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Surveys

Karen Armstrong is an obvious place to start. She was a Catholic nun, but she’s okay and a lot of people like her. I’m not a fan, but she needs to be included here.

Islam for Dummies might surprise you, but I thought it was a good quick overview. The same goes for Hinduism for Dummies.

But if you’re serious, then try Rabbi Reuven Firestones approach:

  • Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism or Muslims
  • Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews by Kalid Durán.
  • and by Firestone: An Introduction to Islam for Jews 

One thing that I consider required reading for German Protestants is

  • Thomas Kaufmann’s Luthers Juden.
    you seriously need to read this if you hope to enter an inter-faith dialogue here. The same does not apply to Brits.

And then my very favorite:

  • Thomas Cahill‘s The Gifts of the Jews
    Cahill prepared himself for this by studying for several years at Hebrew Union College, and he does what I purport to have done with my approach to hermeneutics in Islam: he gives a new perspective that is truly valid to the Other. 
    He uses a concept he calls the “hinges of civilization” and I have fruitfully used his analysis of Joseph as the hinge to work with young Jewish boys who were just pre-bar mitzvah; we used Kohelet and structured the analysis around Joseph as the resolution to the crisis of primogeniture, through the Divine establishment of the Law and onto Solomon, where the king is subject to the law (not lawgiver). A radical new thought – Islamic philosophy wrestled with its application over the ages (when is resistance to the monarch justified?)

    If you’re ready for some big changes in your perspective, go there.

On general overviews of religious perspectives:

  • Let’s Talk Religion series on YouTube is quite good and gives historical context as well as faith components. And he’s an easy moderator to listen to and uses images well. You’ll have fun here and if your time and energy are limited, you might want to include this in your intellectual diet.

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