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Muslim Views of the Bible in Historical Perspective

Spring 2024

Monday February 12th - April 29th

Course leaders:  Dr Martin Whittingham and Dr Motaz Al-Thaher

Speakers and facilitators include: Dr Mohammed Gamal Abdelnour, Dr Belal Abo al-Abbas, Dr Michael McCoy, Dr Charles Ramsey, Dr Sam Ross     

This course will have classes on Mondays 8:00-10:00 am Houston time.

Students will also be required to attend weekly group sessions, which may be held face-to-face or online.  

Students who wish to obtain CMCS Houston credit for this course are usually required to complete the first four modules of our 'Research and Writing for Muslim & Christian Studies' prior to the start of the course.   This course may be begun at any time - students are advised to begin as soon as possible.

The course cost is $400, reduced to $150 for auditing and majority world students. 


CMCS Houston has full and half-scholarships available.  To apply for a scholarship, email a letter of application together with your c.v. and contact details of two referees to

Course Descriptor:

Muslim Views of the Bible in Historical Perspective (3 credit hours)

This course introduces students to the range and concerns of Muslim responses to the Bible. The course unfolds chronologically, beginning in the early years of Islam and ending in the 20th century.

We begin with the Qur’an, its statements about the scriptures which preceded it, and how these have been interpreted in early exegesis. We then focus on the Hadith material, both Sunni and Shia, followed by looking at prominent figures from the formative and classical periods of Islam.

Having explored thinkers from the Islamic heartlands and al-Andalus, horizons broaden with discussion of figures from the Ottoman Empire, Iran, the Malay-Indonesian world and India.  Finally we land in the 20th century.

The course will include context and background to any given region, as well as a detailed focus on extracts from specific writers. A range of genres will be encountered, from Muslim scriptural material and its exegesis to history, apologetics and Bible commentary. The balance of criticism and use of the Bible will be considered, alongside the concerns of particular thinkers and their contexts. All this should equip students to reflect on what they have learned and how it bears on modern situations, as well as extending their knowledge of historical interreligious engagement.



The overall aim of the course is to equip students to understand texts in their geographical, political and intellectual context. In order to do this, we aim:

  1. To enable students to understand how Muslims used the Bible for Islamic goals.

  2. To give students an understanding of key criticisms of the Bible from Muslim perspectives

  3. To enable students to understand continuity and change in Muslim responses to the Bible over the centuries.


Students will be able to:

  1. Understand the Muslim scriptural foundations for responses to the Bible.

  2. Identify key Biblical passages which are the focus of attention for Muslim writers.

  3. Recognize the range of responses found in the early centuries of Islam.

  4. Relate the reasons behind particular responses to their historical context.



The course will typically be held over 13 weeks, with one online class each week, one local or regional discussion group and one written reflection per week.

The discussion groups will discuss extracts from primary sources, and students will be required to spend at least 2 hours per week studying these. Study material will be available on the online learning platform, but students will also be encouraged to use the Houston Christian University online library facilities and other sources. The reflection task will be linked with the textual study.


For accreditation at master’s level, students will be required to

  • Fulfil minimum attendance and participation requirements.

  • Submit all written reflections.

  • Complete a ‘take-home’ short answer examination.

  • Write a 4-5,000-word essay.

I plan to implement the ideas and methods I learned from this class in interfaith dialogue, pursuing productive dialogue with Muslims. I also plan to build upon the foundation of knowledge I gained from this course by further study of Christian-Muslim history in the future.

Recent master’s graduate, Houston Baptist University

Course Outline

1) February 12th

a) Introduction, Overview

b) Positives and Negatives: Qur’anic foundations: The Qur’an and Early Commentary

2) February 19th

The Hadith

3) February 26th

Using the Bible in the Early Centuries (including Ibn Qutayba, Ibn Rabban al-Tabari, Ismailis etc) 

4) March 4th

Criticism and use: Al-Andalus: (including Ibn Hazm and Ibn Barrajan)

5) March 11th

The Mamluk World (1): (including Ibn Taymiyya) 

6) March 18th

The Mamluk World (2): (including Ibn Khaldun and al-Biqa‘i) 


7) March 25th

Around the Muslim-Majority World: Iran, the Ottoman Empire and the Malay-Indonesian world

8) April 1st

A Focus on the Gospels in 19th century India (1): Rahmat Ullah Kairanawi 

9) April 8th BREAK

10) April 15th

A Focus on the Gospels in 19th century India (2): Sayyid Ahmad Khan


11) April 22nd

20th century engagement: including Tafsir (Commentary) literature.

12) April 29th

Looking back and looking forward: Reflections and learning points

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