In mid-June, 2022, Al-Mahdi Institute once again had the pleasure of hosting three revered scholars; one representing each of the Abrahamic faiths. On this occasion, the convention of scholars discussed the very interesting topic of angelology from their respective faith backgrounds. The meeting involved in-house as well as live active online participation.
The meeting included three fascinating discussions, through which attendees, from all the religions, could clearly see parallels and distinctions in how angels are viewed, within the different faiths. As would be expected, each presentation was followed by an incredibly vibrant ‘Question and Answer’ session and discussions also continued over the tea and lunch breaks.
Canon Dr. Andrew Thompson began the presentations by explaining how angels are part and parcel of religious belief, and not exclusively confined to formal or conventional religions. After explaining that Christian beliefs in angels are largely based on Hebrew texts of the Old Testament, Dr. Thomson’s paper split the way angels are viewed in, Christian theology, into two categories: their ontological aspects and their nature on one hand, and their functional value on the other hand.
Thereafter, the IRS meeting was grateful to benefit from Prof. Rabbi Jeff Berger, providing a Jewish examination on angelology. Rabbi Berger gave a host of references to angels’ interaction with man, including apostles of God, as mentioned in Hebrew scripture. Subsequently, Rabbi Berger described a hierarchy of angelic ranks as described in Judaism. He then classified angelic beings into virtuous angels, who guide towards God, and those that are subversive and prompt man to act in an evil way.
Dr. Mashid Turner presented a surface overview of the Islamic perspective of angels. She began by outlining that the belief in angels is a foundational aspect of Islamic theology – one that has been emphasised upon in the Quran. As her talk developed, clear parallels could be seen between the Islamic perspectives and that of the Christian and Jewish backgrounds.
Dr. Turner explained how, in her understanding of the Islamic belief, angels were manifestations of God’s power and mechanisms of His will to be enacted; without having autonomous will of their own or power to dissent against God’s command, nor agency to act beyond His will.
Reverend Canon Doctor Andrew Thompson
The Reverend Andy is a vicar in the Diocese of London. Over the years he has served the Church in the UK, Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen and the UAE.
His publications include Christianity in the UAE: Culture and Heritage, Jesus of Arabia, and Christianity in Oman: Ibadism, Religious Freedom and the Church . He was awarded Masters degrees from the universities of Nottingham and Gloucester for research on on interfaith relations. In 2020 he received an honorary PhD by Publication for his studies on Christian Muslim Relations in the Persian Gulf. He has participated in interfaith events in Washington DC, Brisbane, Rome, Qatar, Copenhagen and London.
In 2011 he received the MBE from Queen Elizabeth II for services to Human Rights and Interfaith Dialogue. In 2019 he was awarded a Pioneer of the Emirates medal from the Prime Minister of the UAE.. He is a Canon of Bahrain Cathedral and was the Chairman of the Board for the Al Amana Centre, an Interfaith Resource based in Muscat, Oman.
Rabbi Jeff Berger
Rabbi Jeff is a Professor at the Judith Lady Montefiore College Semikha Programme where he teaches hermeneutics and rabbinic practice. Jeff holds advanced degrees in Asian Studies and Business Administration. In 2019, Jeff was appointed Interfaith Adviser at Mitzvah Day UK – the largest faith-driven social action day in the country. He also serves as a Chaplain for the Hertfordshire Constabulary. Since 2018, he has been involved with Interfaith outreach and efforts to build bridges of understanding and compassion between and among Faith Leaders in the UK and further afield.
Dr. Mahshid Turner
Dr. Mahshid is Turner Durham University’s Muslim chaplain and an independent researcher. She is the first female Muslim chaplain to be appointed in Higher Education in the UK. She has degrees in various subjects, Masters in Public Health, Masters in Muslim Chaplaincy, Counselling and Pastoral Care and PhD in Muslim theology. she has also led many community projects such as Minority ethnic groups as well as working full time as SEWA Project Officer for Age Concern’s Minority Ethnic Community and as Community Health Specialist for Sure Start. As well as her chaplaincy work for the university, Mahshid is the Head of Education and Outreach for International Foundation for Muslim Theology, and will be contributing towards leading a three-year project, funded by Templeton Foundation. on ‘Communication and Revelation: A Muslim Theological Perspective’. Mahshid is also one of the current co-chairs of Durham University’s BAME Network.