Jesus and Jihad: Reclaiming the Prophetic Heart of Christianity and Islam

Few words inspire more fear in Americans these days than jihad.

Its mere utterance conjures up images of car bombs exploding in crowded markets; Boeing 737s crashing into tall buildings; and flag burning, gun-toting bearded Arab men shouting, “allahu akbar” and “Death to America!” But what if all our stereotypical images of jihad are wrong, and when rightly understood, jihad turns out to be the perfect lens through which to understand the life and mission of Jesus?

Jesus and Jihad argues that in early Muslim sources jihad stood for the struggle to transform a violent and unjust pre-Islamic society into one characterized by greater levels of justice and peace. When rescued from his Christian pietistic misinterpretations, Jesus emerges as a highly prophetic figure of resistance to the injustices authorized by Roman imperial power.

As Muslims reengage an authentic understanding of jihad, and Christians, through a renewed understanding of jihad, meet the prophetic Jesus from whom they have become estranged, a new era of Christian-Muslim cooperation in the struggle against injustice can become the norm, replacing the current antipathy dividing these communities with a passion to reclaim once again a prophetic heart in service to a hurting world.

Robert F. Shedinger is Professor of Religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He holds a PhD in religious studies from Temple University and is the author of Radically Open (Cascade, 2012) and Was Jesus a Muslim? (2009). He is a frequent speaker in Islamic centers in the United States and Canada.

Jesus and Jihad: Reclaiming the Prophetic Heart of Christianity and Islam 978-1-4982-2021-7/ paper / available / list price $21.00

Cascade Books/an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers