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RELI 3559 and RELS 8500: Muslim-Christian Polemics

Spring 2018
Time: Wednesday 3:30-6:00pm
Location: New Cabell Hall 364

Instructor: Ryan Schaffner

Office: Nau Hall 152
Office Hours: Mondays 1:00-3:00PM and by appointment

This course examines Muslim-Christian relations in the classical era, focusing on polemical
texts. We will examine Muslim and Christian attempts to explain and attack the beliefs and
practices of the other while defending their own beliefs and practices. We will read both primary
and secondary sources and gain a better sense of the milieu in which these debates and dialogues
were taking place. This is a seminar and you are expected to attend regularly, complete the
assigned material, and be prepared for each class. Every person in the class is responsible for
contributing to the discussion. The culmination of the course is a research paper that requires
careful research and thorough editing.

Readings: All readings will be provided in translation and will be available online, on reserve at
the Alderman Library, or on UVa Collab in PDF. Readings are listed in the syllabus, but there
might be times we diverge from the stated texts (I will give you sufficient warning if this is the
case). Also, while the whole text is often listed in the syllabus, much of the time I will want you
to only read or focus on specific selections. Graduate students will occasionally be assigned
additional readings and asked to provide brief synopses of them to the class.

Attendance – I expect you to be present in class. This is a seminar and your attendance is
important to ensure the success of the class. Please inform me (as soon as possible) of any
planned absences. In the event of an unplanned absence, please let me know as soon as possible
if something prevents/prevented you from coming to class.

Participation – In addition to attending, it is important that you come to class prepared. I expect
you to complete the required readings and come prepared to discuss them. While everyone will
be required to do the reading and engage in discussion each class session, graduate students will
each choose one class to provide guiding questions from the readings for that class session.
Questions for the week’s readings will be due the Monday before class. Students will also take a
more active role in facilitating discussion on the day for which they are providing questions.

Presentation – During the semester, you will be working on a research paper and will be
required to present your research to the class at the end of the semester. Details about the
presentation will be provided later in the semester.

Research Paper – You will be required to write a research paper that will be due by 11:59pm on
May 11th. There are deadlines throughout the semester for the different components of the paper
that will help you achieve the best possible outcome for your paper. Undergraduate students’
papers should be 15 pages and graduate students’ papers should be 20 pages.
Attendance: 20%
Participation: 30%
Presentation of research: 10%
Research Paper: 40%

Students with documented disabilities: Students with disabilities documented by the Learning
Needs Evaluation Center will be given reasonable accommodations to complete required
assignments. If you have a circumstance that may affect your performance, please see me as
soon as possible so that we can make the proper arrangements.

Academic Integrity: I trust every student in this course to comply fully with all the provisions
of the UVa honor system. Plagiarism is considered a violation of the honor code. Plagiarism
constitutes any attempt to take credit for work done by another person. All scholars must rely
upon the work of others to shape their own knowledge and interpretations. In your writing, you
must acknowledge the importance of other works through footnotes and/or direct textual
references to books, articles, and ideas. Failure to acknowledge the work of others, or
transposing sentences, words, and concepts into your own work without using quotation marks
or citations, may constitute plagiarism.

Class Schedule

January 17: Introductions, Syllabus, General Resources, paper format/style requirements

January 24: Setting the Stage

1. Tolerance and Coercion in Islam, Yohanan Friedmann, 1-12.
2. On the Uses of Argumentative Reason in Religious Polemics - M. Dascal, in
Religious Polemics in Context
3. The Noble Art of Self-Defence: Schleiermacher and Von Clausewitz on Theological
Polemics and the Theory of Warfare - T. L. Hettema, in Religious Polemics in
4. Dialogue with Other Faiths as an Aspect of Islamic Theology - D. Thomas, in
Religious Polemics in Context
5. Goddard, A History of Christian-Muslim Relations, 5-18.

January 31: The Qur’an as Polemical Text

1. M. Sirry - Scriptural Polemics: The Qur’ān and Other Religions, Ch. 2 (on UVa
Library Website)
2. Kate Zebiri, “Polemic and Polemical Language” in EQ
3. Jacques Waardenburg, “The Early Period: 610-650” in Muslim Perceptions of Other
4. Jane Dammen McAuliffe, “Christians in the Qur’ān and Tafsīr,” in Muslim
Perceptions of Other Religions.
5. Goddard, A History of Christian-Muslim Relations, 19-33

February 7: Early Christian Polemic

Due: Potential Paper Topic(s)
1. St. John of Damascus –
a. Sahas, Daniel. John of Damascus on Islam. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1972. Pp. 51-
b. CMR – “John of Damascus,” 295ff.
2. Monk of Bet Hale –
a. David G.K. Taylor, “The Disputation between a Muslim and a Monk of Bēt
Ḥālē: Syriac Text and Annotated English Translation,” in Christsein in der
islamischen Welt: Festschrift für Martin Tamcke zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. S.H.
Griffith and S. Grebenstein (Wiesbaden 2015), 187-242.
b. CMR – “Disputation between a Monk and an Arab Notable,” 268ff.
3. Leo and ʿUmar –
a. Gaudeul, Jean-Marie. "The Correspondence between Leo and ʿUmar."
Islamochristiana 10 (1984): 109-157.
b. Jeffery, Arthur. "Ghevond's Text of the Correspondence between ʿUmar II
and Leo III." The Harvard Theological Review 37, no. 4 (Oct. 1944): 269-332.
c. CMR – “Correspondence between ʿUmar II and Leo III,” 203ff.
4. Goddard, A History of Christian-Muslim Relations, 34-49

February 14: Early Christian Writings/Debates

1. Jacques Waardenburg, “The Medieval Period: 650-1500,” in Muslim Perceptions of
Other Religions.
2. Timothy and al-Mahdi –
a. Hackenburg, Clint. "An Arabic-to-English Translation of the Religious
Debate between the Nestorian Patriarch Timothy I and the ‘Abbāsid Caliph al-
Mahdī." M.A., Ohio State University, 2009.
b. CMR – “Timothy I,” 515ff.
3. Theodore Abū Qurrah –
a. Bertaina, David. "An Arabic Account of Theodore Abu Qurra in Debate at the
Court of Caliph Al-Maʾmun: A Study in Early Christian and Muslim Literary
Dialogues." Ph.D., The Catholic University of America, 2007.
b. CMR – “Theodore Abū Qurrah,” 439ff.

February 21: Early Muslim Polemic: Ibn al-Layth, al-Jāḥiẓ, and al-Ṭabārī
Due: Preliminary Prospectus
1. Ibn al-Layth, Risalah. (Selections) Translation by Clint Hackenburg.
2. CMR – “Ibn al-Layth,” 347ff.
3. Fletcher, Charles D. "Anti-Christian Polemic in Early Islam: A Translation and
Analysis of Abū 'Uthman 'Amr b. Bahr al-Jāḥiẓ's Risala: Radd 'alā al-Naṣārā (A
Reply to the Christians)." M.A., McGill University, 2002.
4. CMR, “al-Jāḥiẓ,” 706ff.
5. ʿAlī al-Ṭabarī’s Radd, (Selections)
6. CMR – “ʿAlī al-Ṭabarī,” 669ff.
7. Goddard, A History of Christian-Muslim Relations, 50-78.

February 28: Early Muslim Polemic: al-Qāsim b. Ibrahīm

1. Al-Qāsim b. Ibrāhīm, al-Radd ʿalā al-Naṣārā (Selections).
2. CMR – “al-Qāsim b. Ibrāhīm,” 540ff.

March 7: Spring Break!

March 14: Later Muslim Polemic Against Christianity

Ibn Ḥazm
1. Pulcini’s Dissertation – (Selections)
2. Haider Aasī’s Dissertation (Selections)
3. CMR3 – “Ibn Ḥazm,” 137ff.
Ibn Taymiyyah
1. Grigoryan’s Dissertation – (Selections)
2. CMR3 – “Ibn Taymiyyah,” 824ff.
Goddard, A History of Christian-Muslim Relations, 79-108.

March 21: The Bible in Muslim Polemic

1. Hirschfeld, Hartwig. "Mohammaden Criticism of the Bible." Jewish Quarterly
Review 13 (1901): 222-240.
2. Accad, Martin. "Corruption and/or Misinterpretation of the Bible." In Christian
Presence and Witness Among Muslims, edited by Martin Accad. Neufeld Verlag
Schwarzenfeld: Occasional Publication, 2005.
3. Ananikian, M. H. "Tahrif or the Alteration of the Bible according to the Moslems,
Abbreviated and Translated from the Bessarione, xxvi, 1922." The Muslim World 14,
no. 1 (1924): 61-84.
4. Thomas, David. “The Bible in early Muslim Anti-Christian Polemic.” In, Islam and
Christian Muslim Relations 7:1, 29-38 (1996).
5. Lazarus-Yafeh, Intertwined Worlds (19-49)

March 28: Jesus in Muslim Polemic

Due: Final Prospectus and Annotated Bibliography
1. Ayoub, Mahmud Mustafa. "Jesus the Son of God: A Study of the Terms Ibn and
Walad in the Qur’an and Tafsīr Tradition." In Christian-Muslim Encounters, edited
by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and Wadi Z. Haddad, 65-81. Gainesville: University of
Florida Press, 1995.
2. Thomas, David. “The Miracles of Jesus in Early Islamic Polemic.” Journal of Semitic
Studies 39:2 (Autumn 1994), 221-243.
3. Selections from primary works

April 4: No Class – work on your papers

April 11: TBD

April 18: Current Muslim-Christian Polemics

Due: Optional First Draft
1. Modern debate between Muslim and Christian on Youtube

April 25: Presentations of Research

Final – May 8 (2-5pm): Presentations of Research

Final paper emailed (PDF please) to me by 11:59pm on Friday, May 11