How a Book on Islam Strengthened my Catholic Faith

I do not pretend to be as devout a Catholic as I should be. Too often, I am not even a particularly good one. Nonetheless, I am and was raised a Catholic, so I tend to view nearly every theological topic through a Catholic lens. David Pinault’s The Crucifix on Mecca’s Front Porch gave me the chance to do exactly that. 

I have long been curious about Islam, and The Crucifix on Mecca’s Front Porch provides a Christian – and particularly a Catholic – guide to understanding Islam. Though not impartial, Pinault draws on his own extensive experience to provide an expertly researched and respectful analysis of the theological differences between Islam and Christianity, with particular focus on the two religions’ competing conceptions of the nature of Jesus Christ. The book is simultaneously detailed and readable, and Pinault ably emphasizes the need for Christians and Muslims to learn from one another even as he is careful not to minimize the significant differences between the two faiths.

Pinault, a longtime professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University, has a lifetime of experience researching “comparative Christology and the status of Christian populations in Muslim-majority societies.” He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Egypt, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Yemen, among other places. Pinault’s comparative study of Islam starts with the life of Muhammad, and concludes by addressing contentious contemporary issues such as increasing Muslim migration into Western countries and the rise of Islamic extremist terrorism. 

Pinault draws on his own extensive experience to provide an expertly researched and respectful analysis of the theological differences between Islam and Christianity.

Straightforward about his own status as a Catholic Christian, Pinault critically examines pre-Islamic Arabia, the Koran, the life of Muhammad, the development of Islamic thought, Shia-Sunni relations, and more. Pinault draws from various Islamic primary sources translated from the original Arabic, Persian, or Urdu, many of which he translated himself. He compares and contrasts these materials with excerpts from the Bible and other Christian texts, examples from the life and works of Jesus Christ, and even primary sources written in Latin by Christian crusaders. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MICHIGAN REVIEW

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