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A Christian-Muslim Inter-Text Now: From Anathemata to Theme

This is an academic text suitable for any religious studies program. It is an exercise in Christian-Muslim comparative studies in a highly philosophical context.

In an internet society ‘text' can mean some trivial thing. Not so its long link with ‘textile' as something significant woven into words that might even be ‘holy writ'. Meant this way here, ‘Inter-text' has to do with how-not whether-we think of God.

The Qur'an has a laden phrase about ‘esteeming Allah a true esteem'. What ‘measure', what criteria? Christian and Muslim are in clear kinship about the answer, but-inside it-present a sharp contrast. Together they see the human situation as a trust with the earth as God's viceroys so that nothing is merely secular, since all is meant for hallowing. Things are only ‘under us' as we are ‘under God'.

This central truth grows ever more urgent now and, with it, the issue that divides. Is this vocation to be ‘on God's behalf ' an education into law, served by a political control that makes us amenable? Or, in all realism, must it not be a redemption into love, because we are wilful and perverse? Otherwise, why that ringing ‘Perhaps' in the Qur'an?

This-between us-only belongs inside the common stake of the God who has ‘let us be'. It is a theme which demands to bypass the sundry anathemas we have had for each other so long. ‘To understand God we must first spell man.' When we do so, we discover many other ‘texts' between us about, for example, the task of scholarship with Scriptures, the temper of religious authority, the inter-liability of the sexes and the humility that learns sincerity.

Now retired in Oxford, Kenneth Cragg served as bishop in the Anglican jurisdiction in Jerusalem and was Warden of that Communion's Central College in Canterbury.

Translator of four Arabic works into English, he has had tasks, pastoral and scholarly, in the Middle East, India, West Africa and the West since 1939. He is an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford.