“Islam isn’t a religion – it is a way of life.” I have heard both Muslims and non-Muslims express this sentiment. For believers this statement is meant to demonstrate how comprehensive God’s message is, covering not only the so-called spiritual aspects of life but also the seemingly secular components too. For polemicist denying Islam the status of being a religion serves to contribute to their agenda of challenging Muslim rights in western society. How should Islam be understood? And for that matter, what exactly is religion and how should we define it? Should we consider Islam a religion? Robert F. Shedinger, Professor of Religion at Luther College, addresses these questions in Was Jesus a Muslim?: Questioning Categories in the Study of Religion (Fortress Press, 2009). In this fascinating study Shedinger brings a broad spectrum of literature into dialogue to probe what we mean by religion, how Islam fits into that category, and how dialogue can exist between Muslims and non-Muslims based on these definitions. He outlines the problems with Comparative Religions, Interreligious Dialogue, and several other analytical categories more generally. Overall, he challenges us to rethinking how we conceive of the terms we use and their practical implications within real world circumstances. In our interview we explore the question if Islam is not a religion then what is it? Then with our new working meaning we ask was Jesus a Muslim? Take a listen and find out.
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