City of Brass

City of Brass


Can you be a muslim and a christian?

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

This is unusual, to say the least:

A Seattle Episcopal priest who claims to be both Christian and Muslim
has been restricted from public ministry and will be defrocked unless
she “reclaims” Christianity by next April, the Episcopal Church
announced.

Redding, who teaches at a Jesuit seminary in Seattle, according to
Episcopal News Service, told ENS that “I do not believe the canons were
written with this situation in mind. … My situation gives the church
an opportunity to re-examine what it means to be in communion.”

You know, I have to say I am much more sympathetic to the church here. I agree that Islam and Christianity are very similar in many ways, but the differences in basic doctrine are just too stark – the obvious issue being the status of Jesus AS as prophet or god, and the validity of the whole of the Qur’an as a divine text or not.

I am reminded of the main character in the novel Life of Pi, who embraced Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity all at once as a child growing up in India, triggering an angry confrontation between his three spiritual advisers. It is an incongruous, absurd situation.



  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    well, hugh hewitt is a catholic an a presbyterian at the same time….

  • Willow

    I love the Episcopalians. The best sermon I ever heard was in an Episcopal church on Cape Cod. They seem very earnestly open-minded. But I agree with you–the sentiment is wonderful, but I just don’t see how you could be M/X without renouncing some key doctrine from one or both faiths. The divinity of Jesus is most obvious, but there’s also original sin, which son Abraham was asked to sacrifice, etc etc…

  • razib

    The divinity of Jesus is most obvious, but there’s also original sin, which son Abraham was asked to sacrifice, etc etc…
    isn’t there actually dispute in islam which son was to be sacrificed? i learned it was ishamael at mosque, but a palestinian friend told me that it isn’t that cut & dried, though arabs like to make it so (my teachers were of course arab).
    p.s. there are big debates within christianity about original sin, with some groups (e.g., some restorationists) actually rejecting it.

  • http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    Of course, the answer to this question depends on how one defines “Christian” and how one defines “Muslim.” As a Muslim, I have much more stake in what it means to be a Muslim, so if someone meets the basic requirements of being a Muslim and wants to say they are a Christian too then it doesn’t really bother me. Of course if someone does meet the basic requirements of being a Muslim they will not believe Jesus (as) was at all divine, and most Christians will have a problem with this.
    Razib, the understanding of the large majority of Muslim scholars has been that the son which Abraham ‘alayhi salaam was willing to sacrifice was Ismail ‘alayhi salaam. Although the name is not explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an which, coupled with the well known Jewish belief that it was Ishac ‘alayhi salaam have led to room for a difference of opinion. One of the biggest reasons why Ismail makes more sense from a Muslim viewpoint is that Ismail is recognized to be the older son. Jews (and Christians, I guess) get around this point (they agree that Ismail was older) by saying that Ismail was not considered a legitimate son and so Ishac could be considered as Abraham’s only son even when Ismail was also alive Peace be upon them both.
    Allaah knows best.

  • Mary

    I come from a Christian family background. Growing up, I was always taught, by my mother and grandparents, that Jesus was *not* God and that the Holy Trinity concept was something strange, something that some other people believe. Jesus was important and was supposed to be in heaven listening to our prayers, but it was God who was supreme above all, even Jesus, and we believed that Jesus answered to God’s will. I am not sure, but I think these beliefs stemmed from my very distant ancestors’ belief in an old Mennonite-related faith in Western/Central Europe. That’s what I always heard, anyway.
    With this belief, couldn’t you be Muslim, too? Muslims believe that Jesus is Christ, messiah, performed holy miracles and will come again. I think it’s possible.

  • Nan

    Its not a matter or trying to “cheat” on commitment or blur the edges of doctrine, but, as Abu Noor so rightly put it, it all depends on how you define terms.
    If one begins simplest terms, positing a Something which is Source and Destination of all, and that the Something has always been and will always be.
    Moreover, that Something, being the Source, essential and purest Life, then its attributes will be serving life: creative breath, goodness, kindness, generosity, self-sacrifice, truth and justice, i.e. Love. The opposites are obvious.
    Posit further, that the Something is also the Destination, therefore some reckoning of accounts is probable at the end of time and space, whether universal or personal time doesn’t really matter. My own bias, is that responsibility grows out from justice, which is part of the essence of the Something, so… I’ve got to own up at some point to what I did with what I was given, at the barest minimal life and time.
    Now, one more step: posit that the Something has feelings, that it cares for the creation it has splintered off from its Self. That it seeks some sort of continuing relationship with its smaller self: creation. Then it would send messengers into time, space and history: i.e. prophets, angels, avatars, incarnations, saviors gods….to guide its created beings back to its Self.
    The problem comes in, seems to me, when we (a) build a fence around those beautiful messengers, limiting their messages to a certain geography or culture or time, or inversely, force messages specific to a geography culture or time, on everyone else.
    Both the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus the Christ (among others) spoke purely and wisely about how to seek and re-unite with the Source….they tried their best to articulate what had been poured into them
    ….but so many of followers/devotees,disciples tried to capture and tame and corral the beauty and pureness and perfect peace….which divides. Division is warfare, inherently violent. And oh, we do so love to deify our heroes, to make icons of our teachers!
    If we seek sincerely our Source, and try to live into our Destination as well, listening to the message that was the very utmost desire of our Beloved Messengers and refusing, as they themselves instructed us, to make images and idols of them, then yes, we can be, we are in fact, Hindu and Buddhist and Baptist, Muslim and Christian, Jew and Jain.
    Once we speak “this” a “that” is implied.
    I posit that in the Source and Destination which we all share, there exist no divisions.

  • ameena

    Coming from a christian background and very knowledgable of the christian church(regardless of ‘denomination’) I am a revert muslimah since 2002. I can’t understand how this minister can say she is both muslim and christian. The doctrines are very similia, howvr, as a christian minister, she would be praying “in the name of Jesus” and teaching about the ‘crucifiction’ and therefore- shirk. A muslim would never consider doing this. It totally contradicts the basic tenants of islam.La illaha illa allah(there is no god but god)
    Say: He is Allah, the One and Only!
    Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;
    HE BEGETTETH NOT NOR IS HE BEGOTTEN
    And there is none like unto Him.
    Quran 112

  • Al

    Technically you can’t be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time and that rule is reciprocal.

  • Lilian

    Why not? Both Religions differ only in rules and subsidiary matters of secondary importance. The ultimate return is to God, anyway. If one is true in Faith and surrender to God, he/she can be a Christian. a Muslim… even more at the same time.

  • Pam

    I have heard a saying by some muslims “I am a muslim, a Christian and a Jew because one contains the other”
    A muslim is a christian in the sense of who Jesus really was – a messenger of Allah- and what he actually taught – one God / God is one
    There are lots of individual Christians and minority christian denominations that do not accept the trinity or Jesus as God. Quaker, unitarian, sea of faith, mennonite(like my aunty) and in Muhammed’s time there were more groups who were being persecuted by the byzantine church for “heresy”
    A lot of episcopalan clergy and congregation have private views that diverge from church doctrine (on trinity and other basic beliefs). They discuss this privately but not publicly so congratulations to Rev Reading for having the integrity to talk honestly and openly.
    Many of the american founding fathers were unitarian christians e.g. Jefferson

  • Pam

    the Negus (ruler) of Ethiopia, a christian country to which Muhammed had sent some refugees to mecca listened to a recitation of the Quran (chapter of the family of imran – about Mary and Jesus) and responded “in truth it is no more than this
    The truth that is in christianity IS islam and there are people trying to reclaim the truth
    I have always been muslim but I used to attend church back when the mosque didn’t allow women – I met some jewish women who were there for the same reason. The lines that divide are not so definite in practice

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