An argument for a more inclusive and merciful interpretation of the Muslim religion.
Debate over the doctrinal content of Islam has reached a fever pitch, and it often resembles contentious punditry more than careful scholarship. Abu Groon (The Remedy of Souls, 2016, etc.) takes a more moderate, learned approach, carefully mining the pertinent literature for a comprehensive view of the Prophet Muhammad’s message. He argues that any serious consideration of Muhammad address not only the totality of his delivered message, but also the moral example he provided; the ultimate point of the prophet’s ministry, Abu Groon says, was the elevation and refinement of moral virtues. This specifically entails the primacy of ethical behavior over mere ceremonial observance; the zenith of Islamic practice, he says, is moral conduct rather than a strict adherence to custom. Also, he points out that Muslim theology is remarkably inclusive if one focuses on the plain text of Muhammad’s message; a more faithful interpretation of the prophet’s teachings, he says, would eliminate theological acrimony between Abrahamic religions, as the Quran confirms the significance of both Moses and Jesus as legitimate prophets. Indeed, the author goes much further than most others in blurring the lines of distinction between them: “In fact, Judaism, Christianity, and Sabianism are subtitles under the umbrella of the all-embracing Islam similar to Shiites and Sunnis in the religion of Muhammad (PBUH); and Catholics and Protestants in the religion of Jesus, peace be upon him, and all of them are Muslims.” The dominant theme of this work is the mercifulness of God, as demonstrated through the example of Muhammad’s own displays of virtue. Abu Groon’s book is more like a theological essay than a full-length monograph—it’s barely more than 75 pages long. However, his writing is accessible and delightfully free of technical jargon, as he makes his arguments largely by referencing the plain language of the Quran. He also argues for considerably more tolerant understandings of the status of women, Islamic law, and even the nature of preaching. Overall, this study is a welcome model of rigorous and temperate discussion, and current debates might be greatly improved if it reached a wide audience.
A refreshingly evenhanded look at Islamic theology.