Kiss Me, Kate:
Putting Visions of Religious Convergence to the Test

Studies in Interreligious Dialogue, 2000.

Copyright 1999, Telford Work

While most Christians and Muslims agree that their traditions are fundamentally incompatible, a few of each have ventured the more surprising hypothesis that Christianity and Islam are actually fundamentally compatible. Their efforts remind me of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew: Like Petruchios who woo their Katharinas against their wills, these visionaries are convinced of the rightness of their matchmaking, despite the protests and denials of the other. They have occasionally persuaded fellow believers, but none so far has been widely persuasive in each other's rival community. How are we to assess their rare but persistent claims?

I have argued elsewhere that Alasdair MacIntyre's theory of tradition-constituted enquiry offers a valuable paradigm for exploring the relationship between Christianity and Islam. His conception of traditions as ongoing debates over their own canonical authorities and fundamental logics establishes the possibility of fruitful interaction between traditions like Islam and Christianity, even when they cannot resolve their differences. Furthermore, it offers a way to describe the possible convergence of two traditions (MacIntyre's example is Thomas Aquinas' synthesis of Augustinianism and Islamized Aristotelianism) which until the moment of their synthesis had seemed incompatible (Work, 200ff). Thus MacIntyre's vision provides a way to test visions of convergence between Christianity and Islam.
What follows is an analysis of two proposals that claim fundamental compatibility between Islam and Christianity, from `Alija `Ali Izetbegovic (a Muslim) and Giulio Basetti-Sani (a Christian). Both fit MacIntyre's rather Hegelian description of enquiry into a "rival" tradition from within a "home" tradition: Each vision responds to a longstanding "epistemological crisis" within itself, caused by the rise and success of the other, by drawing on its own rich resources in order to explain the other's compatibilities and limitations, and to assert its own superiority. Each narrates the other in the terms of its own rationality. Furthermore, each creates and assimilates the other's resources in the course of its project, yet does so according to the rules of its own tradition. MacIntyre helps us put a simple question to each: Does it honor the fundamental logic of the rival tradition without betraying its own? And in the end, each proposal's considerable strengths and weaknesses can be explained as successes and failures in honoring the fundamental logics of both traditions; and the prospects for progress await the emergence of more thoroughly bilingual (or even trilingual) enquirers. We examine each project in turn.

`Alija `Ali Izetbegovic: Islam as the "Third Way" Between Judaism and Christianity

Izetbegovic's vision casts Judaism and Christianity in classical Muslim terms: Islam is the ultimate manifestation of the primordial religion of Abraham, Muhammad the "Seal of the Prophets," and Judaism and Christianity are incomplete, defective manifestations that can achieve coherence only within Islam.

These are not original characterizations. Ibn-Ishaq's eighth century hagiography of Muhammad casts him as the typological fulfillment of all the prophets that went before him, both Israelite and Arab (Newby, 10-11). Izetbegovic pursues a later form of this analysis, in which Muhammad's prophetic predecessors come to personify Islam's rival traditions: Moses stands in for Israel and Jesus stands in for Christianity.

Since Muhammad is the antitype of all his prophetic forerunners, he brings together all that was incomplete in each of the others. Muslim accounts of the relationship among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam therefore stress the differences between the traditions. They tend to develop variants on a common theme: Judaism is essentially outward, embodying law and justice; Christianity is essentially inward, embodying lovingkindness and otherworldliness; and Islam is the perfect synthesis of inwardness and outwardness, a true recovery of the primordial religion of the prophet Abraham (Schimmel, 64). A classical variant is Ibn-Arabi's tafsir on the first Surah, which refers to the Jews as those who have incurred God's wrath, and Christians as those who have gone astray, though there is no explicit reference to either group in the text itself (Surah 1:7). Nasr, following Schuon, calls Judaism essentially exoteric, a shari`ah, while Christianity is essentially esoteric, a tariqah (Nasr, 34-35). And Akhtar characterizes not only the traditions but their canonical texts, the Tanakh and New Testament, as antithetical (Akhtar, 176-177).

While Izetbegovic's thinking is in line with this classical Muslim account of its two rival monotheisms, he adds something new: A Hegelian emphasis on dialectical progress that makes Judaism's exotericism a thesis, Christianity the antithesis that attempts to overcome it by esotericism, and Islam their true synthesis. Yet Izetbegovic's appropriation of Hegel is conducted according to Muslim rules: It is typologically warranted by Surah 55:19-20's vision of two seas that meet but do not transgress. In MacIntyrean terms, Izetbegovic draws upon the resources of the Muslim rationality in order to bring in an element initially from outside -- just as the kalam drew upon Greek philosophy according to its own rules and needs. (Incidentally, this is exactly what MacIntyre himself does with Hegel in order to develop his account of intertraditional enquiry.)

With this dialectical scheme, Izetbegovic narrates the European experience through Muslim eyes. He calls Europe's two heritages, the Jewish (embodied in materialism) and the Christian (embodied in "other-worldly" Catholicism), poles in a dialectic that points inexorably to Islam as their only true solution (Izetbegovic, iv). Adherents to each of these two European traditions have inherited a worldview whose own resources are inadequate, and have attempted to overcome its inadequacy by generating imperfect correctives. Judaism's frustrated messianic expectation led it to communism, while Christianity's fundamental otherworldliness led it to establish ecclesial structures and canon law (Izetbegovic, 200-205). These two traditions remain opposed on European soil, turning Europe into what a Muslim might call a "house of war." Yet Izetbegovic's Muslim eyes see not two unalterably opposed worldviews, as Europeans do, but two poles of a dialectic that await their synthesis.

Islam considers itself the primordial religion of humanity. So any synthesis of the two tendencies, even apart from the umma, Izetbegovic calls a form of Islam, however imperfect. He finds "European islam" most clearly in Anglicanism and the Anglo-European empiricism of the Enlightenment: Hume, Locke, and so on (Izetbegovic, v). But even this synthesis is unstable, since it needs the explicit revelation of the Quran and the Sunna of its Prophet. Europe needs the ministry of Islam's "bipolar unity" to bring closure to the rift between outwardness and inwardness that Jews never sensed and Christians were never able to escape (Izetbegovic, 163).

Clearly Izetbegovic's reasoning follows Islam's fundamental logic. It narrates the European experience so confidently that Izetbegovic draws upon mainly European sources in an impressive and characteristically Muslim way, referring only sparsely to explicit Muslim sources in its account. This approach profoundly honors Islam's claim to be the primordial religion, whose signs can be found universally in nature and in human history, yet whose consummation depends on the particularity of its final Messenger.

However, these strengths are undermined by several weaknesses. First, Izetbegovic's vision is strictly supersessionist. Judaism and Christianity are not so much synthesized as abandoned, or incorporated without remainder, so that in the end they have no challenge to offer Islam. Yet straight supersessionism is not what one expects from the past history of Islam's encounters with Judaism and Christianity. This is because of the considerable incommensurability of the traditions and the seriousness of the challenges each poses to the others -- qualities Izetbegovic consistently fails to appreciate. Jewish-Christian-Muslim intellectual relations over the ages have resulted in friction, argument, and (most importantly) theological sharpening in all three traditions.

Second, Izetbegovic's appropriation of Hegel is more dangerous to Islam than it first seems (as MacIntyre's is to Christianity). In allowing the prophets Moses and Jesus to personify their traditions, Izetbegovic returns to the early "ecumenical" Islam which wrestled more seriously with the Jewish and Christian traditions and their texts (Newby, 10-11). The common Muslim appeal to textual corruption and betrayal by later "followers" is admirably missing in Izetbegovic (though he does oppose Paul to Jesus). This affords Izetbegovic a deeply sympathetic vision of Judaism and Christianity, without which any true appreciation of either one is doomed. But using prophets to personify antithetical traditions is problematic to the Muslim conviction that all God's prophets bear the same message. Izetbegovic Judaizes Moses and Christianizes Jesus, and so he has to reach back to Abraham to find a true type for Muhammad's prophethood. This calls into question the unity of God's messengers in a way that risks violating the fundamental logic of Islam.

Third, Izetbegovic's portraits of Judaism and Christianity radically fail to take into account the actual data of these traditions. Jews and Christians simply do not see themselves in his portrayals, even imaginatively. He makes no mention of mystical Jewish texts and practices, such as kabbala or hasidism, or everyday Judaism's mystical traditions. Thus his characterization of Judaism as this-worldliness is a drastic reduction of the actual tradition. Likewise, in reducing Christianity to "other-worldliness," he fails to do justice to the material and political dimensions of both Jesus' ministry and the Christian tradition that immediately followed it. Any this-worldly aspect of Christianity, such as Catholic ecclesiology, conveniently becomes an attempt to overcome its own intrinsic insufficiencies, not a development of a dimension of Christianity present from its beginning (and, of course, from the Jewish heritage it so heavily reflected). Any similarities between the traditions must be either ignored or explained away (as they were in the long history of anti-Semitic scholarship he seems to have drawn on). His narration of the two traditions is simply poor, presenting caricatures that fit his typology but not the traditions themselves.

Likewise, Izetbegovic's narration of the European experience is lacking as well -- for Europe did not experience Jewish culture first, then Christian, but a Catholic Christian culture first, with the rise of Jewish intellectual and cultural influence coming only much later. His ordering of thesis and antithesis may work in first-century Palestine, but it does not work in Europe. In these ways, one can attribute Izetbegovic's failure to his lack of "trilingual" expertise. Izetbegovic speaks Islam, but he simply does not speak Judaism or Christianity, or he would not make the errors he makes.

Lastly, close attention to canonical texts and practices is simply essential in exploring textually normed traditions like both Christianity and Islam. Both traditions regard their canons as authoritative embodiments of their fundamental logics. Yet a quasi-Marcionite opposition between the two testaments of the Christian canon is a prominent theme among Muslim commentators on the Bible (as redaction criticism of the Quran is common in Christian apologetics against Islam). Akhtar is representative of Muslims in calling the spirit of the New Testament "wholly at odds with the temperment that permeates the Old Testament" (Akhtar, 177). And while Izetbegovic pays unusual respect to the integrity of the Jewish and Christian canonical texts, he still fails to respect their canonicity in Christianity. In regarding the Old Testament and the New Testament as fundamentally opposed, he follows the Muslim line in calling the "Marcionite gospel ... a model for Saint Mark" (Izetbegovic, 149), failing to mention that the Church before Marcion (and before Mark!) relied on the Old Testament as its earliest Scriptures, and that the second-century Church decisively rejected Marcion's canon. This hardly respects the fundamental Christian claim that the Jesus of the New Testament fulfills the divine words of the Old Testament. No proposal for convergence that features such an opposition can be thought to honor the fundamental logic of Christianity or its founder.

If Izetbegovic's failures to appreciate Judaism are equal to his failures to appreciate Christianity, it is fairer to say that he has constructed a Hegelian dialectic not of Moses-Jesus- Muhammad, but of Spinoza-Marcion-Muhammad. (And ironically, Jesus would also fit nicely into the third slot, as the God-man who resolves the contradictions of these other worldviews. Christians often put the doctrine of incarnation to precisely this use.) And even if his characterizations were fitting, there would be no reason to suppose that Moses and Jesus, or eurocommunism and Roman Catholicism, fit so neatly into a dialectic that their synthesis produces a "natural Islam." Any conclusion this tidy is an intellectual fantasy.

Still, despite these failings, Izetbegovic's work represents a profoundly Muslim way to appreciate Christianity: as not so much fatally flawed but fundamentally incomplete, in need of perfecting by the final divine mercy brought into the world through Muhammad. In this sense, as we shall now see, the theology of the Catholic "Maximalist" school is a profoundly Christian version of essentially the same idea.

Giulio Basetti-Sani: Islam as Catechumenate for the Sons of Ishmael

A group of Roman Catholic theologians, sometimes called "Maximalists" for the continuity they sense between Christianity and Islam (Anawati, 57) represents our second proposal for convergence. Theirs is a Christian attempt to explain the rise and significance of Islam in the wake of Vatican II's Nostra Aetate. Maximalists represent perhaps the most ambitious example of recent Christian convergence literature. Giulio Basetti-Sani's The Koran in the Light of Christ is a useful example of the genre, on which we will concentrate.

Catholicism's recent radical reappraisal of Islam is a response to its own deep epistemological crisis. Islam has been Christianity's chief rival tradition ever since its rise. It quickly swept much of "Christendom," receding only in Spain, and then only after considerable force. The previous Catholic response to this crisis, which accounted Islam as a demonic tradition that worshiped not God but Satan, simply found itself inadequate; and through the work of Louis Massignon the old view was replaced by a radically new, but undeveloped one. Nostra Aetate gives Islam a constructive role "in God's plan of salvation," but does not specify what that role is. The Maximalists follow the Christian logic, drawing on Christianity's own resources, and offer a more specific answer.

Georges Anawati helpfully groups the many specific claims of Maximalists into several general claims. Each of these draws on Christian resources and logics to solve Christian epistemological crises, and appropriates Muslim resources on Christian terms. And each illustrates an achievement -- yet ultimately also a failure -- of the practice of sympathetic enquiry into a rival tradition.

First, Maximalists affirm, even if only hypothetically, the divine origin of the Quran and the true prophethood of Muhammad. Basetti-Sani rejects the common Orientalist account of Muhammad as an "alchemist" who redacted now-lost Jewish, Christian, and jahili Arab material into the unprecedented literature that is the Quran. He entertains the possibility that it is truly divinely inspired.
This affirmation goes a long way towards removing Islam's greatest epistemological challenge to Christianity: Explaining the origin of the Quran, which is Islam's one universally claimed miracle. However, Basetti-Sani envisions inspiration along Christian lines, relying on the resources of his own tradition to understand the other. He claims that Christianity may affirm the Quran's inspiration and Muhammad's prophethood without having to adopt Islamic doctrines of inspiration and prophethood uncritically (Basetti-Sani, 101-102). He locates the Quran's inspired role at a certain (limited) place and time in God's plan of salvation (Basetti-Sani, 25), and is willing to subject the Quran to literary and redaction criticism in the same way that he will subject the Bible -- as a revelation of God's Word that is nevertheless fully human (Basetti-Sani, 106).

These notions of inspiration owe much to Basetti-Sani's Christian logic, and very little to the fundamental logic of Islam. They are the answers of a monolingual, not a bilingual, who shows great appreciation for Muslim devotion to the Quran and to Muhammad, but little or no appreciation for the formal Muslim tradition itself. (Whether his account of Quranic inspiration could have drawn on Muslim resources as well as Christian ones is another question: For instance, modernist Muslims advocate Quranic exegetical practices like German higher-critical study of the Quran [Arkoun, 35], tradition-criticism [Arkoun, 38] and the relevance of literary context and genre to Quranic authority, even to the point of questioning the universal relevance and authority of specific passages [Akhtar, 76].) The Maximalist argument for Quranic inspiration is an achievement of tradition-constituted enquiry, but it fails to engage the resources of the rival tradition at more than a surface level. And as we have seen in Izetbegovic, lip-service to canonicity is no substitute for true respect for canonicity.

What is true of Basetti-Sani's account of Quranic inspiration is true of the other major claims of Maximalist Christians. They respond to Islam in a fundamentally new way, and follow the fundamental logic of Christianity in formally respecting the power of Muslim resources like the Quran and the figure of Muhammad. But that formal respect rarely leads to a serious engagement with the challenges these resources pose to Christianity. Just as Izetbegovic's caricatured Judaism and Christianity utterly give way to the Islam that overcomes all their inadequacies, so Basetti-Sani's Islam utterly dissolves into the gospel for which it has supposedly prepared the way. He assimilates Islam into Christianity almost without remainder. There is no appreciation of Islam's longstanding power both to irritate and to enrich Christian rationality. The Quran's powerful critiques of Christian worship are silenced. Izetbegovic's proposal at least places the traditions in dialectical tension, so that they continue to argue, even violently. In contrast the Maximalist proposal smooths out the differences so completely that Massignon can call Islam the religion of faith, Judaism the religion of hope, and Christianity the religion of love (Anawati, 54) -- as if the three traditions have coexisted in the same fundamental harmony as the theological virtues do in Pauline and Thomistic teleology! These are symptoms of an insufficiently deep appreciation for Islam's own rationality, and of a failure (or denial) to recognize the deep incommensurabilities between Islam and Christianity.

Other features look equally problematic, but are less so. Anawati describes Maximalists as reading the Quran according to a "tendentiously" Christian hermeneutic (Anawati, 57). Basetti-Sani explicitly adopts this approach, saying that Christians must read the Quran "with a Christian key" (Basetti-Sani, 109). By this he means a hermeneutic unavailable in the resources of the Muslim tradition itself. This is a natural (actually necessary) claim for Christians to make, if they are the privileged bearers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is God's ultimate self- revelation. Christocentric hermeneutics are the key to reading not only the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, and it is proper on Christian grounds for Christians to use the same hermeneutics in exegeting the Quran. In fact, Maximalists do not even see a Christocentric hermeneutic as an artificial imposition on the Quranic text, which calls on Christians to consult their own scriptures to confirm the inspiration of the Quran's message (Surah 5:47-48), takes over loan-words from the Old Testament and New Testament without explaining them (tawrah for Torah, injil for evangelion, Isa al-Masih for Jesus the Messiah [not "Jesus the Christ," as one would expect if the term were merely meant as a title]), and ends chronologically with a vision of the Eucharist divinely provided for Christians until the Last Day (5:114). All are examples of the Quran's inherent intertextuality, one that Maximalists claim allows Christians to examine the Quran on their own terms.

All this is not necessarily a betrayal of the logic of Islam. Quranic exegetes have at times affirmed the propriety of intertextual study. Early in Muslim tradition the notions of Jews' and Christians' corruptions of their own canons and of the Quran's abrogation of all previous revelation (not yet influential when Surah 5:47-48 was delivered) rendered such study unimportant. But modern commentators (among them Arkoun, Akhtar, and Cornell) have reaffirmed the importance of such projects. If the prophets listed in the Quran spoke for God, the texts faithful to their messages continue to do so. Furthermore, Muslims affirm the intertextuality of God's scriptural revelations when they apply Quranic hermeneutics to Jewish and Christian Scriptures.

However, such a Christian hermeneutic cannot be allowed to smother the Quran's own message, and here again Maximalists like Basetti-Sani seem to have applied their hermeneutic with too heavy a hand. Smail Balic argues that Maximalists radically overstate Jesus' importance in the Quran. In Islam as in the Quran, he says, Jesus is a marginal figure, not a central one (Balic, 3).

Furthermore, Quranic intertextuality is a two-edged sword. If the Quran is authoritative when interpreted with a Christian hermeneutic, then its divine Message, when rightly interpreted, is a message to Christians as well as Muslims -- one that judges many Christian Christological and Trinitarian practices scathingly. As such it cannot fit neatly into the role of preparatio evangelica. Basetti-Sani does not wrestle seriously with the Quran's critiques. He sees them directed only against a "Christian" Arabia riddled with heresies, as if they left Christian practices in the "orthodox" world untouched. Basetti-Sani will allow that Islam "came to challenge Israel for its judgment of the Messiah and to impel the Church to put an end to its divisions" (Basetti-Sani, 101-102). But both of these exhortations are found in the New Testament itself. There is nothing particularly Islamic about them, nothing that emerges from the knowledge of the God of Muhammad that is not already to be found in the love of the God of Jesus. The sharpness of the Quran's critique of Jewish and Christian practice is ignored. The Maximalist reading of the Quran formally respects the inspiration of the Quran, but refuses to reckon with the authority that inspiration confers.

This leads on to the question of the nature and authority of Muhammad as Prophet. Basetti-Sani acknowledges that if the Quran is truly inspired, then Muhammad is truly a divine Messenger. But his prophethood lies outside the line of Israel's prophets and even follows Jesus' own arrival, presenting a serious problem for many Christian doctrines of prophethood. Again, Maximalists answer on thoroughly Christian terms, by refiguring prophetic time as a charismatic missionary might understand the inspired portents, visions, and even the tribal traditions that prepare his or her way in the form of preparatio evangelica. While prophetic in a sense, these do not play the same role as the prophets of Israel who heralded the Messiah's advent. Instead, Muhammad heralds the restoration of the faith of Abraham. His ministry serves as a catechumenate for Muslims to receive the gospel when the Church finally delivers it (Basetti- Sani, 25).

This description of Muhammad's "Abrahamic" prophethood in a sense honors the Muslim claim to be humanity's primordial religion. But despite Basetti-Sani's assurance that "Islam remains, in a certain sense, the `original religion of Abraham,' before Sinai and after Pentecost" (Basetti-Sani, 209), in fact he effectively consigns its role to that of the "catechumenate of the sons of Ishmael" (Basetti-Sani, 207). This is, of course, not at all how Muslims understand Muhammad's status as divine Messenger and "Seal of the Prophets." They have their own dialectics concerning Muhammad's role as primordial Messenger and abrogator of previous revelation, and their own normative interpretive practices that "supersede" the Quran while acknowledging its primacy. And they of course venerate Muhammad as God's Messenger and as the paradigmatic Muslim in ways that Basetti-Sani simply cannot appreciate, while by contrast Basetti-Sani exhibits palpable reserve in describing Muhammad's character and prophetic office. A truly Christian dialectic concerning the universality, particularly, and relativity of Muhammad's Message might not betray the Muslim fundamental logic. But Basetti- Sani's supersessionist scheme clearly does.

A final achievement of Maximalist enquiry is appreciation not just of Muhammad, but also the Muslim tradition he founded. This is a revolution in the Catholic assessment of Islam, comparable to Izetbegovic's willingness to let Muslim Messengers like Moses and Jesus personify their followers. Post-Vatican II Catholicism appreciates Islam for its providential role in bringing monotheism to millions. Nostra Aetate claims what the Quran claims: that the God of Muslims is the God of Christians. It does so on the Christian grounds that Christians and Muslims both worship God the creator, the God of Abraham, God the eschatological judge of humanity on the Last Day. Yet it still respects the fundamental logic of Islam, affirming both the Quran's own account of Christians as People of the Book because they believe in God and the Last Day (Surah 2:62 and 5:69), and the primordial connection Muslims see between the faith of Muhammad and the faith of Abraham.

However, the conviction that Islam produces authentic faith in God presents a grave epistemological problem for Christianity. Islam's rise seems to amount to a divine pluralism that strips the Church of its former role as God's privileged representative on earth. Basetti-Sani's view of Islam as merely a (dispensable) step on the road to full Christian faith solves the problem by violating Islam's fundamental convictions. Maximalists trace the salvation-historical significance of the Islamic tradition through Ishmael (who to them personifies Islam). Ishmael eventually comes to participate, along with his descendants, in the full blessings of Abraham recorded in Genesis 17:1-11. Here Catholic Maximalism legitimately uses the Christian canon to interpret Islam's patriarchs. But unfortunately, it follows the Christian logic so narrowly that here too it utterly ignores the Muslimof Ishmael's and Abraham's significance, which is considerably different. In Islam Abraham is a reformer, an opponent of idolatry, builder of Mecca as a city of peace, and (along with Ishmael) builder of the Kabah as a place of monotheistic worship, which is subsequently corrupted by jahilipolytheism and partnering. Islam is not about lineage; it is about faithfulness. Thus, in ignoring the Muslim understanding of Abraham and Ishmael, the Maximalist renarration of Ishmael's role in God's salvation-history violates the fundamental logic of Islam. Ironically, the Muslim account of Abraham and Ishmael is probably more compatible with orthodox Christianity than the Maximalist one: "Out of these stones God can raise children for Abraham" (Matthew 3:9). Maximalism fails to appropriate a Muslim resource that would strengthen its own argument considerably.

Overall, the Maximalist case features substantial accomplishments. Its Christian embrace of the entire Shahadah amounts to a contention that the knowledge of the God of (the Quranic) Muhammad is essentially compatible with the love of the God of (the biblical) Jesus Christ. But it undoubtedly falls short of the ideal for convergence literature, for its commendable commitment to Christianity's fundamental logic considerably overshadows its hypothetical commitment to Islam's. Anawati's criticism that its "interpretations are illusory and rest on a fragile historical, exegetical, and theological base" is substantially correct (Anawati, 59). His critique is most perceptive in its accusation that Maximalists read the Quran and Islam itself without consulting Muslims (Anawati, 57). Basetti-Sani's greatest failure here is endemic among convergence enthusiasts: He ignores both the Muslim history of Quranic exegesis and his contemporary Muslim readers. His narration of Ishmael is a perfect example. In the absence of true bilinguals to navigate two traditions at once, consultation of another tradition's reading and living communities is essential. And for all Basetti-Sani's exposure to Islam and sympathy with it, he is monolingual, unable to appreciate Islam from within. The difference between the tenor of his work and that of true convergence is, to appropriate MacIntyre, unmistakably "the difference between the utterances of someone who has mastered a particular language ... and the utterances of someone who is using a phrase-book to speak in a language which he or she has not mastered" (MacIntyre, 381). My competence in Islam's particular language is far lower than Basetti-Sani's, but it can easily envision Muslims reacting with as much shock and outrage at his description of Islam as Jews and Christians should feel at Izetbegovic's and Nasr's idealized, reductionist descriptions of the Jewish and Christian traditions. His project does not fulfill the promise of Nostra Aetate.

Beyond Convergence-as-Surrender

As The Taming of the Shrew ends, Petruchio's plan seems to have succeeded. He has forced Katharina into submission. She will name the sun and moon according to her husband's whim. She comes when she is called, and chastises her sisters for not knowing their place in the divine hierarchy:

But now, I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most, which we indeed least are.
Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husbands' foot:
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready, may it do him ease (Shakespeare, V.II)!

Katharina's capitulation is all Petruchio needs to hear: "Why, there's a wench! Come on, and kiss me, Kate!" But the servant Lucentio gets the play's last word, an expression of astonishment tinged with doubt: "'Tis a wonder, by your leave, she will be tam'd so." His questionable credulity leaves the audience with unanswered questions: Will it all really be this orderly in Petruchio's fiefdom? Or does Katharina still have a secret mind of her own? Is her kiss one of true love, or mere fealty, or even disguised betrayal?

Both Izetbegovic's and the Maximalists' proposals for convergence appropriate the resources of their rival traditions according to their own fundamental logics, in ways that at times honor the rivals' fundamental logics. But in the end, both proposals suffer for common reasons: First, insufficient skill at "speaking" the rival tradition and hearing all that it has to say; and second, lack of respect for the incommensurabilities that qualify the considerable commensurabilities they do legitimately find.

It takes a truly bilingual figure or community to navigate traditions like these. Yet it is not even clear that such a figure or community can exist, given Christianity's and Islam's mutual commitments to exclusivity. (And, of course, there may be no fundamental continuity between the traditions to begin with, in which case any effort at convergence is doomed ultimately to fail.) It may be that at best, the two traditions will gain rare converts who continue to appreciate the rationalities of their old traditions, though now understanding them in terms of their new ones. Working together, these new Christians and Muslims may be able to comprise a sort of bilingual community from which to inquire into the positive significance each tradition has for its rival, beyond its mere act of surrender. Neither Izetbegovic nor the Maximalist school of Roman Catholicism has yet arrived at that extraordinary depth of insight. However unintentionally, each would still play the part of Petruchio to the other's Katharina.


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