What every Christian should know about the Qur’an
This post is also available in: Indonesia (Indonesian)
What should every Christian know about the Qur’an?
1. Every Christian should know that Muslims believe the Qur’an is the Word of God and was revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel.
3. Every Christian should know that Muhammad did not leave a complete written text (mushaf) of his recitation. The text of the Qur’an was compiled and completed after Muhammad’s death. This means the written form of Muhammad’s recitation is not the work of Muhammad.3
5. Every Christian should know that Muslims believe the Qur’an is a miracle. The great miracle of the Qur’an is that it is inimitable6 (I’jaz al-Qur’an in Arabic), “If men and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’an they would never produce its like, not though they backed one another” (Qur’an 17:887).8
6. Every Christian should know that the main doctrine emphasized in the Qur’an is unitarian monotheism (Tawhid).9 This is most clearly evidenced in the Muhsin Khan Interpretation of the Meanings of the Qur’an where “monotheism” is mentioned more than 260x (For a list of every passage see, “Monotheism in the Qur’an”).10
7. Every Christian should know that Quranic monotheism (Tawhid) is not as pure, strict, or absolute as Muslims claim. For example, Allah refers to himself in the plural at least seventy times in the Qur’an (e.g. “We,” “Us,” “Our”). Qur’an 56:59 uses the plural “We” and a plural noun “Creators” for Allah, “Is it ye who create it, or are We the Creators?”11
8. Every Christian should know that the Qur’an is a book about memory and remembrance (see Qur’an 74:54; 81:27).12 The Qur’an teaches that one of the most important events we all witnessed and are to remember is the Day of Alastu.
9. Almost one hundred verses/ayat in the Qur’an are about Jesus (see “Jesus in the Qur’an“).
11. Every Christian should know that the Qur’an teaches that the shedding of blood is unnecessary for the forgiveness of sin. The Qur’an teaches that Allah forgives whom he pleases:
To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth, and whether you disclose what is in your ownselves or conceal it, Allah will call you to account for it. Then He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He wills. And Allah is Able to do all things. (Qur’an 2:284, Muhsin Khan)
12. Every Christian should know that the Qur’an is not the only source of revelation for most Muslims (see Sunnah and Hadith).
13. Every Christian should know why many Muslims conclude the New Testament is corrupt and is not the Word of God. The reason is that the Qur’an asserts that a book (al-injīl) was sent to Jesus from heaven. Muslims believe Jesus taught this book to His followers (cf. Qur’an 5:46-47; 57:27).
No amount of textual criticism or gospel harmonization will ever get back to the Qur’anic Injīl because Jesus was never given a book (al-injīl) from heaven. The Qur’anic Injīl does not exist and has never existed. Christians don’t need to defend the New Testament to our Muslim neighbor. Rather, Muslims must defend their belief that the Qur’anic Injīl was Jesus’ source of revelation.15
The central issue in discussions about the gospels and Qur’anic Injīl is whether Jesus is the good news sent from heaven or whether the Qur’anic Injīl is the message sent from heaven to Jesus. Christianity could not and would not exist without Jesus. Islam could exist without Muhammad.
14. Every Christian should know that in Islam, the Word was made book. In Christianity, the Word was made flesh,
Much misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims has arisen from the assumption that the Qur’an is for Muslims what the Bible is for Christians. It would be truer to say that the Qur’an is for Muslims what Christ is for Christians.
Timothy Tennent’s lecture on the Qur’an
- The Qur’an says, “Surely We have made it an Arabic Qur’an that you may understand” (Qur’an 43:3; see also Qur’an 12:2; 13:37;20:113; 39:28; 41:2-3; 42:7).
- The general arrangement of the Qur’an is not chronological but from longest chapters to shortest for a total of 114 chapters (suras). It is believed that Muhammad’s first recitation began with “recite” (Arabic, Qara), “Recite in the name of your Lord who created” (96:1).
- See “One Single Version of the Qur’an?” in Is the Qur’an the Word of God?
- “Herein lies the deeply rooted conviction among Muslims that a “valid” recitation of the Qur’an is possible only in the Arabic language. Only the Ḥanafite law school allows for exceptions in this regard, as set forth in detail in 1932 by the Hanafi Azhar scholar al-Maraghi (d. 1945)” (Hartmut Bobzin, “Translations of the Qur’an.” Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an. General Editor: Jane Dammen McAuliffe . Brill (Leiden and Boston), 2005. CD-ROM version).
- According to some scholars who are experts in classical Arabic, a fifth of the Arabic text of the Qur’an is incomprehensible (see Gerd R. Puin). For further study see Stefan Wild, “Why Translate the Untranslatable?“
- In recent times, Muslims have argued that the Qur’an’s divine origin is also demonstrated by its harmony with science. See Bigliardi, S. (2011). Snakes from Staves? Science, Scriptures and the Supernatural in Maurice Bucaille. Zygon, 46(4), 793-805.
- Qur’an 17:88 is the scriptural cornerstone of the conviction that the Qur’an could not be surpassed, not even by the most eloquent. The whole Qur’an became a miracle. It was not only true in its narratives, it was not only wise and binding in its prescriptions and prohibitions, it was not only true in its prediction of the future, it was also the purest and the most elegant Arabic speech possible, and surpassed all humanly achievable excellence. You can listen to the recitation of the Qur’an in Arabic at quran.com
- Different people have given different assessments of the Qur’an:
Positive assessments of the Qur’an, style of the Qur’an, grammar of the Qur’an
Marmaduke Pickthall, a British convert to Islam and translator of the Qurʾan, described the Qur’an as an “inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy.”
George Sale, a non-Muslim English translator of the Qur’an thought that: “The style of the Koran is generally beautiful and fluent, especially where it imitates the prophetic manner and scripture phrases. It is concise and often obscure, adorned with bold figures after the eastern taste, enlivened with florid and sententious expressions, and in many places, especially when the majesty and attributes of God are described, sublime and magnificent.”
The Austrian J. von Hammer-Purgstall stated, “The Koran is not only the law book of Islam, but also a masterpiece of Arabic poetic art. Only the high magic of the language could give to the speech of Abdallah’s son the stamp of the speech of God”.
F.J. Steingass said the Qur’an is “[…] A work, then, which calls forth so powerful and seemingly incompatible emotions even in the distant reader — distant as to time, and still more so as to mental development — a work which not only conquers the repugnance with which he may begin its perusal, but changes this adverse feeling into astonishment and admiration.”
Negative assessments of the Qur’an, Qur’anic style, and grammar of the Qur’an
Richard Bell remarked that, for a long time, occidental scholars called attention to “the grammatical unevennesses and interruption of sense which occur in the Qur’an.”
The Qur’anic scholar and Semitist Theodor Nöldeke qualified the qur’anic language as: “drawling, dull and prosaic.” Elsewhere Nöldeke said the Qur’an, “aesthetically considered, is by no means a first-rate performance.”
Jakob Barth was struck by “the disruptions of the relations” in the surahs.
The Iraqi English Semitist A. Mingana thought that the style of the Qur’an “suffers from the disabilities that always characterize a first attempt in a new literary language which is under the influence of an older and more fixed literature.”
R.A. Nicholson, a specialist in Arabic literature and Sufism observed, “The preposterous arrangment of the Koran […] is mainly responsible for the opinion held by European readers that it is obscure, tiresome, uninteresting; a farrago of long-winded narratives and prosaic exhortations,quite unworthy to be named in the same breath with the Prophetical Books of the Old Testament.” (Claude Gilliot, Pierre Larcher, “Language and Style of the Qur’an” Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an).
Gordon Nickel, Ph.D. in Islamic Studies says, “Scholars often remain tentative about the meaning of any one passage in the Qur’ān because the Qur’ān does not generally supply the setting for the recitation. The style of the Qur’ānic discourse is allusive and elliptical. The Qur’ānic text frequently lacks words or units of information which might otherwise be considered essential to a clear expression of meaning. Muslim scripture gives the impression of being addressed to an audience which could supply missing details to which the text only refers. Even narrative in the Qur’ān is “often unintelligible without exegetical complement.” In the case of polemical passages, the reader usually encounters ambiguity about many parts of a sentence, including the identities of the subject and object, and the nature of the dispute” (Gordon Nickel, Common Word Polemics, 3).
- “Except for the theme of monotheism, the Qur’an speaks more of the coming Qiyamah – also known as the Resurrection, the Day of Judgment, Day of Gathering, and the Great Announcement – than of any other topic. “Confessing the Shahadah – “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Prophet of God” – and believing in the accountability of all humans before God are the cement which holds Islam together” (Al-Qiyamah, The Resurrection).
- The Muhsin Khan Interpretation of the Meanings of the Qur’an version is often distributed to Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.
- It is common to see Muslims testify to their belief in Allah with one finger:
- Angelika Neuwirth, “Qur’an, Crisis and Memory” in Neuwirth, A./Pflitsch, A. (eds): Crisis and Memory, [Beiruter Texte und Studien, 2001], 115
- Muslim commentators generally agree that Qur’an 3:54-55 refers to the Jewish plot to kill Jesus by crucifixion, but God’s rescuing Jesus from death on the cross,And they (disbelievers) plotted [to kill ‘Iesa (Jesus) ], and Allah planned too. And Allah is the Best of the planners. And (remember) when Allah said: “O ‘Iesa (Jesus)! I will take you and raise you to Myself and clear you [of the forged statement that ‘Iesa (Jesus) is Allah’s son] of those who disbelieve, and I will make those who follow you (Monotheists, who worship none but Allah) superior to those who disbelieve [in the Oneness of Allah, or disbelieve in some of His Messengers, e.g. Muhammad SAW, ‘Iesa (Jesus), Musa (Moses), etc., or in His Holy Books, e.g. the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel), the Qur’an] till the Day of Resurrection. Then you will return to Me and I will judge between you in the matters in which you used to dispute” (Qur’an 3:54-55, Muhsin Khan)
- Muslim commentators have taught that this passage, Qur’an 4:157-158 denies Jesus’ death on the cross,And because of their saying (in boast), “We killed Messiah ‘Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allah,” – but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of ‘Iesa (Jesus) was put over another man (and they killed that man), and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not [i.e. ‘Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary) ]:But Allah raised him [‘Iesa (Jesus)] up (with his body and soul) unto Himself (and he is in the heavens). And Allah is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise.” (Qur’an 4:157-158, Muhsin Khan)Muslims believes Jesus will return in the future and die after ruling about forty years, “Muslims will then perform the funeral prayer for him and then bury him in the city of Medina in a grave left vacant beside Muhammad, Abu Bakr, and Umar” (“Jesus in Islam.” Wikipedia. 8 September 2011).
- While the Arabic al-injīl is often translated the gospel, it is not the same as the Christian gospel (good news/preaching about Jesus) or the four gospels.
The biblical word gospel (Greek: εὐαγγέλιον) refers to good news and preaching (Greek: εὐαγγελίζω) the good news about the kingdom of God, God’s Messiah (Christ), and what Jesus accomplished and is accomplishing in history,
1 Corinthians 15:1–4
1Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel (Greek: εὐαγγέλιον) which I preached (Greek: εὐαγγελίζω) to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached (Greek: εὐαγγελίζω) to you, unless you believed in vain.3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…
Jesus’ followers preached (Greek: εὐαγγελίζω) the good news (Greek: εὐαγγέλιον) about Jesus and years later, after Jesus ascended to the right hand of God, they wrote down the good news they preached in books Christians now call gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These four gospels (books) are about how Jesus is God’s revelation sent from heaven culminating in His death on the cross for sin and resurrection from the dead. The Christian gospels must never be confused with the non-existent Qur’anic Injīl.
See David Thomas, “Muslim Conception of Gospel”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson.
Andrew Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2002), 29.
Muhammad is beloved by all Muslims, but he is not essential to Islam in the way that Jesus is essential to Christianity. The message of Islam could have been revealed by someone other than Muhammad, whereas the message of Christianity could not ultimately be revealed through someone other than Jesus because the message of Christianity is Jesus. It is about His perfect obedience to the law, His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead.
One of the implications of this is that Christians believe Jesus is the answer to the world’s problems, while Muslims believe the Qur’an is the answer to the world’s problems.