(Vine) Review: The Good Muslim

This is a review for the Amazon Vine program, but I thought that I might share it here. 

But…but I am a Christian…how could I enjoy this book this much? ]] is the Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies in the School of Divinity at The University of Edinburgh. She is a Muslim. She is a good Muslim. And this is a good book.

Contrary to popular opinion, the whole of Islam is summed up neither  in the media’s nor the Islamic fundamentalist’s representation of sharia law. Siddiqui’s goal is not to rehabilitate Islam, nor to elevate Islam over either Judaism or Christianity; her goal is to showcase the ofter overlooked (by Western eyes) beauty of Islamic thought, something very few non-Muslims recognize. No, we cannot call it Islamic theology, because as she notes, the Christian view of theology is wholly different than the Islamic view. Her goal, then, is to call attention to the intelligenstia of Islam’s greatest teachers, to give a hidden view of what she finds in her faith.

While the book is not divided into sections, the chapters fall somewhat naturally into a bifurcated rythme. The first portion clearly deals with issues of Law while the second deals with Qur’anic views on life, love, and happiness. On the subject of Qur’anic law, the Western reader (albeit Christian or Jewish), will find that the broadcasted views of sharia law are more often than not equal to that of Christian zealots, i.e., gross misinterpretations. In this section, Siddiqui covers divorce, slavery, and purity laws (eating swine). Many of the views — these are views expressed over the centuries by medieval and modern Islamic intellectuals — will surprise Christians who tend to view Islam in much the same way they would view an archaic version of Paul’s Judaism. The second section, beginning with  chapter 5, is perhaps the most important to even the casual reader. In three chapters, the author discusses evil, love, and ethics from the Islamic perspective, but in comparison with Christian and Jewish ideas as well. Her language is carefully crafted to show respect to all three religions, although she has no concern with elevating Islam but does so without diminishing either Christian or Judaism (the same will never be said about many Christian theologians, unfortunately). The author shows a remarkable grasp of Christian theology and is able to use this to bring in her expected Christian audience. The Islam we know from the fickle observations on our part is the not the Islam presented here. She mirrors many Christians, in that way — in defending her Islam, in defending our Christianity, against the over-amplified voice of the radical fundamentalists.

Mona Siddiqui has written an outstanding book meant to engage people of all faiths and has done so with an easy-to-digest writing style that is both academic and warm. The Good Muslim is a needed read, especially but those who think the only Muslims — the only definition of Islam — are those we see plastered across the twenty-four hour news networks.

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