Thursday, October 24, 2013

Two takes on Islam and Muslims

Both worth reading, if you're so inclined:

(1) Robert Louis Wilken, "Saracens and Dominicans: A review of A Christian Prilgrim in Medieval Iraq: Riccoldo da Montecroce's Encounter with Islam, by Rita George-Tvrtkovic.  Excerpt:
Riccoldo was not the first Dominican to live among Muslims for an extended period of time....
Though Riccoldo arrived in the Muslim world with customary Western views of Islam, he was a ready learner, and his book is filled with wonder at what he observed. One of his favorite words is “stupefied.” “I was stupefied by the Muslim devotion to prayer,” he writes....
He esteemed the Qur’an and treated it with reverence, even though he thought it morally lax, confused, obscure, mendacious, irrational, and violent (“their law began by the sword”), and he held that the law of Islam is not of God. He learned to read Arabic and was captivated by the Qur’an’s language: “The order of the words is grammatically and rhythmically very beautiful. . . . For the whole book is resonant and rhythmical.”
And in an even more striking passage he addresses Christ: “I beg you, read what [the prophet] says about your mother, and your apostles...."
 (2) Stan Guthrie, "Whose Submission? A Muslim-Christian Dialogue" (Books and Culture, March/April 2010).  Excerpts:
It is November 22, 1963. Three luminaries—John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley, and Clive Staples Lewis—have just died and will soon commence a great debate about issues of ultimate significance. In the first line of Peter Kreeft's classic 1982 book, Between Heaven and Hell, JFK asks, "Where the hell are we?" Reading the prolific Boston College philosophy professor's latest work, Between Allah and Jesus: What Christians Can Learn from Muslims, I had a similar reaction.
This book seems to stand the earlier one on its head—or at least its spine. In Between Heaven and Hell, Lewis the Christian apologist asks penetrating questions and steers his nominal Catholic and liberal intellectual compatriots toward the truth of Christ. In Between Allah and Jesus, however, it is the Muslim protagonist who serves as the primary light-bearer in religious matters, who usually gets the last word and exposes the prejudices and logical fallacies of the Christians around him.
I'm not sure where Kreeft is going with his treatment of Islaam, but his disposition reminds me a bit of Pope Francis.  It can be a bit disorienting.  Still, the reviews are worth reading, and perhaps the books too.

[Hat tip to JM]



I am not Spartacus said...

I read the Koran at the University of Southern California website and I found it almost indescribably dull, boring,absurd, and completely lacking any poetical merit.

I should have read it during Lent.

I have read not a few men praising its beauty but I can find no usch beauty in it at all

Jeff said...


I think it's similar in quality to the prophetic books of the Bible. In human terms, I would call those boring too, with flashes of utter beauty and profundity.

It's no harder to enjoy reading the Quran than it is to enjoy reading Ezekiel or the long, late poems of William Blake.

Jeff said...


The Quran is rather similar in style to the prophetic books of the OT. Reading the Quran is as boring/not boring as reading Ezekiel or the late, long poems of William Blake.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Doc.I was interested to see if ofhers found the Koran as boring as I did and I found this funny review

Pertinacious Papist said...


I think Jeff has a point. But I'd also say that there are good and bad translations of the Qu'ran; and that an additional problem is that the "good" translations often sanitize the controversial passages, making them sound like innocuous Oprah Winfrey banalities.

It's hard to find an English version that gets it both ways. I like some of the earlier translations that retain the bald, hard words like "infidel" (for Christians and Jews), but they often come also with convoluted archaisms.

I've read a lot about the Qu'ran, the Hadith, and such, but I've only started reading straight through a translation of the former a few months ago.

Without a powerful animus of some kind, it would be slow going. If your only purpose in reading it were to pass the time, it would likely make a good sedative with no harmful side effects, like my dissertation. One could make the same case for II Chronicles 3-7, under the best of circumstances.

If one were on a "mission" to find out what the Qu'ran says about Mary, or about Joseph the son of Jacob, or about Jesus, or to find out what it says about slaying "Kafirs," that might be enough to keep one awake.

I am not Spartacus said...

Mr. Spencer blogged the Koran and it was at his site that I was learnt about the USC resource for the Koran and which boring text was selected by mahometans.