Understanding Islam – Part 2 (The Qur’an)


The book of Islam is the Qur’an (Koran), the final revelation from Allah, written about six centuries after Christ.  “Many stories of the Old Testament and the Gospels are found in the Qur’an” – quoted from Unveiling Islam, by Ergun & Emir Caner (pg. 81)  Written from Muhammad’s interpretation of dreams he had during times spent in a cave and recited to the people of Mecca (at the time pagans – polytheistic) this text is the basis for the beliefs of Islam.  It was compiled in the years 646-650 (according to Caner, pg. 82 – see prior Blog for reference) from materials memorized, possibly written down, before Muhammad’s death in 632.   The cave was located 3 miles north of Mecca (Hira cave) and the angel Gabriel provided the insight and words of Allah and compelled Muhammad to ‘recite’ the message to his people. 

Born in Mecca into the Quarish tribe Muhammad was well aware of their multiple gods.  His tribe were the keepers of the Ka’aba, the structure containing the black meteorite stone and many (possibly 360)  idols.  There was a pilgrimage to this site even before the advent of Islam.   The Arab world at the time was organized by tribes with tribal leaders, each, as a denomination, with their own agenda and form of governing – this was reflected in the worship of multiple gods/idols. 

Each chapter of the Qur’an is called a “sura” of which there are 114.  Not all suras were revealed in Mecca, some in Medina – 28 according to Islamic scholars.  The Bible is about 3 times longer than the Qur’an.  Muhammad was illiterate, but must have had a good memory.  There were 3 times when the revelations of Allah were given to Muhammad, 2 in Mecca (the “judgement and revelation period”  from 611-615 and the issues relating to doctrine from 616-622), and one in Medina (623-632, dealing with government and ethics).  Muhammad had a secretary, Zaid ibn Thabit (“Zaid”), who gathered the memorized words from the prophet and/or others (“reciters” and/or companions of Muhammad), collaborators, and prepared the document.  Muhammad’s personal revelations were separate.  Muhammad would fall into trances and verbalize his revelations.  He was an epileptic, prone to seizures, that were unpredictable and not fully understood at the time.  Large sections of the Qur’an were lost after his death when “reciters” (those who remembered or memorized the words said by Muhammad) also died (at the Battle of Yamama) before final transcription.  It was the 3rd Caliph – Uthman – that from various versions (some 24 in number) of the Qur’an (having been spread across the Islamic community – Caner, pg. 85) decided on the final text to be used – the collection of Zaid.  The other versions were destroyed.   It was thus a “canon” (per M-W dictionary – “a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works”) having little to do with its authenticity. 

The Bible is also a canon of works assembled by various authors – although according  to 2 Timothy 3:16-17:  it is “God-breathed” and reflects, in my strong opinion, God’s plan, each word, book and passage has a purpose, “so that the man of God may be equipped for every good work.”.

From Braswell (What You Need to Know About Islam & Muslims): “Four books well-known to Muslims are the Torah revealed to Moses, the Psalms of David, the Gospel to Jesus, and the Qur’an to Muhammad.  Jews and Christians are considered ‘People of the Book’ because of the original revelations to Moses and Jesus.  However, Muslims believe the Torah and the Gospel have been changed and corrupted over time.   Consequently, the Qur’an was needed to correct the errors in the corrupted books. It finalizes the truth from God (Allah) as transmitted from the archangel Gabriel, recited by the prophet Muhammad, and written down into the Arabic language.” (pg. 23-24)   Ergun Caner describes the view of Muslims towards the Old and New Testaments as “divinely given, but humanly corrupted.” – pg. 87. 

The question that arises – is Allah’s word delivered via Muhammad’s speeches ‘divine speech’?  Literal or historical criticism of the Qur’an is unacceptable to the Muslims.  Their position on this is strident and can lead to a defense of their position in the strongest manner, including warfare.  According to the Qur’an Allah allows Muslims to respect other religions as long as they do not “fight you”, or otherwise resist Islam.  There can be no regard for those that denounce or defame or resist Islam, and whoever allies with the others (non-believers in Islam) are unjust – refer to sura 60:9-10.  Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf provides insight in his book, What’s Right with Islam (pg. 138) , to the intransigent posture accorded Muslims from the Qur’an to any who suggest their religion is anything other than the only religion, viewing negative commentary as ‘persecution.’  “Fight them until there is no more persecution, and people are free to worship God (Allah).  But if they desist, then all hostility shall cease except against the oppressors – Qur’an 2:190.   This then brings up the subject of “Jihad.”

When we think of ‘jihad’ we think doing battle, terrorists blowing things up, weapons employed to harm others, but according to Feisel (pg. 138) “(It) is not limited to the military sphere.”  Feisal provides an element of clarity when noting that according to the Prophet (Muhammad) speaking up for the truth in the face of overpowering odds is also ‘jihad.’  Jihad is intended as the means to defending Islam.   Ergun Caner makes it clear that as used by Muslims, “Jihad (holy war) is completed only when the entire world is placed under the submission of Allah and when his laws reign supreme.” (pg. 68).  This latter is a bold statement and not the most friendly.  It suggests that the Muslims will not stop, are compelled, in a campaign to have Islam the world religion and that all governments and authority become ordered and directed by Allah and the Qur’an.  Until then the battle, no matter the form, will continue.  All other religions, faiths, will be supressed, unless they never again attempt conversion of another person or openly speak of their faith to Muslims.  This is not freedom, from my perspective at least, nor is it love; it is control. 

“The significant difference between Christians and Muslims is not history, but theology”, according to Ergun Caner (pg. 174 – Unveiling Islam), “Orthodox Christians are taught to live at peace by the living and written Word of God (the Bible).  Muslims are taught by the Qur’an and Allah’s messenger to ‘fight and slay the Pagans wherever you find them.’ (sura 9:5)”   This process began during Muhammad’s lifetime as he fought to establish his monotheistic religion on the pagans of his time, those he dwelled with in his hometown – Mecca – and returned (from Medina) to destroy.  His success was then reflected in the modification of the Ka’aba from a temple of pagan worship of multiple idols to that of one – Allah.  He too caused the tribal culture to change, to re-order under the authority and governance of Allah, by force as necessary. 

The creed of Islam – the Shahada – is the basis for Salvation.  It is works, not justification by faith as with Christianity – Christ dying for the sins of man and for those that believe in the Risen Lord, that makes salvation possible – 51% more good works than bad – yet there is no assurance or guarantee “even for the most righteous”, according to Caner (pg. 144) – it remains Allah’s decision.  The creed – la ilaha illallah, muhammad resu-lullah – translated – “There is no god but Allah.  Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”  “Fate (Kismet) in the hands of the all-powerful Allah will decide the outcome.” (Caner – pg. 144)

The theme of the Qur’an appears to be one of ‘conquest.’  There is no love by Allah for the unbeliever.  Yet God (the Christian Triune God – One, but represented in three persons) loves all mankind. God loves everyone; it may be unrequited, but at the same time it is unconditional.  Love is not in the forefront, so it seems, in Islam.  Allah demands obedience – a Judge. Only for those that first love and obey Allah can there be any love in return.  God demands obedience also, but provides forgiveness through his Son, having made his divine presence known here on earth as a Son who was the ultimate sacrifice for humanity, and works will follow as obedience to a loving God (God of Love) engendering a desire to please him, more than as a requirement or condition.   Thus Allah is associated with Judgement, while God is associated with Love.  Similarly Prayer for the Muslim is an act of ‘obedience’ (punishment results if not exercised as required) whereas it is an act of ‘petition’ for the Christian and Jew. 

Islam is defined as “to accept, surrender or submit”, thus ‘submission’ and Muslim’s are the people who ‘submit’ to Allah.

There are additional books used by Muslims, the Sunnah and Hadith,  which are demonstrations and real-life examples by/from Muhammad.  Used in conjunction with the Qur’an Muslims habits, dress, life-style, and more are all spelled out.

There are more Blogs to follow about attitudes, treatment and the Qur’an’s comments as to women.  There are other Muslim sects to be reviewed as well as cultural treatments and examples of the acts of Muslims against non-believers. 

You comments are requested.  Any additional insight is welcomed.  In an attempt to know and understand other Religions we can only explore, study, discuss and consider their history, personalities, creeds, doctrines and actions.  With the mind and intellect provided all men by God we can then freely determine our path, the correct path to truth and understanding of a life eternal. 

I hope at the end to rest my case with the loving God and pray any doubts can be revealed and openly debated and those doubts erased will lead to my foundational faith.  Remaining doubts will only suggest, especially if one cannot be a volunteer for their choice of religion or faith, a new Way must be selected.  I remain on my Christian walk and encourage others to walk with me. 

My book – Wake Up! Wake Up! The Testimony of a Layman is available at bookstores, online, via ebooks and audiobook.

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