January 23, 2018

Book Review: “Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward”

Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward , by Nabeel Qureshi. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016. 148 pages.

Countering jihad waged by radical Islamists remains among the most pressing cultural, political, and religious issues of today. Many Islamic terrorists call themselves jihadists and claim to fight in the name of their god, Allah. Written just 18 months before his passing, Nabeel Qureshi’s book Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward gives a thorough historical context of jihad, what it looks like today, and a Christian perspective on the issue.

Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward, by Nabeel Qureshi. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016. 148 pages.

Qureshi answered 18 common questions people have in regards to jihad. Qureshi wrote the book  from a personal point of view,  which provided perfect perspective in answering these difficult questions as he followed Islam, but converted to Christianity. While he was studying at Old Dominion University, he befriended a Christian student and debated about both Islam and Christianity for several years. This debate eventually led to his conversion.

Not only is he a convert to Christianity, but he is also highly qualified. He earned his master’s in Christian apologetics at Biola University and religion at Duke University. Additionally, he pursued a PhD program at Oxford University on New Testament studies, but he was called to be with the Lord on September 16, 2017.

The book is broken down into three parts. The first part talks about where jihad comes from. The second explains what the jihad looks like today. The third section describes it in a Christian perspective and how Christians should perceive jihad.

In the first portion, Qureshi answers six questions about the history and origins of the Jihad. He combines both personal studies and experiences, and historical analysis in explaining the emergence of jihad. He argued that when reading the Quran and understanding Islam in its native way, Islam essentially remains a violent religion. Qureshi offered examples of this claim from the Quran. For instance, women are permitted to be held captive are able to be “sold” or even “impregnated,” according to the Quran.

The reason why many in society  attempt to identify Islam as a peaceful religion is because teachers and scholars interpret the Quran in a peaceful way. However, Qureshi argued this is not the natural reading of the text and explained who jihadists are. He stated that the “primary meaning of jihad as used by pre-modern Muslim jurists is warfare with spiritual significance.” He also wrote that the Quran uses the word in “reference to a violent struggle for spiritual purposes.” He concluded the first portion with saying that overall Islam is a violent religion in nature. 

In the second portion of the book, Qureshi wrote how radical Islam became an idea. He discussed Sayyid Qutb and his ideas and views of the West. Qutb was an Egyptian writer and educator, and he examined the relationship of the Muslim countries and the Western countries. Through this observation, he was convinced that strict adherence to Islamic teachings was the only way to save Muslim countries from the oppressive Western powers. He saw this as the only way to morally cleanse the world. He strongly believed that the Western world was eroding the morals of Islam, and he wanted to return to the fundamentals of Islam and essentially reform Islam. Qureshi again argued that a reformed Islam is radical Islam. Qureshi stated that “radical Islam is the Islamic reformation.” This further enhances the argument that Islam is a violent religion in its nature, and the reason for why there is an amount of radical Islam.

Qureshi described  modern jihad as the growing presence of Islam all over the world. He wrote that there are incidents where Shariah law was implemented. Qureshi explained that there was a case in 2009 where a “seventeen-year old girl in New Jersey filed for a restraining order against her Muslim ex-husband who had forced her to have intercourse with him despite her tears and pleading. Her marriage had been arranged in Morocco just before moving to the United States.” However, the judge did not accept her plea because the husband had not “been acting with ‘criminal desire or intent’ according to sharia.”

Another topic Quershi covered included efforts to advance Islamism by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), an organization that consisting of  57 member countries. Qureshi argues that the OIC fundamentally lobbies against free speech. This is evident in the European Union as it “mandated that its nations combat ‘xenophobia’ by making it illegal to incite hatred against a person based on religion. Although the mandate seems noble in intent, it does not clearly delineate where ‘criticism of ideas’ ends and ‘hatred against a person on account of religion’ beings.” This mandate was able to form through the efforts of the OIC.

Lastly, in the final part of the book, Qureshi tackled whether Christianity has ever promoted its own version of jihad. Qureshi asserted that there is a core difference between jihad and the Crusades and Islam and Christianity as a whole. He stated that Muhammad and the Quran specifically commanded jihadists to perform violence. However, Jesus never condoned violence. He never preached that violence should be used. Qureshi supported this claim through the use of scripture from Matthew and Luke. He also acknowledges counterclaims, like how Jesus  taught about violence. However, he explained these verses with historical and Biblical context.

Qureshi implied that Christianity as a pacifist religion. He used the Bible verses from Matthew 10:34 and explained that Jesus was never advocated for violence. He explained that in the following verse Jesus was “talking about division within families, not actual warfare.” He also argued that the context of Luke 19:27 is ignored and many can argue that Jesus condoned violence. He described that the verse, when read in context, is part of a parable. Additionally, Luke 22:36 must also be read in context. He described that the sword in the verse was not an actual sword that you use to fight, but a knife that is a multi-purpose tool. He thoroughly claims that Christianity is more of a pacifist religion. (If you are interested in learning more about Christianity and pacifism, consider reading this article from our magazine Providence.)

It’s not particularly clear whether Qureshi himself was a pacifist, but there are implications he leans in this direction. In a later book, No God but One, Qureshi said: “Although this is a dilemma for me as a Christian, being caught between pacifism and defending the oppressed, I think it is an excellent place to be theologically. It means that Christians who want to engage in defensive violence must do so while reckoning it as a moral abomination.”

Overall, Qureshi carefully wrote about historical context of  jihad, why jihad continues to exist today, and how Christians should engage with jihad. Christians who desire to gain a better understanding  of jihad and a Christian perspective on how to approach jihadists should read this book.


3 Responses to Book Review: “Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward”

  1. Annika says:

    Compelling! I can tell that you are a true scholar passionate about religion. Thank you for this work.

  2. Sun Young Chung says:

    Clear analysis and thoughtful suggestion of the book! I cannot believe this is a work of a college student! Great review.

  3. I have taught several classes based on Qureshi’s first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, and have his next two on my shelf for future use. Qureshi was the devoutest of Muslims, and his scholarship was impeccable. He has informed my understanding of Islam immensely. Thanks for a great review!

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