Book Write-Up: MUSLIM, by Hank Hanegraaff

Hank Hanegraaff.  MUSLIM: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion.  W Publishing Group, 2017.  See here to purchase the book.

Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute and host of the radio program, the Bible Answer Man.  This book, MUSLIM, is critical of Islam.

Here are some thoughts:

A.  The book is very one-sided.  I cannot recall anything positive that Hanegraaff said about Islam in the book.  Can any religion be 100 per cent bad?  For a more nuanced look at Islam in its diversity, one should consult Dynamics of Muslim Worlds: Regional, Theological, and Missiological Perspectives (IVP Academic, 2017), edited by Evelyne A. Reisacher.  There is diversity within Islam about the treatment of women, the application of sharia, and whether the state should punish those considered blasphemers (or whether the punishment instead should be left to God).

B.  That said, the book is well-documented, in that it engages historic Islamic sources and critiques narratives about historic Islamic regimes.  It was also interesting whenever it actually highlighted the diversity within Islam and the attempts of some Muslims to cope with what they borrowed from other traditions: the debate on whether Jesus or the Mahdi should be prioritized in Islamic eschatology comes to mind as an example.  The book is a keeper, for these reasons.

C.  Hanegraaff argued that Islam is a flawed religion, and that Christianity as it is taught in the Bible is superior and has evidential support.  In a number of cases, Hanegraaff does well in arguing that the laws of the Torah are more just and humane than the Islamic passages that he is quoting.  At the same time, he seems to ignore biblical passages that uphold the sort of behavior that he criticizes in Islamic sources: God sending a deceiving spirit (I Kings 22:22), the death penalty in the Torah for religious and moral violations, and the biblical Conquest.  At one point, Hanegraaff states that certain laws in the Torah were temporary.  From his Christian perspective, that may be, but one who deems them divinely-authoritative still has to address why God operated in that way at some point in time.  Hanegraaff briefly tried to do so, but his efforts were inadequate.

D.  While Hanegraaff is critical of the Left, he also embraces positions in the book that some may place on the liberal side of the spectrum: his criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, for example.

E.  Hanegraaff criticizes Islam, while speaking glowingly of Christianity, as he understands it.  For example, he discusses the Christian belief that humans can become divine, explaining that it does not mean that they can become essentially God, but rather that God lifts humans up beyond what they are.  That was an informative discussion, as Hanegraaff interacted with the thoughts of Martin Luther and patristic sources.

F.  Hanegraaff does not care for how American political leaders, both Democratic and Republican, call Islam a religion of peace, for he maintains that its roots going back to Muhammad, Muslim conquests during the Crusades, and radical Islamic groups like ISIS tell a different story.  He believes that political leaders should not hesitate to link terrorist attacks committed by Muslims to the religion of Islam.  Hanegraaff could have been clearer about what exactly is at stake.  Obviously, Islamic terrorists are motivated by their religion, as they understand it.  If law enforcement authorities in the U.S. under President Barack Obama were impeded from even considering Islam when they were conducting their investigations or acting on behalf of homeland security, then that was a problem.  Of course, the terrorists’ religious motivations should be considered, as it was proper for law enforcement authorities to consider David Koresh’s religious motivations.  But it is also wrong to stigmatize all Muslims as violent; even if Muhammad had his flaws, that does not mean that all, or even most, Muslims believe in violence.  It is inaccurate to say that the West is at war with Islam, since Islam is not just what Muhammad taught: it is also how Muslims apply his message, and many do so in peaceful ways.

G.  Hanegraaff acknowledges that a number of Muslims are good people.  He says that many Muslims do not engage in religious deception (taqiyya), and he tells a moving story at the beginning of the book about how friendly the Muslims in Iran were when he went there to do a lecture.  He could have been more forceful in making this point.

H.  Hanegraaff’s strategy for responding to Islam is spiritual.  It appears to be rather apologetic: convince people, with God’s help, that Christianity is evidentially and morally true and that Islam falls short.  Whether one agrees or disagrees with Hanegraaff’s apologetic arguments, one can hopefully agree that the marketplace of ideas (to the extent that there is a marketplace) is the place to address concerns.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers.  My review is honest.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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