In an age of media distortion and widespread stereotypes, Christians and Muslims both need a greater understanding of each other’s faith. What do Christians believe about the Bible? What do Muslims believe about the Qur’an? And what do both Christianity and Islam have to say about Jesus and Muhammad?
In this evenhanded and conciliatory book Chawkat Moucarry calls Christians and Muslims to engage in genuine dialogue, urging them to relate to each other with true humility and respect. In a straightforward fashion he describes and compares the central doctrines of both Christianity and Islam, explaining key beliefs and debunking common misconceptions.
Christians who read this book will learn much about Islam. Likewise, Muslims who read it will discover why Christians are convinced of the truth of Christianity. Sure to provide grist for informed discussions, this rare book is one that both Muslims and Christians can fruitfully study together.
“Writing out of a rich experience of interfaith dialogue in both Arabic and European cultures, Chawkat Moucarry issues a stirring challenge to Christians and Muslims to move beyond mutual ignorance and caricature. His book is itself an example of sensitive, humble yet bold engagement with Islamic beliefs, and should be pondered by Muslims and Christians alike.” Vinoth Ramachandra, author of Faiths in Conflict?
“Chawkat Moucarry shows courage in arriving at clear answers to difficult questions through meticulous and rational argumentation, while striving to demonstrate the greatest sensitivity and respect for those who would reach alternative answers. This important work will serve as a valuable new resource for Christian-Muslim interaction. Adherents of both faiths should read it and use it as a key reference point in diverse contexts of interfaith dialogue.” Peter Riddell, Centre for Islamic Studies, London Bible College
The Prophet & the Messiah : An Arab Christian’s Perspective on Islam & Christianity
5 thoughts on “The Prophet & the Messiah : An Arab Christian’s Perspective on Islam & Christianity”
The author pretends the reader to believe that this book is an opening to Christian-Muslim dialogue, but in a detail reading it “clearly” seems that the thesis of the book is “WHY CHRISTIANITY STANDS TRUE, Jesus is our Lord and Savior, and how MUSLIMS HAVE DISTORTED our core beliefs”. It clearly has a hidden agenda (A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHES).
His Christian “solution” or bridge is for both Muslims and Christians to belief in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; which means that Muslim would have to change their beliefs about Jesus being simply messiah, not God … not in a thousand years! It’s like asking a Christians not to believe in the Trinity or a Buddhist to forget about Enlightment in order to get along with Jews. Is this dialogue??? Not at all. It is asking people to change their mind and their core beliefs.
NOT AN HONEST work for one who pretends to bring dialogue between two of the great world religions.
It is one more of many other books, but no so obvious (with a hidden agenda).
A student of religion.
Rating: 1 / 5
In this book Moucarry seeks to bring understanding to Christians and Muslims through a generalized study of each other’s beliefs. Moucarry compares specific belief structures of both Christianity and Islam in the hopes that dialogue can bring about understanding between members of these two systems of belief. In seeking this “continuity” Moucarry goes so far as making the claim that Christians and Muslims share a “common faith in one God” as if both systems worshipped the same God. He does take the position though that difference in belief must be part of the dialogue however a pure middle of the road stance is not possible if one fully believes in the truth of their scripture and their God. (Pg.19)
Moucarry traces certain belief structures throughout the book and contrasts those beliefs of the Christian and Muslim using their specific scriptures and other texts to make his argument. He uses the Quran to demonstrate Muslim belief structures and then reinforces those with hadith and in some instances tafsir. Moucarry sites various commentaries of conflicting views to demonstrate examples of classical or modern thought on the principles being discussed. He presents the views as if making the argument from either side of the issue, which gives his position certain validity, but this soon rings hallow. Supposedly Moucarry is simply presenting two beliefs, one in “each hand” and tries to show similarities and differences purely from the position of a presenter and not so much as an apologist; however the apologist is ever present as he engages in Olympic gymnastics trying to make his case. (Pg 25)
Moucarry tries to demonstrate similarities between Christianity and Islam that if placed in proper construct do not exist. Similarities of words for example are held up as “bridges of faith,” even though Christians and Muslims have different meanings for those words, and then there is the very real fact that truth is exclusive, not inclusive. He does not however go out of his way to point these differences out but just presents them and its up to the reader to try and figure out exactly what may or may not be behind certain words and beliefs. Unless one cares to scratch below the surface these differences may go unnoticed. As a result this book can be seen as a bit superficial because critical distinctions are not being made; for example a Muslim will say “God” (ilah) and mean Allah, while a Christian will say “God”(El)and mean YHWH, the two are not synonymous, and the distinction should be made. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir The Meaning of Allah) These differences can however be understood when one takes more than thirty seconds to analyze the difference in thought between the two belief systems, their claims, and their perspective attitudes toward their perspective prophets and Gods. (Pg. 92)
Moucarry starts his presentation by comparing and contrasting The Bible and The Koran, he makes certain distinctions between the two books by focusing on their development and what importance these two books hold for the people that follow one or the other. Moucarry hopes that through his book Christians and Muslims will be able to understand each other’s beliefs concerning their perspective scriptures and thereby gain insight into each other’s beliefs and build mutual respect (Pg. 25). However Moucarry miscarries his attempt at birthing real dialogue and instead his argument falls dead on the floor as he tries to fit Islam into his manageable little box; instead of giving an accurate and unvarnished presentation as he tries to outline the differences in the “revelation” used in the development of the Bible and The Quran. He gives a brief outline of what Christians believe about how the Bible came into being through divine inspiration. Moucarry then gives a quick explanation as to what that inspiration means for the Christian and Jew. (Pg. 28-31)
Moucarry Then goes on to a discussion of the transmission of the Quran and what Muslims believe about how that occurred. He relates the idea of Muslim memorization and oral tradition until the various writings could be gathered together to form a single volume. We are then treated to the beginnings of the Shia VS Sunni feud (Uthman VS Mas’ud) and that this conflict of some 1200 years was the product of a disagreement of the finalization of the Quranic text! (Pg. 36-39) Something to be learned here by all, this feud which still rages and is seen on our television screens daily in the slaughter between Shia and Sunnie in Iraq was not caused by America or George Bush, it’s a religious blood feud over 1200 years old that will never be resolved!
We are then treated to the thought of Mohammad concerning the Christian and Jewish scriptures and his views concerning them. For Muhammad the Christians and Jews perverted either the meaning, or the actual text, of their scriptures depending on which school of Islamic thought you happen to be reading at the time. Mohammad saw himself as the final prophet of his ilah Allah, which he claimed, as the one true God, and saw himself prophesied in the Hebrew/Christian scriptures and the fact that the Jews and Christians denied this fed his paranoia and he, being rebuffed, made spurious claims of the “treacherous Jews” who “lie to conceal the truth” or who “distorted the truth of The Torah concerning himself” etc. Moucarry however wants us to take this as an indication of how Muslims hold Jewish and Christian scriptures as valid and an admission from Muslims of the truth of Jewish/Christian scriptures though typically he does not make the distinction that for the Muslims the only validity that counts is the one they assign to the subject. (Ch.2-4)
Moucarry takes us on a journey of various doctrines and teachings of the Quran and alternately he presents the biblical doctrines that he sees as comparative.(Ch. 7) We are given the idea that sin is a similar structure in both Islam and Christianity. He does contrast the concept of original sin and shows that Muslims claim to be born sinless (Pg. 97), however for the Christian sin were passed onto all mankind through the sin of Adam and humans are born sinful. Moucarry pushes us through more doctrines and presents as is his way the sort of benign arguments we have now become accustomed to throughout the book.
For all the middle of the road positioning present in this book it does have some redeeming quality. That quality would be present to those who have a bit of knowledge concerning Islam to start with, and who will not be drawn away into the vain and superficial understanding of Islam that he presents. This is not a book for an introduction to Islam it is more of a book to widen a basic understanding, but there are better books on the subject such as “The Dhimmi: Jews & Christians Under Islam”
by Bat Ye’or. Moucarry’s book opens certain doors, however closes others that need to be open, and as a result fails to give a complete picture of Islam.
Muslims use religious code words, and this has to be understood from the start. For example when representing the Muslim belief of the Bible it is important for Christians to scratch below the surface and not be distracted with words and concepts on face value. When a Christian hears a Muslim say something like “we respect the bible” what they really mean is they respect “the bible” that they have in their mind, which is in the understanding they have been indoctrinated with from the tradition of Mohammad, The Quran and hadith etc. Mohammad demonized Jews and Christians, and Christians have to remember that for the Muslim the Christian scriptures have been corrupted or at the very least the interpretation is corrupted and that corruption comes from the Jews and Christians. (Pg. 58) Unfortunately Moucarry never lays this out in plain language, again it is left up to the reader to understand, and without a basic knowledge of Islam this can be lost on the reader. The reality is that it is the traditional Muslim view that perverts the Gospel of Christ and The Torah through the tradition of Mohammad. (Quran 2:79, 7:166, 2:65, and 5:60) (Pg. 44) (Ch. 2-4)
Another example is present in the biblical concept of the “paraclete” whom, in the teaching of The Bible, is beyond all doubt referring to The Holy Spirit (John 14, 15, 16), for the Muslim it is referring to Mohammad (Pg. 246-247). Also the Muslim will claim that Ishmael is the chosen son of Abraham and then claim a form of pure lineage to Mohammad and the Muslims that just does not exist. Ishmael was half Egyptian and half Chaldean, he married an Egyptian woman yet this is overlooked and all of a sudden the sons of Ishmael are called Arabs. (Pg. 244)
Sin. Another concept in Islamic, Christian dialogue that should be understood in a more precise context than Moucarry cares to give. Moucarry gives us a very subdued example of shirk or “assigning partners to “God” Allah” and quotes Quran 4:48 which states “Lo! Allah forgiveth not that a partner should be ascribed unto Him. He forgiveth (all) save that to whom He will. Whoso ascribeth partners to Allah, he hath indeed invented a tremendous sin.” (Pg. 95) What a Christian needs to understand here is that according to the teaching of The Quran they are guilty of shirk [polytheism] and are doomed to hell because they say Jesus is God, and according to Quran and Tafsir this is the sin of shirk which is al fitnah [disbelief in Allah] and is punishable by death! (Quran 8:39) Moucarry compares this to the “unpardonable sin” found in Matt 12:31-32 yet Jesus never calls for the death of those who do not seek him, nor does he command his followers to conquer the world till only his religion remains, and neither does the unpardonable sin have anything to do with “assigning partners to God”. The unpardonable sin results in a judgment in the after life, not an immediate or final solution to disbelief as in the Mohamadan tradition. God’s kingdom is an eternal kingdom that He Himself will establish, and not through the sword of conquest by His followers as Mohamed taught.
Shirk is worse than Killing.
Since Jihad involves killing and shedding the blood of men, Allah indicated that these men [Christians/polytheists/disbelievers] are committing disbelief in Allah, associating [partners] with Him (in the worship) and hindering from His path, and this is a much greater evil and more disastrous than killing. Abu Malik commented about what Allah said: (And Al-Fitnah is worse than killing.) Meaning what you (disbelievers) are committing is much worse than killing.” Abu Al-`Aliyah, Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, `Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said that what Allah said: (And Al-Fitnah is worse than killing.) “Shirk (polytheism) is worse than killing.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir 2.Al Baqarah: Shirk is worse than killing)
In the “sins” of shirk, and al fitnah, another vital element comes to a head, the denial of The Son of God. Now this idea of shirk can be taken in two ways by the Christian: 1. Since “Allah” is the proper name of the god of Islam and (The Quran, Tafsir, Hadith etc explain the meaning of the Quran) one could argue that shirk only applies to partnering with Allah, and has nothing to do with YHWH. 2. That this is applicable to anyone who assigns partners to God/Allah (supposed same meaning) i.e. Christians [polytheists] this would then mean that Jesus was a liar (since he claimed to be The Son of God, The Messiah), and a polytheist (being a “partner” with God). Now we have to place this in its proper perspective in understanding our dialogue with Muslims who claim to honor Jesus as one of their “prophets” (whom Jesus never claimed to be), It is instead a denial of The Son of God, and a distortion of the Christian scriptures, they do not honor Christ they dishonor him. The Christian must internalize #1 as the truth, and must recognize that #2 is the view of Muslims through the teaching of Mohammad. (Pg. 189)
The Christian has to understand that when in dialogue with Muslims that even though some of the same words are being tossed around Muslims have different meanings for those words and concepts (religious code words). If the Christian fails to understand the meanings and understandings the Muslim is using the Christian will fall into a snare and be ineffective in the dialogue. Moucarry only gives a slight and superficial look at the teaching of Islam, if he was to have presented Islam truthfully in a detailed way instead of concentrating on the surface layer the reader would come away with an acute awareness of what they face in dealing with Muslims, and would not be prone to deception. Over all though the book is not completely offensive if one cares to remove the rose colored glasses and proceed within the frame of truth seeking in an abandonment of preconception and ostrichism.
If Christians really want to understand Islam they need to examine the life of Mohammad himself, they need to read a non-westernized version of The Quran, to examine the hadith, the tafsir, sunnah and sharia, and then contrast those with the teaching of Jesus in a detailed and unvarnished method. The more information a person has the better their understanding will be. Christians need to understand concepts such as Al Taqiyya, Kithman, Jiyza, Jihad, and Abrogation all of which are encoded into and are integral belief structures of Islam. Jesus said, “A good tree does not have bad fruit. And also, a bad tree does not have good fruit. Every kind of tree is known by its fruit. People do not pick fruit like figs from thorn trees. And they do not pick grapes from bramble bushes.” (Luke 6:43-44)
The Christian must reach out in love with The Gospel of Christ to Muslims and remember to keep in mind what Muslims are really saying, and what they really mean in their conversations about God. Let all things be done with love, and let noting be done in ignorance. Christians must not engage themselves with trying to “Christianize Islam” but with engaging all peoples with the truth of Christ. (Pg. 294) (1 Cor.16:14, Eph. 5:11)
Rating: 1 / 5
Like the other reviewer, I also enjoyed “The Prophet and the Messiah”. He is highly educated in the filed of Islamic studies and is a well-known spokesman for the educated interaction of the two faiths. From my own limited knowledge of the literature, this has been the most useful of the books on the subject owing to its organization and content. It is not polemical, although Moucarry is clearly a Christian.
One little observation is that many books of this sort approach Islam from the Protestant theological tradition. In some ways this seems to be useful since the majority of Protestants and all true Muslims hold a “Quranic” notion of the Book. That is, it is literal and intact as given. In Christian terms, this means that functionally most Protestants have zero conception of how the New Testament was formed from the liturgical heart of the Church, and not vice versa. So in this way the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura (bible alone) has a false bond with Islam on a textual level. It should be noted, however, that when speaking with Moslems it needs to be remembered that their equivalent to Jesus Christ incarnate of Mary as God is not Muhammad, but the Qur’ân. We have an incarnated God, they have an “inscripturated” God. There is much to learn from the ancient Churches of the Near and Middle East in this regard.
Other useful books in this regard are Cragg’s “Muhammad and the Christian”, “Paths to the Heart” edited by Cutsinger is very useful if you have an interest in Sufism and Eastern Orthodoxy, Bell’s “The Origin of Islam in Its Christian Environment”, Daniel Sahas’ “John of Damascus on Islam: The Heresy of the Ishmaelites”, and Stockle’s “The Doctrine of Islam and Christian Belief”.
Rating: 5 / 5
The Prophet and the Messiah: An Arab Christian’s Perspective on Islam and Christianity, by Chawkat Moucarry, presents a contrast and comparison between Muslim beliefs and Christian beliefs. Moucarry appeals to the audience that the best way in which to witness is through friendship and everyday dialogue.
The author himself is of Arab/Muslim ancestry and Christian heritage. Moucarry states his primary thesis on p. 15, “This book attempts to examine the claims of both Christianity and Islam….what I am seeking, I suppose, is to build a bridge between the Christian and Muslim communities.” Moucarry himself has lived in both of these types of communities throughout his life and realizes that there is a surmounting tension growing that must be resolved. He feels that the best way to do such is plainly through simple dialogue. He has seen that in the book market there are many books that are full of harsh criticisms between these communities, thus he decided to write a book in which would as positively as possible shine the light of God into both of these “religions.” After having lived as both, he felt that the best possible way to approach each would be to mirror them through contrast and comparison.
Presentation of Material
Dr. Moucarry divided his book up into five sections:
1. The Scriptures (Moucarry gives a detailed account of both the Christian bible and the Muslim Qur’an. He addresses the issue of why Muslim theologians have said that Christians/Jews have falsified the Bible and then ends this section by carefully showing that there could not have been any falsification.)
2. The Key Doctrines (Moucarry now turns to many of the specifics that hold these two worlds together and how there are through discrepancies among the Muslims beliefs.)
3. The View of Jesus Christ (Moucarry now begins the largest section of his book. He opens through direct quoting of what both the Bible and the Qur’an specifically state about Jesus and which would be more accurate.)
4. The View of Muhammad (Moucarry opens the view of Muhammad as seen through the Qur’an and the Hadith. Muslims believe that the Bible (and the alleged Gospel of Barnabas) clearly teaches the forthcoming of this great Prophet-of which Moucarry carefully exegetes the Christian Bible and shows to whom were really foreseen.)
5. Contemporary Issue (Moucarry ends his book by addressing somewhat of the “missions” focus as to how these two worldviews can begin a careful and proper assimilation under the Lordship of the true God Jesus Christ.)
There are several areas as to where I find this book a tremendous aid. The first area is the extent to which he has researched and written. Moucarry has not just written a basic apologetic as to why “Christianity Stands True,” but he has written in such a diverse and expansive way as to shine light into many of the untouched areas of both views. To present the message, he has allowed the two texts to become transparent and to show its true colors. Thus by doing so, he has in the end revealed that the Bible is Theological and Spiritually superior to that which the supposed Great Prophet has written. I believe that what aids his writing is the fact that he has lived both lives and is able to write as such.
I think that the second area to which is most beneficial is his superior use of direct quoting. He does not merely say, “So and so said this and that.” No, he directly quotes many Islamic theologians and many, many passages from the Qur’an. What further aided this is that he did the same with the Christian Scripture.
The last area to which is helpful is that this book could most definitely witness (through the Spirit) to a Muslim reading it. He has created this book to be a dialogue for these two perspectives, thus laying a paved road to enter into friendly discourse and not harmful, driving tension.
I think that the greatest insight (that is as coming from the Christian perspective) is that Satan will stop at nothing to malign the True Word of God. Probably one of the most fascinating peeks at Satan’s trickery I have seen while reading this book came from p. 46:
The Qur’an urges the `People of the Book’, that is, Jews and Christians, to receive the
final revelation God had entrusted to Muhammad (2:41 ; 4:47 ). This call is based on the assumption that the Qur’an is God’s revelation in Arabic confirming the preceding revelations, that is, the Torah and the Gospel.
This just shows that there is not always going to be this huge bombardment attack from the Evil One-of which most are very subtle. We must be ready to always defend the attacks (whether great or small) of the Prince of this world. We must stand guard and be prepared “in season and out of season.” Go and befriend a Muslim because they are just as we are-created in the image of God!
Rating: 5 / 5
Recently popular Christian writer Don Richardson published a book called “The Secrets of the Koran” in which the author chronicles passages in the Koran that he finds offensive and he wants to bring to the attention of Christian leaders (and all leaders for that matter).
In “The Prophet and the Messiah” author Chawkat Moucarry takes a different approach. Moucarry looks at both the Bible and the Qur’an and examines places of connection between them. Quoting both the Qur’an and Islamic theologians, Morcarry finds places of dialog between Christians and Muslims that can lead to a better understanding of both religions and can move a Muslim into a better understanding of the true Christian message.
One of the main goals Moucarry has in his book is to create dialog between the Muslim believer and the Christian believer. In writing about his childhood in Syria, Moucarry comments:
Although Christians and Muslims have been living together for hundreds of years, they have always had a ghetto mentality, especially with regard to their faiths. Mutual ignorance, some would argue, was the price of trouble-free coexistence . . .This compromise proved quite unacceptable to the teenager I was at that time.
Moucarry’s book then proceeds to chronicle important doctrines and beliefs of each faith looking at:
– the Holy books for both Muslims and Christians
– key doctrines for both faiths
– Jesus Christ and issues relating to Him
– Muhammad and issues relating to him.
Along the way Moucarry also looks at key problems between both faiths.
For example in Chapter 10 Moucarry looks at the Crucifixion. For many this subject is a place of disagreement between Christians and Muslim that seems irreconcilable. Moucarry helps us see what the Qur’an really says and how early Muslim interpreters did not see this verse as a problem. It was only later that this problem came up. (Read the book to find out more).
Moucarry does the same thing for many other key issues such as Jesus the Son of God, the Trinity, Mohammad’s prophethood, and the Bible foretelling of Mohammad.
With each issue Moucarry looks at what the Qur’an says and what the Bible says and then at the writings of key theologians to help us understand how believers have dealt with this key issues. Along the way we gain deeper understanding of both faiths and, for the true seeker, we gain a greater ability to have dialog and to be able to seek truth together.
Rating: 5 / 5