Reading the Qur'an as a follower of Jesus Christ
I have wanted to read the Qur'an for some years now, and after starting a couple of months ago I finished today.
I came to my reading with some questions and I guess some of these questions were shaped by world events.
- What does the Qur'an say about violence? So much is said about this, and I wanted to find out for myself.
- How does it compare to the Bible? Is it a book of similar depth and quality?
- What does it say about God? Does he come across as a compelling character?
- How are non-Muslim's spoken about?
- What is the moral and social vision of the Qur'an for the world? How does it want things to be?
- How should I expect Muslims to deal with me as a Christian? (Accepting that there are probably more than 150 discernable branches to Islam and that this is a flawed question!)
- Is there a sense of an unfolding narrative in the Qur'an or is it more of a list of commands and reflections?
I'm not going to say what I discovered about all of these things. Firstly, because I would encourage you to take a look for yourself. I would genuinely encourage everyone to have a read and see what they think of a book that is shaping about one in five of the world's population. Secondly, it will probably just come across as throwing stones at Islam and I don't want to do that.
However, I do want to share my main impression from reading the Qur'an, which you may or may not find to be significant.
Islam and Christianity are exceptionally different in terms of who they are pointing you to. They are not, as some have suggested easily amalgamated under the banner of monotheistic religions. I had been aware of this, but ploughing through the texts I really felt the force of it. We are actually talking about different God's. This I don't think will come as a surprise to most Muslims. But I do think that it unfortunately comes as a surprise to some Christians! The greatest champion for acknowledging this difference, is in fact the Qur'an itself:
'The Jews say Ezra is the Son of God while the Christians say Christ is the Son of God. This is what they say from their own mouths, thereby agreeing with the speech of the unbelievers who came before. May God strike them down!' (9:30)
'They have blasphemed- those who say that God is the Christ son of Mary!' (5:16)
I found that there was a real reverence for Christ in some ways:
'His name is Christ Jesus son of Mary, greatly honoured in this world and the next...' (3:44)
But a strong theme in the Qur'an was a polemical one, arguing against saying that Jesus Christ is God (co-equality with the Father, in other words). Philippians 2:6 says that Jesus Christ is 'in very nature God' and so this is an issue for followers of Christ.
For those interested to see similarities, there were definitely some shared values surrounding ethics. For example, 'do not cheat people of their goods' and giving to the poor. There were also some shared stories from the Bible which I would encourage you to compare and evaluate for yourself. This could definitely provide some common ground for friendship and conversation. Of course the best common ground is just being human! Building a friendship with Muslim people and being interested in them as you would anyone else.
But the differences were staggering. For instance, if Jesus is not fully God and God is not a fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, what does that say about the nature of his love? Is it possible for him to be loving and will he show love towards people or primarily demand moral obedience?
The experience has been interesting and I do want to encourage you to read the Qur'an for yourself. I believe that love for the truth and love for people can go together and we need to pray for more of both.
[the pics are of the publication of the Qur'an I read and a booklet I have found helpful. The booklet is available from frontiers.org.uk for a small cost. Tel: 0303 333 5051 or email firstname.lastname@example.org]