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A History of Christian-Muslim Relations
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Goddard's book is a fair, constructive, and irenic history of these two religions that, unfortunately, have battled one another for centuries. I am using it as the first text in a college course on Christianity and Islam. It journeys through the historical terrain of Christian-Muslim relations as deftly as any book out there. In comparison to other books that attempt to do the same thing, Goddard's account is reader-friendly and shot through with interesting stories that cause students to reflect on what went wrong at critical moments between Muslims and Christians, what we can learn from these situations, and what we can do now to engage in constructive dialogue. The book's eight chapters tell the story of how Christianity and Islam emerged from Middle Eastern soil, Muhammad's interactions with Christians, then considers the various periods of Christian-Muslim interaction: the first age, the medieval period, the era of mission and imperialism, and the 19th-20th centuries (13th-14th centuries for Muslims). The final chapter challenges readers to move beyond confrontation to dialogue, to draw on the best of each of their traditions, and to view Christians and Muslims as fellow travelers on the road toward truth. Therefore, if you are looking for a resource that tells the all too often heartbreaking story of Christian-Muslim relations, then points to the possibilities for mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence, this is the book for you.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
It is an obvious challenge condensing the relations of two world religions considering their vast history, geography and cultural perspectives. While each historical section left me wanting more of the specifics, that is not a fault of the research but more-so a credit to Goddard's writing; his ability to spark greater interest.

The dominant message of Goddard's research is that there was no one main reaction or set of rules that Islam maintained in how it treated Christian groups. In the time of Mohammad, there were early examples of fair coexistence in the "constitution" of Medina. Yet, as Mohammad solidified his political power it appeared Islam was less inclined to put up with dissenting Jews or Christians. On another note important to Mohammad's time, Goddard states that the Christianity mentioned in the Qur'an is not that of global Christianity. The Qur'an with its praise and distaste for certain Christian doctrines was influenced by the 'Arabian Christianity' in the area. This is often a point of modern dialogue between Muslims and misunderstood Christians.

Islam's political influence, however, spread in areas where non-Muslims were the majority. Goddard mentions the 'ijaza' tax that non-Muslims paid as subjects along with other regulations: no construction of new churches, no outward symbols of faith, no open worship and certainly no proselytizing. As scholars in Islam are quick to point out, Islam treated its subjects very well considering the examples of the times. But according to today's human rights standards the 8th century regulations should have been long amended. If there has been a single mainstay within Islam's inter-religious interaction it has been the strict banning of conversion from Islam to any other religion.

Goddard mentions many intriguing dialogues between Muslim and Christian leaders and scholars through the centuries. Each side wrote and shared their portions of defensive apologetical writings with the other. Nicetas of the 9th century was a Christian example within the dialogues. Ash'ari, al-Maturidi and later Ibn Taymiyya were Muslim scholars who included in their works refutations of Christian doctrines. Peter the Venerable and Francis of Assisi were later Christian writers who desired dialogue with love as the motive.

Francis of Assisi (1182 - 1286) himself interacted with Islam in the midst of one of the darkest marks on Christian history, the crusades. Each one of these personalities and events demands deeper study on its own but Goddard highlights each of them in light of their Christian-Muslim relations. Ash'ari is known as one of the greatest formulators of Islamic theology. Ibn Taymiyya is known as the stoutest proponent for Hanbali law and theology; Wahhabism would later develop out of this more "traditional" school.

Two outstanding points of clashing between Muslims and Christians are undoubtedly the crusades and the age of imperialism, the former still liberally, if not unfairly used as a judge of Christianity as a whole. The latter is often blamed for the current crisis in the Middle East. As I read Goddard I see different levels of interaction. One level is that of respectful dialogue, often occurring between 'empires'. Another level is one of Muslim suppression of Christian minorities, often occurring within the Muslim 'empire'. A third level is the violent clash of religions witnessed many times in the form of war, crusades or even to the modern extent of terrorist attacks. The demand to protect or speak out for the Muslim faith is ever-present in Islamic teachings and tradition.

The most sincere of Christian-Muslim relations as religions are those separate from politics. To be fair, all sides realize that in sharing ones faith, a primary motive is convincing the other of its truth while jointly defending one's own faith. A secondary motive of today's initiatives in dialogue is peaceful coexistence. Laws of apostasy and blasphemy, from the 7th century on have always added an element of fear and hesitation for Muslims looking into the Christian faith. Muslim-majority countries appear willing to pursue coexistence but they draw the line at conversion out of Islam, whether by law de facto or de jure.

Goddard finishes his book with a review of scholars, authors and thinkers of the last few centuries in Islam and Christianity and how their writings of the other shifted in part. Islam began to influence the West in numerous sectors: social sciences, arts, literature and even architecture. Goddard then goes on to mention how theological exchanges between the two religions produced three levels of analysis. Some groups held to their religious exclusivity, others yielded to religious inclusivity while some transformed their theological ideas to the most liberal pluralism of all religions. Of note, Goddard does not see eye-to-eye with Edward Said's interpretation of Islamic studies in the West. Goddard's interpretation of inter-religious studies includes many more positive examples of scholarly works and a final minor chastising of Said's bleak overview.

My reflection: In the realm of inter-religious dialogue at the level of academia, some would argue that religious pluralism is the path to coexistence. This is an easy platform for non-religious scholars and humanists. But perhaps a more realistic approach would be one that addresses the masses, the Muslim and Christian believers who are ignorant of the university and political dialogue programs. The pluralistic initiatives are often too nearsighted, less far reaching. A more practical approach acknowledges each faith's exclusive demands yet interacts in love and respect.

Christianity experienced its rupture from state years ago. Many Christians also began their confusing (to Muslim audiences) religious transition from one of sincere faith and practice to one of culture and tradition only, absent of Biblical conviction. Islam is struggling to rupture the mosque from the state and will struggle even more so if it ever sees its faith become merely a traditional pastime and less an active faith in broad society. Islam has more to defend and according to many, more to lose, than Christianity does.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is a veritable goldmine of information concerning the Muslim-Christian encounter throughout the mutual history of these faiths. While it is concise and moves quickly, it has concentrated a great deal of information into a relatively short work. The topic of this book is one which is not often written about but is extremely applicable to understanding today's world both politically, culturally, and religiously.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The book suffers from the typical disease of modern liberal academia - the desire to gloss over differences and strife and focus on one-ness and how much we all are the same. The entire period of the muslim expansion from 600-900 is barely covered. The entire period of the crusades of 1100 - also barely covered. Instead, the author spends entire chapters discussing the marginal aspects of the relationship - that of intellectual masterbation between marginal segments of the two religions and how they enriched eachother's views of the two civilizations.
Why must academia be so anemic? Why can't bolder statements and focus exist? Why cant the truth be told? That there are major differences between the two civilizations? That envy, competition, fear of the other etc drove to civilizations to conduct horrible acts of violence towards eachother? Reading the book you would not know that
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
In choosing this, I was hoping to get filled in on the history of the relationship between Muslims and Christians where they have been in contact over time. Instead this is more of a literature review of the writings of prominent Christians and Muslims. Perhaps this is the only way such a history can be constructed but I would have preferred to learn what the common people thought of each other. Only the view of a literary elite, and recently a very Christian elite are included. Muslims, as their representatives tell us, aren't really interested in 'interfaith dialogue' at all. What this means for the future of relations is unclear. It is certainly not a good omen for academics writing books of this kind. Still waiting for a broader history.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
This history covers changing relationships between Muslim and Christian worlds, examining how the two largest religious communities have interacted over the ages. Hugh Goddard's History Of Christian-Muslim Relations is a fine survey with an emphasis on changing relationships and ideals on both sides.
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