In a time when there is so much misinformation (and hostility) about Islam in the Western world, this book goes a long way toward opening a window on what true Islam is really like. If there's one thing Jews and Muslims have in common, it's the plethora of hostile websites claiming to "unmask" us by taking quotes out of context and compiling lists of every negative thing ever said by any of us anywhere. For years it has been an uphill climb for me to convince non-Jewish readers that we Jews even have any spirituality. Recent dialogues with Muslim teachers have shown me that they, too, have this same struggle. Hence my delight in finding this very accessible book.
The author begins by explaining that Allah is simply the Arabic word for God. In Arabic-speaking countries, non-Muslims -- including Christian priests -- also call God "Allah." This is an important point, since many Christians in America assume that Allah is a separate deity from the Creator in Genesis. I have more than once been told that Muslims worship Allah, not God, which is as absurd as saying that Germans worship Gott and the French worship Dieu as separate deities.
Here again, Muslims and Jews have something in common, namely, the distortion of our God-language in the American public mind. Non-Jews tends to think of the "Jewish God" as an "angry Jehovah" (which, by the way, is not how YHVH is pronounced) and some even go so far as to claim that Jews don't believe in God at all. The "Muslim God," Allah ,is seen as nothing but a cruel warmonger. Both of these are negative stereotypes that purposely disguise the fact that all three Abrahamic religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- worship the same Creator of the universe.
Each lesson in The 99 Names has one or two Names (depending on context) in Arabic calligraphy, transliteration, and English translation, and a quote from the Quran using the Name. This is followed by a simple but meaningful explanation of how that aspect of God is manifested in the world around us. Also included are teachings and stories from the Prophets and various Muslim sages, both male and female, and positive references to other religions.
Most non-Muslims (including me) would be hard put to name 99 different attributes of God -- which is what the Names really are. God is the Compassionate, The Merciful, the Sovereign, The Holy, the Source of Peace... and so many more. This, I believe, is a great gift that Islam has brought to the world at large, to remind us of how many different ways God manifests his/her Presence. All too often, we limit God to a single attribute -- such as Love or Peace -- and forget how all-encompassing Omnipotence really is. Love is an attribute of God, yes. But God is so very much more.
Each lesson has a "Signs of (Name)" section, with many examples taken from nature. The cat, for example, is Watchful, pairs of geese are Faithful, a sunrise is Glorious. The lessons also have a "Reflections and activities" section where children and parents can discuss/do things together. As author Dyer explains in his introduction, "No answers are contained in this book. The important thing is that we learn to ask questions, reflect, research, and discuss with others to arrive at out own considered point of view." Rather than being a book of dogmas, it is a map for exploration. I highly recommend it.
from Notes from a Jewish Thoreau http://ift.tt/2nUAhdR