Book review: Answering Jihad – a better way forward (Qureshi, IVP)

[edit: for those just here for the travel blogging and theology of travel, you’ll be glad to know that these book reviews will soon be moving to a more suitable website that has asked for them!]

Sadly I wasn’t given this one free.  And so I’ve spent many cents on buying many copies of this and distributing it widely.  Why?  Perhaps you’ll indulge me to let me briefly try and capture that in a few hundred words.

I recently attended a public lecture in UCC where the speakers agreed that ISIS and other Muslim extremists were wrongly named and were not Islamic at all.  Muslims themselves also have put great energy into such thinking with campaigns such as “Not in my name” and understandably so!

Simply by taking those questions on everyone’s lips, Nabeel (once a Muslim himself) covers everything most things on a surface level, but enough for the average reader:

  • What is Islam?
  • What is jihad?
  • Is jihad in the qu’ran and the life of Muhammad?
  • who are the true Muslims: violent or peaceful Muslims?
  • Why are Muslims being radicalised?
  • How does jihad compare with old testament warfare?
  • What does Jesus teach about jihad?
  • How does jihad compare with the crusades?

I’ve read lots about Islam, and have spent many hours of my life in the Islamic communities where I’ve lived, serving them and being served by them.  And Nabeel is one of the few I’ve come close to agreeing with.

Most who’ve converted from Islam in my experience in the west, will react against it forcefully, and speak out against it in very black and white terms.

Instead Qureshi keeps 2 helpful tensions:

  1. That there are no easy reasons why people turn to violence: it’s a combination of a lot of things.  But religious justification may be a significant one of those
  2. Many Christians in the west start judging Islam by evangelical Christian traditions of sola scriptura (in Islamic form: “sola Qu’ranica”!), western emphasis on historical literary criticism, or western philosophical systems.  But none of these necessarily hold, and some I would argue are downright unhelpful.  Nabeel avoids them all, mostly.  Islam, like Roman Catholicism is not a system of a book.

Tensions, and where to draw them in life, are hard.  

Making things black and white one way or the other are the easy way out, as the sign below shows.  May we join Nabeel in finding tensions.