Gabriel Said REYNOLDS

Plenary Lecture : Islam and the Salvation of non-Muslims: The Qur’anic Perspective
Wednesday, April 15th, 2020 at 11.30

The lecture will be spoken in English, with live translation in Arabic and English


Islam and the Salvation of non-Muslims: The Qur’anic Perspective

 Outside observers often assume that the only acceptable soteriological position in Islam is exclusivism, that Islam condemns non-Muslims to hell. A hadith has Muhammad declare (in response to Salman al-Farisi) that Christians who died before him can be saved but, “Whoever hears me today and does not believe in me is already damned.” Yet what is the position of the Qur’an on soteriology? At the April 2020 Pluriel conference on “Islam and Otherness” I will argue the Qur’an’s emphasis on divine will (“He forgives whomever He wishes and punishes whomever He wishes.” Q 48:14; cf. 5:18, 40) provides an opening for inclusivism.

                The Qur’an emphasizes God’s mercy (as Fazlur Rahman emphasizes), using al-rahman as name for God and describing him as “gentle” (al-halim), “forgiving” (al-ghafur), “relenting” (al-tawwab), and “benevolent” (al-latif).  Ab? ??mid al-Ghazali (d. 1111) insists (in his Faysal al-tafriqa) that God’s mercy surpasses human reason.  The Qur’?n also teaches that God only punishes those to whom He has sent a warner (Q 17:15).  This teaching leads Ghazali to argue that those who have never heard of Islam and those who have only heard mistruths about Islam might be saved (since they have never had a true warning).

                In my paper, while engaging with the thought of Ghazali (and the analyses thereof by Robert Caspar, Mohammad Hassan Khalil, and Emmanuel Pisani), I will argue that the Qur’an allows for the possible salvation of those beyond Ghazali’s categories.  Q 11:107 famously declares: “They will remain in [hell] for as long as the heavens and the earth endure—except what your Lord may wish.”  This declaration (which was at the center of Mu'tazil'/Ash'ari polemics) summarizes the expansive reach of the divine will in the Qur’an. The God of the Qur’an, who judges as He wills, is able to reach past religious boundaries to show mercy to the non-Muslim other.


Gabriel Said REYNOLDS researches the Qur’an and Muslim/Christian relations and is Professor of Islamic Studies and Theology in the Department of Theology at Notre Dame University, USA. At Notre Dame he teaches courses on theology, Christian-Muslim Relations, and Islamic Origins. He is the author of The Qur’an and Its Biblical Subtext (Routledge 2010) and The Emergence of Islam (Fortress, 2012), the translator of 'Abd al-Jabbar’s Critique of Christian Origins (BYU 2008), and editor of The Qur’an in Its Historical Context (Routledge 2008) and New Perspectives on the Qur’an: The Qur’an in Its Historical Context 2 (Routledge 2011). In 2012-13 Prof. Reynolds directed, along with Mehdi Azaiez, “The Qur'an Seminar,” a year-long collaborative project dedicated to encouraging dialogue among scholars of the Qur'an. He is currently Chair of the Executive Board of the International Qur'anic Studies Association (IQSA) and completing a book (Yale Univ. Press) on the Qur'an in the light of Biblical tradition.


Major publications

REYNOLDS, Gabriel Said. The Qur'an in Conversation with the Bible: Revised Qur'an Translation of Ali Quli Qara'i annotated with Biblical Texts and Commentary by Gabriel Said Reynolds.

REYNOLDS, Gabriel Said.The Qur'an Seminar Commentary (editor and contributor). Berlin: De Gruyter

REYNOLDS, Gabriel Said.The Emergence of Islam. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012. 226 pages. Arabic translation: Nashu al-Islam. Trans. Sa'd Sa'di and 'Abd al-Masih Sa'di. Beirut: Dar al-Machreq

REYNOLDS, Gabriel Said. New Perspectives on the Qur'an: The Qur'an in Its Historical Context 2.Introduced and Edited. London: Routledge, 2011. 536 pages.

REYNOLDS, Gabriel Said.The Qur'an and Its Biblical Subtext. London: Routledge, 2010.304 pages.

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