Middle East Studies

Christians and Muslims: Early Encounters

Sunday, February 23, 2014

2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Rhode Island Hall 108

The seventh-century rise of Islam opened a new era of religious "pluralism" in the Middle East. Yet, it would be more than a century before early Muslim scholars recorded the first Arabic accounts of the changes taking place. Syriac and Arabic-speaking Christians, however, were already producing and navigating their own responses to the new political and social order. Historically, linguistically and culturally rooted in the central lands of Islam, yet sorely understudied as sources for early Islamic history, late antique and medieval Middle Eastern Christians provide fresh perspectives for understanding the nature of religious and social change in a dynamic era of history. 

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Symposium Schedule

  • 2pm: Sidney H. Griffith, Catholic University of America
    "Bible and Qur'an: Memory, Engagement and Difference"
    Nancy Khalek, Brown University, Respondent
  • 3:15pm Break
  • 3:45pm: Michael Penn, Mt. Holyoke College
    "Beyond Clashing Civilizations: Rethinking Early Christian-Muslim Relations"
    Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Brown University, Respondent
  • 5:00pm: New Questions in the study of early Muslim-Christian Relations
    A roundtable discussion with Jonanthan Conant, Brown University; Steven Judd, Southern-Connecticut State University; Sandra Toenies Keating, Providence College; Charles Stang, Harvard Divinity School; Anthony Watson, Brown University

About our Keynote Speakers:

Sidney H. Griffith is a pioneering scholar in the areas of Christian Arabic and Syriac studies. Among his numerous publications are The Bible in Arabic: the Scriptures of the 'People of the Book' in the Language of Islam (2013); The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam (2007); The Beginnings of Christian Theology in Arabic: Muslim-Christian encounters in the early Islamic period (2002); 'Faith Adoring the Mystery': Reading the Bible with St. Ephraem the Syrian (1997); and Arabic Christianity in the Monasteries of Ninth-Century Palestine (1992).

Michael Penn is a leading scholar of Christianity in late antiquity, especially of the Syriac and Greek traditions. He is the author of Kissing Christians: Ritual and Community in the Late Ancient Church (2005); and of two forthcoming volumes,Imaging Islam: Syriac Christianity and the Reimagining of Christian-Muslim Relations; When Christians First Met Muslims: A Sourcebook of the Earliest Syriac Writings on Islam, in addition to many articles.

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