Brief Book Review: Islam What Non-Muslims Should Know

Islam: What Non-Muslims Should Know

Author: John Kaltner

Publisher: Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, Augsburg Fortress

136 pages, ISBN: 0-8006-3583-3, Paperback

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

 

At the time of writing this little volume, John Kaltner was Associate Professor of Religion at Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee. The author provides a cordial, brief overview of Islam.

As the fastest-growing religion in the world, Professor Kaltner appeals to his readers to become more knowledgeable of Islam; to go beyond the often mis-information and stereotypes presented by the Western mass media; to realize that Islam is a diverse and complex faith, just as is Christianity and Judaism.

The volume contains a Preface, six chapters, and concludes with suggested Resources for further reading and study. The chapter titles give readers a sense of the book’s movement: 1. Islam Is a Diverse and Complex Faith, 2. Islam Is a Religion of Orthopraxy, 3. Muslims Respect Judaism and Christianity, 4. There Is No Institutional Hierarchy in Islam, 5. There Is No Clear Separation between Religion and Politics in Islam, 6. Jihad Does Not Mean “Holy War.” At the end of each chapter Professor Kaltner includes Questions for Discussion, which would make this volume an accessible source for study groups or introductory courses.

Readers will learn, among other things: some of the history of Muhammad, the difference between Sunni and Shi’i Muslims, the five pillars of faith, additional popular practices of faith, the different attitudes among Muslims concerning non-Muslims, terms such as ka‘ba and hijra, ijtihad and ijma, hadith and ummah, and that the three largest Muslim populated countries are not Arab nations, they are Indonesia, India and Pakistan.

The sections on Western influence and Islam, Reformism, social activism and the distinctions between greater jihad and lesser jihad are helpful for non-Muslims.

The suggested Resources include brief annotations for further reading and study.

 

 

On loving our enemies

Today, I read an insightful devotion in the Northumbria Community’s Celtic Night Prayer. I think it speaks to the world today—especially in light of the controversy in the U.S.A. around building an Islamic centre [some have called it a mosque] near the former twin towers of the World Trade Centre, and the proposed Koran burning by a Christian pastor in Florida. I’ve been following news coverage of these issues on the internet and have been dismayed by the number of angry people—Christian, Muslim, and others—who have threatened violent means of dealing with these issues and speak words of hatred toward one another. Instead of hatred and violence towards our neighbours and yes, even our enemies, the following words of wisdom make for a better way to live and work for a peaceful world where true religious freedom is respected in every nation.

 

   We are called to bless even our enemies. How much more should we pray a blessing on others in the Body of Christ!—especially those we disagree with, or who hold a different view from our own.

   If we ask a blessing on them it is up to God to decide what He can and cannot bless in what they are and what they are doing.

   We are not asked to understand each other first. If there are some elements in the church who really aggravate us it may be more useful to pray a blessing on them than to interact with a critical spirit. As we pray we begin to realize just how much God cares about them.

   We can pray blessings on non-Christian folk, too. It is like pouring glitter over a home-made Christmas card—wherever the glue-stick has prepared the card the glitter will stick, the rest only rolls off, and even a little of the glitter can be enough to spell out a clear message.