Beyond submission

A theological response to Islam

by Rudolf Kutschera (Author)
©2022 Monographs 130 Pages


The Islamic prophet Muhammad
initiated a theological program
in theocratic form. The Qur’an
challenges Christians and Jews
in many ways and invites them
to take a stance. This is why an
explicitly theological response is
legitimate and necessary. This
book draws on current scholarly
research on Islam and discusses
the sources of the Qur’an, the
fundamental features of its
relationship with Judaism, and
its perception of Jesus. This
leads to a realistic assessment of
Islam and stimulates a renewed
Christian self-understanding.
The fourth chapter presents
the largely unknown insights of
the German-Jewish philosopher
Franz Rosenzweig and the theologian
Joseph Ratzinger/Pope
Benedict XVI on Islam. They provide
an important perspective –
beyond submission.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Abstract
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • 1. The sources of the Qur’an
  • 1.1 The Qur’an in its historical context
  • Muhammad and the Qur’an
  • The literary character of the Qur’an
  • Christian and Jewish influences
  • A realistic view of the origin of the Qur’an
  • The question of the sources of the Qur’an
  • 1.2 Jewish Christian traces
  • Indications of Jewish Christian influences
  • The Seal of the Prophets and the sending of an angel
  • The accusation of the falsification of the scriptures
  • Identifiable sources
  • The relevance of the question of Jewish Christian influences
  • 1.3 Manichaean elements
  • Manichaeism in the context of the emerging Islam
  • Manichaean textual references in the Qur’an
  • Convergence and divergence in content
  • 1.4 Further influences on the Qur’an and emerging Islam
  • The unity of politics and religion in the Byzantine Empire
  • Theological divisions within Christianity
  • Theological analogies between Islam and Nestorianism
  • Influences of ancient Roman legal thought
  • 1.5 The specific Islamic accent
  • Traditional judgments of Christian theologians on the Qur’an
  • The combination of poetry and a sense of superiority
  • The specifically Islamic theological emphasis
  • 2. Anti-Judaism in the Qur’an?
  • 2.1 The seriousness of the question
  • Two current examples
  • An illustrative Qur’anic verse
  • The transformation of biblical content in the Qur’an
  • Statements in the Qur’an on the plurality of religions
  • 2.2 Abraham and Moses in the Qur’an
  • From the biblical Abraham to the prototype of the pious Muslim
  • Moses–from biblical lawgiver to Qur’anic accuser of the Jews
  • 2.3 Phases in the relationships with the Jews
  • 2.4 Questions concerning Qur’anic Anti-Judaism
  • Inner-Islamic approaches
  • An example of a Jewish voice on the Qur’an
  • A commission from a Christian perspective
  • 3. Jesus in the Qur’an
  • 3.1 Sources of the Qur’anic image of Jesus
  • The recourse to apocryphal sources
  • Theological voluntarism in the apocryphal sources
  • 3.2 Basic features of the Qur’anic perception of Jesus
  • Representations of Jesus
  • The defense speech of the infant Jesus in Sura 19
  • Jesus as a prefiguration of Muhammad and a prophetic model
  • The rejection of the crucifixion of Jesus
  • The recourse to Docetism
  • Jesus as the eschatological accuser of the Christians
  • 3.3 Qur’anic argumentation against the divinity of Jesus
  • Argumentation patterns
  • The title “Son of God”
  • 3.4 Jesus in current Muslim-Christian thinking
  • The approach of Comparative Theology
  • The Comparative Approach and the Qur’anic question about Jesus
  • Questions on the Comparative Approach
  • 3.5 A Deeper Understanding of Jesus
  • The challenge of cultural diversity
  • The tradition of Israel as corrective
  • The rediscovered unification of divine and human free will in Jesus
  • 4. Franz Rosenzweig and Joseph Ratzinger on Islam
  • 4.1 Islam as an overall phenomenon
  • 4.2 Franz Rosenzweig’s view on Islam
  • Biographical context
  • Natural paganism in the form of revelation
  • The absence of “inner conversion”
  • The oriental despot
  • Parallels to an Inner-Islamic reform movement
  • Redemption and revelation
  • A different realm of religious knowledge
  • Conclusions from Rosenzweig’s insights
  • 4.3 The Regensburg lecture of Pope Benedict XVI
  • Context of the speech
  • The vastness of reason
  • Deepening our knowledge of God
  • Obstacles to understanding
  • 4.4 Summary and outlook
  • Bibliography

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The word Islam can be translated as ‘submission’–although other translations may also be possible–and the bedrock of this submission is the Qur’an. Is it possible to look at Islam without also succumbing to its internal logic of submission? Beyond Submission attempts to do just that, and is the fruit of several years of theological study of Islam. The author is a theologian committed to the values of personal liberty and human dignity generated by the biblical and Western tradition.

The public discussion about Islam oscillates between trivializing the subject and demonizing its adherents. How can one engage with the topic while avoiding these extremes?

This book examines some of the key issues and perspectives in contemporary Islamic studies and seeks to make them accessible to a non-specialist audience. In doing so, it also confronts issues which, by the logic of submission and “politically correct” conventions, are not mentioned at all.

Engaging with Islam at the theological level thus requires that issues of day-to-day politics be set aside. However, this approach is also largely frowned upon, suspected of signaling a return to the unfortunate religious comparisons and associated polemics of the past.

But it was Muhammad himself who launched a theological program, which is why the Qur’an addresses Christians and Jews directly in innumerable passages. So why should one not attempt to engage with the Qur’an and Islam at the theological level?

With this end in view, four themes have been chosen for discussion:

This book is therefore not an introduction to Islam and is not conceived as a special contribution to Islamic studies. It is not a discussion of socio-political questions about Islam, nor a comparison of religions.

The following example serves to illustrate the book’s selection of topics and its perspective beyond submission: Muhammad followed the growth of his community and his family with keen interest. His adoptive son, Zayd, married a beautiful woman and brought her home. Was she to be denied to Muhammad, the appointed Prophet of Allāh? In the fourth year of the Islamic era, Muhammad saw Zayd’s wife “unveiled and immediately succumbed to her charms. He urged his adopted son to separate from her and then married her.”1 That is why, in Sura 33 of the Qur’an, a “divine” word is conveyed to Muhammad and to all those after him who find themselves in a similar situation: “It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allāh and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair... So when Zayd had no longer any need for her, We [= Allāh] married her to ←12 | 13→you [= the Prophet Mohammad] ... And ever is the command of Allāh accomplished.”2

This excerpt from the Qur’an shows that “Allāh’s Decree” apparently legitimizes a right of access to all persons, a “right” which was accordingly practiced in respect of the adherents of all the religions and traditions that predated Islam.

There is an urgent need to clarify these issues from a historical and a theological point of view. Their continuing relevance is highlighted by an observation of the German-Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig that the confrontation with Islam would shape the third millennium.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2022 (July)
Antijudaismus Benedikt XVI. Franz Rosenzweig Islamkritik Koranisches Jesusbild Koranquellen Kritische Rückfragen Theologische Antwort
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 130 pp.

Biographical notes

Rudolf Kutschera (Author)

Rudolf Kutschera holds a PhD in theology and has been involved in a number of research projects in the Middle East. In his teaching activities at schools and universities in Austria, Germany and Italy, he worked primarily on questions of Christian identity. His research focusses on the relationship of Christianity with Judaism and the clarification of theological questions raised by Islam.


Title: Beyond submission