Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reading the Quran with Muslims and Christians

The story being told us by a large segment of our political and religious leaders is that Islam is violent and the reason is because Muslims obey the Quran.

Representative Mo Brooks (Alabama) recently said, “You look at the Quran, and I encourage people to read it on their own so they can get a first-hand view of whether these terrorists who are killing non-Muslims are doing what the Quran instructs them to do.” These words are meant to strike fear and hatred into our hearts.

But as a follower of Jesus I see it entirely differently.

“To every community there is a direction to turn to, so compete to do good deeds wherever you may be. God will bring you all. God has power over all things.” (The Quran: A Contemporary Understanding, translated by Safi Kaskas, 2:148.) I read these words to a group of Christians and Muslims gathered in my home to celebrate Thanksgiving together, a few days early.

In this passage, I explained, God is reminding us that He has put us each into our particular community, whether Christian or Jewish or Muslim. God claims authority over us all. If we must compete between religions, God urges us not to compete for land, or wealth, or power, or numbers. Compete, God says, to do good deeds.

It strikes me that this one verse from the Quran manages to combine two important concepts from the New Testament.

First is that God intentionally has us all in different places and cultures. This is no accident, for as Paul says, “From one man he [God] created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him­—though he is not far from any one of us.” (New Living Translation, Acts 17:26–27.)

Second is that we are encouraged to “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another.” (New Living Translation, Romans 13:8.) We have an ongoing debt that we will never finish paying, and that is the debt to show love to everyone around us.

These two ideas are beautifully united in the second chapter of the Quran. As a follower of Jesus I get excited when I find such correspondences between the spirit of the Bible spirit of the Quran. And the parallels are everywhere.

I did not always expect this. I long assumed, as many do, that the Quran is a dangerous book designed to pull people away from the God I worship.

But then I read it and I found that I had been wrong. The Quran is not simply a retelling of the Bible, nor a commentary on the Bible. But neither is it a repudiation of the Bible. In fact the Quran reminds its readers that it is a further revelation of the God of the Hebrew Scriptures and of the Christian Scriptures. It tells its readers to go ask questions of them to get further insight.

So, to Rep. Mo Brooks and to everyone else telling us that the Quran is the problem, I would simply echo Mo Brooks’ words back at him. “I encourage people to read it on their own so they can get a first-hand view of whether these terrorists who are killing non-Muslims are doing what the Quran instructs them to do.” You will find that they are not following the Quran at all.

But what if our political leaders would take up the Quran’s challenge, and actively “compete to do good deeds”? How could that change our world? And wouldn’t Jesus love to watch that competition!


Walter Wood said...

To love everyone around us. It is such a simple calling. Yet we resist and avoid it. I neglect to bring my mind to it, which reminds me of another call: To pray constantly. Impossible perhaps, but to be mindful of the presence of the Spirit at all times can only lead to awareness of those around me. Allowing the presence of the Spirit can only lead to forgiveness. Tolerance. Respect. Compassion. Love.

Thanks for sharing this passage, for reminding me how important it is to focus on and
celebrate that which binds us together in our disparate faiths.

Doug P. Baker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug P. Baker said...

I quite agree!

John W. May said...

Tolerance. Respect. Compassion. Love. Well said Mr. Wood. And Doug, your post, I couldn't have said it better.