Images of Jesus Christ in Islam:

Introduction, Survey of Research,
Issues of Dialogue

Published in the series Studia Missionalia Upsaliensia, Uppsala 1999 (270 pp)

NOK 170 = USD 25 / 20 Euro

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Indonesian version:
Yesus Dalam Literatur Islam (2002)

See preface


See contents


See reviews


From the Preface:

'This book adds to a number of studies on the image of Jesus Christ in Islam, and related issues of dialogue. During my work with Islamic christologies, I have seen the need of (1) a general Introduction to the issue, and (2) a Survey of Research. In the present study, the general introduction to the theme and the survey of research have been merged into a historically oriented presentation. As a Christian theologian committed to Christian-Muslim dialogue, it has been natural to add a third section of the study, identifying (3) Issues of Dialogue arising from inherited polemics and apologetics on both sides, as well as from serious attempts at mutual understanding. I hope this book will aid others in finding their way into the subject. Its theme may reveal a typical Christian concern for the image of Christ in other religions. However, as I see it, the issue of christology touches upon a number of other questions of shared concern between Christians and Muslims. It relates to general questions in theology and anthropology as well as in ethics.'

Summary of contents:


I Introduction

I.1 A sensitive question
I.2 The status of christology in Christian-Muslim dialogue
I.3 Bibliographical introduction

II Christ in the Qur'an and in Hadith

II.1 Christ in the Qur'an
II.2 Jesus in Hadith
II.3 The understanding of 'gospel' (injil)
II.4 Muhammad and Jesus in Hadith and legend

III Jesus in Muslim legend and Qur'anic exegesis (tafsir)

III.1 Jesus in Muslim legend and storytelling
III.2 The classical exegesis of the Qur'an

IV Jesus in Shi'ite tradition

V Jesus in Sufism

V.1 Various representations of Jesus in Sufism (al-Ghazali, Ibn al-Arabi, Rumi)
V.2 Summarising central features of Sufi images of Jesus
V.3 The mystical perfection: Muhammad

VI Encounters and confrontations: dialogue, apologetics, polemics

VI.1 The role of Christ in early intra-Muslim polemics
VI.2 Christian polemics under Muslim rule
VI.3 Muslim polemics, directed towards submitted Christians
VI.4 Muslim polemical refutations, and sympatethic reinterpretations in the medieval era
VI.5 Christian polemics against Islam in the medieval era: enemy images and attemtps at understanding

VII 20th-century tendencies and discussions

VII.1 Christ in 19th- and 20th-century Muslim theology: reinterpretations, polemics and dialogue (India, Egypt, Iran; Ahmadiyya, Barnabas)
VII.2 Jesus in 20th-century Muslim poetry (Persian, Pakistani, Arab)
VII.3 Christ in Egyptian Muslim literature, from 1950 (al-Aqqad, Khalid Muhammad Khalid, Kamil Husayn and others)

VIII Issues of dialogue

VIII.1 Why christology?
VIII.2 Jesus and Muhammad
VIII.3 Christology, anthropology, theology
VIII.4 Rethinking christology in dialogue with Islam
VIII.5 Christology and human experience: from miracles to cross?
VIII.6 The ethical connection (human conscience, non-violence, divine pedagogy)
VIII.7 Doing theology

Postscript: Knowing with oneself, knowing with the other. Towards a 'conscientous' dialogue between religions?

Bibliography: Images of Jesus Christ in Islam

Index of authors



"Among the tried and true topics of Muslim-Christian dialogue, a perennial favorite is the Islamic understanding of Jesus. This contribution to the extensive bibliography is very useful. Leirvik ... has produced exactly what he promises: a solid bibliographical introduction, keyed to the concerns of religious polemic and apologetic and of interreligious dialogue. This work offers and extensive review of secondary sources in Western languages and of primary sources to the extent that these are available in published translation from the Arabic, Persian, and Urdu originals ... The final section raises the theological questions. Here ... K. M. Khâlid and his call for a conscience-based ethics emerges as a leading voice ... Leirvik sees in this and similar views an openbering to a conscience-based dialogue between Muslims and Christians, understanding conscience as both an individual and a social reality and recognizing that theology and ethics are inextricably linked" (Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Georgetown University, in Theological Studies 62, 1:2001).

[Leirvik's] approach is marked, to be sure, by his experience and commitment to Christian-Muslim dialogue. This is reflected in his attempt to identify issues beyond inherited apologetics of Christians and Muslims. His main preoccupation is to explore possibilities of a genuine dialogue between Christians and Muslims on Christology, not as an independent subject but as it raises a number of inescapable anthropological and ethical questions. In other words, he does not surrender to the temptation of treating Islam and Christianity as fundamentally different and mutually exclusive religious universes. In emphasizing the plurality of Muslim interpretations on the one hand, and inviting Christians to a rethinking of Christology in dialogue with Islam, the author hopes to ease the reluctance of both parties to deal with the sensitive theological questions." (Tarek Mitri, World Council of Churches, in Current Dialogue 33, July 1999).

"[The book] will be of considerable interest to most, if not all, readers of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, given that it focuses on one of the central topics of any conversation between Christians and Muslims, namely the identity of Jesus Christ ... The study is a thourough and comprehensive one, which acknowledges its debts to earlier studies but valuably brings them up to date ... The most interesting av provocative (in the best sense of the word) section is probably Chapter 8, where Leirvik draws out some of the implications of the material surveyed earlier in the book, somewhat in the spirit of Kenneth Cragg in The Call of the Minaret. Christians are thus called upon to do some hard rethinking about some of the language about Jesus which is well-established in the Christian tradition ... For the future the author suggests that ethical issues may be the most fruitful area for discussion between Christians and Muslims, and that if the two communities devote some attention to the theme of conscience, this may be particularly telling." (Hugh Goddard, University of Nottingham, in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 2:2000).

"The book is very useful for the non-theologian too; its presentation is valuable for scholars and students of the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of language, the history of religions and the psychology of religion. It constitutes a synthesis of the vast subject of the role of Jesus in the meeting and relations between Islam and Christianity, on different levels and at different periods, with the stress on what is of relevance for the contemporary conditions for dialogue, understanding of doctrine and theological language."(Jan Hjärpe, Lund University, in Swedish Missiological Themes 4:1999).

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