Islamic supercessionism

Turkish Supersessionism at MorGabriel

Posted by dianamuir on November 09, 2012
Ethnic cleansing, Islamic supercessionism, Turkey / Comments Off on Turkish Supersessionism at MorGabriel

A small Syriac population survived the genocide of Christians in 1915 near the ancient (397 CE) monastery of Mor Gabriel.      Under the liberal policies announced by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) in 2002, others returned from the diaspora and began ot rebuild.

Turkey appears to find the presence of this small minority intolerable.  The disposession of the indigenous Syriac Christians goes forward mostly by law suit.

Muslims who wish to expel Syriacs form the monastery claim that it was built on top of a mosque.   There is no evidence for this claim and the mosque would have to have been built centuries before the birth of Muhammad to predate a monastery that dates from the year 397.

Paul Knitter on Supersessionism in Islam and Christianity

Posted by dianamuir on October 12, 2012
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Paul F. Knitter, the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in  New York explains Islamic supersessionism:

“Now I am not a Muslim theologian or expert, so I stand ready to be corrected, but I believe that a case can be made that Islam has made the very same supersessionist move as has Christianity.

“Certainly, Islam recognizes and lifts high the value of the prophets of Israel and of the prophet Jesus. Islam also asserts that the truths that God has revealed through these prophets were either incomplete or have been corrupted or lost in the history of Judaism and Christianity—and that the revelation give to Muhammad and contained in the holy Qur’an is meant to be the fulfillment of what went before…

“The ideal, which Muslims believe is God’s ideal, is that Christians and Jews would find the fullness and the finality of God’s revelation by embracing, and so being fulfilled by, Islam.

“And so we have the essence of what I am calling sibling rivalry contained in claims to supersede, to replace: first Christians claiming to supersede Israel, then Muslims claiming to supersede both Christians and Jews…

“Theological supersessionism + political-economic rivalry = conflict…

“If we believe that it is God’s preferred religion whose existence is being jeopardized, then we must use every means possible to defend it. Everything and anything can be deployed to defend God’s truth. And in the case of both of our religions, which both have theories of just war or just jihad, religious fervor has become military fervor. When military armies or liberation fighters believe they are fighting in God’s name and defending God’s truth and God’s religion, they will be not only braver; they can also be more brutal. Supersessionist beliefs do not necessarily lead to violence. But they can so easily be used to justify and to intensify violence.

“I sincerely believe that today, for any religion to make such supersessionist claims—to believe that it is meant to be the final religion intended by God to replace all other religions—this is to expose religion to the danger of being used as an instrument of tension and conflict rather than of peace and cooperation. President Obama seemed to agree when in his Cairo address he stated: “Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it.”

Knitter, P. F. (2009), Islam and Christianity Sibling Rivalries and Sibling Possibilities. CrossCurrents, 59: 554–570. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-3881.2009.00099.x


The Quranic Accusation that Jews and Christians Falsified Scripture

Posted by dianamuir on October 12, 2012
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In his 2010 article, On the Qur’anic Accusation of Scriptural Falsification (tahrîf) and Christian Anti-Jewish Polemic, Gabriel Said Reynolds explains the Quranic accusation of Falsification (tahrîf).

Reynolds sees ” four different layers of meaning”   associated with the Arabic
word tahrlf.

First,  “scriptural falsification” to encompass all implications of tahrîf

Second,  “textual alteration” to “describe the common accusation of medieval (and modern)
Islamic literature that the Jews and Christians really erased (or destroyed) some or all of the
true scripture and rewrote it (tahrlf al-nass).”

Third,  “misinterpretation”, the “accusation that the Jews and Christians do not properly understand their own scripture (tahrlf al-ma^ânl).”

Fourth,  “they shift words out of their contexts” to “translate as literally as possible the Qur’anic phrase (related to tahrlf) yuharrifuna l-kalima ‘an mawädi’ihi ”

If you are new to this topic, take a moment to consider the serious nature of this indictment.    The charge is that God had to give his truth to humans three times, first to the Jews who deliberately falsified it, then to the Christians who falsified it, then to Muhammad who preserved it faithfully.    Jews and Christians are accused of having deliberately erased, destroyed and replaced scripture with falsehood.

That’s quite an accusation.    Christians and Jews falsified the world of God.   Deliberately.

And they continue to deny it.  Even when the Quran, the accurate word of God is set before them.

This  Muslim accusation obviously echoes the Christian accusation that Jews misinterpret the Bible.   Paul writes (Corinthians II  3:14) , “But their minds were closed. Until this very day, the same veil remains over the reading of the Old Testament: it is not lifted,for only in Christ is it done away with.”    Jews failed to discover the references to Jesus that Christians perceived in the text of the Hebrew Bible.  The Quran is harshly critical of Jews, accusing them of everything from slandering Mary to boasting that they killed Jesus.

“The Qur’an insists that God has cursed the Israelites (Q 5:13), a people who have not only falsified scripture
but who have also broken their covenant (Q 4:155) and killed the prophets (Q 3:181; 4:155); they are a people whose hearts are uncircumcised (Q 2:88; 4:155), who have slandered Mary (Q 4:156), and who boast of having killed Jesus (Q 4:157). God has made their hearts hard (Q 5:13) and sealed their hearts with their unbelief (Q 4:155), and the unbelievers among them were cursed by the tongue of David and Jesus (Q 5:78).”

Reynolds argues that the Quran’s attack on the Jews is a result of Islam’s roots in Syriac Christianity, a Church with a particularly strong devotion to reading the Old Testament as a Christological document, and therefore, with a particular animus against Jewish failure to understand the Hebrew Bible as an intricately coded reflection of the life of Jesus.


On the Qur’anic Accusation of Scriptural Falsification (tahrîf) and Christian Anti-Jewish Polemic, Gabriel Said Reynolds, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 130 (2010)



Islamic Supersessionism – Parsing the Qur’an

Posted by dianamuir on August 10, 2012
Islamic supercessionism / Comments Off on Islamic Supersessionism – Parsing the Qur’an

Supercessionism, also know as replacement theology, refers to the foundational Muslim idea that Islam and the Qur’an come not to add to the older Abrahamic religions, but to replace them.

Angelika Neuwirth illuminates the core of Islamic replacement theology in her study of Sura 112:   “Say: He is God, one / God the absolute / He did not beget, nor is He begotten / and there is none like Him”.[1]

“Say: He is God, one”.   This is the Quran’s replacement for the  central Jewish prayer, Shema Yisrael, “Hear oh Israel, the Lord, our God, is One”.   The Shema “remains audible” in the Sura because of the choice of the word ahad  (one) although it is more awkward in Arabic than its synonym, wahid.    The word choice underlines the replacement of Judaism by Islam.

Sura 112 also replaces the Nicean Creed of 335CE, one of  the foundational documents of the church, which itself responds to the Shema by replacing   words, “Hear oh Israel, the Lord, our God, is One”,   with, “We believe in one God…”

Surah 112, “God the absolute”, replaces the Nicean, “the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”

The Nicean Creed continues, “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very Gods, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

The sura denies this directly, “He did not beget, nor is He begotten,”  and concludes,  “and there is none like Him.”

The response to Jewish and Christian ideas in this sura is direct and absolute.  The consequences of supercessionism have been complex and important.


More on this to come.


[1] Newwirth, Angelika, “The Quran and the Bible”,  The New Cambridge History of the Bible form 600 to 1450, Cambridge Universtiy Press, 2012.

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