Thursday, January 15, 2009

Book Review: Understanding the Koran

Last fall my church offered a series of classes called "Loving Your Muslim Neighbor". El Jefe and I attended and found ourselves simultaneously enlightened and challenged by the speakers, who came from all over the country and the world. Houston has a sizeable Muslim population, so the subject is a very relevant one for us. In fact, there is a mosque about 3 miles from our home in Sugar Land.

We were particularly interested in the presentation about the Koran by Rev. Mateen Elass, a Presbyterian minister from Oklahoma. Rev. Ellas' father was a Muslim who came to the United States for his education where he met and married Ellas' mother who is American and was raised as a Christian. Elass described his father as more of a "cultural" than a "religious" Muslim, but said that he grew up in a Muslim enviornment in Saudi Arabia where his father, a Syrian, was employed by AARAMCO. Ellas' recounted his own faith journey, which brought him to confess Christ and later become a Presbyterian pastor--which caused a long estrangement with his parents.

His presentation included a brief summary of his book, Understanding the Koran: A Quick Christian Guide to the Muslim Holy Book.

Elass sees the influx of Muslim immigrants to the United States as a challenge to the church:
In many ways, the relative success of Islam in our midst should serve as a rebuke to the church of Jesus Christ for our poor witness to the grace and truth of our Lord. For the sake of Muslims and all others who are hungry to connect with a personal god, we Christians must make sure that the dividing walls of human hostility that Christ destroyed on the cross are not rebuilt through our own sins of racism or apathy.
Although some Christians say that the Muslim Allah is different from the God we worship, Elass does not agree. He believes that the Muslim Allah is the same God we worship, but that the Muslim understanding of God is incomplete because they do not know the love and salvation available to them through Jesus Christ.

Among the topics Elass addresses in the book are how the Koran is viewed by Muslims; the origins of the Koran (including Jewish and Christian sources); Jesus in the Koran; and the understanding of heaven, hell and jihad in the Koran. Discussion questions for each chapter are included at the back of the book and should prompt some lively exchanges of opinion in any adult group.

Elass is a scholar, so there are times when the book becomes a bit academic and difficult. I think this adds to the credibility of the author's presentation because the book is a serious study of the subject despite its brevity. Since the Koran is the true heart of Islam, this is important for American Christians. This book is an ideal introduction for church study groups. It is not easy, glib, or polemical. I recommend it.

(Cross-posted at Presbyterian Bloggers)


Presbyterian Gal said...

I would like to read this because I believe understanding our Muslim friends is essential. And likewise.

Meanwhile...I gave you an award at my place.

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