The Theology of Tariq Ramadan
A Catholic Perspective
- Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award: Religion, Silver Medal
Tariq Ramadan has emerged as one of the most influential Muslim theologians in the world today. In this important book, Gregory Baum presents for the first time an introduction to several key aspects of Ramadan's theological enterprise. Baum examines Ramadan's work historically within an interfaith perspective, drawing several parallels between Islamic and Catholic encounters with modernity. His comparison of the debates in the two traditions suggests that reform and renewal are compatible with the substance of both Catholic and Muslim traditions.
After a brief account of the evolution of Catholic theology up to the Second Vatican Council, Baum introduces Ramadan's published work and theological orientation, examining both within the historical development of Islam. He outlines Ramadan's theology of God, humanity, and the universe and discusses Ramadan's interpretation of sharia, the divinely revealed Islamic way of life. The book then addresses what fidelity to Islam means for Western Muslims and contrasts Ramadan's theology with the theological liberalism advocated by some Muslim authors. Throughout, Baum makes helpful connections between Islam and Vatican II Catholicism. Both belief systems are steeped in ancient traditions, rely on a sacred book, and find themselves confronting a modern context. Reformist Islam shares much with Catholic social thought in showing a regard for the poor and marginalized. Baum concludes by examining points of difference between Muslim and Catholic theology that support further conversation. This readable introduction to Ramadan's work is accessible to non-Muslim students, teachers, clergy, and general readers interested in Islam and interfaith dialogue.
“Gregory Baum is a gift to the Church, and indeed to the world. A stalwart of the Vatican II era, he is now an éminence grise of North American Christianity in its efforts to engage the secular world through a confident and critical dialogue about meaning. In this remarkable and pioneering volume, he engages contemporary Islam through a typically generous reading of one of its most influential theologians, Tariq Ramadan. Avoiding the often silly but sometimes brutal polemics that have obscured the quality of Ramadan’s reformist thought, Baum notes the striking affinities between Islam’s and Catholicism’s respective encounters with democracy, religious freedom, and critical reading of sacred sources, among other contested issues. Having absorbed the deepest insights of Catholic’s recent revolution in self understanding—a revolution he helped to stimulate and advance—this unofficial, quietly charismatic ambassador of Christian intellectual innovation has provided invaluable insight into the mind of the person who has been termed the ‘Muslim Martin Luther.’ Baum, as he has in the past, is pointing the way forward for innovative and serious theological work; in the opening of sustained dialogue and conversation with the contemporary current of Islamic reform represented by figures like Ramadan, he rightly sees an opportunity for a renewal of Catholic theology in its service to the cause of reconciliation and peace.” —Scott Appleby, University of Notre Dame
“Baum sees himself as uniquely sensitive to Ramadan’s efforts to articulate his religious tradition in a secular context. . . . [H]e describes with great sympathy Ramadan’s place as a reformist Muslim who opposes literalists on one side and liberals on the other. . . . Ultimately, Baum should be admired for his well-meaning effort to enter into conversation with Ramadan. Christians generally should indeed be exhorted to study Islam with sympathy.” —First Things
“In his ‘dialogue’ with Tariq Ramadan, Baum examines the latter’s work within an interfaith perspective, drawing parallels between Islamic and Catholic encounters with modernity. He argues that reform and renewal are compatible in both Islam and Catholicism.” —Islamic Horizons
“. . . an intriguing analysis of one of the most interesting Muslim scholars now working, Ramadan, though often mired in controversy, essentially locates himself between traditionalist Muslims who would like nothing to change and to have little to do with modernity and those Muslims who pretty much want to throw over traditional Islam as a way of accommodating the religion to modernity. . . . For any Christian seeking to get a better grasp of the dynamics of Islamic scholarship these days, this book is a must.” —“Faith Matters” Weblog by Bill Tammeus
“Drawing parallels between Catholic and Muslim encounters with modernity, Baum explains that Ramadan rejects both assimilation and isolation, and advocates the integration of Muslims into modern society in a manner that protects and enhances their identity as believers.” —Research Book News
“With his favorable reading of Ramadan’s theology, Baum intends to enter into a fruitful dialogue. The many affinities between Islam and Catholicism’s attempts at enculturation warrant such a dialogue. As a socialist and theologian, Baum sees religion as a powerful factor in the making or unmaking of society. The dialogue between Islam and Christianity is crucial today. This book offers much valuable material for such dialogue.” —Catholic Library World
“This venerable Canadian Catholic author . . . provides an epitome of the thought of Swiss Muslim theologian Tariq Ramadan. . . . This work is a very helpful introduction to Ramadan’s thought that should encourage readers to take up Ramadan’s works and read his original material.” —Journal of Ecumenical Studies
“Few people have done as much as Baum to promote dialogue between religions. . . . Baum thus recommends his book to us because he has been able to bring to it both an intimate knowledge of the Catholic church’s own difficult struggles to reconcile with modernity as well as a shared faith. . . . As Baum shows, Ramadan believes that all people have a natural inclination toward God and that we are all destined to become brothers and sisters in a single unified human family.” —Literary Review of Canada
“Baum’s study is a timely, thorough, and careful introduction to Ramadan’s thought. The book will be welcomed by readers within the Islamic and Christian traditions and can bring needed understanding to ecumenical dialogue. Baum gives us a careful presentation and analysis of Ramadan’s thought on some of the most important and complex issues concerning the practices of Islam in modern times . . . a good place to start to learn more about Ramadan’s work and about Islam itself.” —The Ecumenist
“. . . this book is especially relevant for use in undergraduate classrooms, although its beauty is that it is not limited to this audience. Elegantly written, with clear and straightforward prose, Baum’s book communicates a rich variety of information with great detail and real depth. Every library should have this title in its collection.” —Horizons