Azumah – My Neighbors Faith

Azumah, John. My Neighbours Faith, Islam Explained for Christians. WordAlive, 2008. 162 pages, $
7.50

Another basic book on Islam – why should I read this, you may ask yourself. For sure, Azumah
covers familiar ground: the challenge of Islam, its context, mainstream Muslims’ beliefs and
practices, Qur’an and Hadith, divisions and movements, Islamic Law, teaching on women, position
towards other faiths, and the teaching about Jesus found in Islam, before concluding with a
Christian Response and interaction with some key theological and missiological questions.

So, why get a copy of it anyway?
First of all, the book has depth. Azumah is not just serving the bare bones of facts about Islam, but
puts them in perspective with today’s voices from both the Islamic, Christian and secular side.
Thus it’s a 3D book, seeking fairness to all three, Muslim faithfuls, Christian believers, and a
critical, secular audience. I wouldn’t hesitate to lend this book to a Muslim, although it is clearly
written for Christians. And as one who has worked in ministry among Muslims for some 30 years I
am impressed by various new source material, both ancient and modern (webpage research) used
in his study.

Secondly, Azumah’s religious lineage from a mixed family in Ghana gives him exceptional insights
into the Muslim’s mindset, but he also commands relevance for the Christian concern. As the late
Dr. Kwame Bediako writes in his foreword: “Circumstances in Africa are very different, which
makes John Azumah’s approach to Islam important and refreshing. He writes from the perspective
of someone raised in a Ghanaian multi-faith family. His Muslim uncle made significant
contributions towards his theological training, and some 95 per cent of the family members who
attended his ordination as a Presbyterian minister were Muslim. [He presents Islam as] a religion with
‘a human face: the face of a close relative, a neighbor.”

Some examples from the book: In dealing with the Islamic Law (Shari’ah) he first gives the Islamic
ideal, but does not hesitate to illustrate the Christian concerns either. To quote from page 74: “To
the Christian mind, insisting on imposing Shari’ah as the basis of governance (as in Northern
Nigeria) is like buying a diesel vehicle and insisting on using petrol to run it. It is equivalent to
‘putting new wine into old wineskins’!

Or reflecting on the Christian Response to Islam he writes on page 138: “Jesus did not only call on
people to believe in him, but also sent them out to bear witness to what they believed…For
Christians, supporting the Shari’ah, which explicitly denies them the right to freely proclaim their
faith and many other issues central to their belief, amounts to signing their confessional death
warrant.”

And he reaches a convincing conclusion: “Proclamation and dialogue are not mutually exclusive!
The promotion of good relations should guide our intellectual and theological enquiries as well as
our witness. But we must not sacrifice either our personal integrity or that of the gospel in the
process. We need our roots in place if we are to be able to reach out to others.”
I believe, Azumah’s studies in India and Africa combined with a wide interaction with experts on
Islamic issues makes him one of the best qualified African missiological thinkers to write on this
subject. And the publishers (WordAlive Publishers, Nairobi) likewise deserve great praise for a first
class editing job, a delightful cover and great layout standards. Small draw-back: the book’s
complete absence of any maps, diagrams or other visual aid. Even though, it makes interesting
reading both from a language and content angle. I found it worth ordering 100 copies.

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Categories: Book Reviews and Reviews by Walter Eric.