Human Rights and the Search for Common Ground: A Comparative Study of Islamic and Christian Thought

By Prud'homme, Joseph | Human Rights & Human Welfare, Annual 2011 | Go to article overview

Human Rights and the Search for Common Ground: A Comparative Study of Islamic and Christian Thought


Prud'homme, Joseph, Human Rights & Human Welfare


Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and Religious Pluralism. By Paul Heck. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. 2009.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

A vitally important question confronting contemporary society is the degree to which the religions of Islam and Christianity share common ground. Discerning the degree of commonality between these faiths has tremendous importance, since if overlapping theological convictions exist on sufficiently important questions, so might the basis for a deeper and more fruitful coexistence between the two faiths. Such an outcome would be especially welcome in an era of increasing religious diversity and enduring tensions among adherents of both traditions. In addressing the issue of religious pluralism and the promise of common ground, it is essential to explore the status of human rights. A central question for scholars is whether Islamic theology either explicitly or implicitly affirms the importance of human rights. Are there elements in Islamic thought that can be interpreted as supplying support for human rights? Conversely, do aspects of the Islamic tradition militate against the affirmation of rights? At the same time, are there elements in the Christian tradition that can readily be construed to support human rights, elements not present or less emphasized in Islamic thought?

A tremendous resource for exploring these questions is Paul Heck's recent work Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and Religious Pluralism. Common Ground is a superb piece of theological analysis. Heck deploys his impressive mastery of the history and current trends within Christian and Islamic theology to re-think the promise of religious pluralism and the prospects for a fuller understanding of religious tolerance. His central thesis is that Islam and Christianity hold much deeper commonalities than often are recognized. With its vast erudition and sophisticated treatment of primary source material, the work is a must-read for serious students of comparative theology today.

In this essay I first discuss briefly Heck's assertions concerning the existence of significant common ground between Islam and Christianity and his thoughts on the status of human rights in Islamic thought. I then argue that the common ground detected by Heck is especially that between Catholicism and Islam, and that those commonalities are less substantial when Islam is viewed in contrast to influential elements in the Protestant tradition. In doing so I define several key points where Islamic thought in all its major forms diverges more widely from Protestant than from Catholic thought. I conclude the piece with reflections on the significance of these divergences for our understanding of the status of human rights in Islamic thought. I do so by situating this discussion in the context of recent defenses of human rights set forth in the field of political philosophy.

Human Rights and Theological Common Ground

Heck asserts that Islam and Christianity share common ground to a larger extent than usually recognized. At times, however, the claims to common ground developed by Heck can strike the reader as underwhelming. The common ground, he relates at one point, is simply that believers are rational: "In the end what can be said is that for Muslims and for Christians, piety is not irrational" (72). Thus Heck affirms that "believers are rational in the way they comprehend and articulate beliefs. Therein lies the common ground" (223). What is more, believers are frequently called, he asserts, actually to engage rationally their own religious convictions: the rationality of their piety is not present simply in latent form. A person could in principle be capable of reasoning about one's beliefs and could see one's views as amenable to rational proof, without actually having to engage for oneself those reasons in any meaningful sense. One can suspect that many devout believers have precisely such a view of their faith: they have, in other words, confidence that someone else can provide the rational foundation for the faith they hold as true. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Human Rights and the Search for Common Ground: A Comparative Study of Islamic and Christian Thought
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.