Reconsidering the Prophet(SAW): Christian Possibilities

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Event Name: Reconsidering the Prophet(SAW): Christian Possibilities
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 10/27/2021
Transcript Version: 1

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and thank you all for joining us today

for the final program of the rabia oil

series for the love of the prophet

sallallahu alaihi wasallam

in this seven part series we have hosted

conversations with scholars in

commemoration of the life of the prophet

salallahu alaihi wasallam

for today's session we are honored to

have dr anna moreland in conversation

with president hamza yusuf

president hamza yusuf promotes classical

learning in islam and emphasizes the

importance of the tools of learning

central to muslim civilization and known

in the west as the liberal arts

he is currently president of zatuna

college and has published numerous


essays encyclopedia entries and

translations including

the prayer of the oppressed and

purification of the heart

please welcome president hamza youssef

peace upon you first of all i want to

thank all of you for

joining us in this final session

uh celebrating the uh

the prophet sallallahu islam in this

month of

which in arabic means the first spring

i we're really i think fortunate to be

joined today with

a very serious scholar a theologian

and academic at villanova university i


came to know of dr anna ponte moorland

uh at the dominican college where she


uh inducted there a fellow in in the

college at which is a really a sister


of uh zatuna college up here on what we


in berkeley the holy hill because of the


um religious colleges that are on the


dr ann moreland gave a talk that day and

i was really really impressed with her


and i wanted to uh just i

i introduced myself afterwards and and

was very interested

in her work i i did not know at the time

that she'd actually written a book

about the prophet muhammad

and how christians should understand the

prophet muhammad which i subsequently


and really really enjoyed and benefited

a great deal

from it so she is the associate

professor of theology in the department


humanities at villanova university one

of the great catholic colleges in the

united states

she's been a professor since 2006 she

regularly teaches an introductory course

in theology as well as courses

on interreligious dialogue especially

between jews christians and muslims so

within the abrahamic

traditions her research has focused on

comparative theology between

christianity and islam

drawing upon the work of saint thomas


and she is the author of the book that

we're going to

among other things discussed tonight

which is entitled

muhammad reconsidered a christian

perspective on islamic prophecy so

dr morland welcome and really thank you

for giving us your time tonight

thank you dr youssef i'm delighted to be

here with you this evening

zoom is a wonderful thing it's a very


uh paul simon said these are the days of

miracles and wonders this is the

long-distance call

so uh you know this book is a

it's a it's just despite the brevity of

the book

uh it's just slightly over 130 pages

it's actually a very dense book

and i i am used to reading dance books

but there's a very subtle

argument that you're putting forward and

it's obviously an incredibly complicated


because we have 1400 years

of christian muslim engagement

sometimes violent uh

as in the crusades and also the muslim


on places like uh france and um

and vienna but also other times like

during the period of

the con conviviality that occurred in

spain and

also a lot of people aren't aware of the


experiences during the um crusader

occupation of palestine where there was

actually a lot of muslim

christian interaction and then

there's also another eastern christian

story which is

told by uh dr penn from stanford in

in a couple really extraordinary books i

don't know if you're familiar with them

but what i'd like to uh to really ask

you as a

as an opening uh question is

what what compelled you to to work in

this area

given the vast uh area of

catholic theology that i'm sure you've

been engaged in for a large part of your


great well that's an important question

and it's it's going to be

tempting for me to take up the whole

half hour to tell you what led me to

writing this book because i'm a catholic


i am i'm was i'm not a scholar of the


i was not trained even in comparative

theology but 15 years ago i began

teaching at villanova university

and i taught a course on

aquinas ebsena and maimonides a sort of

medieval model for interreligious


and the second time i the second

iteration of that course i decided that

it was a really

not a very successful course for

undergraduates for 18 to 22

year olds so i kind of zoomed out and

started teaching about the birth and

early development of judaism

christianity and islam

and over the course of 15 years of

teaching that course

theological and philosophical questions

started to bubble up

to the surface it's an historically

driven course

um so i began to write you know to try


answer questions for myself basically

that were sort of

pedagogical methodological and also just

personal to me right i had begun to

teach the quran

in a catholic university context and

i wanted to understand what i was doing

i wanted to

be sure that what i was doing was

faithful to my own religious tradition

because i do believe in the universal

significance of jesus christ right so

how can i teach these different


islam and judaism in a way that that

teach it that respects the fact that

they're living traditions

and that these texts are sacred for a

people you know i didn't want to take a

sociology sociology of religion

perspective and at the same time i began

to be involved in the scriptural

reasoning movement i don't know if

you're familiar with that movement but

jews christians and muslims coming

together reading

the new testament the hebrew scriptures

and the quran around a particular theme

and not having to sort of represent your

own tradition

but coming to the text to these three

different sacred texts

with vulnerability and with openness

with one a set of new friends

and so that personal practice her

religious practice

also began to shape me and i went back

to my own tradition to ask the question

if i am if i'm encountering the quran as

a sacred text

am i becoming a muslim that was a pretty

personal question for me

right and how do i teach this text in a

catholic university context so

i went back and and found

resources deep within my own tradition


helped me answer that question and i

found um

the question that i that sort of frames

the book

is what can catholics make of the

prophecy of muhammad

and so i marry documents from vatican

ii which is a meeting of 2500 bishops

from 1963 to 1965 mary what

um those documents said about the kind

of groundbreaking claims that catholics


in the early 60s about the overlapping

web of beliefs between catholics and


marry that to then a recovery of thomas

aquinas on prophecy

a medieval account a medieval christian

account of what prophecy means

in order to answer this question of um


sort of i build a theoretical openness

for the possibility

that muhammad could be a prophet for


so it's a pretty traditional argument i

use very traditional catholic sources

and yet i end up at a place that's not

at all traditional

if that makes any right no it makes

perfect sense and i

i think that's what fascinated me most


i think you highlight some of the other


at doing this from uh some of the


and even catholic hans kuhn is a good

example of somebody

and i've i've actually read him on islam

and found it very fascinating

uh but i think what you did is is very

similar to

what one of my teachers

who argues that the tradition because of

its richness

we can always find the answers

for present conditions within the matrix

of the tradition we don't have to

be modernist in that way exactly but we

have to look

in a with really in a sense with new


at the tradition so that we can see

things that maybe

they didn't even see it themselves

despite the fact they were articulating

arguments uh that that can be drawn out

like you did in this book

just for our muslim listeners here i i

want to

uh quote and then you can maybe talk a

little bit about this

because a lot of muslims aren't aware of

uh like nostrada

and and some of the the radical changes

really that the

vatican ii initiated from the


no salvation outside of the church


of the of the the pre-modern church but


so the the uh the nostrada

take affirms about muslims they worship

the one

god living and subsistent merciful and

almighty creator of heaven and earth

who has spoken to humanity and to whose


even the hidden ones they seek to submit

themselves wholeheartedly

just as abraham peace be upon him to

whom the islamic faith

readily relates itself submitted to god

they venerate jesus peace be upon him as

a prophet

even though they did not acknowledge do

not acknowledge him as god

and they honor his virgin mother mary

and even sometimes devoutly call upon


furthermore they await the day of

judgment when god will

requite all people brought back to life


they have regard for the moral life and

worship god especially in prayer

almsgiving and fasting

and that's a pretty bold statement i

think from the church especially at the

time but

there have been critiques of that and

maybe you could uh

address that a little bit yes so

there are definitely critiques of both

nostradate and lumengencia which is a

companion document on the ground group

breaking claims that

catholics made about muslims but the two

words that do not occur in those


are muhammad and the quran

uh so it's pretty astonishing that the


the catholic church were to say these


to proclaim these overlapping web of

beliefs you know there are six

uh attributes for example that

catholics and muslims share we adore the

one god together lumen gentium says

and to say that all those

really kind of radical we we share some

pretty radical

claims religious claims the true

traditions and yet to be completely


on the founder of islam to be completely

silent on the document that that that's


by god to muslims right um

i will uh give the the bishops in the

early 60s a little bit of slack they

were operating from a hermeneutic of of

consent right so that um the bishops did

were very careful about the language

that they used they didn't want to put

in language that they couldn't get a

majority vote

those each word in that docu in that

section that you selection that you read

was discussed at length and argued over

at length uh

so i guess i i will admit that it was a

compromise document of sorts right

right well i i and i understand that

process because i actually

was involved in some of the catholic


dialogues at the vatican and i was on a


where we had to come up with a joint

statement right that involved

theology and it was just very

interesting back and forthing

between their theologians most of them

from germany

and uh and and the muslims that were on

the committee as well

so it was very interesting um

one of the things that i think is is

is fascinating to me and and

and i i want to just ask you i don't

know how familiar

you are with some of the work that's

been done

most of it is actually surprisingly uh

was done some time ago

but there's a very interesting reverend

robert hammond

who wrote a book called the philosophy

of farabi and its influence on medieval


and he goes into great detail and

shows uh literally side by side

passages from the summa and and then

passages that were written 300 years


from al-farabi that are almost

identical and his argument and he was a

christian priest but his argument

was well i'll just quote what he says

about his book that

my efforts will have been amply rewarded

if this book enables the reader

to find through its pages two facts

first that al-farabi was well acquainted

with greek philosophy

so well acquainted in fact that he was

able through diligent study to perfect

some of its old theories

and work out new ones second that the

school men

albertus magnus and saint thomas aquinas

and others

borrowed from him a great amount of

material which hitherto has been

regarded by many as a product of their


while in reality it is not injustice to

al-farabi and other arabian thinkers

we should candidly admit that christian

philosophy owes a great deal to them

and i think to buttress your argument i

it has to be fascinating to people that

are fair

to see the influence that uh

avicenna had that averroes had that

al-farabbi had even al-qazali

on some of the most foundational

texts of catholic theology and and i


i can't imagine how

one can't see and and you you quote the

verse more than once in the uh

in the book by their fruits you shall

know them

and these are certainly the fruits of

islamic civilization

that i think were were ate and digested

by some of the great schoolmen of the

catholic tradition

i agree one thousand percent one

thousand percent even the translations

of some of aristotle's works

into the latin world world of course

came through the arabic right so

um the cross-pollination of these

traditions is

has been true for centuries no doubt

about it and i

and i think arguably also there in the

early period there was

a a serious influence of christian

uh tradition mainly from the syriac

scholars some of the great syriac


of that of that time that were

translating the great

uh hellenistic works into arabic that

had a massive influence and i think an

influence that

many many muslims are unaware of um

they we we tend to see islam as the

quran and the sunnah

and yet there is a vast tradition and


what fascinates me and i think what

what's important about your work

is that your i think

you're really bringing the next stage

of a serious engagement and

and and i think that for me

the the catholic church when we get in

at the metaphysical level

when we get into the catholic tradition

and the islamic tradition

the dovetailing that starts happening

and we see this our students see this

because they read aquinas

with our metaphysicians and

and they're just they're flabbergasted

and we've had

two graduates that have gone to catholic

um higher uh uh ed

uh training so one went to the dominican


and actually gave the uh commencement

speech there

when he graduated um and and we have

another one who's studying in belgium at

a catholic college

uh studying metaphysics and so for me

i find it very tragic that there's not


interaction and understanding especially

amongst the catholic

uh lay people

and obviously there there there's

historical reasons for that there's also

i think a fear and you address this

towards the end of the book

where to