Philosophy, Religion, and Science: A History of Christian-Muslim Relations

Article excerpt

A History of Christian-Muslim Relations, by Hugh Goddard. Chicago, IL: New Amsterdam Books, 2001. xi + 198 pages. Bibl. to p. 200. Index to p. 212. $28.95 cloth; $16.95 paper.

This book presents a reasonably detailed and well written survey of Christian-Muslim relations from the earliest period to the present time. Drawing on the best scholarship in this area, it should be valuable both to readers who are new to the topic and to those who are more familiar with it and wish a convenient overview or an aid to fill in gaps in their knowledge. It complements two earlier works by the author, Christians and Muslims: From Double Standards to Mutual Understanding (Curzon, 1995) and Muslim Perceptions of Christianity (Grey Seal,1996), particularly the former, which provides a comparative history of Christian and Muslim thinking but does not focus on the interactions.

The first of the eight chapters deals with Christian thinking about other religions before the coming of Islam. The second and third chapters discuss early Islam and its attitude toward Christians, Christian reactions to Islam, and Muslim treatment of Christians during the first two centuries of Islam. Chapters four and five cover the Medieval period, including the dialogues and debates that took place between the Muslims and the Byzantines and between Muslims and Christians within the `Abbasid Empire; the conversion of Christians under Muslim rule to Islam; the Western Christian response to Islam including the Crusades; and the transmission of knowledge from the Muslim world to the West. The last three chapters deal with the modern period, particularly Western Christian missions to the Muslim world and some of the Muslim responses, the development of Western academic study of Islam and comparable contemporary Muslim thinking about Christianity, and the efforts at formal dialogue in recent decades. Throughout there are good capsule sketches of key figures, from St. John of Damascus in the eighth century to 20th-century figures such as Louis Massignon.

This is an eminently fair and balanced study. The author consistently seeks to present sympathetically the various ideas and activities under discussion and to help the reader make sense of them in their context. He also consistently stresses the diversity of views and attitudes on both sides. While some medieval Westerners, for example, warred against Muslims in the Crusades, others took a more reasoned approach. …