From the Perspective of Thomas Aquinas
Dr. Frederic Ntedika Mvumbi
It is true that Jesus occupies a privileged place in Muslim piety and he is regarded with great esteem in the entire umma but the Qur'an and a few Qur’anic texts say more than what is carried out by many Muslim devotees. Qur’anic Christological assertions are not at all frivolous; but they should be understood according to the context and the historical background of the whole message. This involves a crucial distinction between the poetical language of the Qur'an and the theological interpretation. For instance, the emphasis on the name "Son of Mary" and the rejection of the title "Son of God" illustrate, on one hand, Muhammad's strong opposition against Arabian Traditional religions since their gods had children. On the other hand, the Qur'an asserts that Jesus is no more than a man; he is a mere creature. All powerful and privileged titles given to Jesus of the Qur'an, no matter how exalted they sound to a novice in Qur'anic studies or to Muslims themselves, emphasize his humanity and reject his divinity. There is Allah on one side and all creatures on the other. Since Jesus is not Allah, he is a creature. This is true even though he was born without a father, called the Word of God and his Spirit, and even when it is clearly seen that he performed miracles that no one else has ever done.
In light of this, Qur'anic Christology is not entirely false from a Christian perspective, but is merely incomplete. A more complete view might come with the help of various Qur'anic commentaries or from some Christian theological works like the Summa Theologiae. However, the study of the originality of Islam confirms this idea of incompleteness of Qur'anic Christology in two solid arguments. First, Theodor Nöldeke has proved that the word Masîh was borrowed from the Arabian Christians. So as a loanword, its full meaning or what Christians know about, escaped the mind of Muhammad. Muhammad borrowed the concept but not the meaning.
Secondly, it is quite amazing that the word Masîh, as great as it is in Christianity, does not appear in the Meccan suras but only in the Medinan. This is probably because Muhammad did not hear of that name at Mecca until he encountered Christians in Medina. From then on, Muhammad began to search for its meaning and at the same time counteract the connotations that it had.
Thus, I observe that Qur'anic Christology, though incomplete, is a Christology that should be respected because it directs millions of people that are hoping to be saved and find eternal happiness. Nevertheless, in order to find its fulfillment, it needs an encounter not only with the Christian concept of Masîh but also with the full meaning that Christianity, from which the word originated, gives to it and testifies to over all the centuries. This kind of study could help people involved in Christian-Muslin Dialogue. Hence, in the course of our inquiry, we examined and highlighted some Christological issues in the Qur'an from the perspective of the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas. We purposely used a Christian theological text of good prestige to understand the Christology of the sacred Book of Islam, because we intended to build a theological work, which would be useful for interreligious doctrinal dialogue, especially between Christian and Muslims. Many scholars, particularly those who are familiar with religion, have shown that the security of this world and the avoidance of conflicts do not exclusively depend on politics, economics and technology, but also on religion. Wherefore, there is a great and urgent need not only for more attention to interreligious dialogue but also to the materials and the language that should be used.
We are aware of many obstacles that prevent such a dialogue from succeeding and producing more fruit in Christian-Muslim relations, but we concentrated on one such obstacle. That is lack of a theological and metaphysical language that can be used to explain religious truths. This deserved more attention because it is peculiar to theology. There are, indeed, some religious realities that can be expl
ained only with metaphysical language; otherwise they might lead to misunderstanding, conflict and war.
In the end we discovered that, in spite of their deficiencies, Qur'anic Christology remains the basis of any further Islamic Christology and the Christology of the Summa continues to inspire modern Christologies. We hope that this work will be a solid and useful theological work that not only will be of service to doctrinal interreligious dialogue between Christians and Muslims but also will help to lessen misunderstandings and conflicts. This world (our world), this Africa (our continent), this country (our nation), needs peace, peace that is rooted, grounded and founded on a solid infrastructure.