Knowing by Oneself,
Knowing with the Other:
Al-damir, Human Conscience
and Christian-Muslim Relations

Oslo: Unipub 2002
(Acta Theologica 4), 450pp

> see contents

A slightly shortened version has been published by Routledge in their Islamic Studies Series in 2006, under the title

Human Conscience
and Christian-Muslim Relations:
Modern Egyptian thinkers on al-damir

> see 2006 edition

> see content



Can human conscience be a uniting bond between Christians and Muslims, across moral and religious differences?

In Christian tradition and European philosophy, the concept of conscience contains a tension between "knowing by oneself" and "knowing with others". In Islamic tradition, there is no direct equivalent to the concept of conscience, but other relevant notions. In modern (Christian and Islamic) Arabic, the word al-damir has been given the meaning of conscience.

In this book, Oddbjørn Leirvik discusses the notion of al-damir as employed by the Egyptian Muslim authors 'Abbas Mahmud al-'Aqqad, Khalid Muhammad Khalid and M. Kamil Husayn. In the 1950s and 60s, the authors in focus used the notion of al-damir to express the inward dimension of Islamic ethics. As Islamic humanists, they also used it to express what Muhammad and Jesus, Muslims and Christians "know together" in the field of morals. In Leirvik's analysis, their works are read in the light of universalist tendencies in the 1950s, but also with a view to later developments towards more communitarian discourses among Muslims and Christians in Egypt.

Separate chapters deal with the conceptual history of conscience, the semantic history of al-damir, and the multi-layered tradition of Islamic ethics. In the concluding chapters, the author discusses how the notions of al-damir and conscience relate to the ethics of authenticity and a late modern "turn to the Other" in moral philosophy.

About the author:

Oddbjørn Leirvik, born 1951, has served as a minister in the Church of Norway, and at the Emmaus Centre for Dialogue and Spirituality in Oslo. Since 1996, he has been a research fellow at the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo. He is currently engaged in developing a program for Interreligious Studies at the Faculty of Theology, and in a research project about Religion in a Globalised Age. This book is his doctoral thesis.

Review articles (in English):

by Abdulaziz Sachedina in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 3: 2003, pp. 375-376.

by Jan Hjärpe in Norsk Teologisk Tidsskrift 4: 2002, pp. 239-241.

Related articles (in English):

"Muhammad, Christ and Modern Consciences", in Studies in Interreligious Dialogue 2: 2008, s.129-152.

"Al-damir, Human Conscience and Christian-Muslim Relations", in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 2:2003, pp. 277-297.

Related articles, lectures and interviews (in Norwegian):

"Samvit over trusgrenser", i Syn og Segn 3: 2003, s. 34-45.

Samvitets rolle i leitinga etter ein global etikk. Stiftelsen Abrahams barns Global Village Lecture, Riddarhuset i Stockholm 22. mars 2002. Om forholdet mellom autonomi og autentisitet i samvitsomgrepet (eksemplifisert ved debatten om kvinner i islam), om samvitet som globalisert omgrep, og om det å sjå seg sjølv som ein annan.

"Samvit – mot vald? Nokre kristen-muslimske refleksjonar", kap. 5 (s. 211-231) i Oddbjørn Leirvik: Islamsk etikk – ei idéhistorie. Oslo: Pax forlag 2002.

Med samvittigheten til felles. Intervju i Uniforum, januar 2002

Teolog er blitt "dr. samvittighet". Intervju i Aftenposten, januar 2002

"Samvitsfull religionsdialog?", i Sigurd Bergmann (ed.): Man får inte tvinga någon. Autonomi och relationalitet i nordisk teologisk tolkning. Nora: Nya Doxa 2001, s. 203-214.

Samvitet. Andakt på Det teologiske fakultet, 1999.

Samvitet, Sjølvet og den Andre, Norsk Tidsskrift for Misjon 1998:4, s. 217-230.

Langfredag i Kairo. Eit samvitsrelatert essay om langfredagsopplevingar i Kairo, Morgenbladet 21.03.1997.

Home (Oddbjørn Leirvik's homepage)