Recent events have focused attention on Islam, the often-
misunderstood faith of one billion people. Westerners are showing a
openness to learning about Islam and other religions, in part perhaps
because religion is arguably the single most important and volatile
factor in geopolitics today. Islam needs to be understood on its own
terms, apart from extreme expressions, John Kaltner argues.
This little Facet offers the most basic information about Islam in an
accessible and sympathetic presentation. Kaltner presents Islam as
first and foremost a religion of orthopraxis, a set of prescribed
practices the five pillars of Islam. Showing the deep humanism of
Islam and its most cherished commitments, Kaltner presents Islam
assertions that counter frequent misconceptions of the faith:
1. Islam is a diverse and complex religion.
2. Islam is a religion of orthopraxy.
3. Muslims respect Judaism and Christianity.
4. There is no separation of religion and politics.
5. There is no institutional hierarchy.
6. Jihad does not mean "holy war."
- Islam Is a Diverse and Complex Faith
- Islam Is a Religion of Orthopraxy
- Muslims Respect Judaism and Christianity
- There is No Institutional Hierarchy in Islam
- There is No Clear Separation between Religion and Politics in Islam
- Jihãd Does Not Mean "Holy War"
From Chapter 3, Pgs. 5153
Muslims Respect Judaism and Christianity
Oh people of the book, you have nothing until you observe the Torah and the Gospel and what
has been revealed to you from your Lord. - Qur'an 5:68
Jews and Christians sometimes believe Islam has a very low opinion of their religions and
that it encourages hostility toward followers of the other monotheistic faiths. Nothing
could be further from the truth. This misperception can prevent non-Muslims from seeing
Islam as it really is and, in the process, miss the fact that it has much more in common
with their religions than they realize.
I was reminded of this recently when I gave a lecture on Islam at a church. After the session a man came up to me and inquired, "Is it true that Muslims hate Jesus?" When I finished my explanation of why this is not the case, several Muslim men who had overheard the conversation stepped forward and offered their own perspectives. One of them made a statement that undoubtedly surprised the man who asked the question. He said, "It is impossible to be a Muslim and hate Jesus. In fact, a Muslim who does not love Jesus is not a true Muslim." The man was absolutely correct. It may shock some, but there is a deep and abiding respect for Judaism and Christianity at the core of Islam.
The relationships among members of the three monotheistic religions are very complex and have been influenced by many theological, historical, and political factors. In other words, the context in which the followers of those religions find themselves plays a major role in shaping how they interact and express their differences. For example, the relationships among Jews, Christians, and Muslims living in Jerusalem are markedly different from those in New York City. Those residing in Israel find themselves in a reality that is not shared by their American counterparts, and this difference in context is critical for determining how they relate and understand each other.
It is the differences among Muslims, Christians, and Jews that tend to grab the headlines and dominate conversations. This has often been the case throughout history, but the situation has been exacerbated in our high-tech, digital society, which allows us to be transported instantly to another part of the world. The experience of "being there" can sometimes make the differences between "us" and "them" more pronounced and apparent while letting the similarities go unrecognized.
In this chapter, some of these similarities and connections will be explored. It is important for the non-Muslim to be familiar with these points of contact because they help to explain the Islamic appreciation forJudaism and Christianity. In places, the connections and shared roots are so deep that Muslimrespect for these other religions is a for of self-respect-as the man said, one cannot hate Jesus and be a true Muslim.
By stressing the common elementsm we do not mean to deny or dismiss the differences. Each
religion has its own unique understanding of the nature of God, and each has developed a
particular language for describing the divine-human relationship. To ignore these divergences would be foolhardy and irresponsible. The intent here is to balance the scale. While the differences are well-documented and known by many, the similarities are sometimes
unacknowledged. Here, they will be brought to the surface and and their implications will be considered.