The Crescent through the Eyes of the Cross. By Nabeel T. Jabbour. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008. 272 pages. Softcover, $14.99.
The main purpose of The Crescent through the Eyes of the Cross is to convey, especially to the Western reader, how Muslims feel and what they think about both the West and Christianity. Nabeel Jabbour tries to explain, from his more than five decades of experiences with Muslims, how Muslims feel about Christians and the major reasons or motives of their reactions to America and the West. In his attempt to describe the Muslims’ points of view on many current topics Jabbour presents a fictional Muslim character named Ahmad who is studying for a PhD in the USA.
In the first part of the book (chapters 1–7), Jabbour’s character Ahmad presents three major reasons that hinder him from becoming a Christian: the Christian message, the Christian messenger or evangelist, and the Muslim as the receiver of the message. Ahmad claims that the Christian message does not make sense to most Muslims, for he links the Christian evangelists with Western culture and then combines that with colonialism. Moreover, he believes that leaving Islam, and becoming integrated into Christianity, would cause him to lose his identity. Furthermore, in this part of the book, Ahmad’s father and sister share some of their grievances against Christians and the role America plays in the world and links this role to Christianity. They explain some of their perspectives concerning world events and Islamic beliefs. Jabbour then addresses the issues that the fictional Ahmad raised.
In the second part of the book (chapters 8–13), Jabbour explains how Muslims think and react by clarifying in-depth the different paradigm through which they look at the world. In the third part of the book (chapters 14–17), Jabbour discusses practical ways to connect with Muslims. He emphasizes the importance of ministering to Muslims within their context and assures that a Muslim can wholeheartedly believe in Christ while remaining among his people as salt and light.
There are four major strengths in this book. First, as an Arab Christian, Jabbour has significant experience with Muslims, especially in the Middle Eastern cultures, which provides him a unique understanding of Islam much needed in the West. Jabbour provides beneficial insights and important tools for Christians to understand Islam and to know how to connect with Muslims (94–95). Second, inventing Ahmad as a Muslim character in order to dialog about Muslims is a creative turn. The reader of this book feels the sincerity and honesty, as well as the frustration and grievance, in Ahmad’s words and tone. Third, Jabbour explains four main paradigms: guilt/righteousness, shame/honor, defilement/clean, and fear/power. He encourages Christians to understand how these paradigms work among different Islamic groups and societies (171–72). Finally, the examples Jabbour provides on relational evangelism are quite helpful for Christians, especially in the West, to understand how to approach Muslims and connect with them in their own context.
There is only one drawback in this book. Although Ahmad’s character well-represents the worldview of some Muslims, it does not represent the vast majority of Muslims. Ahmad might represent a sample of some Quranic Muslims but not all, and he definitely does not represent cultural or militant Muslims. He is a well-educated PhD student who is exposed to Western culture; consequently, his worldview does not necessarily describe the beliefs of the vast majority of Arabs. Ahmad indeed represents a rare case among Arab Muslims.
In such challenging and confusing days of trying to understand Islam, The Crescent through the Eyes of the Cross helps Christians, especially in the West, understand Muslims. Out of his unique background and experience, Jabbour encourages Christians to step into the shoes of Muslims, and to get out of their Western comfort zones, and to start taking initiatives in connecting with Muslims in their own context. Jabbour’s book provides great insights on Islamic beliefs, culture, and context. As many debates are being waged concerning Islam, Jabbour’s book would be a great help in comprehending Muslims and loving them as Christ does. A careful reading, diligent use, and genuine application of this book could revolutionize and transform one’s experience in communicating the Gospel to Muslims.
Ayman S. Ibrahim
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary