Book Review: Islam. The Challenge to the Church

Book Review: Islam. The Challenge to the Church 2
Patrick Sookhdeo, Islam. The Challenge to the Church. Pewsey: Isaac Publishing, 2006. Pbk. ISBN: 0954783549. pp.125.

Available from the Barnabas Fund, Old Rectory, River Street, PEWSEY, Wiltshire, SN9 5DB. Tel: +44 1672 564938. Fax: +44 1672 565030

Contents and Summary:

1) Understanding Islam

Discusses the basic teachings of Islam, its sects, morality (including the issues of lying, Jihad and Shari’a). Four “myths” about Islam are refuted:

    1. The Word “Islam” means “peace”.

 

    1. Islam is a religion of peace and there are many verses to prove this in the Qur’an.

 

    1. The Qur’an says: “If you kill one soul it is as if you killed all mankind.”

 

  1. The Qur’an says: “There is no compulsion in religion.”

2) Comparing Islam with Christianity

This chapter is one fo the best in the book and provides a very pithy analysis of a complex subject. My favourite section deals with the knotty issue of the Crusades and is worth citing in full:

The real difference between Christianity and Islam lies in the core issues of their sacred writings and the persons of their founders. Christians have frequently in their long history departed from Christ’s teachings and perpetrated cruelties against Jews, Muslims and heretics. However, when returning to their source scriptures they come face to face with the person of Christ and the Gospel of love and forgiveness he preached, as well as his atoning death and supreme example of humility, service, suffering and non-violence.

When Muslims return to their original sources, they have a very different encounter. The later dated verses of the Qur’an, revealed to Muhammad in Medina, contain much that is intolerant and belligerent. According to the most commonly followed doctrine of abrogation, later verses supersede earlier (more peaceable) verses dating from his days in Mecca. Muslims also meet Muhammad, whose words and actions, recorded in the hadith, give many clear examples of aggression, warmongering, even what in modern terminology appear to be assassination, torture and genocide. Some Muslims will argue that these actions were for a particular context only, but the fact remains that they occurred. Setting up Muhammad as the supreme example in every aspect of his words and actions, nece­ssitates transforming his vices into virtues. This is the real cause of the contradictions so prevalent in Islamic soci­eties and Islamic history, especially on issues relating to jihad, the treatment of women, and the contempt shown to non-Muslims.

Having made this comparison, it should be added that another vital difference is the relative importance of the founder and of the scriptures. The Christian faith is ulti­mately a relationship with a Person, but Islam is focused on the authority of a book.

Dr Sookhdeo concludes the chapter by refuting the claim that Islam, along with Judaism and Christianity are the three Abrahamic faiths. To say that they are is to accept the muslim’s claim that Islam is the final and purest revelation.

3) Issues

This chapter outlines the use made by Muslims of the Law, the media, politics and our education system in order to further their aims. There are helpful sections on the position within Islam of women and non-muslims living in an Islamic society (Dhimmi).

4) Christian-Muslim Relations

Good relations between Christian and Muslims are seriously hampered by Islam’s teaching about the correct way to treat unbelievers. hospitality and gifts may be given by Muslims, but not accepted from Christians. The dangers of allowing Muslims to address churches are outlined, as are those arising from allowing muslims to use church buildings for Friday prayers and inter-faith marches of witness and giving to Islamic charities. Conversion from Islam to Christianity can have severe – sometimes fatal – consequences, even in the UK. This has implications for how church’s support new believers and their families.

Conclusion

Appendix: Ten Christian Approaches to Islam

Glossary of Arabic Terms

Assessment

I am continually surprised at how naive many Christians in the UK are about the teachings and practice of Islam. Dr Sookhdeo has done us a great service in producing a brief but authoritative summary of the ways in which Islam is a challenge to the church and how it can respond to these challenges. It is a book that every Christian should read.