Christians & Muslims: Recommended Resources
Because the topic of Christian-Muslim relations is so broad, this issue will likely raise as many questions as it answers. Here are some suggestions for further exploration.
Scholar Bernard Lewis deserves the distinction, noted in the New York Times Book Review, as "the doyen of Middle Eastern studies." He writes critically but fairly of Islam, avoiding the unfounded optimism of authors such as John Esposito, Karen Armstrong, and Jane Smith and of media packages such as PBS's Islam: Empire of Faith. Lewis's recent articles in The Atlantic Monthly (see www.theatlantic.com) introduce his main ideas, which receive fuller treatment in his most popular non-specialist titles: Islam and the West (1994), The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years (1995), and What Went Wrong: Western Impact and the Middle Eastern Response (2001).
Though an able guide, Lewis does not address Islam from a Christian perspective. Useful, general-audience resources that do represent this perspective include James A. Beverley's Understanding Islam, from the Nelson Quick Guide to Religions series (2001); George W. Braswell, Jr.'s Islam: Its Prophet, Peoples, Politics and Power, from Broadman & Holman (1996); Ravi Zacharias's Light in the Shadow of Jihad, from Multnomah (2002); and The World of Islam CD-ROM, from Global Mapping International (2001; see www.gmi.org).
Lastly, for a fantastic collection of primary source documents, scholarly works, and other links, see Paul Halsall's Internet Islamic History Sourcebook.
The West has lacked a consensus attitude toward Islam for decades. As a result, the landscape of literature on the topic features crags of controversy amid plains of more moderate offerings. It's helpful to know where the crags stand, because so much of the field is oriented around them.
Sir Steven Runciman's three-volume A History of the Crusades (1951-54) damns the Christian combatants while depicting Muslims as innocent and heroic victims. Far too many Westerners accept this assessment unquestioningly. The April 8, 2002, cover story of U.S. News & World Report, for example, purporting to offer "The truth about the epic clash between Christianity and Islam," parroted Runciman without any reference to dissenting opinions.
In Orientalism (1979), Edward W. Said, one of the founders of post-colonial studies, argues that the West fabricated an image of the Eastern "other" in order to conquer and dominate the Islamic world. Subsequent efforts to describe Islam on its own terms, without even a whiff of judgment, follow in Said's wake.
One writer who has not followed Said's lead is Bat Ye'or, author of The Dhimmi (1985) and The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude (1996). Ye'or (the name is a pseudonym for an Egyptian-born Jewish scholar) attacks Islam's fabled religious tolerance by documenting harsh practices and policies directed at nonMuslim minority populations since the seventh century. Arguments and counter-arguments continue to swirl in the dust she kicked up, though the fable seems to be holding fairly firm.
Evangelism & Apologetics
This issue aimed to describe the history of ChristianMuslim contact, not prescribe a Christian response to Islam. For perspectives on this crucial issue, see:
James Dretke, A Christian Approach to Muslims (William Carey Library, 1979)
Phil Parshall, New Paths in Muslim Evangelism (Baker, 1980)
Martin Goldsmith, Islam & Christian Witness (IVP, 1982)
J. Dudley Woodberry, Muslims and Christians on the Emmaus Road (MARC, 1989)
The Muslim-Christian Debate, www.debate.org.uk/
Answering Islam, www.answering-islam.org
Copyright © 2002 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian History magazine.
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