Muslims and Christians Debate Justice and Love
This book seeks to elucidate the concept of justice, not so much as it is expressed in law courts (retributive and procedural justice) or in state budgets (distributive justice), but as primary justice – what it means and how it can be grounded in the inalienable rights that each human being possesses qua human being. It draws inspiration from two recent works of philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, but also from the groundbreaking Islamic initiative of 2007, the Common Word Letter addressed by 138 eminent Muslim scholars and clerics to the Pope and all Christian leaders. This document affirmed that the two highest commandments in both Judaism and Christianity are also at the heart of the Islamic tradition – love of God and love of neighbor. In a style that lends itself to the classroom and beyond, the book’s seven chapters all begin with a case study of justice, so as to emphasize that justice must also be embodied in righteous social, political and economic practices. Along the way, leading contemporary scholars and activists from both traditions urge the reader – Muslim, Christian, or whatever – to look afresh at an age-old conundrum: how do justice and love interact so as to create a world in which everyone finds his or her rightful place?
Published: Mar 20, 2020
|Racial Justice in the United States
|Justice as Respect for Human Rights
|Justice as Shar’ia’s Central Purpose
|Yusuf al-Qaradawi: Shari’a’s Objectives and Social Justice
|Justice and Love: Prince Ghazi and the Common Word
|Justice and Love: Christian Perspectives
|Justice and Love: Muslim-Christian Synergy
It is a cliché, but not an egregious one, that the most foundational concept in Christianity is “love,” whereas in Islam it is “justice.” Yet in this brilliant book, David L. Johnston shows not only how these two different traditions can be bridged, but also this very act can create a synergy that can make the world a better place. Highly recommended for any comparative theologian, and any other reader with an open theological mind.
Mustafa Akyol, author of The Islamic Jesus
David Johnston sets himself two important, interconnected, projects in this book, and brings them off superbly. One is to show that both love and justice are fundamental in both Christianity and Islam, contrary to the common stereotype that Christianity is all about love and Islam is all about justice. The other is to show that love and justice are not in tension with each other, as is commonly assumed, but, when rightly understood, are in harmony. I anticipate that the eyes of many readers will be opened, as were the eye of this reader, to Johnston’s demonstration of this fundamental affinity between Christianity and Islam. A valuable feature of Johnston’s presentation is that each chapter opens with a description of systemic injustice in some part of the world. The scholarship is impressive; but this is not just about scholarly texts, it’s about the real world.
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University and Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia
Johnston says he has long “fought the stereotype that Muslims care only about justice while Christians only care about love” (3). And the book certainly demonstrates that. He surveys a lengthy tradition of Western Christian discussions on justice in conversation with their secular inter-locutors. He suggests that Muslims have felt the “sting” of Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s observation that Muslims have been criticized as holding to a view of God as vengeful whose justice comes at the expense of love and mercy. He offers his book as an effort to reduce such “collective injury” (134). The chapter focused on the Common Word initiative (chapter 6), and his ex-tended discussion of the document’s discussion of love for God and love for neighbor as common values binding Christians and Muslims clearly brings this to the fore.The book concludes that Christians and Muslims have synergy on jus-tice and love as “two sides of the same coin in the common revelation of the Abrahamic traditions” (169). Muslim scholars have made similar attempts, but I deeply appreciate his efforts as a Christian scholar for bringing this into focus.
American Journal of Islam and Society
The key strength of the volume is its concrete examples, which make it very approachable. The reader can feel the story and relate it to his/her life both individually and socially. The introduction and first chapter begin by studying racial injustice in the US, and each additional chapter begins with a case study of injustice that needs to be righted.
Muslims and Christians Debate Justice and Love tries to encourage readers to reexamine their understandings of justice and love, and it challenges activists to take advantage of its insights to build a more just community. It is a must-read book for activists in inter-faith dialogue, but also gives new directions to scholars of inter-faith studies and thinkers on human rights and justice.
Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations
It is an important book published at the right time to add a voice to an intriguing conversation between not only Muslims and Christians, but also other religions. Johnston’s book provides a theological forum in the field of interreligious dialogue on justice and love both of which are complementary and inseparable, and embraced by both traditions. It is definitely interesting and worthwhile reading it.
In its clarity and emphasis on real-world implications, this volume will be useful to a wide audience of students, scholars, practitioners, and interested readers generally. In its frequent citation and careful explanation of relevant scholarship, it also serves as an excellent guide for further reading in the field. Johnston’s work is not just an analysis of a debate (or dialogue) among Muslims and Christians, it is a constructive and forward-thinking contribution as well.
Interreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology