Dissertation Defense: Jordan Duffner
Candidate: Jordan Duffner
Major: Theological and Religious Studies
Advisor: Leo Lefebure, Ph.D.
Title: Muhammad’s Character as “Fruit of the Spirit”: Catholic Pneimatology and Portrayals of Islam’s Prophet
A project of Catholic comparative theology, this study examines Islamic portrayals of the Prophet Muḥammad’s character in light of St. Paul’s list of the “fruit of the Spirit,” with the goal of naming a locus of the Holy Spirit’s activity in the Islamic religious tradition. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church affirmed that the Holy Spirit can be present not just in the lives of non-Christian individuals, but also in aspects of their religious traditions. With this in mind, and utilizing the transcendental pneumatology of Karl Rahner, this dissertation engages historical and contemporary Sunnī Muslim portrayals of the Prophet Muḥammad’s character (khuluq) and qualities (shamāʾil) that have not previously figured into Catholic theologizing on Islam. The first source is the Shifā of Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ (d. 1149), a widely popular text which lauds the Prophet and spells out his many ethical qualities. The second source consists of numerous contemporary videos, produced by the U.S.-based Yaqeen Institute, that seek to acquaint Muslims with Muḥammad’s demeanor and character traits. I mine these portrayals for the fruit of the Spirit, a series of ethical qualities listed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity/goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To do this, I construct a rubric of the fruits of the Spirit by drawing on the comparative theological insights of David Tracy and the hermeneutic philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, along with secondary literature on the fruits. I then bring this rubric into dialogue with the Islamic sources. Ultimately, this study finds that these depictions of the Prophet are laden with the fruits of the Spirit, an indication that the divine offer of grace is being extended to many Muslims by means of this aspect of their faith tradition. This study engages Islamic sources, Christian texts, and theological categories that have yet to be brought together, offering an alternative approach to past Christian appraisals of Muḥammad. Ultimately, this dissertation seeks to do justice to Muslim conceptions of the Prophet while also expanding the purview of Catholic theology of religions.