Joseph Kenny, O.P.

1. Informal programmes for Christians
2. Formal courses for the generality of Christians
3. Courses to be part of a B.A. programme in Philosophy or Theology
4. Programmes for a specialist in Islam

Information on Islam in its various aspects should be available to anyone with the interest or duty of knowing about it. This information can be provided in formal programmes or informally.

Courses on Islam should not be planned in isolation from general Christian formation. It should be stressed that the courses proposed here should be part of integrated programmes on all aspects of Catholic life at every level.


For Christian learning about Islam for the first time

A programme for the mass of the laity includes:

For those who have done a formal course

The second kind of informal programme is continuing education and updating for those who have already been familiarized with the basics of Islam. This includes current articles on the development of thought and policies in the world of Islam, and Christian-Muslim relations. There can also be conferences, for example on the following themes:

  1. A Muslim overview. (by a Muslim)
  2. Profile of a prophet in the Qur'ān, as relevant to Christ.
  3. The Qur'ān and adīth picture of Christ.
  4. The historical-critical problem of Qur'ānic Christology.
  5. Christ in medieval and later Muslim literature.
  6. Qur'ānic Christology compared with previous heterodox Christologies.
  7. Qur'ānic Christology compared with orthodox Christology.
  8. Jesus today in word and sacrament, addressing and healing the world, with particular reference to Muslims.
  1. The role of Scripture in forming the Muslim community an "Arabic Qur'ān".
  2. The editorial shaping of the Qur'ān.
  3. The Qur'ān on God as One Being and Unassociated Sovreign Agent.
  4. Muslim ideas of God's speech and Qur'ānic inspiration, revision and abrogation.
  5. The Qur'ān as a sacrament and object of reverence; miraculosity (i`jāz).
  6. The Qur'ān on God's mercy and providence.
  7. The Qur'ān on God's justice towards man's sin, merit, recompense and intercession.
  8. Comparison of Christian and Muslim ideas of God.
  1. The Muslim umma; brotherhood, unity.
  2. Authority in the umma after the death of the Prophet.
  3. The meaning and role of Sharī`a: various views.
  4. Qur'ānic ethical norms that faciliate the smooth functioning of society.
  5. The status of women: various views.
  6. Non-Muslims, faith and salvation: various views.
  7. Rights of man and the treatment of non-Muslims: various views.
  8. Cooperating with non-Muslims: various views.


Formal courses are necessary particularly for lay leaders, catechists and religious. It should be a minumum of 45 hours, either in a 3 week intensive course or spread over a longer period. Its purpose is to provide a general knowledge of Islam, enabling the graduate to interact with Muslims on a daily basis, with a comprehension of the Muslim's faith, how Christianity is different, and how he can respond to objections or otherwise witness to his faith. The course should also help the graduate to understand and interpret in a balanced manner the events affecting Muslim-Christian relations in his country.

The three week course comprises 45 hours of formal lectures, with more than that time provided for reading, discussions and videos. All this can be re-arranged as the organizers see best, but because intensive sessions are often wearying, I propose a programme which allows for more personal work and digestion of what is given in lectures. Each day would have 3 hours of lecture, 3 scheduled hours of personal reading, and 2 hours of discussion. The following is a possible daily horarium for a 5 day week:

6:00 Rise
6:30 Mass
7:30 Breakfast
8:00 Reading (1 & 2)
10:00 Lecture (1)
11:00 Lecture (2)
12:00 Discussion (1)
1:00 Prayer & lunch
2:00 Rest
3:00 Lecture (3)
4:00 Discussion (4)
5:00 Sports
7:00 Prayer
7:30 Supper
8:00 Recreation, video, reading

Courses Hours
011 Early Islam 10
012 The Qur'ān, Hadīth & Sharī`a  5
013 Basic practices  5
014 Islam in West Africa 10
015 Dialogue and apologetics 15

Distribution over the three weeks
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3
Lecture 1 011 011 012
Lecture 2 013 014 014
Lecture 3 015 015 015

Course descriptions and syllabus

Basic text for all the courses: West Africa and Islam (AECAWA Publication, 2000)

011 Early Islam

The political, economic and religious situation of the Middle East at the rise of Islam, the life of Muammad, the first rapid spread of Islam, and a brief survey of subsequent history.

Basic text:
J. Kenny, West Africa and Islam, chs. 2-11.
J. Kenny, Early Islam
W. Montgomery Watt, Muammad, prophet and statesman
Watt, Muammad at Mecca
Watt, Muammad at Medina
videos: The Message; The Sword of Islam etc.

Distribution of the 10 hours:
1 Introduction & Chapter 1
2 Chapters 2 & 3
3 Chapters 4 & 5
4 Chapters 6 & 7
5 Chapters 8 & 9
6 Chapters 10 & 11
7 Chapters 12 & 13
8 Chapters 14 & 15
9 cushion
10 cushion

Themes for study and examination:

012 The Qur'ān, Hadīth & Sharī`a

The arrangement of the Qur'ān, Muslims' idea of inspiration and reverence for the Qur'ān. What is Hadīth, when it was composed and where found. What is Sharī`a and its position in an Islamic society. Islamic theory of the state.

Basic text:
J. Kenny, West Africa and Islam, chs. 13-15
J. Kenny, Scholarship in early Islam: Qur'ān and Hadīth studies (to be posted)

Distribution of the 5 hours:
1 The Qur'ān: layout, style
2 The Qur'ān: Muslim theory of inspiration; respect and use of Qur'ān
3 Hadīth
4 Sharī`a: sources, role in Islam
5 Islamic theory of the state

013 Basic practices

Beliefs, prayer, fasting, zakāt, pilgrimage, marriage.

Basic texts:
J. Kenny, West Africa and Islam, chs 16-22
J. Kenny, Basic practices of Islam and Christianity
J. Kenny, The Risāla of Ibn-abī-Zayd al-Qayrawānī, an annotated translation

Distribution of the 5 hours:
1 Beliefs 2 Prayer3 Fasting & Zakāt 4 Pilgrimage 5 Marriage

014 Islam in West Africa

The coming of Islam to West Africa through North Africa and the Sahara. Influence on its spread through the economic, political and religious situation of West Africa, as shown in its various periods.

Basic texts:
J. Kenny, West Africa and Islam, chs.23-32
J. Kenny, The spread of Islam through North to West Africa
Trimingham, History of Islam in West Africa, Islam in West Africa
Peter Clarke, West Africa and Islam

Distribution of the 10 hours:
1 The coming of Islam to Egypt
2 The coming of Islam to the Maghrib and the Sahara
3 Ghana and contemporary societies
4 The Murābis (Almoravids)
5 Mali & Songhay
6 The jamā`a period and the beginning of jihāds
7 The Sokoto jihad
8 Islam under colonial rule
9 Islam in the independent period
10 cushion

015 Dialogue and apologetics

A study of the Church's documents regarding religious liberty, the salvation on non-Christians, mission and dialogue. Examination of what is common, similar or different between Islam and Christianity. Muslim apologetics and responses. What in Christianity could attract or repel a Muslim. Pastoral approaches.

Basic text:
J. Kenny, West Africa and Islam, chs. 33-45
J. Kenny, Views on Christian-Muslim relations
Supplementary: (much of it included in Views)
Vatican II documents
Paul VI, Ecclesiam suam
John Paul II, Redemptoris missio
Pontifical Council for inter-religious relations, Dialogue and mission (1984), Dialogue and Proclamation 1991)
AECAWA, Dialogue
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Jesus
Encounter, various articles

Distribution of the 15 hours:
1 Religious liberty
2 Salvation of non-Christians
3 Dialogue & mission
4 Common values in Islam
5 Differences
6 Muslim apologetics & response
7 Christian attractions and weaknesses
8 Protestant approaches (no salvation of Muslims, modalism, Qur'ān to prove the Bible & Jesus)
9 Catholic approaches
10-15 cushion


The next level is a B.A. level series of at least 90 hours (three 30 hour courses) on:

This level is necessary for future priests and can also be available for some religious, catechists and lay leaders. Its purpose is to enable the graduate to provide leadership in Muslim-Christian relations, and to form Christians both in informal programmes and by teaching the formal 3 week course.


The final level is the training of specialists. This can be at the level of an M.A. degree, the minimum requirement for seminary teachers, and at the level of Ph.D., a necessary requirement for teaching Islam at a postgraduate level so as to prepare seminary teachers.

For a deeper knowledge of Islam, one should have a knowledge of: I present here just a rushed draft introductory survey to a vast subject.

General works

There is the Encyclopedia of Islam; Index islamicus; Gilliot's bulletin of ancient texts published in Egypt in each issue of MIDEO. Be familiar with the periodicals IDEO receives.

Arabic Language

Arabic Literature






Pre-Islamic Arabia and Middle-East background to Islam

Life of Muhammad


Umayyad, `Abbāsid periods

North and West Africa

Modernism إصلاح

Inter-religious relations