Monday, 4 December 2006

Cambridge too (and Islam too)

Another great thing about Cambridge is the University Library - to which all Cambridge MAs have access and exceedingly generous borrowing rights! This is not so good for the poor undergraduates: I remember trying to get hold of several books only to be told by the catalogue that they were out and due back in about 8 weeks time. Probably on the desk of some Lecturer, unread - or on the desk of some graduate of the University, unread.

Well, now I'm one of those troublemakers. And despite best intentions some books do remain unread on the dresser for several weeks. At the moment I am taking advantage of the UL's vast collection to do some research into the origins of Islam. Currently half-way through Patricia Crone's Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (Princeton, 1987). Crone is a serious scholar (she has facility in more than 10 languages, and her bibliographies alone are usually longer than my entire MPhil thesis!) and her work has significant implications for Islamic/Muslim history, historiography and theology.

Therefore it also has significance for Muslim-Christian dialogue and for a robust Christian apologetic in that context. Not in the sense of simplistic debunking (though, as a Christian, I do believe that Islam is 'false'), but in the sense of properly engaging with scholarship. A challenge that Christians have faced for some time - both publicly and privately - and one to which the Muslim world has not yet fully woken up. This is how researchers who question traditional Islamic thought have been treated.