Fortress Press

Psalms, Islam, and Shalom: A Common Heritage of Divine Songs for Muslim-Christian Friendship

Psalms, Islam, and Shalom

A Common Heritage of Divine Songs for Muslim-Christian Friendship

Eric Sarwar (Author)


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For fourteen centuries, a gap of mutual suspicion and hostility has existed between Christians and Muslims, despite attempts to engage theologically, apologetically, polemically, and militarily (such as the Crusades). During the past four decades, increased Islamization in Pakistan has led to blasphemy laws, nationalization of Christian institutions, a state policy of religious and political profiling, and discrimination against followers of Jesus. Historic animosity has resulted in widespread violence and persecution. Amid such an environment, past efforts at reaching Muslims with the gospel have proved ineffective or even detrimental, highlighting a need for a different approach to engaging with Islamic culture.

Eric Sarwar's research, experience, and practice have uncovered the valuable and mostly untapped role of the biblical Psalms in fostering peaceful friendship with Muslims. The book of Psalms, called Zabor in Arabic, is a common heritage of divine song that can be used as a point of connection for public witness between Muslims and Christians. Especially in the Pakistani context, Psalms carries vast potential, in terms of both text and musical expression, as a bridge to peacemaking and missional engagement. Yet the book of Psalms has never been a significant part of witness to the Muslim world. Sarwar believes that can change.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506491196
  • eBook ISBN 9781506491202
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 152
  • Publication Date August 29, 2023


"A compelling study of the power of ancient, biblical poetry and sung prayer to express the deep cries of human hearts, to shape moments of profound encounter and recognition across religious and cultural divides, and to bear witness to the love of God in a hurting world. Dr. Sarwar's life of ministry and study has been a profound witness to the themes explored in this book--and now it is a gift to us to have the insights and convictions that have guided his ministry in written form. May many future pastoral leaders and students learn to return to the Psalms, to receive the gift of sung prayer, and to stretch beyond their comfort zones to reach out to others in peace-shaping, shalom-seeking ways."

John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

"Psalms, Islam, and Shalom features Punjabi and Pakistani singers, songwriters, and other voices resounding as both Christian and Muslim witnesses that reverberate with comparative musicological, liturgical, hermeneutical, theological, and missiological implications and applications. Church, mosque, and academy will be resonating with Sarwar's intonations for the next decade-plus!"

Amos Yong, professor of theology and mission, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Rev. Dr. Eric Sarwar's groundbreaking and timely book challenges the church, not least in Pakistan, to recognize the limitations of traditional mission methods and to engage in new, creative, contextual missional approaches for the twenty-first century. In particular, Dr. Sarwar highlights the importance of 'worship as witness' as he focuses on how vernacular translations of the Psalms, composed in cultural music styles, open up a third space for creative conversations with Islam. I warmly commend this book, especially to those eager to explore new frontiers in the mission of God."

Rev. Uel Marrs, Global Mission Secretary, The Presbyterian Church in Ireland

"Rev. Dr. Eric Sarwar has produced a magisterial study of the Psalms in the context of the Qur'an. He masterfully imagines scriptural engagement of various religious traditions on the common ground of the Psalms, which leads to innovative peace-building initiatives and enhances interfaith relationships. This book is a must-read primer for anyone interested in the wider application of the Psalms from musical, poetic, historic, and liturgical viewpoints in interfaith contexts. The book will be an ideal resource for students and scholars of music, art, theology, history, biblical studies, Islamic studies, interfaith studies, as well as for lay people."

Dr. Thea Gomelauri, founder of the Psalms in Interfaith Contexts Reading Group; director of the Oxford Interfaith Forum

"This book and the research behind it are important missiological contributions to interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians through the use of the Psalms. Dr. Sarwar 'unmutes the prophetic voice of David,' who is revered in both Islamic and Christian traditions. In an approach that is culturally relevant and contextually sensitive, Dr. Sarwar seeks a 'sur-sangam' convergence in Indic musicality and the traditional ragas form to bring together culturally appropriate Christian witness in Psalm Festivals and other opportunities for Christian-Muslim dialogue. Dr. Sarwar offers practical recommendations for continued dialogue and witness in the Pakistani context and among the diaspora. I highly recommend this book as a new and creative approach to interfaith dialogue."

Rev. Greg Sinclair, Diaspora Ministry Leader, Resonate Global Mission, Hamilton, Ontario

"Lucid and highly readable, Eric Sarwar's Psalms, Islam, and Shalom is a carefully researched song of the heart. The long and bloody history of Muslim-Christian conflict in Pakistan would ordinarily have condemned from the start a young Christian pastor's best efforts to create spaces of dialogue and relationship with Muslim neighbors. But Sarwar's social location as a musically trained Christian leader with an unusual gift for connecting deeply with Pakistan's Muslim musicians and religious leaders opened his eyes to the treasure that the Psalms represent as a shared legacy that binds Christians and Muslims together. Psalms, Islam, and Shalom is the story of that shared legacy."

Rev. Dr. B. Hunter Farrell, director, World Mission Initiative, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

"Eric Sarwar's important work is crucial for its scholarship, certainly. However, I believe it is a paradigmatic landmark paving the way for Muslims and Christians to meet in worship. As such, it opens a whole new realm of possibilities that traditional evangelism and dialogue models do not imagine."

Kevin Higgins, president, William Carey International University; general director, Frontier Ventures; facilitator, Muslim Ministries

"This book is a resource for chaplains, pastors, musicians, missionaries, and scientists to explore song's empowerment of interfaith friendship. Without blurring Christian faith distinctives, Dr. Eric Sarwar bravely probes how common musical experience opens shared and surprising meaning among people of different faiths. In a divisive digital world, this book offers practices that cross religious divides, sharing harmonies of faith as a bridge over troubled waters."

Dr. Shirley J. Roels, executive director, International Network for Christian Higher Education

"If Muslim-Christian peacemaking requires imagination, we exclude the arts at our peril. While traditional efforts begin with interfaith dialogue, negotiation, or apologetics, Eric Sarwar charts his path to peace through the power of song. A songwriter himself, Sarwar opens up an impressive aesthetic approach to interfaith engagement."

Matthew Kaemingk, author of Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear; Mouw Chair of Faith and Public Life, Fuller Seminary

"Delightful, engaging, and innovative! Dr. Sarwar engages Muslim-Christian interfaith dialogue from a new and creative angle using music and common Zabur/Psalms heritage as a bridge. I see huge potential for contextual evangelism, discipleship, dialogue, and more through the Psalms-singing and music. This is a must-read for anyone interested in contextual theology, Muslim-Christian relations, or South Asian studies."

Esa Autero, dean of Graduate Studies, South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary

"Dr. Eric Sarwar has done a great job by exploring a needed research issue in the context of interfaith relations. His academic contribution in this field of research is commendable. This research will help us to understand this phenomenon better and build bridges for reaching out to others in a meaningful way. It's a must-read."

Dr. Qaiser Julius, director, Open Theological Seminary; executive secretary, Theological Educators' Forum, Pakistan