Holy Warriors

From the October 2015 Print Edition

In God’s Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire
by robert g. hoyland
oxford, 320 pages, $29.95
Amedieval Islamic tradition recounts that the Prophet Muhammad once told his companions after they returned from a battle: “You have come from the Lesser Jihad to the Greater Jihad—the striving of a servant [of God] against his desires.” The idea of a “Greater Jihad” which involves a spiritual struggle against one’s carnal desires is widespread in contemporary discussions of Islam. Scholars of Islam often make the point that jhd, the Arabic root of jihad, is related generally to “struggle” and not specifically to warfare. Some argue that the tradition of the “Greater Jihad” shows that Islam at its origins was a peaceful movement. Karen Armstrong, in her book Muhammad, quotes the tradition of the “Greater Jihad” and insists that fighting was “only a minor part of the whole jihad or struggle.” Armstrong and others often argue that any connection between Islam and violence is only the work of later, medieval Muslims who corrupted its message and of Westerners who caricature Islam. The problem with this argument is that the tradition of a “Greater Jihad” appears to be a late fabrication. It is not found in the early tradition. Indeed, of the six valid early collections of traditions (or hadith) recognized by Sunni Islam, none includes a single mention of a “Greater Jihad,” although they treat jihad as holy war at length. Continue Reading »

“I am a Christian, and I Will Remain a Christian”

From Web Exclusives

In August 2013 the Sudanese authorities arrested Meriam Ibrahim, daughter of a Sudanese Muslim man and an Ethiopian Christian woman, after a Muslim relative informed them of her marriage to Daniel Wani, a Catholic from South Sudan and an American citizen. The authorities considered Meriam to be a Muslim because of her Muslim father, even though she had lived her whole life as a Christian. And as Islamic law forbids a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim man (although it permits a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman), her marriage was not a marriage at all in Sudan, where matters of personal and family law are controlled by religious courts. She was therefore guilty of zina, or fornication. Continue Reading »

Jesus the Muslim Hippie

From the December 2013 Print Edition

Many Christians and other non-Muslims who want to understand the Christ of Islam turn to the Qur’an, yet the Qur’an won’t tell them much about Jesus. It mentions his miraculous birth. It refers to miracles such as raising the dead and bringing a clay bird to life. It speaks of his disciples, . . . . Continue Reading »

Evangelizing Islam

From the January 2011 Print Edition

In the book The Critique of Christian Origins , written in a.d. 995, Iranian theologian Abd al-Jabbar tells the story of a Muslim prisoner of war who converted to Christianity in Constantinople. The Byzantine emperor rewarded the convert by offering him a post in the army and marrying him to a . . . . Continue Reading »

Unbalancing Act

From the February 2010 Print Edition

The Future of Islam by John L. Esposito Oxford, 220 pages, $24.95 In the forward to John Esposito’s latest book, The Future of Islam , Karen Armstrong insists that Esposito”the founder and longtime director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (now the Prince Alwaleed bin . . . . Continue Reading »

Minarets and the Conditions of Umar

From Web Exclusives

The Swiss Minaret BanThe Qur’an includes Jews and Christians among the “People of the Book,” among those to whom God has revealed something of divine truth in past times. Yet Islamic tradition insists that the Jews and Christians corrupted that revelation, and laments their failure to recognize the final revelation given to Muhammad… . Continue Reading »

Sanctifying Islam

From the June/July 2009 Print Edition

The Theology of Tariq Ramadan: A Catholic Perspective by Gregory Baum University of Notre Dame Press, 178 pages, $25 paper In 2004 the Swiss Muslim scholar and activist Tariq Ramadan accepted a prestigious position at the University of Notre Dame. The State Department, however, revoked . . . . Continue Reading »