By Timothy Fox
“There is a better way forward, a way that upholds both truth and compassion.”
Compassion is probably the last word you would expect to find in a book about jihad. But that’s exactly what Nabeel Qureshi desires for us to show Muslims in Answering Jihad. In this book, he does just what the title states: respond to various questions and misconceptions surrounding the role of jihad in Islam. But he does this with compassion and respect. He sets the tone for his book in the introduction (you can read an excerpthere) as he calls us to “understand our Muslim neighbors and show them the love and compassion that all people deserve, devoid of fear and distrust”, as well as “to treat Muslims with the utmost dignity” (20). So if you’re looking for fearmongering and a call to arms against radical Islam, this isn’t the book for you.
But contrary to what our culture leads us to believe, Nabeel thinks it is possible both to love Muslims and to criticize Islam. It is his gracious delivery that will hopefully cause readers to give his views a chance, no matter how contrary they may be to deep-seated prejudices and beliefs. More than once I found myself being challenged, all because of his charitable treatment and thoughtfulness about difficult topics.
Answering Jihad is divided into three parts consisting of six questions each. Every chapter revolves around a question that Nabeel answers thoroughly and concisely. You’ll be amazed at how much information could be packed into such a short volume (173 pages including appendices and a preview of his next book).
Part 1 is a survey of Islam and jihad, exploring the history of the religion and its connection to violence. For example, Nabeel tackles the modern slogan that Islam is a “religion of peace,” arguing that “violence is writ large throughout the pages of Islamic history, including its foundations.” But he reminds us that “this does not mean our Muslim neighbors are violent” (33). What Islam teaches and what Muslims practice may be very different things, as there is a “great diversity of Islamic expression.” This is why he can state that “Islam is not Muslims, and one can criticize Islam while affirming and loving Muslims” (27). Again, Nabeel calls for understanding and compassion.
Part 2 explores modern jihad and radical Islam. Nabeel analyzes the factors that contribute to an individual becoming radicalized and while he desires love and understanding towards Muslims, he is also not afraid to speak the truth about Islam. He looks at groups such as Al-Quaida, ISIS, and Boko Haram to determine how much of their actions are rooted in the Islamic faith and boldly states “When leaders and media members insist that these groups are not Islamic, they are either speaking out of ignorance or intentionally engaging in propaganda” (88).
As a Christian apologist, I was most intrigued by part 3, which examines the connections between Christianity and Islam. I was especially interested to read Nabeel’s response to whether or not Muslims and Christians worship the same God (spoiler: no) and how jihad compares with the Crusades (spoiler: it doesn’t). Is there violence and warfare in the Old Testament? Yes, there is. But Nabeel carefully distinguishes between the roles such violence plays in the history of both religions and whether violence is acceptable for the Christ-follower today. Ultimately, “The final marching order of Islam is jihad. The final marching orders of Christians are grace and truth” (125).
If there’s anything even remotely negative at all to say about Answering Jihad it would probably be in regards to its short length. However, that was intentional. It is not meant to be a complete and final answer to the problem of jihad, just to concisely answer many of its most pressing questions. And in this, the book definitely succeeds. Plus, its short length only adds to its readability and accessibility.
Answering Jihad is an important, timely book and no matter who you are, it will challenge you. If you are a Muslim, you are encouraged to examine the life of Muhammed and what the Quran really teaches about violence. If you are a Christian, Nabeel reminds you of Jesus’ command to love your enemies, which “might perhaps be the most powerful answer to jihad at our disposal today”, even at the risk of our own lives (20). And everyone is challenged to befriend those who are different than us instead of fearing them. Nabeel concludes that the only way forward is through truth and love.
You can read more about Answering Jihad and find exclusive pre-order offers at www.answeringjihad.com.
And if you haven’t read Nabeel’s fantastic first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, which recounts his journey from Islam to Christianity, what are you waiting for?
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