Only a few weeks ago, I shared a small thing in common with a teenaged young man in New York City. A trivial thing; we had both received the same forwarded email ...
by Ted L Glines
I am not a supporter of those who write hate literature, sending it out in emails to everybody, suggesting that the receivers must FWD it to everybody under the sun. Such people usually turn out to be either illiterate or liars, as well as being hateful. A typical example was a recent FWDed email which stated many reasons why we should hate Muslims. Among other things, the author stated that the Koran [Qur'an] expressed hatred against Jews, Americans, and Christians.
According to the traditional Muslim view, the origin and development of the Qur'an began with Muhammad receiving divine revelations [a covenant from God] in 610 [A.D.]. According to traditional Muslim history the verses of the Qur'an were written on palm leaves, stone, and fiber and memorized during the life of Muhammad and collected shortly after his death. During the caliphate of Uthman the Qur'an was standardized in 653 [A.D.] It should be no surprise that there was no America in A.D. 653. Unless the Prophet Muhammad had psychic powers, America could not have been mentioned in the Qur'an. Truth is seldom a burden to those who wage email warfare.
Having swiftly shoveled that liar's false statement into the commode, I ordered a copy of the Koran from Amazon.com. After reading it carefully, I would be able to reply to those purveyors of misinformation regarding Muslim core beliefs. Education is a wonderful thing. Writers of most hate literature should try to acquire some. But, fools are entertaining when they wear flambouyant ignorance.
I ordered the book from Amazon.com early on a Sunday morning. The book arrived at my place of work on the following Tuesday. Holding the Koran in my hand, it came to me that "this is the heart of Islam". It felt somehow different from holding our own Bible. What arcane ideas would I find in its pages? Would the contents be shocking, dismaying, maybe giving credence to our hate-emailers? What would I learn? Surprises were in store for me.
This English translation of the Koran, translated by N. J. Dawood as a Penguin Classic in 1956, is also available in a parallel English-Arabic edition published by Penguin Books. ISBN-13: 978-0-140-44920-4
The Arabic name [Qur'an] means "The Recital," in which the angel Gabriel commanded Muhammad to go forth and confirm the Word of God. This revelation came to Muhammad during a dream or trance in about A.D. 610, was written down in segments [surahs] during the remaining balance of his life, with all surahs collected and codified in about A.D. 653. Following a brief introduction and a listing of key events in the life of Muhammad, the Qur'an unfolds in 114 segments, followed by an index which is similar to the index found in the Bible.
For most of my life I have known that a deep animosity divided Islam from the Jews. Both religions stemmed from Abraham, their patriarch in common, so that their core beliefs had to be similar. Was their division truly about religious differences, or was it more about real estate? Would the Qur'an provide a satisfactory answer?
"In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful" - thus begins all but one chapter of the Qur'an. This one chapter is considered to be a continuation of the previous chapter.
"The Exordium" sets a tone for Muslims, exhorting them to not follow "... those who have incurred Your wrath, Nor of those who have gone astray." This seems to strike a seperatist stance. However, on page 15 we find "Believers, those who follow the Jewish Faith, Christians, and Sabaeans* - whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does what is right - shall be rewarded by their Lord; they have nothing to fear or to regret." Here, we see an acceptance of any Believer regardless of his Faith.
On page 23, "We believe in God and that which has been revealed to us; in what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes; to Moses and Jesus and the other prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them, and to Him we submit." Thus Islam holds Jesus in reverence among the major prophets. To Muslims and Jews alike, The Christ is a prophecy as yet unfulfilled.
Page 29: "Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. God does not love aggressors." The utter clarity of this statement cannot be questioned; terrorist groups such as al Qaeda clearly act in defiance of Qur'an teachings. In doing so, they have lost their Muslim birthright; exchanged it for the role of criminals and unbelievers.
When a Christian and a Muslim refer to Resurrection, they are not talking about the same thing. "According to Islam, the Day of Resurrection is the Day of Judgement. This is the Day that no friend helps his friend nor are they helped. The day when the sky brings visible smoke, and the Earth turns to unearth; the Moon and the Sun will be gathered the same way. The trumpet will be blown, and all who are living will die. Then all creatures will be brought to life; all the people of the past and present. On that day they will be judged by God." ~Wikipedia
Page 46-47: "The angels said to Mary: 'God bids you rejoice in a Word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary. He shall be noble in this world and in the world to come, and shall be one of those who are favoured. He shall preach to people in his cradle and in the prime of manhood, and shall lead a righteous life.'"
In Islam, Jesus is revered as a prophet, the Messiah. On page 81, the Qur'an states: "They do blaspheme, who declare: 'God is the Messiah, the son of Mary.' Say: 'Who could prevent God, if He so willed, from destroying the Messiah, the son of Mary, his mother, and all the people of the earth? God has sovereignty over the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them. He causes what He will; and God has power over all things." The Qur'an treats Jesus as a special creation of God; God has dominion over Jesus, as He has dominion over all of His creations. The word originally came from Hebrew messia, "anointed". In Judaism, the expected king of the Davidic line who would deliver Israel from foreign bondage and restore the glories of its golden age. More loosely, the term messiah denotes any redeemer figure; and the adjective messianic is used in a broad sense to refer to beliefs or theories about an eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world. To Jews and Muslims, Jesus, son of Mary, is not God, nor is Jesus in any way equal to God.
Seperatism is plain in the way that the Qur'an places Believers [those who judge according to God's revelations] apart from unbelievers. On page 85: "Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. They are friends with one another. Whoever of you seeks their friendship shall become one of their number. God does not guide the wrongdoers." This is not a blanket condemnation of all Jews, nor of all Christians, for the Qur'an does say that there are a few true Believers among them, but not many. "Believers, those who follow the Jewish Faith, Sabaeans*, and Christians - whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does what is right - shall have nothing to fear or to regret."
In reading through the Qur'an, though God is praised in almost every paragraph, I sense no attempt to describe God in human terms, nor any attempt to humanize God in any way. Applying the term "He" to God seems to be more about a patriarchal culture, and not at all used as a sexual descriptive.
The Qur'an describes Paradise as: "... gardens watered by running streams." Paradise will be the eternal abode of the true Believers. All unbelievers will burn forever in Hell. There appears to be no sliding scale, nor plea bargaining. Notes scattered throughout the text link Paradise to the Garden of Eden.
Page 126: "True believers are those whose hearts are filled with awe at the mention of God, and whose faith grows stronger as they listen to His revelations. They are those who put their trust in their Lord, pray steadfastly, and give in alms from what We gave them. Such are the true believers. They will be exalted and forgiven by their Lord, and a generous provision shall be made for them."
For Western readers, halfway through the Qur'an is a good place to take a break. Repetition is a superb teaching aid. It is used well in the Qur'an. Redundancy overused, however, tends to dull your mental processes and attention wanders. Considering the wealth of insight offered in the Qur'an, it will be better to take a break at the halfway reading point and return later with a refreshed mind.
The Qur'an presents a clear description of a true Believer. Page 223: "He that comes before his Lord laden with sin shall be consigned to Hell, where he shall neither die nor live. But he that comes before Him with true faith, having done good works, shall be exalted to the highest ranks. He shall abide forever in the gardens of Eden, in gardens watered by running streams. Such shall be the recompense of those that keep themselves pure." Right here is drawn the line which seperates al Qaeda from all straight-path Muslims. The preemptive attacks waged by al Qaeda are prohibited by the Qur'an. Page 237: "Permission to take up arms is hereby given to those who are attacked, because they have been wronged." The Qur'an is most clear on this. For the most part, the Qur'an makes simple statements which cannot be interpreted, misconstrue d, or twisted to fit an unbeliever's agenda.
Page 276: "Nor did your Lord destroy the nations until He had sent apostles to their capital cities proclaiming to them Our revelations. We destroyed those cities only because their inhabitants were wrongdoers." In my wider religious studies, I have nowhere found any mention of an apostle or a covenant given to the Christians. What are we to think about that?
About divisions in religions - Page 286: "Do not divide your religion into sects, each exulting in its own doctrines." Call it "sect" or "denomination" - the result is confusion about the straight path of God. Which way is right? There are many tribes in the Arabian Peninsula but, for more than fifteen hundred years, Islam has remained undivided in Islam. Page 339: "He has ordained for you the faith which He enjoined on Noah, and which We have revealed to you; which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, saying: 'Observe the Faith and do not divide yourselves into factions.'" Thus, the many different denominations [sects] of any religion are not supported by God.
Page 363: "Believers, if an evil-doer brings you a piece of news, inquire first into its truth, lest you should wrong others unwittingly and then regret your action." This speaks to the matter of the hate-mongers who wish us to join them in their ignorance.
Page 397-398: "It is God who has created seven heavens, and earths as many." In the Qur'an, this is the single statement which could be seen as being obscure. All other statements in the Qur'an are simple, concise, easy to read and understand.
SUMMARY & NOTES
.* Sabaeans were an ancient people speaking an Old South Arabian language who lived in what is today Yemen, in the south west of the Arabian Peninsula. Some Sabaeans also lived in D'mt, located in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea. Why are the Sabaeans singled out, with Jews and Christians, in the Qur'an? The answer is stamped in the history of Muhammad's time. The kingdom of Saba [ref: Sheba, Queen of Sheba] was an advanced pagan culture which built dams for irrigation and road systems. They were absorbed into Islam but they held themselves aloof, powerful and arrogant, thinking themselves better than other Arabic peoples, and possibly above the guidance and warnings of God.
Prophet Muhammad was born in A.D. 570, died on 8 June 632, founded Sunni Islam. His parent was Hisham Talaat Moustafa and his birthplace was Mekka [Mecca; now in Saudi Arabia]. Muhammad was 40 years old when he recieved the first revelation from the archangel Jibril [Gabriel]. Muhammad could neither read nor write as he had received no formal education.
The Qur'an also mentions four previously revealed Scriptures: Suhoof [Pages] of Ibraham [Abraham], Taurat ['Torah'] as revealed to Prophet Moses, Zuboor ['Psalms'] as revealed to Prophet David, and Injeel ['Evangel'] as revealed to Prophet Jesus.
Encouragement of hatred toward Americans, Christians, and Jews, is found nowhere in the Qur'an. Muslims are exhorted only to stand apart from unbelievers [the same warning is found in the Holy books of other religions].
After reading the Koran, it strikes me that there are many similarities to the people, places, and stories which are in the Jewish Old Testament. King David is there, along with Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Abraham, Moses, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Job, Solomon, Lot, Aaron, Jonah, Noah, and many others. Goliath is there, too. In both Books, major emphasis is upon worshipping God, respect, compassion, restraint and justice. Dietary constraints are similar. Either belief system could well be a clone of the other. Yet there have been countless generations of war between Jews and Muslims, and it is not likely that attempted guidance from the Western world will cause them to reconcile. God will judge their differences.
Does it frighten you that Muslims pause to worship five times each day? In view of the above, it should not. Do you attend worship services once per week? What may frighten you is your own lack of a constant and devout connection to God, if such be the case.
If the Koran makes no attempt to humanize God, this may be appropriate. I have always viewed God as being omniscient, self-sufficient, all-powerful; the creator, destroyer, and bringer of rebirth to everything in the universe. I have never seen any value in humanizing God or bringing God down to human standards. If He willed it, God would surely kill Zeus.
The Qur'an decries any claims that Jesus is God, or that Jesus is the son of God, stating that such claims are blasphemy. Islam believes that there is only one God and that He is self-sufficient and could never father a creation. The Qur'an teaches that God created Jesus as a prophet or apostle to the Jews, bringing to the Jews a final covenant of redemption [which the Jews rejected]. The Holy Trinity is also rejected as blasphemy since it divides God into three persons. Such beliefs would be idolatry, to Muslims, and should be avoided.
The Koran is to Islam what the Bible is to Christianity. Yet there are many versions [Catholic, Methodist, etc.] of Christianity. Members of the Mafia are almost all Catholics, but the Mafia is not a version of Catholicism. Many versions of Islam exist [Sunni, Shia, etc.] as well. Al Qaeda is mostly populated by practitioners of Islam, but al Qaeda is not a version of Islam. Both the Mafia and al Qaeda are stand-alone criminal terrorist groups, operating independently from their espoused religions. Know the difference so you may know who is our true enemy.
Jewish scriptures [Old Testament] and Christian scriptures [New Testament] are rife with thrilling stories and glimpses of life in those Biblical times. In the Qur'an, we hear God speaking to Muhammad, giving guidance [the covenant] to Islam; guidance and warning. This English translation is received like a 435-page prayer. It is notable that the Qur'an has guided Muslims for about 1,500 years and they have never strayed from their covenant with God.
The Qur'an leaves me with but one question. Everything else is what I have always believed. But there is the matter of Muslim men having dominion over Muslim women. If I was a Muslim man, why would not a Muslim woman be my equal under God, if she was a true believer too? I am reminded by a respected Muslim mentor that the Qur'an is nowhere about equality; the Qur'an is about believing in God and the Last Day, doing good works, giving alms, and the Qur'an is about justice.
I talked with a young soldier this evening. He is here for training at Red River Army Depot [RRAD] in northeastern Texas. After special training, he will be deployed to southwestern Afghanistan. As his teacher at RRAD, he has an Iraqi who is instructing his group about interacting with the Islamic culture. And as we were conversing, it came to me that a solid reading of the Qur'an would give him a superb understanding of Muslims. And, when they knew that he understood the Qur'an, the Muslim people would be more open to him. For the past many years in Iraq, lacking any such understanding, we have wasted our time [and lives], and we have been frustrated when the Islamic communities seemed not able to effectively utilize our well-meant guidance. The Qur'an holds a clear explanation for that, and a precise solution.
We cherish and protect our freedom of speech. With this freedom should come responsibility. This evening, a Muslim man was shot and killed in New York City, by an enraged teenager. It was hinted that the actions of the teenager may have been triggered by an email which was forwarded to him; an email expressing hatred toward Muslims in general and toward the Qur'an in particular. Was it you who forwarded the anti-Muslim hate email to him? Will you come forward and admit your share of guilt for this senseless murder? And then we remember the Pastor Terry Jones who expressed the same rabid hatred in public. Pastor Jones later admitted that he had never read the Qur'an, nor had he ever known any Muslims. Responsibility is often a difficult teacher. Beware of sending out hate, for it surely will return to you.