Reading Guide: The Tent of Abraham
About the Book
In recent years there has been an explosion of curiosity and debate about
Islam and the role of religion on the global stage. The debates bring up questions
of politics, history, and global security, but virtually no one speaks to
the heart and the spirit. In fact, across the world, millions of people experience
and consider these important issues not as political, economic, or even intellectual
questions but rather as questions of deep spiritual, emotional, and religious
The Tent of Abraham provides readers with stories that can bring all
the faiths together. Written by three religious leaders, from the Jewish,
Muslim, and Christian faiths, the book explores in accessible language the
mythic quality and the teachings of reconciliation that are embedded in the
Torah, the Quran, and the Bible. It also employs the story of Abraham from
all three of these sacred texts to weave together the wisdoms of these religious
traditions into a deeper, more unified whole.
The Tent of Abraham is the first book to tell the story of Abraham
as found in Jewish, Muslim, and Christian sources and to reenergize it as
a basis for peace.
About the Authors
Joan Chittister, OSB, has been one of the Catholic Church's key visionary
voices and spiritual leaders for more than thirty years. A Benedictine Sister
of Erie, Pennsylvania, Chittister is an award-winning and best-selling author
and a well-known international lecturer on behalf of peace, human rights,
women's issues, and contemporary religious life and spirituality. Her recent
books include Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, and
Called to Question.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow is the founder and director of The Shalom Center
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious,
and American life that brings ancient and modern wisdom to bear on seeking
peace, pursuing justice, healing the earth, and celebrating community. His
books include GodwrestlingRound 2, Seasons of Our Joy,
and Down-to-Earth Judaism.
Murshid Saadi Shakur Chishti (Neil Douglas-Klotz) is a world-renowned
scholar in religious studies, spirituality, and psychology. He is the director
of the Edinburgh Institute for Advanced Learning in Scotland, cofounder of
the Edinburgh Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace, and the author
of many books, including The Sufi Book of Life.
Karen Armstrong is the best-selling author of A History of God,
Islam: A Short History, and The Battle for God, among other
Praise for The Tent of Abraham
"Delicate in telling but bold in message, the book encourages every
reader to take an inner pilgrimage to understand better others' viewpoints."
Library Journal, starred review
"This book will open your eyes to the possibilities of collaborative
work between our traditions, and is a must read for those doing interfaith
"The stories of our common ancestors, told in this book with such creative
imagination, inspire all of us to build community across the walls that normally
divide us. This book is an inspiration." Bob Edgar, general
secretary, National Council of Churches
"We have seen all too much evidence of how the three Western faiths
can be used to foment hatred and bloodshed. People really must read this book,
for the choice of interpreting our three faiths as the grounds for war or
for peace is nothing less than a choice between life and death." Rabbi
Elliot N. Dorff, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University
"When we share our spiritual journeys, even when the stories of our
lives are different from each other, we often find their source in the Compassionate
One who calls on us to be compassionate. So it is when we share the stories
of our great family, the Family of Abraham, peace be upon him. This book shares
our different stories in ways that beckon us toward peace and toward the One."
Sayyid M. Syeed, Ph.D., Secretary General, Islamic Society of North
"Want an antidote to tragic headlines about religious conflict in the
Middle East? Try this remarkable new book. [A] celebration of religious diversity
that is likely to leave readers more optimistic about the potential for peace."
David Crumm, Detroit Free Press
Questions for Discussion
Read pp. 3-27, 191-196, and pp.207-218.
- Compare the two versions of the story of the families of Abraham. What are
your reactions to each? Do you feel drawn to asserting that one version must
be true and the other false?
- Is it possible that each story shows partial truths, each adding perspective
to the other and to the nature of human relationships overall? Can a single
coherent story be created using details from each?
- After reading the final essay in the book "Why Hagar Left," which
introduces a different stance entirely, what do you consider to be the truth?
- Try reading the stories with people of a different religion. How do your
reactions differ? How are they the same?
- Now read the stories with people from your same religion. Do you still
find a variety of perspectives or do you all feel the same?
For the essays on pp. 29-78.
- What issues are raised for you by this essay? Are your ideas about sibling
rivalry and cooperation, the effects of death on family relationships, the
nature of owning land, the meaning of sacrificing what we hold most dear,
or other life-questions, affected by reading this essay?
- Do these ancient stories apply to conflicts in the modern world, such as
that between the Israelis and the Palestinians, or are they irrelevant?
For the essays on pp. 79-124.
- What do you think of the reports of cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian
women? Can an analogy be drawn between the stories of war-fighting and peacemaking
in the Bible's Abrahamic saga and those processes today?
- Imagine yourself in conversation with people from a society that is in
deep conflict with your own. Who would set it up? What would you want to say?
What goals would you have for the first meeting? The tenth?
For the essays from pp. 80-124.
- Did you find these essay's efforts to take public and interpersonal events
and translate them into inner spiritual and emotional processes effective?
- Can you imagine new ceremonies, celebrations, or forms of prayer and meditation
being created from these stories?
- Would it make sense to draw from these psycho-spiritual lessons to make
new patterns in our national and political lives?
For the essay on pp. 183-190.
- Would you be interested on organizing a "Tent of Peace" as it
is described in the essay? What changes would you make? Do you know people
who would join in an Abrahamic invitation?
- Are there public actions - e.g. a statement or action on war and peace,
an interreligious action on the global climate crisis, a program for shared
observance of sacred seasons or for shared interreligious study of these or
other sacred texts or shared prayer services or shared community-service projects
- that you feel drawn to do after reading the book?