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ʿAmmār al-Baṣrī

(478 words)

Author(s): Griffith, Sidney H.
ʿAmmār al-Baṣrī ( fl. c. 236/850) was a “Nestorian” Christian apologist who wrote Arabic tracts in defence of Christian doctrines in response to challenges posed to them by Muslims. Two of his works have survived: a general apology for Christianity, the Kitāb al-burhān (“The book of proof”), written in a popular style; and the more detailed and systematic Kitāb al-masāʾiI wa-l-ajwiba (“The book of questions and answers”). In the latter especially, ʿAmmār seems to have had principally in mind the Muslim mutakallim Abū l-Hudhayl al-ʿAllāf (d. c.227/842), who, according to Ibn …
Date: 2020-06-10


(767 words)

Author(s): Griffith, Sidney H.
Building in which public Christian religious services occur. Christian churches, shrines, monasteries and other institutions were common in the territories inhabited by Arabic-speaking peoples in the world in which Islam was born. In the early Islamic period both Muslims and Christians regularly used the word kanīsa to mean “church” and sometimes “synagogue.” Although this conventional Arabic word for church does not appear in the Qurʾān, there is one verse that has been interpreted as referring to churches. In q 22:40, churches (biyaʿ) are mentioned along with monasteries ( ṣawāmi…


(1,008 words)

Author(s): Griffith, Sidney H.
In Christianity, the “ good news” preached about Jesus Christ; in the Qurʾān, part of the divine message given to Jesus (q.v.). Of the twelve times the Gospel (al- injīl) is mentioned in the Qurʾān, in nine of them it occurs in conjunction with the mention of the Torah (q.v.; al- tawrāt), as a scripture sent down by God (see scripture and the qurʾān; book). Together with wisdom (q.v.; al- ḥikma), the Torah and the Gospel appear to comprise the ‘scripture’ (al- kitāb) that the Qurʾān says God taught to Jesus ( q 3:48; 5:110). Twice the Qurʾān says explicitly that God brought Jesus the Gospel ( q 5:46; 5…

Monasticism and Monks

(2,025 words)

Author(s): Griffith, Sidney H.
From well before the rise of Islam, and then well into the later Middle Ages, monasticism was a distinctive feature of Christian life, both in the milieu in which Islam was born (see christians and christianity; south arabia, religion in pre-islamic), and in the Christian communities subsequently integrated into the world of Islam. Accordingly, from the perspective of its relationship to Islam, one must consider the phenomenon of Christian monasticism under three headings. In the first place, there is its presence in the Arabic-speaki…

Holy Spirit

(1,144 words)

Author(s): Griffith, Sidney H.
An agency of divine action or communication. The Arabic phrase rūḥ al-qudus, as it appears in the Qurʾān, is regularly interpreted by translators to mean the ‘holy spirit,’ or the ‘spirit of holiness.’ The phrase occurs four times in the Qurʾān. In three of the four occurrences the text says that God “strengthened” ( ayyadnāhu) Jesus (q.v.), son of Mary (q.v.), by the holy spirit ( q 2:87, 253; 5:110); in the fourth instance the holy spirit is identified as the one who has brought down the truth (q.v.) from God to his prophet ( q 16:102). This apparent personal identity of the holy spirit…

Christians and Christianity

(5,904 words)

Author(s): Griffith, Sidney H.
Evidence for the presence of Christians and currency of Christianity in the Arabian milieu in which Islam was born comes from the Qurʾān itself as well as from reports included in other documents of a similar date and provenance. From these texts it is clear that by the beginning of the first Islamic century, toward the end of the first quarter of the seventh century according to the common reckoning, the number of Christians in the territories frequented by the Arab tribes in the Middle East was on the increase (see tribes and clans ). Evidence of the Christian presence on the periphery of Arabia…