Faith Seeking Understanding
There are two aspects, and thus two aims, of the dissertation. Primarily, the dissertation is an interpretation. It seeks to understand Louis Massignon's understanding of Islam as it developed across three stages of his life and work. Secondarily, the dissertation is methodological. It takes Massignon's experience as a test-case and attempts to show that, as a possibly relevant hypothesis, his understanding of Islam warrants further attention by contemporary theologians working on Catholic-Islamic dialogue, Catholic-Islamic comparative theology, and Catholic theologies of Islam. The dissertation consists of six chapters. The first is an introduction to the questions and the relevant secondary literature. In it I establish the work of Massignon, primarily a scholar of Islam, on the relationship of Islam to the Catholic Church as theological, that is, as faith seeking understanding, and as conversational, that is, as constitutive communication. In Chapter Two, I establish Massignon's Catholic beliefs and examine his early and fairly traditional position on the question of Islam's relationship to the Catholic Church. I focus primarily on his apologetic treatise, Examen du &ldquoPrésent de l'homme lettré&rdquo par Abdallah ibn al-Torjoman (1917), in which he presents the contrast between the Christian and Islamic apologetics in stark terms, arguing for the superiority of the Christian position at every turn. I argue that the Examen should be read less as a condemnation of Islam than as an articulation of Massignon's Catholic beliefs. In Chapter Three, I examine &ldquoL'hégire d'Ismaël,&rdquo the second of Les trois prières d'Abraham (1935), in which Massignon articulates what the secondary literature has called his five-point credo of Islam, namely, that the God of the Muslims is the same as the God of the Jews and Christians, the Qur'an is in some sense inspired and retains a conditional authority, Muhammad is sincere and can be understood as a negative prophet, Islam has a positive mission in the divine economy of salvation vis-à-vis the Church and Israel, and Arabic, the language of revelation in Islam, has a particular spiritual vocation. This represents the second stage of his life and work. In Chapter Four, after considering the possible (and likely) influence that Massignon's work exerted on the statements on Islam in Lumen Gentium and Nostra Aetate as proclaimed at the Second Vatican Council, I establish the bases for a nascent Massignonian Catholic theology of Islam, whereby the two religions enjoy a complementary relationship such that the Church knows and communicates explicitly what remains implicit in Islam, while Islam provokes the Church toward greater fidelity, charity, and hospitality. In Chapter Five, I turn to the third stage of Massignon's life and work in which he was increasingly concerned to establish practical means for encouraging Muslim-Catholic understanding. I focus on the Badaliya Annual Letters (1947-1962) in which he articulates the philosophy of the Badaliya prayer sodality that he co-founded for the purpose of interiorizing the rites of Islam and praying with and for Muslims. I focus on Massignon's understanding of substitute mysticism, which I argue is actually an expanded understanding of Redemption such that through participation in what Massignon calls the secret of history, and what Bernard Lonergan, S.J. would call the Law of the Cross, the saints of Christianity and Islam (and other religions) knowingly or unknowingly participate in the saving mission of Jesus Christ. At the conclusion to each main body chapter I suggest possible lessons that one might draw from Massignon's engagement with Islam at that particular stage, and in Chapter Six I summarize the findings and the limitations of the dissertation and suggest possible lines of further enquiry.