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How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind

Chapter 9

Reshaping the Relation of Christianity and Islam Through Historical Insight

Key Names, Places and Terms

Victor of Vita: The bishop of an unknown city in Byzacena from 480/1-484. He is the author of a very important treatise on the history of the Vandal persecution in Africa.

Ancient African Christianity after the Arabic Conquest notwithstanding what is often taught, Christianity did not completely disappear from North Africa after the Arab invasion. Centers of Christianity continued into the 12th century. As an example, until the 11th century Roman popes maintained relations with five African bishops. Also, Latin Christian inscriptions have been found dating to 1076.

Dhimmi is the Arabic term for the non-Muslims subject to the government administered according to sharia law. This status was originally made available only to people of the book—Christians and Jews. Dhimmis had more rights than other non-Muslim groups but significantly less than fellow Muslim citizens. Dhimmis were expected to pay a poll tax, were excluded from the political process, and were expected to be subservient and loyal to their Muslim rulers.

Thesis: pre-Islamic African wisdom influenced Islamic scholarly study of sacred texts. This fact has not been adequately studied by either Christian or Islamic scholars.


  1. What are the spiritual resources that have enabled Christians to stand up peacefully to the challenge of Islam?
  2. Oden asks when will young African Christians hear the call to learn Arabic as a divine vocation? What are his reasons for encouraging the study of Arabic by African Christian scholars? Do you think his reasons are valid?
  3. What are the four major source languages of the Christianity in the first millennium of African history? Why is it important that these languages be studied on the African continent?


  1. What chapter(s) was most meaningful, memorable and helpful to you? Why?
  2. Tite Tiénou writes, “In my opinion, this book is one of the most significant contributions to the literature on world Christianity. Must reading!" How has this book changed your view of world Christianity?
  3. What will be your personal response to this book’s thesis?