The world's most renowned theologian turns his attention to Islam
For more than two decades the world's religions have been a central topic for Hans Kung. In books that have inspired millions throughout the world, he has pioneered work towards a new dialogue between cultures. Following bestselling volumes on Christianity and Judaism, here he turns his attention to Islam. Providing a masterful overview of Islam's 1,400-year history, Kung examines its fundamental beliefs and practices, outlines the major schools of thought, and surveys the positions of Islam on the urgent questions of the day. Deft, assured, and comprehensive, this is the only objective introduction to Islam by a renowned Christian theologian.
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About the Author
Dr. Küng is President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic (Weltethos). From 1960 until his retirement in 1996, he was Professor of Ecumenical Theology and Director of the Institute for Ecumenical Research at the University of Tübingen. He is a scholar of theology and philosophy and a prolific writer.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Against a Clash of Civilizations
I. A controversial religion
II. Problems of the beginning
I. God’s word has become a book
II. The central message
III. The central structural elements
I. The original Islamic community paradigm
II. The paradigm of the Arab empire
III. The classical paradigm of Islam as a world religion
IV. The paradigm of the Ulama and Sufi
D. Challenges of the present
I. Competition between different paradigms
II. Which Islam do Muslims want?
III. The Israel-Palestine conflict
IV. New approaches to theological conversation
V. Speculative questions
VI. From biblical criticism to Qur’anic criticism?
E. Possibilities for the future
I. Islamic renewal
II. The future of the Islamic legal order
III. The future of Islamic state order and politics
IV. The future of the Islamic economic and social order
V. Islam: a picture of hope
Catholic theologian Küng's aim is to promote discourse between religions and to show ways in which it can be done. He is a profound thinker, and his writing is never a quick read. For those who are willing to put some thought into the subject, the book is very worthwhile.
Hans Kung is the world's most widely recognized ecumenist. With this book he concludes a major trilogy "On the Religious Situation of Our Times" begun over twenty years ago. One of the benefits of his being stripped of his title as a Catholic theologian by the Vatican is that it extended his outreach to world religions and towards defining a world ethic as a basis for religion. Kung's essential thesis is that there can be no world peace without peace among the religions. And that cannot happen without dialogue between the religions based on investigation into their foundations. His aim in this volume is to engage in dialogue by understanding Islam from the inside. Not a trivial task for a Western European, but he draws upon years of scholarly collaboration for his research. He is not seeking an inter-religious coziness or lazy relativism, but wants to identify the essence of each religion amid its historical perversions. Within his world-wide horizon, Kung sees all major religions as facing a similar critical transition into a "postmodernity" of some kind. Underlying Kung's study is the methodology of paradigm analysis, a technique that he has repeatedly honed in earlier studies. Adapting the well-known concept of science historian Thomas Kuhn, Kung describes in some five hundred pages of historical narrative, interspersed with charts and tough socratic questions, five distinct "constellations of convictions and values and patterns of behavior" that characterize the history of the Islam. It is indeed fascinating to observe a whole world evolving through many changes and factions, of thought and social organization, to see how it grows to outshine the culture of Europe for centuries up until the beginning of the modern era. In the section on the origins of Islam, Kung becomes very excited about the possible remnant existence of Jewish Christianity within Muhammad's Arabia, a group very distinct from the Byzantine enemy with their Hellenized Christ. No wonder Jesus appears in the Quran in simpler form. It is just one ecumenical avenue Kung tries to explore for expressing confessional truth "without making a particular language absolute." The insightful power of the paradigm method becomes evident once Kung has finished his historical sketch and turns his focus on the present. Here he engages in a trilateral dialogue between the religions, time-shifting and comparing paradigmatic responses to similar challenges across history. He points to the lessons Islam must learn from Christianity's encounter with historical critical methods. Yet he also rightly warns of the dangers of an unfettered embrace of modernization that could undermine the identity of Islamic society. But neither is a regressive and absolutist restoration of a past paradigm an acceptable response to contemporary challenges. "Islam is not bound to repeat the mistakes of Christian Europe." Instead Kung holds out hope that Islamic renewal can contribute a third force to the world, charting a course between the destructive ravages of godless secularism and world-denying fundamentalism. Achieving this while embracing necessary modernization and economic development requires Islam to update its core principles of fellowship and concern for justice in a new paradigm of submission to the One God. The task for the rest of the world is to help with the needed discussion.