by Zeki Saritoprak
Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014. 222 pp. $74.95.
Reviewed by Wolfgang G. Schwanitz
Middle East Forum
Middle East Quarterly
Islam's views about Jesus are the focus of a new work by Saritoprak of John Carroll University in Cleveland. Next to Muhammad, Jesus is perhaps the most prominent messenger of God in a chain of prophets that Muslims believe reaches from Noah through the biblical patriarchs down through Moses, David, and Solomon. Jesus is mentioned in more than ninety verses of the Qur'an and appears not only as a receiver of divine revelation but can be seen, the author claims, as a precursor of Muhammad in terms of his ethical and pastoral teachings. According to Saritoprak, any differences are due to the different contexts in which the two men lived.
Further, in the Muslim tradition, veneration of Jesus—while markedly different from Christianity—"prefigures" the role of Muhammad. Saritoprak asserts that the Qur'an instructs Christians to avoid exaggerating the personality of Jesus in a way that is not consistent with his message, rejecting both the divinity of Christ and the Trinity. Likewise, Muhammad asks his companions not to deify him and to view him only as a human being, albeit one receiving the final and preeminent revelation from God.
Saritoprak examines further commonalities between the two faith systems, using the figure of Jesus to find ways in which Christians and Muslims can engage in fruitful dialogue. In the Muslim tradition, for example, martyrs are not truly dead since they receive sustenance from their Lord (3:169-170). For the author, this echoes the Christian concept of an ascendant Jesus who has defeated death and is alive at the right hand of the Father.
However, Saritoprak veers off course when he maintains that Jews, Muslims, and Christians have, more often than not, lived peacefully side by side and points to the Ottomans' millet system as one of harmonious interreligious ties. This is, unfortunately, a romantic myth. Real life rarely meant harmony but rather daily struggle for the barely-tolerated minorities, culminating in the genocide perpetrated by Muslim Ottomans against Christians, and the attempted genocide against Jews, also in World War I.
Despite this flaw, Islam's Jesus is an easy read and does much to enlighten the reader on Qur'anic theologians' perceptions and knowledge of Jesus's teachings while offering insights into concepts shared by Christians and Muslims.
Related Topics: Islam | Wolfgang G. Schwanitz | Spring 2016 MEQ
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