Some of the recent activities of Vidyajyoti Center for Christian Muslim Relations. In the first week of February 2018, we had a scholar visitor Dr. Adis Duderija (https://www.griffith.edu.au/humanities-languages/school-humanities-languages-social-science/staff/adis-duderija) from the Griffiths University, Australlia. He presented the Victor Courtois Memorial 2nd Lecture on “Islam and Gender: Gender Egalitarian Interpretations of Islam” at Indian Social Institute on 3 February 2018. Fr. Victor Courtois was a pioneer in Christian-Muslim Relations in India. Indian Social Institute and Vidyajyoti Center for Christian-Muslim Relations felt honored to organize a Lecture in Courtois’ honor by an international expert in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations.
The main aim of this lecture was to identify and outline a number of interpretational mechanisms which can be employed in developing what Dr. Duderija calls gender egalitarian interpretations of the Qur’an and Sunna. Dr.Duderija started by outlining a brief definition of the concept of gender egalitarian interpretations of the Qur’an and Sunna. He then move on to briefly discuss gender cosmologies in classical Islam and the presuppositions on which they rest, including from the perspective of mainstream methodologies of interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunna. In the main part of the lecture he discussed interpretational principles which are supportive of gender egalitarian interpretations of Islam including : interpreter-centered interpretational approach which emphasizes the role of the interpreter in arriving at meaning of texts; interpretational recognition of what Dr.Duderija terms the intrinsic contextuality of the ethico-legal elements in the Qur’an and the sunna/hadith that makes an interpretational distinction between what the Qur’an and Sunna reflected as opposed to what they initiated; interpretational distinction between meaning and its significance; a thematico-holistic approach to textual sources based on the principle of inductive-corroboration; a non-salafi based Weltanschauung that is not restricted by the interpretational and ethical confines within with classical and neo-classical Islamic law and ethics operate ; a purpose-based and rationalist interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunna that interpretationally privileges the spirit or the moral trajectories of the normative texts over their literal meaning; a non hadith- dependent Sunna interpretational approach according to which the concept of Sunna is independent of the concept of sound hadith and is a broad , dynamic, ethico-behaviour and rational concept. The lecture was an eye opener to many as the lecture helped to identify the egalitarian interpretations of the main sources of Islam: the Quran and the Sunna.
While preparing for the VC Memorial Lecture it was decided that some of our colleagues in the field of dialogue could be contacted to explore possibilities of Dr. Duderija presenting lectures in some of the Delhi based institutions. The Indilogue Foundation (http://indialogue.in/) invited Dr. Duderija to present a lecture on the “Approaches to interfaith dialogue in Islam”. In his lecture on “Approaches to interfaith dialogue in Islam” Dr. Duderija highlighted the importance of religious and socio-political context in understanding the history and the debates pertaining to the nature of interfaith dialogue in Islam. The lecture started with Dr. Duderija outlining some of the factors that need to be taken into account when attempting to understand how the Qur’an and early Muslim community approached the idea of religious difference and more specifically the question of the relationship between the religious self and the religious other. In this context Dr. Duderija argued that interfaith dialogue in Islam is as old as Islam itself as Islam emerged and was forged in the context of a number of existing religious traditions. He continued by extending this analysis in both premodern and modern contexts and examined the issue of how influential Muslim scholars have approached the issue of Salvation of non-Muslims as example of one important debate informing the nature of interfaith dialogue in Islam. He made reference to how a number of influential Muslim scholars, both pre-modern and modern, have approached the question of Salvation of non-Muslims. In the premodern context Dr.Duderija noted a predominant but not the only tendency among Muslim scholars to not to extend Salvation to non-Muslims. In the final section of the lecture Dr. Duderija made reference to a number of contemporary progressive Muslim scholars who are strong proponents of religious pluralism and critics of religious exclusivism.
Along with some friends at JNU a lecture was organized at the School of International Studies where Dr. Duderija examined the historical genealogy, meanings and function of the concept of Salafīsm in the Islamic tradition and highlighted the intra-Muslim sectarian origins of the concept and hence its contentedness with the various intra-Sunni divisions. Dr.Duderija argued that the imperative of the preservation cultural memory of early Muslims and imitation of their beliefs, practices and values as symbols of true piety and virtue is a persistent and pervasive element of the very concept of the Islamic tradition (turāth) that has in the Sunni community been given expression in the concept of Salafīsm or following in the footsteps of the as-salaf aṣ-ṣaliḥ. It is also a crucial constituent of the idea of belonging to a salvific tradition of divine truth by subscribing to a regressive view of epistemology, history and time as embedded in the broader concept of the sacred past. Dr.Duderija argued that the concept of Salafīsm as it developed in Sunni Islam should be seen through this lens. However, given the numerous and traumatic schisms that emerged in the nascent Muslim community the concept of Salafīsm is also reflective of competing constructing and articulations of history, community, and authority among various Muslim groups.
Dr Adis also presented a lecture at Jamia Nazamudin Aulia the methodologies in Interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunna. This lecture was similar to the one that he presented at the Indian Social Institute.
I am grateful to Fr. Denzil Fernandes SJ, the director of Indian Social Institute, Mr. Behzad Fatmi (Indialogue Foundation) Janab Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi (Jamia Nizamuddin Aulia), Mr Saad Ahmad (JNU) for their encouragement and every help that they render to us at Vidyajyoti to organize these lectures. I express my gratitude to Fr. Thomas V Kunnunkal SJ, the president of Islamic Studies Association for his guidance and support. I am grateful to Father Tony Kurmann SJ for his encouragement and support.
Dr. Victor Edwin SJ