Wonder Beyond Belief: On Christianity
by Navid Kermani (Polity, £25.00)
There is an old saying that “I never knew what my house looked like, as I had never been outside it”. This applies as well to religion: Christians cannot know what Christianity looks like because they never “go outside of it”.
This book, by a distinguished Islamic scholar, provides one view, and an admiring one, of what it look like to a stranger’s eye.
Author Kermani is Persian-born German writer and orientalist. His work is much admired in Europe and the books he has written in the last decade or so are currently appearing in translation.
He is the author of God Is Beautiful: the Aesthetic Experience of the Quran (Polity, £35.00), which explained aspects of Islam to the West. Here, by contrast is a book in which his sensitive scholarship expounds for Muslims (and others of course) aspects of Christianity which they many not know about.
Though denying him a divine aspect, by tradition Islam reveres Jesus as a prophet, and his mother as an important figure in the world of faith. Yet often enough many Muslims, especially those who are more conservative or radicalised close their minds to this teaching of own faith.
Kermani is not an “unbeliever”, as writers about religion so often are these days. He is a believer in another faith. And it is this position that gives his book its special resonance.
Many Christians, and especially many Catholics, will learn a great deal not just about the Islamic point of view, but about what they think of as their own true faith. Approaching Christianity through art and literature Kerman will enlighten many Catholics I suspect. This is a book which ought not to be missed by anyone concerned with issues in the modern world.