Reading this book was not an easy task. Maybe because of the topic itself and the complexity of reading about theology in Judaism, Christianity and Islam condensed in 200 pages, and the sensitive approach of Youssef Zidan, putting in mind the accalaims and accusations he received after his novel Azazeel.
In this book, Zidan aimed at presenting certain historical incidents or ancient thoughts from the 3 religions, and analyzes them to reach certain conclusions at the end of the book, which entails you try to compare what you already know about this subject, then decide whether what he says is plausible or not, while trying to overcome your background tendencies from affecting your views. That’s why the author noted at the beginning that this book was not put for the lazy reader or those seeking ready made answers to the ordinary questions.
As for the language used, the author while targeting the common reader wasn’t unfortunately very successful in making the book fully digestible to the common reader. Maybe because of the heavy academic background of Zidan, or perhaps due to the subject at hand which brings philosophical terminology to the surface. That’s why I had to read certain pages twice and thrice to get an idea of what he meant, yet at other times I still failed.
The book’s main aim is coining the new term The Arabic Theology / اللاهوت العربي, stressing on the correlation between the Abrahamic religions’ impacts on the Arab region (including the Arabian peninsula, Egypt and the Fertile Crescent), and how they shaped our image of religious practice and influenced the social and political status across the centuries, while avoiding the usual approaches of comparative religions.
His second target is to discuss the origins of religious violence, and to analyze the relationship between religion, violence and politics, then finding patterns that leads to the rise of religious violence, in order to raise ideas on how to contain them.
I can not claim that I am for nor against the author’s ideas, with the exception that for sure religious practices are affected by inherent religious and political thought, and this is one of the main reasons there are so many deep divergences between different religious sub-groups. However, this book raised so many questions about the Old and the New Testament, about Coptic history, and about Islamic political thought, and this compels me to search more in order to build some views, while keeping in my mind that holding these views should avoid rigidity by all means. Yet at least I should try, and I guess by this, the book has already reached one of its goals, raising awareness.