WAAAUB Holds First Ever International Convention: Commitment to AUB and Enhancing Ties among Alumni  
AUBMC Receives US Accreditation
Seven New Members to Join the AUB Board of Trustees
Establishment of the Michael Atiyah Chair in Mathematical Sciences at AUB
AUB Nutrition and Food Science Department Named as WHO Collaborating Center
Academic Excellence Rewarded: AUB's Merit Scholarships
AUB Announces New Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service
Shahe Kazarian's - Reflections of My I (Published by Cadmus Project: 2007)
Faculty Profile: Patrick Lewtas
Professor Mrad Lectures Abroad
Staff Profile: Ramzieh Saad
Essay Competition Honors Arab World's 'Prince of Poets'
Donald Mitchell Examines Control Over City Streets
The Political Consequences of American Romanticism
Juan Cole Points at Failures in United States
Scholar Studies Impact of Terrorism on American Imports
Ambassador Evaluates Role of United Kingdom in the Arab World
A View of Islam in the Eighth Century
The Need for Dialogue Between Religions
Istanbul's Pleasures Revealed
National Identity Without Citizenship?
On-line Workshops Help Train Journalists
Student Artwork Exhibited at Jafet Library
Amulets and Talismans at the AUB Museum
Living with Animals: To Prevent Torture and the Impact of War
Women's Auxiliary Holiday Luncheon
Home of Hope Orphans Tour AUB Medical Center
Italian Opera Recital at Assembly Hall
Strengthening Ukraine and Lebanese Relations with Music
AUB Music Club Concert
From Sufi Chant to Oriental Jazz
AUB Choir and Choral Society Celebrate Christmas
Benefit Christmas Concerts Help Ayadina Center
Red Cross Club Forms Human Ribbon
January 2008 Vol. 9 No. 4


A View of Islam in the Eighth Century

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd and Professor Tarif Khalidi

The prolific Egyptian scholar Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd presented on November 20 a lecture, entitled "The Christian Reading of the Quran in the Eighth Century." Organized by the Anis Makdisi Program in Literature, the lecture shed light on the Christian interpretation of Islam and its impact on the current clash between the religions.

Abu Zayd explained that one of the earliest figures who provided an interpretation of Islam was St. John of Damascus, a Syrian priest living in the seventh century, whose book, The Fountain of Knowledge, criticized Islam, and considered Islam as heretical, rejecting it as a religion. It was a common view at the time that reaching an understanding of the Quran would help better defend Christianity from Islam.

Abu Zayd said, however, that the clergymen were reluctant to accept Islam, because they wanted to maintain their power, and this led to tension between the two religions. One of the Christian interpretations emerging from this debate was that of John of Damascus refuting the fact that the Quran was created by claiming that those who had actually written it had died. He condemned Islam's rejection of the Christian trinity and its views of Jesus as a prophet and not as the Son of God.

Abu Zayd noted, however, that the Quran actually defends Christianity from the criticism it has incurred from the Jews throughout history. John of Damascus presented a narrative of the rise of Islam and the creation of the Quran in which he said it was "worthy of ridicule." According to Abu Zayd, the main cause for this harsh criticism was Islam's opposition to the holy trinity. John of Damascus also criticized Muslims for readily accepting the Prophet Mohammad, saying Muslims should have questioned his prophecy, demanding proof of his preaching.

Despite the criticism, Abu Zayd said the debate between Christianity and Islam helped garner understanding between them. He also commented that the debate is useful for our time, because it highlights differences while revealing similarities.

Abu Zayd is a controversial figure in Islamic studies for his views on the Quran as a religious, literary work. He has a BA in Arabic Studies from Cairo University and an MA and PhD in Islamic Studies. He has been persecuted for his views on Islam and has been exiled from Egypt.