Christianity (isl.)


(Arab. Masihiyya, Nasraniyya, Turk. Hıristiyanlık)

In the Qur’an, the adherents of Christianity are referred to as Nasara or as People of the Gospel, People of the Cross, People of the Book. The Qur’an mentions the faithful and the custodians of scriptures, Christians and Jews, alongside one another. For them, the following promise applies: “The [Muslim] believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabiansa – all those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good– will have their rewards with their Lord. No fear for them, nor will they grieve.” (2:62; cf. 5 / 69) The references to Jesus and his Mother Mary in the Qur’an are full of love and respect (3:42-51). Yet the Christians are criticized for having declared Jesus – a human being and a prophet – God; for having distorted the Scripture (2:75, 79, 85; 3:78); for having falsified the revelation that had been sent to them (4:171); and for having forgotten and concealed part of what was written in the Scripture (5:14-15).

A close reading of the Qur’anic verses relating to Christianity reveals that, in contrast to the Christian view, Jesus is referred to as God’s servant and His prophet. According to the Qur’an, as He pointed out Himself: “I have come to confirm the truth of the Torah which preceded me, and to make some things lawful to you which used to be forbidden. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. Be mindful of God, obey me: God is my Lord and your Lord, so serve Him– that is a straight path.”’ (3:50-51). In spite of his proclamation to the contrary, the Christians, as the Qur’an says, elevated him to a deity, and in so doing joined Him to God. Later, they added the Holy Spirit to this concept of God and developed the doctrine of the Trinity. In the Qur’an, the Christians are criticized for this Trinity-based concept of God, and those who confess to this form of faith are referred to as disbelievers (kafir, pl. kuffar) (5:17, 72-73).

Monastic life is criticized in the Qur’an as well, as it is not part of the essence of Christianity but was introduced later on in order to gain God’s favor. Nor was it ‘observe[d] … properly’ (57:27). Initially, monastic life was marked by renunciation of human desires and a turning-away from the world. Some monks and clergy, however, took advantage of this, in that the Christian community declared them saints exalted above the realm of humankind (9:31). It must be borne in mind that, because the criticism of the Qur’an was directed at the Christian view of monastic life in late antiquity, and at a few of the clergy at the time, this critique cannot be generalized.

Even the Qur’an refrains from directing criticism at all Christians in general. Among other things, it refers to Christian priests and monks who were not arrogant and maintained friendships with Muslims (5:82). The Qur’an treats Christians positively as a whole and notes that, among the custodians of Scripture, the Christians are closest to Muslims in terms of their views on love. In this day and age, then, there is no barrier in the Qur’an to continuing the positive rapprochement between Christians and Muslims.

Mehmet Katar

Christianity (chr.)


(Turk. Hıristiyanlık)

Christianity” is the collective term used to refer to a large number of faith traditions (churches, sects, denominations) that, in spite of their different doctrines and organizational structures, invoke Jesus Christ as their point of reference and founder. Taken together, Christianity comprises some 2 billion believers today.

To be precise, the history of Christianity does not begin until after the death of Jesus in the year 30 or 33 CE, when Jewish disciples of Jesus proclaimed that Jesus, who, under the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (in office 26-36 CE) and at the instigation of Jewish circles in Jerusalem, had been sentenced and died on the cross (gallows), had been resurrected, was alive, and that he was the Messiah for which Judaism had been waiting, who would come at the end of time to judge between the living and the dead. Jesus’ followers believed so firmly in this that they proclaimed this message throughout the Roman Empire, and, if necessary, even died as martyrs in the process.

The message quickly found adherents among Jews throughout the Roman Empire. They were soon joined by non-Jews, known as Gentiles, who sought to be admitted to the community of believers who believed in Jesus as the Messiah. An open dispute arose among Jesus’ closest followers (the Apostles) over the question as to whether these followers of the teachings of Jesus Christ (i.e. the Messiah) who had converted from paganism would have to be circumcised and observe Jewish dietary laws. At a gathering of these confidants, known as the Council of Jerusalem, (approx. 50 CE), Paul managed to achieve the decision that the Gentile Christians did not have to be circumcised and were exempt from application of the Jewish dietary laws. This marked the first step toward the breaking away of the Jesus movement from Judaism. Further steps were to follow, after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. This resulted in a kind of dividing-up of the inheritance of the religion of ancient Israel into Judaism and Christianity: Judaism evolved into a purely lay religion without a temple cult or priesthood, became ethnically Semitic with the Hebrew Bible as Holy Scripture, turned less to philosophy than to orthopraxy, and ceased proselytizing; Christianity continued the ritual tradition of ancient Israel under a hierarchically organised priesthood, used Koine Greek as its language of worship, read the Jewish Bible in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, integrated Greek philosophy (including its Jewish representative Philo of Alexandria [approx. 20 / 10 BCE–40 / 50 CE], a contemporary of Jesus), and proselytized. Christians abstained from further participation in worship services in the synagogue, and Christianity became a world religion in its own right.

Interpretations of Jesus’ life and teachings led to a fixed canon of guiding scriptures that were combined to create the New Testament; this, together with the Septuagint (i.e. the Old Testament), would henceforth constitute the Christian Bible. The multiplicity of interpretations of Jesus led to contradictory messages, and clarification was needed. Emperor Constantine (in office 306–337 CE), who permitted the religion of Christianity in the Roman Empire, convened a gathering of all of the bishops to resolve the matter. Some (Athanasius [295–373] and his supporters) believed that Jesus was on equal to God; others (Arius [260–336] and his supporters) said that while Jesus ranked at the top of Creation, he was not of the same rank as God. Athanasius’ line of thinking prevailed, and Arius was condemned as a heretic. Consequently, in the years that followed, there was a grave schism within Christianity: on the one side stood the majority of the participants in the assembly of the Council of Nicaea (325 CE), and on the other the opponents who were followers of Arius. In the period following, the latter formed the various Christian churches of the East (e.g. the Armenian, Syrian, Chaldean and Coptic Churches); the views of the adherents within the Empire evolved into a Trinitarian understanding of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) that recognized Jesus as true man and true God (i.e. Son). For a variety of political, social and religious reasons, tensions soon developed among the faithful within the Empire. As a result, mainstream Christianity in Europe was divided into an Orthodox East with national churches under the leadership of patriarchs, and a Latin West under the leadership of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. The final break-up occurred in 1054, some five centuries after the first major schism between the churches of the Roman Empire and of the East. Another five centuries later, there were internal disputes within the Latin Church, due not least to an ever-increasing claim to leadership on the part of the Pope in Rome. The consequence was a schism that gave rise to a heavily Germanic, Protestant Christianity, on the one hand, and the Roman Catholic Church on the other. Many see in this third, great schism the dawn of the modern era: in Protestantism, a hierarchically organised priesthood with the Pope at the pinnacle was now replaced by more protodemocratic forms of organization that emphasized the general priesthood of all the faithful and rejected hierarchies among the holy orders in general.

The dawn of the modern era can also be seen in the approach taken to science and in scientific investigation into the Bible and the history of Christianity. Even in Protestantism, both led to internal disputes that were expressed most visibly in the conflict between fundamentalists and liberals. The Roman Catholic Church has not been immune to developments of this nature, either. Examples of this are the dispute over modernism at the outset of the 20th century, the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) and the approach taken to this under Popes Paul VI (1963–78), John Paul II (1978–2005) and Benedict XVI (2005–2013).

No religion is spared the task of grappling with the questions raised by the modern era. The dispute is particularly hard within Christianity, as it sets the tone in, and hails primarily from, those countries that are at the leading edge of the waves of modernization. The debates concern approaches to the findings of modern science (e.g. heliocentric versus geocentric view of the world, evolution in the field of biology); psychology (e.g. Sigmund Freud [1856–1939]); ethics (e.g. sexuality, gene technology, ecology); and social order (e.g. gender equality, placing homosexual partnerships on the same level with heterosexual marriages as a matter of law).

It is difficult to predict how Christianity will continue to develop in the future. There are signs of decline but also signs of an upswing. A glance at history shows that while entire communities of Christians have died out, new communities have emerged as well. The same can be said of controversial positions: clinging to the old order has proven a guarantor of survival in some cases; in other cases, it has also stood in the way of survival. So the future is still undetermined. No decision we make today will be without consequence for the future; for the most part, though, any determination as to whether a decision taken is worthwhile or not can be made only after the fact.

Peter Antes

Conversion (isl.)


(Arab. Irtidad an al-Islam, Turk. Din Değiştirme)

Where conversion is concerned, the Islamic tradition makes a distinction between the act of joining Islam (ihtida) and that of leaving it (irtidad): to accept Islam means that someone is converting to Islam by voluntarily reciting the profession of faith. There is a fundamental connection between conversion and freedom of religion: if one is at liberty to confess his or her faith in a particular religion, he or she must also be conceded the freedom to turn away from this religion. As history shows, however, no religion has ever taken a positive view of the change from one religion to another. In the Islamic tradition, the penalties brought to bear in the case of a conversion can even extend to the death penalty; here, however, the reasons are less of a religious and more of a political nature. The Qur’an does not enumerate any earthly penalty for an individual who falls away from Islam; it does, however, mention a penalty in the afterlife (2:217; 3:86–90; 4:137). In questions of faith, Islam places weight in the will of the individual and leaves him or her – while referencing consequences in the afterlife – the liberty to decide. This is documented in the following verse: ‘Now the truth has come from your Lord: let those who wish to believe in it do so, and let those who wish to reject it do so.’ (18:29). During the time the Prophet spent in Medina, it came to pass that children of Islamic families that had previously been Jewish or Christian were forced by their parents to convert. Whereupon the verse ‘There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.’ (2:256) was revealed (cf. Abu Dawud; Tabari). The Qur’an is quite clear about Muhammad’s instructions to invite people to the religion without any exercise of pressure or force (50:45; 88:22). ‘The Prophet was called upon: [Prophet], call [people] to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good teaching.’ (16:125), and the same behaviour was expected of the faithful as well (29:46). This is why the Prophet did not punish people who had fallen away from Islam (cf. Ibn Hanbal). In the view of a majority of Muslims, the task of adjudication and punishment is God’s alone; people are not authorised to mete out punishments in this regard (cf. Abu Dawud). This is why, over the course of their lives, people may not only accept different religions but can also decide against faith in any religion at all. A decision such as this is a function of one’s own convictions alone. Although Islamic theologians generally take the view that he or she who decides against Islam has made the wrong decision, there is basic acceptance that one does not interfere with decisions of this nature, which are the responsibility of the individual him- or herself. Even today, however, there are still some Islamic states in which this view is not acknowledged.

İsmail Hakkı Ünal

Conversion (chr.)


(Turk. Din Değiştirme)

The term ‘conversion’ is used to describe a person’s deliberate turn to a particular community of believers or the transformation from one religious community or Christian confession into another. The possibility of conversion is a product of the human right of religious freedom and must be respected as an individual entitlement. Against this backdrop, forced conversions of the sort encountered down through the history of nearly all religious communities must be rejected.

Conversions have been a part of the history of the Church ever since its beginnings. At first, the Christians were temporarily considered a Jewish group, but soon they came to be seen as a religious community in their own right. With his turn towards Jesus Christ, Paul can be considered a convert from Judaism to Christianity (cf. Acts 9; Gal 1). The early Church recruited its supporters exclusively through conversion, as it was not yet possible to grow into the Christian community naturally through one’s origins in a Christian family. Differentiation among the confessional traditions of Christianity created an option for members already baptised into one church to convert to another church.

Conversion to Christianity by persons who have not yet been baptised always involves liturgical-sacramental initiation, i.e. the Sacrament of Baptism. Even the conversion of a person baptised into one Christian denomination to another usually takes place as part of a religious observance, and where indicated in combination with sacramental celebrations (bestowal of the Sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist).

From the Christian standpoint, the conversion of a baptised person to a non-Christian religious community does not annul the Baptism; i.e. from a sacramental point of view, the convert who turns away from Christianity remains a member of the Church. The Church must respect such a conversion on grounds of natural law. This does not, however, prevent the Church from reacting with religious penalties designed to draw the attention of the member who has fallen away from the community or from Christian faith to the fact of his or her error. If an individual who has been baptised joins a non-Christian religious community, this is apostasy and is met with excommunication. Conversion from one Christian denomination to another can also result in penalties. For instance, the Catholic Church considers conversion from the Catholic to the Protestant denomination a schism (and heresy); this, too, results in excommunication.

In countries in which an individual citizen’s religious affiliation is of significance even as a matter of civil law (e.g. Germany), in most cases conversions are documented legally by civil authorities.

Stephan Haering

Democracy (chr.)


(Turk. Demokrasi)

Democracy is a form of government. It derives state authority from the national people and exercises it on behalf of the national people. The legislative authority and government justify their exercise of office through elections in which the national people chooses from among at least two alternatives; the majority determines who is elected. The loser of the election is protected as a minority and retains the same chances for the next election. Democracy lives from the institutional differences between government and opposition.

A modern democracy takes the form of a parliamentary-representative democracy in which the parliament and the government answerable to the parliament decide factual issues on behalf of the people. Direct decision of factual issues by the national people (plebiscitary democracy) is possible only within a limited scope. The questions that call for political resolution are usually so complex that they cannot be reduced to an alternative answerable with a simple Yes or No. Given the power of modern media, oftentimes the question is decided more by the person or entity placing the question before the people, and less by the people themselves. More than anything else, protections for minorities and individuals are weakened if policy issues are left to direct decision by the democratic sovereign, the national people.

The protection of minorities in a democracy guarantees the rights of the parliamentary opposition, and of every party and every association, while protecting the individual human rights of each person. Every person may freely think and freely express him- or herself, may exercise influence through free and public expressions, may publish within the scope of media freedoms, and may collect whatever information he or she wishes through the generally accessible sources available. The freedom to assemble and the freedom of association also strengthen people in their shared effects upon the democratic state.

These fundamental rights are predicated on a division of powers in which every individual can assert his or her rights versus the state authority on an equal footing in a court of law and can block state violations of his or her rights.

Every state authority faces the criticism of a free citizen that can lead to resistance and even rebellion. Democracy seeks to moderate this contrast between state authority and the people subject to this authority by tying state authority to the national people while recurrently renewing the state itself: liberty also entails the right to conduct experiments and create unconventional solutions and arrangements not previously considered. Ideally, parliamentarism expects the election of each new parliament to lead to better laws.

Democracy is built upon the national people, a cultural community of individuals. Under a democratic constitution, the relationship between state and national people is like that of a glove to a hand. The glove is lifeless without a hand inside it to set it in motion. The art of constitutional government is now to design this glove in such a way that it protects against injury, cold and moisture yet without robbing the hand – the people – of mobility or initiative.

Democracy knows as many manifestations as there are states that develop cultures of their own. Indispensable features of democracy include the principle of elections, time limits on the exercise of power, majority rule with minority protections, and guarantees of human rights in a system characterised by checks and balances of power. Whether an election applies to an individual delegate (election of candidates) or a party (proportionality) depends on the characteristic features of the national people and its culture. The election procedure itself, the coexistence of parliamentary and presidential elections and the possibilities of a parliamentary monarchy are also part of the diversity of political cultures that can take shape under the concept of a democracy.

Paul Kirchhof

Democracy (isl.)


(Turk. Demokrasi)

The term ‘democracy’ describes a form of government in the modern state in which all power is based on the people. The underlying principle of a democracy is that the people are entitled to a direct or indirect say in determining the leading organs of the state, and in processes of decision-making. This entails both the active and passive franchise, along with participation in state decision-making organs through institutions in civil society.

Islam does not recommend any particular form of government. Even though Islam contains a long tradition of governance that refers back to the Qur’an and – to an even greater extent – to the practices of the prophets, this does not constitute a uniform tradition.

The Ibadi and Mu’tazila schools advocate a form of government based on a right to vote. The Shiites, on the other hand, based on their understanding of the imamate, support the appointment of the head of state. In contrast to these, the Sunnis proceed from the principle of the inviolability of the state, i.e. the state as such is the most important entity, not the person reigning over it. The state is something permanent, while governments are simply temporary. At the same time, obedience to the government is a basic principle.

Save for the fact that Muhammad, as a prophet, held the status of head of state at the same time, the fact that the first four caliphs were elected (period of governance from 632–661) can be interpreted as a sign of the openness of Islam to democracy. While caliphate and sultanate were coupled since the Umayyad Caliphate, and although for centuries public offices were passed along from father to son, this does not mean that Muslims are tied to this form of government. From a theological point of view, discussion concerns less the form of government per se than the uses to which it is put. Among the leading principles in this connection are the values of law, justice, and equality. Mutual consultation is a principle of governance that was recommended to Muhammad in the Qur’an, and that he in turn then recommended to the rulers (cf. At-Tirmidhi). From the point of view of the fundamental sources of Islam, nothing contradicts approaches under which the government of a state is elected by the people and the people’s representatives have a say in decision-making, while the people exert an influence over certain decisions through organizations in civil society. Muhammad demonstrated the high esteem in which he held the will of the majority of the people when he declared that his community as a whole would not go astray (cf. Ibn Majah).

Cemal Tosun

Dress Regulations (isl.)


(Arab. Libas, Malbas, Turk. Kılık-Kıyafet)

Clothing and accessories of the sort customarily worn on the Arabian Peninsula during the pre-Islamic era continued to be worn following the introduction of Islam as well. It is written in the Qur’an: “Children of Adam, We have given you garments to cover your nakedness and as adornment for you; the garment of God-consciousness is the best of all garments – this is one of God’s signs, so that people may take heed.’ (7:26). Other verses read: ‘Children of Adam, dress well whenever you are at worship, and eat and drink [as We have permitted] but do not be extravagant: God does not like extravagant people.’ (7:31), and: “Say [Prophet], ‘Who has forbidden the adornment and the nourishment God has provided for His servants?’” (7:32). This demonstrates that not only that the attire itself is important but its aesthetic dimension as well.

The sources are silent as to whether Muhammad, following his calling as Prophet, made any changes whatsoever to his own clothing. A verse from the early stage of the revelation reads: ‘Cleanse yourself’ (74:4). There are statements by Muhammad, however, in which he criticised some of the dress preferences among the men and women around him as not suitable to the clothing style of the time (cf. Bukhari; Malik Ibn Anas). Based on the hadiths on the subject, in the view of the majority of Muslims, there are three basic principles applicable to clothing: 1) coverage of the genitals, 2) cleanliness and beauty in garments, 3) avoidance of pomp.

In keeping with these rules, down through history, Muslims have developed different forms of clothing in keeping with various cultural and geographic conditions.

İsmail Hakkı Ünal

Dress Regulations (chr.)


(Turk. Kılık-Kıyafet Kuralları)

The Christian tradition actually has no specifically Christian dress regulations. There have, however, at times been special regulations within the dominion of Christianity with regard to clothing for non-Christians (and for Jews in particular). All other dress regulations were of a secular-political nature or concerned members of the holy orders. These latter were intended to identify their position within the hierarchy or to specify their liturgical garments. A certain special case concerns the requirement that women wear a veil, as is set forth in the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (11.5-6) and within the context of verses 2-16. With this, Paul introduces the Jewish custom of the wearing of veils to his Gentile Christian communities as well. According to Paul, covering oneself in the presence of others, and discreet and austere clothing, are the marks of a respectable woman, particularly with regard to the religious area of life, when praying and prophesizing. As a result, to this day, it is still the custom in some countries (e.g. Spain) for women either to wear a hat or to place a piece of fabric on their heads (e.g. a handkerchief) during church services. The use of veils in marriage ceremonies (bridal veils) in the Roman Church has also been documented dating back to the 4th century CE. It represents the adoption of the Gentile-Roman wedding custom of covering the bride. Added to this is the practice in convents of viewing the nun with veil as a bride of Christ. There are references to other forms of veil, such as the widow’s veil, in fashion manuals, but there are no religious underpinnings discernible for this practice. Accordingly, the wearing of the veil has fallen away over the course of changes in fashion; in most countries, the same holds true for women’s attendance of church services.

Peter Antes

God (isl.)


(Arab. Allah, Ilah, Turk. Tanrı)

In Islam, the general term of ‘god’, which can be used in plural as well, finds its counterpart in Allah. As a proper name, the logical status of Allah is different from the concept of god which expresses divinity. The general term god can be used as ‘gods’ in plural and therefore can be applied to more than one being, whereas ‘Allah’ can neither be used in plural nor be applied to more than one being. Hence the corresponding term of god in Arabic is ilâh, which has the same use. There is, however, a necessary semantic connection between the concept of ilâh, which expresses the truth-conditions of divinity, and Allah, who is the unique referent of this concept in Islam. The only being that satisfies the conditions for being god (ilâh) is Allah as one can see in the Qur’anic statement that ‘There is no god but Allah (La ilâhe illa Allah)’ (37:35; 47:19), which constitutes the foundation of Islamic faith. Since the ground of the conception of God in Islam is the very Divine revelation, the ultimate source of such a conception is again Allah Himself. In the Qur’an, Allah attributes to Himself the names which He calls the most beautiful names (al-asmâ al-husnâ) such as ‘The Exceedingly Beneficent, The Exceedingly Merciful, The Omniscient, The Almighty, The Loving, The Provider / Sustainer, The Repeatedly Forgiving’. These names, which are more akin to attributes, determine the meaning and therefore the truth-conditions of the word ‘God / Allah’. As a matter of fact, given the semantic overlap among these names, Muslim theologians have reduced them to particular attributes.

There is a strict semantic relation between Divine existence and attributes. In the most general sense, the Qur’an invites men to use their intellect on the existence and attributes of Allah, and most of the Qur’anic arguments in this regard have empirical (a posteriori) premises which draw on the order and purpose manifested in the Universe. Even though the Qur’an emphasizes the fact that Allah is not directly subject to human experience at least in this world, it does not have an agnostic attitude toward His existence and nature. This Qur’anic viewpoint has influenced the theological thought in Islam deeply and caused the development of an evidential stance on these matters. Muslim thinkers, therefore, have put forward various arguments for the existence of God. Likewise, Muslim theologians have formulated negative (salbî) attributes to show what God is not and also positive (subûtî) attributes to express what He is. These are: Life, Knowledge, Power, Hearing, Seeing, Speech, Willing and Creating. Although, in attributing essential and personal properties to God, Islam bears similarities to other theistic religions, it is peculiar in emphasizing His absolute oneness and transcendence. Indeed the principle of Unity (tawhîd), which constitutes the essence of the conception of God in Islam, presupposes the oneness, transcendence and absoluteness of Allah. This principle also necessitates an unassailable ontological distinction between the Absolute Creator and the created beings; that is, it denotes the fact that there can be no god but Allah and nothing equal or similar to Him.

Mehmet Sait Reçber

God (chr.)


(Turk. Tanrı)

Viewed in religious-historical terms, the Christian faith is a relatively late development within the the general human question of the Divine. As investigated particularly by the phenomenology of religion at the outset of the 20th century (Rudolf Otto, 1869–1937), in a universal sense the notion of God has its origins in the experience of the Holy. The Holy is expressed as that which is experienced as alarming and inspiring at the same time. In this ambiguity, for humankind it represents an overwhelmingly powerful mystery (‘mysterium tremendum et fascinans’). In this way, the religious view of the Divine comes about as a reaction to the extreme experiences – positive and negative – of (human) life, and as a response to the existential challenges that these experiences entail. The specifically Christian image of God has its roots in the religious experience of the Jewish people. The most consummate articulation of the Jewish experience of God can be found in the statement of the Old Testament Book of Exodus (3:14), in which God reveals Himself in direct speech: ‘I am who I am’. Properly understood and translated, this sentence reveals the core of the Judeo-Christian concept of God. In the Hebrew original, however, the statement, ‘I am who I am’ does not describe a static-atemporal self-identity in a metaphysical sense. The verbal form used in the statement has a powerfully future-oriented significance, in the sense of ‘I am the one who will be there [for you]’. This is a statement in which God speaks to humankind of Himself, disclosing His inner essence in these words. This assumes that God Himself must have personal characteristics, as only a person has the ability to communicate through language. This dual repetition of one and the same statement of essence expresses the absolute self-identity, independence, and sovereignty of God in contrast to everything else. It follows from this that God’s personal self-revelation to humankind is a determination of His absolute freedom, and thus a self-revelation that does not necessarily have to take place. That God’s being is the object of His free disclosure of self also makes it clear that this sovereignty also and particularly relates to an understanding of the world as creation: the world is not necessary. Instead, viewed as the outcome of God’s creative determination, the world is contingent and finite, which is also why it might not be at all. The same applies to the dialogical relationship between the God of revelation and humankind. The personally understood God can reveal Himself to humankind through language, and can receive a corresponding reply from humankind, but He is not required to do so. If, in creation and revelation, the eternal God expresses Himself in the categories of time and history, this occurs out of freedom, mercy, and grace. Because of this emphasis upon God’s freedom, the Judeo-Christian understanding of God is heavily determined by the factor of God’s will. This means that while God is absolutely transcendent with respect to the world, in the history of this people He can be experienced as a force that opens up the future to which His revelation is directed. The foundation for this salvation history is the Covenant that God concludes with His people, as manifested in God’s Ten Commandments. God’s works down through the history of salvation do not annul His absolutely steadfast self-identity. On the contrary, God’s permanent transcendence is prerequisite to His future-directed action of salvation: it is only because God remains unwaveringly true to His promises for all eternity that the temporally situated person of faith can rely unconditionally upon these promises. Already in Judaism (Old Testament), fulfilment of salvation is linked to the anticipation of a Messiah. In contrast to the Jews, Christians believe that this Messiah has appeared in an historically specific shape, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (New Testament). In the annunciation of Jesus, the Jewish concept of the God of the Covenant is extended through an experience of God as a loving Father; in principle, this opens up the concept for dissemination beyond the Jewish people. In Jesus’ path through life, it is shown that the love that God the Father has for humankind accompanies us even to the depths of God-forsakenness and death (on the cross), even in situations that seem hopeless granting human beings a new beginning originating in the power of Divine life (mercy, forgiveness, resurrection). Through the annunciation and life of Jesus, love reveals itself unsurpassably as the most profound characteristic of God’s essence. Because of this, Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God, God become man (incarnation), in His Divine nature coessential with the Father. In the encounter between early Christianity and ancient Greek philosophy, the Christian concept of God – which in the biblical scriptures had articulated itself primarily in the form of parables and reports of experiences – was moved to speculative ideas. The content of the resulting Christian theology are of Judeo-biblical origins, while the concepts applied derive primarily from the tradition of Greek philosophy. The classical Christian doctrine of the Divine Trinity emerged from this synthesis of Judeo-Christian belief in God, on the one hand, and philosophical-Greek terminology on the other. The doctrine of the Trinity holds that before all time and creation, Christ pre-existed as divine Logos in unity with the Holy Spirit in God the Father. This expresses that the reality of the Christian God is a dynamic process of absolute love-life (inner Trinitarian generation) and absolute communication (Divine Word). Over the course of the history of thought, numerous metaphysical terms from philosophical theology were incorporated into the Christian understanding of God (e.g. absolute, necessary being; absolute intellect; absolute reality; first cause; infinity; coincidence of opposites). Although this created the conditions for the spread and better argument for the Christian belief in God, it also entailed a danger that the original, Christian experience of God be alienated by categories extraneous to it (the problem of the Hellenization of Christianity). The dimension of the Christian notion of God relating to personal revelation and the history of salvation, for instance, is difficult to conceptualise using the categories of Greek philosophy, as the latter either lacks the corresponding concepts or even judges these in a manner contrary to the genuinely Christian view. The abiding task for Christian theology, then, is to refine the notions incorporated from philosophy in such a way as to permit expression of the specificity of the Christian experience of God. The elements of the understanding of God as outlined thus far are common to all Christian churches and denominations. Differences exist, among other things, only with regard to the question of the possible ways of gaining knowledge of God. The Catholic doctrinal tradition adheres to the possibility of natural knowledge of the existence (and individual qualities) of God, i.e. knowledge obtained purely through philosophical reason and without reference to arguments proceeding from revelation. Some currents of Protestant theology, on the other hand, emphasise the inaccessibility of God to the epistemological powers of reason; there, God is considered knowable only if He discloses Himself through revelation (dialectical theology).

Martin Thurner

Historical-Critical Method (isl.)


(Arab. al‑Naqd al‑tarikhi, al‑Uslub al‑tarikhi al‑naqdi, Turk. Tarihsel-Eleştirel Yöntem)

The historical-critical method is a scholarly approach applied in order to investigate the original meaning of a text, its sources and historical context, and at the same time the intended message of its authors. In the scholarly tradition of Islam, this method has been applied to the religion’s fundamental source texts. Accordingly, e.g. the discipline of Qur’anic exegesis has developed methods with which to elaborate the semantic content that Qur’anic verses had when they were revealed. It enlists methods from historiography and linguistics to this end.

Information relating to the history and language of the Qur’an are available in the present – through records of Muhammad, of his contemporary adherents, and of the two succeeding generations that incorporated and evaluated this information. The records obtained through the companions of the Prophet are used to clarify whether the verses were sent down in Mecca or after the Hijra, in Medina; what the occasion of the revelation was; and the era to which the records are to be attributed. Semantic questions bearing upon words or sentences are also clarified against the backdrop of then-contemporary usage of the Arabic language. In this way, the attempt is made to ascertain what the verses originally were intended to say to their addressees. This is why the Islamic scholarly tradition was at pains to hand down texts by committing them to writing. The reliability of traditions has been meticulously investigated as well.

Historical-critical Bible research and exegesis began to develop in the West beginning in the 18th century. The consequence of development, from the second half of the 20th century, was to redirect the focus of contemporary Islamic thought back to the historical context of the Qur’an. According to this approach, the Qur’an was an intervention in life as it was lived on the Arabian Peninsula during the 7th century. Henceforth, then, a proper understanding of the Qur’an also required reflection on the historical context in which it came about. Investigations of the Qur’an undertaken on the basis of this research approach attributed particular importance to the social, religious, economic, and cultural circumstances of both the pre-Qur’anic era and the period of revelation. This method was applied by Amin al-Khuli (1895–1966), Ahmad Khalafallah (1916–1991), Aisha Abd al-Rahman (1913–1998), Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (1943–2010), and other scholars.

The endeavour of applying the historical-critical method is based on the view that traditional methods of interpretation could not produce solutions for contemporary situations. Fazlur Rahman (1919–1988), who also made use of this method, proposed the following approach to solve the problem: once the historical context of Qur’anic verses has been investigated, basic principles must be derived from the Qur’an. Based on these principles, then, solutions must be developed for contemporary problems such as equal rights for women and their ability to give testimony, monogamy, the definition of interest, and punishments.

Mehmet Paçacı

Historical-Critical Method (chr.)


(Turk. Tarihsel-Eleştirel Yöntem)

The historical-critical method is the literary and historical approach to exegesis of Holy Scripture that distinguishes between the original (historical) meaning of the biblical text and the search for meaning within its respective current context (thus: critical). Historical criticism is considered the fundamental approach to interpretation in Catholic and Protestant theology today. However, it is not to be mistaken for a historicist programme according to which only a scriptural text’s historical meaning can lay claim to theological validity.

Biblical scholarship in antiquity and the Middle Ages held that there were four types of meaning involved in scriptural interpretation: a) literal meaning (contextual, word-for-word interpretation: reason), b) typological or allegorical meaning (theological interpretation: faith), c) moral meaning (ethical interpretation: love), d) anagogical meaning (interpretation in light of the heavenly world to come: hope).

It was only in the modern era, when historical consciousness awakened, that the focus shifted to the question of controllable means of historical enquiry. The individual methods developed gradually, not infrequently in the face of resistance by church authorities and pious readers of the Bible: textual criticism identifies the reading that comes closest to the original manuscript. Literary criticism enquires as to the sources from which a text is composed (e.g. Luke from Mark, the Q source and the Synoptic Gospels), while tradition criticism inquires as to antecedent oral tradition (similar to the thematic and conceptual history). Form criticism investigates the textual type and its literary forms, and redaction criticism examines the guiding theological principle that an individual author was pursuing when drafting a particular text.

Much of the evolution in historical-critical exegesis has taken place within the framework of Protestant theology. It has roots in Catholic thinking as well, particularly with the French priest Richard Simon (1638–1712). It largely met with the disapproval of the magisterium, however. Its official arrival in the Catholic Church occurred only with the publication of the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu by Pope Pius XII (1939–1958). This exegetical approach was further established and theologically elaborated in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation – Dei Verbum (1965). With its widely respected document, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (1993), the Pontifical Biblical Commission methodologically and theologically positioned historical criticism within the framework of Christian textual interpretation.

The strength of the historical-critical method lies in its criteria-based exploration of biblical interlocutors. Because in the Christian understanding God reveals Himself in a human way and thus historically, this inquiry is indispensable. The historical perspective, on the other hand, brackets modern-day addressees of the Word of God. For this reason, the historical approach is increasingly supplemented with methods concentrating on textual structures, the reader, the process of reading and the history of a text’s reception. At the same time, from an interpretive-historical and theological point of view, the classical four meanings of a written text are gaining renewed interest.

Knut Backhaus

Human Rights (isl.)


(Arab. Huquq al‑Insan, Turk. İnsan Hakları)

Human rights describe those universal rights and demands of human beings that are deserving of protection and that accrue to the individual from nature. In Islam, because they are so closely related, the notions of ‘right’ and ‘obligation’ are often used together. As a result, every person shares in the responsibility for protecting the rights of his or her fellows. Reminded of his or her corresponding obligations, a person will remain aware of his or her own rights and of those of the others as well.

In Islamic culture, the modern term ‘human rights’ corresponds to the five fundamental values (al-darurat al-khamsa) addressed in the Qur’an. These are life, property, dignity, judgement, and religion; to protect these is seen as a necessity in Islam. These values have been mentioned in various declarations in regard to human rights in Islam.

The Qur’an emphasises the inviolability of life and prohibits the wrongful taking of a person’s life (2:178; 4:29; 5:33; 6:151; 17:33). Moreover, Muhammad prohibited vendetta and torture in any form (cf. Muslim). The right to property is also viewed as inviolable, and theft is subject to severe penalty (5:38). The wrongful appropriation of another’s possessions is a grave sin (2:188). In Islam, an individual’s status as person, his or her honour and respectability are expressed under the notion of ‘dignity’. To protect this, the Qur’an prohibited extramarital sexual intercourse and slander, ordering penalties for violations of these prohibitions (17:32; 24:4). Also prohibited are alcoholic drinks and drugs, as they are harmful to health and judgement; people must be free of impediment in the use of their faculties of thought and will.

Today, the severe penalties mandated in the Qur’an are subject to fresh interpretation within the framework of human rights. To ensure that justice will prevail, violations of the law are subject to penalty. The underlying thought here is that the type and form of punishment meted out must be oriented around the development of thinking about justice.

The verse ‘There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.’ (2:256) makes it clear that no pressure is to be applied in decisions of conscience, and that every individual may choose his or her faith as he or she sees fit. In addition to the five fundamental values referred to above, the Qur’an also emphasises the protection of privacy (24:27, 58). To ensure free and open communication, eavesdropping on private conversations is not permitted. To protect the individual’s moral rights, spying, gossip and the disclosure of confidential information are all prohibited as well (49:12). In his Farewell Sermon, Muhammad also declared that life, property and human dignity are inviolable.

And yet even today, all over the world there are Islamic and non-Islamic states and groups that fail to respect these human rights.

İsmail Hakkı Ünal

Human Rights (chr.)


(Turk. İnsan Hakları)

The term ‘human rights’ denotes fundamental rights accruing to the individual as such solely by virtue of his or her status as a human being. These rights are independent of membership in a particular ethnic group, social class, religion, ideology, political group; they are also independent of gender identification or sexual orientation. Human rights lay claim to universal validity, as they are held to apply even where they are not theoretically recognised in a particular legal system, or where, as a practical matter, they are ignored in reality. In terms of their contents, human rights can be divided up into three groups: liberal rights of freedom and defence (relationship between the individual and the state, protection of life and limb, privacy, property, freedom of religion and freedom of expression), rights of political participation (democracy) and rights of social participation (humane working conditions, social security, equality of educational opportunity, cultural and linguistic independence, clean environment). In today’s ethical-political discourse, the things we refer to expressly as human rights are not the content of any particular religion but rather an achievement of secular modern reason (1776: Virginia Bill of Rights; 1789: Déclaration des Droits de l’homme et du citoyen). The notion of human rights gained global significance only in 1948 with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights promulgated by the United Nations. This declaration justifies the universal claim to human rights on the basis of the dignity inherent in equal measure in all human beings. In keeping with the philosophy of the German Enlightenment (Immanuel Kant, 1724–1804), this dignity consists in the fact that every individual has the capacity for self-determination on the strength of the gift of reason. To preserve the unconditional nature of human rights, however, they must ultimately be anchored in the dimension of the absolute, and hence in that of the transcendent. The religions can provide just such an ultimate justification for human rights. Only after a long period of rejection and struggle, Christian theology discovered that human rights are not only consonant with many of the individual basic precepts of Christian ethics but that, in addition to this, they can also be considered as indispensable consequences of the Christian idea of humankind. From the point of view of Christianity, human rights emerge from the view that every individual person, by virtue of his or her creation, is a likeness of the living God (cf. Gen 1.26), and that it is only through God’s absolute love that his or her dignity is rendered inviolable. Because every religion can, in principle, provide a transcendent justification of human rights in its own way, human rights can be positively received and further developed by non-Christian cultures as well.

Martin Thurner

Islam (isl.)


(Arab. Islam, Turk. İslam)

At its core, Islam refers to the belief in the existence and oneness of God, as well as to devotion to Him. Islam is also the general name of the religion proclaimed by all of the prophets of God, both named and unnamed, in the Qur’an. Revelations sent down, from the days of Adam through Muhammad, may differ in terms of their form (sharia), but in terms of their essence they are all the same (5:48). Because the term ‘Islam’ in Arabic denotes self-submission to God, in the Qur’an Abraham is referred to as Muslim, meaning someone who has devoted himself entirely to God.

In the Qur’an and in the Sunnah, however, the term ‘Islam’ is also used as a descriptor for the religion proclaimed by Muhammad. In this sense, it is reported of Muhammad that he ‘is the first of those who submit to God (Muslims)’ (cf. 6:14; 39:12). Every person who sincerely devotes him- or herself to God is thus a Muslim. Alongside this understanding of Islam, however, both in the Qur’an itself and in the Sunnah, there is still another view, one according to which ‘Islam’ is the name of the historical religion as proclaimed by the prophet Muhammad (cf. Nasai). Under this view, one is only a Muslim if one confesses faith in the religion proclaimed by Muhammad.

Among the principal characteristics of historical Islam is that scholars reinterpret the main sources of the religion, the Qur’an and the Sunnah, in light of their respective age (ijtihad) and arrive at a consensus (ijma). The fundamental principle is the confession of faith that ‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God’. Elements of Islam also include belief in angels, Holy Scripture, prophets, the hereafter and the Final Judgement. Ritual prayer, fasting, obligatory alms-giving and pilgrimage are basic obligations or so-called ‘pillars’ of religious practice.

In Islam, in clear distinction to polytheism, God is One. He is unique, eternal and transcendent. The objective consists in gaining God’s favour (98:8). A person must remain aware that every activity has a religious connection. The individual must bow to no one but God. Noble and sacred values may not be instrumentalised for selfish ends.

Islam calls upon us to comply with the commandments and actions that bring us God’s favour while at the same time keeping us conscious of the fact that we will be called to account in the hereafter for every action taken and for every word spoken. There are many verses in the Qur’an in which faith and righteous deeds are mentioned together, and the significance of moral conduct as reflection of faith is emphasised (2:25, 82, 277; 4:57, 124). Muhammad considered morally impeccable behaviour to be a basic condition of being a Muslim (cf. Bukhari; Abu Dawud). Consequently, Islam is not a faith that persists in the realm of the theoretical; instead, it is reflected both in the conduct of one’s own life and in the larger society. Muhammad provided a living example of these principles. Islam aims to achieve individual happiness and well-being, urging that the individual maintain a peaceful, loving and harmonious relationship with him- or herself, with the Creator, and with the entire cosmos.

In terms of the history of Islam, the political, social and cultural developments that occurred after the death of Muhammad (632 CE) meant the emergence of different currents and lines of thought. When political disputes began during the reign of the third caliph, Uthman (644–656 CE), pitting the companions of Muhammad against one another, a discussion arose as to which of the hostile parties was in the right, and whether, in the hereafter, the fallen soldiers of one or the other side would be punished or rewarded. Ali, a cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet who had accepted the intervention of an arbitrator in the dispute with Muawiya, was abandoned by some of his followers, who accused him of a lack of faith and maintained he had given precedence to the judgement of an arbitrator over the judgement of God. Later on, this group, known as ‘Kharijites’, was of the view that people who committed grave sins had become unfaithful; the group exhibited a tendency towards intolerance. Opponents of this view held that it devolved to God to pass judgement upon those who had died during the civil war, and upon those who committed grave sins. They thus held the view that sins – regardless of their magnitude – caused no harm to the faith. This group was known as the ‘Murjites’.

Those, on the other hand, who unconditionally supported Ali (Shiites) were convinced that only Ali and his descendants were entitled to lead the Muslims; they based this belief on statements in the Qur’an and by the Prophet Muhammad.

Differences over whether actions emanated from the will of humankind or from Divine will led to the development of two persuasions: Qadariyya (Mutazilites) and Jabriyya. These currents were disapproved of by a majority – who were referred to as people of the Sunnah and of the community (Sunnis). While none of the earliest political or dogmatic currents – with the exception of the Shia and, to some extent, the Kharijites – has persisted down to the present, the Sunnis constitute the majority of Muslims to this day, despite internal differences in direction.

From a theological standpoint, most of today’s Sunni Muslims follow the Asharite or Maturidite school, and in terms of their practices of religious observance they follow the Hanafite, Malikite, Shafiite or Hanbalite school of religious law. Traces of the views of several groups that have otherwise ceased to exist can be found among the Sunnis as well, groups such as the Murjites, Jabriyya and Mutazilites. Murjite and Mutazilite views, for instance, can be found within the Maturidite school of theology and the Hanafite school of religious law. Views of the Jabriyya can be found within the Asharite school of theology and in the Shafiite and Hanbalite schools of religious law.

More than 90 percent of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims are Sunni, with most of the remaining Muslims belonging to the Shiites. There are other, smaller Islamic communities in addition to these; there is also a branch of the Kharijites, the Ibadites, and followers of other currents that have come into being in recent centuries.

Within the three monotheistic religions of revelation, the Muslims constitute the second-largest religious community, after the Christians. As in the past, today’s Muslims present themselves differently depending upon the culture and regions in which they live. In terms of the central tenets of the faith, however, and in terms of religious practice there is very broad consensus. Some Islamic groups and currents adhere to a stricter, more traditional view and practice of Islam, whereas others are more moderate. The universal claim of Islam to be the religion of all people is accompanied by the religion’s capacity to demonstrate flexibility in adapting to changes of time and place.

İsmail Hakkı Ünal

Islam (chr.)


(Turk. İslam)

Because Christians believe that God’s revelation to humankind culminated with and through Jesus Christ, they have had difficulties from the outset recognising Islam as a religion of revelation in its own right, and Muhammad as God’s Prophet and messenger. As a result, down through the history of Christianity, there have been numerous mistaken views about Islam, views that have placed a heavy strain on prospects for a positive relationship between the religions – or have even made such a relationship impossible. Time and again, the Christian side has lacked the necessary respect for the otherness of the other religion, which is also why some of the statements Christians have made about Islam have been grossly disparaging and intentionally polemical. In retrospect, it must be observed that, in dealing with Islam in this fashion, Christians have betrayed the essence of their own religion – which is the heralding of God as love, and the thought and action based on this – and have saddled themselves with guilt as a result. The elements of the Christian image of Islam assembled in what follows are thus to be viewed as historical misunderstandings for which Christians themselves are to blame, and that must be overcome in current dialogue: For centuries, Christians saw Islam as a heresy within Christianity, depicted Muhammad as a false prophet and questioned the credibility of the message he put forward, either by disqualifying Muhammad on moral grounds (e.g. as a womanizer or violator of pacts) or by pronouncing him ill (e.g. an epileptic). Even the first major theological combatant against Islam, St. John of Damascus (d. before 753 CE), a Melkite Christian occasionally in the service of the caliph, characterised Mamád – as he referred to Muhammad – as a false prophet who – he wrote – was passingly familiar with the Old and New Testaments, that he was in contact with the Arian monk Bahira, and that he then created his own heresy and spread a rumour of having received a book sent down to him from heaven. This laid out the main accusations against Islam for the centuries to come. During the Latin Middle Ages, these claims were embellished upon at times in grotesque fashion, e.g. when it was said in Europe that Muhammad had once been a cardinal in the Roman Church, but then, after not being chosen pope, had established a church of his own in his home country of Arabia. Even more abstruse was the notion that Muhammad was the god of the Muslims or one god among many in the pantheon worshiped by Muslims. Parallel to all these excesses, a recurrent effort was also under way to familiarise people with the Qur’an. The study of Arabic was promoted, and a fertile period of translation began. There were studies of Islamic philosophers and theologians (particularly Ibn Sina [Avicenna; d. 1037 CE], al-Ghazali [Algazel; d. 1111 CE] and Ibn Rushd [Averroes; d. 1198 CE]) and explorations of the Qur’an (e.g. Petrus Venerabilis [d. 1156 CE], Thomas Aquinas [d. 1274 CE], Nicolaus Cusanus [d. 1464 CE]) in order to bring discrepancies or heretical misinterpretations to light. During the Enlightenment, Muhammad and Islam often served as defamiliarised attacks upon Christianity: in a negative sense in Voltaire’s (d. 1778 CE) play Mahomet as an example of religious fanaticism, and in a positive sense in Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s (d. 1781 CE) play Nathan der Weise, in which the Islamic caliph Saladin is presented as a role model of tolerance in questions of religion. Beginning in the early 20th century, and at the direction of the Popes, Catholic theology began taking a positive approach to Islam, primarily on behalf of missionary interests and in search of possible points of departure for the Christian mission among Muslims. A complete reorientation in the relationship with other religions came during the 1960s, both within Protestantism and in the Catholic Church, through the turn towards dialogue with other religions. This marked the first time that Islam was officially perceived as a religion in its own right, and no longer as a mere Christian heresy. The implications of this for Christian theology were laid down in binding form for the Roman Catholic Church by the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). There are important proclamations on the subject within Protestantism as well, all necessitating a theological elaboration of the concept of interreligious dialogue, its tasks and aims; Christian theologians are currently working on these matters. Where the contemporary view of Islam in Europe is concerned, one factor that must be taken into account is that most of the positions laid out in public discussion do not stem from the Christian churches but are instead a manifestation of a secular view of religion and of the questions to which this view gives rise.

Peter Antes