Posted in Christianity and Culture, World Religions

Reflecting on the Koran

Recently I set a personal goal of reading the Koran in its entirety. Now a good way into it, I am compiling a list as I go of passages where its conflict with the Bible is glaring. Here are a few impressions so far, and a few quotes (all quotations taken from A. J. Arberry’s translation, The Koran Interpreted). The Koran obviously borrows from and revises biblical events, including the account of Cain and Abel, the incarnation of Christ, and the crucifixion. There would be no Koran had the Bible not been here first to influence Muhammad and provide him with religious people and doctrine to oppose.

Whatever the page, you are never far from a line in the Koran about unbelievers, chastisement, an evil homecoming, or being roasted in the fire. There is an unmistakable fixation on punishment that permeates the Koran. The gospel stresses holiness and the struggle against sin, whereas the Koran hammers on the conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims. Over and over the Koran criticizes Jews and Christians as unfit for friends on earth, and losers in eternity. Take out its constant criticism of non-Muslims, and its unending talk of their chastisement, and what is left? There is no soaring story of redemption, no sacrifice by God on the cross for humanity’s sins, no church where the saved congregate. Read the New Testament and the Koran’s inferiority is painfully evident by any measure of comparison.

But what it lacks in veracity it makes up in violence. The New Testament teaches Christians, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:4) and “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12), and “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44). It is a far cry from the Koran’s instruction to slay people. As one of a multitude of examples from the Koran, consider: “This is the recompense of those who fight against God and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth, to do corruption there: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off, or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement, except for such as repent, before you have power over them. So know you that God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate” (from Sura V, p. 133).

Sura II says, “for whatever verse we abrogate or cast into oblivion, We bring a better or the like of it” (p. 41). Question: If the Koran existed eternally and God wrote it, why would he need to come back and replace any verse with another which set the first verse aside? Yet, while claiming the right to change, the Koran also claims perfect consistency when it says: “What, do they not ponder the Koran? If it had been from other than God surely they would have found in it much inconsistency” (Sura IV, p. 112).

Sura III boldy claims, “The true religion with God is Islam” (p. 75) and “Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim” (p. 83).

Sura IV is called “Women,” and has somewhat to say about them. Men may “marry such women as seem good to you, two, three, four” (p. 100). “Men are the managers of the affairs of women…And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them” (p. 105).

The same surah (or, chapter) advises against praying while drunk: “O believers, draw not near to prayer when you are drunken until you know what you are saying” (p. 107). This verse was evidently modified by others with stricter teaching that frowns on alcohol altogether, demonstrating that teaching in the Koran can evolve and is not internally consistent. The same chapter strongly denies that Jesus was crucified (p. 123). Sura V says, “O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends…Whoso of you makes them his friends is one of them” (p. 136).

This is a tiny handful of examples, and much could be said regarding the traits of inspiration in the Bible, and their absence in the Koran. The ethic of Christ and the ethic of Muhammad are light years apart. Remember, the New Testament and church of Christ had been on earth nearly 600 years before the Koran was written. Islam is a late comer on the scene. It offers nothing good except what it borrows from the gospel (which is always better stated in the New Testament), which it mixes, unashamedly, with a host of gospel-denying verses.

Islam’s threat to Christianity comes, not from any theological superiority, but from its oft-exercised powers of intimidation, threat, coercion, and violence. Those who still live in a culture not dominated by Muslim oppression should recognize the threat and refuse to buckle. Silencing ourselves for fear of reprisal means we are already losing to its influence, and being victimized by the very definition of “terrorism.” We, in the church of Christ, choose to plant our flag in the ancient gospel, come what may.