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Islam in Context: Past, Present, and Future [Paperback]

Peter G Riddell , Peter Cotterell

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Historical and Cultural Perspectives on Islam 19 Jun 2003
By Bruce Bradshaw - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Recent political and economic events have generated a flood of literature on Islam. Most of which neglect the historical and cultural issues that have made Islam an economic, political and religious force in the 21st century. By addressing these issues, Islam in Context equips its audience to interpret the events of 9/11 in the contexts of AD 611, 711 and 811.
This book, like similar ones, addresses the central beliefs and tenets of Islam, such as the Articles of Faith and the Five Pillars. However, it makes significant contributions toward understanding Islam, and the relationships between Islam and Christianity, providing balanced perspectives on such issues as Jihaad, the Crusades, Christian missions to Muslims, and responses to terrorism. It mediates the debates concerning the nature of Jihaad, an issue that has polarized many commentators on Islam since 9/11, influencing them to portray Islam as a religion of peace or a religion of violence.
The discussions on the roles of Jesus and Mohammed are particularly insightful, clarifying many misconceptions that govern conversations between Christians and Muslims. The authors give excellent insight into why Mohammed and Jesus are not dynamically equivalent figures in their respective faiths. Unlike Mohammed, Jesus was born of a Virgin, never married, performed miracles, did not participate in war, and ascended into heaven. Readers who want to explore why the crucifixion, a major point of contention between Islam and Christianity, will appreciate some thoughts on the Islamic teachings concerning why Muslims believe Jesus was not crucified.
The analyses of the Crusades clarify some issues that continue to shape relationships between Christians and Muslims. Readers who are unfamiliar with these events will appreciate the historical details, giving enough commentary to value the political natures of these events. The authors' quotes and comments on the "Reconciliation Walk of the 1990s," an effort by many Christians with European origins to seek to seek forgiveness for the crusades, are particularly noteworthy. Of the walkers, the authors quote: "Their words tell us more about where they are from than where they are going..."
No book that seeks to interpret Islam for Christian readers is complete without some comments on missions. This book acknowledges that Christians are working to convert Muslims, and Muslims also seek to convert Christians, offering some good analyses of these efforts. Christians who are interested in the history of Christian missions to Muslims will appreciate the references to Ramon Lull and Bishop Thomas Valpy French, but wonder whether Samuel Zwemer should have been mentioned.

Peter Riddell and Peter Cotterell's audience should especially commend them for including the sections on terrorism, which explore territories on which other authors fear to tread. In doing so, they address some issues that will generate more thought and discussion on discerning how Christians and Muslims should respond to this complex issue, particularly in light of the political developments in the Middle East.
The notion that Muslims must respond to terrorism is germane to the challenge of responding to terrorism. One way in which Muslims can respond to terrorism, the authors suggest, is by locating Qur'an verses that advocate in their original context to discern their historical meanings and their contemporary significance. The integrity of Islam depends on their success in this effort.
The discussion on Christian responses to terrorism resurrects the tensions between Rheinhold Niebuhr and John Howard Yoder. The authors, like John Howard Yoder, affirm the "there can be no New Testament justification for violence: certainly Jesus was uniformly pacifist." However, despite this affirmation, they seem to affirm Niebuhr's decision to reject pacifism "as an inappropriate response to evil," raising Yoder's question as to whether Jesus is normative for Christian ethics.
The authors attempt to resolve this theological tension between Niebuhr and Yoder by resorting to a "two-kingdom" worldview, acknowledging the nature of the conflict in terms of good and evil. They conclude: "The Christian response to this aspect of terrorism ought not to be more violence, but a peacemaking response," leaving Christians on the Yoderian side of the issue to believe the book postulates the right conclusion for the wrong reasons. Christians certainly affirm the need for peacemaking, but how should we engage in it. Should we, like Niebuhr, focus on original sin-or, like Yoder, affirm the redemptive nature of there cross, which transforms original sin and defeats the powers that hold us in bondage to sin. Furthermore, how do these issues express themselves as we apply them to terrorism?
Certainly, a discussion on the redemptive nature of the cross would have enhanced the content of this book. However, the absence of this discussion does not detract from the value of a book that provides Christians and Muslims with the historical, cultural and theological insights they need to make informed interpretations concerning the impact that Islam is having-and will continue to have-on global political, economic and religious issues.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Islam in Context: An Objective Review 24 Nov 2012
By Darryl Giles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Islam in Context: An Objective Review

As the topic of Islam becomes increasingly more relevant to the Western world, the resulting contradictory opinions or definitions of the religion reveal the dire need to examine Islam in Context. Some refer to Islam as "a peaceful religion," while others identify it as the religion of the coming Antichrist. Muslims and non-Muslims alike have labeled individual Muslims as either radical or moderate in an effort to prove a certain ideology. However, what is normal for Islam today cannot be clarified unless one understands the Islamic routine of the past. What does this 1400 year track record tell the non-Muslim world?

Looking Back
Muhammad has consistently been the pattern or example for the Muslim world to follow. However, very few are willing to speak about his inadequate moral character and the impact he has had throughout history. Immediately upon recognizing him as a prophet at a young age, the Islamic traditions speak of the need to "guard him carefully" (p.21) from the Jews. This seems very problematic considering Jewish/Islamic conflict did not come on to the scene until after the Jews rejected Muhammad's message. Regardless, Muhammad would later have no problem beheading 600 to 700 Jewish men and taking their innocent wives and children captive. Such inadequate moral character was not only a continual pattern throughout the Islamic prophet's lifetime, but they were justified by very convenient "revelations from Allah." It seems hard to miss that his power and influence only led him to a never-ending appetite of self-centered worldly desires. Naturally those who were close to him did likewise after the prophet's death. This proved disastrous, even from the Islamic perspective, and led Muslims into a state of confusion and division. However, this did not stop the Islamic expansion into foreign lands with such "ferocity and cruelty" (p.35) that even battle-hardened Muslim solders voiced their concern. Whatever the disagreement, the followers of Muhammad continued the same ego-centric pattern. Not even the appointed Caliph's or successors' of Muhammad could bring unity. Many of them even became victims of the very Islamic ideology they had embraced and promoted. Today the Muslim world may boast about some of the events which transpired during this time period, but one cannot overlook the failure to bring clarity and unity as the Islamic holy book transitioned into the modern day Qur'an. The final product seems to be an intentional effort to do just the opposite. The opportunity to set the non-Muslim world at ease and establish Islam as a peaceful and non-violent religion was missed. What eventually became the authoritative writings of Islam continued to strike at the heart of sinful man and his fallen nature. Is it any wonder that the self-centered spirit of Muhammad continued to carry out its greed and barbaric acts against the non-Muslim world? Nowhere is this more apparent than in the context of the treatment of Jews and Christians.

In Between: The Ebb and Flow of Empire
The Islamic "Jihad state" spread into North Africa and Europe eliminating the predominantly Christian culture and freedom which came with it. The egotistic ideology led to chaos and conflict with anyone in its path who resisted. After gaining control of the Iberian Peninsula in 719 and the massacre of the Armenians by the Saljuqs, the current Christian leadership decided it was time to react. The seed of contention and discord had been sown in a number of different ways and the Crusades began. This is not to say that those representing Christ at this time and place acted completely in accord to the One True God's instructions, but they certainly had a right to defend themselves against such oppression. Under the right circumstances, anyone but Jesus Himself would face the temptation of responding to evil with evil. The devil certainly does not care what the instrument is as long as he can kill, steal, and destroy (Jn. 10:10). While Christians may have misrepresented the faith in some ways, those who followed Islam were acting in complete accord to Muhammad and the Qur'an. The major conflict between Islam and Christianity should eventually be reduced to the moral character of the two contradictory concepts of God. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire (1900), the Muslims rightly placed the blame on their god. Real morality, law, peace, and life can only be found in the Christian God and the message of His Son, Jesus Christ. One should not overlook the men of history, such as Raymond Lull, who have responded to Islam in a Christ-like way. Such missionaries were willing to share the Gospel even when it cost them their very lives. Such hostility was not limited to those speaking the truth, but also weighed heavily on those who may have been considering another faith. Apparently Muhammad's moral character was founded in a morally inadequate concept of a god who encouraged the murder of any Muslim who decided to leave the Islam (Surah 3:77). Modern Islam may have peaceful and tolerant verses available in the Qur'an and Hadith, but they are worthless until Muslims decide to permanently embrace them as a way of life. Of course, this will prove very difficult because of the example of Muhammad and the spirit of evil inherent to Islam.

Looking Around
The events of 9/11, and other recent acts of violent jihad carried out in the name of Allah, are anything but new. Yet the resounding "talking heads" in America consistently promise the modern world that Islam is a peaceful religion which has merely been hijacked by the radicals. The opportune time seems to be right after a violent act has been carried out by someone who would consider themselves Muslim. Why is the West so gullible and unable to recognize that such acts have been happening for the last 1400 years in Islam? Perhaps a better question is, "When will there be a major moderate Islamic movement to denounce such acts?" Obviously this is not happening, but there does seem to be a major campaign to silence those who say anything negative about Islam. Truth seems to be the new "hate speech" and tolerance the new "love." This is true not just from Muslims, but many non-Muslims, even those who consider themselves Christian, will adamantly object to any connection between Islam and terrorism. The preferred method is not to examine a historical reference, but historical revisionism. While the west struggles with labeling certain Muslims as radical or moderate, the Islamic world itself continues to lift up the prophet Muhammad as "the perfect example." It is quite ironic that Muhammad was terribly confused about Christianity and now the Christian church seems to be confused about the nature of Islam. Now this is not to say that everyone who claims to follow Islam should be labeled as "a radical Islamic extremist," but only to emphasize, once again, that Islam has always had those who were more than willing to follow the violent example of Muhammad. Many of the reasons given to justify such acts only reveal a continued hatred of Christians and Jews and the strong desire for Islam to reign supreme over all other belief systems. If the current condition of Islam is overwhelmingly moderate, with only a few radicals, then it seems reasonable to expect Muslims to display some "love" and "tolerance" for Christians and Jews in their Islamic controlled countries. Where exactly can one find a moderate Islamic movement today in an Islamic nation? Where can one find an Islamic nation producing real peace and harmony with Jews and Christians or any other opposing belief system? Bibles are not allowed into Saudi Arabia and the non-Muslim is prohibited from entering the city of Mecca where Islam basically began. Such regulations are not so much the command of the Saudi King as they are the desire to conform to the standard set forth by Muhammad himself (Surah 9:28). One thing is clear, Islam openly requires its followers to adhere to the Qur'an and the example of Muhammad. Only the non-Muslim world has difficulty recognizing "Islam in Context."
There are many obstacles for both sides to overcome before any significant solution can be reached. The West, especially most Christians, are currently unable to recognize the dire need to understand how history is well on its way to repeating itself. A superficial attitude of "love" and "tolerance" has conditioned the masses for apathy. In a wealthy and self-centered world such responsibilities are usually ignored and viewed as a task for someone else. While there are certain duties reserved only for the American government, such as declaring war, there is also a time and a place for everyone to do something. The Christian worldview can be summed up with one word, "compassion," but how is this applied when evil begins to dominate a nation? First and foremost the church should pray for such a situation, but this should also include repentance, or a different direction (2 Chron. 7:14). God has chosen to act through His church, which is not a building, but the contemporary Body of Christ made up of individual believers (1 Cor. 12:27). While many things are being carried out today in the name of compassion, the current attitude of silence is anything but compassionate. There are many consequences, earthly and eternal, for tolerating evil. Christian compassion must be able to recognize that Muslims are the first victims of Islam. Apathy and inaction will remain the norm until the church can see that Muslims have been taken captive by a lie. Taking such a stand against popular opinion may not be very fun and exciting, but fear of man is not an option (Heb. 13:6). Less any American atheist, agnostic, or any other belief system outside Christianity dare think that this does not impact them, think again. Like it or not. All Americans today enjoy the remnant of freedom, which is the result of a nation embracing the truth claims as revealed in the Bible. In a Christian nation one has the right to choose whatever belief system they wish as long as their resulting behavior does not break the law, but in an Islamic controlled nation there is no such freedom. Jesus died on the cross and took a stand for the greatest minority of all, the individual (Jn. 3:16). He told others that "the truth will set you free" (Jn. 8:32), while Muhammad permitted his followers to deceive others in order to achieve the goals of Islam (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, Number 369). There really is no comparison when it comes to Jesus or Muhammad and the resulting lifestyle that they currently promote. There is absolutely no reason for the free world to open their doors any further to Islamic influence until they Muslims are able to bring clarity to their authoritative Scriptures in such a way that overwhelmingly produces "love" and "tolerance" for Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims. Until then, there is a desperate need for everyone to examine and critique "Islam in Context."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good info but sketchy 7 Jan 2010
By Michael Blyth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is OK but suffers a bit from being too short and rather scattered if considered to be an introduction to Islam. It might be best described as an introduction to the history of relations between Islam and the West.

Bruce Bradshaw's review here is quite useful and accurate. The fact that the review discusses the tension between the Christian pacifist views of Yoder and those of Rheinhold Niebuhr, while the former is not even mentioned in the book, is illustrative of the spotty nature of the book. I'd really like to see an updated version, twice the length, with a lot of gaps filled. By now, seven years after the book was published, there must be better sources for reviewing the tensions between Muslim "fundamentalism" and Christianity.
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for any Christians serious about understanding Islam and its interaction with the West 1 Jun 2014
By Matthew Kennedy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very well written book which cuts through the hype of the day and looks at Islam as it actually is, not what people think it to be. The authors traverse complex and controversial topics with honesty and sincerity, showing why Christians need to reach out to their Muslim brothers and sisters, looking to build bridges within the community. A great book and one which more and more Christians should be reading as the challenge of Islam looms larger and louder on the horizon of the future. Read it.
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