Parrinder: Jesus in the Qur’an

February 25, 2014

9781851689996Firstly, this is a very curious book. The publishers have made a rather ham-fisted attempt to conceal the fact that this is a reprint of a book originally published in 1965; only the copyright details acknowledge this.  But a little detective work: the strange pagination, with even-numbered pages on the right (!), the absence of a bibliography (there must have been one, given the detailed footnotes in the text, but it has been removed), the quotations taken from two very old translations of the Qur’an and no mention of many recent ones, the dated fonts contrasting with the modern font used in the blurb inside the front cover… what were they thinking?

However, it’s also a very good book, in terms of the content, and detail, from a writer who clearly was very familiar with his subject matter. I came away saddened as I realised that we all seemed to have gone backwards since 1965, Christians and Muslims alike, in our knowledge and understanding of each other’s faiths and beliefs. From my own earlier reading I had been aware of links and connections between the sacred writings of these two religions, but did not realise how close they were in their earliest days, given that the Qur’an was revealed in a land surrounded by Christian lands, lands which had been the cradle of Christianity, where there was daily close contact between Jews, Christians and early Muslims. Parrinder lists and explores many very close links between various aspects of Christian theology, and its central characters, and references to all these in the Qur’an.

The book obviously begins from a Christian perspective, and is structured around the person of the historical Jesus, the Christian understanding of God,  and the development of the Christian Churches, but Parrinder is careful to recognise that references to Jesus and to Christian ideas are only a very small part of the Qur’an. I found his approach very thought-provoking, and his response to Islam very sensitive; he lists many references to research by Muslim scholars into the early connections between the two faiths; these were new to me, and the picture he paints is of two great religions much closer to each other in many ways, ways which do not seem currently to be recognised very widely.

I have never forgotten, as a child some fifty years ago, my first meeting with a Muslim, and the reverence with which he treated his holy book when he brought it along to show our family; I remain fascinated by the connections between the two religions, and in an age in which it is fashionable to mock and scorn religions, I feel that they do have real messages and good advice to offer us today, even if it is far harder, or impossible, for us to have the faith that people used to have. For my readers who have not yet met it, I commend a poem – Dover Beach, by Matthew Arnold. He said it better than I can.


2 Responses to “Parrinder: Jesus in the Qur’an”

  1. It is sad that much of the mutual respect that appears to have existed in the past is no longer apparent, for today we only understand each other by being within communities and there is a tendency for them to live more separately today.

    I remember when I began to travel, really wanting to just understand the normality of other cultures and religions and first experiencing it in India and finally, ironically experiencing it in Bethlehem, Palestine a predominantly Muslim town town and where my husband’s family comes from.

    It is a relief to be around people of other cultures and religions and know them for who they are and not for the labels and stereotypes that our society has put upon them.

    Books like this are scarce today and when they do exist they are often criticised vociferously by the minority who make top selling headlines.


    • litgaz Says:

      Have you come across Amin Maalouf? He’s a Lebanese Christian, with about a dozen novels published in French, and also some interesting cultural history and commentary, very little of which has been translated into English.


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