Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam: An Historical Overview
Robert M. Haddad, Greek Orthodox Theological Review 31, n. 1-2, Brookline Massachusetts 1986, p. 17- 32
...there is none like [Constantinople] in the world except Baghdad, the great city of Islam . (Benjamin of Tudela, late twelfth century) (1).
...there are two lordships, that of the Saracens and that of the Romans, which stand above all lordship on earth, and shine out like the two mighty beacons in the firmament. They ought, for this very reason alone, to be in contact and brotherhood and not, because we differ in our lives and habits and religion, remain alien in all ways to each other, and deprive themselves of correspondence ... (2).
These words, written over a millennium ago by Nicholas I Mystikos, Patriarch of Constantinople, to the Caliph al- Muktafi (902-908), could serve as keynote to this symposium. I would, however, supplement the patriarch's call with the words of an Orthodox son of Antioch, authored but a few years ago:
Byzantium and Islam in the eighth and ninth centuries (and even beyond) seem almost to present the aspect of a single society whose two major segments, despite their overt mutual hostility, display prominent signs of cultural unity and often confront the discerning observer with a parallel religio -political evolution in which similar questions are posed and strikingly similar answers given (3).
In pursuing selectively the theme of mutuality of questions posed and answers given, it would be appropriate to begin with what is for each tradition the central event: God's supreme revelation to man. I need hardly remind the company here gathered that the true Islamic analogue to Christ is not Muhammad but the Qur'an, the divine word revealed by God to the Arabian Prophet. Muhammad's role then is similar to that assigned by Christianity to the Virgin, the human agency through which the divine word was conveyed to man. The distance separating the personal logos of Christianity from the impersonal logos of Islam has appeared to virtually all Christians and Muslims unbridgeable. Yet even in this divergence we do not fail to detect convergence. For the word as person or as book raised a question of critical import: is this logos created or uncreated? And those in the Christian and Muslim mainstreams produced, though not without intense internal strife, precisely the same resounding reply: the logos-the arguments of Arians and Mu'tazila notwithstanding- is uncreated, existing from all eternity with God.
Then too the Christian concept of revelation as divinity incarnate and the Islamic concept of revelation as eternal decree carried a similar mandate for society: nothing less than the transformation of the profane into the sacred-and this, in the Christian East, with few of the pessimistic reservations voiced by Augustine and subsequently pervasive, if not dominant, in Latin Christianity. In the East, man had not fallen with a thud. Just as the incarnation, the descent of divinity into flesh-into the material order he had created-makes possible the sanctification of the whole material order, including those merely of flesh, so the shari'a , the divine law of Islam, elaborated largely on the basis of the Qur'an and the utterances of the Prophet, makes it possible to charge all human action with sacred significance, to transform life into a sacred ceremony. The logos of Islam, like the logos of Christianity, makes possible man's sanctification, that transformation known to Orthodox Christians as theosis .
Despite radically different historical beginnings, Orthodox Christianity and Islam (again in contrast to Latin Christendom) developed remarkably similar attitudes toward temporal authority, itself deemed susceptible to the sanctifying process made possible by the logos. True it was that the Christian Church existed for over three hundred years under a non-Christian and generally unsympathetic political authority, during which time she developed her own organization, her own modes of internal governance and not a little of her fundamental doctrinal equipment. When, in the late fourth century, the Church officially captured the State (or, some might argue, was captured by the State), two highly developed structures were joined: the Roman state with its law, administration and political universalism to the Christian Church with her distinctive institutional arrangements and her religious universalism. To maintain that State and Church became one would be errant nonsense. Still, they were joined, particularly in the person of the emperor (one God, therefore one emperor, one empire, one Church) and the line of demarcation between them, between authority temporal and spiritual, while never erased, certainly blurred. That State and Church tended to shade, one into the other, did not simply represent conformity to pre-Christian practice and theory but, also, the Christian conviction that the incarnation dictated the baptism, the sacralization of all society-institutions as well as individuals. (For many, though not all, the incarnation dictated too the sacralization of profane knowledge, and to this central endeavor we shall return.) In contrast to Christianity, Islam endured but the briefest period without political power. It is surely significant that the Muslim calendar commences not with the onset of the Qur'anic revelation in the year 610 A .D. but with the emigration of the Prophet from hostile Mecca to welcoming Medina in 622, to Medina where Muhammad, as religious and political leader, governed the nascent Muslim community as a religio -political entity. Many Muslims since have regarded as normative the unity of the temporal and spiritual spheres. But the notion, still current, that the Islamic community subsequently saw no de facto distinction between temporal and spiritual authority cannot withstand careful scrutiny. Within one hundred years of the Prophet's death in 632, Arab Muslim, not unmixed with Arab Christian, arms had won an empire extending from the Pyrenees in the West to and beyond the gates of India and China in the East. This explosive expansion gave rise to a development of the temporal authority that was inevitably more rapid than the emergence of the theocratic institutions implied by the Qur'an and the Prophet's community at Medina . The shari'a , the divine law, that would be one of the Muslim's salient means of sacralizing his and his community's life, was not to emerge fully until the mid-ninth century. The more or less complete articulation of dogmatic theology, not to mention mysticism, came still later. Meanwhile the Sunni caliphs, the successors to the Apostle of God, had to govern and so they did, but hardly on the basis of finely wrought theocratic institutions. Not surprisingly, in Islam as in Byzantium, the historical reality could but dimly reflect the pious norm which was itself, in part, spun out of an idealized view of selected historical facts.
The different evolutions of early Christianity and Islam notwithstanding, emperor and caliph enjoyed similar authority with regard to the military, the administration and even religious patronage- which is to say the appointment of bishops and qadls . They also tended, not unnaturally, to view religious unity as a corollary to political unity, and this led them beyond their generally acknowledged mission to preserve the integrity of doctrine into the attempt to define doctrine. But almost from the time that Constantine yielded to the flaming vision of the Cross and, more than three hundred years later, when the caliphate was born, there existed in Christianity and Islam a tradition of opposition to "imperial" attempts to control doctrinal definition. One has but to read Eusebios ' "Oration on the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Emperor Constantine's Succession" or Abu Yusuf's epistle to the Caliph Harun al-Rashid (786-809) to sense the only half-buried doubts of the man of religion in contemplating the awesome power of his sovereign-absolute in the temporal realm but possessing also an inexactly defined religious authority. Basically, Eusebios and Abu Yusuf, in rhetoric similar and similarly charged with anxiety, aim at persuading Constantine and Harun of their duties as Christian and Muslim ruler respectively. This although Eusebios, in using such phrases as "For he who would bear the title of sovereign ..." and "This is a sovereign who ...," (4) tends to be more circumspect than Abu Yusuf with his characteristic "Do not ... " (5). But then Abu Yusuf, unlike Eusebios, had been requested by his ruler to provide a "mirror for princes." (6). One wonders too whether the absence of any clearly defined and regularly upheld law of succession in Byzantium and Sunni Islam reflected not merely pagan Roman precedent but the religious idealization of the imperial dignity: the ruler's piety should loom larger than his paternity.
The critical episodes that determined, once and for all, the Orthodox Christian and Sunni Muslim rulers' authority in definition of doctrine were the Iconoclastic and Mu'tazill controversies. Certain emperors, in sponsoring Iconoclasm in the eighth and ninth centuries, and three caliphs of the second quarter of the ninth century, in pronouncing Mu'tazill doctrine normative, clearly sought to establish the ruler's right to define doctrine on behalf of his community. Both controversies also shared an important doctrinal concern: I mean the legitimacy of an anthropomorphic depiction of divinity. The divinity of Jesus, held the iconoclast, could not be represented in the sheer anthropomorphism of the icon. The divinity of God, asserted the Mu'tazila, could not be represented by a literal rendering of the verbal anthropomorphisms of the Qur'an . The resolution of these decisive struggles occurred at roughly the same time-in the 840s. And in roundly rejecting the maximalist religious claims of emperor and caliph, Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam established the principle that the earthly arbiter of doctrine and practice can be nothing other than the consensus of believers, a consensus pronounced by those whom the believers acknowledge as their leaders, pronounced also and more subtly by time-sanctified practice and belief. In adherence to the principle that religious authority derives from the consensus of the confessing community, Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam continue to stand as one (7). Nor am I convinced that the de facto situation differs greatly in Shi'i Islam despite the special intercessory position accorded the imams descended from the House of the Prophet.
Despite the Church's assertion of her independence of state dictation in matters as basic as definition of doctrine, the emperor continued to bear the title " Pontifex Maximus " (Supreme Magistrate), the same pre-Christian imperial title that would come to be arrogated by the popes in wake of the empire's collapse in the West and the ensuing political fragmentation in the sphere of Latin Christendom. The post-Iconoclastic emperors lost nothing of their theoretic authority over the army, administration or even over religious patronage. The wearer of the purple yet remained the icon of Christ on earth just as the considerably humbled post- Mu'tazila caliph continued to reign as the shadow of God on earth. And both rulers would rationalize the gradual erosion of their effective political authority in much the same way. As the image of Christ on earth who should have enjoyed, but even within Orthodox Christian territory did not enjoy, universal political sway, the emperor (or the imperial spokesmen) advanced the theory of a "family of princes," all of them subject ultimately to the basileus in Constantinople and deriving from him what legitimacy was theirs (8). It would appear that the eleventh-century Muslim thinker and apologist for the 'Abbasid caliphate, al- Mawardi, in conceiving the so-called " amirate by seizure," sought similar justification for the existence of sundry Muslim rulers where there should have been one (9). In Islam too the usurpers were to be assimilated by resort to legal fictions analagous to those that obtained in kindred Byzantium. Both attempts failed even as the ideal of unitary political authority endured.
In the event, of course, Orthodox Christian political fortunes would pass from the Byzantines of the Second Rome to the Muscovites of the Third. In 867 the Ecumenical Patriarch Photios had, prematurely and with some exaggeration, celebrated the conversion of the Rhos and included their leaders within that "family of princes" forever subject to Christ's icon in Constantinople . Photios announced that the erstwhile savage Russians, now won to Christianity, rested easily under the ecclesiastical authority of a Byzantine bishop as "subjects and friends" of the empire (10). In 1395 Anthony, Patriarch of Constantinople, wrote to the Grand Duke Basil of Moscow in defense of the tattered Byzantine imperial prerogative:
It is not a good thing, my son, for you to say "We have a Church but no Emperor." It is not possible for Christians to have a Church without an Emperor, for the same imperial sovereignty and the Church form a single entity and they cannot be separated from each other. ..." (11)
The Muscovites were so well persuaded by Anthony's advocacy that we hear the Greek patriarch echoed by the Russian monk Filofei in his justly famous letter to Tsar Basil III assuring his temporal lord that:
... all the realms of the Christian faith have converged into your single realm. You are the only Christian tsar in all the world... . Two Romes have fallen, and the third stands, and a fourth there shall not be. Your Christian realm shall not pass under the rule of another. (12)
The two-headed eagle of Byzantium had made its passage north. Similarly, al- Mawardi, for whom the caliphate "was established to replace the prophetic office (of which the Prophet had been the last representative) in defense of the faith and worldly interests," (13) formulated his " amirate by seizure" in the hope of restoring the real authority of the Abbasid caliph, God's shadow in Baghdad . This was to be achieved by tying the vastly eroded effective authority of the caliphate to the military power of the apparently strongest " amirate by seizure" or sultanate. Al- Mawardfs efforts would accomplish little but the legitimation of non- caliphal authority pending the metamorphosis of the most powerful " amirate by seizure"-and this would prove to be the Ottoman sultanate-into the new caliphate. And, after all, why not? The Ottoman sultan did the duties of a Sunni caliph within the boundaries of a considerable empire, just as the Muscovite prince came to perform those of the Orthodox Christian emperor. The Ottoman sultan, Sulayman I (1520-1566), master of an empire stretching from central Europe to the Indian Ocean, took his title "Caliph on Earth" seriously enough to study personally Islamic jurisprudence and to assign the learned the task of bringing secular laws of state into conformity with the shari'a . (14)
Well, the empires are departed and with them, I think, the possibility of any unitary theocratic or quasi-theocratic society. And if I have dwelt upon them at length it is not only because emperor and caliph were central to Orthodox Christian and Muslim history until the modern age but because their disappearance has revealed them as hardly crucial to the survival and indeed the health of either religious community. I am myself no enthusiastic partisan of the wholly secularized nation-state for it is more than likely that universalist faiths were instituted by God in part to restrain the parochial excesses to which ethnicity (real or imagined), language and territoriality are prey. But few Americans-least of all members of the Orthodox Christian minority-can be oblivious of the blessings that secularized polity may confer upon a religiously pluralistic society. The nation-state, moreover, is apt to be our lot for the foreseeable future, and while the task of curbing the wild beast may have much to do with man's vision of transcendent authority, the effort to translate that vision into political structure is unlikely to be more successful now or later than it has been in the past. Perhaps that "Augustinian" pessimism over the earthly city, subdued but by no means absent in Orthodox Christianity and Islam, deserves therein a more honored place.
I remarked earlier in certain parallels between the logos doctrine in Orthodox Christianity and in Islam. Each faith clearly rests upon the bedrock of its revealed word but, just as obviously, each widened the scope of reason as a means of clarifying, even expanding, the truths of revelation. Some comments now about this process, for it seems to me that in ordering priorities between reason and revelation, Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam underwent a comparable evolution in religious thought and sensibility.
At the advent of Islam, Hellenistic philosophy had already made substantial inroads into Eastern Christian theology-I mean here not only Orthodox or Chalcedonian Christianity but also the non- Chalcedonian or Semitic Christianity represented by the Monophysites and Nestorians. It is to be emphasized that Islam found its post- Qur'anic voice, phrased many of its characteristic definitions, in a Middle East which, west of Iran, remained heavily Christian-particularly Semitic Christian-although yielding gradually and inexorably to the faith of the Arabian Prophet. It is to subtract nothing from the immensity of the intellectual and artistic achievement of the classical age of Islam to insist that Eastern Christendom posed many of the critical questions and provisioned the avid Muslims with much of the material and disciplined discourse necessary to phrase distinctly Islamic answers to those questions. Withal, the early Islamic centuries comprise for Eastern Christians under Islamic rule a twilight zone, less an era of creativity-that could only be the prerogative of the politically dominant community-than an era of transmission. And what was transmitted to Muslims included much of the Hellenistic philosophy already adapted to the uses of patristic theology. The era of transmission would end with Semitic Christianity spent but with many of its attitudes and adherents assimilated by Islam, a process of appropriation whose monumental impact on world history has yet to inspire the scholarly attention it merits. My satisfaction in the initiation of serious dialogue between Orthodox Christians and Muslims in the United States is, as you may suspect, diminished somewhat by our failure here to include representatives of Semitic Christianity. For not only were the non- Chalcedonians the great transmitters to Islam but it may even be argued that Monophysite and Nestorian Christology, the former by de-emphasizing Christ's human nature and the latter particularly, by diminishing his divine nature, have something of a logical conclusion in Qur'anic Christology. I exaggerate slightly but a Jesus whose human nature is submerged tends to become simply God and the incarnation recedes into the problematic, while a Jesus whose divinity is compromised tends to become simply man. It may be telling that the preferred Nestorian description, "Jesus, Son of Mary" (rather than "Son of God") is also the favored Qur'anic designation for Jesus the Prophet. Islam was no mere bystander in the Christological controversies.
Let us be mindful then that Islam's earliest and most intimate contact with Eastern Christianity involved the non- Chalcedonian rather than the Chalcedonian churches. The eve of the Muslim conquests found most of Egypt and Syria Monophysite, and Mesopotamia largely Nestorian. The Arab tribes between Arabia and Byzantine Syria had adopted the Monophysite creed while those between the Peninsula and Iranian-controlled Mesopotamia had embraced Nestorianism . And, as I intimated earlier, evidence exists that some of these Arab Christian tribes joined their Muslim brothers in the conquests. For we are not to forget that many non- Chalcedonians viewed the Muslim advance as deliverance. The following testimony, although not contemporaneous, comes from the Coptic (Egyptian Monophysite ) bishop, Sawirus ibn al- Muqaffa ':
... and [Muhammad] brought back the worshippers of idols to the knowledge of the One God... . And the Lord abandoned the army of the Romans ... as punishment for their corrupt faith, and because of the anathemas uttered against them, on account of the council of Chalcedon, by the ancient fathers (15).
The Arab Muslim conquests, like the later Ottoman invasions, were prepared by schism within Christendom. And both Islamic surges answered eloquently the question: "How successful was Christianity in recementing 'Roman' society?"
The Syrian and Mesopotamian adherents of Semitic Christianity were, in any event, the main channel for the transmission of Hellenistic philosophy and science to the Muslims. The intrusion of Greek philosophy now raised for Islam, as it had centuries before for Christianity, the problem of the appropriate relationship between revelation and reason or, stated differently, the degree to which profane knowledge could be sacralized . The way to resolution would be long and difficult but certainly by the thirteenth century Islam, like Orthodox Christianity, had reduced natural reason to near total subservience to revelation as an instrument for knowing God, an outcome signaled by the rise of Sufism and Hesychasm to pre-eminence in the theological and devotional life of Sunni Islam and Orthodox Christianity respectively. Even a mere historian is aware that rational and mystical theology are not mutually exclusive so long as the former does not claim for itself comprehension of the whole truth independently of revelation and its complements, grace and illumination. But, however unfortunately, the struggle appeared to many of the central actors to have involved such a claim by the practitioners of rational theology. The most outspoken upholders of revelation, all too often sustained by a rather arid kaldm in Sunni Islam, and in Orthodox Christianity by what Father John Meyendorff has termed "the theology of repetition," (16) succeeded all too well in driving philosophy and, in its train, the sciences to the margin of intellectual concern. I am not asserting that philosophy and science simply died in the East before the thirteenth century. These disciplines continued for a while to sway certain individuals in Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam and endured, however modestly, in Shi'i education into early modern times. In late thirteenth-century Byzantium, George Akropolites calculated and predicted the time of an eclipse of the sun (17), while the great Sunni cosmologist, ibn al- Shatir (d. 1375/76) (18), flourished in the fourteenth century. Not long before the fall of Constantinople, private schools in the city continued to dispense Aristotle (19) while Sunni Muslims of the period seem not to have been wholly bereft of the Doctor of Doctors (20). The fact remains however that the sciences and their mistress, philosophy, found little place in the curriculum of the religious academies (21). And if we must name the salient figures in Orthodox Christian and Sunni theology from the late medieval into the modern period, they would surely be Gregory Palamas (d. 1359) and al- Ghazali (d. 1111) respectively, not, by way of contrast, Gregory's contemporary and antagonist, Barlaam the Calabrian, or al- Ghazali's nemesis, ibn Rushd (d. 1198). Latin Christianity, on the other hand, while boasting its mystical theologians and practitioners, would have to indicate Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) as her characteristic theologian. And the Angelic Doctor would come to dominate the curriculum in the Western lands, among those "Franks" whom Orthodox Christians and Muslims would persist in deeming barbarous long after good sense might have suggested a more respectful attitude. Of the intellectual turn taken by Latin Christendom, ibn Khaldfln (d. 1406) was aware. "We hear now," he wrote in the late fourteenth century, that the philosophical sciences are greatly cultivated in [ Western Europe ] and along the adjacent northern shore of the country of the [Latin] Christians. They are said to be studied there again and to be taught in numerous classes. Existing systems of expositions of them are said to be comprehensive and the people who know them numerous and the students of them very many (22).
In ibn Khaldun's own disregard of the philosophical sciences, we may detect the representative position of Sunni Islam.
It should be known that the (opinion) the (philosophers) hold is wrong in all respects... The problems of physics are of no importance for us in our religious affairs or our livelihoods. Therefore, we must leave them alone (23).
Meanwhile in Byzantium, ibn Khaldun's contemporary, Demetrios Kydones (d. 1397/98), felt compelled to defend his interest in Aquinas and in the Latin theologian's use of Aristotle (24).
It may be true that a more knowing Orthodox Christianity and Islam, whose long experience of Greek philosophy perhaps induced immunity to its excesses, saw more clearly than freshly exposed Latin Christianity the danger to revelation implicit in a thoroughgoing Aristotelian victory. The syllogism as an absolute, a natural law wholly apprehensible to man's reason, would, in the hands of the nominalists, encourage the desacralization of knowledge and precisely that separation between faith and reason that Aquinas had labored to avoid. It may be argued, however, that if Thomas inadvertently established a foundation for the subsequent bifurcation of knowledge into distinct realms, sacred and profane, so, working from the opposite pole and also inadvertently, did al- Ghazali and Palamas in insisting that logic and the sciences could add little to the knowledge of God imparted by revelation and illumination and are of themselves inadequate for imparting knowledge of beings and the created order. Knowledge of the Artisan is little to be furthered by knowledge of his art, and the tools for study of that art fell to rust and decay. In sum, responsibility for the desacralization of knowledge cannot simply be laid at the Latin Christian door. While Latin Christianity plunged headlong into scholasticism, thence into a progressively desacralized understanding of nature and finally into a desacralized control over nature, the East, Christian and Muslim, contented itself with a syllabus that tended to deny the unity and sacred character of all knowledge, if only by relegating wide areas thereof to curricular oblivion. If the victory of natural reason over revelation was too pronounced in Latin Christendom, it must be insisted that the triumph of revelation over natural reason in the East was no less pronounced and certainly more thorough than either Palamas or al- Ghazali intended. Palamas held, after all, that:
... if one says that philosophy, insofar as it is natural, is a gift of God, then one says true, without contradiction and without incurring the accusation that falls on those who abuse philosophy and pervert it to an unnatural end (25).
There is echo here of al- Ghazali's argument, delivered some two hundred years earlier, that while nothing in logic, mathematics and the physical sciences "entails denial or affirmation of religious matters," the study of them may engender evil consequences (26). Orthodox Christianity and Islam stand heirs to a less one-sided epistemology than that commonly attributed to Palamas and al- Ghazali and some revival of it may be in order. It is clear in any case that if resacralization of knowledge is a problem, it should concern Orthodox Christians and Muslims no less than Latin Christians.
For an historian, at least, certain related issues continue to nag. The era the West terms "medieval" witnessed a contest among Latin Christendom, Orthodox or Greek Christendom and Islam-all three societies born of the Roman imperial collapse, all three claiming explicitly or implicitly to be the new Rome, the new Athens, the new Jerusalem, the authentic heir to Roman political universalism, Hellenistic high culture and the promise of the Hebrew prophets.
A dispassionate observer, say from China, contemplating this tripartite medieval world early in the second Christian millennium, would likely have declined to predict a Latin Christian victory. In the arts of civilization, the Orthodox Christian and Islamic worlds would have struck our hypothetical observer as so much richer and more powerful than the lately beleaguered agrarian world of Latin Christendom that he could scarcely have predicted the death of Byzantium in the fifteenth century and the erosion of Islamic intellectual vitality well before the great recession of Islamic political power initiated around the mid-seventeenth century. One wonders: did Latin Christendom emerge from the medieval contest, poised for seizure of global hegemony, because of its greater fidelity to Athens ?
I do not wish to expose myself to charges of crass historicism- least of all from my immemorial friend, Seyyed Hossein Nasr -when I observe that the crucial decisions concerning Aristotle, reason and revelation were made in a Byzantine and Muslim world sorely beset by nomadic expansion-specifically that of the Turkomens -and in a Latin Christendom which, by contrast, found itself for the first time in centuries free of external threat. Is the conviction that reason leads us to God as surely as revelation, as surely as the mystic's illumination, apt to have greatest appeal in a society made optimistic by mundane circumstance? Is there not also a striking complementarity between the metaphorical canonization of Aristotle by the Latin Church and the West's assumption of global leadership in technology, a leadership that Western Europe and her trans-Atlantic offspring have yet to relinquish? Again, is there a point at which mundane threat ceases to spur creative innovation and encourages rather a disintegrative insularity in the mechanic as well as intellectual arts and the conviction that the great voyages have already been made?
As for mysticism, its evolution in Islam was marked by a phenomenon unparalleled in Christianity: the emergence, beginning in the late twelfth century, of brotherhoods ( tariqas ) each founded by a specific master of the Sufi way and spreading throughout the Islamic world. The lodges of a particular tariqa governed the devotional life of their adherents, deepening the awareness of God's immanence and accessibility, complementing the shari'a in shaping life as a sacred ceremony. The tariqas , which in the Ottoman period came to embrace perhaps three-quarters of the adult male population, also functioned, especially when affiliated with guilds, as socio-economic units, the story of whose comprehensive influence on Islamic society has yet to be written. Hesychasm, by contrast, remained largely a monastic discipline, although a number of its devotional devices-notably of course the Jesus Prayer -pervaded and to some extent continue to pervade the Orthodox Christian faithful with something like the force of the dhikr , the mention or remembrance of God, among the Sufis. The sacred ceremony in which the Orthodox Christian was and should still be immersed and which, to my mind, most nearly approximates the Muslim duality of shari'a and tariga , is the liturgical cycle, the sacramental transmutation of the days and years into an unending celebration of Christ's sacrifice and of those models of sanctity whom the believer seeks to emulate, those men and women whose theosis is fact.
The tenor of my preceding remarks notwithstanding, I am acutely aware that the history of the encounter between Orthodox Christianity and Islam has been largely one of hostility, overt and covert, during which Islam, more often than not, prevailed. Presentations other than mine will expose some of the warts, and none of us needs reminding that mutual hostility scarcely belongs to an unremembered past. Nor, in my emphasis upon Orthodox Christianity and Islam as kindred religious cultures, do I mistake kinship for identity. The superses-sionist claim of Islam, resting upon the logos as book, is matched by Christianity's inability to accord perfect legitimacy to any revelation beyond that of the incarnate logos, and inevitably the rest may be silence. I trust not, for, as I have sought to indicate in however abbreviated a fashion, Orthodox Christianity and Islam mirror one another in so many ways that full appreciation of one is served by thoughtful and sympathetic attention to the other. Obviously I am not pleading for that tolerance born simply of secular indifference. While such has had its uses, it is for believers of either hue finally insufficient. On the other hand, as an Orthodox Christian who has been an earnest student of Islamic history for thirty years, I cannot minimize the difficulty of understanding, much less standing in the sacred space of another. I am able to testify, however, that the effort to do so has yielded reward beyond anything this play of words can tell. And we have Muslims participating in this conference (and I know at least two of them) who have probed Orthodox Christianity with the minds and hearts of informed Muslim believers and come away not unsatisfied. Permit me to wonder whether Muslims and Orthodox Christians under officially atheistic governments are prone to see one another as the salient enemy.Let the last word, as the first, go to Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos as he addresses now the amir of Crete :
Since he [Patriarch Photios (858-67, 877-86)] was a man of God and learned with regard to human and divine matters, he realized that, though a dividing wall of worship separated us, yet the attributes of human wisdom, intelligence, dependability of conduct, love for mankind, and every other attribute that adorns and elevates human nature with its presence, ignites, in those persons who care for that which is good, friendship toward those imbued with the qualities they have (27).
1. Marcus N. Adler, The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela (London, 1907, reprint N. Y., n.d .), p. 12.
2. R. J. H. Jenkins and L. G. Westerink (trans.), Nicholas I. Patriarch of Constantinople : Letters (Washington, D. C., 1973), p. 12.
3. Robert M. Haddad, "Iconoclasts and Mu'tazila : the Politics of Anthropomorphism," The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 27 (1982) 301-02.
4. The text of Eusebios' oration may be found in H. A. Drake, In Praise of Constantine: A Historical Study and New Translation of Eusebius' Tricennial Orations (Berkeley, 1976), pp. 83-102; see especially pp. 89-90.
5. Abu Yusuf Ya qub, Kitab al- Kharaj, trans. A. Ben Shemesh, Vol. 3 of Taxation in Islam ( Leiden, 1969), pp. 35-39.
6. Ibid., p. 35.
7. On the affinities between the Iconoclast and Mu'tazill controversies, see Haddad, The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 27 (1982) 287-305.
8. Deno J. Geanakoplos, Byzantium : Church, Society, and Civilization Seen through Contemporary Eyes ( Chicago, 1984), pp. 31-32.
9. Ali ibn Muhammad al- Mawardi, Al- Ahkam al- Sultaniyya, trans, as Les status governementaux by E. Fagnan (Alger, 1915), see especially pp. 59-70.
10. David Knowles with Dimitri Obolensky, The Middle Ages, Vol. Two of The Christian Centuries, eds. Louis J. Rogier et al. (N.Y., 1968), p. 312.
11. Quoted in George Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State , 2nd ed., trans. Joan Hussey ( Oxford, 1968), p. 553.
12. George Vernadsky (ed.), A Source Book for Russian History from Early Times to 1917, Vol. 1 (New Haven, 1972), p. 156.
13. al-Mawardi, Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyya, p. 5.
14. Halil Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire: the Classical Age, 1300-1600, trans. N. Itzkowitz and C. Imber (N.Y., 1973), p. 182.
15. Sawirus ibn al- Muqaffa ', History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria, Arabic text ed. and trans. B. Evetts, Patrologia Orientalis, T. I ( Paris, 1907), pp. 492-93.
16. John Meyendorff, A Study of Gregory Palamas, trans. George Lawrence (Crestwood, N.Y., 1964), p. 238.
17. Geanakoplos, Byzantium , p. 437.
18. See Victor Roberts, "The Solar and Lunar Theory of Ibn ash- Shatir : A Pre-Copernican Model," Isis, 48 (1957) 428-32; E. S. Kennedy, "The Planetary Theory of Ibn al- Shatir," Isis , 50 (1959) 227-35.
19. Geanakoplos, Byzantium , p. 408.
20. Philosophy, prohibited from being taught in public, was taught privately ..." [George Makdisi, "Interaction between Islam and the West," Medieval Education in Islam and the West, eds. George Makdisi et al. ( Paris, 1977), p. 297].
21. On the situation in Sunni Islam, see ibid., pp. 296-97. Long before the fall of the Second Rome, the profane instruction available at the Imperial University had been kept distinct from the studies provided future clerics at the Patriarchal School ( Meyendorff, A Study of Gregory Palamas, p. 29).
22. Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah, trans. Franz Rosenthal, Vol. 3 (N.Y., 1958), pp. 117-18.
23. Ibid., pp. 250-52.
24. Geanakoplos, Byzantium , p. 378.
25. "Gregory Palamas, The Triads, ed. John Meyendorff, trans. Nicholas Gendle (N.Y., 1983), p. 27; see also pp. 119-20, n. 27.
26. al- Ghazali, Freedom and Fulfillment: An Annotated Translation of al- Ghazali's al- Munqidh min al- Daldl and Other Relevant Works of al- Ghazali by Richard J. McCarthy ( Boston, 1980), pp. 73-76.
27. Geanakoplos, Byzantium , p. 340.