.D. within which time-span Mariam,Yahya and
Isa were born.

Isa' Birth .

Name------------------ Christ Jesus (Hebrew) Al-Masih Isa (Arabic)
Father's Name------ John (English); Yuhannah (Hebrew); Yahya (Arabic)
Mother's Name------ Mary (English); Mar-i-am (Hebrew); Mariam(Arabic)
Date of Birth--------- Year 6 B.C.E.
Place of Birth------- -Manger Square Bethlehem,Province of Judea.
Residence-------------Nazareth, Galilee Province from one year after birth.
Race------------------- Semitic people--offspring of Abraham,Isaac,Jacob.
Nationality----------- -Israelite of the Holy Land,Palestine
Tribe-------------------- Jew of the tribe of Judah,a Jude an.
Descent-----------------Davidic.By seed,root,DNA David's offspring
God's Oath------------God sworn on Oath He will rise up Christ from the
seed of David,according to the flesh,to sit on his
throne (Act 2:30)
Fulfillment-------------'I Jesus,have sent mine angel to testify these things
in the churches,I am the root and offspring
of David.' (Rev 22:16)

Isa' Birth is marked by two significant events.

1.The death of Herod the Great in year 4 B.C.He ruled King over Palestine from 40 B.C.
1 Mari'am 39 B.C;
2.Yah'ya 22 B.C;
3. Isa 6 B.C.

2.Palestine,Herod's Kingdom was divided in four territories,one each to his three sons
and the fourth to his sister Salome.
Herod Archelaus ruled Samaria,Judea & Idumea;Herod Antipas ruled Galilee
and Peria.
With this truth "ISLAM' will triumph and falsehood shall perished.
May God guide us in the right path as He guided those before us.

wow, awesome post.Really


wow, awesome post.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome. Scherbring