Saturday 12 August 2023

Explaining Islam from a Catholic Perspective - J.M. Gaskell - CTS Explanations

Explaining Islam from a Catholic Perspective
J.M. Gaske
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860821837
eISBN 9781784692520
CTS Booklet EX09

I have now read sixteen booklets in the CTS Explanations series from the Catholic Truth Society. The series spanned decades. And has had books come in and out of print. This volume was first published in 2003, and the eBook edition was released in 2017. If this volume was written after 9/11 and even the riots in France and other European countries in 2023, I believe it would have a very different feel. In many ways it read as very pro-Islam. Donald Nicholl in his essay "Scientia Cordis" talks about one becoming fascinated with another religion to the point of near conversion. That is how this book reads to me.

The description of this volume is:

“This booklet examines the historical background to the rise of Islam and its subsequent expansion throughout the world, answering the most important questions about Islamic belief and practice from a Catholic perspective.

There are over one billion Muslims in the world today. In Britain Muslims now outnumber Methodists. This booklet examines the historical background to the rise of Islam in seventh century Arabia and its subsequent expansion throughout the Middle East, North Africa and much of Asia, as well as answering the most important questions about Islamic belief and practice from a Catholic perspective.”

The chapters and sections in this volume are:

     1.The Rise of Islam
Formative Influences
The Meccan Period
The Struggle for Supremacy AD 624-628
     2. Islamic Belief
The One-ness of Allah
Sunni and Shi’ite
The Qur’an
The Hadith
Prophets and Prophecy
‘A’ Prophet or ‘The’ Prophet?
Son of God
Holy Spirit
Trinity and Tritheism
Original Sin
The Greater and Lesser Jihads
Fiqh and Itjihad
Satan and the Shaytans
     3. Muslim Religious Practice
The Five Pillars
The Umrah
The Ka’aba
Hill of Arafat
Shari’ah Law
The Status of Women in Islamic Society
Hijab and Niqab
Women and the Shari’ah
The Sufis
     4. The Spread of Islam
Arab Conquest and Empire
The Seljuk Turks
The Crusades
The Ottoman Empire and Europe
The Far East and Africa
     5. Catholic-Muslim Relations

About the author we are informed:

“Jeremy Gaskell’s interest in Islam was kindled during a visit to the Holy Land shortly after the 1967 Six Day War. In the 1970s he studied Theology at Bristol University since then he has worked in Education and Professional Training in the United Kingdom and the Middle East. He writes extensively on a wide range of matters including history, legal history and ethics.”

Having done a world’s religions course in high school, and holding a Religious Studies and Theology Degree I have a few world’s religions courses at that level, I was disappointed in this volume. My own daughter who just finished grade 11 knows as much as was presented in this volume. Only the final 2 pages have any specifics on what this is important to Catholics, and even at that it in part is just an apology for Benedict XVI remarks at Regensburg in September 2006. Indicating that this final section was updated in the eBook edition. Gaskell states:

“Perceptions of Islam in the West have inevitably been coloured by the activities of extremists. The Sufi concern for the inner reality of all things, however, intersects with Christian thought in a number of ways.”

And based on events over the last few years in Germany, Italy, France and other countries after mass migration can only show those attitudes are part and parcel of the culture and not just extremists. 

I have greatly enjoyed hundreds of books from the Catholic Truth Society, and all the other volumes in this series I have read. But this was a great disappointment, a waste of time and money. I cannot think of a single person I could recommend this volume to.     

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews of other books in the CTS Explanations series click here.

Books in the CTS Explanations Series:
Marriage Annulment in the Catholic Church
Jehovah’s Witnesses
Does the Church oppress Women?
Organ Transplant – and the definition of Death
Be Yourself An Explanation of Humility - William Lawson SJ
Gene Therapy – and Human Genetic Engineering
Prenatal tests
Gift of life and Love
Cloning and Stem Cell Research
Contraception and Chastity
Freemasonry and the Christian Faith
Intelligent Life in the Universe
Spirits, Mediums & The Afterlife

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