My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

07 March 2008

Koran, round 1

For this month's book club, I decided to read through the Koran. This was the first time I have done so. Though I hesitate to record my thoughts (picture an Islamic book club reading through the Bible for the first time...), here are some things that stuck out to my on my first reading.

Compared to the Bible, I was surprised at how little of the Koran is made up of history stories. There are some stories in the Koran, but not many. And the ones that are there are, by and large, re-told stories from the first five books of the Bible. This re-telling often adds or changes details (like Jesus speaking to Mary while he was still an infant); the changes are sometimes incidental, but other times constitute a major rearranging of the ideas of the Biblical story.

Some things were noticeable because of their absence. In the Koran, I found no trace of regeneration of internal conversion. And, despite claiming repeatedly that Allah is a merciful god, there is no sense given of how he forgives. That is, there's no sense of atonement. In the place of atonement is a strong theology of merit, of inheriting Allah's favor and eternal happiness through our good works. More broadly, there is a great sense of religion, but no great sense of redemption. Despite the reality of sin, there is no overarcing storyline of salvation.

There are other parts of the Koran which, if we read them without knowing who wrote them, could have been written by Christians. The Last Day, the resurrection, monotheism (only one god-ism), the reality of heaven and hell, the sovereignty of god - these are themes we have in common with the Koran. It's good to know these, to keep us from caricaturizing and to help us in our outreach.

Finally, there is not nearly as much violence in the Koran as I guessed there might be. I've heard that some of the harsher jihad teachings come from the Hadith (the recording of Muhammad's life and sayings) rather than the Koran. I only came across a few passages which tended toward a violent mindset and none of those were any harsher than what we could pull out of our Old Testament.

Again, these are my observations based on a first time reading. So take them with some salt pinches and feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken!


Gabe said...

Muslims do something admirable, which is not to rely on translations, but to study it in the original Arabic. It gives them a great out in any debate however, if the opponent is using a translation. And I must admit that it's not completely unfair. We also go back to the Hebrew and Greek of the Bible.

But it helps quash any hard questioning of their teachings...sort of a Dark Ages-like treatment of the text--overall, fewer can acquaint themselves intimately with it, at least, in non-Arabic countries.

Alicia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alicia said...

I'm auditing Romans with Dr. Kinneer, and this week he asked if we ever read the Koran. He noted how disjointed it is compared to God's Word which flows and builds and is extremely interrelated.

Did you pick any particular edition or are they all the same? I remember it being a pretty thick book when I read parts in college.

Great to see you a couple weeks ago. There are some pics on facebook.

(reposted to correct a typo)

Sir Ryan said...

You can get a free Quran from CAIR. You just have to go to their website.

You might end up on an Homeland Security watch-list, though.

I got mine after a couple weeks. It's huge. Full-color printing, in Arabic and English with some explanatory notes.

Sir Ryan said...

Oh, I went and checked the link I gave, and they're now asking $7.65 to cover the cost of shipping. They also say this hardback copy of the Quran retails at $55.

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