Video: Muslim-Christian Dialogue on Jesus featuring Sunni, Ismaili, Catholic and Protestant Interpretations

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“I think that monotheistic religions, having a common reference to a single God, should and must dialogue. The three religions which Abraham inspired have many more common facets than those which divide them. Religion must be the means by which to affirm the ethical significance of existence, regardless of one’s profession of faith.”
– Imām Shāh Karīm al-Ḥusaynī Āgā Khān IV, 

(Interview with Correre della Sera, Massimo Nava, October 22, 2001)

As the Christmas weekend, it is an appropriate time for Christians and Muslims to read, reflect and understand their beliefs and views on the question of Jesus – his life, spiritual status, mission, and crucifixion – and explore both the difference and the commonality. Most interfaith dialogues between Christians and Muslims feature only the majority perspectives within each faith and neglect the views of Islam’s rich esoteric heritage – as manifest in Shī‘ī Ismā‘īlī Islam and Sufi Islam. In fact, an engagement between Christianity and the esoteric traditions of Islam can lead to a more fruitful and meaningful dialogue:

“It remains a question why discussions of the Islamic Jesus have not heretofore stressed the importance of the thought of these Ismā‘īlī scholars with regard to what is probably the great single obstacle in Muslim-Christian relations not to mention an extremely important feature of Muslim identity.”
(Todd Lawson, The Crucifixion and the Qur’an, 95)

On Thursday, March 15, 2012, the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s College hosted “The Christology Symposium” – an academic forum featuring presentations on Jesus from Catholic, Protestant, Sunni Muslim and Ismā‘īlī Muslim perspectives followed by a panel discussion. 

Watch the full video of the Christology Symposium here (for slides, we recommend viewing on YouTube site and choosing 1080 quality):

Watch: Video of Khalil Andani’s Presentation – Shī‘ī Ismā‘īlī Muslim Christology (for slides, we recommend viewing on YouTube site and choosing 1080 quality):

 

1. “Roman Catholic Christology” (at 5:50) – Greg Rupik (PhD Candidate, University of Toronto)

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2. “Sunni Muslim Christology” (at 22:00) – Shabir Ally (PhD Candidate, University of Toronto)

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3. “Evangelical Christology” (at 39:15) – Dr. Tony Costa (PhD)

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4. “Shī‘ī Ismā‘īlī Muslim Christology” (at 57:30) – Khalil Andani (Master of Theological Studies Candidate, Harvard University)

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Khalil Andani’s presentation titled Shi‘a Isma‘ili Muslim Christology: Jesus in Classical Isma‘ili Thought summarized some of the classical Ismā‘īlī Muslm perspectives on Jesus which stem from the Fatimid Ismā‘īlī worldviews on the absolute transcendence of God, the Universal Intellect (al-‘aql al-kull), and the Cycles of the Natiqs (Prophets) and the Imams. His presentation explained the relationship between the spiritual nature and the human nature of the Prophets and Imams, highlighted the special role of Jesus in the Cycle of Prophethood, and offered a detailed examination of the crucifixion according to the Qur’an and Ismā‘īlī esoteric interpretations. The presentation concluded by sharing an Ismā‘īlī ta’wil (esoteric interpretation) of the Christian Cross and the Islamic Shahadah as outlined in the writings of Abu Ya’qub al-Sijistani and Ja’far ibn Mansur al-Yaman which demonstrate the ecumenical and pluralistic approaches of the Fatimid Isma‘ili thinkers:

“…the conditions of the dialogue between Christianity and Islam change completely as soon as the interlocutor represents not legalistic Islam but this spiritual Islam, whether it be that of Sufism or of Shi‘ite gnosis.”
(Henry Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, Prologue)

Further Reading on the subject of Ismā‘īlī Muslim Christology can be found at:

  1. Henry Corbin, Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis, Tr. Ralph Manheim and James Morris, London: Kegan Paul International in association with Islamic Publications Ltd., 1983
  2. Todd Lawson, The Crucifixion and the Qur’an, Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2009
  3. Khalil Andani, “They Killed Him Not”: The Crucifixion in Shi‘a Isma‘ili Islam
  4. Khalil Andani, “The Common Word”: Reflections on Muslim-Christian Dialogue
  5. Khalil Andani, The Metaphysics of the Common Word: A Dialogue of Eckhartian and Isma’ili Gnosis, Sacred Web Journals 2011 Part1Part2

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