Friday, May 01, 2009

The Challenge of Islam: Book Review

Recently, we had Patrick Sookhdeo of the Barnabas Fund speaking in our church, and after the services there was the opportunity to pick up some of his books. This one, to give it its full title of The Challenge of Islam to the Church and its Mission, was a great introduction to the beliefs and behaviours of Muslims, and provided some pointers on how to tell Muslims the good news of Jesus Christ, God's Son.

In the first section, he sets out some background to understanding Islam. Interesting topics such as Muhammad, the Qur'an, and the five pillars of Islam. Despite Islam being in the news so much, there's probably a general ignorance as to what it's all about, and the book helpfully highlights some of Islam's claims.

These claims are then weighed against the claims of Jesus Christ, with a useful comparison to show that, in the words of Al Mohler, 'We may find common ground on some issues, but the Muslim worldview and the Christian worldview differ radically. No informed person should be unaware of the basic incompatibility of Christianity and Islam.'

The key difference (among many others) is centred on the person of the Lord Jesus. Sookhdeo demonstrates that the Islamic declaration that 'There is no god but God (Allah) and Muhammad is his prophet' is aimed directly against the Son of God, Jesus Christ. By claiming that only Allah is God, they deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, and by claiming Mohammed as the only prophet, deny that Jesus Christ is the Word became flesh, the final revelation of God the Father, the one true capital P Prophet.

Certain key issues are then discussed, relating to cultural and social aspects, including the treatment of women, and the implementation of shari'a law in Western countries. In this section, Sookhdeo describes the reluctance of Islamic states to modernise, holding on to their customs which would horrify any liberal human rights lawyer, while seeking to try to introduce such laws and customs into the United Kingdom.

The final section of the book then seeks to help Christians, and especially Christian leaders to think through the issues involved in Christian-Muslim dialogue and shared projects. Here there is to be found some timely advice on inter-faith issues, particularly where the pattern appears to be that Christians bend over backwards to facilitate and welcome Muslims to speak in pulpits, but without any opportunity on the other side.

Patrick Sookhdeo has been a controversial figure - a google search of his name confirms this almost immediately - and yet the book is extremely important as we think through the issues and strategy to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God and of Jesus the King to all people, and especially Muslims.

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