“A welcome expansion of the fragile territory known as common ground.” —The New York Times
When Reza Aslan’s bestseller Zealot came out in 2013, there was criticism that he hadn’t addressed his Muslim faith while writing the origin story of Christianity. In fact, Ross Douthat of The New York Times wrote that “if Aslan had actually written in defense of the Islamic view of Jesus, that would have been something provocative and new.”
Mustafa Akyol’s The Islamic Jesus is that book.
The Islamic Jesus reveals startling new truths about Islam in the context of the first Muslims and the early origins of Christianity. Muslims and the first Christians—the Jewish followers of Jesus—saw Jesus as not divine but rather as a prophet and human Messiah and that salvation comes from faith and good works, not merely as faith, as Christians would later emphasize. What Akyol seeks to reveal are how these core beliefs of Jewish Christianity, which got lost in history as a heresy, emerged in a new religion born in 7th Arabia: Islam.
Akyol exposes this extraordinary historical connection between Judaism, Jewish Christianity and Islam—a major mystery unexplored by academia. From Jesus’ Jewish followers to the Nazarenes and Ebionites to the Qu’ran’s stories of Mary and Jesus, The Islamic Jesus will reveal links between religions that seem so contrary today. It will also call on Muslims to discover their own Jesus, at a time when they are troubled by their own Pharisees and Zealots.
In a conversational style and with studious acumen, Akyol (Islam Without Extremes) shows scintillating connections between "Jewish followers of Jesus and Arab followers of Muhammad" and how Jewish Christianity possibly shaped the Qur'an's view of Isa the Arabic name of Jesus. Tracing sacred texts from multiple traditions and centuries of commentary and contemplation concerning Jesus in Christian, Jewish-Christian, and Muslim sources, Akyol introduces the Islamic Jesus to the world. These beliefs and narratives about Jesus are handled respectfully, with careful attention to the nuances of his many sources. In his conclusion, Akyol admits that Christians, Jews, and Muslims have serious differences theological and cultural. And yet, he advises, Muslims have something to learn from Jesus, and Christians and Jews can also gain from revisiting Jesus from a Muslim point of view. This is a solid read for those interested in the history of theology and religions, Christian-Muslim dialogue, understanding more about Islam, or appreciating the multivalent milieu of the Middle Eastern world where Christianity, Judaism, and Islam emerged.