success stories

Posted April 28, 2004

Book: Understanding Islam: A Guide for the Judaeo-Christian Reader
Author: Jerald F. Dirks
Amana Publications, Beltsville, MD, pp.394

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

In “Understanding Islam” Dr. Dirks offers a timely and factually correct alternative to understanding Islam. It is written for Western, and primarily Christian readers. The primary focus of the book is on what is termed Sunni Islam, i.e., the Islam practiced by approximately 85-90% of the self-professed Muslims in the world. The book is unique in several respects. It treats Islam from its own point of view. It is written by a natural-born American for the Western reader, and thus may avoid some of the cultural overlay that accompanies some books on Islam written by other Muslim authors. The author is an American who has practiced Islam both while living in America and in the Middle East, thus offering a broader perspective than would have otherwise been possible. As a convert from Christianity to Islam, and as a former ordained minister within Christianity, the author does a very good job of expounding the commonalities and contrasts of Islam with Judaism and Christianity, while still avoiding the temptation to distort Islam by interpreting it from within a Judaeo-Christian perspective. The reader is introduced to Islam almost exclusively through the two primary sources of Islam, i.e., the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which are the only completely authoritative sources on Islam.

An Excerpt from the Book:

As has been demonstrated, the Muslim Ummah’s right to conduct Jihad-as-war is highly conditional. It may fight a defensive war against those who have attacked it, provided that the Muslim Ummah is an innocent victim of that attack, but then must grant asylum and safe conduct to anyone who lays down his arms. If the Ummah is not an innocent victim, if the Ummah or some part of it actually stands in the wrong, then it is incumbent uon the Ummah to make amends for the initial wrong committed by it or its members. The Ummah may also wage Jihad-as-war to correct grievous social injustice and wrongs that have been and are being perpetrated against otherwise defenseless individuals. In other words, as a last resourt after having spoken “a word of justice to an oppressive ruler” (Abu Dawud, Hadith #4330), Muslims may engage in war to alleviate the suffering of the oppressed. Finally, Muslims may engage in war for the sake of Allah, although they must be hyper-cautious to make sure they re not merely masking their own personal, ethnic, or nationalistic desires with the phrase “for the sake of Allah.”

Even when the conditions have been met that allow Muslims to conduct Jihad-as-war, Islam prescribes severe and stringent limits on what sort of warfare is permissible. A Muslim must not desire war, and must not wish to engage the enemy. A Muslim is prohibited from committing suicide, whether as a act of war of otherwise. A Muslim may not kill or injure civilian non-combatants, and must not destroy the civilian infrastructure in such a way that eventually causes significant injury or death to civilians. A Muslim is prohibited from mutilating the dead. A Muslim is forbidden to use certain types of weapons, e.g., the use of flamethrowers, napalm, and incendiary bombs to burn others is strictly prohibited. A Muslim must realize and accept that he has certain familial obligations that outweigh his responsibilities to pick up arms, including specified marital and filial duties. A Muslim woman is not to be a combatant in any war, however permissible that war may be. Although she may perform various non-combatant duties, such as caring for the wounded, removing bodies from the battlefield, giving food and drink to soldiers, etc. A Muslim must treat all prisoners of war in a humanitarian manner.

Table of Contents:

Chapter I: Introduction

Chapter II: Islam Pre-Muhammad

Chapter III: Muhammad, Messenger of Allah

Chapter IV: The Qur’an and Sunnah

Chapter V: Article of Faith

Chapter VI: Pillars of Practice

Chapter VII: Jihad

Chapter VIII: Jihad-as-War and the Teaching of Islam

Chapter IX: Jihad-as-War and the Lessons of History

Chapter X: Summary and Conclusions