Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward, by Nabeel Qureshi
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.]
Although not a perfect book, this is a very timely book from a former Muslim that seeks to find a course of action regarding contemporary radical Islam that is both loving and true. Despite the book’s flaws, most notably because of its misrepresentation of the biblical God as being Trinitarian , the book does manage to be both honest about Islam as well as loving towards Muslims, especially those who could be seeking an alternative to the lack of freedom and generosity of spirit found in ‘original’ Islam who would need to see Christian love in action in order to have any possibility of gaining a true and fair perspective of Christianity. The book makes much of the contrast between what it means to be a genuine Christian in terms of loving others and what it means to be a “good” Muslim who behaves according to the principles of the Quran. The difference is stark, and the book does not in any way underestimate or misstate these stark differences, in contrast to the political correctness that seeks to silence open discussion about the wide chasm between Christian and Muslim ethics, especially towards enemies.
In terms of its structure and organization, this short book, which even including its appendices and a teaser for the next book to come from the author only comes to 170 pages of short and direct writing, is divided into three sections. After introductory material giving acknowledgements, talking about a better way forward than fear and hatred, and giving some further reading, the author discusses the origins of jihad by answering six questions in a sort of catechism, defining Islam, commenting that it is not really a religion of peace, looking at jihad in general as well as specifically in the Quran and the life of Muhammad, the role of Sharia, and the question of whether Islam was spread by the sword. The second part, looking at jihad today, answers six more questions about radical Islam, ISIS and related groups as the Muslim reformation, a primer on various radical groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, the question of who true Muslims are, why many Muslims are being radicalized because of a longing for an imagined past golden age and a lack of awareness of what the enforcement of Sharia really involves, and the question of whether Muslims are trying to take over the rest of the world with Sharia, or rather use sharia as a way of justifying various abhorrent practices like spousal rape. The third section of the book covers six more questions, about jihad in the Judeo-Christian context, talking about the difference between Hellenistic Christian and Muslim conceptions of God, the question of whether Allah is a general or specific term for God in how Christians use it, how jihad compares with warfare in the Hebrew scriptures, what Jesus taught about violence, how jihad compares with the crusades, and what Jesus has to do with jihad in various eschatological Muslim texts. After a brief and somewhat vague conclusion the author includes several appendices, including a timeline of jihad in Islam, a selection of hadiths about jihad from the Sahih al-Bukhari, a short discussion on the Caliphate, and some details about the author’s former sect of Islam, the Ahmadi, along with a glossary of terms and an excerpt from the author’s forthcoming book.
Clearly, in light of continuing terrorist attacks that are justified in the name of jihad, this book is a timely one. The author expresses his misgivings about contemporary Islam openly: “The scope of violence has no clear limits; it’s fair to wonder whether any non-Muslims in the world are immune from being attacked, subdued, or assimilated under this command. Muslims must fight, according to this final surah of the Quran, and if they do not, then their faith is called into question and they are counted among the hypocrites (54).” Yet although the book is timely, and assumes that its readers are at least somewhat familiar with Muslims culture and at least interested in learning about some technical matters of hadith fabrication and the abrogation of various quranic verses by later ones, matters of somewhat recondite Muslim hermeneutics , what is perhaps most striking about the book is that it combines an unsparing and fierce candor about the horrors of radical Islam, its being in accordance with genuine and authentic original Islam based on the life and example of Mohammed himself, and an open love for Muslims and a longing for their well-being, especially given that large majorities of the contemporary Muslim world appear in ignorance of what Islam is fundamentally about, which accounts for many Muslims being peaceful when Islam at its heart is anything but a religion of peace.
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