By Ejaz Naqvi. White Cloud Press, 2017. 308 pages. $21.99/Paperback.
Ejaz Naqvi, a practicing physician specializing in chronic pain management, is also a practicing Muslim. Recognizing the bio-psychosocial aspects of a holistic approach to pain, he applies a similar analysis to the fear many have of Islam and Muslims, leading to mistrust and hate. The result is this book: an attempt to dispel myths about Islam; show the parallels between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; and encourage the coming together of people of Abrahamic faiths. Controversial topics such as jihad, shari’ah, attitudes about other religions, the role of Muhammad, and the status of women are addressed directly.
Naqvi’s book is divided into three parts: God/Allah; The Qur’an on Prophets, Scriptures, and People of the Book; and The Qur’an and Daily Life. Part one outlines the basic understanding that in Arabic “Allah” simply means God, and details the nature and attributes of God as described in the Abrahamic traditions. Part two compares and contrasts descriptions of the prophets, Jesus, and Mary in the various Scriptures. Part three takes on the social aspects of Islam, including the five pillars, and shows parallels and differences among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Not surprisingly, Islam does not come across as the evil religion depicted by so many religious and political leaders. God/Allah is shown to have the primary attributes of love, mercy, compassion, and beneficence. Not for nothing do observant Muslims precede actions with the expression Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim. While many will associate this phrase with the rock band Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the “Bismillah” expresses confidence in God’s mercy and compassion, drawing on the Arabic root word rahm (the mother’s womb).
Shari’ah (Islamic law) is so feared that some U.S. states have passed legislation forbidding it. But since Shari’ah is binding only on Muslims, neither Shari’ah itself nor the U.S. laws affect non-Muslims at all. The Arabic root word for Shari’ah means “path.” Observant Muslims follow Shari’ah the way Orthodox Jews follow the path of Torah and devout Christians seek to follow the way of Jesus and the Gospels.
“Jihad” (typically used in reference to a belief that Islam is a violent religion) is compared and contrasted with “Yahweh War” (holy war) in the Bible. The “Greater Jihad” as described in the Qur’an compares with scriptural dictates about doing inward, spiritual battle against our own darkness. The “Lesser Jihad” compares with the passages in the Bible that encourage defensive, physical struggle. Importantly, Naqvi emphasizes the Qur’an’s own teaching: “war cannot be used to propagate Islam.”
Women’s roles are described with citations from the Qur’an that show a progressive attitude compared with cultures contemporary with the seventh-century revelation of Muslim Scripture and compared with how women are viewed in the Bible.
Naqvi does not shy away from differences among the Abrahamic faiths, especially between Islam and Christianity about the Trinity and the nature of Jesus. There is no room for partners with God in Islam, and in Muslim faith Jesus was not divine and did not die on the Cross, but was the Messiah and is to return in the Last Day. Nor was Muhammad divine in Muslim understanding, nor worshiped, contrary to some understandings.
All this is laid out in 17 chapters that work through Scriptural passages in all three Abrahamic traditions. It can be slow, tedious going, but it is thorough. Each chapter ends with points for discussion. The author hopes that his presentation may lead to informed interfaith dialogue. This book would, indeed, be helpful in promoting such open, honest, and forthright conversation, if people could be encouraged to work through a book that doesn’t read quite like a page turner.
There are, to be sure, significant differences among the Scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam but far more similarities, not the least of which is the Islamic Golden Rule: Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.