Understanding Muslim Teachings and Traditions: A Guide for Christians, by Phil Parshall, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002. Pp. 240. $14.99 (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. Robert D. Decker.]
The reader who wishes to read a more detailed summary of Islam’s founder, teachings, and practice than this reviewer’s chapter on Islam in his syllabus on World Religions could probably not do any better than to read this book. It is well written and an accurate summary of Islam.
The author has graduate degrees from Wheaton Graduate School, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Fuller Seminary, and fellowships with Harvard and Yale Universities. He has written several books on Islam. His knowledge of Islam does not come merely from his academic pursuits. Parshall has served as a missionary in Muslim nations for forty years. He knows whereof he writes from firsthand missionary experience.
The author documents his conclusions with numerous quotations from the two most important original sources: the Quran and the Hadith. The Quran is Islam’s “Bible”; the Hadith is “the written collection of Traditions about what the Prophet said or did, or how he reacted to others. The Traditions were first transmitted by word of mouth” (226). The bibliography (12 volumes), however, is quite brief for study of this nature and length. Parshall does include a glossary of terms and an index. Both of these are detailed and helpful to the reader.
Included among the twenty-one chapters are such subjects as: the Quran, Salvation Muhammad, Pilgrimage, Jihad and Violence, Jesus, Women, Muhammad’s Wives, Legalisms, Punishments for Sin, Hell, and Paradise. We might add, regarding Muhammad’s wives, that he had twelve, and that he “had female captives in addition to his twelve wives. As sexual rights came with the possession of the captives, it is assumed that the Prophet accepted these physical privileges” (p. 182). It is telling to note Parshall’s comment, “I have had Muslims express to me their disappointment that Jesus was not married and therefore did not experience all of life’s cycles as did Muhammad” p. 182).
In addition to the above, the book, in the light of 9-11-’01, is timely.