So I get the following message in my inbox:
I’m a Christian – I am a glass artist and interfaith chaplain. This summer I received a fellowship to study philosophy of Islamic art in Iran (the first Christian artist, I believe, to receive this fellowship from the university in Qom which sponsored me). It was an amazing experience – particularly because of the people, and very much because of the astounding contradictions to US media-driven expectations. I would very much like to do a review of [your book] “What Would a Muslim Say” along with a short email interview with you. Would that be all right?
So I sent him a free copy of my book and answered his interview questions. Then he shared his review with me. It struck me as very relevant for today’s climate, and I thought you would appreciate it. Enjoy!
Many books hoping to teach about a religion seem to fall into two general categories – they seem to either carry an apologetic tone throughout or they feel overtly evangelical, both of which leave the reader feeling awkwardly uncomfortable.
What I love about Ahmed Lotfy Rashed’s work is that he entirely avoids both of these expectations, giving concise and thorough answers and explanations of Islamic doctrines without in any way making the reader feel he is being confrontational or cringingly apologetic. Ahmed knows his own faith and patiently shares his beliefs while maintaining a considerate and accessible voice.
After finding Islam, Ahmed was deeply struck by the incredible chasm between the truth he learned and popular media representation of this growing faith. He started volunteering to answer questions asked through the WhyIslam.org website – this book represents a typical cross-section of the concerns he addressed while volunteering through sharing actual email correspondences.
His patience with his audience is proved over and over throughout, especially as illustrated in a few exchanges with people who apparently did not bother to read his answers before they themselves heatedly responded. Ahmed’s job as a volunteer with the website was not to confront or prove, he said, but to patiently teach – and he was admonished to never take anyone’s comments personally. After reading some of these exchanges, I doubt I could follow his example — and I’m an interfaith chaplain!
One thing difficult for someone explaining his or her own beliefs is the urge we all have to want to make others happy with us. Particularly with topics like religion, very personal subjects in which we are emotionally invested, there is a tendency to want to convince others they will be happier if they believe the same way and to be offended if they don’t.
However, Ahmed is able to walk this tightrope with confidence. There are exchanges he shares which honestly reflect Islam as well as show that not every faith can be all things to all people. He remains polite and non-confrontational, but also refuses to distort or misrepresent his faith.
Ahmed has done a remarkable job – using a friendly and honest tone – in not just sharing his faith, but honestly chronicling his communication with those wishing to understand. The friendly, conversational tone made this a religion book which was actually fun to read.
You can see his review on Amazon here.