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Given that both communities constitute more than half of world’s population (54% combined in 2010; Christianity 31%, Islam 23%) and projected to grow, Christian-Muslim relations have been the focus of several interfaith initiatives in the last few years; and rightly so.Factors causing and driving these conflicts vary, but two historical determinants cannot be ignored.Richard Bulliet’s (2004) made excellent overtures to this.Bulliet dismisses the idealised notion of a separate (and antithetical) “Western” and “Islamic” civilisations, and argues that there are more similarities and peaceful interactions between the Christian and Muslim world than we would care to admit.Sufism, the spiritual branch of Islam, offers the most promising resource to understand this aspect further. Other Muslim scholars with an inclusive approach to Christianity includes Jalaluddin Rumi (d. 1329), both hailing from the mystical and esoteric tradition in Islam.(Nasr, 1999) A case in point is the writing of the celebrated mystic-philosopher, Ibn ‘Arabi (d. The Syrian 18th century Mufti of Damascus, al-Nabulusi (d.A case in point is the much studied (2009) further strengthens the case that Huntington’s once popular idea of an inevitable ‘clash of civilisation’ is a myth that ignores the complexity of conflicts involving Muslim and non-Muslim societies that cannot be reduced to a simplistic dualism or fault-line between Islam and other religions.It is important, therefore, to firstly, highlight these nuanced situations as a counter to the supremacist view of religion that denies the value (not just the fact) of religious diversity and is bent upon dominating or obliterating the Other.
This, inevitably, will involve an exploration into three components: the sacred foundational text of Islam (i.e.“The essential problem that the study of religion poses is how to preserve religious truth, traditional orthodoxy, the dogmatic theological structures of one’s own religion and yet gain knowledge of other traditions and accept them as spiritually valid ways and roads to God.” – Seyyed Hossein Nasr, “Islam and the Encounter of Religions” (1999) Christian-Muslim relations have been in the spotlight in recent years.Much have been due to the rise of religious extremism and conflicts involving and affecting the Christian and Muslim communities.It is a narrative that can form a basis for the reformulation of a contemporary Muslim ‘theology of religions’ that departs from the notion of an irreconcilable division and opposition between Christianity and Islam that extremists peddle towards fulfilling the self-professed inevitable confrontation between the communities of both faiths.However, I am cognisant that I am discussing this from the Muslim angle and will leave further elaborations on the Christian perspective to my Christian friends and theologians.