Laura Hassan, Associate Faculty Member, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford UK
In their works of rational theology (‘ilm al-kalām), the two classical Ash‘arī theologians Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn al-Ṭayyib al-Bāqillānī (d. 403/1013) and 'Abd al-Malik ibn Yūsuf al-Juwaynī (d. 478/1085) take various Christian groupings to task for their notion of the unity (ittiḥād) between the person of Jesus and the divinity. Most interesting in this pursuit is their uses of parts of the canonical gospels in defence of their own perspectives on the identity of Jesus. The gospels are used as a source among sources for the establishment of sound Muslim belief.
Al-Bāqillānī, in his Kitāb al-Tamhīd (whose discussions of trinitarianism are treated in, for instance, Beaumont, 2008) uses aspects of the gospels (‘al-Injīl’) to argue against Jesus’ divinity. He does not qualify his use of the gospels with any observation as to the identity of these texts. There is a contrast to be observed between al-Bāqillānī’s approach to the gospels, and that of al-Juwaynī, who caveats his use of the Bible with a comment on the high likelihood as he perceives it that the text in the hands of his Christian opponents (‘your Injīl’) is a distorted version of the original to which the Qur’ān refers. This paper presents a comparison between the approaches of these two intellectuals. I will show that despite the great similarity between the contents of the two thinkers’ discussions, their attitudes towards the canonical gospels are significantly unalike.