From the Introduction

 

To a large extent, human identity continues to derive – whether consciously or unconsciously – from each individual’s religion, itself an expression of and shaped by the culture in which religion is embedded. Through culture, in turn, religion affects the individual. As a result of this dynamic, even a society that considers and administers itself on a secular basis is shaped, for the most part, by a world of ideas that is traditional and religious in nature. A phenomenon encountered today is that it is not necessarily the main contents of a religion that determine general awareness. Many times it is the historically conditioned infiltrations and distortions of a religion that ultimately pass themselves off as the original. Because the objective of religious dialogue can never be the surrender of one’s own identity, it is particularly important to distinguish the essential aspects of a religion from a form of expression that has arisen through mere historical accident. Through concentration on the sub­stan­tial, impediments are eliminated almost by themselves that seem nearly insurmountable to those content to dwell upon peripheral phenomena. To open up a perspective on the entirety of another religion, keywords have been incorporated in this work that lack a counterpart in the other religion yet are indispensable to the identity of the religion in question.

Mutual understanding and common action can only be based on a common language. This language is more than a command of words and rules of grammar. Its aim is to explore the horizons of understanding that are linked with the key terms. The book presented here is an initial milestone on the path towards just such an exploration of an understanding of major key terms drawn from Christianity and Islam. In the numerous meetings held between the Turkish, Muslim editors from the Islamic-Theological Faculty at the University in Ankara and the German, Christian editors from the Eugen Biser Foundation in Munich, it emerged that, despite centuries of existence of Christian churches and communities in Turkey, the element of the Turkish is so Islamic in character that there is a significant level of speechlessness when it comes to relating certain basic ideas of Christianity in Turkish, while conversely the element of the German is so Christian in character that Islamic ideas are often very difficult to express in suitable terms. Consequently, Islamic religious instruction in German faces twin forms of speechlessness: deficits of language among pupils with a migration background, and a lack in German of a specialised vocabulary for Islamic theology. The aim of the Dictionary now placed before the public is to overcome this speechlessness and – in some cases by means of neologisms – to point out that many terms and ideas in the understanding of Muslims and Christians are not congruent. For only if one knows the differences and specificities can one respond in a fitting manner and initiate common action for the benefit of all.

The objective of this Dictionary is to build bridges between the religions of Christianity and Islam. This work is thus not a comparative theological approach to Christianity and Islam or an orientalist treatise on key terms in Islam. The presentations of Christianity and Islam depict the respective theological views from within each religion, the way faithful representatives view each religion on the basis of their field competence.

The different linguistic traditions concern more than the specialised vocabulary of theologians. They also touch upon the styles and results of scholarly presentation in each of these religious spheres. An article written in Turkish or German can completely meet the expectations of a readership in the setting of the respective home language while at the same time raising a host of questions in the language of the opposite number, questions that never arise at all, let alone demand an answer, in the first context. Added to this are the different forms of presentation, such as the rather reserved descriptions emphasising strongly historicised ties to the context of statements in German theology versus the more faith-linked approach to the respective topics in the Islamic studies. This is a tremendously captivating and, to date, scarcely noted field for comparative theological research. In many respects, the work presented here offers important illustrations of these differences.

In view of the responsibility we all share in promoting peaceful coexistence, and in view of our endeavours on behalf of peace and understanding among nations throughout the world, an awareness of the things and ways in which we think differently, and of the things that decide the actions we take, is far from a kind of specialised knowledge for a handful of scholars. It touches everyone who makes an effort on behalf of constructive cooperation.

This post is also available in German, German and Turkish.