Mustafa Akyol is currently a senior fellow at the Freedom Project at Wellesley College. His new book The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims follows some of the traditional Muslim views of Jesus, but shows a refreshing open-mindedness to learn from the Messiah.
(As a side note, this has been one of my biggest frustrations with Muslim teachers–most of them are so busy talking about what Jesus isn’t that they have no room in their hearts for acknowledging what he is. Akyol takes a more generous approach.)
I’m not endorsing Akyol’s beliefs as my own. But I’m thrilled to see a Muslim scholar trying to honestly interact with Jesus and see what he has to contribute to Muslims. Efforts like this reflect Akyol’s rejection of Qur’anic literalistic interpretations, Salafi extremist interpretations, and all forms of intolerance and violence within Islam; rather, he calls his own religion to embrace that the “Caliphate” is within them, much as Jesus argued the Kingdom of God is within us. He both argues and backs it up with his life, that “A renaissance of Islam will take place only when we become more open-minded.”
I’ve often argued that instead of criticizing extremist Muslims, we’ll make more progress by befriending and supporting moderate, open-minded Muslims who can be a voice to their own people. And let us not forget to learn from them too, and be a voice to the extremists within our own religion as well.
I’d love for you to read this fascinating interview with Akyol and tell me what you think!