Christian book publisher Zondervan is about to release a new book that will undoubtedly go over well: A new edition of the Qur’an, complete with “Christian commentary” intended to help “pastors and missionaries who minister among Muslims.”
This will go over well…
To be clear, there’s absolutely academic value in introducing the holy book of one of the world’s largest religions to a new audience. It’s important to understand what the Islamic text says — as well as what it doesn’t say. There’s certainly no shortage of Christians trying to introduce the Bible to new audiences in all kinds of ways — it’s the very reason companies like Zondervan exist.
But to offer the Qur’an through a Christian lens? That seems ripe for problems.
Here’s how the company’s website describes the product:
Be Equipped to Interact More Fruitfully and Thoughtfully with Muslims
The Quran with Christian Commentary offers a unique introduction to the primary religious text of Islam. Alongside a precise modern English translation of the Quran, author Gordon D. Nickel provides in-text notes to explain the meaning of various surahs (chapters) and ayat (verses), their interpretive history and significance in Muslim thought, and similarities and differences when compared to biblical passages.
Factual, respectful of Muslims, and insightful on issues about which Muslims and Christians disagree, The Quran with Christian Commentary equips Christians to interact more fruitfully with Muslim believers. Professors and students in courses on Islam and the Quran will find this to be an invaluable resource, as will pastors and missionaries who minister among Muslims. Written at a readable level, any Christian who wants to learn more about Islam and the Quran will find it to be a rich and informative introduction.
Is it really “respectful” of Muslims, though? I imagine if a Muslim publisher released a Bible with Islamic commentary, that word wouldn’t go over smoothly. Some Christians would inevitably call the book’s existence a form of religious persecution (or something of the sort).
The website also points out that the author, Dr. Gordon Nickel, is “director of the Centre for Islamic Studies at South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, India.” But there’s no indication that any practicing Muslim, much less a scholar, signed off on the contents of this book.
If you want to learn more about Islam, talk to Muslims. At the very least, don’t get your information from someone who’s writing a playbook for Christians whose main purpose in talking to Muslims is to stop them from practicing Islam.