Martin Luther-Translations of Two Prefaces on Islam

Sarah S. Henrich, James L. Boyce

Article Type: Article

Publication Date: 4/1/1996

Issue: Islam (Vol. 16, No 2, Spring, 1996)

Martin Luther's remarkable involvement with Islam and Muslims (= Turks") is insufficiently known. For this reason his prefaces to the "Book of the Rites and Customs of the Turks" and to "Bibliander's Edition of Alcoran" have been newly translated and are presented here. Luther was a person of his time, and his language expresses the roughness of the age. It is not helpful to point out that most commentators of his time were far less informed and much more diatribal than Luther. It is better to remind ourselves that here we have an aspect of the "burdensome past" which calls us to penitence and apology. All the same, Luther was far ahead of his time, and is helpful to us in reminding us of the importance of the Islamic reality. He expressed regret that scholars were not seeking to study and understand Islam in its own terms. Above all he points us to the essential distinctiveness of the gospel message of the free gift of forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life from a gracious God. Perhaps he might approve of this special issue. Perhaps, too, if he were here he might say, "Let us be little Christs to the Muslims." As little Christs we are called upon in advance to express regret to Muslim readers who might be offended by the intemperate language, even as we recognize that we may all learn from our respective histories. As far as is known, the two prefaces are translated into English for the first time, and appreciation is extended to Professors Henrich and Boyce for their dedicated efforts.

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