Festivals/Seasons & Holy Days

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Christian Troll SJ (trans. David Marshall)

Muslims Ask, Christians Answer

ISBN: 9781 5654 8430 6

New City Press, 2012, 146 pp, £12.50

O wad some Power the giftie gie us

to see ourselves as others see us!

Thus wrote Robert Burns in his poem ‘To a Louse.’ Since 9/11 there has, inevitably, been a great deal written in the media and in academia about Islam. Some has been extremely valuable and some would be better consigned to the waste paper bin. I wonder, however, how many people have ever stopped to wonder how our Muslim friends and neighbours may perceive us? What do they think we believe in? What stereotypes might they have about us and our beliefs? Do they think we are polytheists worshipping three Gods? Do they think that we believe that God died when Jesus died (and if not then why do we say that Jesus is God)? If these are questions which interest you then you would do much worse then to read this book. Similarly, if you are interested in facilitating dialogue with Muslims formally or informally – thus following the example of St Francis – then this book should figure large in any preparatory reading you might do.

The book is divided into twelve chapters – which progress according to a (theo)logical pattern of thought, covering the essentials of Christian faith and practice. Chapter headings include: Scripture; the Divinity of Jesus and the Incarnation; the Cross; the Christian understanding of Muhammad and the Eucharist and each one follows the same format: Muslim questions (in which the sort of questions a Muslim might ask are spelt out); Muslim perspectives (how Muslims might understand the area being questioned themselves); Christian perspectives and lastly Christian answers. For this coherent and lucid summary the book is invaluable in itself. However, the book goes one step further because not only does it encourage the (Christian) reader to reflect deeply on his or her own understanding of the essential theology of the Christian faith, it also encourages her or him to question their own presuppositions and stereotypes of Islam.

As someone who has referred to this book and used it when in dialogue with young Muslim students (the majority of whom knew much more about basic Christian theology than their Christian counterparts!). I can heartily recommend it, indeed, I would go so far as to say that I would not now consider such an exercise without a copy of it to hand. It should be on the bookshelf of anyone with an interest in facilitating dialogue with Muslims or, indeed, anyone with an interest in Islam.

Joseph Emmanuel SSF