Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Understanding the Koran

A Quick Christian Guide to the Muslim Holy Book
by Mateen Elass
Zondervan, 2004, 192 pages

To say it in a sentence, this is the most readable and most loving Christian book on Islam I've yet read, and while it isn't a very big book, there is a lot packed in it.

Discernment label
(For more on this, see "Discernment labels" in our articles section)

CONTENT: This is a 192-page introduction to the Koran by a Presbyterian pastor, who was raised in Saudi Arabia. It outlines how the Koran is a compilation of muddled Bible stories, Gnostic accounts, and Jewish folk tales, and it compares and contrasts Christian views on our Bible with Muslim views about the Koran.

CAUTIONS: In Chapter 6 “Is Allah a False God?” the author argues that, like the Samaritans in New Testament times (see John 4:22), Muslims worship the real God, but in ignorance. This is a controversial stance, but it becomes much less so when the author makes it clear he isn’t arguing for any sort of equivalence between Islam and Christianity or that Muslims can be saved apart from Jesus.

CONCLUSION: Introductions to Islam can generally be divided into those that have nothing but good to say about Islam, and those that have nothing but bad. The strength of this title is that it takes a third approach – the author is Christian, but one knows and loves Muslims, so while he is direct, thorough, and quite devastating in his critique of the Koran, he always remain calm, and never resorts to rhetoric. Understanding the Koran is small (and engaging) enough to be read in a few evenings, but the depth of material, and the review questions for each chapter make this one worth rereading at a more studious pace.

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