I don’t think Jesus was a follower of Islam, and neither does Robert F. Shedinger, Associate Professor of Religion at Luther College. But you could be forgiven for thinking that Shedinger believed that if you only read the title of his book Was Jesus a Muslim?, if you read the World Net Daily article, or The Blaze article. Or if you watched this clumsy interview:
Shedinger is trying to be deliberately provocative, and I think it’s causing more confusion than it’s worth.
Just for the record, Shedinger starts off his book by saying, “Obviously, since Islam developed in seventh-century Arabia, hundreds of years after Jesus lived, it is chronologically impossible tor Jesus to have been a Muslim.” So, yeah, there’s that.
Shedinger’s discussion is driven by his experiences after 9/11, when he found himself trying to explain Islam to the public while at the same time trying to reconcile the textbook description of Islam with the perceptions of his few Muslim students. The experience led him to question the value of the word “religion” and the potted definitions of religious movements generally given in World Religion classes. This explains the subtitle of his book, Questioning Categories in the Study of Religion.
Just having poked at the book on Google Books, I think it can basically be boiled down to these points:
I’ve got problems with points 2 and 3, and questions about point 4, but Shedinger can at least cite respectable scholars who agree with him and I respect his motivations. I’m not sure I agree with him, but he’s playing the game by the rules.
Reading through Thomas Asbridge’s The Crusades, I ran across this little snippet about Saladin:
That summer, one marked distraction was provided by the prediction of an impending apocalypse. For decades, astrologers had foretold that, on 16 September 1186, a momentous planetary alignment would stir up a devastating wind storm, scouring the Earth of life. This bleak prophecy had circulated among Muslims and Christians alike, but the sultan nonetheless thought it ridiculous. He made a point of holding a candlelit, open-air party on the appointed night of disaster, even as ‘feeble-mind[ed]‘ fools huddled in caves and underground shelters. Needless to say, the evening passed without event; indeed, one of his companions pointedly remarked that ‘we never saw a night as calm as that’.
Say what you want about Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn, but the man had style.