Second Annual Midwest Region
Islamic-Catholic Dialogue/Word of God
Fatima Retreat House
October 14 -15, 1997
By Shahid Athar, M.D.
Dr. Shahid Athar (Indianapolis)
Imam Fawaz Damra (Cleveland)
Imam AM Khattab (Toledo)
Dr. Ghulam H. Asi (Chicago)
Dr. Irfan Ahmed Khan (Chicago)
Dr. Saiyyed M. Syeed (Plainfield)
Rev. Tom Murphy (Indianapolis)
Most Rev. Kevin M. Britt (Detroit)
Dr. John Borelli (Washington)
Rev. Jude Weisenbeck (Louisville)
Rev. Vincent Heirer (St. Louis)
Rev. Joseph Hilinski (Cleveland)
Rev. John Budde (Michigan)
Rev. David Bruning (Ohio)
Sr. John McGuire (Chicago)
Mr. David Wilson (Kokomo)
Elias Mallon, SA (New York)
Thomas Michael Sj (Rome Italy)
The session started with lunch and then an opening prayer followed by a
presentation by Father Elias Mallon and Dr. Irfan Ahmed Khan. In the second
session, the presentation was made by Imam AM Khattab and Father Thomas
Michael followed by discussion.
In the evening there was a third public session and included in that was a
slide presentation from the holy places of Islam and Christianity by Dr.Shahid
Athar who had recently visited Mecca, Medena and Jerusalem.
The next morning, there was a concluding discussion and session related
to the recommendations and future plans followed by lunch and adjournment.
The sessions were held in a very friendly atmosphere. The participants eating
and praying together or at least watching others pray. The presenters were
known for their scholarship in their religion and understanding of
Christian/Muslim relationships and offered insight into the meaning of the Word
of God in the Bible and Qur'an.
No attempts were made to turn this into a debate or confrontation but, just
to present their viewpoints. From the Christian side, Father Thomas Michael
from Rome talked about the "Word of God in the scriptures" and he related to
that Jesus Christ in which according to him, "The word took the flesh and
dwelt" and then God's word continued to form and live in the Christian
community. He agreed that the Bible has both God and also human authors and
the role of biblical authors was to convey God's message in their own way of
thinking. The message remaining divine eternal and universal.
In contrast to the Bible which is a collection of several book, the Qur'an is
one book which was revealed over 22 years and one language which is Arabic
which has been preserved to date and there is no shared author in the Qur'an,
the whole textbook being from God. Sayings of Prophet Mohammed have been
kept separate from the Qur'an. His message also is Divine, Eternal and
According to Dr. Khan, the Qur'an informs the reader that words of God
are indefinite in number and out of that, only some knowledge was revealed for
human beings. The mention " A Word from God" is used to describe Jesus and
sometimes the Qur'an uses the "Word of God" for a Divine decision or a decree
which may be the status of the universal law. Most importantly according to Dr.
Khan, the word of God is revealed guidance in Divine words which is the
ultimate source of light. It is the revealed guidance in Divine words which
guides all human life and gives us the innate ability to distinguish right from
According to Dr. Khan, the role of the prophets was to recite the Word of
God, and through them purify their community and teach them the law. Thus
they helped the believer individually and collectively to maintain their
relationship with revealed guidance in divine words, in better understanding and
reflection in their pure deeds.
While the Theologians discussed the nature of the Word of God from their
side, Dr. Athar and several others discussed its implication on daily life of
believers, especially in work of Interfaith activity and also taking care of the
social needs of the underprivileged and he called it "Words of God in Action".
The participants agreed to return to the Fatima Retreat House on
November 4th and 5th for the third year. At that time, they will continue
discussing the meaning and role of the Word of God in our lives. They will also
hear a presentation on how the Qur'an and Bible are recited and chanted in
prayer and have an example of how the interpretation of certain scripture
passages during prayer are done. The last session on prayer will be with the
public who have been requesting more involvement than the present meeting of
leaders only. The credit for the success of the conference goes to Dr. John
Borelli of The National Conference of Catholic Bishops and Father Tom
Murphy of The Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
We are all looking forward to next years program.