Islam: A Guide for Jews and Christians

Islam: A Guide for Jews and Christians

Islam: A Guide for Jews and Christians

Islam: A Guide for Jews and Christians

Synopsis

The Quran is a sacred book with profound, and familiar, Old and New Testament resonances. And the message it promulgated, Islam, came of age during an extraordinarily rich era of interaction among monotheists. Jews, Christians, and Muslims not only worshipped the same God, but shared aspirations, operated in the same social and economic environment, and sometimes lived side by side, indistinguishable by language, costume, or manners. Today, of course, little of this commonality is apparent, and Islam is poorly understood by most non-Muslims. Entering Islam through the same biblical door Muhammad did, this book introduces readers with Christian or Jewish backgrounds to one of the world's largest, most active, and--in the West--least understood religions. Frank Peters, one of the world's leading authorities on the monotheistic religions, starts with the central feature of Muslim faith and life: the Quran. Across its pages move Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary. The Quran contains remarkably familiar accounts of Genesis, the Flood, Exodus, the Virgin Birth, and other biblical events. But Peters also highlights Muhammad's very different use of Scripture and explains those elements of the Quran most alien to Western readers, from its didactic passages to its remarkable poetry. Peters goes on to cogently explain Islam's defining features--including the significance of Mecca, the manner of Muhammad's revelations, and the creation of the unique community of Muslims, all in relation to the Judeo-Christian tradition. He compares Jesus and Muhammad, describes Islamic commandments and rituals, details the structures of Sunni and Shi'ite communities, and lays out central Islamic beliefs on war, women, mysticism, and martyrdom. The result is a crucial and extremely accomplished book that offers Western readers a professional yet highly accessible understanding of Islam, and at a time when we need it most.

Excerpt

The point of this book is simple and rather direct: to provide a reader whose cultural and religious formation has been Jewish or Christian with a way of approaching the body of belief and practice called Islam. in The Monotheists I place Islam as an equal at the side of Judaism and Christianity and attempt, in considerable detail, to contextualize each with the others in the hope of illuminating all three. Here, the primary focus is Islam, and the other two monotheistic systems are cited only to the extent that they cast light on the faith and practices of the Muslims, the least known and certainly least understood of the three monotheistic faiths.

My objective is not to reduce Islam to Judaism or Christianity (or some combination of them) in order to make it intelligible to non-Muslims, but to enter Islam through the same door Muhammad did. After he had had his first experience of the supernatural, he went, puzzled and frightened, to a relative of his wife, who had “read the Scriptures and learned from those that follow the Torah and the Gospel.” You have experienced, the man explained to him, what Moses had before you. And, Muhammad himself would later add, Abraham and Jesus as well.

The Quran, the book of revelations given to Muhammad by God, makes no attempt to disguise the affiliation of its contents with what was found in the sacred books of the Jews and Christians. Indeed, Muhammad was instructed by God to refer those who . . .

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